In this week’s episode, host Daniel Raimi talks with Jamie Van Nostrand, former director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at West Virginia University and current chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. Van Nostrand discusses how the state government in West Virginia historically has supported and promoted the coal industry, how the state’s support of coal has affected electricity prices for West Virginia residents, and how recent policies could influence the future of energy in West Virginia.
Listen to the Podcast
- West Virginia has remained committed to coal despite alternatives: “Even though West Virginia calls itself an energy state … no utilities in West Virginia transitioned to natural gas. In fact, what the policymakers did was double down on coal.” (9:51)
- West Virginia residents have felt the effects of the state’s coal policy: “Between 2008 and 2020 in West Virginia, the average retail electricity price increased at five times the national average because you had utilities around the country that were embracing low-cost natural gas, … embracing renewables, and taking advantage of these technological breakthroughs … We didn’t get any of that in West Virginia. Instead … we took on three coal plants. That resulted in massive rate increases over that period of time—literally faster than any other state.” (12:32)
- Federal policy is encouraging a clean energy transition in West Virginia: “In the Inflation Reduction Act, there’s a defined term called ‘energy communities,’ which are those communities that are disproportionately affected by the downturn in the fossil fuel industry. Pretty much the whole state of West Virginia shows up as an energy community. The result is that you get an extra 10 percent tax incentive for making investments in energy communities.” (23:08)
Top of the Stack
- The Coal Trap: How West Virginia Was Left Behind in the Clean Energy Revolution by James M. Van Nostrand
- Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- “What Is An ‘Energy Community’? Alternative Approaches for Geographically Targeted Energy Policy” by Daniel Raimi and Sophie Pesek
The Full Transcript
Daniel Raimi: Hello and welcome to Resources Radio, a weekly podcast from Resources For the Future. I’m your host, Daniel Raimi. Today we talk with Jamie Van Nostrand, who was formerly at West Virginia University, where he was the director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development and a professor of law. Since May 1, he has been the chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.
Jamie is the author of The Coal Trap, a book that explores the recent history of West Virginia’s dependence on coal as a source of jobs and electric power generation. Jamie takes a critical eye towards the state’s reliance on—and promotion of—the coal industry over the last decade or so. He’ll share his views on why policymakers have been so supportive of coal and how those decisions have affected electricity consumers and residents of the state of West Virginia. Stay with us.
Jamie Van Nostrand, welcome to Resources Radio.
Jamie Van Nostrand: Thank you, Daniel.
Daniel Raimi: Jamie, we’re going to talk today about a really fascinating new book that you’ve recently published about coal in West Virginia. But before we do that, we always ask our guests how they became interested in working in energy or environmental issues—and, especially, working on issues in West Virginia. I’m curious about how you developed an interest in this topic and whether you grew up in West Virginia or anything like that.
Jamie Van Nostrand: Sure. I became interested in energy and environmental issues because my father was the chief utility regulator in Iowa when I was growing up. I was born and raised in Iowa. He was a rather high-profile chair of the Iowa Commerce Commission, now the Iowa Utilities Board. I grew up as the son of a utility regulator, just more or less followed in his footsteps, and got a degree in accounting economics and then my law degree. Then, I got my training to learn how utilities are regulated when I went to work for New York Public Service Commission for five years in the early ’80s and transitioned from that into a law firm.
The practice moved out to Seattle and Portland, and I spent 22 years out there, and then I migrated into law school teaching. I went back to Pace Law School in White Plains, picked up my LLM in environmental law, and also headed up the Pace Energy and Climate Center, which is an environmental nongovernmental organization in New York. I pretty much morphed from being an energy lawyer into an energy and environmental lawyer.
I had a chance to come to West Virginia in 2011. The dean of the law school wanted to start this Center for Energy and Sustainable Development to have a little bit of an environmental perspective on what is obviously a long history of extracting in the state of West Virginia. I’ve been at West Virginia University since 2011.
Daniel Raimi: That’s really interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of multi-generational regulators. That’s pretty great.
Jamie Van Nostrand: It’s pretty wonky. It came in handy. It’s just a nice feature of me taking the job as the chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, since my dad did that for eight years in the ’70s. It’s kind of a nice bookend to my career, I think, to take a job like that.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. That’s really cool. Jamie, let’s talk now about your book, The Coal Trap, which we will have a link to in the show notes so people can check it out. The book explores trends in the energy sector in West Virginia from roughly the time period 2009 through 2019—so, roughly, the last decade. I’d love it if you could give our audience a little bit of historical perspective on West Virginia’s coal industry. Can you give us a sense of when mining started at large scale and how important it became for the state’s economy?
