Monthly Archives: February 2016

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Show of Strength: 200 Lawmakers Oppose Anti-Coal Plan

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

In a welcomed and necessary show of strength, more than 200 members of Congress have filed an amicus brief in support of West Virginia’s court case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its existing coal-fired power plant regulations.

That’s 170 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and 34 members of the U.S. Senate, who are standing up against the job-killing, anti-coal regulations advocated by the Obama administration. We applaud those 200 members of Congress who are standing with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and 26 other states, who are challenging the legality of Obama’s crippling climate change regulations. The new rules have already caused unprecedented harm to our region with the loss of thousands of coal mining jobs, and the subsequent closure of multiple mining operations and coal-fired power plants.

Having 200 lawmakers standing with the state of West Virginia in opposition to these rules — which have already been called into question by the U.S. Supreme Court — should send a loud and clear message to the Obama administration.

Most of the region’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Shelly Moore Capitol, R-W.Va., have signed on in support of the amicus brief.

“The EPA acted illegally in moving forward with this job-killing, anti-coal regulation,” Jenkins said. “As a result, jobs have been lost in West Virginia while electricity prices rise. I am fighting in Congress using every tool possible to stop this EPA and this administration from killing our coal jobs. The Supreme Court has already halted this regulation, and I commend West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for his leadership on this landmark case. I trust that the courts will see that the EPA has acted against Congress and the American people with this rule.”

“As I have said time and time again, the harmful Clean Power Plan and its economic assault on states like West Virginia must be stopped,” Capito, who is leading legislative efforts in the Senate to roll back the Clean Power Plan, added. “The Supreme Court was right to halt these costly regulations while legal challenges are ongoing. The EPA has overstepped its authority by imposing enormously burdensome regulations on states despite Congress’ rejection, and now the court should vacate this disastrous rule altogether.”

We agree. That’s why the fight must continue. We can’t afford to take any more hits here in the coalfield counties of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. Far too many jobs have already been lost.

We believe it is imperative for lawmakers and state officials to continue this fight in Washington, Charleston and Richmond, Va., and in the courts.

See the article here.

Chamber of Commerce Joins Suit Against EPA Rules

Via WRIC News:

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce has joined 166 other business organizations in supporting a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s Clean Power Plan, which would require states to cut carbon emissions.

The move puts the chamber on the opposite side of the issue from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. He has joined 17 other states in filing a brief supporting the regulations.

Since its unveiling by President Barack Obama in August 2014, the Clean Power Plan has been a contentious issue across the nation. It aims to reduce carbon emissions in the United States by 30 percent by 2030, mostly by regulating coal-burning power plants.

Like many other business groups, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce worries that the regulations would hurt economic development, especially in rural areas.

The plan “threatens to drive jobs overseas and force businesses to close, causing harm to communities that provide the workforce for this industry,” the chamber said last week in a friend of the court brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

“Poor and rural communities will suffer disproportionately because they are served by smaller utilities that will be compelled to shut down or purchasing allowances and credits in renewable energy technologies, the costs of which will be borne by their relatively small base of ratepayers.”

In November, Herring filed a friend of the court brief in support of the regulations, which would be implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“I’m proud to stand up for cleaner air and cleaner energy in Virginia,” Herring said. “Our pollution reduction goal is ambitious and achievable, and it gives us a real opportunity to improve the health of our people, our environment, and to grow jobs and businesses in our clean energy sector. We should seize this opportunity.”

Fighting climate change and sea level rise has been a priority of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration. Officials have been especially concerned about Hampton Roads, home to Norfolk Naval Base and Langley Air Force Base.

In the Virginia General Assembly, Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the Clean Power Plan, while Democrats generally support it. Voting along party lines, legislators passed a bill requiring the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to get the assembly’s approval on any state efforts to implement the federal rules. McAuliffe has until midnight Tuesday to sign or veto the legislation (Senate Bill 21).

Legislators representing Virginia’s coalfields fear that the plan would put many miners out of work. Another major concern is that the regulations would cause a spike in electricity rates. According to an independent study commissioned by National Economic Research Associates, the Clean Power Plan could push electricity prices up between 11 and 14 percent nationwide.

West Virginia and 28 other states have sued to block the plan. On Feb. 9, in an unprecedented move, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the regulations until the D.C. Court of Appeals rules later this year. The case is expected to return to the Supreme Court.

See the article here.

Why Are Some States Still Implementing the Costly ‘Clean Power Plan’?

Via Beirtbart:

Mike Tyson, the poet pugilist, once memorably said, “Everybody’s got a plan until he’s hit in the mouth.” Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court hit the Obama administration squarely in the mouth when it took the unprecedented step of blocking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) massive “Clean Power Plan” (CPP).

In a ruling that stunned the White House, the Court determined that states should not be compelled to pay the exorbitant costs of the president’s “carbon reduction plan” until a federal court determines its legality. What’s more, the Court’s majority—siding with the majority of states—implied that the regulation would ultimately be judged unlawful.

The decision sent the EPA reeling to the canvas. But it drew applause from the 27 states currently suing to halt a large-scale transformation of their energy grids through one of the most far-reaching regulations ever imposed. The EPA had arbitrarily set a carbon reduction target for each state’s power sector—all in an effort to reduce nationwide carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030.

In practice, this means shutting down power plants that burn coal and replacing them with backup power systems for renewable fuels. It also means building new transmission infrastructure and relying on more costly sources of energy. If all of this sounds like an expensive proposition to you, then you know more than EPA (which grossly underestimated these costs in its calculations.)

Bowing to the EPA and transforming a state’s entire power supply costs billions of dollars. States that were preparing to submit compliance plans for EPA’s approval by late summer were already incurring substantial costs. Utility companies often don’t object, knowing they’ll eventually pass along these costs to ratepayers. But the high court realized that these costs are real. In their view, consumers should not have to pay when there’s “a fair prospect” that EPA’s plan is unlawful.

So why then are some states continuing to spend money on EPA’s plan? After the Court’s February 9 ruling, the EPA’s deadlines, timetables, and emission reduction targets are meaningless. That should have freed states like Colorado, Virginia, and Missouri to spend money and resources on their own energy priorities, not on potentially unlawful ones cooked up in Washington. Their governors should not be planning to shut down useful and affordable power plants and replace them with new plants. Nor should they have to fend off costly lawsuits for failing to achieve goals they had no part in setting.

This entire expense will be pointless – and taxpayer money wasted – if the rule is struck down on judicial review, as many observers believe is likely. The Court’s extraordinary ruling suggests a high level of dissatisfaction with the legal basis for EPA’s rule.

Even in the very unlikely event the rule is upheld and the stay is lifted, deadlines for compliance will be delayed by several years (for the period of time that the stay was in effect.) Or a new administration may simply set aside the entire rule.

The enormous costs and risks of the Clean Power Plan might be worthwhile if there were important environmental benefits commensurate with the costs. But there aren’t. According to a 2015 analysis conducted for the National Mining Association (NMA) by Energy Ventures Analysis, the CPP will mean wholesale power prices soaring by 46 percent in half the states. It will also stick the country with a $64 billion tab to replace shuttered power plants, all while yielding a trivial reduction in global emissions that will be overwhelmed by emissions from China, India, and other emerging countries. EPA may view that as cost-effective but most Americans won’t.

Governors should tell their staffs to put down their pencils and accept the Court’s reprieve from this costly power plan. They should spend taxpayer dollars on projects that are legal, practical, and can actually do some good for their citizens.

See the article here.

Business Executives Say Gov’t Regulations to Blame for Thousands of Job Losses

Via The Washington Free Beacon:

Business executives told lawmakers that government regulations are to blame for thousands of job losses and may threaten the existence of small businesses during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Ryan Murray, vice president of operations at Murray Energy Corporation, testified in the hearing that the Stream Protection Rule proposed by the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement of the Department of Interior has destroyed jobs, operations, and suppliers within the company.

Murray Energy, which is the nation’s largest underground coal mining company, employed more than 8,000 individuals at its peak of employment in May 2015. Since then, 2,000 employees have been out of work. The company currently employs 6,000 Americans in six states.

Murray says that the rule is the “single greatest threat” to the jobs and livelihoods of their employees that they have ever witnessed. While the rule was originally designed to keep surface mining operations from mining through streams, Murray says that it has been manipulated behind closed doors and now will ultimately end all longwall mining in the United States.

“Due to the destructive and illegal actions of the Obama administration, our industry is under attack,” Murray said. “America’s coal miners and their families, suppliers, and entire communities are indisputably being destroyed. Now, with the proposed Stream Protection Rule, our industry will be eliminated for no environmental benefit whatsoever.”

While the agency maintains that there would be minimal job impacts from the rule, Murray says that some estimates show that the rule would cost 112,757 to 280,809 jobs throughout the United States.

Janet Kaboth is president and CEO of Whitacre Greer Company, which manufactures clay products such as firebrick for the inside of masonry fireplaces, and has been in operation since 1916. Kaboth told lawmakers that two regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are having a crippling impact on the brick industry.

The brick MACT rule proposed by the EPA would require Kaboth’s company to purchase $4 million for equipment that would eliminate mercury. Kaboth says that this cost represents 23 percent of the company’s net worth and would only eliminate four pounds of mercury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation would require an installation of equipment that would detect silica, which is estimated to cost her company $906,530.

“Compliance with both these regulations would require me to obtain a loan for $5,000,000 to add equipment that would not reduce our costs, improve our product or increase our sales,” Kaboth said. “If these two regulations would save lives—the lives of our workers or our neighbors—it would be worth it. However, for both these rules, the agencies themselves have data that show that the benefit of these regulations is minimal or non-existent for the brick industry.

Kaboth said her company employs 80 workers and pays more than $4 million in wages. The regulations would harm employees who would have difficulty finding other employment and those who don’t have a high level of education. “Compliance with these regulations threatens the continued existence of many small companies in our industry.”

“These two rules, and their crippling impact on the U.S. brick industry,” said Kaboth, “illustrate how workers and local communities can be devastated by new regulations even when jobs are being created at the national level and the overall unemployment rate is low.”

See the article here.

PA Under Fire Over EPA Plan

Via The Herald-Standard:

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of issuing a stay against President Obama’s massive “Clean Power Plan” (CPP.)

 

The Court determined that states should not be compelled to pay the exorbitant costs imposed by the plan until a federal court determines its legality.

 

The ruling produced a huge sigh of relief from the 27 states currently suing to halt a large-scale transformation of their energy grid through one of the most far-reaching regulations ever imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Essentially, states no longer need to scramble to reduce power sector carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030. Because the power plan had required interim targets set for 2022, however, many states were already bracing for the costs of building new power sector infrastructure.

 

Thankfully, states have been granted a reprieve. But Pennsylvania, for some reason, has chosen to move forward with the task of rebuilding its entire power generation sector. This means the state will still undertake the construction of new grid infrastructure, including the many new transmission lines and towers needed to carry electricity from planned wind and solar assemblies.

 

Ironically, wind and solar power have yet to prove reliable in terms of scalability for power generation. Such “renewable” sources of energy are intermittent—the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow—and require back-up power generation from coal or gas plants. And so, even as Pennsylvania—a state that currently derives 40 percent of its power from coal—begins to shutter its coal-fired power plants, it will need to build new coal or gas systems to backstop their projected wind and solar plants.

 

The question is why Pennsylvania would bear this cost when it is currently under no legal obligation to do so. The stay by the Supreme Court means that all compliance deadlines are now suspended, and the stay will remain in effect until the Court has a chance to review the case following action by the D.C. Circuit. In fact, the earliest decision from the court on the merits of the case would likely come in mid to late 2017.

 

But the stay is only part of the reasoning here. More importantly, the rule could be struck down on judicial review. Many legal observers view this as likely since the point of granting the stay was to alleviate the obligation of states to develop plans and incur further economic harm. The Supreme Court’s issuance of the stay can only be read as reflecting a high level of dissatisfaction with the EPA’s legal basis for the rule.

 

Even in the very unlikely event that the EPA ultimately prevails in court and the stay is lifted, the new compliance dates will most likely be delayed by the period of time that the stay was in effect. Or, with a new, less sympathetic administration, the entire rule could be set aside.

 

Apart from the costs, Pennsylvania should consider that the goals of the Clean Power Plan are of questionable practicality. While the plan, as envisaged by the Obama Administration, would shut down roughly 40 percent of America’s coal-fired power generation, the actual end result would only yield a theoretical 0.02 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100. That may be viewed as a cost-effective benefit for Washington, but not for Pennsylvania.

 

The clean coal that currently powers much of Pennsylvania—and much of America— has proven to be durable, affordable, and reliable. Renewable energy, in contrast, has proven to be expensive and low-yield. Pennsylvania would be wise to follow the example of those states that are rejecting the CPP as an expensive overreach of federal authority — and one with little practical or environmental benefit.

See the article here.

WY & NE delegations Join the Fight Against Clean Power Plan

Via KGWN:

Washington, DC – Today (2/23/16), U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis, all R-Wyo., joined a bipartisan group of 34 senators and 171 representatives in signing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting petitioners challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) so-called Clean Power Plan.

Senator Deb Fischer and Representative Adrian Smith of Nebraska also signed on to the petition.

On Feb. 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, stopping the plan from being enforced while lower courts consider challenges to the plan.

The case before the D.C. circuit court is West Virginia v. EPA. The amicus brief argues that the EPA’s expanded regulations usurped Congress’s legislative role, and has placed unlawful and expensive mandates on states and the public.

“The EPA’s ‘Clean Power’ Plan is a direct attack against coal and Wyoming,” Enzi said. “I am proud to support states in their lawsuit against the EPA. Coal makes up almost 40 percent of our nation’s energy, and about 40 percent of that coal is produced in Wyoming. America runs on coal and without it the U.S. won’t be able to keep the lights on. We will keep fighting this bad rule on every possible front.”

“The Obama administration overstepped legal bounds with its so-called clean power plan,” said Barrasso. “If left unchecked, this multi-billion dollar carbon mandate will crush jobs, devastate coal country and raise energy prices for American families. This amicus brief is just one of the ways Congress is fighting to make sure this rule is eliminated for good.”

“I am proud to stand beside Wyoming and the other states and litigants against the EPA’s costly, overreaching rule that would kill jobs in coal country, drive up the price of electricity for all Americans, and increase manufacturing costs for American-made products,” said Lummis. “We will continue fighting this rule legislatively while supporting the states’ case in the courts and using any other means at our disposal to stop this rule dead in its tracks.”

Petitioners in West Virginia v. EPA include Wyoming and 26 other states, 24 national trade associations, 37 rural electric cooperatives, and three labor unions representing 900,000 members.

See the article here.

The EPA’s Regulatory Terrorism

Via The Washington Times:

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court recently stayed implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, a set of regulations that would have required the states to come up with plans designed to drastically reduce the use of coal as a source of energy for electric power generation.

Since first proposed in the summer of 2014, many and perhaps most lawyers looking at the issue have concluded that the Clean Power Plan would likely never survive judicial review on the substantive question of whether it was a reasonable interpretation of an ancient and seldom-used provision of the Clean Air Act (Section 111(d)).

Why would the EPA have ever taken the time and trouble to promulgate a regulation with such a low chance of ever being upheld by the courts? In persuading the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit not to stay the Clean Power Plan, the EPA itself provided the answer. The agency proclaimed proudly that even though its earlier 2013 regulations requiring reductions in mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015, the mere threat that those regulations might be upheld had shut down many coal-burning facilities and caused others to spend up to $10 billion on compliance. Thus, the EPAargued, since unlawful regulations terrorize regulatory targets into compliance, there is no need to hurry in declaring those regulations officially unlawful when the targets have already suffered irreparable loss.

The cynical and strategic attitude underlying this argument is that the legality of regulation doesn’t matter. What matters instead is that by threatening regulation, the EPA can accomplish its ultimate goal of putting coal-burning electric-generating facilities out of business.

Climate change legal activists would likely argue that such use of regulatory power is far from cynical, but a heroic attempt to “stop” or “fix” global warming in the face of congressional failure to pass comprehensive climate change legislation. Indeed, after returning to Harvard Law School, former Obama administration climate change czarina Jody Freeman argued in some detail that when Congress fails to act to address pressing problems, regulatory agencies such as EPA should be free to creatively interpret old statutes, such as the Clean Air Act, to address new problems like climate change.

This argument rests on the explicit assumption that congressional failure to enact comprehensive climate change legislation represents another failure by a dysfunctional Congress. Less explicitly, it assumes that most intelligent people must agree that climate change is a problem demanding federal legislation designed to decarbonize the American economy, and that climate change is a bad problem requiring a fix, however costly and disruptive it might be.

The economics of climate change are much more complicated than this. The EPA has used Obama administration estimates of the total harm from future climate change (the so-called social cost of carbon) to justify its regulations under the Clean Air Act. However, buried in the technical support document used to generate those estimates (and a recent National Academies of Science review), one finds clearly that the EPA’s estimated harm from future climate change depends on a whole series of, at best, questionable assumptions. For example, the economic models used to estimate harm assume that even developed countries have very limited ability to adapt to changing climate, an assumption that if true would mean the Netherlands would not be a country, but a shoal in the North Atlantic. And Arizona would not be home to millions of people nor California’s San Joaquin Valley the most productive agricultural area on earth. Instead, they would be uninhabited deserts.

Another big part of the estimated harm from future climate change is the potentially catastrophic type depicted in the movie “The Day After Tomorrow,” in which the North Atlantic Ocean’s meridional circulation shuts down, causing an almost instantaneous Ice Age over the entire Northern Hemisphere.

