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COLUMN:Community View - EPA’s coal regulations matter for Northern Va.

One of the keys to Virginia’s economic success has been our diverse, abundant supply of energy sources. Virginia takes full advantage of our large quantities of coal, natural gas and nuclear energy to maintain affordable electricity prices and ensure a consistent, reliable supply for homes and businesses.

Affordable electricity reduces the economic burden on middle class families and allows them to focus on other important investments such as home ownership, retirement and their children’s education.
But affordable, reliable electricity is also a critical element to the success of Virginia businesses.

In fact, the cost and dependability of electricity is one of the most important factors businesses use to determine where to locate their operations.

Virginia’s diverse, affordable electricity supply is a major reason why Loudoun County has become one of the world’s most important hubs for data centers.

Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Administration’s new rules on power plant emissions are threatening to undermine these economic advantages by eliminating one of the most abundant sources of low-cost electricity in Virginia.

EPA itself admits that its proposed regulations will cost our economy billions in compliance costs and raise electricity prices.

It should go without saying that every Virginian wants a clean environment.

As a delegate, I have supported efforts to promote solar and wind power generation in Virginia.

Further I have sponsored legislation to offer renewable energy tax incentives.

But EPA’s proposed regulations are designed to eliminate coal from our energy mix.

Over time, clean coal technology has made coal better for the environment.

Although it is too often ignored by environmental advocates, technological innovations have actually reduced pollution from coal plants by nearly 60 percent over the last few decades, and emission continue to fall.

New technologies such Carbon Capture and Sequestration promise to make coal even cleaner.

Virginia both produces and consumes a lot of coal.

Thousands of jobs, particularly in Southwest Virginia, are dependent on the coal industry.

Virginia’s coal is used here in the Commonwealth, and also exported to other states and nations.

The closure of coal plants will mean more unemployment and a lower quality of life for the citizens in the southwestern part of our state.

Those impacts will send ripples across the rest of the state as well, including Northern Virginia.

Many of us already believe that Northern Virginia doesn’t get our fair share of our tax dollars returned to our region, and without a viable coal industry in Southwest Virginia, the problem will only get worse.

Without the coal industry to support jobs and tax revenue, Southwest Virginia will become more dependent on the tax dollars generated in our region.

Higher electricity prices are bad for our entire economy.

They will have a negative impact on almost everything that we do – from increasing the cost of operating businesses to the increased costs that will be passed onto consumers.

Furthermore, a diverse supply of electricity is an important protection against price spikes and shortages and enables Virginians to depend on a consistent supply of energy when we need it the most.

During the polar vortex that we experienced last winter, coal played a vital role in meeting additional heating needs throughout the eastern United States.

Government should continue to support the development of clean energy technologies.

But it shouldn't do so by forcing the coal industry out of business.

There are more sensible approaches.

The reality is that China, India, and other developing nations are seeing major increases in their emissions, while the United States is reducing ours.

In my view, the EPA needs to go back to the drawing board with its proposed rules on new and existing power plants.

Instead of costly, complicated regulations, let’s find ways to make our environment cleaner in a way that preserves our diverse energy mix and protects Virginia jobs.

- Del. David Ramadan represents the 87th House of Delegates district, which includes much of western Prince William County.
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