Jamie Van Nostrand: It’s been very important to the state’s economy for decades. 1742 is actually the year that coal was first discovered in the state, but it began to be mined around 1810 and then really scaled up once the railroads started hitting the state in the 1880s. Since then, the numbers of miners employed in the business have really ranged quite a bit. At one time, in 1940—that was the height of employment—there were 130,000 coal miners employed. Then, we had the introduction of the continuous miner.
The mechanization in the coal mining industry actually resulted in increased production but reductions in the number of miners. For example, the highest year for coal production was 181 million tons in 1997, but the number of miners it took to do that had declined to 18,000. We talk about the loss of miners in the coal industry and the environment in the mining industry. The coal industry likes to blame it on environmental regulations and government regulations. It’s actually mechanization: continuous miners underground and then mountaintop removal, which simply doesn’t take as many miners to produce the same amount of coal. More recently, the number of miners is fewer than 12,000 in West Virginia.
Daniel Raimi: Wow, an order of magnitude change. That’s pretty amazing. Then you get out to the West, in Wyoming, and there it’s even more mechanized, and there’s even less labor required to produce the coal.
Jamie Van Nostrand: The Powder River Basin in Wyoming is a huge seam of coal. You’re pretty much just scraping the earth off the top and getting in with large pieces of equipment to extract the coal. They really took over in terms of providing thermal or steam coal for electric generation. A lot of it was coming from the Powder River Basin, because the cost of extraction was so much lower than the Appalachian region.
Daniel Raimi: Right, and with lower sulfur content.
Jamie Van Nostrand: Exactly.
Daniel Raimi: That’s partly the result of the Clean Air Act—we’ve talked about that previously on the show.
Jamie Van Nostrand: Yeah, the Clean Air Act amendments in 1990 resulted in the utilities blending in a lot of coal from the Powder River Basin, because it was lower in sulfur.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah. That’s all some historical background, hopefully giving people a little bit of a flavor of trends over time. But as I mentioned, your book mostly focuses on the last decade. Can you give us a sense of some of the big headwinds that coal faced during the period that your book covered, and which ones were the most important? Then, as coal was facing those headwinds, how did state policymakers respond?
Jamie Van Nostrand: I think the biggest headwind that hurt the coal industry was the shale gas revolution, which is one of the reasons I started the lost decade in 2009. It really started happening in 2007 and 2008 in the Marcellus Shale region, which underlies a lot of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. The term is overused, but that was really a “game changer” in terms of generating electricity. The cheap and plentiful natural gas forced down wholesale prices.
Then, you had some technological breakthroughs in terms of high-efficiency, combined-cycle combustion turbines, which generate the electricity from natural gas, and it really pushed wholesale prices down. Coal plants were just basically out of money. We have very competitive wholesale markets in the mid-Atlantic region, like PJM, which operates out of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. All these coal plants typically would sell their excess power into the wholesale markets, but that was no longer competitive. That was the biggest headwind.
By the time we got toward the end of the lost decade—which is roughly 2009 to 2019—we had competitive wind and solar. Utilities were looking for new generation and were finding it was cheaper to build new wind and solar with battery storage backup than it was to run existing coal plants.
Daniel Raimi: Really big economic headwinds. As you mentioned earlier, sometimes people point to federal environmental regulations as a major driver of the downturn of coal. How substantial did you see those being in the real world?
Jamie Van Nostrand: Certainly a driver of what became the narrative of the war on coal—which is one of the main motivations for me writing the book—was how politicians in West Virginia chose to blame it all on Obama and Obama’s “job-killing US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)” rather than doing what we elected them to do, which was to manage the state through a transition. “We knew once the shale gas revolution happened in the late 2000s that the future of coal was going to be very uncertain and was going to basically begin a rapid decline. Instead, let’s blame it all on Obama’s job-killing EPA.”
Certainly the MATS rule—the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule that was adopted in late 2011 and took effect in 2015; 2016 by the time you got the extensions—resulted in lots of coal plants closing, but it was really the economic forces and the decline in wholesale market prices. The Clean Power Plan, which is Obama’s rule for regulating greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants, never took effect. The Congress and senators all would all talk about the Clean Power Plan, and it was stayed by the US Supreme Court pending the outcome of the litigation.
