Monthly Archives: January 2016

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

States Seek Delay Of EPA Clean Power Plan

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

WASHINGTON (AP) – A coalition of 25 states opposing President Obama’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to stop the new regulations from taking effect until after their legal challenge is resolved.

West Virginia and Texas led the group of mostly Republican states that asked Chief Justice John Roberts to immediately bar the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Clean Power Plan. Roberts can consider the application on his own or refer it to the full court.

The move came after an appeals court in Washington last week denied a similar request, handing a significant procedural victory to the Obama administration.

The federal plan aims to stave off the worst predicted impacts of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants by about one-third by 2030. The plan also encourages more development of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar by further ratcheting down any emissions allowed from new coal-fired power.

Arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are set to begin June 2. Under the Clean Air Act, certain challenges to new EPA rules skip the federal district court and go directly to the appeals court.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned that it could take six months or more to decide the case at the appellate level, perhaps stretching into 2017.

“Without Supreme Court intervention, West Virginia and other states will suffer irreparable harm as job creators and state agencies spend untold resources to comply with a rule that is likely to be struck down as illegal,” Morrisey said Tuesday. “Real people are hurting in West Virginia and it’s my job to fight for them.”

Like West Virginia and Texas, many of the states opposing the plan are dependent on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas.

Implementation of the rules is considered essential to the United States meeting emissions-reduction targets in a global climate agreement signed in Paris last month. The Obama administration and environmental groups also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.

See the article here.

States Challenge Obama’s ‘Clean’ Power Play

Via The Patriot Post:

With the June 30 deadline looming for states to submit plans to the EPA showing how they will comply with Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), 29 states and state agencies — along with 60 utility companies or energy industry trade groups — have taken their opposition directly to the chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. Their request? Halt Obama’s environmental takeover until the legal challenges to the plan can be resolved. The petitions came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to block CPP’s implementation.

By far the most the far-reaching environmental regulations ever foisted on states, the CPP requires states to meet power-plant carbon emission reduction targets by 2022 and again by 2030. As The Daily Signal notes, however, this has nothing to do with mitigating health risks or negative environmental impacts. It’s all for reducing global warming — supposedly.

Ironically, according to an EPA model, the CPP would avert rising global temperatures by a miniscule 0.02 degrees Celsius. This means, of course, that the CPP’s real purpose is simply increased government control of every aspect of the American economy.

Not surprisingly, the CPP would deliver disastrous results. As a Heritage Foundation analysisnotes, the regulations would lead to an average employment shortfall of nearly 300,000 jobs and a peak shortfall of more than one million jobs, the loss of 500,000 manufacturing jobs, the elimination of more than 45% of coal-mining jobs, an aggregate GDP loss of more than $2.5 trillion (adjusted for inflation), and a total income loss of more than $7,000 per person (also inflation-adjusted).

Indeed, as we noted earlier this month, Obama’s war on coal is already leaving casualties, as Arch Coal, America’s second-largest coal company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Certainly, other factors contributed, but Obama’s regulations played a big part.

With the clock ticking, Chief Justice Roberts called for the EPA to respond to the petitions by 3 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 4. Then, Roberts can either approve or deny the requests himself or convene the full Court to consider.

To say the stakes are high is severely inadequate. If CPP advances unchecked, Americans will lose jobs; companies will close; and thanks to threats to reliability, consumers will find turning on the lights may not actually turn on the lights.

That’s a hefty price to pay for 0.02 degrees.

See the article here.

Will Courts Step in to Squelch EPA Overreach?

Via The Exponent-Telegram:

West Virginia and 24 other states, trying to stave off the potential economic disaster that looms if the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is implemented, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene immediately to keep the regulations from being implemented.

Their action comes after the U.S. District Appeals Court based in Washington, D.C., refused to grant a stay, which would prevent the EPA from enacting the regulations until the states’ case has been heard in federal court.

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan believe it will help to curb the impact of greenhouse gases on the climate. The plan aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions by almost 33 percent by 2030.

The appeals court will hear the full challenge beginning June 2. However, the lengthy court proceeding could last a full six months or more from that point, meaning a decision might not happen until well into 2017.

Meanwhile, under the current regulations, the EPA can implement the plan.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is helping to lead the charge against the rules, saying they will do “irreparable harm.”

Morrisey and legal representatives from the other states contend the EPA plan is illegal and that allowing it to be implemented pending the full court decision will allow it to influence markets to the point of economic ruin for some.

“Without Supreme Court intervention, West Virginia and other states will suffer irreparable harm as job creators and state agencies spend untold resources to comply with a rule that is likely to be struck down as illegal,” Morrisey told The Associated Press. “Real people are hurting in West Virginia, and it’s my job to fight for them.”

Already, the plan’s negative impact can be seen in the many coal companies filing for bankruptcy or going out of business, as well as the country’s overall stagnant economy.

We understand that the concern to curtail climate change, saving this planet’s environment for future generations, is a legitimate issue.

However, we also know that implementing rules that have not been fully vetted to determine their potential effects, both positive and negative, is short-sighted and potentially ruinous.

The Clean Power Plan has not been adopted worldwide, meaning only the U.S. and perhaps a few other countries, will go to the lengths that the EPA wants to implement.

Meanwhile, other countries trying to catch the U.S. in economic and industrial strength will continue to burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas because it is more cost-effective.

That will put many U.S. companies depending on power at a competitive disadvantage, while ruining companies that deal in coal, oil and natural gas, which are mainstays in the West Virginia economy.

At a time when the U.S. has been able to tap into ample coal, oil and natural gas reserves, putting the country on the verge of energy independence, the current administration’s policies are keeping that from occurring.

We believe that energy independence, which is crucial to national security and economic success, as well as environmental protection, can both happen.

But that will only occur if all sides come to the table with the greater good in mind. We believe it can happen. Our country’s future depends on it.

See the article here.

Wisconsin, Coal-reliant States Ask Supreme Court to Block EPA Carbon Rule

Via The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:  

A coalition of coal-mining and coal-reliant states including Wisconsin filed a request with the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to block President Barack Obama’s landmark climate change regulation from taking effect.

The coalition sought an emergency stay from the nation’s highest court, just days after a federal appeals court in Washington declined to do the same thing.

The rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by shifting to less power generation from coal-fired power plants.

In a petition to Chief Justice John Roberts, Wisconsin and dozens of states led by West Virginia called the EPA rule a federal power grab that oversteps the authority of the agency.

The petition terms the rule “a blatant act of commandeering that leaves the states no choice but to alter their laws and programs governing electricity generation and delivery to accord with federal policy.

“If this Court does not enter a stay, the Plan will continue to unlawfully impose massive and irreparable harms upon the sovereign States, as well as irreversible changes in the energy markets,” the petition said.

Supporters of the rule — the centerpiece of the carbon reduction commitments President Obama made as world leaders reached a global climate change accord last month — say the planet faces irreparable harm from failing to act to address carbon emissions.

Last week, Wisconsin utilities argued that even as it fights the plan Wisconsin should consider taking steps to comply with the rule.

Some outside experts have termed the petition a long shot, but opponents of the rule are hoping that a Supreme Court that’s backed EPA in the past on climate change regulations may take a fresh look.

See the article here.

Alabama Among 25 States Asking Supreme Court to Delay EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Via AL.com:

Alabama joined 24 other states Tuesday in petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to halt implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan while legal challenges to the law move forward.

Alabama was among the states that filed suit challenging the CPP on the day it was published in the Federal Register, but an appeals court this week denied the states’ request for a stay to block implementation of the law until a decision is reached.

The latest filing asks the Supreme Court to do what the appeals court would not.

“Once again, President Obama has attempted to radically expand the power of the federal government by adopting policies through executive action that Congress has refused to enact,” Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in a news release. “But the scope of President Obama’s job-killing Clean Power Plan is unprecedented. If this new EPA rule is allowed to go into effect, it will shutter coal-fired power plants around the country, resulting in higher electricity costs and fewer jobs.”

The Clean Power Plan aims to decrease overall carbon emissions from power plants nationwide by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. It’s seen as a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat climate change.

States are required to submit state implementation plans to reach compliance with their individual emissions targets by Sept. 6, 2016, or at least apply for extensions by that date.

The petitioners argued in their court filing that complying with the rule now would force them “to take irreversible actions—amending state laws and regulations, making irrecoverable expenditures, and undertaking planning and investment decisions, including retiring plants,” steps that could not be undone if the rule is later invalidated.

Strange said the Court “should act to immediately stay this rule until the lower courts can address the serious concerns the states have raised about its legality.”

Alabama delays compliance plans

At present, Alabama has not begun working on its state implementation plan.

According to a Bloomberg BNA news report, Alabama Department of Environmental Management Air Division Chief Ron Gore said the state was waiting to develop its plan until after the appeals for a stay were decided.

“We’re optimistic about a stay. We don’t see any sense in working on it now until there’s a ruling on that,” Gore told Bloomberg earlier this month.

Barring a judicial stay, states that have not submitted a plan for compliance by Sept. 6 risk having a federal plan implemented instead. Gore told Bloomberg he feels that the state still has enough time to develop a plan before that deadline.

See the article here.

DOWN IN THE HOLE: A Look At The People And Way Of Life Suffering Under Washington’s Plan For Coal

Via The Daily Caller:

“How many of you have been laid off at least once in your career as coal miners?” Robert Murray asks a group of coal mining foreman assembled at the St. Clairsville, Ohio headquarters of Murray Energy. Nearly every hand in the room goes up. The 75-year-old is CEO and president of Murray Energy, one of America’s largest coal companies.

New regulation initiated by the Obama administration, as well as competition with low natural gas prices, has resulted in an industry that has $45 billion dollars in outstanding liabilities, according to analysis conducted by McKinsey business management consultants. These developments have threatened the future of an industry which, for decades, has employed thousands of Americans.

