CHARLESTON — New regulations that could speed up the demise of coal-fired power plants in West Virginia and the nation raised the eyebrows of the state’s two U.S. Senators and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who has taken on federal environmental regulators successfully at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a new regulation Thursday morning that would require coal-fired power plants to reduce their greenhouse gas emission by 90% by 2039, moving up a previous requirement by one year. Plants could also utilize underground carbon capture and sequestration to meet the 90% requirement.

The new regulations include stricter limits on mercury emissions, the amount of seepage of coal ash into local waterways, and the amount of wastewater discharge from plants.

In a statement Thursday morning, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan cited rule-making authority within the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act allowing the EPA to make these regulation updates and has the backing of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Regan said the new rules will help provide certainty as the nation continues to transition into a clean energy economy.

“Today, EPA is proud to make good on the Biden-Harris Administration’s vision to tackle climate change and to protect all communities from pollution in our air, water, and in our neighborhoods,” Regan said. “By developing these standards in a clear, transparent, inclusive manner, EPA is cutting pollution while ensuring that power companies can make smart investments and continue to deliver reliable electricity for all Americans.”

According to Ali Zaidi, President Biden’s national climate advisor, said 96% of the new electric generation capacity being constructed in the U.S. this year is renewable energy, such as solar and wind. Zaidi said the new rules would speed up construction of clean energy sources to replace coal and create jobs.

“President Biden’s leadership has not only sparked an unprecedented expansion in clean electricity generation, his leadership has also launched an American manufacturing renaissance,” Zaidi said. “America is now a magnet for private investment, with hundreds of billions of dollars committed and 270,000 new clean energy jobs created. This is how we win the future, by harnessing new technologies to grow our economy, deliver environmental justice, and save the planet for future generations.”

The new rule received support from the American Lung Association, the BlueGreen Alliance, and the Sierra Club.

“The Biden Administration is taking historic and decisive action to protect our health, our clean air and water, and safeguard our collective future,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous. “In finalizing federal standards to address the deadly and dangerous pollution from fossil fuel power plants, which have long endangered our communities, the Biden Administration has listened to the overwhelming public demand and delivered on its promise to ensure every person, regardless of zip code, gains access to clean air, safe water, and a stable climate.”

According to the state Public Energy Authority, West Virginia has nine coal-fired power plants accounting for 88.9% of the electricity generated in the state, or a combined net summer capacity of more than 13,000 megawatts.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, held a virtual briefing with state reporters Thursday afternoon. Manchin said the goal of the new rules is not to incentivize coal-fired plants to innovate but to completely shut down, calling it a “death by a thousand cuts that could also affect natural gas-fired power plants as well.

“This is thinly designed to attempt to permanently force coal plants to retire and prevent new natural gas plants from being built,” Manchin said. “I believe they will be challenged in court and they will lose … Why they continue to do this makes no sense whatsoever.”

Manchin accused Biden of listening more to climate change activists on the political far-left instead of being more concerned about electric grid reliability issues as more demands are placed on it, including from the growth of electric vehicles.

“We’re producing the energy we need … then they come out with these kinds of rules to try to stymie everything? They have some irresponsible climate advisors in the White House taking Joe Biden down the primrose path,” Manchin said. “It’s awful, and I hope he wakes up soon to understand what damage they’re trying to do to America.”

In a statement Thursday, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito – the Republican ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – said she would introduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval for the new EPA rule. The CRA allows Congress to overturn rules created by federal agencies, though a president can veto a CRA resolution.

“With the latest iteration of the illegal Clean Power Plan 2.0 announced today, President Biden has inexplicably doubled down on his plans to shut down the backbone of America’s electric grid through unachievable regulatory mandates,” said Capito, R-W.Va.

“Electricity demand is set to skyrocket thanks in part to the EPA’s own electric vehicles mandate, and unfortunately, Americans are already paying higher utility bills under President Biden,” Capito continued. “Despite all this, the administration has chosen to press ahead with its unrealistic climate agenda that threatens access to affordable, reliable energy for households and employers across the country.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican candidate for governor of West Virginia, said his office is reviewing the new regulations and determining what actions to take. The Attorney General’s Office secured two victories against the EPA before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 and 2022 over the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and in defense of the Trump-era Affordable Clean Energy Rule.

“This tactic by the EPA is unacceptable, and this rule flies in the face of the rule of law,” Morrisey said. “We are confident this new rule is not going to be upheld, and it just seems designed to scare more coal-fired power plants into retirement–the goal of the Biden administration.

“Making matters worse, the administration packaged this rule with several other rules aimed at destroying traditional energy providers,” Morrisey continued. “We’re reviewing those rules as well, and we’ll be working with state and industry partners to implement the best strategy for fighting back against Biden’s anti-energy agenda.”

U.S. Reps. Alex Mooney and Carol Miller, both R-W.Va., also released statements through their offices decrying the new EPA rule.

“The Biden Administration has been dictating outrageous rules from Washington with utter disregard for the impact on hardworking coal communities,” said Mooney. “Biden’s out-of-control EPA is laser-focused on closing every coal plant in West Virginia and ushering in higher energy prices via the Green New Deal.”

“The EPA’s Clean Power Plan 2.0 rules remind Americans that the Biden Administration is focused on demolishing the United States coal industry in the name of ‘green’ energy,” said Miller. “These new mandates will cripple our electric grid, current coal-fired power plants, new natural gas-fired power plants, and overall U.S. energy production. This disastrous move will increase energy prices and cost of living across the United States.”