There are studies out there—the Columbia Global Center did a really nice study that looked at the drivers of the demise of the coal industry. Number one is cheap natural gas. Number two is more cost-competitive renewables. Way down on the list, a very small driver was the environmental regulations. It was really, really exaggerated in West Virginia, because it was a convenient means of blaming Washington for the demise of the cold industry when it was really natural gas and renewables.
Daniel Raimi: There are a number of other studies in the economics literature that basically come to that same conclusion. I’m curious now if you could talk a little bit about how state policymakers responded to the downturn. What tangible steps did you see them taking, and why do you think they were taking those steps?
Jamie Van Nostrand: Surprisingly, even though West Virginia calls itself an energy state—and Senator Manchin (D-WV) certainly talks about an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy—there was no embracing of natural gas. We’re sitting on top of what is now the largest natural gas reservoir in the country in the Marcellus Shale. No utilities in West Virginia transitioned to natural gas.
In fact, what the policymakers did was double down on coal. One thing I write about in the book is that both American Electric Power and FirstEnergy—they’re the two major utilities that operate in the state—had merchant coal plants. In other words, plants that sell into the wholesale markets. The risks of profit or loss are borne by the shareholders, not by ratepayers. They saw, once the shale gas revolution happened and wholesale prices declined so rapidly, that these coal plants were losing money, so their strategy was to put them in the regulated rate base in West Virginia.
You had three coal plants that were moved from merchant operations—where they were losing money, and those losses were being borne by the shareholders—into the regulated rate base in West Virginia. The Public Service Commission approved each of those three deals. That was a big driver of the large rate increases that we suffered during 2010 and 2020. When we’re taking those plants that are obviously losing money from the shareholders, the outcome isn’t going to be any better. It’s going to be better for the shareholders if you get rid of those plants and put them on the ratepayers. Now the ratepayers are bearing those losses.
It was pretty incredible, because most utilities around the country were moving away from coal as rapidly as they could. You had coal plants being sold for pennies on the dollar, and we’re taking them and doubling down and putting them in their rate base and basically putting them on the backs of the West Virginia ratepayers. That was one huge response.
The other things were, the state repealed its renewable portfolio standard in early 2015—not that it was a great renewable portfolio standard to begin with, but it sent the message that we’re going to get rid of anything that looks like it might cause harm to the coal industry and promote renewables. There was never any policy at the state level that really embraced either natural gas or renewables. It was all about the coal all the time.
Daniel Raimi: That’s really interesting. I’m curious if you could say a little bit more about the rate increases that you mentioned over what you call the “lost decade.” Also during that period, there were lots of coal plants around the country that were closing down because of cheap natural gas prices. I’m curious if we saw those same closures in West Virginia, or if they just kept operating, because they were able to go into the regulated rate base.
Jamie Van Nostrand: A little bit of each. My calculations showed that, between 2008 and 2020 in West Virginia, the average retail electricity price increased at five times the national average, because you had utilities around the country that were embracing low-cost natural gas, improved technology, and generating electricity from natural gas; embracing renewables; and taking advantage of these technological breakthroughs that were happening in natural gas and renewables. We didn’t get any of that in West Virginia. Instead, like I said, we took on three coal plants. That resulted in massive rate increases over that period of time—literally faster than any other state in the country and five times the national average.
We did have some close down because of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, because, frankly, the utility has to look at whether it makes sense for us to invest in this scrubber technology to allow this plant to keep running. Most of the time, it did not make any sense. A lot of that was because the wholesale prices had been pushed down by cheap natural gas.
More recently, we have coal plants that are continuing to run even though they’re not cost-effective for consumers. What the Public Service Commission has done in the last year and a half is pretty remarkable. Utilities do these annual filings to update their power costs. In the fall of 2021, they came in, and the capacity factors of their coal plants were in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. The capacity factor is how often the coal plant is running. If it’s displaced by market purchases, you shut the plant down. The Public Service Commission said, “Why are these capacity factors at such low levels? They’ve traditionally been 69–70 percent.” The utilities respond, "Well, we’re able to displace the more expensive coal-fired generation with market purchases from PJM, so we backed the coal plants down, because that’s what it takes to save the ratepayers money.” The Public Service Commission, remarkably, in the fall of 2021, told the utilities, “We don’t want you to do that anymore. We want you to continue running the coal plants at their historical capacity factors of 69–70 percent and stop doing things to save money for the ratepayers.”
These are coal plants that should have been closing down. One example is the Mitchell plant in the Northern Panhandle. The EPA adopted these effluent limitation guidelines, which required the plants to make additional investments in order to run past 2028.
