Panel Discusses Clean Power Plan in Wheeling

Oct 29, 2015

Power Plant in Mt. Storm, W.Va.
Credit Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University hosted a panel discussion this week about the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The new rule seeks to reduce carbon emissions in the US by 37 percent by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.


The Appalachian Institute hosted the panel discussion titled “Speaking Truth to Power” at Wheeling Jesuit University. It’s one of several events designed to generate understanding about controversial and consequential matters in the state.

"We want to give community chance to really learn what the plan is about, it's potential impacts and also possible solutions," said director of the Appalachian Institute, Beth Collins.

Panelist: James Van Nostrand

The panel discussion was included the associate professor of law at West Virginia University, and director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, James Van Nostrand. He’s worked in recent years to explore viable scenarios in which West Virginia could comply with proposed federal guidelines.

“We haven’t done the analysis to figure out how we’re going to get to 37 percent,” Van Nostrand said, “but based on our analysis of the proposed rule, it’s doable. It’s going to cause disruption. The coal plants that we have are going to run less because we need to have lower carbon emissions.”

Van Nostrand ran through possible reactions to the rule, which include litigation, legislation, retaliation, or (as Van Nostrand was apt to encourage) innovation.

“We have the resources to scale up energy efficiency, scale up co-firing with coal, scale up combined heat and power. It can be done, but it’s going to be a different future.”

Van Nostrand talked about this week’s announcement by Governor Tomblin that West Virginia would be creating a compliance plan as opposed to simply retaliating with a “just say no” stance to the carbon regulations.

Panelist: David Greene

A retired coal miner and author of Unfit to Be a Slave, David Greene, was the other panelist. He spoke about community coping mechanisms in the face of economic change. He said now more than ever community members need to be critical thinkers, questioning all sources of information and decision makers.

“A Greek playwright Euripides said, ‘question everything, and answer nothing.’” Greene said. “I’m not sure you have to answer nothing, but I think questioning everything is a good starting point.”

Greene said being armed with knowledge of history, business realities, and the concerns of your neighbors are key to navigating paths forward in light of a major economic shift like the one we’re seeing in the energy sector.

“People can learn what they need to; they have perceptions, heart and soul,” Greene reflected. “We can remake the world, but we really need a lot of people.”