Coal runs deep in St. Clairsville, a community of 5,000 nestled among the rolling hills of Eastern Ohio. Signs on the front lawns of homes here declare, “Proud Union Home” and, “No to Obama’s War on Coal.” Both signs can be found across Appalachian coal country.

“I moved my headquarters here from Cleveland four years ago because I wanted to be support my own people and the community I’m from,” Robert Murray explains. Murray was born into a coal-mining family. After his father was paralyzed in a coal-mining incident, Murray lied about his age and began working in coal mines at the age of 16. He purchased his first coal mine, now known as Powhatan #6 Mine, in 1988.

Read the full article here.

Obama’s Coal Last Rites

Via The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. coal producers are staggering under Environmental Protection Agency regulations and low natural gas prices. Now the ObamaAdministration is giving the industry its last rites by halting new coal leases on federal lands where mining is still profitable.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has declared a three-year moratorium on coal leases pending an agency review to “ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change.” Interior may raise coal’s 12.5% royalty payment, which is the same rate as oil and natural gas. About 40% of coal is mined on federal land, mostly in Wyoming’s rich Powder River Basin, Utah and Colorado.

The plunging price of natural gas and EPA regulations on power-plant emissions have punished the domestic coal market. U.S. coal production and electric generation have declined by about 20% since 2008, and a half dozen coal companies have filed for bankruptcy in the last year, including Arch Coal this month. Yet mining in the thick-seamed Powder River Basin remains economical due to its geology. Its coal is also low in sulfur and thus cleaner. Wyoming produces twice as much coal as West Virginia and Kentucky and sells it at an 80% lower price.

Powder River Basin exports to Asia can out-compete coal from China, Indonesia and Australia despite higher transportation costs. Yet less than 5% of Powder River Basin coal is exported due to inadequate infrastructure. Climate activists are trying to obstruct new coal terminals in Washington and Oregon that could expand export capacity.

The Administration’s moratorium also targets exports. Higher royalty payments will reduce profitability, and Ms. Jewell is setting up a Democratic successor to make the shutdown permanent. Once current leases expire in 20 years or so, U.S. coal mining would cease. So much for the claims that coal’s troubles are solely due to market forces.

Hillary Clinton has proposed paying reparations to ravaged coal communities for worker retraining and public works. About 10,000 coal jobs—some 10% of the industry workforce—were lost in 2013, according to the Energy Information Administration’s most recent data.

Democrats may not care about their destructive regulatory footprint because there aren’t many electoral votes for them in West Virginia and Wyoming, and three-quarters of the remaining coal jobs are non-union. Thus is another industry unpopular with progressives targeted for political extinction.

See the article here.

Coal Leasing Moratorium

Via The New York Times:

To the Editor:

Re “Mr. Obama Says Coal Hasn’t Paid Its Own Way” (editorial, Jan. 16):

The Obama administration’s federal coal leasing moratorium is the latest symbolic yet costly gesture to show climate leadership. Fossil fuels will supply 80 percent of the world’s energy needs through at least 2040. Real climate leadership would follow through on the president’s 2008 pledge to advance development of carbon abatement technologies for all fossil fuels.

The administration’s reasons for the moratorium rise to the “fiction peddling” the president condemned in his State of the Union address. According to the Department of Interior’s reports, coal mines in the Powder River Basin are free of off-site environmental impacts, and the carbon emissions from using the coal are already evaluated before any lease sale.

The economic case is equally contrived. The public receives 39 cents of every dollar earned on coal production from the Powder River Basin in the form of royalties, taxes and fees.

HAL QUINN

President and Chief Executive

National Mining Association

Washington

See the article here.

Coal Leasing Suspension Bad for Consumers

Via The Bismarck Tribune:

Doesn’t it seem like almost every other week President Barack Obama does something affecting North Dakota citizens in a negative way either through executive order or via directive from one of the government agencies?

First it was the Keystone XL pipeline veto, then it was the order by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce carbon emissions by a ridiculous number (45 percent), followed by the executive order on gun licensing, and Jan. 14 the order from the Department of the Interior halting new coal leases on federal land.

Each of them will cause consumer price increases for energy, loss of high-paying jobs or restrictions on liberties for North Dakotans.

Each of them with the sole purpose of ingratiating Obama’s party to a special-interest group during an election year or to build a legacy for himself as the president who took down the fossil fuel industry.

The latest of the unilateral decisions to come out was the news last week that coal leases were being suspended on federal land. The directive suspended at least 30 applications from companies seeking to mine hundreds of millions of tons of coal. Included are projects in nine states including North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

To some the restriction of leases on federal land might seem as no big deal, but when you consider 41 percent of all coal in the United States is located on federal land it becomes a big deal.

The goal of the suspension is to give the federal government a timeout to evaluate the current royalty rates coal mining companies are paying to the federal government, which the president and his team feel are too low. Coal industry groups counter that any increase in royalty rates will hurt consumers and threaten high-paying jobs.

Reaction from Republicans in Washington was harsh:

• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the announcement “just the latest front in an ideological war on coal” that has contributed to the loss of thousands of jobs in coal states.

• Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said, “Unfortunately, the president’s bid to solidify his legacy with the extreme left will come at the expense of America’s energy needs and will make the lives of people more expensive and more uncomfortable.”

• House Speaker Paul Ryan said Obama’s policies “have already ravaged coal country, destroying jobs and people’s way of life, and this will increase that suffering.”

According to a 2013 North Dakota State University study,  the lignite industry, directly and indirectly, employs about 15,500 people in North Dakota, with many high-paying jobs at the mines and power plants. The same study indicated the lignite industry contributes about $3.3 billion in total business activity per year, along with generating about $97 million in taxes paid to the state.

The order has a potential to be a major blow to our economy.

It is our regular opinion that we do not like action taken through executive order and it is our belief the marketplace will dictate the future of coal without executive action and it will do it at a pace that allows the economy to adapt to the change. The action by the president was executive overreach.

See the article here.

Obama Escalates His War on American Energy

  • Last Friday, Interior Secretary Jewell ordered a halt to new coal mining leases on federal land and a review of the federal coal program.

  • This order will accelerate deteriorating market conditions in the coal industry and undercut economic opportunity across America.

  • It is the latest attack in the administration’s war on American energy.


Last Friday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ordered the Bureau of Land Management to stop issuing new coal mining leases on federal land for three years. During that period, BLM will prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement that recommends potential leasing and management reforms to further undermine the federal coal program. This order is the latest attack in the Obama administration’s war on American energy, which hurts jobs and economic growth.

In her order, Secretary Jewell acknowledged concerns about U.S. coal market conditions. She conceded that U.S. coal production has plummeted to the lowest level in 30 years. She admitted that U.S. coal exports declined by a staggering 21 percent in 2015 alone. She observed: “As a result, a number of mines in the U.S. have idled production, several major coal companies have entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, many coal miners have been laid off, and coal-dependent communities have suffered.”

Coal production plummets 2008-2015

Forty thousand coal industry jobs have been lost since 2008. More than 50 coal companies have filed for bankruptcy since 2012. At least 410 coal-fired power plants representing 67,000 megawatts in 37 states have announced plans to retire or convert. Such disastrous market conditions should compel the Obama administration to improve, not undercut, economic opportunity in coal country. Yet last week’s order will only make things worse.

The Obama administration bears primary responsibility for creating these deteriorating market conditions through new rules and other executive actions over the past seven years. Trying to shield itself from criticism, the administration often cites the new market conditions to justify additional rules and regulations. That’s exactly what Secretary Jewell did last week, pointing to the bad market conditions as a reason for ordering BLM to review the federal coal program.

The secretary ordered that BLM’s review will examine options for: exercising more federal control over how, when, and where coal companies are permitted to lease; applying additional financial pressure on coal companies by raising bonus bid, rental, and royalty payments in exchange for a lease; denying export markets by refusing to issue a lease for federally held coal that will be sold overseas; and reducing, if not altogether banning, continued production and combustion of federally held coal in furtherance of the Obama administration’s climate legacy.

Secretary Jewell suggested that these themes at a minimum will be explored because they received “the most attention” in more than 92,000 oral and written comments submitted to BLM last summer. The validity of these comments is in serious doubt. Last December, the Government Accountability Officeconcluded that the Environmental Protection Agency broke federal law by blitzing social media with “covert propaganda” encouraging the public to support its controversial Waters of the U.S. rule.

A Barrage of Energy Regulations

Secretary Jewell’s order is just another in a long line of executive actions targeting fossil fuels and American energy businesses. The Obama administration is not stopping at coal. It is also targeting oil and natural gas. In last week’s State of the Union address, the president promised to change the way the federal government manages not just coal but also its oil resources. When the Obama administration finalized its rule governing carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, it signaled its preference to sideline natural gas, saying, “In the final rule, that early rush to gas is eliminated.”

The Obama administration is expected to advance a barrage of energy regulations during his final year in office. The EPA and BLM are expected to finalize methane emissions rules. According to a January 4 Politico report, the Energy Department will advance “dozens of new or updated efficiency standards for computers, gas furnaces, dishwashers, pool heaters, air conditioners, walk-in coolers and freezers, vending machines, ceiling fans, fluorescent lamp ballast, boilers, ovens, and hearths” in order to “generate roughly half the carbon emissions cuts that the Obama administration pledged to deliver before the Paris climate talks.”

See the release here.

Interior Reviews Coal Lease Program Leaving Manufacturers in Dust

Via Shopfloor.org:

Friday, the Department of Interior announced it would develop new guidelines for development of coal resources on federal lands. Included in the announcement was a moratorium on new leases of coal on these federal lands until a new environmental impact study is completed. These studies take years, and Secretary Sally Jewell said the moratorium on new leases will be in place until the study is complete.