AEP, American Electric Power, showed in their own testimony that ratepayers would be better off by $27 million per year if we don’t make these investments and close down the Mitchell Plant in 2028. The Commission said, “We don’t believe your numbers. We want you to make the investment in that plant and the Mountaineer plant and the Amos plant. We want you to make all necessary investments to keep those plants running through 2040.” You’ve got a message from the Public Service Commission saying, “We don’t really care about economics. We want the coal plants to continue running, and we want them running at their historical capacity factors, regardless of whether there’s cheaper power available in the markets.”
The high power prices we’ve seen and the electricity prices we’ve seen at a retail level over the last decade are going to get even worse going forward, because coal is simply not a cost-effective way to generate electricity anymore.
Daniel Raimi: That’s really interesting. I want to ask you about what you think was behind those types of decisions, but just one data point first.
I’m exploring electricity price data on the US Energy Information Administration, and it sounds like the growth rate of electricity prices in West Virginia was high—but compared to most of its other states, it is still a relatively low-cost electricity state. Is that right?
Jamie Van Nostrand: It is. I think in 2008 when I started looking at the data, we were the lowest. We had the lowest average retail price of any state in the country. Then by 2020, I think, there were 13 other states that had lower electricity prices. We’re still below the national average in terms of the rates. In terms of the bills, we’re well above the national average, because the other thing that we do in West Virginia is we don’t invest in energy efficiency. We have a lot of big, drafty houses, and the utilities have no meaningful energy efficiency programs whatsoever. While our rates still remain below the national average, our bills are well above the national average.
Daniel Raimi: That’s really interesting. Could you talk a little bit more about what you think was behind those regulatory decisions? Is this a classic case of regulatory capture? Is it the mining industry that’s behind it? Is it the electricity industry that’s driving it? What’s going on there?
Jamie Van Nostrand: Well, the current makeup of the Public Service Commission is a woman by the name of Charlotte Lane, who’s the chair. She has a background as a lobbyist for investor utilities, FirstEnergy, and as a lawyer for the West Virginia Coal Association. When she ran for Congress and the state legislature, she was heavily supported by the coal industry and Koch brothers and the utility industry. The other member of the commission is Bill Raney, the former president of the West Virginia Coal Association. Jim Justice (R-WV), the governor, who’s a coal baron himself, appointed Bill Raney to the Public Service Commission in August of 2021. That’s when they started issuing these decisions requiring the coal plants to continue running.
The rest of it is what I spent a lot of time talking about in the book—the culture of coal in West Virginia. It’s a source of great pride. We industrialized America on the backs of the Appalachian coal miners. In a large sense, that’s true. The coal industry still has a lot of influence.
The Coal Association did the whole Friends of Coal campaign beginning in 2002, which was brilliant. There’s this tremendous influence in the legislature, and when you have a governor who’s made his fortune in the coal industry, it’s almost like what’s good for the coal industry is good for West Virginia is pretty much the story through a lot of the lost decade. That simply hasn’t been true. I think the Coal Association and the whole Friends of Coal campaign was very clever, and taking the image of the coal miner—everybody loves the coal miner—and of course we should pay a little bit extra on our electricity bills in order to keep the coal miners employed and the coal mines operating.
I don’t think people have any idea how much extra money they are paying in their electricity bills in order to support the coal industry. That’s why our rates have gone up so dramatically since 2008.
The Center is currently doing a study together with the Sierra Club and the consulting group Synapse to do some modeling and show how much that coal-dependent path has cost West Virginia ratepayers as compared to more of a ramped-up renewables path. Those numbers will be pretty interesting. Then we need to do a marketing campaign, a public relations campaign, just to try to inform people about why electricity prices are going up so much and try to hold the Public Service Commission accountable—and, I guess, the governor accountable for appointing these people to the Public Service Commission, because they’ve just done a truly horrible job of protecting ratepayers in West Virginia.
Daniel Raimi: That’s really interesting. As listeners might be imagining as they’re listening to your perspective on this, as a professor at West Virginia University having these messages coming out of your book about policy decisions made at the state level on energy, I imagine the reception might not have been super rosy in all corners of the state. I’m curious to hear a little bit about the reception that you received and what type of impact it had on your career.
