Speaking as a CEO of a major coal-fired power plant and a coal mining company, I am compelled to start with the devastation of the coal industry, particularly in West Virginia but throughout all coal country. This devastation has been caused by excessive and politicized Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Years of EPA regulatory interference stalled the normal replacement of our aging power plants. The clean coal Longview Power plant was built during a brief window of opportunity before the Clean Power Plan created a regulatory environment that has made construction of new coal-fired power plants impossible.
As a result of this regulatory stranglehold, good-paying, middle class jobs have disappeared from Appalachia. And, if we continue to rely on our aging coal fleet, the region will soon face even more drastic job losses. We have six counties in the state of West Virginia that are in a depression as a result of these regulatory burdens, and we need common-sense leadership at the EPA to stop this interference.
The first and most important measure of the new Trump Administration’s success should be the preservation and creation of good paying middle class jobs. Replacing the nation’s aging coal-powered generation fleet with modern, efficient clean coal plants, such as the Longview Power plant that I oversee, would add thousands of manufacturing, engineering and construction jobs. As an example, the construction of Longview helped to insulate Morgantown, W.Va., from the 2009 recession. This approach will maintain and sustain the coal industry for years to come.
Clean coal plants such as Longview Power operate efficiently and at a low cost while effectively removing substantially all of the harmful pollutants (SOx, NOx, PM and Mercury) that truly define dirty coal. In addition, because of its advanced modern design and seamless operations, Longview is 20 percent more efficient and also emits significantly less CO2 than the 40- to 50-year- old coal plants that currently operate in West Virginia.
In short, we can — and should — use coal in this country, and at Longview Power, we are doing so in a smart, environmentally sound way. For far too long, the EPA has simply failed to balance environmental protection and economic impact. It is remarkable that a modern, clean and low CO2 producing coal plant like Longview Power cannot be built in the United States, while Germany, Japan, China and other countries are building them. This must change if we wish to meet the energy needs of a resurgent manufacturing economy.
Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, will take a fresh look at bringing clean coal back into the discussion with science-based decision making. We must find thoughtful and appropriate ways to take a balanced approach to environmental regulations that conserve and protect our environment while utilizing clean coal. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mr. Pruitt was a leading national figure to rightly question the federal overreach of the Clean Power Plan and other overstepping federal bureaucracies. Under his leadership at the EPA, West Virginia could partner with the federal government to site and build “highly efficient, low emissions” coal plants like Longview Power to replace our aging coal fleet and sustain our coal industry. Furthermore, the EPA could admit that additional research is necessary before carbon capture and sequestration will be commercially feasible. The federal government also could focus on tax credits to induce building highly efficient, modern clean coal-fired plants like Longview Power that substantially eliminate harmful pollutants through efficiency and updated technology.
Updating our energy infrastructure, including taking action to replace our aging coal generation power facilities, should be a priority in the first 100 days to address these issues.
The country needs to embrace an “all-of-the above” energy policy in order to meet its energy needs. Clean coal should play an important role because of its abundance, dependability and low cost. In fact, Longview Power is producing power reliably and at low cost from clean coal in West Virginia right now, and we are excited to continue to discuss the future of clean coal with policymakers using our story as an example.
I believe Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation to lead the EPA will bring balance back to the discussion around environmental policy, economic realities, and the intersection of addressing both in a reasonable way.
I encourage the Senate to act expeditiously to confirm Mr. Pruitt, who will ensure that our environmental policies do not block our implementation of a diverse and comprehensive energy policy. As a nation, we can achieve our environmental goals while still using clean coal if we do it wisely, which we clearly demonstrate every day at Longview Power.
Keffer is chief executive officer of Longview Power. The company, with a generating plant at Maidsville, W.Va., describes its mission as producing “clean, economic, and reliable power in an environmentally sustainable manner using low cost, locally mined coal.”