“Manufacturers need reliable energy sources and a robust energy mix, and this new plan from the president erodes our energy future. As the leading industry in cutting climate-related emissions, we understand and face the challenge, but manufacturers need to remain competitive in today’s global economy. The American energy boom has been beneficial to manufacturers, but this action by the administration will diminish that advantage.” – Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy and resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers

As users of one-third of the nation’s energy, manufacturers need a robust energy strategy that looks at all forms of energy, conventional and unconventional, to ensure an affordable and reliable supply. A key to our increasing global competitiveness, in addition to continuing growth in productivity, is reliable and affordable energy. Coal still provides nearly 40 percent of our electricity and gives manufacturers an advantage in a local economy. Also concerning in this announcement is the failure to examine the costs to manufacturing and the millions of supply-chain jobs directly and indirectly impacted by such a sweeping action.

Key concerns of manufacturers:

  • A vague pledge to incorporate the flawed “social cost of carbon” computation into mine leasing.
  • This move could artificially inflate electricity prices if royalty rates and leasing costs increase.
  • Manufacturers and the more than 12 million men and women who work in American manufacturing gain a great deal of value from reliable and affordable energy.
  • Adding to manufacturing costs through increased regulatory costs, and backdoor energy taxes, hurts the economy and does little to further the president’s goal of addressing income inequality.

Manufacturers will continue to fight for an inclusive energy policy from this administration and our next to ensure our ability to compete.

See the article here.

War On Fossil Fuel: One Coal-ossal Mistake

Via Investors Business Daily: 

Energy Policy: President Obama’s war on coal took its biggest leap yet last week when the Department of the Interior announced that it will suspend all new leases for coal production on federal lands.

Along with Obama’s multiple EPA regulations, including his Clean Power Plant executive action, this could cripple future coal mining in America, from West Virginia to Montana.

That isn’t collateral damage. It’s the specific intent of a president who, step by relentless step, is trying to shut down America’s fossil fuel industry. And it is further indication, as if we needed one, that our president is a global-warming zealot who puts his environmental ideology ahead of the interests of American workers and American industry.

So much for the liberal pretense of supporting an “all of the above energy strategy.” As we have noted many times, even if Obama succeeds in shutting down every last coal plant in America, the impact on global carbon emissions will be minuscule. China and India alone are building 500 to 1,000 new coal plants over the next several years.

The Obama strategy is to make American coal so expensive that the industry can’t survive in global markets.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement released Friday: “We have an obligation to current and future generations to ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change.”

Obama made exactly the same point in his State of the Union address, vowing to increase the tax on coal to reflect its impact on the planet. Environmentalists want a “production tax” of as much as $40 a ton, which would also decapitate the industry.

These assaults come at a time when the industry is suffering from extremely low international prices. Colin Marshall, the chairman of Cloud Peak Energy, a major U.S. coal producer, didn’t mince words when he said that Obama “has chosen to pander to special-interest groups whose stated goal is to shut down the U.S. coal industry.”

Radical environmentalists are ecstatic. They also don’t disguise their end goal.

“From our point of view, the only way that you can manage the coal and combat climate change is by keeping it in the ground,” said Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians.

In other words: death to the coal industry.

The Obama action is also a big victory for Seattle billionaire Paul Allen. His family foundation has helped bring a lawsuit against the Interior Department to analyze the impact of coal on global warming. It’s safe to say that no one in the Allen family will lose his job if hundreds of thousands of middle-class coal miners lose theirs.

See the article here.

Stream Protection Rule Battle Continues

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

WHEELING -The U.S. House of Representatives is trying to prevent the Obama administration from implementing the Stream Protection Rule, a strategy which the National Mining Association claims will destroy 78,000 more coal jobs and up to 280,000 related jobs.

Even in the face of the Clean Power Plan that targets carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, as well as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that aim to curb mercury pollution from those plants, Murray Energy CEO Robert E. Murray called the Stream Protection Rule the “single greatest threat to the jobs and family livelihoods of our employees that I have seen in my 59 years of coal mining experience.”

“This rule bans underground coal mining by the longwall and other methods beneath dry ditches on the surface,” Murray said.

Last week, House members voted 235-188 to pass the STREAM Act, which would require the Obama administration’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation to consider how the rule will impact the industry by conducting scientific surveys before enacting the regulations. Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, were among 34 co-sponsors of the legislation.

“The war on coal is real. Any objective observer can see this clearly. Coal miners and operators are doing everything they can to hold on, and this bill would give them a fighting chance,” Johnson said.

According to Surface Mining Enforcement Director Joe Pizarchik, implementing the rule will protect about 6,500 miles worth of streams over the next 20 years, while preventing mining-related pollution that threatens communities.

The rule would also require mining companies to restore streams and to return mined areas to their previous form and uses.

Industry leaders believe the administration plans to implement the rule this year.

According to the mining association, the total annual value of lost coal production due to the rule would approach $29 billion, while federal and state tax revenues could fall by up to $6.4 billion per year.

Just last week, St. Louis-based Arch Coal, which has operations in West Virginia, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, while other miners face financial struggles. Murray Energy recently displaced an estimated 700 workers late last year after separating 1,829 miners from employment at the company’s multiple mining sites in May.

Still, many believe the protection rule is necessary because of the decades of environmental damage involving surface and underground longwall mining.

“We need the federal government to create thoughtful stream protections that ban valley fills and ensure an end to this destructive practice. As the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation finalizes this standard, we will continue to advocate strongly in order to ensure Appalachia gets the strongest protections possible,” said Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.

The rule would ensure protection or restoration of seasonal streams, while ensuring that land disturbed by mining operations is restored to a condition capable of supporting the uses that it was capable of supporting prior to mining.

It would require each mining permit to specify the point at which adverse impacts to water may be noticed.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation is a division of the Department of Interior.

“This proposed rule would accomplish what Americans expect from their government – a modern and balanced approach to energy development that safeguards our environment, protects water quality, supports the energy needs of the nation and makes coalfield communities more resilient for a diversified economic future,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said.

See the article here.

Killing Coal: The Obama Administration’s Intentional Assault on an Industry

Via The Canada Free Press:

By now, most people are aware of President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to bankrupt the coal industry—which he acknowledged would “necessarily” cause electricity to skyrocket. Seven years later, that is a campaign promise he is keeping.

Since moving into the White House, Obama has used bureaucratic weapons and administrative agencies to assault America’s coal industry. Between 2008 and 2012, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports 50,000 coal jobs were lost—that number would certainly be much greater today. West Virginia has been hit particularly hard with unemployment rates in double digits. Addressing the job losses, the Charleston Gazette-Mail blames the “liberal environmental policies that have accelerated coal’s decline”—which it says have left “hard working men and women” jobless.

In addition to the job losses, Obama’s policies—such as the Regional Haze rule, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, and the Clean Power Plan—have “helped spur the closing of dozens of coal plants across the country,” according to Politico. The November 2015 report states: “More than one in five coal-related jobs have disappeared during Obama’s presidency, and several major U.S. coal mining companies have announced this year that they would or may soon seek bankruptcy protection.”

On Monday, January 11, Arch Coal became the biggest domino to fall when it filed for bankruptcy. Arch follows Walter Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, and Patriot Coal Corp.—all of which filed for bankruptcy in 2015. James River Coal went bankrupt in 2014. The WSJ says: “Over a quarter of U.S. coal production is now in bankruptcy, trying to reorganize to cope with prices that have fallen 50% since 2011.” As a result, a “record number of mines are for sale” and remaining workers are receiving lower wages. In hard-hit West Virginia, starting wages have been cut 50 percent in the past few years: from around $40 an hour to $20.

In 2008, Alpha Natural Resources, which filed for bankruptcy in August 2015, was offered a buy out at $128 a share. Today, Alpha, according to Fortune, has 8900 employees but its stock is worthless. CNN Money states: “Since Obama took office in January 2009, shares of many coal companies have plummeted more than 90%.”

The Obama administration’s latest stab at killing coal is Friday’s, January 15, announcement of a federal-lands-leasing moratorium for coal mining. Bloomberg reports that “about 40 percent of U.S. coal now comes from federal land.” The announcement came just days after Obama’s State of the Union Address pledge “to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.” In short, the plan is to halt federal leasing while the Department of Interior completes a “Programmatic Environment Impact Statement” that the agency says it can complete in three years—though government projects are seldom completed on schedule. The years-long process will include public review and participation under the National Environmental Policy Review Act. As a result, it is expected that companies will have to pay more to mine coal on public lands.

“With this latest regulatory assault,” Luke Popovich, Vice President of External Communications for the American Mining Association, told me, “Obama has ensured his legacy as the only President to destroy the industry that has done more than any other to keep American power costs the lowest in the industrialized world.”

While mining can continue under existing leases, and the pause will likely have minimal impact as interest in leasing has declined with many government lease sales only having a single bidder, it sends a clear signal regarding administrative assassination. Addressing Friday’s announcement, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, declared: “If there were any lingering questions about whether the Obama administration is intent on decimating America’s coal industry, this should answer them.”

 

Bloomberg points out that the Obama administration is “facing mounting calls from conservationists to thwart new fossil fuel development as part of the ‘keep it in the ground’ movement”—which Murkowski says is a “misguided” effort that “will harm local economies and threaten future energy supplies.”

In Wyoming, which supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s coal, the response to Friday’s announcement was swift. Wyoming Mining Association executive director Jonathan Downing said: “This is yet another salvo in the president’s efforts to kill the coal industry. He and his allies in the extreme environmental movement know full well that this measure will make federal coal uneconomical to mine, thereby locking up America’s most abundant and reliable source of electricity generation.”

