The Times West Virginian

March 6, 2013

President’s pick to lead EPA is not a friend of coal

Times West Virginian

— Let’s just say if we’re picking out friends of coal, Gina McCarthy probably wouldn’t be included among the ranks.

But that’s who President Barack Obama has slated to replace Lisa Jackson as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. And if the Senate confirms the appointment, we imagine that McCarthy will pick right up where her former boss left off — painfully regulating coal, coal-fired plants and emissions because Congress has failed to agree on a national energy plan.

McCarthy, currently the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, might mean a harsh environment for coal-fired electricity generation, which powers nearly half the country. That translates to a tough climate for coal. She has already been the champion of regulations that limit carbon emissions for new power plants, and regulations that have affected current plants in operation.

Just ask the residents of Rivesville, where a Mon Power plant was shuttered.

Obama has said he wants to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide, through legislation. But the chances of that seem pretty slim considering that in 2010, even with a Democrat-led Senate and House, a comprehensive climate bill failed to pass. Without congressional support for another attempt at a climate bill, the EPA will just have to go back to what it’s been doing for the past four years.

More emissions regulations. More mining permits being stuck in limbo. More of coal being left out in the cold.

This nation needs a clear and concise energy plan, one that includes all elements. If we take advantage of all our energy resources — from coal and natural gas to wind and solar — the entire nation benefits in the end. But if one administration regulates a few of the resources to the point where it’s no longer economically feasible for use, you’re hampering industry. And industry will feel the effects much longer than the duration of the administration.

Will we get a clear picture of energy from a second cabinet-level appointment in MIT professor Ernest Moniz as energy secretary? Outgoing Secretary of Energy Steven Chu referred to coal as his “worst nightmare.” The White House says Moniz’s appointment is evidence of the administration’s commitment to an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.

All of the above — except coal, that is.

The only positive is that Moniz has been a champion of natural gas and much of his research at MIT has looked into natural gas as “a bridge fuel” because it burns with less carbon emissions than, well, coal.

Our only consolation is that since the EPA has declared the United States the “no smoking” section of Earth, we’ll continue to mine our coal and send it off to India and China to burn it. We just don’t see McCarthy and Moniz as anything different from Jackson and Chu.

And since Congress can’t even agree to avoid catastrophic budget cuts, we think we’ll be living with more of the same from the EPA for at least the next four years.