U.S. Energy Policy
4:00 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

VA Lawmakers Weigh in on Climate Change

President Obama is vowing to attempt to combat climate change from the Oval Office, which Virginia Republicans say will cost jobs in the state while also hiking energy prices.

Matt Laslo reports from Washington, D.C.

Climate change wasn't really a part of the 2012 election, so the president surprised many when he promised to deal with global warming in his second inaugural address. Now he's coming out swinging again...charging Republicans with being deaf to the scientific community.

“The president wants to cut off the whole dag-gone nose. It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s not based in science as we currently know it," said Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith.

From his tone you may be able to tell that Griffith represents coal country in the Southwestern part of the commonwealth. Griffith says the administration ought to be focused on improving so-called clean coal technologies, like carbon capture and sequestration – where carbon emissions are stored underground.  

“That’s what the science is telling us we ought to be doing, instead of putting blanket statements out there that we’re going to kill the coal industry, we’re going to devastate the economy in Southwest Virginia and the central Appalachian region. That’s what science tells you to do," said Griffith.

The White House hasn't released the exact details of its plan, but the broad outline is something that is sending shivers down the spines of energy executives: the government putting heavy regulations on power plants. Virginia Republican Congressman Randy Forbes says that’s going to squeeze this shaky economy even further.

“I wish the president would focus on creating jobs instead of destroying jobs," said Forbes.
The reaction from Democrats is more mixed. Throughout their political careers the commonwealth’s two Democratic senators have walked a thin line between supporting new clean energy technologies and the state’s traditional fossil fuel industries.

“He’s taking some of the steps I agree with, some of them I don’t, but I think we’ve got to move this debate forward," said Senator Mark Warner of the president's new initiative.

Warner adds that the G-O-P claim that the president is killing the coal industry is wrong. “Coal should be and will continue to be a piece of our energy mix.”

The president says because Congress won't address global warming, he's going to. And he says the Clean Air Act gives him unilateral authority to curb emissions. While Virginia Republicans say that new policy is just another Executive Branch overreach, Senator Tim Kaine says it seems to be within the president’s authority.

“There are regulations and executive orders that have had a long tradition and the president, if he acts within those powers, he is doing what presidents do in both parties," said Kaine.
Even so, Kaine says he’s still waiting for specifics before fully backing the administration’s effort to curb carbon pollution.

There are different feelings amongst House Democrats – a chamber that passed a cap and trade bill when Democrats were in the majority. With Congress gridlocked, Northern Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran says it’s good the administration is taking unilateral action to curb emissions.

“This planet is at risk, yet people for their own selfish, financial interest are determined to do everything they can to block this country from acting responsibly in the face of such a crisis," he said.

For now it’s a waiting game as the Obama Administration crafts the details of its new policy to combat global warming. In the meantime Virginia’s energy producers and many Republicans are angry, bracing and trying to figure out what the new world of U-S energy policy will look like.