Monthly Archives: May 2016

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

State Must Develop Coal Technology

Via The Bismarck Tribune:

Say you recently bought a new car for the family. It seats five comfortably, meets current safety and gas mileage standards (called CAFE Standards by the Environmental Protection Agency) and you financed it for five years; not an uncommon thing to do in this day and age.

You plan on keeping the car for five or six years and make your monthly payment, on time, each month. It’s clean inside and out and you make sure the oil is changed according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Lastly, you park where it is unlikely to get a door ding in any parking lot.

Yet two years into owning and paying for your new car the EPA decides your vehicle needs to emit less pollution. You are then required to make modifications to attain 46 percent better gas mileage before you are able to renew your vehicle registration. It does not matter that you are still paying for your car or at the time of purchase the car met and even exceeded the current mileage standards. It now has to meet standards far and above previous standards and what is technologically possible, all at your expense. You cry foul, unfair and not possible but are told “no matter — your car has to meet the standards or else you will not be permitted to drive it on public roadways again.” I would bet my next year’s income if this happened to any hard-working American citizen, or group of citizens, there would be an outcry. Attorney general, governors and U.S. senators alike would be notified and action would be demanded.

This scenario exists today. The EPA has acted in a capricious and arbitrary manner by passing Rule 111(d), the Clean Power Plan, as a way to make it seem innocuous to the general public. Essentially, Rule 111(d) requires coal-fired power plants in North Dakota to reduce carbon emissions by 46 percent. No matter technology does not currently exist to make our coal-powered generation that efficient. No matter facilities were built to the existing standards. No matter the power-generating companies have continuously upgraded their facilities as new technologies have come on line. And, no matter our power-generating facilities are being depreciated over time. The EPA has spoken, they bypassed Congress, and we must comply or risk limiting or losing our ability to generate power.

Because the EPA’s power has been seemingly elevated over that of the U.S. Congress, it is unlikely the rule will be reconsidered or even modified into a more reasonable tenet. This is why it is so very important for North Dakota to lead the way to protect 14,000 jobs, $100 million in annual tax revenue and $3.3 billion in economic impact by continuing to develop near-zero-emission coal technology. Our policymakers must work with the industry to meet that goal.

If not, consider what this means to power consumption: Costs will significantly increase to replace power generated by coal and we may even experience degradations of electric reliability. All the while, we, as consumers of power, continue to pay for power-generating facilities which may be forced to either produce less power or somehow find a way to meet an almost unattainable reduction in emissions.

Now I ask, where is the outrage?

See the article here.

NMA President Fights to Keep Coal Industry Afloat in the West

Via Daily Energy Insider: 

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn recently encouraged the U.S. Department of the Interior on Monday to keep coal lease sales on federal land unchanged because the price is fair to taxpayers.

“There is no compelling need for a moratorium to ‘fix’ a program that isn’t broken,” Quinn said. “The current program is more than fair to taxpayers. In fact, the 12.5 percent royalty paid on coal leased from federal land is approximately 40 percent higher than royalty rates paid by coal mined on private land in coal states. On top of the royalties they pay to mine federal coal, companies also pay bonus bids and additional fees that together provide taxpayers 39 cents of every dollar of coal sales.”

Quinn’s statement came in response to a new moratorium issued by the Department of the Interior on new coal lease sales from federal land. Several public comment meetings were held in Wyoming to address the proposed shift, which Quinn said would keep coal in the ground and negatively impact the mining industry in rural communities in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota.

Quinn argued that coal mining on federal sites in the West has not resulted in off-site impacts, and encouraged the organization to keep prices as they are. According to Quinn, the Interior Department’s deputy inspector general stated that prices were fair and higher than market value in 2013.

See the article here.

Attorney General Morrisey to EPA: Halt Federal Spending on Clean Power Plan

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey  announced he and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently sent a letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop spending federal tax dollars to comply with the halted Power Plan.
“The entire point of the Supreme Court’s extraordinary action in putting a stop to the Power Plan was to preserve the status quo pending the outcome of the litigation,” Attorney General Morrisey wrote. “EPA should respect that action by leaving things the way they are until the courts have had their say.”

The letter responds to a request by 14 state environmental agency officials seeking additional information and technical assistance from the EPA related to the Power Plan.

Attorneys General Morrisey and Paxton ask that EPA decline the invitation to spend federal taxpayer dollars to aid compliance, specifically by discontinuing work on the “Clean Energy Incentive Program” (“CEIP”) and the non-final carbon trading rules.

In February, Attorneys General Morrisey and Paxton led 29 states and state agencies in winning an unprecedented stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, a decision that denies the EPA authority to enforce the rule and calls into serious question the rule’s legality. All compliance deadlines associated with the Power Plan were also frozen.

The letter asserts that because the CEIP and the carbon trading rules have no legal significance without a legally operative Power Plan, taking action on these issues calls into question the EPA’s commitment to the Supreme Court’s order.

Morrisey said that at minimum the EPA should reconsider spending scarce resources on a rule that the Supreme Court has indicated raises serious legal questions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently rescheduled oral arguments on the merits of the case until September 27 before the full court as opposed to a three-judge panel.

“We welcome this unusual step by the full court, which confirms our long-held view that the Power Plan is an unprecedented and transformative rule of a kind the states have never seen from EPA,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “We look forward to presenting our arguments in September.”

See the article here.

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

Via The Baltimore Sun:

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

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

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

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

Amid a long decline in coal production and a shift toward cleaner sources of energy, communities in Appalachian Maryland are bracing for a new challenge: a sweeping federal proposal intended to limit the environmental impact of coal mining on streams.

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

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

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

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

“It’s been a boon for us but it’s also been a problem,” said Eric Robison, a founding member of Engage Mountain Maryland, a Garrett County-based environmental group, said of coal mining. “We privatize the profits and we socialize the problems.”

Mining towns

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

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

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

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

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

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

A ‘bevy of regulations’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Environmental concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

With EPA Regulations, Coal Plants Turn Off The Lights

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

WHEELING -This year, utility providers are expected to extinguish as much as 45 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity – enough to power as many as 45 million homes.

Furthermore, U.S. electricity generators consumed 29 percent less coal in 2015 than in 2007. If the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan goes into full effect, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects domestic consumption of coal will fall from 873 million tons in 2015 to just 664 million tons by 2030.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Environmental Protection Agency could not implement the Clean Power Plan until the regulation’s constitutionality was determined. Now, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are demanding the EPA stop spending federal tax dollars to implement the rule.

In their letter to the agency, the attorneys general said that despite the Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan, the EPA has expended funds to help states plan for compliance with it. This, they believe, is improper.

“The entire point of the Supreme Court’s extraordinary action in putting a stop to the power plan was to preserve the status quo pending the outcome of the litigation,” Morrisey said earlier this week. “EPA should respect that action by leaving things the way they are until the courts have had their say.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is refuting “out-of-state attacks” regarding his commitment to defending the coal industry.

“I am a part of the lawsuit opposing (President Barack) Obama’s Clean Power Plan, standing with attorneys general and governors from across the country,” Manchin said.

According to the EPA, the Clean Power Plan will prevent at least 3,600 premature deaths and prevent 90,000 asthma attacks per year as it cuts carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent compared with 2005 levels.

While coal-dependent states continue challenging the legality of the regulations, the EIA is studying how demand for coal – and the related carbon emissions – will change if they take full effect.

Energy Information Administration officials state that carbon dioxide pollution from electricity generation is now 21 percent below 2005 levels. If the Clean Power Plan goes into full effect, these emissions are supposed to be 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

However, even if it does not take effect, EIA projects carbon emissions from electricity generation to be “well below” the 2005 benchmark.

Coal provided 51 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2005, but its share of the energy portfolio had fallen to 34 percent by 2015.

American Electric Power extinguished 5.5 coal-fired gigawatts across Appalachia last year, as the firm joined other utilities in turning off a total of 14 gigawatts of coal generation in the U.S. in 2015. However, the EIA projects another 40-45 gigawatts of coal generation to go dark this year, as a combination of EPA regulations and relatively cheap natural gas are drastically reducing demand for coal.

