West Virginia’s rich natural resources and robust oil and gas production long have been cornerstones of the nation’s energy sector and a significant contributor to our energy independence.
Just as importantly, the industry is an economic engine for West Virginia workers and families by supporting more than 73,000 jobs and nearly $5 billion in income across the state. That is why it is so concerning to see important discussions surrounding environmental sustainability and foreign pollution give way to irrational legislation in Washington that would harm this vital industry and the families that depend on it.
Right now, Congress is considering proposals to that would lead to carbon tariffs on hand-picked imports that are essential for domestic oil and gas production. The PROVE IT Act, which recently moved one step closer to passage in the Senate, would require yet another new study on greenhouse gas emissions intensity. Even worse, the Foreign Pollution Fee Act would impose a convoluted carbon border adjustment tax scheme, a fancy word for energy tax.
The PROVE IT Act is not “a benign government measurement scheme” but a “gateway for a carbon tax on imported goods and a domestic carbon tax,” warned a broad coalition of organizations concerned about the impact of such taxes. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., proved this exact point when she recently tried to prevent the bill from being used to push through energy taxes on our state. Capito’s commonsense proposal was voted down.
Proponents of the Foreign Pollution Fee Act, meanwhile, see it as a way of forcing other countries to reduce emissions. While the overarching goal of environmental protection is commendable, the devil lies in the details, especially for workers and families in states reliant on industries that would bear the brunt of such policies.
One of our major concerns about a carbon border tax is that it will ultimately be paid by American manufacturers, workers and families. That’s because all tariffs end up being passed on to customers.
As The Wall Street Journal succinctly summed it up, “in the name of punishing China, the legislation would punish American consumers and businesses.” The added burden of this tax likely would force U.S. companies to find ways to cut costs, potentially leading to job losses and economic downturns in the region. The ripple effect would extend beyond the industries themselves, affecting communities that rely on the economic stability provided by these jobs and the cost of common consumer goods that depend on affordable energy to produce them.
West Virginia’s energy producers, a vital contributor to our state’s economy and the nation’s energy security, are facing potential challenges that could reverberate through our communities and beyond. The clear-eyed and forthright leadership of lawmakers like Sen. Capito will be more important than ever in standing up against harmful, even if well-meaning, proposals.
Delegate Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, is vice chairman of the West Virginia House Committee on Energy and Manufacturing