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Capito takes to Senate floor to criticize Biden climate orders

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito speaks on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday about President Joe Biden’s executive orders dealing with climate. (Photo from Screengrab)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., took to the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday criticizing executive orders from President Joe Biden that could negatively affect West Virginia, from the energy industry down to schools.

Capito criticized a series of executive orders issued by Biden on Wednesday to address climate change. One of these orders halts all new oil and natural gas leases on federal property and offshore, as well as a review of all current permits and leases.

“This is an economic energy and national security disaster,” Capito said. “In my view, this order moves America from energy independence back to relying on foreign sources of fuel. And a lot of times these are the countries that have much laxer environmental policies than we have right here in the United States.”

Biden signed executive orders Wednesday making the climate crisis a focus of foreign policy and national security, creating a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy and task force, protecting 30 percent of federal land and water by the end of the decade. This follows executive orders last week revoking the Keystone XL pipeline permit and rejoining the Paris Agreement climate change treaty.

To help Biden implement climate policies, he appointed former secretary of state John Kerry as a special envoy for climate change and Gina McCarthy, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, as the leader of the new Office of Domestic Climate Policy.

McCarthy served as EPA leader under former president Barack Obama, when the administration set tighter emission standards on coal-fired power plants. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, coal-fired power in the U.S. decreased by 64 percent between 2009 and 2020. During the same period of time, coal production decreased by 52 percent. The number of coal mining jobs fell from 86,400 at the beginning of 2009 to 44,100 by the end of 2020.

Biden claimed his executive orders and focus on climate have the potential to create millions of good-paying jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure, transportation. Biden also said his plans will not come at the expense of workers in extraction industries, such as coal and natural gas.

“It’s not time for small measures; we need to be bold, so, let me be clear: That includes helping revitalize the economies of coal, oil, and gas, and power plant communities,” Biden said in remarks Wednesday. “We’re never going to forget the men and women who dug the coal and built the nation. We’re going to do right by them and make sure they have opportunities to keep building the nation and their own communities and getting paid well for it.”

Speaking Thursday, Capito said she had heard these claims before during the Obama administration and during former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign for president in 2016. Capito said failed climate policies of the past helped decimate West Virginia’s economy and push some into opioid addiction to cope.

“I’ve seen this playbook before, so we’re back to the future,” Capito said. “I remember the same people saying the same things. And I remember the utterly unachievable regulatory requirements that Gina McCarthy created in her position as head of the EPA that decimated my state. I remember the thousands of jobs lost and still lost and the hopelessness and the, and the succeeding opioid epidemic that followed.”

Capito, a champion of several conservation projects including the designation of the New River Gorge National River into the nation’s 63rd national park, said the new administration needs to work with West Virginia and energy-producing states. Capito also pointed to the work of the private sector and free market in meeting climate goals. According to the EPA, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell by 12 percent between 2005 and 2018 while global emissions rose by 24 percent during the same period.

“We must be good stewards of our earth and of our water. We know it’s the right thing to do, but the free market is already moving in that direction,” Capito said. “A national energy transition really needs time. And the Biden administration needs to be very clear about what their timetables really are.”

Capito joined with 24 Republican Senate colleagues in sponsoring the Protecting Our Wealth of Energy Resources (P.O.W.E.R.) Act of 2021. The bill would prohibit the president or administration officials from blocking energy and mineral leases on federal lands without Congressional approval.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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