Consumption of coal used for electricity generation in the U.S. has already fallen from its peak of 1.045 billion tons in 2007 to 739 million tons in 2015 as power companies turn away from coal in anticipation that the Clean Power Plan and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will ultimately withstand legal challenges to become law.

Meanwhile, Manchin vows he will continue fighting to keep coal relevant.

“From my first day in the Senate, I’ve fought against Obama’s war on coal, his out-of-touch public policies, and will continue to defend West Virginia’s way of life against any group, any politician and any president,” Manchin said. “The D.C. lobbyists and out-of-state billionaires attacking me are trying to fool West Virginians about my record, even though they know that no senator has a longer and more successful record of taking on the EPA and standing up for coal than me.”

See the article here.

Former Obama DOE Official Set to Critique ‘Stupid Regulations’

Via E&E Publishing: 

A former Obama administration official plans this week to tell lawmakers that the Clean Power Plan is “ideological mumbo jumbo” and that the government would be better off investing more money into clean energy and fossil fuel technologies.

Charles McConnell, who was responsible for the Department of Energy’s fossil fuels program, will testify Thursday in front of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment.

He’ll appear alongside Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), who is challenging the Clean Power Plan in court, and Constitutional Accountability Center Chief Counsel Brianne Gorod, who represents more than 200 lawmakers who are in favor of the program.

At DOE, McConnell oversaw the budgets and policy strategy of programs in oil, natural gas, coal and advanced technologies.

In an interview Friday previewing his testimony, McConnell said he will tell the panel, which is chaired by a climate change doubter, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), that he believes in man-made climate change and climate regulations.

But, McConnell said, U.S. EPA’s program for cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants would not measurably address global warming and the Obama administration is “disingenuous” for making it the cornerstone of its environmental agenda.

“I’m going to come right out of the box very quickly by not denying climate change. I believe that the climate’s changing,” McConnell said. “I think it’s fundamentally important to look at carbon dioxide as a forcing function of climate change.

“Those two things being said,” he continued, “and the fact that I believe CO2 regulation is important, my punctuation mark is this Clean Power Plan does not relevantly or impactfully affect global CO2 emissions.”

While EPA has acknowledged that the Clean Power Plan itself won’t have a big impact on global climate change, the agency has promoted it as part of a larger strategy and key to getting nations on board with the Paris climate agreement.

Along with furnishing a chart showing the Clean Power Plan’s small impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, McConnell also plans to testify that the Clean Power Plan is illegal and an abuse of EPA’s authority.

EPA, he alleged, is trying to force a federal renewable fuel standard onto the country and is pushing wind and solar energy to the detriment of research on fossil fuel technologies such as carbon capture, utilization and storage.

“I’m not against climate regulations, nor am I against being concerned about the environment, but I am against stupid regulations,” he said. “And I’m against an administration that would call for an all-of-the-above strategy and not put their money where their mouth is.”

The United States, he said, should seek to lead “the Chinas and Indias of the world” in researching and advancing technologies to make burning fossil fuels cleaner.

At DOE, McConnell said, he was disappointed at the lack of coordination between the department and EPA on energy technologies. He said he sensed a disconnect between EPA’s vision for regulations and the ability of technologies to achieve climate goals.

“EPA seems to be relying on the technology fairy to come in and sprinkle dust over this stuff and have it perform the way they want it to,” he said.

‘Lawful exercise’

The hearing comes as the Clean Power Plan remains frozen by the Supreme Court until the resolution of complex litigation. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unexpectedly delayed arguments in the case until September before the full court instead of the typical three-judge panel (Greenwire, May 17).

Gorod of the Constitutional Accountability Center plans to defend the Clean Power Plan’s legality at the hearing. She is representing 208 current and former members of Congress from 38 states — mostly Democrats — who last month filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of EPA’s authority to issue the plan (Greenwire, April 1).

“I’ll explain that the Clean Power Plan is a lawful exercise of the discretion that Congress conferred on EPA when it enacted and substantially amended the Clean Air Act,” she said in an interview Friday.

The Constitutional Accountability Center promotes a progressive reading of the Constitution and has previously represented lawmakers in litigation over President Obama’s health care plan. Gorod will be the Democratic minority’s witness at the hearing.

She said her testimony will also focus on the state authority under the Clean Power Plan.

“This idea that the Clean Power Plan somehow intrudes on state authority,” Gorod said, “I think it’s very clear when you actually look at the rule, when you look at the Clean Power Plan, it actually accords states due respect.”

Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, May 26, at 9:30 a.m. in 2318 Rayburn.

Witnesses: Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma; Brianne Gorod, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center; and Charles McConnell, executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative.

See the article here.

Program That Leases Coal Should Continue

Via The Knoxville News-Sentinel:

Some Americans may not realize it, but coal still provides roughly 35 percent of all the electricity generated in the United States — the largest share of electricity from any one energy source. States that rely on coal as their primary source of power enjoy the lowest electricity costs nationwide.

Partly for that reason, coal-generated power enables them to serve as major hubs for America’s domestic manufacturers. Basic industry needs cheap, reliable power. In states with primarily coal-based power, industrial electricity prices can be two to three times lower than power prices in competing countries. And energy-intensive industries tend to offer high-wage jobs.

Unfortunately, affordable power faces a surprising opponent — our own government. The Obama administration has announced a three-year moratorium on the leasing of coal reserves located on federal lands. Because the coal mined from these reserves accounts for 42 percent of total U.S. production, such a moratorium could eliminate a major portion of domestic coal supplies, creating less fuel diversity — with serious consequences for power generation.

This moratorium, which will be the subject of a Thursday, May 26, federal hearing in Knoxville, would deprive U.S. taxpayers of billions of dollars in revenue. Coal currently leased from federal lands has generated more than $12.6 billion in royalties, rents and bonus payments over the past decade.

Beyond the revenue it generates, the greatest value of federal coal may be its central role in anchoring a stable, reliable mix of electricity sources. A study by IHS Energy found that the current mix anchored by coal saves ratepayers roughly $93 billion annually while also reducing utility bill volatility by 30 percent.

The risk posed by this moratorium is bad enough, but it’s all the more reckless for being unnecessary. The present system meets standards that guarantee taxpayers receive fair market value for coal leased at auction. Multiple reviews by federal and state agencies ensure the environment is protected.

The 12.5 percent royalty paid on coal leased from federal land is approximately 40 percent higher than rates paid for coal mined on private land in the Midwest and Appalachia. Companies pay additional fees based on the coal under lease. Small wonder recent investigations by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General found no reason to overhaul the program.

Undaunted, the Obama administration has floated the idea of increasing the royalty rate for leased coal. Higher royalties will discourage production, keeping affordable energy off the market and revenue from taxpayers.

Without a defensible rationale for its coal lease moratorium, we’re left with the Obama administration’s political rationale. It wants to keep faith with climate change activists who want fossil fuels to stay in the ground. But keeping faith with climate alarmists will break faith with taxpayers and consumers. They will derive zero benefit, let alone a fair return, when coal is locked underground.

The federal coal leasing program fairly values an important public resource and generates substantial revenue for America’s taxpayers. A move to replace the current program with costly new fees and higher royalties, or with a flat-out moratorium, serves no legitimate public purpose.

Hal Quinn is president of the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

The Climate-Change Gang

Via The National Review: 

The United States was born out of a revolution against, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, an “arbitrary government” that put men on trial “for pretended offences” and “abolish[ed] the Free System of English laws.” Brave men and women stood up to that oppressive government, and this, the greatest democracy of them all, one that is governed by the rule of law and not by men, is the product.

Some of our states have forgotten this founding principle and are acting less like Jefferson and Adams and more like George III. A group of Democratic attorneys general has announced it intends to criminally investigate oil and gas companies that have disputed the science behind man-made global warming. Backed by green-energy interests and environmentalist lobbying groups, the coalition has promised to use intrusive investigations, costly litigation, and criminal prosecutions to silence critics of its climate-change agenda. Pretended offenses, indeed.