As laughable as that scenario may be, no less laughable is the way that climate economists have come up with their estimates for the cost of such future climate change: asking other climate economists for their best guesses. And all estimates of future potential harm from climate change rest on estimates of future temperature change, even as University of Alabama’s John Christy has repeatedly testified before Congress that the warming forecast by the computer models is breathtakingly high.

A body of recent economic work (which I survey in an article forthcoming in the Cato journal Regulation) shows that whether one considers agricultural productivity, human health, or virtually any other determinant of human well-being, climate became less and less important over the course of the 20th century. It is poorer societies that suffer differentially from the vagaries of weather and climate. If the future will be different and people will lose their ability to cope with climate, it will be primarily due to populations becoming poorer and devoid of the capital required for investment in technological innovation.

In this light, it is hardly astounding that many people, including members of Congress, would decide against incurring now the enormous economic costs of decarbonizing the American economy in order to prevent highly uncertain and indisputably distant harm from climate change. Others are of the opposite view and believe that now is the time for ending the use of fossil fuels to generate power.

Those holding this view tend to be from states such as California, Washington and Oregon, which get very large fractions of their electricity from hydropower or nuclear. Members of Congress from such states know full well that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and other steps to decarbonize electricity supply would confer a sizable competitive benefit on their constituents by forcing fossil fuel-reliant states to adopt more expensive energy sources.

Congressional failure to enact comprehensive climate change legislation is not a manifestation of a dysfunctional Congress, but of a Congress that is representative, in which the views of those who would lose a lot from immediate steps to decarbonize the American economy have prevailed over the views of those who would be net winners.

The EPA’s attempt to coerce decarbonization by promulgating regulations without regard to their legality is not only a cynical use of regulatory power, but an attempt to override a Congress that is not dysfunctional, but representative.

See the article here.

Boilermakers Union Leader Lambasts EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Offers Alternative

Via EP Newswire:

Railing against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) doesn’t mean that Luke Voigt, business manager for Boilermakers Local 647, doesn’t have a viable option.

“A better alternative to this plan would be to look into emerging technology, and build the newest and most modern technology in coal-fired generation,” Voigt told EP News Wire. His union has members in North Dakota and Minnesota.

“New coal-fired boilers are way more efficient and will decrease CO2 output considerably,” he said recently from his Ramsey, Minnesota, residence. “This avenue, coupled with new technology in carbon capture and sequestration, could be the solution.”

In fact, the Lignite Energy Council in North Dakota has been developing a carbon collection and sequestration process called the Allam cycle, which it is “very close to perfecting,” Voigt said, adding that a pilot plant is currently being built in Texas.

“If this process works as planned, we could burn coal at a carbon release neutral rate and sequester it for enhanced oil recovery,” he said.

Of course, this plan — like many others — is expensive, Voigt pointed out, “but in the end, we would continue to have affordable and reliable energy, and hundreds of thousands of good jobs would not be sacrificed for a possible 0.01 degree Celsius temperature increase over the next 20 years,” which is what the CCP requires, among other standards.

Voigt is passionate about the issue because, in a nutshell, “the CPP as written is a stake in the heart of the boilermakers,” he said.

The boilermakers union was founded by people who build coal and wood-fired boilers for factories and heating systems in buildings, he explained. The industry then transitioned to railroad steam engines and then to coal-fired power plants.

Under the CPP, Voigt said 40 percent to 50 percent of the places where boilermakers now work will be shut down by cutting their work opportunities by nearly half.

“Being a building trade craft limits us to what we have for work,” he said. “Over the past 100 years, all the building trades have established clear work jurisdiction that fits our specialized training and skills. To this, we simply cannot move onto other work that our brothers and sisters from other crafts do.”

Additionally, through negotiations with signatory contractors, the boilermakers union has self-funded its apprentice training program, which means no public funds are received or used in training apprentices. And with the average cost to put a person through the four-year program approximately $40,000, “after all this, are we just supposed to stop and pick a ‘green job’ and retrain?” Voigt said.

Equally troubling, he said, is that the CPP as written will have serious economic impacts to low- and middle- income citizens.

“Right now everyone has access to affordable and reliable power,” Voigt said. “Once we start shutting coal-fired units down, the only options left are gas-fired generation, wind, solar and hydro,” which oftentimes are pricier options.

While all of these energy producers of green power sources such as wind, solar and hydros have potential, he added, they have serious drawbacks.

“None of these can provide reliable baseload power — the wind does not always blow, the sun does not always shine; and if we have a drought, hydro has no power source,” Voigt said.

All these issues add up to the real consequences that the low and middle class will feel, which is that they will end up being the ones who will have to pay for all the new generation equipment that the CPP will require, regardless of what it is, Voigt said.

“We will simply end up with a whole new class of people in this country called energy poor,” he said.

The upper class can afford to put up a wind tower or solar panel or pay more for basic energy needs, but most people cannot, he added.

“There is so much wrong with this whole thing, and it’s obvious to me that no one thought through the economic impacts of the CPP,” Voigt said. “It will affect this country and its people to the core.”

See the article here.

Congress Backs Court Challenge to Obama’s Climate Plan

Via The Washington Post: 

WASHINGTON — More than 200 members of Congress are backing a court challenge to President Barack Obama’s plan to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

A brief filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington argues that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its legal authority and defied the will of Congress by regulating carbon dioxide emissions.

Led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., those signing on include Republican presidential candidates and senators Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida. Of the 34 senators and 171 House members listed, Sen. Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia is the lone Democrat.

“If Congress desired to give EPA sweeping authority to transform the nation’s electricity sector, Congress would have provided for that unprecedented power in detailed legislation,” the brief says.

The White House downplayed the lawmakers’ brief, describing it as part of “continual pushback from obstructionist Republicans in Congress who don’t even believe in the science of climate change.”

 “We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits when the plan gets it full day in court,” said White House spokesman Frank Benenati.

About two dozen mostly GOP-led states have sued to stop the Clean Power Plan, which aims to slow climate change by cutting power-plant emissions by one-third by 2030. The Supreme Court last month barred the Obama administration from beginning implementation of the plan until the legal challenges are resolved.

The attorneys general of West Virginia and Texas are leading the legal fight, backed by 27 conservative states where some officials are openly dismissive of climate science and where many jobs rely on economic activity tied to fossil fuels.

Argument of the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is 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. Regardless of which side prevails, further appeal to the Supreme Court is almost certain, pushing any final decision into at least 2017.

Implementation of the new emissions rules is considered essential to the U.S. meeting carbon-reduction targets in a global climate agreement signed in Paris in December. Obama’s 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 plants, which the administration and environmental groups say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.

See the article here.

NMA Applauds Congressional Support for Stopping EPA’s Power Grab

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn issued this statement following today’s “friend of the court” brief by 34 senators and 171 congressmen urging the U.S. Court of Appeals to find the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan unlawful:

“More than 200 members of Congress today joined more than half the states in urging the U.S. Court of Appeals to declare EPA’s costly power plan an unlawful abuse of executive authority. Today’s brief adds further evidence demonstrating that the Clean Power Plan is an unauthorized, unwelcome and unnecessary attempt by EPA to transform the nation’s electricity sector and energy markets at the expense of consumers and state authority.

“Congress previously resolved to block the costly power plan in legislation passed last year, only to face the president’s pocket veto. By joining a majority of states, the coal industry and many other businesses challenging the rule, these elected representatives of hundreds of millions of Americans have provided an unmistakable vote of ‘no confidence’ in EPA’s plan to commandeer states’ energy economies.”

See the release here.

EPA Global Warming Regulations Have Split The Country

Via The Daily Caller:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant regulations have split the country.

President Barack Obama put tackling global warming at the top of his agenda in recent years, and the EPA has been more than happy to oblige and issued a sweeping set of regulations last year to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Liberals hailed the so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP) as a good first step in the fight against global warming, while conservatives derided the rule as a federal takeover of states’ rights and a backdoor way to impose cap-and-trade.

That fight has also played out among states, and maps created by E&E Publishing showing where each state stands on CPP illustrates just how divisive the rule has been.

So far, 27 states have sued the EPA to get the rules struck down by the court, while 17 have filed legal briefs in defence of the Obama administration’s bid to sign a global climate agreement

And that’s not all. Some 18 states have also refused to implement the EPA’s power plant rule, and another nine states are wondering if they should comply at all.

For now, CPP is being stayed by the courts, but the EPA seems to be going around judges’ wishes by encouraging states to continue to work on ways to “voluntarily” comply with the rule while its legality is being battled out in the courts.

States relying heavily on coal power to keep the lights on are opposing CPP along with states that mine coal which also often use lots of it for power.

“It’s pretty clear that the Administration’s energy regulations threaten a lot of Middle-Class pain for hardly any substantive environmental gain,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in February.

“There’s another huge problem too. These regulations are, in my view, likely illegal,” McConnell said.

Unsurprisingly, Kentucky is one of the 27 states suing the EPA over CPP. The state has seen its coal industry crumble in recent years due to increased competition from natural gas, weak economic growth in China and EPA regulations.

See the article here.

 

Guest Column: Obama’s Clean Power Plan is Bad Deal for Our State

Via The Delaware County Daily Times:

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of issuing a stay against President Obama’s massive Clean Power Plan. The court determined that states should not be compelled to pay the exorbitant costs imposed by the plan until a federal court determines its legality.

The ruling produced a huge sigh of relief from the 27 states currently suing to halt a large-scale transformation of their energy grid through one of the most far-reaching regulations ever imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Essentially, states no longer need to scramble to reduce power sector carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030. Because the power plan had required interim targets set for 2022, however, many states were already bracing for the costs of building new power sector infrastructure.

Thankfully, states have been granted a reprieve. But Pennsylvania, for some reason, has chosen to move forward with the task of rebuilding its entire power generation sector. This means the state will still undertake the construction of new grid infrastructure, including the many new transmission lines and towers needed to carry electricity from planned wind and solar assemblies.

Ironically, wind and solar power have yet to prove reliable in terms of scalability for power generation. Such renewable sources of energy are intermittent — the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow — and require back-up power generation from coal or gas plants. And so, even as Pennsylvania — a state that currently derives 40 percent of its power from coal — begins to shutter its coal-fired power plants, it will need to build new coal or gas systems to backstop their projected wind and solar plants.

The question is why Pennsylvania would bear this cost when it is currently under no legal obligation to do so. The stay by the Supreme Court means that all compliance deadlines are now suspended, and the stay will remain in effect until the court has a chance to review the case following action by the D.C. Circuit. In fact, the earliest decision from the court on the merits of the case would likely come in mid-to-late 2017.

But the stay is only part of the reasoning here. More importantly, the rule could be struck down on judicial review. Many legal observers view this as likely since the point of granting the stay was to alleviate the obligation of states to develop plans and incur further economic harm. The Supreme Court’s issuance of the stay can only be read as reflecting a high level of dissatisfaction with the EPA’s legal basis for the rule.

Even in the very unlikely event that the EPA ultimately prevails in court and the stay is lifted, the new compliance dates will most likely be delayed by the period of time that the stay was in effect. Or, with a new, less sympathetic administration, the entire rule could be set aside.

Apart from the costs, Pennsylvania should consider that the goals of the Clean Power Plan are of questionable practicality. While the plan, as envisaged by the Obama administration, would shut down roughly 40 percent of America’s coal-fired power generation, the actual end result would only yield a theoretical 0.02 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100. That may be viewed as a cost-effective benefit for Washington, but not for Pennsylvania.

The clean coal that currently powers much of Pennsylvania — and much of America — has proven to be durable, affordable, and reliable. Renewable energy, in contrast, has proven to be expensive and low-yield. Pennsylvania would be wise to follow the example of those states that are rejecting the CPP as an expensive overreach of federal authority, and one with little practical or environmental benefit.

Terry M. Jarrett is an attorney with Husch Blackwell LLP, and a former commissioner of the Missouri Public Service Commission.

See the article here.

Pence to Defy Coal Plant Rules

Via The Indianapolis Star:

Indiana won’t come up with its own plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, even if a federal reduction requirement is upheld in court, Gov. Mike Pence said Saturday.

The federal rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, recently was put on hold by the Supreme Court until legal challenges are finished.

That left states in the position of deciding whether to keep working on how to achieve the reductions if the plan is upheld.

The attorneys general of West Virginia and Texas, who had taken the lead in the multi-state challenge to the rule that Indiana also joined, have told states they should “put their pencils down.”

Pence said he already had decided Indiana would not move forward with its own plan.

Under the rule, Indiana would have had to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated per unit of electricity more than 38 percent from 2012 levels by 2030.

“That was the right decision. We’ll stand by that,” Pence said in an interview while in Washington for a meeting for the National Governors Association. “For me, it won’t be a ‘pencil’s down’ order. We’ve never picked a pencil up.”

Pence said it’s important that as many states as possible stand firm against the Clean Power Plan, and “Indiana was poised to continue to do just that when this stay came.”

If the emissions reduction requirement is upheld, states that don’t submit a plan for achieving the reductions will have one imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

An October slide presentation about the Clean Power Plan by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management stated that both environmental groups and the utility industry have told state officials they don’t want Indiana to default to a federal plan.

And an official with the Edison Electric Institute, the largest trade association of electricity providers, told the state legislature last month that the Clean Power Plan is likely to be upheld.

“It appears that EPA has crafted a very legally defensible rule,” the institute’s Karen Obenshain told a Senate panel. “Even though the court’s decision may nibble around the edges of the rule, we think the guts will remain intact at this time, unless the Supreme Court does something dramatic.”

Obenshain’s comments, however, came before the unexpected decision of the Supreme Court to put the rule on hold. But that 5-4 decision was made before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

States had been working to meet a September deadline for either submitting a compliance plan, or asking for an extension of up to two years. Emissions reductions were to begin in 2022.

Pence called the Supreme Court’s hold on what he dubbed the “Costly Power Plan” a victory for Hoosier ratepayers and for “the rule of law.” He said one study had shown Indiana power rates could increase 20 percent.

The EPA estimates electricity rates in the region that includes Indiana would only be about 1 percent higher in 2030 than they would be without the rule. The EPA also argues the health and other benefits delivered by the reductions outweigh the cost. In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the proposal has the side effect of reducing other pollutants, such as those that contribute to soot and smog.

Purdue University’s State Utility Forecasting Group has been modeling the cost of different compliance strategies. Doug Gotham, the forecasting group’s director, said his report is being reviewed, and he’s waiting for state officials to tell him whether it can be released.

Pence said he has no problem with releasing the analysis.

“I’m always in favor of facts and information being available,” he said.

Jodi Perras, the Indiana representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said Indiana can’t ignore the ongoing shift away from coal, regardless of what happens to the Clean Power Plan.

“We can put our head in the sand and pretend it’s not going to happen,” Perras said. “But I think a wise leader of the state of Indiana would start to work on that transition and not play politics with it.”

The Sierra Club wants Indiana to focus on replacing coal-fired electricity with renewable fuels, including wind and solar, and by increasing energy efficiency. That would create jobs in Indiana as well as provide health and environmental benefits over burning more coal or even natural gas, environmentalists argue.

Indiana, along with Ohio and Pennsylvania, have the highest annual damages from energy production because of the amount of coal-fired power generation there, according to an analysis published last month in the journal Energy Policy.

Gotham said Indiana does have the potential to ramp up reliance on wind energy, but it might end up being cheaper to purchase wind energy from a western Plains state.

Indiana’s power companies have been reducing their carbon footprint but need to know what’s going to happen to the Clean Power Plan before making the major investments envisioned by the federal rule, said Mark Maassel, president of the Indiana Energy Association, which represents investor-owned utilities.

“We do need to see just what the legal system is going to do,” he said.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments in the case in June and could have a decision by the end of summer. The losing side is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court, which could rule in 2017.

See the article here.

EPA Coal Regulations Will Hurt Montana

Via Belgrade News:

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a nationwide stay on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPAs) new regulations on coal-fired power plants. This decision provides states like Montana – and over half of the states in our nation – relief from these overreaching and misguided regulations while they are being challenged in court.

These latest EPA regulations are part of the Obama administration’s relentless attacks on affordable energy and good-paying Montana jobs. The federal government’s misguided plan would lead our country in the wrong direction – away from being an energy leader—and would destroy thousands of good-paying Montana jobs.

By promoting innovation and responsibly developing Montana’s vast resources, we can secure abundant energy that is clean, affordable and reliable.

The 2015 Economic Outlook recently published by the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research showed how technology and innovation have already revolutionized the American energy industry to make made-in-America energy resources more accessible than ever.

Montana is ranked at the top in U.S. coal deposits, has rich oil and gas deposits including portions of the Bakken and Three Forks formations, has immense hydropower and biomass potential, and is first in wind potential. Montana is truly an example of what an all-of-the-above energy plan can look like and is well-equipped for continued growth.

But despite this encouraging news – and even with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling to halt the Obama administration’s new regulations— Montana still faces challenges in reaching its full energy potential. We need to work toward comprehensive solutions that encourage innovation, grow our economy and revolutionize how we produce and distribute energy.

That’s why I’m hosting Montana Energy 2016 in Billings on March 30 and 31. Back for its third year, this two-day comprehensive conference will have a new look and perspective – focusing on an all-of-the-above energy concept for Montana.

Montana holds a vital role in securing our nation’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and this conference comes at a vital time when our nation needs leadership.

Our state can help power the world – but only if we work together to increase opportunity and limit efforts to hinder any part of Montana’s diverse energy portfolio. Montana Energy 2016 will bring together energy leaders to help increase innovation and move Montana’s energy opportunities to the next level.