Jamie Van Nostrand: As I would tell my colleagues in academia, I’m testing the limits of tenure protection, because I got tenured right around 2015 or 2016, and I became much more outspoken in terms of what I saw as this false narrative of the “war on coal.” I’ve never really been muzzled or anything by the university, that’s for certain. I’m sure they’ve gotten calls. I can’t say I’ve been treated particularly nicely. I think when I go to Massachusetts, it’s going to be very much, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” I think I’ve had good support at the law school in terms of the marketing director doing a press release when my book came out and that type of thing, but the usual things that happen when a faculty member publishes a book, with book signings and things like that, has not happened in my case—very little promotion by the university.
I’ve really taken on a lot of powerful influences in West Virginia. I expect that the university has heard quite a bit about it. I’ve asked for a leave of absence in order to be able to come back at the end of my term in Massachusetts. I don’t suspect that’s going to be granted. I’ll probably be cleaning out my office in the month of April so I can get to Boston on May 1.
Daniel Raimi: Wow. Did you get much—or any—direct feedback from policymakers or the public on the contents of the book?
Jamie Van Nostrand: No, I haven’t really gotten direct feedback. I did book-signing events in Charleston and Lewisburg and Shepherdstown. Those were pretty well-attended, particularly in Charleston, because there’s a pretty active environmental community there. Shepherdstown in the Eastern Panhandle is fairly close to Washington, DC, so those people who attended those events were pretty friendly to me.
When the Center did a report on West Virginia’s energy future back in December of 2020, we actually had an audience with the Public Service Commission to share our findings, and they listened politely. But no, I didn’t really have any direct repercussions that I’m aware of. I suspect the university has gotten some, but I’ve been fairly isolated from that.
Daniel Raimi: That’s interesting.
Well, I’d love to ask you now a couple questions about the future. As some of our listeners probably know, the Biden administration—and the Obama administration before it—has taken steps to try to boost economic resilience in coal communities. Under the Biden administration, they have the Interagency Working Group on Energy Communities, and there are also some provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that are seeking to steer investment towards coal communities. In your view, what do you make of these federal efforts, and how promising do you think they might be to actually support new sectors of economic growth in the state?
Jamie Van Nostrand: I think they’re very positive developments. While I was hard on Senator Manchin in one chapter of my book, I think he deserves a lot of the credit for some of the provisions that ended up in the Inflation Reduction Act. The Interagency Task Force is actually headed up by Brian Anderson, who’s the former head of the Energy Institute from West Virginia. We’ve got a native West Virginian who’s heading that interagency group looking at the coal-dependent communities.
In the Inflation Reduction Act, there’s a defined term called “energy communities,” which are those communities that are disproportionately affected by the downturn in the fossil fuel industry. Pretty much the whole state of West Virginia shows up as an energy community. The result of that is that you get an extra 10 percent tax incentive for making those investments in energy communities.
Another big thing in the Inflation Reduction Act that we talk about is a just transition, like the fact that clean energy workers tend to not make as much money as fossil fuel industry workers. The tax provisions are tied to a prevailing wage requirement. If you want to get the full advantage of the tax provisions, you have to pay your employees a prevailing wage. There’s another apprenticeship piece, which says a certain percentage of that workforce has to be in an apprenticeship program, which really addresses some of those transition issues of trying to retrain fossil fuel workers to be clean energy workers.
That’s really good stuff for West Virginia, and I think we’re seeing a lot of interest in terms of siting energy facilities in the state because of those enhanced tax incentives.
Daniel Raimi: That’s really interesting. You mentioned the energy communities definition. The US Internal Revenue Service is still finalizing how they’re going to be interpreting that. I actually wrote a report with my colleague, Sophie Pesek, trying to tease out exactly what the definition meant and what it didn’t mean. We did find certainly that pretty much all of West Virginia is likely to be covered.
Jamie Van Nostrand: I saw your map, yeah.
Daniel Raimi: Ironically, according to our interpretation, the definition also covers very large swaths of Washington State and Oregon and Michigan and all these other places. We’ll see what the Internal Revenue Service says, but the definition is maybe not as precisely targeted as they intended.
Jamie Van Nostrand: Exactly, because you’ve got brownfields in there, and they’re all over the place. There are a few layers of that definition.
Daniel Raimi: Well, we could spend a long time talking about that small provision in the bill, but we’ll save that for another time.
Jamie Van Nostrand: The other thing in the Inflation Reduction Act that Manchin’s very proud of is the “all-of-the-above” approach in terms of treating nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration and hydrogen on the same footing as renewables. There’s lots of interest in these hydrogen hubs and lots of creative uses for what we’re going to put the hydrogen to. To me, it’s just a lot of money chasing around hydrogen that I’m not sure makes a whole lot of sense in the bigger scheme of things.