Governor Matt Mead’s comments include this harsh indictment: “It could not be more plain—in fact, it is starkly apparent—this Administration is no friend to coal when it flatly says there will be no new coal leases until some indefinite point in time.” His press release points out: “Wyoming coal producers pay: federal mineral royalty, Wyoming severance tax, Abandoned Mine Lands, Black Lung Tax, Ad Valorem Property, Ad Valorem Production, and Lease Bonus Application. The industry has an effective tax rate of 40%.  All of these revenue streams go to the public in various ways.”

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) released this statement: “When rural America says President Obama has contempt for their lives and livelihoods, they mean decisions like today’s announcement. A moratorium on federal coal leasing effectively hands a pink slip to the thousands of people in Wyoming and across the West employed in coal production.”

Wyoming is not the only western state impacted. Following the DOI announcement, – Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-ND) released this statement: “These proposed rules are an attempt by this administration to shut down the industry as they pursue their War on Coal. There are North Dakota lease applications under review by the Bureau of Land Management and as a result of today’s announced pause of the leasing program they may not be approved. With approximately 15 percent of the coal in North Dakota classified as federal, making the federal coal program more restrictive will be very expensive and lead to job loss in coal country. To mine around federal coal is very expensive and could ultimately make a mine economically unfeasible.”

While the moratorium gives “a powerful tailwind to the industry’s downward trajectory,” as WyoFile’s editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer calls it, the anti-fossil-fuel crowd—including billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer—“cheered the move.” Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has introduced legislation that would halt coal leasing on public lands altogether.

In the Administration’s multi-front assault, no skirmish is too small; no agency is too far removed from the front lines to be involved. Any conceivable attack can be engaged. For example, on Friday, January 22, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a briefing “to further its 2016 statutory report project on environmental justice.” According to the press release, the 9:00 AM to 5:45 PM meeting, will “focus on the civil rights implications of the placement of coal ash disposal facilities near minority and low income communities.” Commission Chairman Martin R. Castro explained: “We intend to shine a light on the civil rights implications of toxic coal ash, as well as other environmental conditions, on communities most in need of protection.”

Coal ash is frequently recycled and is an important component in concrete, brick, and dry wall. Its use is encouraged by green building advocates. In fact, concrete containing coal ash was used in the construction of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) headquarters in Washington D.C.

Panelists at the Civil Rights briefing include EPA’s Director of the office of Civil Rights, Velveta Golightly Howell and Associate Director of the Office of Environmental Justice Mustafa Ali. Additionally, representatives from Earth Justice, Waterkeepers Alliance, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will participate.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is reportedly an “independent, bipartisan agency charged with advising the President and Congress on Civil rights matters.”

While President Obama is currently calling the shots, if Hillary Clinton is elected the battle will intensify as her plans go further than his.

During her 2008 campaign, she tried to help coal companies by “throwing incentives at them to clean up production.” But, the HuffingtonPost, addressing her $30 billion plan to aid communities where jobs have been destroyed by the intentional assault on the coal industry, clarifies her intent: “the new proposal heavily pushes coal communities away from the industry that has dominated their economy for roughly a century.”

In exchange for the economic losses coal communities will suffer through the “green economy she envisions,” WSJ says her “programs are a mix of federal support to rebuild coal communities and aid to workers affected by the shifting energy economy.”

“Hard-working, able-bodied men and women who have lost their jobs,” however, “don’t want a handout from the very government that put them out of work.” The Gazette-Mail posits: “Surely most would rather return to the well-paying jobs they were forced out of.”

Mining communities aren’t fooled by the plan and see it as “nothing more than welfare”—calling it an attempt to “buy their support.” John Stilley, president of Amerikohl Mining in Butler, PA, quipped: “We do not want federal money to fund training for new jobs that pay half our current salaries.” According to Ed Yankovich, the United Mine Workers vice president for the district covering Pennsylvania and the Northeast, “Obama’s actions have alienated those who work in the industry from Democrats in general.” He told Politico: “People look at these folks and say, ‘they’ve completely abandoned us, it’s like we don’t live in America.’ There’s a bitterness about it.”

The assault on the coal industry pleases affluent progressive funders and then taxes all Americans for the re-education aimed at buying the support of the workers who used to have well-paying jobs—all the while hitting the pocketbook of those same Americans as coal-fueled power plant closures and expensive renewables force electricity rates to skyrocket.

And this is how Obama is intentionally killing coal.

See the article here.

The President’s ‘Foolish’ Move Against Coal

Via onenewsnow.com:

The so-called war on coal continues, especially in the wake of a recent announcement from the Obama administration.

The Obama administration is imposing a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands, as he argues that the program has remained largely unchanged for more than 30 years and requires a comprehensive review. According to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the coal leasing program must be modernized to ensure what she calls a fair financial return to American taxpayers and account for what the administration describes as climate change.

“This is the latest of a series of very costly and foolish regulations by this president, whose intention is simply to drive American coal out of the marketplace,” comments Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association (NMA).

While the Obama administration is dead set on alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, Popovich asserts that coal is one of the most affordable, abundant, and reliable forces of electricity generation in the United States.

“This is going to hurt virtually everyone across the board, [including] high-wage jobs. It’s going to make electricity possibly more expensive,” he laments. “It’s going to hurt the states that use the tax revenue from the federal coal lease program. So altogether, it’s just another front on the war on coal that this president is insisting on waging.”

Popovich goes on to describe how much coal this move involves.

“He is going after about 42 percent of the entire coal production of the United States. He’s going after the source of 42 percent of it,” the NMA communications director reports. “He claims that he is only imposing this moratorium on future coal leases, not on current ones. But of course that certainly affects the marketplace. It will certainly create enormous litigation that will tie up coal production from states like Colorado, Wyoming, Montana — even in the South where federal lands produce coal,” Popovich concludes.

See the article here.

Gov Mead: Wyoming Will Keep Fighting for Coal

Via wyofile.com:

Wyoming mines produced 361 million tons of coal through December 26, 2015 generating over one-third of the electricity in the United States. Coal mines employ 134,000 people across the country, of those, 6,500 are in Wyoming. Coal is important to Wyoming and to the nation. We thank coal miners and all associated with the coal industry — from vendors to railroads — for all they provide to our communities, state and country.

During my time as governor, I have worked across the nation and around the world to establish partnerships and potential markets for Wyoming coal. They were an integral part of the Wyoming Energy Strategy I released in 2013. Its initiatives incorporated the collective vision of Wyoming’s citizens — to balance energy development and conservation interests for the betterment of our state. Initiatives to expand markets and create opportunities for our energy industries were front and center.

In the face of a national agenda that undervalues the importance of coal, it is more critical than ever that we commit to the challenges that face us and lead the way in effective solutions.

The challenges are varied. One clear example is a flawed regulatory approach by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the last five years the EPA has promulgated regulations such as the Utility Mercury Air Toxic Standards rule, Ozone Standards and — most harmful to coal — the “Clean Power Plan.”

The Wyoming attorney general, at my request, has confronted these federal government actions in the courts. Many states have followed our lead and joined our stand. In some of these cases, I believe we could have avoided court action if federal agencies would have consulted the states and respected our input. The fact is, many of these regulations go beyond the limits Congress has set for agencies; create standards that cannot be met; and are not reasonably connected to improving the environment or public health.

The Clean Power Plan uses regulation in a targeted way that hampers coal as an energy choice and artificially creates economic challenges for the coal industry. It removes incentives to innovate and dries up money needed for research and development. It creates uncertainty in the financial markets at a time when affordable and reliable energy are needed for economic growth. It hurts our nation’s economy.

A common Wyoming value is our concern about our environment. After all it is here we choose to live, raise our children and hold in trust for future generations — this wonderful Wyoming.

The president, this week, mentioned his concerns over climate change. The Department of Interior followed up with an announcement of a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. This move goes beyond EPA regulation and provides further evidence this administration is no friend to coal. Not only will this moratorium hurt miners and all businesses that support coal mining, it will take away all the competitive advantage coal provides to every U.S. citizen.

Climate change can be objectively measured. The causes and the cures are where parties often disagree. What I hope more can agree upon is that regardless of one’s beliefs on the causes of climate change — no serious discussion can ignore coal as a plentiful resource and its benefits to our country. Coal is by far the largest source of electricity in the U.S. and globally. If climate change is the president’s major environmental concern, rather than chasing an unrealistic vision of a world without coal, pursue a vision that recognizes coal’s place in the world and invest to make it better. In Wyoming, we recognize coal’s place and are investing to make it better with the Integrated Test Center (ITC).

The ITC is being built at Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Dry Fork Station near Gillette. The ITC provides space for researchers to develop commercially viable uses for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. With the objective of taking a detrimental byproduct and turning it into a commodity, the research at the ITC will lead to new opportunities in petrochemicals as well as other commercial uses of carbon dioxide. Research at the facility will help insure the viability of the coal industry that continues to serve Wyoming and the world.

In 2012, $10 million in Abandoned Mine Land funds were appropriated to the University of Wyoming, School of Energy Resources for clean coal research. I will continue to support the Advanced Conversion Task Force in its work on new coal technologies.

We know we can improve coal’s environmental footprint while meeting increased global demand. We do that through innovation, not regulation. We did not get from the candle to the light bulb through regulation. Government oversight did not lead us to abandon horse-drawn carriages for motor vehicles. Inventions are the result of great minds finding ways to improve quality of life. That happens in spite of regulation, not because of it.

For the coal industry in Wyoming, and those that depend on it, times are hard. Current low gas prices and the challenges presented by federal policy put financial pressure on the coal industry and hard-working families in our state. Arch Coal’s bankruptcy brings immediate concern. Our focus is assuring that financial restructuring does not impact jobs, reclamation, salaries or pensions of employees in Wyoming. I am confident that the industry will respond to the current market challenges — and that companies like Arch Coal will overcome them to continue their part in meeting our state and global energy needs.

