As I predicted not long ago, our Attorney General is now launching what will surely be a major theme of his just-announced gubernatorial campaign: demagoguing electric power rate increases, blaming them on big gov'mint and environmentalists -- while leaving energy companies blameless. Yes, power rates are all the fault of that evil EPA, picking on those poor coal companies and utilities, as the Roanoke Times a bit too dutifully reports:
Cuccinelli - who as a Republican candidate for governor brings a record of challenging President Barack Obama's policies in court, from health care to environmental initiatives - said the EPA too often hampers economic development.
"The EPA, if it does anything well, is the Employment Prevention Agency," he said.
Of four rate increases recently approved by the State Corporation Commission for Appalachian, Cuccinelli attributed a little more than half of the total amount to environmental regulation.
To be fair, Cuccinelli surely came by these opinions honestly, according to the old saying that an honest politician is one who, "when he is bought, will stay bought". Because a quick examination of the VPAP website shows that his biggest donors are -- shocker -- energy companies!
Within just the 2010-2011 time period, these companies dumped over a quarter million shekels in Cuccinelli's pot. About half of that came from coal companies, with utilities second. Among the coal giants, #2 on his donor list is Alpha Energy Resources. It's a company that includes the remnants of another coal company formerly known as Massey Energy. In case that name still doesn't ring a bell, let me refresh your memory.
Massey is most notorious for the April 5, 2010, Upper Big Branch mine explosion in which 29 miners lost their lives. That was the culmination of a long history of hundreds if not thousands of safety violations. As a Federal report on the disaster found, it was mainly caused by the company's "corporate culture".
The company's environmental history is just as notorious. Massey set a record in 2007 for being forced to pay the largest civil fine EPA had ever levied for water permit violations, given for the enormous amounts of toxic coal mining waste the company had dumped in West Virginia streams -- not surprising for one of the foremost practitioners of the ugly, destructive practice of "mountaintop removal".
So this is the kind of company that Cuccinelli thinks needs LESS government regulation. Just think about it for a minute.
I don't know much about what determines electric rates. But personally, I wouldn't mind paying a few extra cents per kilowatt hour to save the lives of some miners, save threatened streams and the wildlife in them, and save our future from even more catastrophic climate change than we're already guaranteed to get.
Anyone tempted to buy Cuccinelli's demagoguery should consider what our state and country would look like if the coal companies and utilities were really freed from government regulation. The moon?
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