Registration is open, with discounted rates for service members and students. Please visit www.MontanaEnergy.net to learn more and to register.

While the Supreme Court’s decision to halt the EPA’s anti-coal regulations is great news for Montana, I will continue to keep up the fight to permanently stop President Obama’s job-killing agenda.

Join me for Montana Energy 2016 so that we can work together to ensure that Montana remains an energy leader for years to come.

Sen. Steve Daines is a Republican in the U.S. Senate.

See the article here.

Keeping Coal In The Ground Buries Affordable Energy

Via Investor’s Business Daily:

For months, legal and energy experts have said the Clean Power Plan is an overreach of regulatory authority, a threat to grid reliability and exorbitantly expensive. The U.S. Supreme Court just stopped the plan cold.

The court has issued a stay in the implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants 32% by 2030.

Twenty-seven states brought the legal challenge forward. They correctly argued that EPA has no authority under the Clean Air Act to issue such a sweeping mandate to reshape the nation’s electric sector.

The court’s ruling, and perhaps the eventual rejection of the plan, is an important victory for consumers and the right of states to manage their own energy systems. However, this victory aside, the Clean Power Plan is just one piece of the Obama administration’s larger anti-fossil fuel campaign that will raise energy costs.

Call it a “keep it in the ground” policy. This extreme stance was the brainchild of the environmental fringe and existed only on the periphery of political discussion just a few years ago. Now it’s the very foundation of the Obama administration’s regulatory and energy policies.

The Department of the Interior’s Stream Protection Rule and the newly announced moratorium on all new coal leases on federal lands are cases in point.

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The Stream Protection Rule is the penultimate example of a solution in search of a problem. Though streams are already well-protected, the new rule makes changes and additions to 475 existing regulations, taking regulatory authority away from the states and consolidating it inside the Department of the Interior.

The goal is clear: cut states out and make it more costly to mine American coal.

The job losses from such an unnecessary rule could be horrific. More than 30,000 coal miners have already lost their jobs since 2011. Should the Stream Protection Rule become law, another 40,000 mining jobs will vanish. The total could be 280,000 jobs lost when indirect employment is included.

It’s not just jobs that are threatened by the rule. Some two-thirds of the nation’s proven coal reserves – a major source of affordable electricity – would become economically untenable. The cost of complying with the rule would be so great these reserves might as well not exist.

If there’s any doubt about the Obama administration’s intentions, the new moratorium on coal leases on federal lands puts them to bed. The moratorium has been sold under the guise of reviewing the federal coal leasing process. This is not a review, it’s the beginning of the end of all fossil fuel production on federal lands if the political left gets its way.

Just a week ago, Hillary Clinton confirmed as much at a rally. “Yeah, that’s a done deal . . .,” she said. “That’s where the president is moving. No future extraction. I agree with that.”

Some 40% of U.S. coal comes from federal lands, nearly all in western states. Though significant coal reserves are already leased, the eventual loss of affordable energy from coal production and the revenue coal generates would be crippling to dozens of states, from West Virginia to Wyoming.

Coal is our nation’s most abundant and affordable energy source to produce electric power. Policy initiatives like the Clean Power Plan, the Stream Protection Rule and the moratorium on coal leases are a recipe for disaster. A “keep it in the ground” energy policy is no energy policy at all.

See the article here.

Obama Takes Aim at Old Energy Sources Without New Plan

Via The Billings Gazette: 

President Obama’s energy policies make no economic or political sense. The latest evidence of this is the Supreme Court’s ruling to temporarily block the administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants. The court’s action — which was unprecedented — came in response to a challenge from 29 states, including Montana, and dozens of corporations and industry groups.

Obama pretends we exist in a world where renewables like solar and wind can drive economies and meet our individual energy needs, but rest assured that we’re going to continue to rely on coal to generate electricity well into the future. In 2015, coal was the largest source of electricity in the United States, accounting for nearly 40 percent of power production.

We all favor renewables, but they’re no match for coal. Coal can address peak performance and on-demand issues. Although the cost of generating electricity from solar and wind has declined dramatically in recent years, together they supply less than 5 percent of the nation’s power. Solar and wind won’t be competitive with coal until there’s a technological breakthrough in large-scale electrical storage because solar only works when the sun shines and wind only works when the wind blows.

Foolish lease moratorium

The Obama Administration foolishly announced plans to temporarily suspend all new coal leases on federal public lands. Left unchecked, this action would have led to the loss of 40.8 percent of the nation’s coal production, which has already fallen to its lowest level in 30 years. It will have devastating consequences for jobs throughout the coal supply chain.

Hillary Clinton wants to go one step further. If elected president, she intends to suspend all new oil and natural gas leases on public lands as well. More than 21 percent of the nation’s oil and 14.1 percent of the nation’s natural gas comes from these lands. Our nation’s efforts to reduce foreign dependence on these commodities will be undermined.

The loss of jobs from this assault on fossil fuels will be horrific, particularly coal. The administration’s latest stream-protection rule could result in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue for local communities in mining areas and wipe out as many as 78,000 coal-mining jobs. State regulations already protect streams, so the federal rule will saddle coal producers with yet another layer of bureaucracy.

Nuclear energy restricted

Adding insult to injury, Obama wants to propose a $10.25 per barrel tax on oil that could literally kill the oil industry. With oil prices plummeting, companies are operating at razor-thin margins.

Not only that, nuclear power is constricted by Obama’s decision to kill the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada. Even though the Nuclear Regulatory Commission certified that the facility would be safe for thousands of years, Obama pulled the plug on the project at the behest of Nevada Sen. Harry Reid. About 75,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste is still being stored at nuclear plant sites around the country — and the amount is increasing by 2,000 tons annually.

We can’t just say goodbye to all our older energy industries. They make up 86 percent of our nation’s electricity production, heat our homes, and provide fuel for factories and our transportation system. And they are going to be around for a while at least until a sensible plan is adopted to phase out fossil fuels and phase in renewables. Once again I ask: Where is the plan? I have been asking for countless years and still get no answer.

See the article here.

Negative Impacts of Obama’s Coal Lease Moratorium are Imminent

Via The Independent Record: 

Obama’s Department of Interior recently announced a moratorium on federal coal leases, and few states will be hit harder than Montana. Not only is our state home to over one-third of all coal reserves in the United States, but about half of the coal production in our state happens on federal land. Halting all future leases means that much of this coal is untouchable.

Montana has already lost hundreds of jobs as a direct result of the federal actions aimed at stopping coal mining. We stand to lose thousands more in the coming years unless those policies are reversed.

The state of Montana receives half of the royalties that the federal government collects from federal coal production. That amounts to between $40 million and $50 million each biennium. This is above and beyond the taxes paid by coal producers to the state that go to fund schools, infrastructure and law enforcement across our state.

Think about it this way: The coal owned by the federal government is owned by all of us. By producing our public coal we create high-wage jobs and we reap tax revenue that benefits each and every Montanan.

About one in 10 of the tax dollars collected by the state of Montana is connected to our coal industry. That windfall could disappear, but the needs of Montanans won’t. Filling a budget gap of that magnitude would require some combination of service cuts and steep tax hikes.

One has to ask: Why are we doing this? The president’s own plan to shut down coal-fired power plants around the country results in about a 1 percent reduction in global carbon emissions. That’s a tiny, barely-worth-mentioning benefit compared to the severe economic pain that Montana is already starting to feel as a result of his plan.

For all of the moves Obama has made against the coal industry, the fact remains that they will have no impact on Montana’s climate — no impact on drought or rainfall, on temperatures or weather events.

The biggest effect of all these measures that I see is a forthcoming shift in our tax base away from natural resource taxes to higher income and property taxes.

To paraphrase Hemingway, the way you go bankrupt is slowly, then all at once. Right now Montana is slowly losing jobs and slowly seeing a shrinking tax base due directly to the Obama administration. The way the trends are going isn’t pretty.

So what can we do about it? Fortunately, most of the moves by President Obama were done unilaterally by executive order, without congressional approval. That means the next president can undo them with the stroke of a pen. For Montana, that makes the next election all the more important.

But more immediately, we need all our Montana elected officials united against the president and the environmental groups fueling this anti-coal agenda. That isn’t happening right now — Senator Tester and Governor Bullock are too often backing the president in his plans.

No one is saying that we should go back to the days of irresponsible natural resource production (those of us who make their living off the land have the greatest incentive to protect it) — but we shouldn’t go in the direction of incredibly overzealous environmental policy either. We can find middle ground on these issues. We have to — Montana has too much at stake to let one-sided policies destroy our coal industry.

Sen. Rick Ripley, R-Wolf Creek, serves on the Environmental Quality Council and the Interim Legislative Finance Committee.

See the article here.

A Last Chance for Coal

Via The Washington Times: 

States that rely on coal-fired electricity must take full advantage of the legal stay that the Supreme Courtplaced on implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) last week. The ruling was close, 5-4, but the message was clear: The plan was viewed skeptically by the conservative majority of the court. The left-leaning District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that will rule on the merits of the CPP later this year would have had to be careful in their judgment, knowing that a strong decision in support of the regulation would likely be struck down by the high court.

But with the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday, things have changed. Since anyone that Mr. Obama nominates to replace Justice Scalia will likely be blocked by the Republican-dominated Senate, an appeal will almost certainly result in a 4-4 tie, leaving the Circuit Court’s judgment in place. Consequently, it is now virtually certain that the lower court will quickly rule in favor of the CPP.

It is therefore more important than ever that legislators from coal-dependent states use every means possible to help create a situation in which the next president will be politically able, or even compelled, to dump the plan. While continuing to highlight the damaging economic and employment consequences of the CPP, state leaders must also ensure that the public gets another message: The fundamental premise of Mr. Obama’s climate rules is wrong.

The science is too immature to know whether the future of climate and climate control through carbon-dioxide emission reduction is science fiction. Closing coal-fired power plants, the country’s cheapest source of electricity, in a vain attempt to stop global warming is irresponsible.

Most state legislators are too afraid of climate activists to question the science themselves. But they can easily do something else that is far more effective — invite scientists from both sides of the debate to testify in public hearings about the science the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says backs the plan.

The message in support of this strategy is simple: “No responsible government should continue to spend billions of dollars on any issue without regularly reviewing the underlying reasons for the expenditures,” state representatives could say. “We are therefore convening open, unbiased hearings into the current status of today’s climate science.”

By arranging for qualified scientists from all sides of the debate to testify in well-publicized sessions, coal states could easily expose the public to the intense controversies in the field. The anti-coal campaign would then lose its most powerful weapon — the supposedly settled science of climate change. Without legislators even committing to a position on what is arguably the most complex science ever tackled, support for Mr. Obama’s climate plans would quickly fade.

To get an idea of what state governments and the public would hear were such hearings to be held, consider the two most recent congressional testimonies of University of Alabama in Huntsville atmospheric science professor John R. Christy.

On Dec. 8, Mr. Christy told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness:

• “Climate science is a murky science with large uncertainties on many critical components such as cloud distributions and surface heat exchanges.”

• “The claims about increases in frequency and intensity of extreme events are generally not supported by actual observations .”

• “It is not only clear that hot days have not increased, but in the most recent years there has been a relative dearth of them.”

• “There has not been any change in frequency of wildfires.”

• “Moisture conditions have not shown a tendency to have decreased (more drought) or increased (more large-scale wetness).”

On Feb. 2, Mr. Christy testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology:

• “The theory of how climate changes occur, and the associated impact of extra greenhouse gases, is not understood well enough to even reproduce the past climate. Indeed, the models clearly overcook the atmosphere. The issue for Congress here is that such demonstrably deficient model projections are being used to make policy.”

• “Regulations already enforced or being proposed, such as those from the Paris Agreement, will have virtually no impact on whatever the climate is going to do.”

Mr. Christy explained that even if the United States ceased to exist (and its emissions went to zero), the impact after 50 years as determined by climate models would be only 0.05 to 0.08 degrees Celsius — “an amount less than that which the global temperature fluctuates from month to month.”

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan will do everything in their power to prevent experts such as Mr. Christy from testifying before state committees. This is exactly why coal-dependent states must hold such hearings to help fend off EPA regulations that are ruining America’s most important source of electric power. Besides setting the stage for the next president to direct the agency to back off on the CPP, and on carbon-dioxide regulations in general, a better public understanding of the science could provide a supportive environment for petitions asking the EPA to reconsider its endangerment finding that is at the root of the issue.

That open, unbiased science hearings were not convened years ago by coal states is a travesty. But now, with the Supreme Court’s temporary stay in implementation of the plan, state legislators have one last chance to right this wrong.

See the article here.

States Still Face War on Coal from Obama Administration

Via Real Clear Energy:

The Obama Administration’s assault on the nation’s coal producers took a remarkable turn recently. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay against the president’s massive “Clean Power Plan” (CPP), blocking the new program until a federal court determines its legality.

The ruling produced a huge sigh of relief from the 27 states currently suing to halt what they see as the most far-reaching and intrusive regulations ever imposed by the EPA.

Cash-strapped states no longer need to scramble to reduce power sector carbon dioxide emissions 32% by 2030. Because the power plan requires interim targets in 2022, though, many states were already mobilizing to build new power sector infrastructure at substantial cost.

Thankfully, states have now been granted a temporary reprieve from these exorbitantly expensive projects. But much damage has been done in terms of cost outlays and risks to affordable, reliable power generation.

What’s most worrying for the many states currently depending on affordable, coal-fired power is that the administration is still waging a wider battle against it. So, even if the CPP is ultimately struck down, affordable power remains under siege. That’s because the president has made it a priority to replace coal with solar and wind power, even though neither one has demonstrated real ability to generate robust power or cost efficiency.

The Department of the Interior recently proposed a complete overhaul of coal mining regulations, largely replacing environmental oversight by the states with a massive new set of federal rules so broad as to potentially render more than half of U.S. coal reserves off-limits. Even though states have demonstrated considerable success in policing their respective mining sectors, the “Stream Protection Rule” (SPR) proposed by the Obama Administration has morphed into a staggering expansion of regulatory controls that, if fully implemented, could eliminate up to 280,000 jobs tied to the coal sector.

This hostility to coal was clearly on display during the president’s final State of the Union address, when he announced a moratorium on federal coal leases. If the president can’t stop coal through the CPP, he will simply order it to remain in the ground. Sadly, federal coal leases provide much of the nation’s affordable power supply, and generate whopping annual revenues, thanks to the hefty 40% royalty and tax fees applied to mining claims.

The great problem with this war on coal is that it ignores coal’s preeminence in generating roughly 37% of U.S. electricity (compared to less than 5% for wind and solar). Coal remains the most dependable source of continuous power, and the state-of-the-art clean coal plants that scrub emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and particulate matter are currently running overtime to keep Americans warm during the winter.

In short, any one of President Obama’s three proposals would result in higher electricity costs. Not only would this harm America’s already troubled economy, but it would disproportionately affect the country’s most vulnerable populations, like seniors and low-income communities. Americans on the poverty line, and rural residents depending on electricity co-ops, already pay an outsized percentage of their income for energy. Without affordable coal power, they will be significantly affected by higher monthly electric bills.

The Obama Administration has a record of imposing regulations without regard for expense, however. Last summer, the Supreme Court struck down a separate EPA regulation on coal, saying the agency must consider cost before deciding if a regulation is “appropriate and necessary.” Thus, the administration is now 0 for 2 in imposing its agenda. The Supreme Court may not be able to stop every one of the administration’s efforts, though, which means the American people could be the real losers if the president continues his costly assault on coal.

See the article here.

Obama Continues to Impede Domestic Energy Production

Via The Star-Telegram:

With less than a year left in office, President Barack Obama is upping the pressure on America’s fossil fuel industries with a slew of new regulations and tax proposals.

Last month, Obama ordered a moratorium on new coal leasing on federal lands. Unlike oil and gas production, which occurs primarily on private land, 40 percent of U.S. coal mining takes place on federal lands.

Coal use has been declining in power generation for several years, in part because of abundant natural gas.

But it still accounts for 39 percent of our electricity, it remains the cheapest way to generate power and coal is a major export commodity.

Over time, the moratorium will drive up electricity costs for households and businesses, destroy jobs, diminish federal, state and local tax revenues and widen America’s trade deficit.

The administration also wants to put further limits on offshore drilling for oil and gas.

Under the 2012-2017 lease program, no sales were permitted on the Pacific Coast, the Atlantic Coast, the eastern third of the Gulf of Mexico and much of Alaska.

Then last October, the Interior Department canceled two planned lease sales for Arctic drilling rights and denied two companies’ requests for lease extensions.

Now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is putting together its 2017-2022 program for offshore lease sales.

A first draft of the plan, released last year, would allow offshore drilling on the Atlantic outer continental shelf, parts of the Gulf of Mexico and limited tracts of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska.

But environmental groups are pushing for a total moratorium on offshore drilling. More than 100 East Coast communities have passed anti-drilling resolutions, while 100 members of Congress, as well as 650 state and local elected officials, have expressed opposition to Atlantic drilling.

In today’s low-price environment, it might seem counterintuitive that investors would want to bid on leases in fields that have no production history and limited seismic testing. But they’re thinking long term — perhaps 10 to 20 years out.

Should the final 2017-2022 lease plan be modified to prohibit drilling in the Atlantic, not only will imports increase but communities along the East Coast will be forfeiting high-wage jobs, income and tax revenue.

In its most recent attack on hydrocarbons, the Obama administration is proposing a $10-per-barrel tax on oil companies as part of its fiscal 2017 budget.