As I said, the coal industry is being challenged — as is the state of Wyoming. We will continue to fight for coal. These companies and the coal energy they provide fuel our way of life. They are critical to our nation’s economy — to our security. When people in our country flip a light switch, open a refrigerator door, or take comfort in a warm house during the middle of winter, Wyoming and coal are the reason these amenities are there. Rather than allow trends and politics to shape our energy future, we need to double down, investing and improving on the technologies that have allowed us to lead the world into the 21st century. We will continue to lead and coal will be a critical partner.

— Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead assumed office in January 2011.

See the article here.

Commentary: The ‘War on Coal’

Via West Virginia MetroNews: 

A favored tactic by the anti-coal crowd is calling out industry supporters for their “war on coal” campaign, dismissing it as hyperbole designed to whip up frenzied opposition among those of us who are supposedly in denial about climate change and coal’s future.

For example, a Charleston Gazette editorial last year sniffed, “The ‘War on Coal’ campaign has been a smashing success, convincing the most vulnerable working people and retirees that if only they could get the nasty federal government off their backs, all would right itself to some vague and misty perfection, circa 1955.”

Of course, that’s not at all what the campaign is about, and coal opponents know it. Forget the overused military metaphor for a moment and consider what is actually happening.

The Obama administration and the EPA have taken a series of unilateral steps to make it increasingly difficult to mine and burn coal; the Clean Power Plan, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule (which the U.S. Supreme Court rejected), the Stream Buffer Rule. And last Friday the Obama administration halted new coal mining leases on federal lands.

Coal opponents choose to deny the impact of these executive actions and instead attribute coal’s decline entirely to market conditions, but as the New York Times reported, “The move represents a significant setback for the coal industry, effectively freezing new coal production on federal lands sending a signal to energy markets that could turn investors away from an already reeling industry.”

In his State of the Union address last week, the President renewed his straw man argument that the country’s energy future was a choice between “old, dirtier energy sources” and a green, clean future. That’s a false narrative that oversimplifies the energy economy.

As the Wall Street Journal opined recently, “Even after recent declines in market share, coal-fired power plants still provide roughly a third or more of American electricity. So utility customers will notice the coal carnage when they see their monthly bills—or perhaps when the lights don’t go on.”

Gov. Tomblin sounded a realistic tone about the future of coal in hisState of the State address last week when he said, “Even the most optimistic among us realize it is unlikely coal will ever reach production levels of the past.”

That’s a given even coal’s most diehard supporters understand. Hydraulic fracturing technology now provides access to mammoth supplies of natural gas and oil that were previously unretrievable.

Additionally, gigantic western coal seams make it increasingly difficult for eastern coal producers to compete. However, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s most recentestimates West Virginia still has 1.7 billion tons of recoverable coal.

One of the definitions of “war” is a struggle to achieve a goal—think “war on drugs.” By that standard, there is indeed a war on coal, since the Obama administration, this EPA and its acolytes in the environmental community are using all available means to eliminate a cheap and reliable energy source.

See the article here.

Here’s How Obama Is Repaying The Indians Who ‘Adopted’ Him In 2008

Via The Daily Caller:

The Crow Tribe welcomed then-Sen. Barack Obama with open arms in 2008, making him an “adopted” member of the tribe. But eight years later, the Crow are hurting financially by the environmental policies of the man they once applauded.

The Crow will furlough 100 employees, or 25 percent of its workforce, due to falling revenues from coal mining — the tribe’s main source of income. Other employees will be forced to work less as a way to save money.

Furloughed workers will be called back to work once tribal revenues increase, but with such a heavy dependence on coal mining, it’s unclear how well the Crow will weather the current slump. Tribal leaders have become so frustrated, they’re blaming Obama’s environmental policies, which aim to reduce U.S. coal use.

Old Coyote, the tribe’s chairman, said the furloughs occurred “because of revenues reduced by the Obama’s ‘War on Coal,’” according to a tribal Facebook post from early January.

“Our bread and butter is coal. A war on coal is a war on Crow families,” Old Coyote said, according to Billings Gazette.

For years, the Obama administration has put out regulations aimed at reducing America’s reliance on coal power. The first major blow to coal came in 2012 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued mercury regulations that are projected to shutter 60 gigawatts of coal-fired power. The agency has since issued other rules, including a major rule to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, which have furthered dimmed the hopes of the industry.

EPA regulations, combined with cheap natural gas and China’s faltering economy, have pushed coal prices downward to the point where many major companies have become heavily indebted. America’s second-largest coal company, Arch Coal, recently filed for bankruptcy protection.

Obama’s time in office has seen power plants and coal mines close down and tens of thousands of people in the coal industry lose their jobs.

The Crow’s unfortunate budget shortage comes just eight years after they adopted Obama as part of their tribe during the 2008 presidential campaign. They called him “Barack Black Eagle” after he was adopted by the Black Eagle family that year — a name he is still called by Crow members.

“I like my new name: Barack Black Eagle. That is a good name,” Obama said at a campaign event with Native American tribes in Montana during the 2008 campaign. “I was just adopted into the tribe. I’m still working on my pronunciations.”

In Montana, Indian tribes are a key voting demographic. Obama was adopted into the Crow tribe in a private ceremony inside a tent that was closed to the press.

“Few have been ignored by Washington for as long as native Americans – the first Americans,” Obama said in 2008, promising to appoint a Native American adviser to his administration. He also promised to improve health care and education on reservations.

“I understand the tragic history,” Obama said. “Our government has not always been honest or truthful in our deals.”

Now the Crows are facing serious budget problems as coal markets stumble.

The Crow tribe has about 13,000 members and is the biggest employer on the reservation, which spans three states — Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. Outside of coal revenues, the tribe relies on funding from states and the federal government to employ about 900 people.

The tribe budgeted $2.9 million in coal revenue for February, but it now appears they will only make $1.6 million from sales, Old Coyote told tribal members earlier this month.

Old Coyote was also appointed by Montana’s governor to be part of an advisory council examining the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions from power plants — a rule expected to close even more coal plants.

Old Coyote said he talked to Obama about funding technology to reduce emissions from burning coal, but it “kind of fell on deaf ears.”

See the article here.

Republicans Furious Over Obama Move on Coal Leases

Via The Hill: 

Congressional Republicans are slamming the Obama administration’s decision to halt new coal mining leases on federal land.

Administration officials said Friday they would hold off on new lease sales while overhauling the coal leasing program to account for climate change costs.

 Republicans, who have badgered Obama for energy and environment policies they say constitute a “war on coal,” let loose on the decision Friday.

“There seems to be no limit to the number of job-crushing regulations, executive orders and insults [Interior Secretary Sally Jewell] and President Obama will throw at America’s middle class,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a statement. The Interior Department leases about 200,000 acres of land in Wyoming for coal mining.

“This administration is in a full-scale war with coal communities and families.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Congress will “continue to fight back” against Obama’s energy policies, calling Friday’s decision an attack on coal mining communities.

“President Obama has made it absolutely clear what he plans to do with America’s energy — keep it in the ground,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican who represents mining-heavy Montana, said the move is an “unprecedented assault on one of Montana’s most important sources of good paying jobs and tax revenue.”

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) called the decision “another unilateral attack on coal.” Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said it is an “unprecedented action” that will “completely shut down coal leasing on federal lands and will disproportionately harm the poorest among us.”

Friday’s move isn’t a pause in coal production on federal lands but only a moratorium on new leasing, administration officials said Friday. Mining on existing leases will continue during the review of the program, something Jewell said is long overdue.

Green groups and Democrats, many of whom have pushed the Obama administration to institute policies slowing fossil fuel development on federal lands, praised the move.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who has authored a bill blocking future federal fossil fuel leasing, said the decision is a “breakthrough moment for America leadership” on climate change.

“The science is clear: if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change, we will have to leave the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground rather than extracting and burning these dirty fuels,” he said. “The time is right to transition rapidly from a fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy, and that means keeping it in the ground.”

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member on the Natural Resources panel, seemed to embrace the GOP’s “war on coal” mantra on Friday.

“For far too long the federal coal program has been part of a war on common sense, a war on the American taxpayer’s wallet, and a war on our planet,” he said. “It is past time to fight back.”

See the article here.

Why the CPP Is So Bad for Rural America

Via EnergyBIZ:

IN AUGUST, THE U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the final version of a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 32% by 2030. Dubbed the Clean Power Plan, EPA’s blueprint is one of those ambitious initiatives — a big overreach, some say — that will have extensive and long-term consequences, some of which we haven’t yet begun to understand.

But we know enough to know that the plan won’t be good for our country’s rural regions. On the day in October that EPA published the Clean Power Plan in the Federal Register, a group of 39 generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts) led by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit seeking relief from the Clean Power Plan. Minnkota Power Cooperative, headquartered in Grand Forks, N.D., and other co-ops believe the new rules exceed the legal and regulatory authority granted EPA by the Clean Air Act. It was the first of numerous lawsuits challenging the CPP, including legal efforts by 27 states to block or suspend implementation of the rule.

According to a new industry analysis by the National Economic Research Associates, the cost of EPA’s plan could approach $300 billion. It’s a big number that begs a big question: Who will pay for it?

Well, you and me and every person or entity that relies on electricity to heat a home, turn on the lights at a local hardware store, power a dairy farm’s milking machines or enable your school’s smart boards. For Minnkota’s member-users, electricity is economic lifeblood.

When frigid winter temperatures arrive, co-op power goes from being a modern convenience to an absolute necessity. Just ask one of our members who was around before the co-op provided electricity more than 75 years ago.

If you happen to reside in an area served by an electric co-op, a designation that covers 75% of the country’s land mass, it’s likely that you’ll shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden. That’s because not-for-profit electric co-ops only receive revenue from one place: their member- users. Rural citizens are now on the front lines of the EPA’s power play without a fallback position. They’ll dig into their own pockets to pay for EPA’s plan, and they’ll have to dig deep.

