The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Friday, September 3, 2010
By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said Thursday that the proposed federal cap-and-trade legislation would "drastically affect" utility rates and jobs in Virginia.
The legislation could cause electric rates to increase by 35 percent during the next 10 years and cause the loss of 50,000 jobs in the state, Cuccinelli said.
Virginia would be hit much harder than other states by cap-and-trade legislation because it depends on coal for the generation of 80 percent of its electricity, he said. The national average is only about 50 percent.
Cuccinelli, a Republican, came to Rocky Mount for a town hall meeting at The Franklin Center on electricity rates and the federal cap-and-trade legislation.
He was greeted with applause by an overflow crowd of more than 200 people, including many who wore campaign stickers for State Sen. Robert Hurt, the Republican candidate for Congress in the Fifth District.
At moments, the town hall meeting resembled a political rally as people in the audience applauded and showed they agreed with Cuccinelli.
At other times, the meeting resembled a college seminar as the attorney general reviewed minute details of electricity rate cases.
The federal cap-and-trade legislation, which passed the House of Representatives last year, is now stalled in the Senate.
If passed, the federal legislation would require power plants, oil refineries and manufacturers to obtain allowances for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions through various means.
In court, Cuccinelli has challenged the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger health.
Under the legislation, the federal government would set limits on the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that industries could emit. Under such a system, companies would have to buy and sell rights to emit those gases.
Advocates for the bill say it would create incentives for green energy jobs, spurring innovation and growth in a new economic sector.
But the opponents argue that the legislation would endanger jobs, cripple the coal industry, hurt businesses that supply coal companies, and hurt areas that are dependent on coal income.
They claim that it would raise the cost of electricity.The chief executive of Duke Energy Corp., one of the nation's biggest power companies and a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, has said that the cap-and-trade legislation could drive electricity rates up by 40 percent in some areas of the United States.
Cuccinelli made similar predictions, saying the legislation could cause electrical bills to double in the next two decades.
"Coal is the target of cap-and-trade, and Virginia would be drastically affected," he said.
Cuccinelli said the power companies would pass on the costs of cap-and-trade to their customers.
The cap-and-trade legislation has become a key issue in the congressional campaign races in both the Fifth and Ninth districts, where Cuccinelli held the town hall meetings Thursday. He spoke Thursday morning in Abingdon.
Fifth District Rep. Tom Perriello and Ninth District Rep. Rick Boucher, both Democrats, have been criticized by their Republican challengers for voting for the cap-and-trade bill.
Hurt has sharply attacked Perriello for his support of the federal legislation.
"As we try to get our economy back on track, we don't need another congressman in Washington who will support a job-killing national energy tax that only raises utility bills for consumers, expands government regulation and intervention, and increases the cost of doing business in the Fifth District," Hurt said recently.
Cap and trade is also an issue in the Ninth District race between Boucher and Del. Morgan Griffith, his GOP opponent, in Virginia's coal fields.
Griffith has attacked Boucher for supporting the bill, citing its effect on the coal industry, one of the largest job producers in the Ninth District. The issue of cap-and-trade has become one of Griffith's main themes in his campaign.
But Boucher said that he worked to shape the legislation to protect the coal industry as much as possible.
Cuccinelli discussed the State Corporation Commission's (SCC) approval of Appalachian Power Co.'s (APCo) rate increase that took effect Aug. 1. Cuccinelli's office represented consumers in the APCo rate case.
The SCC approved a smaller rate increase than APCo had requested.
Cuccinelli reviewed in detail the role of his office in the APCo rate case.
The APCo rate increase has become an issue in the Fifth District congressional race between Perriello and Hurt.
As a member of the House of Delegates in 2007, Hurt voted for new regulatory legislation for investor-owned electric utilities. The recent APCo rate case was the first that the company had filed under the new law.
Perriello has said that the legislation that was supported by Hurt allowed electric utilities to seek more rate increases.
But Hurt, in a news release, said that Perriello's accusations are false because APCo's rate increase was based on a law that predates his vote on the 2007 bill.
"The fact is that my votes in the General Assembly helped to lower electric rates for Virginia families and small businesses," Hurt said, adding that Perriello has distorted his voting record.
Without mentioning Hurt or the the Fifth District race, Cuccinelli backed up Hurt's statements, saying that the 2007 law was not the cause or a factor in APCo's rate increase.
Cuccinelli said that there will be no more interim rate increases by power companies because the General Assembly has passed legislation to prohibit them.