We won’t be joining this coalition, and we hope that those attorneys general who have joined will disavow it. Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this tactic of advancing the climate-change agenda by any means necessary. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is a particularly noteworthy example. This EPA regulation, one of the most ambitious ever proposed, will shutter coal-fired power plants, significantly increase the price of electricity for American consumers, and enact by executive fiat the very same cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions that Congress has rejected.

The Clean Power Plan was promulgated without any consultation with Congress. No bills were debated, no votes were taken, and the representatives of the American people had no opportunity to object or offer their own suggestions. The checks and balances built into our system of government were simply ignored as inconvenient impediments to the president’s agenda.

But in our states, we believe in and govern with respect for the rule of law, rather than by ambition to use the power of our governments to stifle political opponents. That is why we are part of a very different kind of coalition, a coalition of 29 states seeking to vindicate the rule of law by challenging the legality of the Clean Power Plan in our courts. The 29 states and state attorneys general who are part of this effort respect our proper role, which is neither to pick winners and losers in the energy sector nor to silence those with whom we disagree. Rather, our job is to hold the EPA accountable to the laws that created it and to fulfill our statutory duties to ensure that consumers in our states have access to reliable, affordable energy. We will continue to pursue those goals and to present our arguments in the courts and in the public square, treating our opponents with the respect they deserve.

It’s unfortunate that this respect is not always returned. In their press conference, the group of state attorneys general called themselves an “unprecedented coalition.” On this point, they are correct. Rarely in our nation’s history has the police power of the state been so eagerly used to intimidate citizens into silence. But even more troubling are internal e-mails and other documents that indicate that this coercion was orchestrated not by the attorneys general themselves, but by green-energy advocacy groups using these officials as puppets to further their extreme agendas. This should frighten us all. Outside groups should not be able to use the power of the government as a sword to go after their political opponents.

We do not doubt the sincerity of the beliefs of our fellow attorneys general about climate change and the role human activity plays in it. But we call upon them to press those beliefs through debate, not through governmental intimidation of those who disagree with them. Few things could be more un-American.

— Scott Pruitt is the attorney general of Oklahoma. Luther Strange is the attorney general of Alabama.

See the article here.

Miners Fear Federal Coal Reforms Jeopardize Rural Utah

Via The Salt Lake Tribune:

But coal’s critics say you don’t have to look far to detect problems. Audits have discovered coal companies pay below-market rates to lease coal reserves, underpay royalties and are not always adequately bonded. And now companies are falling into bankruptcy in the face of a collapsing coal demand, raising the possibility that taxpayers will be on the hook for mine reclamation.

Montana rancher Steve Charter, a past president of the North Plains Resource Council, runs cattle over a mine outside Billings.

“For the past 40 years, I have had a ringside seat to personally witness the broken federal program that has allowed coal companies to take advantage of loopholes and giveaways and avoid accountability at the expense of taxpayers, land, air and wildlife,” Charter said. “This deeply flawed system has not ensured mined land is reclaimed and aquifers restored. Out of a total of 562 square miles of mined land across Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and North Dakota, only 14 percent has been fully reclaimed.”

But many speakers, like Scofield Town Council member Carol Levanger, claimed coal mining’s impacts are overstated and royalties ought to be lowered to encourage further production. Levanger’s town, population 26, on the Wasatch Plateau has seen active mining on and off since 1877.

“I dare say some would think that place ought to be a barren wasteland. It would be looking like raped land. It does not. It is green, it is beautiful. There is hunting, there is fishing,” said Levanger, who works at Skyline. “The mine water runs right behind my house. The dogs play in it. There are fish in the stream. The fish are healthy. They taste good, and I haven’t grown a third eyeball yet.”

The sessions continue in Knoxville, Tenn., on May 26; Seattle on June 21; and Grand Junction, Colo., on June 23. The BLM is accepting written comments until July 28.

See the article here.

Hundreds of Utah Coal Miners Speak Out on Proposed Federal Reforms

Via The Desert News:

SALT LAKE CITY — Frustrated coal miners, coal company executives and truckers who haul coal swamped a daylong public meeting Thursday on proposed reforms to the federal coal lease program, urging a three-year moratorium on new coal leases be overturned and reform efforts dropped.

“Growing up, I never thought the biggest threat to my job would be my government,” said Phillip Jensen, an engineering tech for Utah American Energy. “But here we are. God help us.”

Jensen, who drew chuckles from sympathetic colleagues when he first addressed Bureau of Land Management officials in Russian, saying he forgot what country he was in, added that the agency’s proposed overhaul of its coal leasing program is simply a contrived attempt to ruin the industry.

“It is just another scheme to attack coal and (the BLM) has been perverted into a political weapon,” he said.

Thursday’s hearing at the Salt Palace Convention Center is among six the federal agency is convening across the country as it begins a discretionary environmental review aimed at modernizing rules and regulations that govern mining of coal on federal lands.

The rules were last updated in 1979, and concerns raised by the Interior Department’s inspector general and the General Accountability Office question whether taxpayers are receiving fair market value from the sale of coal.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said the federal coal leasing program lacks transparency and competition, and the impacts of coal production and combustion have not been contemplated in the face of climate change.

Coal critics assert the undervaluing of the commodity has cost U.S. taxpayers $30 billion over the past 30 years, and coal mining in the Powder River Basin region is responsible for 13 percent of U.S. emissions.

“We need to move to a world beyond coal,” Sharon St. Joan said during Thursday’s public hearing. “A coal future is a mirage, shimmering in the distance.”

According to the BLM, the agency manages 308 coal leases across the United States, and over the past decade, leases have produced 4.3 billion tons of coal at a value of $63 billion. Coal accounts for one-third of the nation’s energy needs, and of that, 44 percent is generated from coal produced on federal lands. The majority of that — 88 percent — comes from the West.

As it begins its review of the federal coal program, the BLM said it is going to look at seven key areas that include royalty rates; where, how and when to lease; the effect of the coal leasing program on national, state and local economies; and how the agency can best assess climate change impacts.

The Salt Lake City hearing is part of the initial outreach period for the agency to gather input on what considerations should be built into the review.

Several elected officials roundly criticized the BLM for holding the hearing in Salt Lake City rather than in Utah’s coal country where any reforms will have the most impact.

“The invitation to come to Carbon, Emery, Sevier and Sanpete counties is always open,” said Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter. “You picked the wrong location to look into the eyes of the people who are affected by the overreach of the federal government.”

Despite the distance, however, several hundred employees from mining companies such as Bowie Resources packed the meeting room at the Salt Palace. BLM officials had seats for a little more than 500 people, but they estimated 50 to 100 more people attended.

Multiple people urged reversal of the federal three-year moratorium on any new coal leases announced in January.

“A three-year moratorium on leasing of coal reserves is absolutely unnecessary,” said Kenneth May, general manager of Sufco Mine. “It is in my opinion another attempt to affect coal mining, which does not need a major reform and certainly does not need a full stop.”

Laura Nelson, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, said the state is exploring its legal options in reaction to the “unjustified” moratorium.

“The BLM’s decision to halt leasing while they review the program is an egregious violation of its fiduciary duties to its beneficiaries — the citizens of the U.S., including those in Utah,” Nelson said, adding that it threatens several major coal mine expansions in the state.

“The BLM’s coal leasing moratorium is a rushed and uninformed political decision that unnecessarily threatens Utah’s coal industry and the many benefits that industry provides,” she said.

Multiple organizations critical of coal have praised the Interior Department for the moratorium, saying it is a long overdue action to remedy a broken program in drastic need of overhaul.

See the article here.

Ohio Rejects EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Via The Daily Caller: 

The Ohio House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday effectively nullifying the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan in the state.

The legislation, called House Resolution 29, passed 71 to 22. It would effectively nullify the Clean Power Plan in Ohio by prohibiting state enforcement or cooperation with the EPA formally opposing the plan.