The CPP will usher in an era of escalating electric bills and stifled economic growth that will harm the people least able to afford sharp increases in utility bills: the farmers, small business owners and families served by the country’s more than 900 electric cooperatives. Hardest hit will be families living on fixed incomes or in poverty.

Indeed, America’s electric cooperatives serve 93% of the nation’s persistent poverty counties. On average, 23% of coop households nationwide earn an annual income of less than $25,000. That’s 11.5% below the national average.

The CPP will cause some co-op power plants to shut down, including plants still repaying loans for construction or upgrades. Some co-ops’ member-owners will pay twice for their electricity; once for the shuttered plant and again to buy power from somewhere else. At Minnkota, more than $425 million has been invested recently in emission control projects on our coal-based power plants. Stranding that investment would put significant upward pressure on Minnkota’s rates.

The trouble doesn’t stop there. Those responsible for ensuring the reliability of our nation’s electric power system have raised red flags about the plan’s impact. They believe the EPA underestimated the amount of time it would take to build new power plants and the necessary power lines needed to comply with the rule. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation noted that “constructing the resource additions, as well as the expected transmission enhancements, may represent a significant reliability challenge given the constrained time period for implementation.”

Similarly, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which supplies power in 15 states, worries that grid reliability could be overloaded or severely overloaded in several states in which it operates. In short, the EPA’s aggressive timeline for implementing the plan, and the steepness of the emissions cuts, could jeopardize the affordable, reliable supply of electricity that helps power rural economies.

Lost in the debate over the Clean Power Plan is an acknowledgment of the major financial contributions already made by the country’s co-ops in the advancement of practical clean power initiatives. The NRECA and America’s electric cooperatives have developed and implemented a broad range of clean initiatives, from multipollutant controls that have sharply cut emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury at power plants to the SUNDA project, which promotes community solar projects.

Minnkota takes great pride in its efforts to lessen its environmental impact and advance renewable energy production. Nearly 30% of our electric generation capacity comes from wind – one of the highest percentages among all utilities in the United States.

Minnkota also administers some of the nation’s most successful demand-response and energy-efficiency programs.

But these proactive efforts and investments matter very little in complying with the CPP. Instead, the EPA’s rule set our nation on a path of picking winners and losers.

Unless something changes significantly, America’s electric cooperatives will most certainly be the latter.

Mac McLennan is the president and CEO of the Minnkota Power Cooperative.

See the article here.

Fossil Fuel Leases Should Charge for Climate Change, Says President

Via The Hill: 

President Obama wants companies leasing oil and coal rights on federal land to pay more for the effects those fuels have on climate change.

In his final State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama said the prices charged for oil and coal ought to reflect the cost of the greenhouse gases from burning them.

 It answers a top request from Democrats and environmentalists who say that federal resources account for about a quarter of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, with coal as the top culprit.

“Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels,” Obama told Congress. “That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”

“And that way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.”

Obama presented the proposal as a way to accelerate the ongoing transition toward clean energy sources like wind and solar and “away from old, dirtier energy sources.”

He warned that the move to charge for climate impacts would not be easy. “But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve — that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.”

The Interior Department, which manages energy resources on the federal government’s massive land holdings, last year launched a comprehensive effort to reevaluate how it values fossil fuels and charges fees and royalties to the companies that extract them.

Part of that conversation includes whether it’s appropriate to charge for the climate impacts of the fuels, something that industry has staunchly opposed.

The Center for American Progress reported last year that 24 percent of the nation’s energy-related greenhouse gases come from fossil fuels extracted on federal land and water, or 1.34 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases.

But Obama’s idea falls short of what some activists have called for: a complete stop to all new fossil fuel leases on federal property.

Nonetheless, greens applauded the president’s proposal.

“For far too long, the Interior Department has given away our publicly owned fossil fuels to mining and drilling companies without regard for the damage they cause to communities and our climate,” Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, said in a statement, calling the move “encouraging.”

“The president tonight shined a bright flashlight into the forgotten corners of the federal coal and oil programs, where loopholes and subsidies are costing taxpayers and local communities millions of dollars in lost revenue every year,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

The National Mining Association disagrees with the characterization that the current royalty rates are “subsidies.”

The group argues that increases in rates will raise energy costs and deprive taxpayers of revenue.

“Critics of the federal coal lease program have neither an economic nor an environmental case to make that withstands the barest scrutiny,” Hal Quinn, the mining group’s president, said in a statement last month, calling it a “foolish idea.”

See the article here.

House Votes to Delay Coal Mining Rule

Via The Hill:

The House passed a bill Tuesday to delay an Obama administration rule designed to protect streams around coal mining operations.

Lawmakers approved Rep. Alex Mooney’s (R-W.Va.) bill on a 235 to 188 vote with 4 Democrats joining most Republicans to vote in favor. Ten Republicans voted against the bill.

The bill would delay an Office of Surface Mining (OSM) regulation until it goes through future rounds of scientific review and the Obama administration releases more information about how it was developed, effectively blocking the rule. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation.

 The rule in question — a proposal that is six years in the making for OSM  — beefs up regulations for buffer zones around streams where coal mining and mining waste is prohibited. Republicans say the rule will hamstring the coal industry and lead to further job losses among miners, something they claim Obama regulations are already exacerbating.

“Taken together, these changes will destroy up to 77,000 coal mining jobs nationwide, including up to 52,000 in the Appalachia region,” Mooney said in a floor speech Tuesday, citing an industry-backed study.

“This would be devastating to states like my home state — like West Virginia — which have already been hit hard by President Obama’s war on coal.”

Democrats, though, have said Republican concerns about employment are overblown, noting other studies showing less than a dozen job losses due to the rule. They said Tuesday that the rule would protect public health and water quality against the controversial mountaintop removal mining process.

“The majority is falling back on the same political playbook they’ve used time and time again: attack, obstruct and delay,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) said. “It’s really all about delay, it’s not about the policy.”

The House rejected a series of Democratic amendments to the bill, including those to allow the rule to move forward if it protects drinking water or to shorten the delay if it’s found to contribute to long-term health problems.

The White House threatened Monday to veto the legislation, calling it a “needless delay of these important safeguards [that] would impact the communities and economies that depend on clean water and a healthy environment.”

The OSM rule has been a source of political angst for years. Republicans say the Interior Department has done a poor job of working with states on finalizing the rule, and many state regulators have pulled out of the consultation process.

House lawmakers have previously cleared legislation blocking the rule, most recently in 2014.

The mining industry has worked hard against the rule, saying it could kill upwards of 280,000 jobs both in the coal industry and businesses supported by it. Industry groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Businesses endorsed the measure ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

“Thousands of Americans in coal communities throughout the country will be grateful to Rep. Mooney and his colleagues for blocking the Stream Protection Rule, the latest Obama administration attempt to destroy their livelihoods,” National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn said on Monday.

But green groups have backed the rule. In a letter to lawmakers on Monday, the League of Conservation Voters called Mooney’s legislation “an awful bill that would block proposed safeguards that aim to reduce the health and environmental impacts of dangerous and destructive coal mining practices.”

“The Stream Protection Rule will finally update federal rules that currently fall woefully short of preventing serious harm to the communities living in the shadow of mining operations,” Gene Karpinski, the group’s president, wrote in the letter.

See the article here.

Obama Touches on Coal During State of the Union Address

Via WSAZ:

WASHINGTON — During his final State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama signaled that coal companies could face higher charges when mining on federal lands.

Obama said he’s going to push to change the way the federal government manages its oil and coal resources to better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and the planet.

Environmental groups have been telling the Bureau of Land Management during public hearings in recent months that the current royalty rates don’t provide taxpayers with a fair return on the country’s natural resources and encourage global warming.

The government charges a rate of 12.5 percent. That’s 50 percent below what it charges for offshore oil and gas drilling.

Leaders of the hard-hit coal industry say any increase will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher utility rates.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s final State of the Union address:

“The president used this speech to try to define his legacy, but in West Virginia, we already know what his legacy will be. In West Virginia, he will be remembered for higher state unemployment, closing our coal mines, raising our electricity prices, increasing our healthcare costs, limiting our Second Amendment rights, jeopardizing our national security, weakening our role in the world, and diminishing hope for our middle-class families.

“Because of the president’s policies, West Virginia’s economy is in decline. This administration’s anti-coal policies make it harder and harder to mine coal, burn coal, and provide good jobs for our coal miners and related industries.

“This State of the Union was yet another missed chance to work with Congress and unite the American people behind ideas, principles and leadership that will reinvigorate West Virginia and make our nation safer.”

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., issued the following statement:

“In his final State of the Union, I had hoped the president would lay out a plan to improve the bleak economic outlook in West Virginia and other states. Instead, he vowed to move forward with catastrophic regulations that threaten jobs and impede energy development while doing little to actually improve the environment. West Virginia has been crushed by the president’s policies, already shedding jobs by the thousands.

“With national security and the threat of ISIS at the forefront of Americans’ minds, the president offered little to ease these concerns. We must have a better strategy to destroy ISIS, to vet refugees coming into the country and to combat other emerging threats both at home and abroad.

“In mentioning the drug epidemic that is growing in West Virginia and across the country, the president highlighted an issue where Republicans and Democrats can work together. In the year ahead, I will continue to look for solutions to end addiction, improve access to treatment and stem this mounting public health concern.

“In his final year in office, the president should commit to working with Congress to confront the many challenges we face instead of governing by executive order. Doing so would fulfill his promise to change the way things are done in Washington.”

See the article here.

