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  • Arena Act

    by Representative Shelley Moore Capito

    Posted on 2015-06-09

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    CAPITO. Mr. President, I rise to speak about our Nation's energy economy.

    ``Alpha Natural to Lay Off 439 at West Virginia Coal Mine''; ``Murray Energy expects more than 1,800 coal mine layoffs''; ``Job Cuts Are Devastating Blow for Ohio Valley Coal Miners''; ``Coal analyst says industry facing toughest time''; ``Power Bills To Get Higher''--these are just some of the headlines that have been in the recent news in my area. These headlines are a stark reminder of the impact misguided Federal policies will have on the lives of real people.

    West Virginia and other energy-producing States have suffered devastating blows. Hard-working Americans are losing their jobs as their energy bills keep climbing. I come to the floor to encourage my colleagues to stand up for our Nation's energy future.

    Last month, I introduced the Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act--the ARENA Act--with Leader McConnell, Chairman Inhofe, my fellow West Virginian Joe Manchin, and nearly 30 of my colleagues. This bipartisan legislation would empower States to protect families and businesses from electricity rate increases, reduced electrical reliability, and other harmful effects of the Clean Power Plan.

    The ARENA Act would require that any greenhouse gas standards set by the EPA for new coal-fired powerplants are achievable by commercial powerplants, including highly efficient plants that utilize the most modern, state-of-the-art emissions control technologies.

    Back in February, I asked EPA Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe to explain why, despite multiple invitations from Federal and State legislators, the EPA did not hold a public hearing on its proposed Clean Power Plan in West Virginia, given the large role coal plays in our economy and our electricity generation. And do you know what she said? She told me public hearings were held in places where people were ``comfortable.'' Well, that response is unacceptable to me and to the people of my State. That response, which represents EPA's disregard for the real-world impacts of its policies, helped shaped this legislation.

    The EPA's proposed greenhouse gas regulations will negatively impact both energy affordability and energy reliability. Coal provided 96 percent of West Virginia's electricity last year and West Virginia was among the lowest electricity prices in the Nation. Last year, the average price was 27 percent below the national average, but these low prices are not likely to survive this administration's policies.

    Studies have projected that the Clean Power Plan will raise electricity prices in West Virginia between 12 and 16 percent. Just last month, 450,000 West Virginia families learned of a 16-percent increase in the cost of electricity. While there were multiple factors that contributed to this rate increase, compliance with previous EPA regulations played a significant role. If we allow EPA's plan to move forward, last week's rate increase will only be the tip of the iceberg.

    Affordable energy matters. Mr. President, 430,000 low- and middle- income families in West Virginia, which is nearly 60 percent of our State's households, take home an average of less than $1,900 a month and spend 17 percent of their aftertax income on energy. These families are especially vulnerable to the price increases that will result from the Clean Power Plan.

    Other West Virginia families will bear the brunt of the EPA's policy more directly. In the past few weeks, 1,800 West Virginia coal miners received layoff notices. The notices came at Alpha Natural Resources and Murray Energy--the two largest coal companies in our State. Patriot Coal also filed for bankruptcy for a second time. Three coal-fired powerplants closed, also costing more jobs in the State of West Virginia.

    When mines and coal-fired powerplants close, the ripple effect is felt throughout our entire economy. The Wheeling Intelligencer reported that the Murray Energy layoffs alone would mean almost $62 million in annual lost wages for Ohio Valley residents.

    Other parts of our State have been hit just as hard. In Nicholas County, the local government was forced to lay off employees, including a number of sheriff's deputies, because of a drop in the coal severance tax.

    Last month, the Energy Information Agency released its analysis of the proposed rule. The administration's own energy statistician found that the Clean Power Plan would shut down more than double the coal- fired powerplant capacity we have by the end of this decade.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.

    Mrs. CAPITO. I thank the Chair. I urge support for the ARENA Act, and I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.

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