If Resolution 29 passes Ohio’s Senate and is signed into law, it could make the plan virtually impossible to implement in the state, as the EPA is heavily reliant on state agencies to enforce its environmental regulations. The Clean Power Plan’s implementation was previously suspended by U.S. Supreme Court in February for a year and a half.

“Today’s bipartisan support of HCR 29, a measure to oppose the U.S. EPA’s ‘Clean Power Plan’, further justifies the calls of Governor Kasich and Attorney General DeWine for the agency to vacate this economically devastating rule,” Christian Palich, President of the Ohio Coal Association, said in a press statement.

West Virginia signed similar legislation into law in March, while both houses of Virginia’s legislature also passed a similar measure — only for the state’s Democratic governor to veto it.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan would eliminate most cheap coal and natural gas power with expensive sources like solar and wind, costing America an expected $41 billion annually. Yet, the plan likely won’t have a large impact on global warming. Using models created by the EPA, the Clean Power Plan will only advert 0.019° Celsius of warming by the year 2100, an amount so small it can’t be detected, according to analysis by the libertarian Cato Institute.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted last month when questioned by Republican Sen. Steve Daines 71% of Montana that her agency can’t measure the impact of its proposed Clean Power Plan on global temperatures, because it would likely be incredibly small. McCarthy specifically stated that the plan’s influence on the environment cannot be quantified, but claims that the plan’s cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would theoretically encourage other countries to also reduce emissions.

The EPA actually omitted the amount of warming the Clean Power Plan will prevent from regulatory impact analysis. EPA admits it assesses the plan’s benefits “qualitatively because we do not have sufficient confidence in available data or methods.”

Republicans in both state legislative chambers have a long history of being hostile to green energy. Late last year they attempted to gut an Ohio law mandating the state get 25 percent of its power from green energy by 2025, despite reported veto threats and hostile rhetoric from Republican Gov. John Kasich. The governor has long been at odds with his own party over the state’s energy future. Ohio’s green energy mandate is responsible for 29,366 lost jobs and caused a $3,842 reduction in average household income, according to a study by Utah State University.

See the article here.

Coal War Intensifies with Obama Review

Via The Hill: 

Miners and Western Republicans are lining up against the Obama administration and environmentalists in what some consider the next front in the “war on coal.”

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a three-year moratorium on new coal leases on public lands in January, launching a review that could potentially result in mining companies paying  higher rates.

 “It fits tidily into their overall view of coal,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“You can call it a ‘war on coal,’ you can call it whatever you want. It is a policy directive coming out of this administration that says coal has no part in our country’s energy portfolio. I think that’s short-sighted and very unfortunate.”

Administration officials held the first public meeting on the review on Tuesday in Wyoming, with four more to follow.

The review is moving ahead at a time when coal has become a flashpoint in the presidential race.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is running on a platform of undoing Obama-era environmental regulations and has promised coal-state lawmakers he will do what he can to help prop up the commodity.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has been on the defensive after saying she was going to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” She apologized for her choice of words but said she was making a broader point about helping coal miners as their industry shrinks.

The federal review of new coal leases could take up to three years and will look at several hot-button issues, including whether the cost of climate change should be incorporated into the fees that mining companies pay.

Environmentalists, local officials and mining interests all see high stakes in the review.

Green advocates say coal companies have skirted paying proper royalty rates for years. They contend the industry should be forced to pay taxpayers a fair return for using public resources and say they should chip in extra to offset the impact of coal on climate change.

“This sort of comprehensive look at climate has not happened before,” said Cesia Kearns, the Associate Northwest Regional Director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to even have the conversation and to acknowledge the impacts of climate change are bigger than we have considered before in a program like this.”

Another underlying issue is the shrinking revenue that the government receives from mining on federal lands.

A 2012 report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis blamed flawed Interior market appraisals for undervaluing coal on public land. It said the government has lost up to $30 billion in potential revenue over three decades in the Powder Ridge Basin, a tract of land in Wyoming and Montana that provides 85 percent of the coal mined on public land.

“Interior has consistently failed to achieve what the Mineral Leasing Act requires, which is that the taxpayers receive a return based on the fair market value of coal, and that is what Congress has said they are supposed to do and that is what they have failed to do in the past,” Dan Bucks, the former director of the Montana Department of Revenue, told reporters last week.

But congressional Republicans say the review — and the moratorium on selling new leases — will only serve to hurt the American coal sector, already hobbled by declining demand for the fuel.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) on Tuesday filed a bill to revive a fossil fuel royalties board that could review any royalty changes and delay them if they would have a negative effect on state or tribal economies. The bill would also cap the length of Interior’s review.

He said the leasing moratorium — and higher leasing royalty rates — would lead the industry to shed jobs in the future.

“I think their motive is really to kill the coal industry,” Daines said of the review. “That’s the primary driver. We always want the taxpayer to get a fair return on their resources, but they’re looking at how they can kill the coal industry.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who submitted a statement against the review during Tuesday’s public hearing in Casper, Wyo., said he knows Obama won’t sign any legislation that could hinder the review.

That makes November’s presidential election especially important. Democratic candidates Clinton and Bernie Sanders both have said they’ll look to continue — or, in Sanders’s case, expand upon  — Obama’s energy policies, including when it comes to the use of public land.

But Trump has taken aim at that work, promising to restore the viability of coal around the United States. He spoke about energy issues with Barrasso last week, the senator said, and offered a conciliatory approach to the industry.

“We talked specifically about what’s happening with energy as a master resource for our country and the fact that this administration would rather not use what we have as a resource in terms of energy security and economic security for the country,” Barrasso said.

See the article here.

Showdown Over Federal Coal Leasing Reform at Hearing

Via The Gillette News Record:

CASPER — Emotions are running high in a showdown in Casper between environmentalists and the mining industry over possibly increasing federal fees to mine coal.

A federal coal-lease moratorium has added uncertainty to an industry struggling with bankruptcies, layoffs and mine closures. Any changes will have a big effect on a future U.S. coal industry centered in Wyoming.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is holding the first of six hearings on coal-leasing reform Tuesday. The hearing began at 10 a.m. and continues through 4 p.m. at the Casper Events Center. A bus and convoy of vehicles to attend a pre-meeting rally and attend the meeting left Gillette at 6:45 a.m.

Once at the meeting, they heard from several high-ranking public officials, including former Gillette mayor and current U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, and Gov. Matt Mead.

Coal mining executive Richard Reavey dismisses the process a sham. Wyoming education superintendent Jillian Balow says she’s working to remove “liberal rhetoric” about climate change from science education.

While many at the meeting expressed pro-coal sentiments and admonished the Department of Interior for its plans to increase the rate companies pay to lease federal coal, there were plenty of voices in favor of revamping the federal lease program.

That includes Bob LaResche with the Powder River Basin Resource Council, who said changes to make sure the government gets a fair return on coal reserves are long overdue.

Brenda Windleaf-Hall with the World Wildlife Federation said all the moratorium on federal coal leases imposed in January should be maintained until taxpayers are “ensured a fair return” from coal companies.

She also accused mining companies of “walking away” from their reclamation obligations and asked that self-bonding be banned.

Like other Wyoming residents who spoke during the early part of the session, state Rep. Tim Stubson was skeptical that Tuesday’s meeting was truly a “listening” session, because it seems the Obama administration and Interior Secretary Salley Jewell have already seemed to make up their minds about increasing federal coal lease charges.

“I hope that it truly is a listening session,” he said. “Too often, we think these are speaking sessions (instead of listening).”

That the 39 percent rate of fees and taxes that are already collected on Powder River Basin coal is somehow inadequate or not the industry’s “fair share” is “baseless,” said Collin Marshal, president and CEO of Gillette-based Cloud Peak Energy.

In 25 years in the industry, Marshall said that the “tax and royalty burden by mines paid by U.S. coal is by far the highest.”

An example of just how much coal companies pay to public entities is found in the bottom line, Marshal said. For Cloud Peak, it paid $303 million in taxes and royalties in 2015, he said, while posting an overall loss of $264 million.

More than increasing the royalty rate, Jeremy Nichols with Wild Earth Guardians said that coal mining shouldn’t be made more difficulty, it should halt altogether.