A Labor Leader’s View: Clean Power Plan Will Hurt the Poor

Via The Duluth News Tribune:

Recently, advocates for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan have tried to make the case that the plan would benefit low-income citizens. Do they really believe that? How is this going to make electricity cheaper? How can requiring utilities to shut down hundreds of millions of dollars of perfectly good equipment that is mostly paid for and then forcing them to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of new equipment going to save anyone money? Oh, it will have many effects, but saving money would not be one of them. It’s like claiming we’re going to save you money by destroying your car and making you buy a new one with slightly better gas mileage.

Minnesota’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, including coal, is the reason Minnesotans enjoy some of the most competitive electricity rates in the country. That leaves far more money in consumers’ pockets for other needs. And no one benefits from that more than low-income citizens. We simply cannot leave the less fortunate in the cold and dark.

And we haven’t even discussed what the Clean Power Plan would do to our economy on the jobs front. While Minnesota’s economy has made improvements the past few years, 50 percent of workers remain underemployed. The jobs provided to those in the electrical-generation industry are good-paying, middle-class jobs, thousands of which would disappear under this plan and be replaced with far-less-lucrative careers. We can’t afford to lose those positions, all the while making our region less globally competitive by increasing energy costs. We would be doing no Minnesotans any favors by decreasing average incomes while increasing average expenses.

Furthermore, Minnesota already enjoys some of the cleanest air in the country; over the past 20 years, emissions from our electric utilities have decreased, and our air quality has improved. Our state consistently earns high grades on clean air from the American Lung Association. We already are where other states want to be.

I urge policymakers in

St. Paul to take a hard look at the impact their implementation of the Clean Power Plan would have on families and consider that continuing our diverse energy portfolio is good for the economy and good for hard-working Minnesotans.

See the article here.

The Carnage in Coal Country

Via The Wall Street Journal:

Arch Coal filed for Chapter 11 protection on Monday, continuing an industry collapse that includes the bankruptcies of Patriot Coal, Walter Energy and Alpha Natural Resources. The White House must be cheering, because this is one Obama energy policy that seems to be working.

As President Obama prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday, we wonder if he’ll take pride in the damage his policies have done to the coal industry. According to the National Mining Association, 40,000 coal jobs have been lost in the U.S. since 2008.

The wealth destruction has been equally dramatic. Peabody Energy is a going concern, but its shares have declined by roughly 95% in the last year. Investor Paul Tice recently wrote in these pages that since 2012 “27 coal-mining companies with core operations in Central Appalachia, a region roughly centered in southern West Virginia, have filed for bankruptcy protection.” We told you in November that coal production nationwide has declined by about 15% since 2008. Reasons include= slowing global demand and competition from natural gas in electricity generation. But commodity prices are cyclical, while regulation is forever.

It’s hard to keep track of all the new rules billowing out of Washington and overwhelming coal producers and their customers. Market analyst James Lucier at Capital Alpha Partners says the most potent have been the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which have forced the retirement of plants that provide tens of thousands of megawatts of electricity. Then there’s the coal ash regulation. And the new Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at power plants.

Even after recent declines in market share, coal-fired plants still provide roughly a third or more of American electricity. So utility customers will notice the coal carnage when they see their monthly bills—or perhaps when the lights don’t go on. But for now the pain is concentrated among those who used to work in the coal fields. They are still waiting for all those new green jobs Mr. Obama has been promising since he arrived in Washington.

See the article here.

Lights Out: The Top 7 Threats To America’s Power Grid

Via The Daily Caller: 

Revelations earlier last week that hackers linked to Russia attacked and took down the Ukrainian power grid are bringing to light once again major threats to the American power grid.

“There’s this combination of federal and state-level programs that are aimed at shutting down reliable baseload generation, such as coal, while propping up expensive and unreliable wind and solar power,” Chris Warren of the Institute for Energy Research told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This includes policies such as the wind PTC, solar ITC, state renewable portfolio standards, and EPA regulations like the carbon rule.”

American homes, industries, and businesses are deeply dependent on reliable electricity, so threats to the consistent delivery of electricity put modern life itself at risk.

“This perfect storm of policies will unavoidably raise electricity prices on Americans and seriously threaten grid reliability,” Warren continued.

1: Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has repeatedly attempted to implement regulations that shut down coal and natural gas power plants. At the same time, the agency openly encourages solar and wind power, which also puts stress on the power grid.

Independent groups have suggested EPA regulations could be responsible for shutting down up to 81,000 megawatts of power generation capacity. That is the equivalent of shutting off the lights of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado and Idaho. Such action makes the power grid more vulnerable to other disruptions.

And the agency proposes so many new regulations that it creates uncertainty among investors, which effectively prevents the construction of additional conventional power plants that could stabilize the grid.

See the article here.

GOP Bill Blocking Obama Coal Rule Set to Hit House Floor

Via The Hill:

A Republican bill to block a new Obama administration coal mining rule is due to the hit the floor soon.

Rep. Alex Mooney’s (R-W.Va.) Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining Act would prevent the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) from finalizing the mining rule until it goes through an extra scientific review and the administration releases more information about its formation.

 Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, announced Tuesday that the legislation is set to come before the committee next week. The Rules Committee is traditionally a bill’s final stop before it goes to the floor for a vote.

The OSM rule in question looks to update standards for buffer zones around streams where mining activities and waste are prohibited. Republicans say the bill would hurt the coal mining industry by creating new environmental regulations.

“In my state … the thought of losing thousands more jobs [is] unconscionable,” Mooney said at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in September.

“This newly proposed rule will not only impact coal fields in West Virginia and Appalachia, but also have widespread implications across the country.”

Democrats generally support the OSM’s rulemaking, arguing Republican concerns are overblown and that potential job losses because of it are negligible. The administration says the rule, more than six years in the making, will protect coal country waterways from the controversial mountaintop-removal mining process.

Republicans have previously passed bills blocking the rule, most recently in 2014.

See the article here.

Clean Power Plan Amounts to an Energy Tax

Via The Pueblo Chieftain: 

The administration’s Clean Power Plan, announced by the White House last summer, defies both Congress and public opinion. Congress has repeatedly rejected costly plans to cap carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and opinion polls consistently show voters won’t pay for them.

The plan also defies common sense. Logic doesn’t support claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that replacing affordable sources of electricity like coal with far costlier sources will somehow lower electricity costs. On the contrary, EPA’s climate change regulation amounts to an energy tax, and an expensive one.

A new analysis of the Clean Power Plan by Energy Ventures Analysis, an independent economic consultancy, shows the irreparable harm this rule inflicts on the country, especially on states like Colorado. In just eight years, from 2022 to 2030, consumers here will have paid $2.7 billion more for wholesale electricity compared to the cost without the rule. So instead of lower energy costs, as EPA promises, Colorado will be stuck with a 19 percent spike in costs, plus a $3.3 billion tab for new energy infrastructure to replace existing power plants retired by the rule.

Energy Ventures Analysis shows that what is bad for Colorado is also bad for the country. By 2030, EVA projects Americans will have paid $214 billion more for wholesale electricity than they would pay without this regulation. The bills start to come due in 2022, when consumers will shell out an additional $15 billion a year, and by 2030 pay $31 billion a year more — overall a 21 percent cost increase. Add the costs of lost jobs in manufacturing, less affordable energy sources and the estimated $64 billion tab for replacing lost power plant capacity and you begin to understand why the Clean Power Plan is a tax on energy.

EPA doesn’t call this a tax on electricity. But with less money in the family budget for groceries, for the occasional evening out, for paying monthly bills, that’s what consumers might call it. Driving these costs is the Obama administration’s determination to eliminate coal from the mix of fuels that generate electricity — regardless of the burden on households and businesses. Coal generates about 40 percent of the nation’s electricity, more than any other fuel, and 60 percent of the electricity here in Colorado. So removing it from the fuel mix, especially in coal states, will raise demand — and prices — for alternative fuels to fill the gap. Even worse, Colorado will not receive full credit for the pain it has already inflicted on energy consumers through mandates for higher cost energy sources.

EPA dismisses the pain to consumers. But most American families expect, and many low-income families rely on, affordable electricity to balance the budget. And it’s exactly affordable, coal-generated electricity that the administration will force out of the American energy mix.

As a result, the Clean Power Plan falls hardest on low-income families. Today about half of all American households pay close to 20 percent of their disposable income on energy-related expenses. EPA will force them to pay more. The same federal agency that claims global warming hurts the world’s poor is now hurting America’s poor through ill-advised policies that won’t do a thing to stop global warming. Although EPA touts the rule as vital to halt the rise in global temperatures, the agency’s own data show the Clean Power Plan will have virtually no measurable impact on global temperatures or greenhouse gas concentrations.

The Clean Power Plan is an energy tax sold with false advertising. And Colorado should not have to pay for it.

Stuart Sanderson is the president of the Colorado Mining Association.

See the article here.

War on U.S. Mining Reckless, Impractical

Via Lifezette.com:

We’re seeing something very interesting of late from the Obama administration — an all-out war against America’s mining industries.

It’s something the president appears to be undertaking with little thought to economics or practicality.

At the recent UN climate talks in Paris, President Obama proudly trumpeted a “Clean Power Plan” that aims to limit carbon dioxide emissions from America’s power generating sector. The main thrust of the plan is the elimination of 41 megawatts of coal-fired power generation, or roughly 40 percent of America’s entire coal fleet.

You can’t get something for nothing, however, and many of these coal plants are currently running overtime during peak use to keep Americans warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Overall, America’s coal-fired plants, which utilize scrubbing mechanisms to trap emissions of sulfur dioxide, mercury, and nitrogen oxide, account for 39 percent of total U.S. electricity generation. Simply put, they are the backbone of reliable, affordable power in America.

The CPP aims to eliminate these coal plants on a rapid timetable. But if one connects the dots, troubling questions emerge. What will replace all of this lost power generation, and will it be ready by the 2030 target date?

That’s where the fun begins, actually, since no one is really sure.