Ostensibly, the tax — which is equivalent to 30 percent at today’s prices — would help finance the Highway Trust Fund while providing money to invest in “sustainable transportation programs.”

In practice, it would further erode the earnings of an industry going through its greatest financial crisis in 25 years.

Oil imports would rise, because foreign producers would not be subject to the tax.

Today, with the world drowning in oil, and gasoline and diesel prices at their lowest levels in 15 years, the siren song of “keep it in the ground” (or keep it under the ocean floor) may be alluring.

But the American economy runs on energy, and oil, gas and coal will be providing the lion’s share of transportation and power generation fuel for decades to come.

It simply makes more economic and political sense to develop our own hydrocarbon resources, in an environmentally responsible manner, rather than increase our dependency on imported energy.

See the article here.

Editorial: Supremes Stymie EPA

Via The Boston Herald:

The Supreme Court’s unprecedented blocking of action on the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Coal Plan” is a severe blow to this unwise plan itself even though it is only frozen, not killed.

Happily, it’s also a blow to President Obama’s scofflaw practice of “executive action.”

Twenty-six states and agencies of three others petitioned for a stay — a freeze — until courts could rule on the merits of the regulation that would practically make coal-fired electricity generation impossible under the rubric of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, a combustion product allegedly the cause of global warming.

The petition went first to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia where a three-judge panel denied the stay.

It’s hard to believe the question was decided 5-4 in the high court on procedural requirements for a stay alone, because both the state petitioners and the Justice Department on behalf of the EPA devoted much space in their briefs to the merits of the regulation itself.

The states said they were being impermissibly pressed into federal service in exactly the fashion that the Supreme Court had forbidden when, in upholding Obamacare, it voided a requirement that states expand Medicaid programs. Also, said the states, the plan violated a provision of the Clean Air Act that said power plants regulated under one section could not also be regulated under another as EPA desired.

Government lawyers said, among other things, a stay might put in jeopardy U.S. commitments under the Paris Accords for a 30 percent emissions reduction by 2030.

What it would have done is close hundreds of coal-fired plants around the country.

The five justices may have wanted to avoid a replay of last’s year’s action by the liberal-stacked appellate court on another EPA coal regulation. The Supreme Court held that the rule had been impermissibly adopted and sent it back to the lower court, which did nothing, accepting EPA’s arguments that the industry had gone too far to turn back.

The stay also could be an admonition to agencies and to lower courts: Don’t play games.

See the article here.

EDITORIAL: Stop ‘Irreparable Harm’

Via The Colorado Springs Gazette: 

The Supreme Court of the United States says President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan could do “irreparable harm” to Colorado and other states. By a 5-4 vote last week, the court issued a stay that allows state governments to stop making plans to implement the proposed federal mandates. With the decision, justices also determined they were likely to declare the plan illegal when they rule on a complaint filed by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and 26 other state attorneys general.

Even with Saturday’s death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the court likely will strike the plan if voters elect a Republican president.

Incredibly, Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment plan to move ahead with costly implementation of a Clean Power Plan compliance program. Never mind, for now, all that talk about state government having no money for roads and other basic needs.

Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, plans to intervene with a bill that would stop the state’s planning until the court lifts its stay and/or rules on the lawsuit. Cooke’s bill would, at the very least, force public discussion about state government’s pursuit of regulations that would hurt the poor and likely break the law.

The plan’s harm would include massive new expenses for ratepayers, forced to scrap electric assets and pay for new “clean power” replacements. The plan would replace coal-fired electric plants with solar arrays and wind turbines. The harm could include annual utility rate hikes totaling hundreds for average households and thousands for businesses and farms. The costs could devastate agriculture, marginal businesses and low-income families.

“The Clean Power Plan will lead to lost jobs, lower incomes and higher poverty rates for the 128 million blacks and Hispanics living in America,” said Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. “With blacks and Hispanics spending a larger share of their income on energy than whites, the burden of higher costs will fall hardest on minorities. We will be hurt again through job losses, as businesses take steps to mitigate the damage of higher overhead.”

To devise a compliance strategy, the Department of Public Health and Environment stages “all stakeholder” meetings throughout Colorado. Meetings feature a panel of experts who almost all support the plan. Most work for industries that would financially benefit from the Obama/Hickenlooper mandates. High school students are bused in from a Boulder environmental club to defend the president’s plan.

The students, from a mostly white community with median household incomes exceeding $70,000, said global warming poses the greatest burden to the poor.

Even if that were true, the Environmental Protection Agency concedes the Obama plan would not reduce CO2. In the words of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal: “The EPA does not anticipate that this proposed rule (the Clean Power Plan) will result in notable CO2 emission changes.”

Minorities and low-income heads of household seem more concerned about soaring utility bills than anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. When the CDPHE and Boulder activists showed up for an “all stakeholder” rally in Brush – a rural eastern plains community – they received pushback from politicians, rural electric cooperative employees and business owners. Unlike in Boulder, minorities make up more than 25 percent of Brush. The median household income barely exceeds $30,000 – considerably less than half the typical income in Boulder.

Aside from the staged “all stakeholder” meetings, the Clean Power Plan has little support. A Magellan Strategies survey found nearly 60 percent opposition among Coloradans if the plan raises utility rates. The survey found a majority believe federal environmental regulations do more harm than good to Colorado’s environment.

The Colorado Senate should pass a bill to stop state authorities from pursuing the Hickenlooper/Obama agenda. The bill should also end state-sponsored propaganda, setting criteria that ensure a fair and balanced process when state agencies impanel experts for public information hearings. Legislators, represent the people. Join the court and try stopping this irrational march toward “irreparable harm.”

See the article here.

Scalia Death Impacts Clean Power Plan Court Fight

Via The West Virginia MetroNews: 

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay blocking the implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan curtailing carbon emissions from utility power plants.

The 5-4 vote for the stay was praised by leaders of West Virginia and 24 other states who contend the EPA is exceeding its authority and forcing its green agenda, while bankrupting the coal industry and driving up the price of electricity.

The ruling was the first bit of good news coal had had in awhile.

The stay sent the case back to the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals for a full hearing on the merits. Even if the District Court would rule against the states, an appeal would still bring the case back to the high court where, as indicated by the earlier decision on the stay, it would seem the Clean Power Plan would be struck down.

However, just four days later, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the most forceful conservative on the bench and a key member of the majority that issued the stay, was dead from natural causes, creating a vacancy on the court and a significant amount of uncertainty.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is among those leading the fight against the Obama administration and the EPA, says they are still evaluating how Scalia’s death may affect their case.

“It’s difficult to say how the odds may have changed,” Morrisey told me. That’s because there are many moving parts, including whether this President or the next makes the appointment, who is picked and when he or she takes office.

It’s always risky to predict how a justice would rule, but it’s reasonable to believe a Democratic appointment would be more inclined than a Republican to support EPA’s tough emissions rule. “The Presidential election may have an even bigger impact on the outcome,” Morrisey said.

It also could be an issue if the position remains vacant for an extended period of time.  If the District Court makes a decision and, on appeal, the Supreme Court deadlocks 4-4, then the lower court ruling stands.  The D.C. Circuit has a reputation as a more liberal court, which could make it more challenging to win a fight against the Obama administration and his EPA.

However, Morrisey appears more concerned about the power of his arguments than the politics of the judicial selection process.  “We have always believed that we are very strong on the merits of the case,” he told me.  “We’re still hopeful that the court will hand us a victory.”

The court may eventually do that, but Scalia’s death makes achieving that end more difficult.

See the article here.

TVA Coal Reductions Could Come With High Price Tag

Via The Chattanoogan.com:

Reliable, low-cost electricity has always been the backbone of the Tennessee Valley economy. Low-cost power from the Tennessee Valley Authority, generated by a balanced mix of coal, natural gas and nuclear, drives the valley’s manufacturing economy and makes the region an attractive destination for business. In the process, Tennessee has developed the fourth largest automotive manufacturing sector in the U.S. and all Tennesseans continue to benefit from affordable and reliable power.

However, proposed changes to TVA’s energy mix could place that momentum in jeopardy, threatening jobs, hindering economic development and disproportionally affecting those citizens least able to afford it. Today, coal represents about 40 percent of TVA’s generating capacity, providing a reliable, low-cost source of power for the utility. However, the utility is proposing to prematurely retire coal-fired power plants and rely more heavily on other power sources. The result of this choice is higher electricity prices and reduced competitive advantage.

According to a study released this month by our organization – Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy – average electric rates in Tennessee will be more than 20 percent higher under the plan proposed by TVA. This translates into electricity rates higher than the U.S. average. Low-income households, including the working poor and seniors on fixed incomes, will be hit the hardest.

The cumulative effect on Tennessee’s economy could also be severe. Diminished coal use by TVA will cause a $900 million decrease in Tennessee’s manufacturing output, reduce gross state product by more than $7 billion and result in a nearly $700 million drop in Tennessee state and local government tax revenues. In this period of economic recovery, when dollars are limited and businesses are under tremendous strain, such a setback to Tennessee’s economy should be avoided at all costs.

The study also describes the impact to jobs due to TVA’s reduced use of coal-fired power, including the loss of more than 65,000 jobs annually by 2025. This annual loss of jobs would exceed all of the jobs lost in the state in 2012 and 2013 combined. A disproportionately large share of these job losses would be related to the state’s automotive sector. Competitive pressures in car production are already intense and Tennessee is no longer a low-wage state for the automotive industry. Additionally, automobile production is becoming even more electricity-intensive and dependent on emerging electro-technologies that use high volumes of energy.

Endangering the auto sector, as well as thousands of other high-paying manufacturing jobs, is not a sound path for the energy policy makers tasked with protecting the regional economy through affordable power prices. Neither is saddling customers with higher power rates. Rather, TVA should return its focus to the elements that have served the region so well in recent years: low power costs and high reliability. Coal-fired generation is an essential part of this focus and should not be cutout overnight. Hopefully, through cooperation between elected officials and the utility’s executive leadership, TVA will work to preserve balance among its generation sources and ensure that coal-fired generation helps keep the Tennessee Valley strong and growing.

See the article here.

Morrisey: States Have No Legal Obligation to Comply with Halted Clean Power Plan

Via The West Virginia Record:

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, joined by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, says states should understand they have no legal obligation to continue spending funds to comply with a suspended and likely unlawful Clean Power Plan.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with nearly 30 states in granting a stay of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule.

Morrisey and Paxton, who led the coalition of 29 states and state agencies and who are spearheading its challenge to the rule before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, sent a letter Friday to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and National Association of Clean Air Agencies. The groups represent state environmental and utility regulators across the nation.

“We understand that your organizations have been engaged in significant discussion about the meaning of the stay for the States, and heard yesterday from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who urged States to continue to take voluntary steps toward compliance with the Clean Power Plan,” the attorneys general wrote.

“As the chief legal officers for two States involved in obtaining the stay, we want to ensure that States understand that there is no legal obligation to continue to spend taxpayer funds on compliance efforts and that, in the unlikely event the Power Plan is ultimately upheld by the courts more than a year from now, there will be ample time then to restart those efforts.”

Morrisey and Paxton continued, “The result of the stay is clear: the Power Plan has no legal effect whatsoever during the entire judicial review process. In granting the stay, the Supreme Court considered whether the Power Plan is likely unlawful and whether it is causing irreparable harm now.

“We believe the Court’s decision to grant the stay for the duration of the litigation — including any Supreme Court review — means that the States, their agencies, and EPA should put their pencils down. Any taxpayers dollars spent during the judicial review process are unnecessary and likely to be entirely wasted.”

The attorneys general contend the stay freezes any deadlines associated with the power plan, including those requiring states to submit initial and final compliance plans by September 2016 and September 2018 respectively.

Morrisey and Paxton point out that the EPA conceded as much, arguing to the Supreme Court that the granting of a stay meant deadlines associated with the rule “would be substantially delayed.”

West Virginia joined Texas and 23 other states in filing suit against the power plan rule Oct. 23, the very day it was published in the Federal Register. Two other states joined in a Dec. 23 response brief that refuted EPA arguments and supported the granting of a stay.

The states argue the rule exceeds the agency’s authority by double regulating coal-fired power plants and forcing states to fundamentally shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fired generation among other reasons.

Under the EPA’s rule, new large natural gas-fired turbines need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.

New coal-fired units need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, and have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.

Last month, the D.C. Circuit denied a stay request by the states, saying the petitioners “have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.”

However, the court ordered that consideration of the appeals be expedited. Oral arguments on the plan’s legality are scheduled for June 2.

With a final ruling expected to take at least six months — and perhaps stretch into 2017 — the states filed a stay request with the Supreme Court.

Those states that joined West Virginia and Texas in seeking a stay from the Supreme Court include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, along with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Mississippi Public Service Commission, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

See the article here.

Your Utility Bill is Safe, For Now

Via The Daily Sentinel: 

Sentinel readers know that the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week issued an injunction blocking the EPA from implementing its Clean Power Plan, which would end America’s use of coal, its cheapest and most abundant source of electricity.

I’ve written about it twice, because Western Colorado’s economy is so dependent on coal. It employs more than 2,000 people and generates $58 million in federal and state royalties, $28 million in private landowner royalties, $4.5 million in reclamation funds, and pays $28 million in property, severance, and sales taxes — all of it on the Western Slope.

EPA has never tried anything so unpopular in its 45-year history, and that is saying a lot. But this proposal seeks to totally transform America’s energy industry in ways Congress never authorized, and that would cost American families hundreds in higher utility bills.

The Clean Air Act, which gives EPA authority over air pollution, empowers the agency to regulate emissions through performance standards applied to individual power plants — not to regulate the gross emissions of an entire industry, or force all production to shift to other fuel sources. Yet that is precisely what the Clean Power Plan tries to do, expanding EPA’s authority to regulate not only existing power plants, but also the companies that own them, and the entire electric grid. It would require owners to shut down or curtail existing coal plants and build or purchase replacement power from natural gas or renewables. That would give EPA power to regulate a significant portion of the American economy — which Congress never authorized.

One reason this court case is so interesting is its magnitude — EPA was sued by more than half of all the states, dozens of utilities, business groups, legal institutes, think tanks, unions, and local governments. Even more fascinating are the legal precedents involved. The Supreme Court has never before blocked a regulation before it was reviewed in the lower courts. But now, EPA’s unprecedented assertion of new authority is already causing a restructuring of the nation’s energy supply that cannot be undone. So the Court exercised its extraordinary authority to prevent imminent harms posed by the regulation.

One of the legal briefs explained that, while the emission reduction mandates do not take effect until 2022, it takes utilities years to plan, develop, site, and construct the billions of dollars of new facilities and infrastructure required. So the rule is forcing immediate investment of billions in infrastructure that is unneeded, but now mandated. It has also sharply curtailed investments in improving existing coal-fired plants, and caused many to be closed — along with the mines that supply them. Some of the nation’s largest coal companies have declared bankruptcy, and EPA itself predicts that most coal plants will ultimately close because of the rules.

In a nutshell, the rules impose emission reductions that existing plants cannot meet, forcing the utilities to construct new wind, solar, and natural gas facilities, in order to reduce total emissions across the entire energy sector — rather than at specific plants that needed improvement. That is new. That means trying to reduce emissions through restructuring an entire industry, rather than limiting emissions at specific sources. That is not part of the Clean Air Act.

So the Supreme Court issued a stay halting enforcement of the plan, until arguments can be heard by the circuit court (scheduled for June) — and even then, the rule remains blocked pending eventual appeal to the Supreme Court. So in due course, the states’ arguments will be heard, asserting that only Congress has such broad authority as the Clean Power Plan.

The timing was central to the high court’s decision to step in now, because EPA is playing an all-too-common waiting game. You see, because such litigation takes so long, EPA is betting it will get what it wants, forcing all electric generation away from coal, through irreversible investments while the case is pending — even if its plan is ultimately struck down. The Supreme Court is sensitive about that because it has seen this behavior before. When the court rejected EPA’s justification for an improperly issued mercury regulation last year, Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy bragged that because of how long the case took “the majority of power plants are already in compliance or well on their way,” regardless of the court’s ruling.

Courts don’t like being mocked, so this time delay may work against the EPA. There is now a good chance the rule can’t be completed until after Gina McCarthy and her boss are no longer in office.

See the article here.

Grave Doubts About Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Via The Washington Post:

As an applicant requesting a stay of the Clean Power Plan, we believe there is a more charitable explanation for the Supreme Court’s favorable decision than the Feb. 11 editorial “Putting the brakes on clean power” suggested. The Obama administration called our request for a stay “extraordinary and unprecedented.” Those words more aptly describe the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plan.

The high court’s ruling puts the brakes on a plan to transform the nation’s electricity grid by a federal agency that lacks the legal authority to impose such costs on Americans, let alone the competence to manage this far-reaching undertaking. The editorial urged Congress to “wake up” and act, but Congress acted by resolving to block implementation of this rule, only to bedenied by the president.

The court’s decision effectively gives states more freedom to manage their own energy and environmental needs without coercion. The administration and other deniers of economic harm must now acknowledge that two of the three branches have expressed grave doubts about the EPA’s costly power plan.

Hal Quinn, Washington

The writer is president and chief executive of the National Mining Association.
See the article here.

Domino Effect on Coal Industry

Via The Williamson Daily News:

It has been a domino effect for the coal industry and the economy here in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

The “war on coal” that the Obama administration has waged on Appalachia has devastated this region.

A recent Wall Street Journal article by Paul Tice titled it “Obama’s Appalachian Tragedy.”

Since 2008, more than 10,000 miners have been laid off. The number of coal mines that have been shut down is alarming. The production of coal is down by millions of tons according to the West Virginia Coal Association. This means millions of dollars in lost wages.