“Our honest belief is the result of this reform effort needs to be more coal being left in the ground,” he said. “Keeping as much fossil fuel in the ground as possible is key.”

One of the comments to generate the greatest response came from Enzi, who said that “instead of running from coal, we need to be running on coal.”

See the article here.

Federal Mining Policies, on Display in Casper, Become New Front in Fight Over Coal

Via The Casper Star-Tribune:

If there is a war on coal, Casper was its battlefield Tuesday. The combatants — some 300 miners and ranchers, state politicians and environmentalists — descended on the Casper Events Center for the first of six public meetings on the future of the federal coal program.

They came clad in their messages. Cloud Peak Energy miners, bused in from Gillette, wore “Friends of Coal” stickers over their hearts. An organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council sported a “No Coal Loopholes” sticker. Speakers framed their messages in fighting, and sometimes apocalyptic terms.

“The faceless, all-powerful government agencies and their environmentalist masters are not immortal, so let’s ride out and beat them,” bellowed Travis Deti, associate director of the Wyoming Mining Association, at a pro-coal rally preceding the event.

Richard Reavey, a lobbyist at Cloud Peak Energy, likened the gathering to a Soviet show trial, one where the outcome was predetermined.

“All hands on deck,” were needed to address the coming climate crisis, warned Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians.

The official matter at hand was more mundane. Scoping, to use the U.S. Department of Interior term, is the process of determining the outline of an upcoming environmental study. Public comment is accepted to help define those terms.

But the bellicose language underlined the stakes involved in Interior’s study of the federal coal program. Roughly 40 percent of American coal is mined on federal land, the vast majority of it in Wyoming, meaning the government’s study has the power to reshape the U.S. coal industry. The analysis will examine the climate impact of burning coal mined on public land and determine how much coal companies should pay in royalties.

The Interior study unfolds against the backdrop of plummeting coal production and mounting concerns over climate change. Production from mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, where the majority of mining operations are centered, has fallen by a third in the first quarter of 2016, as a surplus of coal, cheap natural gas and new environmental regulations have combined to drive down production.

 A halt to new coal leases has been called while the analysis is completed. It is expected to take three years. The moratorium is unlikely to change daily mining operations. Coal companies generally maintain 20 years of unmined reserves, and dire market conditions meant most mining firms had already abandoned plans for new leases.

At the same time, much of the world has begun to shift away from coal. Last April was the warmest on record, according to NASA, the seventh consecutive month to break global temperature records. Some 175 nations signed a climate accord in Paris earlier this year seeking to reduce global greenhouse gases. China has halted plans for some 200 gigawatts of new coal power, enough to power Great Britain, which, in 2015, closed its last deep-pit coal mine. President Barack Obama, for his part, has pledged to cut carbon emissions by a third in the next 14 years through his proposed Clean Power Plan.

Duane Keown, a professor emeritus of science education at the University of Wyoming, addressed those concerns in his comments to federal officials. The planet’s climate has always changed. But where it once took millennia, carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants has accelerated the shift to a matter of centuries, he said.

“The pica, the pollinators of food crops, do not have time to adjust, nor do we,” Keown said.

But in a state where the coal industry forms the bedrock of the economy, his was very much a minority view. The mass layoffs at Wyoming’s two largest mines lingered over many speakers’ remarks. Many spoke of the benefit of high-paying mining jobs and low-cost electricity.

After about two hours of public comment, Gov. Matt Mead took the stage. If climate change is the threat environmentalists and the president claim it is, a national effort akin to the mobilization seen in World War II is needed, the governor argued.

“This administration is pursuing an unrealistic vision of a world without coal. Instead they should pursue a realistic vision that recognizes coal’s place in the world, and should invest to make it better,” Mead said. He concluded: “Coal supports Wyoming, Wyoming supports coal. Coal supports the United States, the United States should too support coal.”

The majority of the crowd then stood and, though they had been instructed not to clap or boo at any speaker, gave the governor a standing ovation.

See the article here.

Speakers Decry ‘Heavy Hand of Regulation’ at BLM Coal Meeting

Via The Wyoming Business Report: 

The first of six public meetings hosted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on its recent environmental assessment of the federal coal program took place in Casper today, with the many speakers criticizing federal regulations they say have helped push the coal industry into disarray, as prices have plummeted and bankruptcies and layoffs soared over the past few years.

Much of the coal mined in the U.S. — and the vast majority mined in Wyoming — comes from federally owned land, much of it controlled by the BLM. The assessment includes what could be a three-year moratorium on new public coal leases, as the Obama Administration moves ahead in its measures to combat climate change.

The meeting to gather the opinions of the public was held at the Casper Events Center with a couple hundred interested citizens in attendance. Reasonably tight security marked the session, as people’s bags were inspected and coats opened to check for firearms.

The session opened with a PowerPoint presentation by the BLM that outlined the government’s coal leasing and management program Mary Jo Rugwell, the BLM’s Wyoming state director, welcomed attendees before calling on U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi for opening remarks. The Republican, who once served as mayor of Gillette — ground zero for Wyoming’s coal bust — noted that he was involved in originally helping to set up the federal coal leasing program back in the 1970s. He asked the BLM to schedule a scoping meeting in Gillette, where the impacts — pro and con — of the federal coal management program are most deeply experienced.

“More than 40 percent of the sales price of federal coal in Wyoming goes to taxes and fees,” Enzi said. “These meetings will give the administration a better understanding of how much Wyoming appreciates coal.”

Tucker Fagan, Wyoming state director for Rep. Cynthia Lummis, also spoke about the coal program and was sharply critical of the administration for declaring the moratorium on new leasing.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow also spoke, saying she was raised in the Gillette area and is sympathetic to the embattled industry.

“We need to lift the heavy hand of regulation that comes down every day,” Balow said. “More than $3.2 billion of coal receipts have gone into new school construction and remodeling.”

Several dozen members of the public registered to give three-minute’s worth of comments for the record.

Some of the event’s early speakers were from environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and Powder River Basin Resource Council.

One rancher’s comments were read by a friend, since his cattle were calving and he was tied up. His remarks illustrated the long-standing conflict between privately-owned surface and Federal sub-surface interests. His grazing lands were taken over by mining operations and he had to go as far as South Dakota to find pastures.

Several speakers also noted that there’s a 20-year supply of coal already under lease and there shouldn’t be a hurry to lease more Federal coal.

Mining company representatives, “Friends of Coal” representatives and candidates for various state offices also spoke, mostly against the moratorium and the time-consuming and very costly process of preparing the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

Written comments on the EIS need to be submitted to the BLM by July 28. The public scoping sessions will end in Pittsburgh at the end of June.

See the article here.

Op-ed: Federal Coal Leasing Doesn’t Need Major Reform

Via The Salt Lake Tribune:

Many in Utah may not realize it, but coal provides roughly 75 percent of the electricity in our state. It’s no coincidence that states like Utah with high levels of coal-generated power enjoy the lowest electricity costs in the country.

That low cost of electricity is good for Utah families and businesses. Energy costs are rising, in part due to short-sighted regulations that make coal-fired electricity generation costly if not impossible. Families are paying a higher and higher percentage of their monthly income towards energy, forcing them to forego other expenses and in some cases making it difficult just to pay rent.

And we need to keep in mind that one of Utah’s advantages to attracting businesses, manufacturing jobs, and even high-tech jobs, is our low cost of electricity. Simply put, affordable power lowers business costs and makes Utah more competitive.

It should be all the more troubling to residents of Utah that affordable power faces yet another obstacle from the federal government. The Department of the Interior recently announced a three-year moratorium on the leasing of coal reserves located on federal lands. Much of the coal mined in Utah is produced from federal lands.

Nationwide, coal mined from federal reserves accounts for 42 percent of total U.S. production; this moratorium could eliminate a major portion of domestic coal supplies, creating less fuel diversity with serious consequences for power generation, both in terms of affordability and reliability. One has to ask, why?

