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On this week’s episode of The CAP⋅impact Podcast I talk with West Virginia University School of Law Professor James Van Nostrand. He is also Director of the school’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development. West Virginia is being impacted by climate change in multiple ways. The state is one of the most flash flood prone states in the U.S. An uptick in extreme weather events has not helped that situation. The state’s coal industry – although indirectly – is also being affected by climate change.
We talked about the declining coal industry, and how market factors like inexpensive natural gas and increasingly competitive renewable energy sources, are really driving the decline of coal. The third factor Prof. Van Nostrand notes is declining coal exports due to the international community’s acceptance of climate change and a resulting desire to use less coal for energy production. To Prof. Van Nostrand’s chagrin, “People aren’t all that enthusiastic about accepting the notion of climate change in West Virginia.”
He testified in support of two bills in the West Virginia legislature that would have helped position the state better for the new energy economy. Both of those bills – one allowing utilities to build solar plants on abandoned coal mines and ship that energy across the state and another to allow consumers to enter into solar power purchase agreements – died in committee. A recent bill to lower the severance tax on coal from five percent to three percent, however, did pass.
Another regulation that Professor Van Nostrand has been outspoken about was the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. His concern was that it was the wrong tool for the job, regularly telling Congress that what is actually needed is comprehensive legislation to address climate change. That specific concern about the Clean Power Plan is moot now that the Trump administration has eliminated the Clean Power Plan. But the need for comprehensive legislation remains, so naturally, I had to ask him about the most comprehensive piece of climate change legislation on the board, the Green New Deal.
You can learn more about Professor Van Nostrand’s work by visiting his faculty page on West Virginia University’s website or his SSRN page. You can also follow him on Twitter @jamievanWVU. You can learn more about the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development here.