Republicans seized on news Wednesday of the Obama administration’s forthcoming federal crackdown on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants to warn that Terry McAuliffe would be bad news for Southwest Virginia and anyone else dependent on affordable energy if the Democrat wins the governor’s race.
“These new rules are a double whammy for Southwest Virginia,” Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) said in a written statement issued with several Republican lawmakers from Southwest. The GOP lawmakers predicted that the proposals would kill jobs in their region and boost energy prices everywhere. They urged McAuliffe to denounce them.
“This is what happens when radical environmentalists get their way in government, and it’s why Terry McAuliffe shouldn’t be governor,” Kilgore said.
McAuliffe’s campaign said he would be concerned about any regulations that significantly increase utility costs for Virginians or cause the closure of existing power plants in the commonwealth.
“While we’re waiting on actual regulations to be proposed, Terry believes any new regulations should balance the need to encourage clean energy with the fact that coal is, and will continue to be, a large portion of Virginia’s energy mix,” McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said in an email.
McAuliffe has characterized Cuccinelli as a climate-change denier who has ignored scientific consensus and tied himself to the fossil-fuel industry through generous campaign donations. Democrats have also attacked Cuccinelli over his unsuccessful attempt to force the University of Virginia to produce documents from a climate researcher to determine whether he had skewed his data on global warming to obtain grants. McAuliffe has also campaigned with Michael Mann, the former UVA professor who was targeted by Cuccinelli.
Cuccinelli has expressed skepticism about whether humans are driving global warming and questioned whether political biases contributed to the scientific consensus. He has argued some government proposals to combat global warming could wreck the economy.
He has also attacked McAuliffe as a flip-flopper in his stance on coal: In 2009 McAuliffe said he never wanted to see another coal plant open in Virginia. This year, he was quoted by The Bristol Herald Courier as saying he wants to see the coal industry grow. To bolster their view that McAuliffe’s recent expressions of support for Virginia’s coal fields are insincere, Republicans point to the Democrat’s alliance with environmentalist groups and billionaire Tom Steyer, who is investing heavily in the race.
The Environmental Protection Agency, in preparing to impose the first-ever regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, has drafted a revised new rule that would require any new coal-fired plant to have a carbon-capture system, according to people who have been briefed on the proposals but asked not to be identified because the rules are not yet public. As a practical matter, the high cost and unproven capability of those systems means that no new coal-fired plants would be built for the foreseeable future, industry officials said.
In March 2012 the EPA proposed limiting carbon emissions on any new power plant to no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity produced; the agency decided later to alter that proposal because of a possible legal challenge. The new rules, due Sept. 20, would impose stricter pollution limits on gas-fired power plants but still require carbon-reduction limits on new coal plants.
Republicans have blamed the threat of such regulations for a severe downturn in the coal industry in recent years. Industry analysts and others say the collapse of natural gas prices have had more profound effect on the coal industry.
The average U.S. natural gas plant emits upwards of 800 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt. Coal plans produce 1,768 pounds per megawatt.