In West Virginia, they’re going to tout it as a way of keeping the coal plants open by carbon capture and sequestration. We’ll see where the money goes, I guess. By putting it all on a level playing field, we’ll see where the money goes, but I just feel there’s going to be a lot of wasted investment in hydrogen and deploying it for uses that really don’t make economic or environmental sense.
Daniel Raimi: Interesting. I know that that’s a topic that we’re also watching closely.
Jamie, one more question before we go to our Top of the Stack segment: If you had the ear of the governor, or the legislature, or maybe the Public Utility Commission in West Virginia, what are some of the most important policy changes that you would suggest to them to try to recover from what you call the “lost decade”?
Jamie Van Nostrand: The last chapter in my book has several policy recommendations, but I think of a couple of them as state policies. The first would be to follow the lead of many other states around the country and do a clean energy standard—recognizing that we’re starting off very, very carbon-intensive, but at least articulating a goal that would put the utilities on a path of decarbonizing over the period of the next 10, 20, 30 years, because that sends the sign you’ve got institutional commitment—“We are open for business for clean energy.” It holds the utilities accountable for getting on a path that gets you there. We just have had no policy support whatsoever for renewables or clean energy in West Virginia.
The other thing is an energy efficiency resource standard, which a number of states have. West Virginia—and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy does the state scorecard—is, I believe, number 48 again this year, because the utilities in West Virginia have no energy-efficiency programs. That’s why electricity prices are going through the roof, but let’s at least give the ratepayers the tools to help manage their energy costs by ramping up energy-efficiency programs. An energy efficiency resource standard would adopt a goal of reducing electricity usage 2 percent per year or 15 percent by 2025 or 2030. But again, it forces the utilities to come in and implement energy-efficiency programs to achieve a certain level of savings.
I think those two provisions together would make a huge difference. We’re missing out on lots of clean energy jobs, whether it’s renewables like wind and solar or the energy-efficiency jobs, which are great, because they have to be localized. These are people doing the energy audits and installing energy efficiency measures. We’re just missing out on those clean energy jobs in West Virginia, because there’s no institutional support for energy efficiency in the state.
Daniel Raimi: Interesting. I imagine the housing stock is pretty aged compared to, let’s say, the South or the West.
Jamie Van Nostrand: Yes, and that’s one of the reasons our bills are so much higher than the national average—we have old, drafty houses that have never been insulated, because there have been no programs offered by the utilities to help incentivize that.
Daniel Raimi: Really interesting.
Jamie Van Nostrand, this has been a fascinating conversation, and I would certainly encourage people to check out the book and learn more about West Virginia and what’s happened over the last decade or so.
Now, we’d love to ask you the same question that we ask all of our guests, which is to recommend something that’s at the top of your literal or metaphorical reading stack that you think is great. It can be something that you read or something you watched or heard. Jamie, what’s on the Top of your Stack?
Jamie Van Nostrand: I’ve got to say the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) Sixth Assessment Report. It’s really dense, but the summary for policymakers really reinforces a sense of urgency that we’ve got to act very quickly and reminds us of the impacts of climate change that we’re seeing already and how much worse they’re going to get if we can’t keep it below 1.5°C. I just think it’s helpful to see that, and what we’re seeing already and what we’re going to continue seeing if we don’t act quickly. I know that’s going to be a big driver when I get to Massachusetts. Governor Healy (D-MA) has a very aggressive clean energy goal, and there’s going to be a lot of stuff going through the Department of Public Utilities to make those things happen.
It’s also one of the things I was very troubled by when Senator Manchin was chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources—and he presided over the Build Back Better plan, which ended up evolving into the Inflation Reduction Act. What’s the sense of urgency? Why are we going to pay the utilities to do what they should be doing already? I’m like, okay, there’s no sense of urgency. What reports are you looking at? Because it’s obviously not anything coming out of the IPCC, because there is a huge sense of urgency there. We have to decarbonize very quickly. The IPCC report really, really reinforces that.
Daniel Raimi: Yeah, it certainly does. I imagine many of our listeners have already taken a look at it, but that’s a great recommendation to try to be up on the state of the science.
Well, one more time, Jamie Van Nostrand, thank you so much for joining us today on Resources Radio, for doing this work, and for sharing it with our audience. We really appreciate it.
Jamie Van Nostrand: Thank you, Daniel.
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