But the ripple effect spreads out to many morebusinesses. First it is the railroad, which has laid off many workers and more furloughs are likely to come in the next year. Then it is the trucking industry. If the coal is not dug out of the earth and sold, then there is nothing for the truckers to haul in this region.

It continues to trickle down to the mining machine shops, the mine supply companies, the electrical supply businesses and other coal related jobs.

The economy continues to suffer from all of those layoffs and cutbacks. The next to suffer could be the grocery store down the road or the convenience store that sells gas and lunch items.

Now we are seeing the effect in the school systems in most southern West Virginia counties. Teachers, counselors and administrators are being laid off on a daily basis.

This wave of shutdowns then affects the basic tax system in the coal counties, forcing layoffs in many other jobs like at the courthouse. Even the local law enforcement agencies like the sheriff’s departments are effected. The funding for jobs is just not there.

So many were duped into voting for Barack Obama back in 2008, and maybe less voted for him in 2012, but it is hard to defeat an incumbent. He was voted back in as president of the United States. However, it seems as though he has hurt the Appalachian region more than any other in the country.

He campaigned on diversity and other “clean coal” jobs. But where are those jobs?

This area has probably not seen a decline like this in its economy since the great depression of the 1930s and the early 1960s when President Lyndon Johnson launched his “War on Poverty.”

Mountain people are having to relocate, much the way they did in the late 1950s and early 1960s when there was a mass exodus north up U.S. 23 to places like Columbus, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan in an effort to find work.

Since 2012, close to 30 coal mining companies have filed for bankruptcy. Strong companies like Alpha Natural Resources (formerly Massey), James River Coal and Patriot Coal have seen their production in coal drop since 2009, after Obama took office.

Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has run roughshod over the coal industry.

The regulations placed on the coal industry have simply destroyed the economy in Appalachia. It may be too late for it to ever rebound and bounce back.

This year’s election is so important. But even if a “coal friendly” administration gets back in the White House, it will be a long hard climb back up. Much like it is a difficult climb to traverse the steep hills of Appalachia.

Southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky are in a fight for survival.

Let’s just hope it is not too late. The dominos have fallen and may never be able to be put back into place.

See the article here.

High Court’s Rare Ruling Signals Trouble for Obama

Via OneNewsNow:

An attorney says he was surprised by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that halted enforcement of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The Obama administration wants to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants by about one-third by 2030, claiming it would help combat man-made climate change.

But more than half the states, including some so-called “blue” ones, filed suit along with industry groups, claiming the regulations are an unprecedented power grab.

The Supreme Court agreed Feb. 9 to issue a stay while legal challenges are resolved.

The New York Times called the court’s 5-4 decision “unprecendented,” because the court “had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court.”

Terry Jarrett, an attorney and former Missouri public service commissioner, says that’s a rare move by the high court.

“I was a little bit surprised because the Supreme Court issues a stay very sparingly and only when specific criteria are met,” says Jarrett. “Those include a reasonable probability that four justices will agree to review the case and a fair prospect that five justices could vote to overturn a lower court ruling.”

As a result, Jarrett considers the decision a “very significant development” in the legal case.

“It signals that at least five of the justices believe that there are very serious questions about the legality of this rule,” says Jarrett.

A hearing is set for June in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision is expected to arrive this fall.

At that point, Jarrett believes the case would likely move to the Supreme Court.

“So it is unlikely that the case will be finally decided in the courts before Obama leaves office in January 2017,” he predicts.

See the article here.

A Supreme Carbon Rebuke

Via The Wall Street Journal: 

When President Obama hasn’t had his way on climate, immigration and so much else, he’s rewritten the law and dared critics to stop him. Well, the Supreme Court has accepted his invitation with an extraordinary rebuke.

On Tuesday the High Court put a legal stay on the Administration’s rules to control carbon emissions in the states, known as the Clean Power Plan, pending judicial review. Challengers seeking stays must overcome fearsome legal criteria, and they are rarely granted.

Yet for the first time five Justices blocked what’s known as a “generally applicable regulation.” The one-page order prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the Clean Power Plan until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the merits, presumably with the Supreme Court as the final word.

The Clean Power Plan nominally applies to power plants, but the EPA is instructing states to reorganize their energy economies across industries and even households. The Court did not explain its reasoning, and the four liberal Justices dissented. David Rivkin and Andrew Grossman, among the counsel to the 27 states that brought the suit, have more legal details nearby.

The stay is an important rebuke to the political method of the anticarbon activists in the EPA and White House. Ditching fossils fuels will be a capital-intensive and generation-long transition, to the extent it is possible, and states must submit compliance plans as soon as this September that are supposed to last through 2030, or be subject to a federal takeover.

The legal challenges will take years, but the EPA hopes to engineer a fait accompli by bullrushing the states into making permanent revisions immediately. Once the Clean Power Plan starts, it becomes self-executing. If the EPA loses down the road, it will laugh that the opinion is too late and thus pointless.

Speaking last month with the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson,White House chief of staff Denis McDonough mused, “Do I wish that Congress would have passed cap and trade several years ago? Sure.” But he added that “what’s actually happening on the ground” because of the Clean Power Plan and subsidies for wind and solar amounts to “a continuing revolution in the generation of electricity . . . The next President will not be inclined—or be able to, whether he or she wants to—to change it.”

“So President Trump will confront facts on the ground that he won’t be able to undo, or won’t want to undo?” Mr. Robinson asked. “That’s my belief,” Mr. McDonough replied.

The White House has been right about the success of its damn-the-law strategy—so far. Last year in Michigan v. EPA the Court voided a 2012 rule on mercury emissions. The chief EPA air administrator then gloated on the EPA website that the ruling didn’t matter because “the majority of power plants are already in compliance or well on their way to compliance” and “we are still on track.”

The stay suggests that a majority of the Court won’t allow this deliberate gaming of the slow pace of the legal process to become de facto immunity for anything the EPA favors. It’s especially notable because courts tend to be highly deferential to executive regulation.

The stay is also a warning to the D.C. Circuit, which will hear the case in June. Harry Reid packed that appellate court with liberal judges to serve as adjuncts of the regulatory state. The panel hearing the Clean Power Plan case denied the states’ request for a stay. When theMichigan case was remanded last year, the D.C. Circuit even refused to vacate the mercury rule that the Supreme Court said was illegal—on the circular logic that most power plants had already obeyed. The Justices seem more willing to defend the authority of the Constitution’s Article III courts.

The stay means in practice that the Clean Power Plan is stopped cold through Mr. Obama’s Presidency, and states can safely ignore the EPA’s threats until the courts rule on the merits. Even Democratic Governors may decide to wait given the uncertainty and billions of dollars their taxpayers would have to foot.

Credit here goes to some rebellious state Attorneys General like West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey who haven’t acquiesced when Mr. Obama’s government has violated sovereign state prerogatives. Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt deserves particular credit for developing the federalist arguments and exposing how the Clean Power Plan commandeers states.

The larger point is that Mr. Obama’s six years of governance-through-executive-order make his a fragile legacy. Unilateral gambits can be reversed by the next President, and the other branches of government are finally reasserting their constitutional powers. As anarchic as politics can seem these days, the American system of government is still on track—sometimes.

See the article here.

Daily Mail Editorial: Victory Against the Overreaching EPA

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

In an unexpected victory for the Constitution’s separation of powers concept, the U.S. Supreme Court put President Obama’s Clean Power Plan on hold — at least for now.

Several of West Virginia’s elected officials, including Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, have fought the plan, saying it would have disastrous effects on the state’s economy. The plan calls for a decrease in carbon emissions by 2030, and many states have already begun forming compliance plans to send to the Environmental Protection Agency ahead of the regulations’ implementation.

“Make no mistake — this is a great victory for West Virginia,” Morrisey told The Associated Press “We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues.”

West Virginia and 26 other states have fought the Clean Power Plan, calling the regulations an “unprecedented power grab” by the Obama Administration. The stay freezes the plan until all legal challenges are resolved.

Although the compliance period doesn’t begin until 2022, most states have already begun preparing. Meanwhile, companies already are shuttering coal-fired power plants rather than invest millions to make them compliant with the regulations. Because those plants are buying less coal, mines across the region have shut down, putting people out of work.

Supporters say reducing carbon emissions will lessen the effects of climate change. Opponents argue the plan kills jobs, will result in higher energy costs and decreased reliability and will have a negligible effect on global emissions.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said the ruling “sends a strong signal to the EPA that it must stop ignoring the damage its regulations are causing to our energy sector, our economy and our way of life in West Virginia.”

The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory not only for West Virginia and the consortium of states fighting the Clean Power Plan, but also for the legislative process. Time and again, Obama has illegally circumvented Congressional authority to enact policies through executive order or administrative rule making.

The Supreme Court has taken a step toward reining in an out-of-control bureaucratic agency that runs roughshod over existing law and constitutional authority.

See the article here.

 

Obama/EPA Favorite Play Finally Stuffed

Via The West Virginia MetroNews:

President Obama and his EPA have a favorite play when it comes to their green agenda; if you can’t get the people’s representatives to approve, just do it anyway. However, defenses are finally catching up to these unilateral end runs.

Last March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Michigan v. EPAthat the agency erred when it failed to even consider the estimated $9.6 billion annual cost to consumers and businesses from its rule reducing mercury emissions.

“One would not say that it is even rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits,”  wrote Justice Antonin Scalia.

The court did not nullify the rule, but rather sent it back to district court for reconsideration.  Meanwhile, the rule remains in place during all this so coal-fired power plants have to continue with expensive retrofitting, while shutting down older facilities.

So despite the favorable ruling, the damage has already been done–and continues to be done–to the coal industry and consumers worried about power bills and electricity reliability.

Tuesday, however, the Supreme Court majority sacked the EPA in the backfield. In a five-four decision following ideological lines the court issued a “stay,” blocking the EPA’s sweeping Clean Power Plan. That’s the administration’s requirement utilities reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 to force the coal industry out of business and steer energy production to more environmentally-friendly sources.

So the EPA’s unprecedented dictum is stopped in its tracks, at least for now. The merits of the case still have to be argued in District Court, and appeals will lead to the Supreme Court as well.  However, the issuance of the stay is rare, and it suggests that a majority of the high court has serious concerns about the EPA’s interpretation of a little-used section of the Clean Air Act to become the nation’s defacto energy department.

Liberal Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe is among those whocalled the EPA on it’s overreach.  “The brute fact is that the Obama administration failed to get climate legislation through Congress. Yet the EPA is acting as though it has the legislative authority anyway to re-engineer the nation’s electric generating system and power grid. It does not.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and his staff, including Solicitor General Elbert Lin in particular, deserve credit for leading the fight on behalf of 30 states that are standing up to the EPA.  The same goes for Murray Energy President and CEO Bob Murray, who brought the initial lawsuit three years ago.

“It is our case and I’m very happy that we’ve been able to stay this illegal government overreach for our coal miners and for the state of West Virginia,” Murray told me on Talkline Wednesday.

The coal industry has had nothing but bad news for several years now.  The combination of market conditions, competition from natural gas and the Obama administration’s regulatory fist have devastated coal and caused trickle down economic hardship in West Virginia and other coal producing states.

Tuesday’s court decision provides some much-needed hope that the Obama administration’s roughshod regulatory run to the left is finally being stuffed.

See the article here.

Supreme Court Power Plant Stay A ‘Monumental Victory’ for the Rule of Law

Via BreitBart.com:

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says the Supreme Court’s decision to stay enforcement of the Obama administration’s “illegal” coal power plant regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency is an “unprecedented victory” for the rule of law.

Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are lead plaintiffs for the more than two dozen states appealing a lower federal court’s decision. Their action resulted in yesterday’s5-4 Supreme Court decision staying enforcement of the new EPA coal power plant rules. The men held a hastily scheduled joint press conference call Wednesday.

“Yesterday, my office, General Paxton from Texas, and a bipartisan group of 29 states and state agencies, obtained an historic stay from the U.S. Supreme Court to freeze the implementation of President Obama’s illegal and unprecedented Clean Power play,” Morrisey says.

“This is a monumental victory for West Virginia, the country, and the rule of law,” he continued.

As Breitbart News reported previously, the EPA’s coal power plant rules to force a reduction in carbon dioxide admissions, finalized in June, had no basis in statutory authority:

Nowhere in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, or the United States Code of Statutes can one find the language the EPA uses to claim it has statutory authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions in general, or carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants specifically.

“But most importantly,” Morrisey added, “this Supreme Court decision is a win for coal miners and their families here in the Mountain State.”

“For years, I have fought Obama administration overreach, and I’ve worked to stop these illegal EPA regulations that violate the rule of law, and compromise our way of life here in West Virginia,” Morrisey said.

“We’ve had success in those efforts. We’ve prevailed against the Obama administration in obtaining a stay of the Waters of the United States rule. We had a big victory in the Michigan v. EPA case, something that served as a key case law precedent for winning the stay yesterday,” he noted.

“But yesterday’s decision to stay the president’s power plan is truly historic,” Morrisey said.

“We’re going to send a message,” he added, “that the rule of law will be upheld in the United States.”

Texas Attorney General Paxton also weighed in on the Supreme Court stay.

“Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court put a stop to the EPA’s attempt to impose its new power rules into the lives of Americans coast to coast,” Paxton said.

“Simply put, the EPA has placed the livelihood of far too many people on the line when it attempted to impose these misguided rules on the country,” Paxton added.

The EPA’s coal power plant regulations requiring the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions have been controversial from their inception, for two reasons—lack of statutory authority and manipulation of the administrative law procedures.

Breitbart News reported previously that carbon dioxide is not listed as a pollutant in the Clean Air Act of 1990:

The 1,500 page rule, “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units,” established “final emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs),” and calls for three specific standards:

1) Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission performance rates representing the best system of emission reduction (BSER) for two subcategories of existing fossil fuel-fired EGUs – fossil fuel-fired electric utility steam generating units and stationary combustion turbines

2) State-specific CO2 goals reflecting the CO2 emission performance rates

3) Guidelines for the development, submittal and implementation of state plans that establish the state goals.

The standards are so draconian they are quite likely, if implemented, to put the nation’s entire coal industry out of business. “The sweeping new regulations set a goal of reducing carbon emissions nationwide by 32 percent by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels,” as press reports note.

Currently, coal is the source for 39% of the electrical power in the United States.

As Breitbart News also reported previously, Obama campaign operatives successfully interfered in the administrative law procedures that resulted in the final coal power plant regulation:

Political insiders are working to generate millions of astroturfed comments from Barack Obama’s former Presidential campaign operation,now called Organizing for Action, and left wing environmental groups. The latest instance of this propaganda operation was seen in the rule making process that resulted in the recently finalized “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” rule.

Though the Supreme Court’s stay means that none of the plaintiff states will be required to implement the new Coal Power Plant rules, that freeze is temporary until the federal courts reach a final determination on the case currently under consideration in a federal district court.

As Breitbart legal editor Ken Klukowski wrote after the decision to stay the regulation was announced:

It is now almost certain that the [Supreme] Court will take the case, to consider whether the EPA is exercising power far exceeding what Congress granted the agency in the Clean Air Act. Arguments would likely be heard in the late fall, with a decision in early 2017.

If the five Supreme Court justices who supported the stay—Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy, and Scalia—all remain on the bench until the case is decided, odds are good that the Court’s final decision will rule on behalf of the plaintiff states and against the Obama administration’s EPA.

The ongoing case is likely to be a topic of the 2016 presidential race, where Democrats Hillary Clinton andSen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are likely to appoint Supreme Court justices who would align with the four member minority in this case. Similarly, a Republican president in 2017 would be likely to appoint Supreme Court justices who would align with the five member majority.

See the article here.

Supreme Court Issues Stay on Clean Power Plan, Siding with Coalition of States

Via The West Virginia MetroNews:

A blow to the Obama Administration’s and the federal EPA’s Clean Power Plan came down from the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court issued a stay on the Power Plan, temporarily blocking its implementation while the case proceeds.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called the ruling a huge victory for West Virginia, as the the Power Plan would regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants, attempting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one-third by the year 2030.

“It’s a good day for West Virginia,” he said triumphantly. “We begin our comeback in earnest.”

West Virginia and Texas led a coalition of 29 states and state agencies in challenging the legality of the Power Plan.

“We took the lead in this effort. We drove this process over the last year-and-a-half,” said Morrisey. “We did it in order to really protect coal miners and their families. This is the beginning of our effort to really see more relief for the state of West Virginia.”

Chief Justice Roberts, as well as Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito and Thomas formed the majority in the decision, with Justices Bader Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan dissenting.

“This is an unprecedented stay. We believe a stay of this type has never been granted before at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Morrisey said. “The stay is in place at least until this gets back to the (Court) on the merits.”

Implementation of the Power Plan is considered essential to the United States meeting emissions-reduction targets set in a global climate agreement signed in Paris last month.

The Obama administration and environmental groups maintain the plan will bring about new clean-energy jobs, but Morrisey said even just the introduction of the plan, which he called “illegal and unprecedented” has hurt the Mountain State.

“The mere issuance of this regulation a year-and-a-half ago has really had a catatastrophic effect on the state of West Virginia and many other states,” he said. “Today’s a day we begin our comeback, and I’m pleased we can do so while the rule is frozen.”

Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins and First District Congressman David McKinley praised the ruling in statements released late Tuesday night.

“This administration is using every regulation possible to put our hardworking coal miners in the unemployment line, but the Supreme Court just put the brakes on the EPA’s cornerstone anti-coal regulation,” Jenkins said in part of the release. This action is a major victory for West Virginia, and we will continue the fight in both the courts and in Congress.”