One of the Obama administration’s chief rationales for the moratorium is to slow the impact of coal combustion on climate change. But the contribution from the federal coal lease program on global emissions, let alone on global temperatures, is so insignificant it is almost unmeasurable.

Outside the considerable revenue it generates, the greatest value of federal coal may be its central role in anchoring a stable, reliable mix of electricity sources. A study by IHS Energy found that the current base load generation mix anchored by coal saves ratepayers roughly $93 billion in annual electric bills while also reducing utility bill volatility by 30 percent.

Ignoring this reality, the Obama administration also has floated the idea of increasing the royalty rate for leased coal. This move would hurt coal producers who are already operating on a tight margin. Higher royalties will only dampen production, keeping affordable energy off the market and revenue away from taxpayers. So much for taxpayers getting a “fair return.”

Apparently the president is trying to show “climate leadership” following the Paris climate summit. However, given the realities of the world’s energy demands, real climate leadership would be a commitment to advancing development of carbon abatement technologies for all fossil fuels.

The mineral lease process already is too lengthy, and creating further delays under the guise of taking another look at the federal coal program just shows that the Obama administration is more concerned with satisfying their political benefactors than doing what’s best for the American people.

We have a moral and ethical responsibility to produce the products needed to power and drive our society. Ensuring that sufficient domestic coal is produced, transported and converted into the energy products demanded by a growing and increasingly energy dependent economy is a national imperative.

The current coal leasing program doesn’t need major reforms, let alone a work stoppage. The program fairly values a vital public resource and creates substantial revenue for Utah’s taxpayers. A move to replace it with costly new fees serves no legitimate public purpose — environmental or financial.

Mark Compton is the president of the Utah Mining Association.

See the article here.

Admin Referees Fight to Win ‘War on Coal’

Via E&E Publishing: 

With rhetoric reaching a fever pitch, groups warring over coal’s future are getting their first chance to weigh in on the Obama administration’s review of federal leasing.

The Department of the Interior’s first public scoping meeting is underway this afternoon in Casper, Wyo., four months after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell imposed a moratorium on most new federal coal leasing.

The halt lasts until the Bureau of Land Management completes a programmatic environmental impact statement determining whether federal coal — 40 percent of all the nation’s reserves — delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and accounts for coal’s climate change impacts (Greenwire, Jan. 25).

Leading the charge against both rationales for the moratorium, National Mining Association CEO Hal Quinn said: “There is no compelling need for a moratorium to ‘fix’ a program that isn’t broken.”

Quinn’s group says taxpayers are already getting 39 cents on the dollar from federal coal sales. With environmentalists clamoring for increased royalty rates, NMA argues that the 12.5 percent rate on federal land is roughly 40 percent higher than on private land, in addition to bonus bids and other fees.

The coal industry points to a 2014 Government Accountability Office report and a 2013 Interior inspector general investigation (Greenwire, Feb. 4, 2014; E&E Daily, July 13, 2013).

“While recommending targeted efficiency improvements, neither report identified fundamental flaws that would justify the wholesale changes called for by environmental activists and now suggested by the administration,” Quinn said.

NMA also disputes the need to incorporate climate impacts into federal coal leasing decisions, pointing to the Obama administration’s decisions to move forward with coal leases after analyzing resulting greenhouse gas emissions (E&ENews PM, May 2).

“Keeping federal coal in the ground is a political fix that will deny taxpayers any revenue from this valuable resource, while forcing state and local communities to suffer the loss of additional high-wage jobs and sharp budget shortfalls that will require either higher taxes, lower services or both,” Quinn said.

University of Colorado Law School professor Mark Squillace counters that taxpayers have missed out on more than $29 billion in lease payments and unpaid royalties as coal companies exploit loopholes in outdated standards (Greenwire, June 25, 2012).

Watchdogs will be paying attention. A coalition of groups including the National Wildlife Federation launched a website, reformcoal.org, to track the progress of the administration’s review.

“Coal companies are mining taxpayer-owned coal at cut-rate prices while Western communities face the fallout: destroyed landscapes, air and water pollution, budget shortfalls and the growing impacts of climate change,” Squillace said.

While billions of dollars from taxes, royalties and other payments looks sizable, Squillace said coal companies sell coal leased from the government for 20 to 30 cents a ton for at least $13 a ton.

Environmentalists have also questioned the Obama administration’s commitment to evaluating the climate risks posed by federal coal, arguing that a true valuation of the social costs of carbon would “keep it in the ground” (ClimateWire, May 17).

With major coal companies in bankruptcy, environmentalists have ramped up concerns about cleanup obligations at mine sites.

As reform proponents launch a new website, Montana rancher Steve Charter said: “While coal executives take home millions of dollars as a reward for running their companies into bankruptcy, Western communities are left to foot the bill for the catastrophic environmental damage and lost royalties they leave behind.”

‘True’ war on coal

Independent analysts attribute the collapse of the coal markets to a host of factors, ranging from cheap and increasingly plentiful natural gas, and China’s economic downturn, to looming carbon-cutting regulations.

The coal industry, in contrast, frequently blames the Obama administration and overregulation. The moratorium, companies say, is one more example of an anti-coal agenda.

In a new report, corporate watchdog group Public Citizen said executives at the three biggest bankrupt coal firms — Alpha Natural Resources Inc., Arch Coal Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp. — have only themselves to blame.

“Bad business decisions are the true ‘war on coal,'” said the report, released this morning.

The document points to all three companies’ making massive purchases in 2011, the success of which hinged on continued growth in demand, namely in China, for metallurgical coal for steel manufacturing.

With prices peaking, Alpha bought Appalachian metallurgical giant Massey Energy Co. for $7.1 billion; Arch bought metallurgical producer International Coal Group for $3.4 billion; and the industry’s top dog — Peabody — sank $5.1 billion into Macarthur Coal’s met reserves in Australia.

But Chinese demand slumped, sending prices plummeting from more than $160 per short ton during the peak to around $100 now, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Unable to mine their way out of debt in the down market, Alpha, Arch and Peabody have all filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections in attempt to restructure.

“Despite that over the last year all three of your companies declared bankruptcy and plan to lay off thousands of workers and slash retiree benefits, you have benefitted from tens of millions of dollars in record executive pay,” Tyson Slocum, energy program director at Public Citizen, wrote today in a letter to Peabody CEO Glenn Kellow, Arch CEO John Eaves and Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield.

According to corporate filings, in 2014, Crutchfield made $7.8 million, more than $1.5 million more than in 2012; Eaves earned $7.3 million, $3 million more than the year before; and Kellow’s predecessor, Gregory Boyce, made nearly $11 million.

Alpha executives recently got a nearly $12 million bonus package approved by a federal bankruptcy judge (Greenwire, May 12). Arch paid executives more than $8 million a day before bankruptcy (ClimateWire, March 16). And Peabody gave executives more than $4.2 million in similar bonuses in 2014. Companies have defended the bonuses as necessary to have stable management through bankruptcy.

Public Citizen demanded that the CEOs redistribute their bonuses to their employees now out of work.

“We encourage you to atone for your financial irresponsibility. Invest your multi-million dollar compensation in a trust fund for your laid off coal miners and their families,” Slocum wrote.

“It’s time to ensure that American taxpayers earn a fair return for the use of their public resources and for companies mining our federal lands to give back to the people of this nation,” he said.

See the article here.

It’s Not the Free Market that is Killing Coal

Via Breitbart:

These days, the pundits are offering a lot of different reasons why America’s coal industry is faltering: Natural gas is taking the place of coal; Demand in China has slowed; A warm El Nino winter has meant less power use. The list goes on.

However, we never hear much about the big elephant in the room— the Obama Administration’s deliberate efforts to strangle the nation’s coal sector.

President Obama came into office with a well-expressed desire to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants. In a 2008 interview he explained, “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re gonna be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” However, he added a hopeful caveat: “If technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. That I think is the right approach.”

Unfortunately, the president never followed through on the possibility of clean coal. And that’s a shame because the technology is there.

