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Cuccinelli hits cap and trade bill
AG: Power rates, jobs are at risk
Friday, September 3, 2010
By JOEL TURNER - Franklin News-Post 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 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 about 50 percent.
Cuccinelli, a Republican, visited The Franklin Center in Rocky Mount for a town hall meeting 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 5th District.
At moments, the meeting resembled a political rally as people in the audience applauded and showed they agreed with Cuccinelli.
At other times, it 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 stalled in the Senate. 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.
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.
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 5th and 9th Districts, where Cuccinelli held town hall meetings Thursday. He spoke Thursday morning in Abingdon.
Fifth District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello and 9th District U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, both incumbent Democrats, have been criticized by their Republican challengers for voting for the cap-and-trade bill.
Cuccinelli also discussed the State Corporation Commission's (SCC) approval of Appalachian Power Co.'s (APCo) rate increase that took effect Aug. 1. The SCC approved a smaller rate increase than Appalachian had requested.
Cuccinelli's office represented consumers in the Appalachian rate case, and he reviewed in detail the role of his office in the Appalachian rate case.
The Appalachian rate increase has become an issue in the 5th District 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 Appalachian rate case was the first that the company had filed under the new law.
Perriello has said that legislation allowed electric utilities to seek more rate increases.
Hurt, in a news release, said that Perriello's accusations are false because Appalachian'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 5th District race, Cuccinelli backed up Hurt's statements, saying that the 2007 law was not the cause or a factor in Appalachian's rate increase.
Cuccinelli noted that there will be no more interim rate increases by power companies because the General Assembly has passed legislation to prohibit them.