US Supreme Court EPA Climate Energy Weighing Coal Lands

KLENDENIN, WASHINGTON, Virginia – A historic flood caused by torrential rains has wiped out almost all cities in the mountainous coal-rich country of West Virginia, killing 23 people and causing ক্ষতি 1 billion in damage. Six years later, many survivors are paralyzed by the growing threat of climate change and urgent calls to stop greenhouse gases from burning coal.

“It’s all weather, you know what I mean. I’m not a scientist, but I don’t believe it,” said Klendenin’s mayor, K. Summers, who was elected Republican two years ago for reconstruction. “Every time it rains or storms, I stay awake at night. I know it can happen, but I don’t think it will happen again.”

According to government scientists, communities in central Apalachia are the most vulnerable in the country to the effects of global warming and the most resistant to government-led efforts to mitigate the effects.

They are also at the forefront of a landmark environmental case before the US Supreme Court, which will decide this spring how much authority the Environmental Protection Agency has over controlling global warming emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“I’ve never seen such a flood here in the last 20 years,” said Maria Guno, a longtime environmentalist whose family has been living and digging in West Virginia for generations. “We can’t risk everything for energy, you know, I mean – coal lights up, they say, but at what cost?”

The region’s recovery from the 2016 floods – and its continued reliance on the fossil fuel economy – illustrates the dual humanitarian and economic partnership in the West Virginia lawsuit against the EPA.

A coalition of eighteen states and U.S. power agencies, led by West Virginia, wants tougher restrictions on EPA authorities to enact rules that could transform the entire industry. The Biden administration argues that Congress has given the EPA significant opportunity under the Clean Air Act to write regulations to prevent climate change.

Kevin Minoli, a former EPA acting general counsel and career civil servant, Kevin Minoli, Kevin Minoli, Kevin Minoli, Kevin Minoli, spoke about the case.

The results could dramatically shape the future of coal-dependent communities like Klendenin and the future of coal-fired power plants that employ thousands of workers but also emit millions of tons of greenhouse gases each year.

Experts say strict EPA authority restrictions could halve U.S. carbon emissions by 2030 and completely shut down fossil fuels such as coal by 2050 – the White House’s top objective.

“While the EPA has a narrow mandate to work on carbon emissions, it is nowhere near what the Biden administration is advising,” said West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, a Republican who has warned of thousands of jobs, industry gains. . , State tax revenue, and a reliable source of electricity is on the line.

Although the extreme flood that engulfed Klendenin was exceptional, government and academic climatologists have warned that the threat of extreme rainfall is growing across West Virginia, which is already the third-largest country in terms of flood disasters in the last 70 years.

At the same time, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that more frequent and stronger storms in the region have caused 55% more rainfall.

Coal, one of West Virginia’s most lucrative exports, is used to generate about 90% of the state’s electricity in unequal amounts, according to the Energy Information Administration. (Less than a quarter of the country’s electricity is generated from coal.)

The EPA argues in legal documents that Congress gave it clear prudence under the Clean Air Act to determine the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect human health, and officials said this month that they were ready to release strict new limits on power plant pollution. With the verdict of the Supreme Court.

“Our people want clean air. They want clean water. Absolutely. But you have to go through the process properly,” Morrissey said. “Letting unelected bureaucrats just make decisions in the guise of good government – that’s not right. It’s a decision of Congress, not the EPA.”

The state’s largest coal-fired power plant – the John Amos plant in Winfield, West Virginia – is located 40 miles west of Klendenin on the banks of the Kanaoha River. It is one of 174 coal-fired power plants nationwide that could be affected by the Supreme Court decision.

“They want to make rules but they don’t understand because they don’t walk in those shoes,” Mayor Summers said of EPA regulators.

American Electric Power, one of the largest utilities in the country that owns the John Amos facility, has given ABC News Live rare access to see first-hand how its 1,000 full-time workers and contract workers create enough power for two million homes and businesses across three. States

The plant burns 27,000 tons of coal per day during peak season, drawing on daily shipments of regional coal supplied by barges and rail. Its three power units emitted 10.8 million tons of earth-warming carbon dioxide last year – or the equivalent of more than 2 million vehicles a year, according to official records.

In the mid-2000s, EPA regulations forced many US power plants to invest in upgrading smokestacks with scrubbers that removed almost all sulfur dioxide – a pollutant that could harm human health and contribute to acid rain.

Since then, the company has sought to set new limits on power plant carbon dioxide emissions, the primary driver of global warming. Litigation has complicated that plan, but the EPA hopes to unveil a new approach this summer.

Power companies across the country, including American Electric Power, are slowly turning to cheaper alternatives to coal. By 2035, 28 percent of coal-fired power plants will be shut down.

“I grew up in a coal country. I come from a community where we are seeing massive job losses, massive job losses,” said Kin Mullins, co-founder of Revolt Energy and a solar developer. “Coal and solar must coexist here.”

Mullins operates the largest commercial solar installation in West Virginia in the shadow of the John Amos Power Plant. He says the legal battle over coal draws attention to the need to diversify the state’s power portfolio.

“If we could maximize every available roof space and all usable land in this state, we would be able to reach 30 percent of the grid power – maybe,” he said.

The West Virginia Public Utilities Commission last year leased the John Amos plant and two other coal-fired facilities a new lifeline, approving more than $ 448 million in environmental upgrades for burning coal by 2040. A portion of the cost will be passed To the losers.

“I think we need coal until we have enough, you know, until they find an alternative source,” said Ricky Brookover, a union boiler maker who works on installing overnight upgrades to the Amos facility. “We have a lot of clean energy, clean things [the plant]. For example, when you see white smoke coming out of a pile, it’s clear. “

Brookover, a 41-year-old father whose family has close ties to the coal industry, said he did not oppose the EPA but questioned a campaign to tackle the climate crisis that he did not see.

“I really feel like it was worse when I was younger. You know what I mean? We had more snow when I was younger. There seemed to be more flooding,” he said.

As both sides prepare for the Supreme Court’s decision, environmental lawyers say they fear for the worst.

“The impact here is going to be increasing mining, increased pollution,” Gunnoe said. “The coal industry has always kept our people in the dark, and I’m not looking to change that.”

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