“President Obama’s regulations on coal-fired power plants represent a massive overreach that rests on shaky Constitutional ground. The Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for West Virginia, coal mining families, and people everywhere who will face higher utility bills if this plan goes into effect,” McKinley stated.

The D.C. Circuit Court will hear oral arguments on the merits of the states’ cases on June 2. A final ruling from that court may not come for several months.

The compliance period starts in 2022, but states must submit plans to the EPA by September of this year or seek an extension.

See the article here.

Supreme Court Blocks Obama Plan on Coal Emissions

Via WSAZ:

WASHINGTON (AP & WSAZ) — The Supreme Court has agreed to halt enforcement of President Barack Obama’s sweeping plan to address climate change by regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants until after legal challenges are resolved.

The surprising move on Tuesday is a blow to the administration and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents that call the regulations “an unprecedented power grab.”

By temporarily freezing the rule the high court’s order signals that opponents have made a strong argument against the plan. A federal appeals court last month refused to put it on hold.

The 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.

Appellate arguments are set to begin June 2.

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the following statement:
“Last year I called on governors to hold off submitting plans mandated under the President’s regressive federal energy regulations until courts could determine whether the regulations were even legal. Today’s Supreme Court order to halt those regulations—regulations that attack the middle class and won’t even have a meaningful impact on global carbon emissions—is just the latest sign they may not be. I applaud the court for implementing this stay until a final determination can be made.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., issued the following statement:
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling sends a strong signal to the EPA that it must stop ignoring the damage its regulations are causing to our energy sector, our economy and our way of life in West Virginia. I have made it clear that this agency’s reckless actions must be stopped immediately. The EPA continues to overstep its legal authority and impose regulations one after another regardless of the impact on our economy and our people. I applaud the Supreme Court for recognizing that these regulations are simply unlawful. This ruling is an important step to rein in this out-of-control agency, and I am hopeful the courts will continue to stop the EPA’s Clean Power Plan in order to prevent the loss of millions of jobs, an increase in utility rates, and more damage to our economy. Our own Department of Energy has stated that coal will make up nearly thirty percent of our energy portfolio over the next few decades. Instead of working against us and imposing these self-inflicted wounds to our economy, this Administration should work with us to promote the clean energy technology of the future that we can develop right here in West Virginia.”

US Senator Shelley Moore Capito released the following statement:
“Tonight’s Supreme Court decision recognizes that Americans should not continue to bear the brunt of this administration’s costly regulations when there are serious doubts about their legality. This is a major step forward to stop the EPA’s unworkable and overreaching regulations and is consistent with legislation I introduced last year. West Virginians know the threats posed by the president’s Clean Power Plan, and many in our state are already feeling the effects of other EPA regulations with lost jobs and higher energy bills. To make sure that these EPA regulations don’t continue to hurt my state, I will continue my efforts to protect affordable, reliable energy and end this economic assault on energy-producing states.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued the following statement:
“Make no mistake – this is a great victory for West Virginia. We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues.”

W.Va. State Senate President Bill Cole’s statement:
“The United States Supreme Court decision that puts a stay on the implementation of EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a huge victory for West Virginia against the Obama Administration’s blatant federal overreach. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and his team should be commended for their bold leadership in this lawsuit, and their diligent work to defend our coal mining communities against this President’s patently illegal actions. My hope is that this will draw a line in the sand and tell Washington bureaucrats that they do not know what is best for our state and its energy industry.”

See the article here.

NMA Applauds High Court’s Stay of Clean Power Plan

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn issued the following statement following yesterday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to grant the applications of NMA, Murray Energy, states and other parties to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan pending judicial review of the rule by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The stay will remain in effect until the case reaches the Supreme Court:

“The Supreme Court’s decision to stay the costly power plan is a powerful assertion of judicial restraint on this administration’s unbridled use of executive authority to regulate an industry out of existence.

“The decision adds to the growing recognition – by Congress and by more than half the states that are challenging EPA in court – that the Clean Power Plan is already creating economic havoc in the nation’s power grid. The costs it imposes will ultimately be paid by households, businesses and industries across the country.

“The high court’s decision should give confidence to the nation’s governors that they needn’t bow to EPA’s determination to impose these costs on their states. And it gives our industry further confidence that a final ruling on the merits of this regulation will vindicate our belief that EPA has acted unlawfully.”

See the press release here.

The Supreme Court Just Delivered A Crippling Blow To Obama’s Global Warming Agenda

Via The Daily Caller:

The U.S. Supreme Court just delivered a major blow to President Barack Obama’s global warming agenda by halting the implementation of a key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation on carbon dioxide emissions.

The court won’t allow the EPA to implement its so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP), which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent by 2030. This is a big win for the 29 states suing the federal government to stop a rule expected to cripple the coal industry.

“Five justices of the Supreme Court agreed with North Dakota and other parties that EPA’s regulation would impose massive irreparable harms on North Dakota and the rest of the country and that there was a substantial likelihood EPA was acting unlawfully,” Paul Seby, an attorney with law firm Greenberg Traurig representing the state of North Dakota, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

States asked the Supreme Court to halt implementation of the CPP after a lower court rejected their appeal in January. Now, Morrisey and the Obama administration will make their oral arguments on the merits of the law in front of federal judges in June.

See the article here.

Supreme Court Threatens Obama’s Climate Agenda

Via Politico: 

President Barack Obama will leave office next January with the fate of one of his biggest environmental achievements hanging in the balance.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday took the unusual step of blocking the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark carbon rule for power plants, throwing into doubt whether Obama’s signature climate change initiative will survive a legal battle before the high court.
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The decision to grant the stay is no guarantee the justices ultimately will strike down the rule, but the development is a bad sign for EPA’s chances, and the agency’s foes quickly cheered the news, with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey calling it a “great victory.”
“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues,” he said in a statement.

The White House vowed that the rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, will survive, saying it “is based on a strong legal and technical foundation.”

“We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits,” press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement late Tuesday night, adding that “the administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions.”

“We’re disappointed the rule has been stayed, but you can’t stay climate change and you can’t stay climate action,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said in a separate statement. “Millions of people are demanding we confront the risks posed by climate change. And we will do just that.”

The Supreme Court issued its short order putting the rule on hold at the request of states and companies that had asked the high court to intercede early — even though a lower court had already declined to do so.

The ruling was on a 5-4 vote, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — the court’s liberal wing — lining up against staying the rule.

Environmentalists quickly downplayed the stay, noting that it did not come to any conclusions about the legality of the rule itself. “The Clean Power Plan has a firm anchor in our nation’s clean air laws and a strong scientific record, and we look forward to presenting our case on the merits in the courts,” said Vickie Patton, the Environmental Defense Fund’s general counsel.

The justices did not explain their decision, but the order indicates they believe the rule threatens imminent and irreparable harm. The states and groups challenging the rule noted that the Supreme Court last year identified a major flaw with an EPA regulation limiting mercury emissions from power plants only after that rule had started to take effect, and they urged the justices not to allow something similar to happen with the carbon rule.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has put the case on a fast track, with oral arguments scheduled for June 2. That indicates a ruling from that court in late summer or fall, and tees up a Supreme Court appeal for as early as 2017.

“The stay is a signal the Supreme Court has serious concerns with the Power Plan,” said Mike Duncan, head of the coal-supported advocacy group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Coal-heavy utilities, mining companies and 27 states are among those suing to reverse the rule, which opponents say exceeds EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

The stay may only delay implementation of the rule by two or three years if EPA eventually triumphs at the Supreme Court. But it will keep the rule on hold into the next administration, increasing the chances that it could be undone if a Republican is elected to the White House this year.

At the very least, some efforts to replace power plants’ coal with cleaner-burning natural gas and carbon-free wind and solar power are likely to be delayed. And the stay could foreshadow an eventual court decision tossing out the rule altogether, which may severely limit how far the government can go in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

This is not the first big Obama environmental rule to be stayed during litigation. In late 2011, just two days before it was to take effect, the D.C. Circuit put a stay on EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which targets pollutants like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide that float downwind across state lines.

The circuit later struck down the rule — but the Obama administration appealed to the Supreme Court and ultimately won the case 6-2, and the rule took effect three years after its original start date.

With the rule’s legal defense stretching into the next administration, the possibility of a Republican president casts a thick fog over the regulation’s future. All of the GOP candidates have repudiated the rule as a threat to the economy and vowed to overturn it, and a Republican president would have several avenues for kneecapping the Clean Power Plan, including simply accepting a possible circuit decision to strike down the rule without filing an appeal — a more likely outcome after Tuesday’s stay.

Environmental groups have quietly prepared for that possibility by preserving their own right to defend the rule in court.
A combination of Supreme Court rulings and scientific findings is likely to eventually compel EPA to regulate power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions in some manner, though the extent of such regulations is up in the air.

In the meantime, EPA’s foes will double down on their efforts to get the Clean Power Plan tossed out for good. Critics argue that the Clean Air Act does not allow EPA to require tools such as renewable energy mandates to control pollution, and they say the agency’s authority is limited to cutting emissions from coal plants themselves.

EPA counters that the law allows it to choose the best path forward, and that the agency should receive deference to interpret conflicting statutes that were passed by Congress and signed into law.
Coal producer Peabody Energy, represented by liberal law icon Laurence Tribe, has also raised several constitutional concerns over the Clean Power Plan, though it remains unclear whether the courts will be receptive.

See the article here.

W.Va, Other States File Reply in Clean Power Plan Stay Request

Via The West Virginia Record:

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, along with officials from 30 other states, told the U.S. Supreme Court in a filing last week their case against the Environmental Protection Agency is “truly extraordinary” and that the agency’s Clean Power Plan would impose the largest burden states have ever been asked to carry.

Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led the coalition of states in filing a reply to the EPA’s response.

On Jan. 26, the coalition asked Chief Justice John Roberts for a stay of the power plan. The next day, the chief justice ordered the federal agency to respond to the states’ arguments, which the EPA did Feb. 4.

“Today’s filing underscores why many thousands of hours will be wasted and millions of dollars needlessly spent by the states without a stay,” Morrisey said in a statement Feb. 5. “We believe such spending, as well as the loss of jobs, would be unnecessary as we remain confident that the EPA has exceeded its legal authority by attempting to transform itself from an environmental regulator into a central energy authority.”

The rule, the states contend, illegally forces them to overhaul their energy portfolio and does so without congressional authority, costing countless jobs, increasing electricity prices and jeopardizing energy reliability.

“Left unstayed, the Power Plan will force massive and irreversible changes in terms of state policies and resources, power plant shutdowns, and investments in wind and solar power,” the states wrote in their 42-page reply last week. “The Plan will require States to spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars in the next year designing state plans, while forcing them to change their laws and regulatory approaches.

“Indeed, absent a stay, the States will need to approve new sources of energy and other capital investments, which approvals will necessarily include hikes in energy rates for consumers, to defray the cost of Power Plan-driven projects. Simply put, if a stay is denied, the Power Plan ‘will immediately and significantly impact nearly every regulatory decision affecting the energy industry in’ the States.”

The states argue that the EPA’s opposition “tellingly avoids” two cases that “most clearly” demonstrate the need for a stay in the case: Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA in 2014 and Michigan v. EPA in 2015.

“The UARG case is given all of one paragraph on pages 41 and 42 of EPA’s 73-page filing, and the Michigan decision is not squarely addressed until page 68,” the coalition noted. “The reason for this spare treatment is obvious: EPA has no answer to either case.

“As the States explained in their Application, the Power Plan is clearly unlawful for a number of reasons, but most obviously it cannot be reconciled with UARG. In that case, this Court told EPA that it cannot make ‘decisions of vast economic and political significance’ under a long-extant statute, like the Clean Air Act, without ‘clear congressional authorization.’ And yet that is precisely what EPA has done in employing the ‘generation shifting’ measures at the heart of the Power Plan.”

The states continued, “Buried on page 41 of its opposition, EPA concedes the point, admitting that Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act ‘does not expressly address such measures.’ EPA also has no answer to the fact that in Michigan, the agency unlawfully extracted billions of dollars in compliance from power plants before this Court could even review the rule, and is attempting to do so here again but on a much larger scale.”

If the Supreme Court does not grant the stay, the EPA will succeed in “baking into the system” its generation-shifting goals, regardless of the legality of the rule, the coalition argues.

“The States do not ask for this Court’s intervention lightly. But this case is truly extraordinary, given that the Power Plan imposes the largest burden the States have ever been asked by EPA to carry, on the basis of a rule that is flatly contrary to this Court’s recent case law when dealing with the same agency, and the same pollutants,” they wrote. “And EPA is doing this in the shadow of its own brazen abuse of its authority, where it bragged on its public blog that it had rendered this Court’s decision in the States’ favor an effective nullity.

“EPA should not be permitted to impose its generation-shifting agenda on the sovereign States before the courts have had the opportunity to rule on the lawfulness of EPA’s approach.”

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a similar request by the states, saying the petitioners “have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.”

However, the court ordered that consideration of the appeals be expedited. Oral arguments on the plan’s legality are scheduled for June 2.

Morrisey has said he estimates a final ruling from D.C. Circuit could take at least six months and perhaps stretch into 2017.

Meanwhile, a stay by the Supreme Court could freeze the EPA’s power plan and protect workers as arguments on the merits of the case move forward.

“While we know a stay request to the Supreme Court isn’t typical at this stage of the proceedings, we must pursue this option to mitigate further damage from this rule,” Morrisey said.

West Virginia joined Texas and 23 other states in filing suit against the power plan rule Oct. 23, the very day it was published in the Federal Register. Two other states joined in a Dec. 23 response brief that refuted EPA arguments and supported the granting of a stay.

The states argue the rule exceeds the agency’s authority by double regulating coal-fired power plants and forcing states to fundamentally shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fired generation among other reasons.

Under the EPA’s rule, new large natural gas-fired turbines need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.

New coal-fired units need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour, and have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.

Those joining West Virginia and Texas seeking a stay from the Supreme Court are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, along with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Mississippi Public Service Commission, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

See the article here.

Federal Regulators Now Feeling Pain of their War on Coal

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

The major business news stories of 2015 all featured the decline of the coal industry, as if we didn’t know. Along with the falling fortunes of the oil and gas industry, there have been few glad tidings this holiday season for anyone in the fossil energy sector, least of all for coal.

Compounding the crisis has been its suddenness. Few analysts predicted it, but then few foresaw the return of the “four horsemen”: The prolonged collapse in natural gas prices; China’s economic crack-up; An unusually warm winter adding to inventories; and, The Obama Administration’s relentless determination to salvage a presidential legacy at the expense of America’s coal industry.

Small wonder the result has sent chills throughout the economy as mines close, wells are stopped, exploration comes to a halt, capital projects are put on hold and, of course, thousands lose their livelihoods. According to U.S. Department of Labor data, mining lost more jobs last year than in any year since 1986 — some 129,000, including contract employees — with coal losing by far the lion’s share.

But here’s a twist that offers some consolation. The pain has been so far-reaching that it has even touched those unlikeliest of victims: Obama’s regulatory agencies. Yes, the very agencies that have contributed to this dismal state of affairs by driving the industry out of the market with punitive rules and guidance. These same agencies are now facing a dilemma. Fewer mines mean a smaller industry to regulate and fewer opportunities to demonstrate a reason to spend taxpayer dollars on needless bureaucracy.

Spare a tear for these agencies. This has become a major crisis at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). They’ve had to somehow argue with a straight face for bigger budgets even as they oversee a smaller industry. How can they do this?

With nerve and gall, that’s how. OSM asked for more regulators to implement the Stream Protection Rule that would neutralize 400 billion tons of recoverable coal, more than half of the coal in the country. Officials actually said the need for more staff would offset the loss of mine jobs. That’s a relief. MSHA, too, wanted more money, for mine inspectors — to inspect fewer mines. This is why Bernie Sanders calls for higher taxes, to ensure that the last man standing in the way of a coal mine is not a bankruptcy lawyer but a regulator.

Unfortunately for these agencies, House appropriators weren’t moved. Not after the National Mining Association (NMA) pointed out the absurdity of asking for a bigger budget and more regulatory attorneys to throw more mine operators out of business and more of their employees out of work.

To be fair, MSHA and OSM were only doing their master’s bidding. Vetoing perfectly good mine permits, saddling operators with a humongous, knee-buckling regulatory load, and proposing guidance calculated to keep coal in the ground — this is the White House’s game plan. Regulators were merely following orders.

Expect more of the same this year. In his farewell State of the Union speech, the president — beset by a slowing economy, collapsing manufacturing industry, and his foreign policy in disarray — assured nervous Americans he would accelerate the move away from affordable energy to costlier energy. No more “subsidies” for federal coal lease sales; more “investment” for renewables.

His White House career is certainly proof that elections have consequences.

See the article here.

Clean Power Plan All Pain, No Gain

Via MySanAntonio.com:

Imagine that your employer informs you that a 25 percent tax will be withheld from your paycheck, with that money going to help achieve world peace. While the sacrifice will be difficult, the cause is just and something you support, so you agree.

You find out later, however, that yours is the only company that has taken this action. As a result, you are now at a significant competitive disadvantage among your neighbors, and, sadly, there has been no progress toward world peace. You now realize that world peace isn’t something you can achieve through unilateral action.

 That is exactly what this country is doing in addressing climate change. Despite what the administration and others continue to say, the science of climate change is anything but settled.

