WHEELING - Sen. Jay Rockefeller believes the science behind global warming "is real" and that America needs to address climate change.
But the West Virginia Democrat also thinks proposals set forth by President Barack Obama on Tuesday failed to account for the effects his ideas will have on coal mining communities.
Obama announced his three-part plan to combat global warming during a stop at Georgetown University. Obama suggested carbon emissions would be reduced by "using less dirty energy" produced by coal-fired power plants, investing in cleaner alternative energies and encouraging energy conservation by consumers.
Obama's proposals to reduce carbon emissions would bypass Congress, and instead be enacted through executive order.
"I understand the president wants to move forward on climate change, but his remarks today were short on details, and those details matter in the lives of West Virginians," Rockefeller said. "Any action on climate change is going to have a direct effect on the lives of our mining communities that are already facing great uncertainties, and on the pocketbooks of every one of our middle-class families still dealing with a recovering job market."
The nation needs to see a timeline and cost estimate of Obama's plan, and to understand just how coal communities will be supported once Obama's proposals take effect, according to Rockefeller.
"The regulations the president wants to force on coal are not feasible - and if it's not feasible, it's not reasonable," added Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. "It's clear now that the president has declared a war on coal. It's simply unacceptable that one of the key elements of his climate change proposal places regulations on coal that are completely impossible to meet with existing technology."
The Obama administration has denied waging a war on coal, but since he was first elected in 2008 Obama "has waged an unrelenting war against coal," said Rep. David B. McKinley, R-Wheeling.
"Emblematic of the president's aversion to coal, one of his energy advisers was quoted today saying 'a war on coal is exactly what's needed,'" he said. "But tell that to the thousands of miners who will no longer be able to provide for their families, or the senior on a fixed income whose electric bill will go up."
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, Ohio, said the new regulations "will put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk and cripple businesses across the United States that rely on affordable and dependable coal-provided energy."
"In my district alone, we have six coal-fired power plants that are now in jeopardy," he noted. "The president is, once again, stifling free-markets and meddling with our economy.
"While I certainly agree that we should embrace alternative energies, they cannot be the only sources we rely on to power our economy," he added. "Coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power are the primary sources in our overall energy profile. President Obama made it quite clear today that he does not support the traditional energy sources that have met our primary energy needs for decades, and can meet them for generations to come."
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, added it is critical that America reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but he said the country "must do this in a way that creates Ohio jobs rather than puts them at risk."
"That means we must utilize every available tool - investing in carbon capture technology, increasing our use of renewable energy and promoting energy efficiency in our homes and businesses," Brown said. "But we must make sure that industries in other nations are operating under the same rules as our domestic manufacturers. We must develop global solutions that are both comprehensive and fair to Ohio workers and manufacturers."
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-Charleston, said after failing to get congressional approval for his partisan environmental agenda, Obama will "unilaterally forge ahead with his job-killing plan."
"In 2008, then-Senator Obama made threats to 'bankrupt' anyone who wants to build a new coal-fired power plant, and over the years he has used the Environmental Protection Agency as a way to accomplish that goal," she said. "Sadly, this recent announcement spells trouble for a vital industry in West Virginia that has already been hard-hit by this administration.
"Today's announcement is another move in the president's tyrannical game of picking winners and losers in the energy industry. Instead of supporting an all-of-the-above plan, President Obama's devastating regulations will shut down existing coal plants and halt the development of clean coal technology facilities. Not only will this decision hamstring our nation's ability to become energy independent, but it will prove devastating for American workers and consumers," she added.
Obama's environmental policies already have cost jobs in Ohio, according to Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
"At least eight coal-fired power plants in Ohio are set to close, due in large part to regulatory mandates put in place by the EPA," he said. "As a result, nearly a thousand Ohio jobs will be directly impacted, local communities will lose millions in tax revenue and more than 6,000 megawatts - enough energy to power thousands of homes - will be taken off the grid. ... America does not need another top-down climate mandate by its federal government. Instead it needs a low-cost energy plan that ensures we have access to reliable, affordable and cleaner domestic energy."