America’s coal fleet already utilizes 15 different mechanisms to scrub emissions. And carbon capture technology is currently in development. But the administration has simply bypassed carbon storage in favor of heavy-handed mandates to rapidly cut carbon dioxide. And so, despite his comments in the same 2008 interview, when he was “opposed to us saying at the outset here are the winners that we’re picking,” it does indeed look like the president has been hell-bent on eliminating coal from day one.

This would explain the recent double-speak of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Clinton blundered in March, saying, “We’re going to put a lot of coal workers and coal companies out of business.” It’s possible that she was indeed referring to existing Obama Administration policies aimed at transitioning to “renewable” energy. But in the same exchange, Clinton also said, “Now, we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels.” Thus, Clinton is peddling the same agenda as the president, and with the same child-like zeal to see what will happen when the nation buys a lot of shiny new solar panels and wind turbines.

The simple fact is that the Obama Administration has already taken very successful aim at coal.

The president’s Clean Power Plan aims to eliminate 40 percent of America’s coal fleet in order to achieve a theoretical 0.02 degree Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100. The Stream Protection Rule could be extended to the elimination of half of existing U.S. coal mines. And, the recently announced leasing moratorium could simply lock future federal coal reserves underground.

Any wonder that coal has seen better days?

It’s too simplistic to blame “market forces” for the evisceration of coal, particularly when the Obama Administration’s policies are so extreme that even the Supreme Court recently issued a stay on the Clean Power Plan. Unfortunately, many activists openly gloat about the “death of coal,” even as Ms. Clinton feigns sympathy for displaced coal workers.

We know that the president is pleased with his actions, as demonstrated by his boastful posture during December’s climate conference in Paris. And Clinton isn’t really offering anything different for the coming years. Her solution to the plight of coal country is a $30 billion aid package that would provide benefits and retraining for displaced workers.

Not surprisingly, the coal industry has rejected such a handout, questioning instead why the focus shouldn’t be on maintaining a workhorse industry that provides affordable power for millions of Americans. If President Obama had followed up on his 2008 suggestion of carbon capture advancement, the landscape of American coal might already face a radically different future, and one more suited to sustaining workers and energy production without federal assistance.

It’s a cynical notion to bewail the plight of coal communities while actively working for their destruction. Clinton and her ilk should know better, and thankfully much of the nation sees through such shoddy deceptions. Americans have a stake in securing reliable energy for the future, and pushing coal off the table isn’t a sensible path.

Terry Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant, and a former commissioner on the Missouri Public Service Commission.

See the article here.

Kentucky Right to Challenge an Anti-mining Regulation

Via The Lexington Herald-Leader:

For decades, Kentucky has proudly mined the coal that fuels American industry. During World War II, coal helped fire the steel foundries and factories that built America into the “Arsenal of Democracy.”

And today, with coal still supplying roughly 35 percent of U.S. power generation — more than any other single power source last year — coal continues to keep millions of Americans warm in winter and cool in summer.

Unfortunately, Kentucky’s coal industry is now facing an all-out assault from Washington. Kentucky is one of 17 coal-producing states that have formally protested the Obama administration’s Stream Protection Rule, the most recent of a fistful of regulations that some experts say will spell the end of the industry and the jobs it supports.

That will also mean higher energy costs for both basic industries and low-income families, with troubling repercussions for the wider economy.

The administration has moved aggressively to ensure coal will now be kept in the ground. With little fanfare, the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining has unveiled a massive, 2,100-page regulation that rewrites nearly its entire program, conflicts with scores of existing laws and authorities, and threatens to render the majority of America’s coal reserves off limits to further mining.

If there was a poster child for needless, costly regulation, the SPR would qualify. For example, despite its name, this regulatory behemoth actually has little to do with protecting streams. The agency’s own reports already show that virtually all U.S. mining operations carry no offsite environmental impacts.

Instead of protecting streams, it aims to protect regulators. A skeptical Congress is asking why OSM needs more funding when market conditions have left it with fewer coal mines to regulate. OSM has responded by seeking to co-opt additional authority currently shared by the states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to being needless and duplicative, the SPR is certain to drive up the cost of mining and thus the number of unemployed miners. An independent analysis of the rule projects the loss of at least 40,000 high-wage coal mining jobs nationwide. Total job losses throughout the U.S. coal supply chain — from railroads and power plants to ports and heavy equipment — could reach 281,000 jobs.

The annual value of lost coal production could reach $29 billion, with federal and state tax revenue falling by as much as $6.4 billion.

Without the affordable power that coal provides, the U.S. economy will face troubling ripple effects. Displacing affordable coal power with higher-cost alternatives will mean heavier price burdens on everyone, including those who can least afford it.

It’s bad enough that the SPR is unnecessary and costly. But adding insult to injury is the fact that OSM wants to impose these costs on states with whom it failed to consult during six years of protracted rule-making. That helps to explain why the agency has successfully expanded its regulatory program by duplicating responsibilities already carried out by states and other federal agencies.

The SPR is a regulation more about politics than environmental protection. Kentucky is right to demand accountability from a federal agency that has clearly lost its way.

Hal Quinn is president of the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

Poor Justification for Obama Administration’s Coal Leasing Moratorium

Via The Hill: 

In January, the Obama administration announced a three-year moratorium on the leasing of new coal reserves located on federal lands. The ostensible reason for such a moratorium, as Interior Secretary Sally Jewell subsequently explained, is to review current leasing procedures and to make sure that taxpayers receive a fair return for publicly held coal.

The implicit suggestion of course is that federal coal might be undervalued. But this sets up a glaring contradiction with the other motive behind the moratorium: to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by keeping coal in the ground.

This week, the Interior Department holds its first hearings to determine the advisability of such a moratorium. What will likely emerge from these sessions is an administration policy chasing two entirely incompatible goals. Interior wants to increase the benefit to taxpayers of a program they believe undervalues a public resource. But they also want to satisfy climate activists hoping to end a federal coal program that currently yields $1.2 billion annually for the federal coffers. If climate activists win, taxpayers lose.

The overall revenue produced by federal coal is not insignificant. Coal leased from federal lands has generated more than $12.6 billion in royalties, rents, and bonus payments over the past decade. In fact, the argument that taxpayers are somehow denied a fair return from the current federal coal program falls flat. The 12.5 percent royalty paid on coal leased from federal land is approximately 40 percent higher than rates paid for coal mined on private land in the Midwest and Appalachia. Companies also pay additional fees based on the coal under lease, which helps to explain why recent investigations by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General have found no reason to overhaul the program.

It’s important to note that the coal mined from these reserves accounts for 42 percent of total U.S. production. Since coal currently generates 35% of total U.S. electricity production, a moratorium would inevitably eliminate a major portion of domestic coal supplies, with serious consequences for the supply of affordable power. This is particularly troubling since coal has long played a central role in anchoring a stable, reliable mix of electricity sources nationwide. A study by IHS Energy found that coal saves ratepayers roughly $93 billion in annual electric bills.

A key rationale for the moratorium, however, is to address climate change. But the contribution from the federal coal lease program on global emissions, let alone on global temperatures, is so insignificant as to be almost unmeasurable. Even the administration’s Clean Power Plan, aimed squarely at shutting down coal generation, would reduce global CO2 emissions by less than 1 percent. The moratorium is therefore a largely symbolic gesture.

Similarly, coal exports from federal lands are negligible. The argument that America is somehow exporting greenhouse gases makes little sense when one considers that, in the highest export year to date, only 3 percent of coal leased on federal land was exported. Courts have rightly judged that this “impact” is too insignificant to be properly assessed.

Undaunted, the Obama Administration has floated the idea of increasing the royalty rate for leased coal. But doing so would squeeze coal producers already operating on a tight margin, and in a market where 41,000 coal miners have lost their jobs since 2011. Higher royalties will end more high-wage jobs and discourage production, keeping affordable energy off the market and revenue from taxpayers.

The federal coal leasing program fairly values an important public resource and generates substantial revenue for America’s taxpayers. Multiple reviews by federal and state agencies continue to ensure that the environment is protected. A move to replace the current program with costly new fees and higher royalties, or with a flat-out moratorium, serves no legitimate public purpose. Hopefully, the hearings by the Interior Department will reveal the full value of this longstanding program while also recognizing the cost of weakening it.