But even if you accept, without questioning, the arguments put forth by climate alarmists, the plans to address climate change supported by the Obama administration will have no measurable effect — a fact the administration does not deny because it is in its own documentation supporting the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

It may feel good to believe you are doing something to address the issue of climate change. But the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan will drive up electricity costs by double-digit percentages, cost thousands of jobs, devastate local economies based on traditional fuels, and reduce property tax revenues essential for the operation of local governments and school districts.

Here’s the problem: The Clean Power Plan, according to the models supported by the EPA, will affect less than 0.18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the rise in the sea level by 0.016 inches, and reduce global average temperatures by less than 0.02 of a degree Celsius. Essentially, the administration is demanding that every citizen and business absorb significant costs to accomplish what will be so small it cannot be measured.

We truthfully don’t know whether all nations acting together can have a measurable impact on the climate. What we do know is that if programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are to be imposed, every nation must be part of the effort.

Under the Paris Accord, designed to address climate change, China will continue to increase carbon emissions until 2030 and only then will consider a reduction. Without China, India and the other emerging nations willing to fully participate, the only result of this plan will be self-inflicted wounds on the U.S. economy. Americans will face lost jobs, lost income and huge utility bills, with minimal impact on the actual issue. That seems like a high price to pay.

The only real answer to reduced emissions is reduced power consumption. There are many ways that electricity use can be reduced through voluntary, free-market means. Texas has been a leader in those efforts, but we need to continue their development. We also must continue to invest in fundamental research to find new ways to generate large amounts of power cleanly. Solar power and wind power have their place but will only become relevant on a large scale when, and if, we can come up with new battery or other storage technology.

We must advance our development of improved nuclear power technology. The development and deployment of standardized nuclear power plant design in Europe is a model that should be expanded to the U.S. — not abandoned due to unreasonable fears that force us to consider only less cost-effective energy solutions.

This is one of those issues that does not have an immediate quick fix. We are going to have to be patient, and let science and technology work at a careful and reasonable pace to find the best energy solutions instead of crippling our economy and becoming less competitive with the rest of the world.

See the article here.

Montana Poised to Maintain Coal Production, Export

Via The Billings Gazette:

Thirty million dollars a year in lost royalties, hundreds of direct jobs lost, thousands of families out of work and out of options, entire towns destroyed, statewide economic ripples, and over $1 trillion dollars in stranded assets, not necessarily because of market forces, but directly attributable to a political agenda. That is what we face in the current and unprecedented assault on reason and Montana’s economy in what has been dubbed “the War on Coal.”

The coal tax fund is a resource for Montana’s school children, projects to improve disabled citizen’s access, local parks, and helps to maintain some of rural Montana’s way of life. While environmental groups applaud coal’s demise, Montanans will start to feel the impact.

Extremist editorial

Apparently now the Billing’s Gazette’s editorial board sees fit to join with the environmental extremist in advocating a “keep it in the ground” strategy. According to the Gazette editorial board, Montana’s schools, communities and people are disposable assets, relics of the past in an environmentalist utopia built on the bones of our “dirty” energy economy.

Editors at the Billings Gazette are following a radical path of destruction for the Montana economy, as they did in the recent editorial “Montana can’t stake its future on coal.” The Gazette now seems to celebrate the demise of Colstrip along with the Sierra Club.

The activist rhetoric in this biased editorial against the 75 percent of Montanans who think we should develop our coal resources as we see fit in Montana is deplorable and downright irresponsible. The tone deaf nature of the anti-coal, anti-Montana propaganda being produced by the Gazette editorial board as its readers face an uncertain future brought on by regulatory assaults designed explicitly to destroy an entire industry should not be a point for celebration in Montana.

Daines, Bullock, Fox right

Environmental extremists say Sen. Steve Daines, Gov. Steve Bullock, and Attorney General Tim Fox are wrong about defending coal leases and a future for Colstrip using clean coal technology. These unreasonable voices don’t realize Montana can lead a technology revolution for addressing our global climate challenge. These voices say that there is no price too high to pay to make a meaningless gesture like Obama’s carbon crusade that will, even by its own designer’s standards have no discernible impact on the global climate.

Daines, Bullock and Fox are right, and representing Montana’s best interests. The Gazette editorial board is out of touch and lacking foresight. With advancements in technology and a little elbow grease Montana is still poised to maintain its place as an energy producer and exporter without crippling our fine state.

Carbon capture and combined cycle technology can solve the global climate challenge posed in part by the world’s more than 7,000 coal-fired power plants. At Colstrip, the Boilermakers and other building trades crafts (who have improved and maintained the facility since it was built) are the type of craftsmen who can be counted on to build and install the design changes needed to keep these plants operational to 2030 and beyond. We know that by applying our knowledge and expertise we can build a Montana made Colstrip demonstration project for carbon capture technology that is directly employable to clean up coal plants around the world.

Putting our head in the sand and saying we have to sacrifice our Montana way of life and economy to achieve a clean energy future is ludicrous, and a part of the destructive extreme, non-compromising logic I dream of seeing come to an end.

See the article here.

Co-ops: EPA’s Clean Power Plan Math is Wrong

Via ect.coop:

The Environmental Protection Agency has miscalculated the cost of its Clean Power Plan by ignoring its effect on electric cooperatives that own a minority share of power plants, among other mistakes, an NRECA analysis says.

NRECA says EPA’s Clean Power Plan contains oversights that will cost co-ops millions of dollars more in compliance. (Photo By: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

As a result, NRECA said the plan will cost co-ops up to 33 times more than EPA estimates—an additional $2.5 billion to $3.6 billion in 2030—depending on the approach taken to meet the regulations.

Overall compliance costs for co-ops from 2022 to 2030 will range from $11.7 billion to $20.3 billion, the association said.

“EPA has underestimated the Clean Power Plan’s costs to small entity electric cooperatives by a drastic amount,” said NRECA interim CEO Jeffrey Connor.

“This translates into huge price increases for co-ops and challenges their ability to provide safe, affordable and reliable electricity to their member owners,” he said.

NRECA critiqued the numbers in a Jan. 21 filing with EPA on the controversial plan, which seeks to cut power sector carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

According to NRECA, EPA limited its review to small business entities like co-ops that are majority owners of coal and natural gas combined-cycle unit plants still in operation in 2030.

That means the agency didn’t factor compliance costs for co-ops that own partial, non-majority shares of affected plants, NRECA said.

“EPA substantially underestimates the number of electric cooperatives injured by the proposed rule,” the association said in comments filed by NRECA Environmental Counsel Rae Cronmiller.

NRECA said EPA should have counted 31 co-ops as small business entities when it evaluated the scope of the regulations. Instead, the agency identified only 17 co-ops.

For example, it excluded Tampa, Fla.-based Seminole Electric Cooperative, whose principal generating facility is twin 650-MW coal plant in Putnam County. Seminole officials say the rule could force the plant to close prematurely.

The EPA analysis accounts for about only one-quarter of small entity electric cooperatives’ ownership shares in more than 20,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity, NRECA said.

NRECA added that EPA also missed the mark by anticipating co-ops will retire about 3,000 megawatts of coal generation in the normal course of business, without the Clean Power Plan. The agency assumes there will be no compliance costs associated with those units.

However, NRECA said the reality is different. In the absence of the Clean Power Plan, co-ops intend to keep the vast majority of the capacity online.

“Thus, EPA substantially understates the cost associated with complying with the [rule],” NRECA said.

See the article here.

There Is a Big Free-Market Demand for Coal

Via The Wall Street Journal:

I disagree with the letter writers of Jan. 20 and Feb. 1 who say that coal is dying and that the free market killed it. The International Energy Agency predicts coal usage will increase world-wide at least through 2035 and that coal will surpass oil as the world’s leading energy source within the next five years. Coal consumption is rising everywhere except in the U.S. Even in Europe, green energy has become so expensive that coal usage is increasing there as well. If the free market is phasing out coal, why do we need laws restricting its usage?

In addition, more than a billion people have yet to gain access to electricity and its contribution to higher living standards. Indoor pollution from wood fires kills four million people a year. Some of us believe it is more humane to give these people access to inexpensive, coal-fired electricity rather than worry about some fanciful global-warming disaster 50 years hence.

David Pearse

Tucson, Ariz.

We’re nowhere near “the mopping-up phase” regarding coal usage. I want clean air as much as the next guy, but I also want the power to stay on in my home. Alternatives to coal such as solar and wind are only temporary infusions to the power grid, as the wind isn’t constant nor is the sun. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel. Like it or not, coal will continue to power our grid for some time as there simply is no alternative that is as cheap, plentiful and dependable.

Mark Kaspar

Steward, Ill.

See the article here.

ND Files Lawsuit Against EPA Regarding Clean Power Plan

Via KFYR 5: 

Coal has been referred to as North Dakota’s “old faithful,” Coal produces 80 percent of the state’s electricity, and since it’s an inexpensive way to produce energy, it keeps power costs low.

However, the Obama Administration wants to cut down on greenhouse carbon emissions through the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

Last week 25 states came together in opposition to the plan, yet North Dakota was not on that list.

Since the announcement of the EPA’s final rule on the Clean Power Plan, legislators and the attorneygeneral’s office have been working on delaying it separately from other states. They feel North Dakota’s coal industry has unique circumstances.

“North Dakota is heavily dependent on coal for electricity. With the EPA’s Clean Power Plan the state would have to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 45 percent by 2030. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and his team filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the Clean Power Plan.

“North Dakota has the largest deposit of lignite coal in the world, and so, this is something of unique and serious concern to us in North Dakota. If this rule proceeds as it is written it will mean the likely closure of some of our power plants here in North Dakota, our coal mines, and have a devastating impact on our economy,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem

Stenehjem says it goes against the Clean Air Act where state and local government control the amount of air pollution. He says it’s unconstitutional and illegal. Environmentalists disagree and think that delaying it further is a disservice since climate change and global warming is happening now.

“We have a really small window to reduce our carbon emissions before we reach what scientists call a tipping point. We really do need to get started on this and the Clean Power Plan provides a way to get there that is fair across the country,” said Wayde Schafer, Sierra Club.

Once the lawsuit is reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court Chief of Justice, the EPA will have a chance to respond.

Once the EPA responds, the justices will decide if the court will put the plan on hold. Stenehjem thinks they have a good argument, but should the state lose, it has until September to put a plan in place.

See the article here.

Why the CPP Is so Bad for Rural America

Via EnergyBiz.com:

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.

See the article here.

Parties Clash Over How to Allocate Carbon Allowances in MO.

Via E&E News:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — No matter the politics or point of view on U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, utilities and other parties in Missouri working on a state compliance strategy unanimously favor a “mass-based” plan to cap power plant carbon dioxide emissions and trading of emissions allowances.

But there is far less agreement about other key decisions facing state air regulators, including just how to allocate valuable emissions allowances and whether retired power plants should continue to receive them.

Missouri’s largest investor-owned utilities are pushing for a free allocation based on historical emissions. And they said the allowances should be irrevocable, meaning they would continue to get allowances for power plants that are retired. The operator of the state’s lone merchant power plant and environmental advocates disagree.

The debate over emissions allowances was one of several key issues outlined by parties yesterday during 15-minute presentations at a Clean Power Plan workshop hosted by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

The commission organized the workshop to complement the work of the Department of Natural Resources, the state environmental regulator, which is charged with crafting Missouri’s compliance plan.

The DNR has said it is “almost 100 percent certain” that it will adopt a mass-based compliance plan rather than the alternative rate-based plan (EnergyWire, Dec. 3, 2015). Under a mass-based approach, carbon dioxide emissions are capped. Under the alternative rate-based approach, states would have to reduce emissions to a certain level, or rate, per megawatt-hour of electricity generated.

Utilities, grid operators and economists widely agree that for states choosing mass-based compliance strategies, trading of allowances can help reduce compliance costs. That means the allowances themselves become a form of currency, and how they are allocated by the state is key.

Missouri’s three investor-owned utilities said allowances should be granted freely to generators based on historical emissions. And utilities also said the allowances should be irrevocable, meaning they would continue to go to units after they are retired.

“Absolutely they should go to units that are retired,” Ajay Arora, Ameren’s vice president of environmental services and generation planning, said in an interview.

Those units would include the utility’s Meramec coal-fired power plant just south of St. Louis, he said. The 831-megawatt plant, which began operating in 1953, is due to be shut down by the end of 2022, the utility said last fall in its long-range plan filed with the PSC.

Continuing to give allowances to retired plants like Meramec could be used for compliance elsewhere in Ameren’s fleet or sold with the proceeds used to develop renewable energy or invest in energy efficiency, he said.

Taking allowances from retired units, meanwhile, would also be a perverse incentive for utilities to continue operating older, inefficient plants, he said.

Robert Janssen, senior vice president of Maryland-based Kelson Energy, the majority owner of one of Missouri’s four combined-cycle gas plants, disagreed. The lowest-cost path to compliance is to give emissions allowances to operating units.

Janssen said increased use of the company’s 650 MW Dogwood Energy Facility outside of Kansas City could help Missouri meet its goal of reducing carbon dioxide by 10.5 million tons a year.

“In all compliance scenarios, grandfathering is about the worst thing you can do to minimize costs for Missouri consumers,” he said.

Environmental groups like the Sierra Club, too, don’t want to see retired coal plants continue to receive free emissions allowances.

“We believe that allowance allocation should be by auction,” said Andy Knott of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

Environmental advocates want to see an auction like the one used in the Northeast by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Proceeds could then be deployed to support further investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and aid for low-income customers, Knott said.

‘We do have some common ground’

Yesterday’s workshop was organized as part of a case opened five years ago at the PSC to examine cost and reliability impacts of federal environmental regulations.

The meeting drew dozens of participants and observers, including utilities, clean energy advocates, regional transmission operators and Peabody Energy Corp.

Parties were asked to provide answers to a long list of detailed questions. But there were no cost estimates provided except one from the National Mining Association. Ameren said it was too early to develop a detailed cost estimate, while Kansas City Power & Light and Empire District Electric Co. suggested the analysis would be part of long-range plans filed with the PSC this spring.

“Unfortunately, most responses from utilities indicate that their analysis is not complete or that they are not yet prepared to share it with us,” said PSC Chairman Daniel Hall, who prodded utilities to work closely with state regulators.

“We do have some common ground,” Hall said. “In some states, we would not even be having this meeting. It would be prohibited for state employees to be working on the Clean Power Plan, either by executive order or by executive directives, or simply by ignoring the Clean Power Plan as Senate Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] recommended.”

While Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D) is among those who have sued EPA in an attempt to block the Clean Power Plan, state regulators have forged ahead to craft a compliance plan (EnergyWire, Sept. 24, 2015).

Parties are “putting those beliefs aside and putting good business sense over ideology and politics, and making sure that we can work together to put together a plan in a timely fashion,” Hall said.

The commission will remain solely focused on looking at the effects of the carbon rule on reliability and cost. “That is the PSC’s domain; that is our charge by statute,” he said.

See the article here.

Views on Coal Mining Clash in Senate Hearing on Stream Protection Rule

Via Kentucky.com:

An ongoing cultural battle between coal mining and environmental groups played out in a Senate hearing Wednesday over an Obama administration proposal to mitigate the impacts of coal mining activity on streams.

The hearing, in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, afforded an opportunity for mining interests and their mostly Republican supporters to hammer administration officials over the Stream Protection Rule, though the proposed rule itself isn’t to blame for coal’s troubles.

In return, Democrats who support environmental groups got a chance to hit back using the recent water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., though the lead-tainted water there was not the result of coal mining.

Kentucky attorney Clay Larkin, testifying on behalf of theKentucky Coal Association, a group that represent 90 percent of the coal mined in the state, said the proposed rule could cost coal companies thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Central Appalachian coal has been hit especially hard in the past several years with declining prices, lower electricity demand and the availability of cheaper natural gas. The proposed regulation, Larkin said, would do even more damage to coal production.

“The ‘Stream Protection Rule’ is a rule in search of a problem,” he said, adding that the Obama administration should withdraw it and start over after a seven-year process.

Matt Wasson, director of programs at Appalachian Voices, a group based in Boone, N.C., that opposes a type of surface mining known as mountaintop removal, testified that “existing rules are failing to prevent serious and unmitigated environmental harm from occurring.”

Although the group thinks the new rule doesn’t go far enough, Wasson said, his group supports it because it updates 30-year-old regulations based on new science about the impact of mine contaminants in waterways.

“Appalachian Voices believes the proposed rule represents, at best, two steps forward and one step back,” he testified.

Coal production had always been a mainstay industry in Appalachia, but it has fallen on hard times. Supporters of the industry blame increasing federal regulation for the decline, though economic factors are behind it as well.

But many in the region are also concerned about the environmental impact mining activity has caused, especially mountaintop removal, where debris often ends up in streams.

The 264-page rule wouldn’t ban any mining technique, but it would require that mining companies protect and restore streams in a manner that water quality isn’t degraded.

But lawmakers from coal-producing states questioned whether the government’s rule would curtail more than just one type of surface mining in Appalachia, echoing industry groups that have said the rule would affect underground mines as well.

A practice called longwall underground mining has become common in regions such as western Kentucky and southern Illinois. Coal mining in those regions has fared better in recent years than Central Appalachia because the coal is more economical to mine.

Joseph Pizarchik, director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and a native of the western Pennsylvania coalfield, said the concern about underground mines was a misperception. The rule is intended to prevent the destruction of streams on the surface above such mines, he said, not to stop underground mining.

“Most of the underground mining will be able to continue,” Pizarchik said.

Larkin, said, however, that the rule could make it “impossible” to permit underground mines.

“As I read this rule,” he said, “it will have an impact on surface and underground mining.”