As for the underlying goals of the CPP — “Why are we doing this, and what’s the real-world benefit?”— the answer isn’t particularly reassuring. As the Environmental Protection Agency admits, the benefits of the CPP are miniscule. When the plan is fully implemented, the CPP might reduce global CO2 output by less than 1 percent, with a theoretical reduction in global temperatures of 0.02 degrees Celsius by 2100.

We do know the costs of the plan, however. A study by Energy Ventures Analysis foresees a $214 billion increase in America’s utility costs by 2030, plus another $64 billion needed for the construction of new wind and solar facilities.  The wind requirements alone will necessitate the installation of roughly 125,000 wind turbines nationwide. And that also means new high-voltage power lines and towers to deliver this power, plus new coal and natural gas power plants to serve as back-up when the wind isn’t blowing.

The CPP leans heavily on wind power, but unfortunately wind turbines aren’t quite the green angels they’re presumed to be. The rare earth metals used in their construction often come from China, and are excavated and refined via some of the crudest and most polluting methods on the planet. Simply put, China’s mining work is rough, dangerous, and toxic.

Which brings us to the latest assault by the Obama administration on America’s mining sector. A few weeks ago, the Department of the Interior unveiled a plan to protect the sage grouse, a gray-brown bird inhabiting the prairies of the Western United States. Invasive species of vegetation and wildfires have, at times, threatened the bird’s population, and there was talk of listing the grouse as an endangered species.  The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, however, reports the bird’s population has increased 63 percent since 2013, and state governors have already enacted voluntary measures to protect sage grouse habitats.

Although a federal analysis shows that activities such as ranching, oil and gas development, and mining affect only 7 percent of the bird’s ecosystem, the DOI is now proposing to withdraw 10 million acres of mining claims in the Western U.S.

Essentially, the sage grouse is doing fine. But DOI now envisions the largest mineral withdrawal in American history, an effort that would limit claims to the vast majority of the nation’s mineral endowment, including, copper, gold, nickel and zinc.

Mining in the Western U.S. produces much of America’s mineral wealth. It’s the bright spot amidst the U.S. being otherwise entirely import-dependent for 19 key minerals, and more than 50 percent import-reliant for another 24 minerals. With half of the nation’s mineral wealth already off-limits or under restrictions, the removal of 10 million additional acres will undoubtedly have a significant impact.

So what we now face is a perfect storm of regulatory overkill and rising costs poised to clobber the U.S. economy at the worst possible time. The CPP will raise energy prices, encumbering America’s manufacturers with higher utility bills precisely when they are already paring expenses to the bone. And then, when the CPP demands new wind turbines, they will be made in China, with imported minerals — some of which could have been extracted far more safely and cleanly in the U.S.

These twin assaults on America’s mining and mineral efforts are poorly conceived, with little environmental benefit to justify such a huge wallop to the economy. Reading between the lines, though, the Obama administration simply dislikes coal, and views mining as dirty, archaic work. But that’s an overly simplistic view since America’s mining work buttresses the nation’s economy — particularly in providing the coal that continues to power so many homes and businesses.

Where is the due diligence to envision what will happen when such vital operations are halted because of high-flying ideological concerns? In the real world, such shortsightedness will prove incredibly costly.

See the article here.

“War on Coal” Seen Behind Federal Mining Rules that Maryland is Opposing

Via The Baltimore Sun:

Just a few years ago, Jack Ternent was selling chain, rope and cement to the coal mines in the mountains around his store — the kind of trade that propped up Western Maryland’s economy for more than a century.

But as the coal industry has withered nationally, and in Maryland especially, Ternent said those kinds of supplies are now just as likely to sit idle in his warehouse.

“Mining is what made this town,” Ternent said, frowning below the portrait of his grandfather, who opened the lumber store here in 1885.

“Now,” the 73-year-old said, “‘coal’ is a dirty word.”

Some are concerned the plan will deliver another blow to a once-vital local industry now teetering on the edge of extinction.

The Department of the Interior rules, which the Obama administration hopes to complete later this year, would require more extensive water testing to guide efforts to mitigate the impact coal mines have on streams that flow from the mountains of Maryland’s panhandle into the Potomac and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

Supporters say current mining regulations — designed more than 30 years ago — haven’t kept pace with new techniques that can be used to restore the quality of nearby waterways. Environmentalists say the industry’s economic legacy cannot be separated from its impact on the land itself.

Keith Eshleman, professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Frostburg, Md., is an expert in hydrology. He has studied the impact of mining on watersheds, and is skeptical the pending rules will have a significant impact on the environment or the industry, thanks to the rules’ modest reach and various loopholes.

Mining towns

Though Maryland’s coal production is eclipsed by those of neighboring West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the 20 mines still active in Garrett and Allegany counties remain economically and culturally significant for the region.

Evidence of the region’s long connection with coal linger. Roads winding through the mountains carry names such as “Burning Mines” or, simply, “Mine Street.” The high school football team in Frostburg uses a miner as its mascot. In Lonaconing, a park on Main Street honors a five-story furnace built in the 1830s — the first in the United States to use bituminous coal to produce iron ingots.

“A hundred years ago, you were either a coal miner or a merchant if you lived here,” said Polla Horn, a retired nurse from Frostburg who has been researching people who died in the mines. “We’re pretty economically depressed up here, and coal is one of the last things that is left.”

Just over 400 Marylanders work in the mines today — a number roughly consistent with the past several decades. But coal production in the state has fallen rapidly in recent years, down 62 percent to 1.9 million tons from 2005 to 2013, according to an annual report from the Maryland Department of the Environment.

By comparison, some 20,000 people work in coal mining in West Virginia.

The decline is partly a result of economics: Natural gas has become so abundant and cheap that it has depressed demand for coal. But those who live in this conservative stronghold also blame federal regulations, and fault the Obama administration specifically.

A ‘bevy of regulations’

“Stop the war on coal,” reads a sign planted in a yard on Route 36 north of Westernport. “Fire Obama.”

“There’s just a whole bevy of regulations that have come out at the federal level [and] have made coal almost economically unfeasible to take out of the ground,” said Del. Jason C. Buckel, an Allegany County Republican.

Several of the largest mining companies operating in the state did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Maryland Coal Association, which was created in the 1980s to advocate for the industry, closed in December, and its former executive director declined an interview request.

In Washington, the companies are represented by the National Mining Association, which has strenuously opposed the proposed rules. The group estimates the rules would threaten between 40,000 to 78,000 coal mining jobs.

“Few things in government are more dangerous than a regulatory agency looking for a purpose,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the coal lobby.

But despite a 1977 federal law aimed at reducing the coal industry’s impact on streams, officials with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement say coal mining has displaced fish and wildlife, destroyed waterways and replaced hardwood forests with nonnative plants.

The proposed rules would require mining companies to return those streams to the condition they were in before operations began. And states would be required to monitor that process.

Federal officials say the industry is vastly overstating the potential impact on jobs. In its own analysis, the Interior Department says 10 coal jobs could be lost annually, nationwide.

The administration of Gov. Larry Hogan is opposing the regulations, arguing they are overly broad and would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement. The Maryland Department of the Environment, which is charged with enforcing federal mining rules, sent a three-page later to the federal government in October outlining its objections.

The state would be required to determine the ecology of a site before mining begins — a baseline — and to continue to test conditions throughout the life cycle of a mine. The proposal would also require mining companies to replace native trees within 100 feet on each side of a stream, rather than leaving behind the scrubby fields that usually signal a reclaimed mine.

Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said the rules would require the state to hire at least one biologist, and also potentially foresters, geologists and engineers. The Maryland Bureau of Mines has 11 employees.

All told, the state estimates the rules would add up to $400,000 in annual costs — about 80 percent of the money the federal government sends to Maryland to offset the cost of regulating the industry within its borders.

“Maryland’s biggest concern … is the burden it would place on the state’s taxpayers as an unfunded mandate,” Grumbles said in a statement. “The proposed rule holds the potential for significantly increased costs to the state for manpower and other permitting and enforcement resources.”

Environmental concerns

Aaron Isherwood, an attorney with the Sierra Club, is not swayed by that argument. The environmental group has argued that the Obama administration should make the proposed coal rules stronger.

“The fact that the state of Maryland might have to hire a biologist to make sure that surface mining isn’t destroying Maryland streams — it’s well worth it,” he said. “The states … have just been failing to ensure that streams are restored.”

Keith N. Eshleman, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg, said he is skeptical that the proposed rules would have a significant impact on the environment or the industry.

That’s because the underlying Carter-era law included loopholes that would remain intact. There’s only so much tinkering a federal agency can do on its own.

“At the end of the day, these are relatively modest rule changes,” he said. “The proposed rules will probably add some additional costs for both regulators and the [companies] that may improve things at the margins, but coal mining in Appalachian watersheds will continue to cause irreparable ecological harm.”

Coal mining has a rich history in Western Maryland that predates the nation’s founding. A young George Washington speculated that the “fuel of the future” lay in the ground along the western edge of Allegany County.

Commercial coal mining began in the region in the 1800s. The industry peaked in the early 1900s, with 450 mines producing about 5 million tons annually, according to state records. Coal towns such as Vindex and Dodson sprang up, with boarding houses, stores and saloons to accommodate the miners who flooded the region for dangerous but relatively well-paid work. Many are ghost towns today.

The Mettiki coal mine in Garrett County, the state’s largest, closed in 2006 after nearly three decades in operation. The company shifted miners and work to a new mine in West Virginia.

Now the future of one of the region’s largest surface mines, located just south of Frostburg, is also uncertain. The Cabin Run mine, owned by Arch Coal, employed about 65 people in 2013, according to federal data.

The St. Louis-based company recently posted a $2 billion quarterly loss. In November it warned it could file for bankruptcy.

See the article here.