PARKERSBURG - The West Virginia delegation to the House of Representatives is poised to vote against the climate change bill.
U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall, both Democrats, released statements late Thursday afternoon, while Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the only Republican in Congress from West Virginia, issued a statement in opposition Wednesday. Known as the "cap and trade" bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act is supported by the Democratic leadership and President Obama and may be debated this afternoon.
It would reduce carbon emissions 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 and limit the number of permits based on carbon dioxide emissions. Coal-producing states, business and industry are opposed, saying the bill will cost jobs and increase electrical costs, the price of goods and taxes for businesses and consumers.
"As currently drafted, this legislation is not in the best interests of my constituents, and it's not in the best interests of West Virginia," Mollohan said.
Mollohan said he has discussed ways to improve the legislation with electric utilities, coal companies and the United Mine Workers of America and representatives of other coal-producing states.
"We have made significant progress on a number of fronts that together would hold down the cost of electricity to residential and industrial consumers, that would help level the playing field for our steel and manufacturing industries that face international competition, and that would enable the electric power industry to continue to burn West Virginia coal," Mollohan said. "As a result of our efforts, the bill is much improved from the original draft, but it still falls short in several key areas, and I cannot support it."
Rahall issued a statement several hours after a demonstration against the bill at the federal building in Huntington.
The bill is better than the first draft in March, but "more improvements are needed to gain my support," Rahall said. Caps on emissions were reduced, but remain too high, and more time is needed for clean-coal technologies, he said.
"These technologies are critical to lowering emissions across multiple sectors of our economy," he said.
Capito said she supports a compromise she says will encourage investment in renewable energy technology, conservation and clean-coal programs without taxing consumers.
"This bill amounts to a national energy tax on consumers, a tax on business and a tax that we can't afford," she said. "In a state that gets 98 percent of its electricity from coal and employs thousands of miners, a bill that penalizes domestic energy isn't a valid option."
Republicans like Dr. Doug McKinney, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party, call it the "cap and tax" bill. Electrical costs could rise from $1,200 to $3,200 a year for families, he said.
"Candles are going to be all we can afford after they pass this cap and tax," McKinney said.
Also opposed is the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
"There is no way an energy tax that will substantially increase the price of electricity could possibly be good for working families in West Virginia, said Executive Director Steve Roberts said.
The bill will cause the elimination of thousands of jobs in West Virginia, particularly in manufacturing, when electric power costs escalate, he said. When power costs rise, West Virginia loses the advantage of its low-cost utilities to retain and attract business, Roberts said.
"We've already seen that happen at Century Aluminum," Roberts said.
Gov. Joe Manchin, in Elizabeth for the expansion of Mustang Survival in Roane County, told the newspaper Thursday the bill could destroy the industrial base of the nation.
"Everybody expects me to come out swinging because of West Virginia," he said. "And they are absolutely correct. I am upset. I think it is wrong what direction things have been going.
"But, if you want to look at the bigger picture, low-cost energy has made this nation great. It will be the competitive cost of energy that will keep this nation competitive and great," Manchin said. "If you inflict the pain that they are about to inflict without thinking this out, it will be devastating. And I hope that better, smarter, sharper, cooler heads will prevail. Right now, what I am seeing is the wrong way to go."