The Senate hearing laid no markers on action by Congress or the White House. The proposed rule was published last July, and it isn’t clear whether the Obama administration can implement it in the year it has left.

The House of Representatives passed a bill last month to block the rule’s implementation, but the Senate has yet to even schedule a committee vote on its version in a busy election year.

See the article here.

Senators Say Coal Rules are Illegal ‘Power Grab’

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

WASHINGTON – Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, calls tougher rules on the coal industry a “power grab” by federal mining regulators who want more leverage over states.

He and other senators grilled the director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement for more than an hour Wednesday over a package of rules that include closer monitoring of streams near coal mines.

The proposed rules would further strangle a struggling industry, several senators argued, by deepening the loss of jobs and tax revenue in coal-dependent states, especially Kentucky and West Virginia.

Democratic senators and an Appalachian environmental group, however, say the rules are needed to protect water resources and the health of residents in coal-producing areas.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Barbara Boxer, of California, said it’s ironic that rules intended to protect residents and water quality are facing opposition as a scandal unfolds in Flint, Michigan, over lead levels in the city’s drinking water.

“Don’t you think people have the right to know what’s in their water?” she said.

Joseph Pizarchik, director of the surface mining office, said a 1977 law, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, has not ended coal pollution, as intended.

The agency is trying to fill gaps in the Clean Water Act and other laws, he added.

Inhofe said that amounts to “an illegal federal takeover,” though Senate Republicans haven’t said what action they plan to take.

Inhofe and the Kentucky Coal Association coal argue that the 1977 law prohibits the Office of Surface Mining from passing rules that conflict with the Clean Water Act and other laws.

States have the power to enforce Clean Water regulations, but Inhofe said the proposed rules give the federal government power to override state decisions.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife, for example, could hold up mining permits to protect species being considered as potentially endangered. That expands the scope of the Endangered Species Act, Inhofe and others argue, beyond protecting those already designated as endangered.

However, Sen. Edward Markley, D-Massachusetts, quoted from a portion of the 39-year-old surface-mining law that calls on regulators “’to protect society and environment from the affects of surface mining.'”

He asked if the agency would be failing its duties, and could face lawsuits, by not implementing the stronger rules.

Pizarchik agreed and said an update of the law is necessary to reflect greater knowledge of mining’s effects.

The Congressional Research Service has reported that the impacts of the rules would cost the coal industry millions of dollars per year, driving up coal prices. That would ultimately drive down production, cost jobs and cost states tax revenue, it said.

The rules, which industry lobbyists expect to be finished in the next few months, come amid already steep declines in mining activity. Kentucky officials reported Monday that production there fell last year to its lowest point since 1954.

“President Obama should shoulder some of the blame for the onset of environmental regulations during his watch,” Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, told reporters during a briefing on Wednesday.

Rogers announced a bill that would release $1 billion for economic development projects at abandoned mine sites over five years. Kentucky would receive $200 million annually beginning next year.

The debate over proposed rules is pitting concerns over the loss of jobs with those regarding health and the environment.

Matt Wasson, director of programs for Appalachian Voices, an environmental group, said studies have shown declining life expectancy in the five biggest Appalachian coal-producing counties – despite increases nationally.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, asked Pizarchik about the cost of doing nothing during Wednesday’s hearing.

“I don’t know how to put a value on that if a life has been shortened,” he said.

See the article here.

Coal States Challenge Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Via The Daily Signal:

CHARLESTON, W.Va.—The Mountain State has its back against the wall, and time is running out. Leading a coalition of more than two dozen coal states, West Virginia is asking the Supreme Court for an emergency stay of President Obama’s new regulations governing the coal industry.

West Virginia and 26 other states argue that the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority by circumventing Congress to unilaterally implement the package of rules.

The EPA calls it the Clean Power Plan. The states call the move an unconstitutional “power grab” and complain that it will bankrupt their local coal industries.

But while they’re confident the law is on their side, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says time is not. That’s why the states have asked the Supreme Court for an emergency stay to temporarily freeze the Clean Power Plan as the case moves through the legal system.

 At issue is whether the EPA will be allowed to become “a central energy planning authority,” Morrisey said.

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals last week agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis but declined to halt the EPA from implementing the new rules. And while oral arguments are set to begin in June, the battle likely will drag on into next year.

That’s the perfect scenario for the EPA to run out the clock, Morrisey says.

“The EPA’s goal is to obtain compliance,” he tells The Daily Signal, “whether or not the regulation is upheld in court.”

In an unusual legal play at this stage of the litigation process, the states asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to grant the freeze in the rules. The court has invited the Obama administration to file a rebuttal by Feb. 4 and likely will hand down a decision the following week.

Morrissey says he is cautiously optimistic that the high court will grant a stay.

“The EPA has consistently run roughshod over the rule of law and West Virginia,” Morrisey says.

And he says he is confident a temporary freeze is justified since the Clean Power Plan “is causing irreversible harm.”

States are scrambling to comply with the plan, which is considered a key component of Obama’s broader effort to achieve climate change goals negotiated in Paris last year.

The president calls the Clean Power Plan “a tremendously important step in the fight against global climate change.” Vetoing a bill from Congress that would have derailed the plan last month, Obama wrotethat the measure “gives states the time and flexibility they need to develop tailored, cost-effective plans to reduce their emissions.”

The regulations require states to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent before 2030  and give them until Sept. 6 to submit implementation plans to do it.

Opponents in West Virginia fear that costly regulation will price coal out of the energy market. They point to a recent study by the West Virginia College’s Bureau of Business and Economics that forecasts an 18-percent reduction in the state’s coal production by 2035.

Brian Lego, an assistant research professor at the college, tells The Daily Signal that the production decrease could be as much as 25 percent in the long run. And as businesses brace for the new regulation, Lego predicts that West Virginia will witness more layoffs of coal miners and more shutdowns of mines.

So far this year, the state has seen an avalanche of layoffs. The West Virginia Coal Association estimates that as many as 2,000 miners were put out of work in January.

The CEO of one of the nation’s largest coal producers, Murray Energy, tells The Daily Signal that’s part of a growing trend.

Bob Murray says his company “peaked at 8,400 direct employees on May 1, 2015.” Now his company’s payroll has dwindled to about 6,000.

Murray, whose company is one of the litigants requesting that the Supreme Court put a hold on the Clean Power Plan, says that under the new regulations, “people on fixed income aren’t going to be able to pay their electric bills.”

And domestic manufacturers, he says, “won’t be able to compete in the global market because electric rates are soaring.”

In addition to this “economic and personal carnage,” Morrisey told the West Virginia Coal Symposium last week that the Clean Power Plan does “violence to the rule of law.” He also argues that “these rules will transform the EPA from environmental regulators into a central energy planning authority.”

West Virginia’s first Republican attorney general in 73 years, Morrisey has brought the state to the forefront of several legal cases against the Obama administration. But he tells The Daily Signal the current challenge could prove the most significant.

The EPA is trying to “pick winners and losers within the energy marketplace,” he says, warning that if this “unprecedented” action isn’t curbed, the agency’s authority “moves to levels we can’t possibly comprehend.”

See the article here.

Protecting Coal Mining From the Stream Protection Rule

Via The Cato Institute Blog: 

On Wednesday, February 3, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will hold a hearing on a new “Stream Protection Rule” being proposed by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) that looks to be another nail being hammered into the coal industry’s coffin by the Obama Administration.

Energy and mineral resource development in the U.S. is being thwarted by a wave of agenda-driven federal agency rulemakings being rushed through before the end of this administration. Oil, natural gas, and coal have been targeted for replacement by renewable energy sources. The coal industry has been fast-tracked by the OSM’s proposed new “Stream Protection Rule” (SPR).

The new SPR would supersede the existing Stream Buffer Zone Rule, enacted in 2008 to control the increasingly few negative effects of surface coal mining on aquatic environments in the nation’s three largest coal mining areas: Appalachia, the Illinois Basin—Midwest, and Rocky Mountains—and Northern Great Plains. But, as is so often the case in the world of environmental regulation, that was not sufficient for the OSM, and, over the past seven years it has continued to press for more and stricter regulations on coal mining all across the United States.  They seem to prefer a nationwide one-size-fits-all regulatory enforcement scenario, even though local geology, geochemistry, and terrain vary widely between states and basins.  As it is, these concerns are more efficiently addressed by the states and policed by the industry.

That aside, the real impacts of the SPR, openly acknowledged by OSM, leave tens of billions of dollars’ worth of coal in the ground with no chance of future development—“stranded reserves,” as OSM terms them in the rule. Those coal deposits, according to OSM, “…are technically and economically minable, but unavailable for production given new requirements and restrictions included in the proposed rule.”  Yet, OSM’s engineering analysis, cited by a Congressional Research Service study, states that there will be no increase in “stranded reserves” under the SPR. In other words, the same volume of coal will be mined under the proposed rule as under the current rule…an OSM oversight, no doubt.

The proposed rulemaking employs questionable geoscience and mining engineering issues such as overemphasizing the importance of ephemeral streams to limit mining activities in all areas, requiring needless increases of subsurface drilling and geologic sampling, redefining accepted technical terms such as “approximate original contour” and “material damage to hydrologic balance,” and creating new unfamiliar terms such as “hydrological form” and “ecological function.”

But OSM likely is not focused on technical issues as much as their main concern: that the new rule is more stringent than the existing 2008 rule as is possible, and that it will apply nationally. Hence, the rule appears to be more for the benefit of regulators and places undue burden and expense on coal miners. Neither is OSM overly concerned with the big three tangible adverse impacts of their proposed rulemaking: lost jobs, lost resources, and lost tax revenue—with Appalachia being hit the hardest. Consensus estimates—not OSM’s—of the number of mining-related jobs lost nationally due to the SPR: in excess of 100,000 to upwards of 300,000. The decrease in coal tonnage recovered: between roughly 30 to 65 percent less. The annual value of coal left in the ground because of the rule: between 14 to 29 billion dollars. The estimated decrease in Federal and coal state tax bases: between 3.1 to 6.4 billion dollars. These are not very encouraging statistics for an industry that is currently responsible for supplying 40 percent of U.S. electrical power generation.

Interior’s Office of Surface Mining has failed to adequately justify its proposed Stream Protection Rule in light of the federal and state rules and regulations already in place. Rather, OSM has embarked on a seven year odyssey of agenda-driven rulemaking that would force-fit regional and local characteristics coal mining operations to a nationwide template. However, Congress and the courts had already established that a uniform nationwide federal standard for coal mining would not be workable given the significant differences in regional and local geology, hydrology, topography, and environmental factors related to mining operations everywhere. On the non-technical side, OSM does not retreat from its admission in the preamble to the proposed rule that the SPR is politically motivated. Press reports have quoted an OSM official as acknowledging that there was pressure to get the SPR done in this administration’s last year.

Enacting the new SPR would be an ominous threat to a coal mining industry that deserves much better from this or any other future administration. This is one reason why OSM’s proposed SPR has been tagged by the National Mining Association as “a rule in search of a problem.” However, to paraphrase a more appropriate quote: the voluminous Stream Protection Rule is not the solution to the coal industry’s problems—rather the Stream Protection Rule is the problem.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the Senate on Wednesday.

See the article here.

Coal Generation Plays Key Role in Midwest

Via The State Journal-Register:

A recent article in the SJ-R stated a national figure for coal-powered generation of 30 percent. While that may be true nationally, it is not valid for the Midwest. Coal generation in the MISO (Mid-Continent Independent System Operator) area provides 50 percent to 60 percent of the energy used in this part of the country. Media reports about replacing coal generation with other sources never seem to point out the fact that coal is much more important here than a mere 30 percent.

I guess this does not fit well with the national narrative of ever decreasing coal use, but it is a very important fact that people in the Midwest need to understand. If and when we start paying for alternatives to coal generation, the amount of coal power to be replaced is a much greater share of the energy we use in this region.

The following link is a public MISO website which shows the fuel mix in MISO on 5-minute intervals.https://www.misoenergy.org/MarketsOperations/RealTimeMarketData/Pages/FuelMix.aspx

For reference the link below shows the area of the Midwest served by the MISO System.https://www.misoenergy.org/LMPContourMap/MISO_All.html

At the time I wrote this article, in mid-January, coal was providing 54 percent of the 83,659 megawatts (MW) of total generation in MISO. Wind energy, which is often mentioned as the most desirable renewable energy source, was providing a little less than 7 percent. Wind generation’s share of total MISO energy fluctuates significantly, because the wind does not blow all the time. The prior day, wind energy had been providing only 2 percent of the MISO total requirement of 90,831 megawatts. Coal was providing 55 percent.

Coal is a far larger energy provider for the Midwest than the national average indicates. This will make replacing coal locally (in the MISO) far more expensive and disruptive than the national narrative suggests. Last summer MISO peak demand reached 120,000 MW. Assuming coal was providing 55 percent of that power, 66,000 MW of coal generation would have to be replaced with something else. Some suggest that solar, wind and natural gas can fill the void. To that, I offer the following comments.

There is not a single grid-scale solar generation unit in the MISO at this time. Solar is not even included in the “Other” category of the MISO fuel mix. Having any grid scale solar power plants in operation by 2022, the effective date of the Presidents’ Clean Power Plan, is more than highly unlikely.

Wind generation is intermittent and there is no grid-scale storage for wind energy that cannot be used immediately. Because of that intermittence, 66,000 MW of wind is not equivalent to 66,000 MW of dispatchable coal or natural gas. Even if it was equivalent, at 2 MW a piece, you would need more than 33,000 new windmills in the Midwest, perhaps as many as 80,000 units. There would also have to be large investments in transmission lines to move that power.

Finally, there is natural gas. With gas the problem is not fuel supply, it is transportation. The network of gas supply lines in this part of the country was designed to move gas for space heating, not power generation. Massive and expensive improvements in the gas distribution system would be necessary for a large-scale conversion of coal generation to natural gas. We have had some experience with this problem locally. During the polar vortex winter of 2013-14, CWLP was unable to get any natural gas (at any price) for its Interstate Gas Turbine, because of congestion on the gas distribution network. All gas delivery capacity was used up for domestic heating, which had priority over any other purpose. No gas means no electric generation from gas.

Coal is much more important to reliable electricity generation in the Midwest than some would have you believe. We all need to understand that attempting to replace that coal generation would be an extremely costly effort with uncertain outcomes.

Craig Burns is the former finance director of City Water, Light and Power.

 See the article here.

Obama on Coal Mining a Throwback to Jimmy Carter

Via The Washington Times.

President Obama’s plot to use the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to kill federal coal mining with a thousand paper cuts is not the first time he has used NEPA to try to end energy development. Disturbingly, his scheme is a throwback to President Carter and a decade-long moratorium that ended only when President Reagan took office. Meanwhile millions of Americans, vast regions and the nation’s economy will suffer.

In 2009, the Obama administration settled a “sweetheart lawsuit” by environmental groups by agreeing to a NEPA study on oil and gas drilling in the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. The region had seen oil and gas activity since the nation’s first successful oil well there in 1859, but Marcellus Shale gas foretold a boom the groups wanted to kill. Trouble was the settlement was illegal. A federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vetoed the deal, ended the moratorium, which was to last years, put thousands of locals back to work and saved a region from economic disaster.

States that mine federal coal may not be so lucky. The Ford administration sought to end the Nixon administration’s coal leasing moratorium, but NEPA, signed by Nixon in 1969, was in its ascendancy, with increased paperwork for federal agencies, suits by environmental groups, and judicial rulings on how much paperwork constitutes the requisite “hard look.” In 1976, the Ford administration won a NEPA case at the Supreme Court of the United States, which sustained its limited view of NEPA’s requirements as it prepared for coal leasing in Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. In 1977, however, the Carter administration lost a NEPA challenge to its coal leasing program, declined to appeal, and embraced the central planning mandated by a federal judge. In fact, Carter officials while “toy[ing] with the idea of hiring a U.S. specialist in Soviet economic planning to look at the federal [coal] leasing program,” spent the rest of the decade completing the plan.

The Reagan administration, although unhappy with the Carter program, recognized that “[l]ess than 1 percent of federal coal lands were under lease and new leasing had been at a virtual standstill since 1971” and that “35 percent of the coal will come from public lands,” and thus implemented the program. From early 1981 to late 1983, Reagan officials leased 2.5 billion tons of federal coal, which netted $128.6 million in bonuses, including 1.5 billion tons of coal beneath 32,000 acres in Montana and Wyoming.

In 1983, President Reagan agreed with congressional calls for another review of the federal coal program. In late 1985, Reagan officials revealed the new program, which increased flexibility, was orderly and predictable for state and local governments and industry, promoted competition, assured fair market value, ensured adequate data, clarified surface owner consent, and established well-defined standards. Later minor modifications allowed more leasing to ensure continued production from Reagan era leases. Today, Wyoming leads the nation in coal production; its output exceeds that of the next top six coal-producing states combined. Mr. Obama intends to kill mining of all federal coal, and the jobs, communities, and foreign trade payments that go with it, to placate environmental groups that say the United States is not getting “fair market value” for its coal.

Ronald Reagan, to whom Mr. Obama compares himself, faced that issue in 1983. In his own hand, he wrote, “Now voices are being raised on the Hill saying that a moratorium should be put on the leasing of all coal bearing government lands. Totally forgotten is the fact that the American people as customers will end up paying for that coal. Included in the price will be the cost of the lease and even [the royalty paid to the government]. It seems to me [our lease sale] not only protected the government interests, [it showed] consideration for the ultimate consumer — you and me.” Imagine that, a president concerned about “you and me.”

See the article here.