406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room

Opening Statement

Welcome to this hearing of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee entitled “The Impacts of EPA’s proposed Carbon Regulations on Energy Costs for American Businesses, Rural Communities and Families, and a legislative hearing on S. 1324”. S. 1324 is better known as the Affordable Reliable Electricity Now Act, or ARENA. I introduced ARENA in May and am proud to have more than 30 cosponsors, including Leader McConnell, Chairman Inhofe, and all my fellow EPW Republicans.

I introduced ARENA and am holding this hearing today because of the devastating impact that EPA’s proposed regulations will have on the families and businesses in my home state and across the nation. I am not exaggerating when I say almost every day back home in West Virginia, there are new stories detailing plants closed, jobs lost, and price increases.

I have a letter here sent to me yesterday from Ammar’s Inc., a family owned company that operates 19 Magic Mart stores in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky. The letter is accompanied by a petition signed by 26,000 Magic Mart customers, calling on EPA to end its war on coal and catastrophic impact on local economies.

Ammar’s Inc. has been active in the region for 95 years, and according to this letter, the present economic crunch is the most difficult challenge the company has faced. Let me quote directly:

“There was a time when your greatest obstacle was your competitor, but if you worked hard, took care of your customers and offered quality merchandise at a fair price, you could compete successfully. Unfortunately, that is now not the case… The largest impediment we have to operating our business successfully is our own government, particularly the EPA. The rulings issued by the EPA have devastated our regional economy.”

Coal provided 96 percent of West Virginia’s electricity last year. West Virginia has among the lowest electricity prices in the nation: last year, the average price was 27 percent below the national average. But that advantage will not survive this administration’s policies. Studies have projected the Clean Power Plan will raise electricity prices in West Virginia by between 12 and 16 percent.

Earlier this month, 450,000 West Virginians learned of a 16 percent increase in the cost of electricity. While there were multiple factors that contributed to this rate increase, compliance with previous EPA regulations played a significant part. If we allow EPA’s plan to move forward, last week’s rate increase will only be the tip of the iceberg.

Affordable energy matters. The 430,000 low and middle income families in West Virginia—nearly 60 percent of our state’s households—take home an average of less than $1900 a month and spend 17 percent of their after tax income on energy. These families are especially vulnerable to the price increases that will result from the Clean Power Plan.

But this isn’t just about the impacts on coal producing states like West Virginia. This is about the impacts across the United States.

It is important to note that all electricity has to come from somewhere. In many states, odds are that it is being imported from a state that relies on coal. But no one is talking about that.

Turning to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states. One of the witnesses we will hear from today, Mr. Martens, is affiliated RGGI, a program of nine northeastern states that uses market principles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. Mr. Martens probably won’t mention that RGGI’s nine states consume five times more energy than they produce. Or that my little state of West Virginia produces twice as much energy as all nine of the RGGI] states combined.

There are energy producing states, and there are energy consuming states. Only 13 states produce more energy than they consume. West Virginia ranks second, behind only Wyoming. And for 10 of the 13 states that export energy, coal is critical to maintaining that net positive result.

Put simply, there is no way that this massive, largely EPA-driven reduction in coal fired electricity generation is going to impact only coal states. It’s going to impact the majority of states, and the families and businesses within them. Often, the poorest and most vulnerable populations will bear the brunt of this increase.

I look forward to hearing in greater detail from our witnesses about the impact of these proposed regulations and the need for clean air policies that don’t over burden our states and cripple our economy.

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