See the article here.

State, Residents Will Pay Huge Cost Under Clean Power Plan

Via The Exponent Telegram:

President Obama and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is costing West Virginia’s economy billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lost jobs since its inception as the law of the land. The impact on the state budget, coal companies and coal-related jobs, as well as the negative impact on the development of the Marcellus and Utica gas fields, has the potential to wreck the economy of West Virginia for generations to come.

The regulation, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, is expected to deliver a major blow to the nation’s coal industry, which has prompted major backlash from coal-producing states like West Virginia.

Ironically, 85 percent of the electricity produced in West Virginia is consumed out-of-state. Yet the negative consequences of compliance fall squarely on where those power plants are located — primarily, here in West Virginia.

Under the Clean Power Plan, states are allowed to choose whether to employ either a rate-based goal, measured in pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, or a mass-based goal, measured in total short tons of CO2 emissions.

States also have the option to implement trading emission rate credits, or ERCs, which are generated by zero and low CO2 emitting power or energy efficiency projects that reduce coal usage within a single state, multi-state or regional area, or nationally.

In the mass-based approach, they use allowances, which result from the shutdown or reduced operation of higher CO2 emitting power sources, like coal plants.

The rate-based model — which doesn’t allow trading — was projected to bring the most detrimental impacts to the state in the form of coal plant closures and employment losses.

Jim Kotcon, conservation chair for the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club posed the following questions to the State Journal: “Do we want to allow emissions trading, which would certainly reduce the cost for West Virginia citizens? Do we want to include forms of energy efficiency? Do we want to consider giving utilities some flexibility in switching between coal and natural gas?

West Virginia also will have to face uncertainties beyond its own control.

“If EPA’s rule survives the legal challenges, there are 46 other states that must either develop a state plan or face the imposition of an EPA-developed federal plan,” the study noted. “Decisions these other states and the EPA make are beyond the control of the WVDEP or the West Virginia Legislature.

These decisions will impact the market for the West Virginia-mined coal that is currently being burned for power in those states, as well as the market for West Virginia-produced coal-fired power that is used in other states.

Under the mass-based approach with national trading, electric industry sales are projected to decline by only $140 million relative to the “business-as-usual” (BAU) model in 2030. Under the rate-based approach with no trading, on the other hand, industry sales are projected to decline by $2.3 billion relative to the BAU.

The models project the mass-based approach would cause electricity prices to rise by between 1.9 percent in 2022 and 5.6 percent in 2030, as compared to prices rising by between 3.1 percent and 15.2 percent during the same period under a rate-based approach that does include national carbon trading.

The mass-based approach that includes national carbon trading is also expected to result in average annual employment losses of fewer than 1,000 jobs relative to the BAU model over the eight-year compliance period.

In contrast, the rate-based approach that doesn’t allow carbon trading is projected to cause employment losses ranging from 10,000 jobs in 2022 and 16,000 in jobs in 2025 relative to the BAU.

One thing is clear about the Clean Power Plan, West Virginians will pay a huge price, considering that we only consume about 15 percent of the power that we generate. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

See the article here.

Clean Power Plan Will Raise Energy Costs

Via The Roanoke Times: 

Finally, the United States judiciary has stopped the runaway train known as the Obama administration. In a ruling issued Feb. 9, the U.S. Supreme Court called a halt to the implementation of the so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP), the president’s signature program to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-burning power plants.

By issuing the stay, the court is preventing the EPA from implementing the CPP before its legality is determined. Even liberal professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard University, one of President Obama’s mentors, says the plan is at odds with the U.S. Constitution. In congressional testimony, he asserted the CPP would commandeer the states and make them submissive to the federal government in violation of the Tenth Amendment.

More than two dozen states have filed suit to stop the CPP because it would shutter scores of economical, high-technology, clean (CO2 is not a pollutant) coal-fired power plants and force utilities to invest in more expensive, less reliable alternatives. Both wind and solar systems for electricity generation are heavily subsidized — receiving government support amounting to $16.1 billion between 2010 and 2013.

These perennially uneconomic energy sources received another boost in December when Congress extended the production tax credit. Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, said the court’s stay on the CPP will have little impact because “Congress pretty much ensured that renewables will continue to dominate in the marketplace.” Well, yes and no. A new administration could take a page out of Obama’s own playbook and nullify or just refuse to extend this tax credit, an easy choice for fiscal reform.

But change would come to electricity rates under the CPP. A study by my organization, the Institute for Energy Research, found wind energy is about five times more costly than existing nuclear power and about three times more expensive than coal. Who will pay for these higher costs? Consumers and businesses. And now, it increasingly appears, during a recession.
Other calculations show the CPP would result in double-digit rate increases in 41 states but would do virtually nothing to slow the alleged negative of global warming. The sea-level rise would be reduced only by the width of two human hairs, according to climate models that the administration relies upon.
Still, President Obama is determined to move the United States away from fossil fuels and toward wind and solar despite their drawbacks. They produce power only intermittently, when the sun shines and the wind blows, and their energy cannot be stored efficiently. This means utilities must have dependable backup systems powered by nuclear energy and fossil fuels that continually send electricity to the grid.

Natural gas does not need help against coal for new electrical generating capacity. Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, and the United States has enough natural gas to last more than 80 years. It also is cheap; advanced technologies used to extract gas from shale formations have helped to lower the price to about $2 per thousand cubic feet, about a quarter of the price paid two years ago on the spot market.
The United States should take advantage of its natural gas bounty rather than accept the administration’s top-down energy edicts. The president’s approach to energy policy is based on the wishful thinking of the 1970s. President Jimmy Carter, who put solar panels on the White House roof, predicted solar power would supply 20 percent of our energy by 2000. That didn’t happen. Of U.S. electricity demand, solar power supplies less than one percent, and wind power comprises less than five percent.

Unfortunately, these facts haven’t stopped the Obama Energy Express from barreling toward an uncertain and more costly energy future. Both the Supreme Court and Congress should exercise their authority, pull back on the throttle and stop this train wreck.

See the article here.

What Powers Alabama? Coal to Remain Key Fuel

Via AL.com:

Electric utilities across the country, and in Alabama, are using significantly less coal than they were just a decade ago thanks to environmental regulations and the low cost of natural gas.

But representatives from Alabama Power, which provides electrical service to about two thirds of the state, say that coal will remain an important part of the company’s fuel mix even though many coal units have been shuttered or converted to run on natural gas.

John Kelley, Alabama Power’s director of forecasting and resource planning, said that coal currently makes up about 50 percent of the company’s fuel mix, down from almost 80 percent in the late 1990s.

“While natural gas will constitute a larger share of our fuel mix going forward, we expect coal to remain a significant part of our diverse supply of energy sources for many years to come,” Kelley said in an email.

As for the coal that Alabama Power uses, about 60 percent of it comes from the Powder River basin of Wyoming, according to company spokesman Michael Sznajderman. Another 15 percent is imported, primarily from Colombia, and about 15 percent comes from Alabama coal mines. The Illinois Basin provides roughly 10 percent.

The natural gas used by Alabama Power is purchased system-wide by its parent group Southern Company — which also owns Georgia Power, Mississippi Power, and Gulf Power — so Sznajderman said a specific breakdown was not immediately available, but he said most of the natural gas comes either from the Texas/Oklahoma region or offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

Some of the easiest transitions from coal to natural gas may already be complete. The company is down from 23 coal-fired units to just 10, but Kelley said the 10 remaining coal-fired units are significantly larger than the ones that have been retired or converted to natural gas.

If the company were to retire or convert these larger units, it would be a bigger bet that the price of natural gas will stay lower than the cost of coal, including environmental compliance or pollution control costs.

The Clean Power Plan, which has been stayed pending review by the court system, could force utilities to clamp down further on air emissions. Alabama Power said last year that a new set of regulations on coal combustion residuals or coal ash will likely force them to close the wet coal ash ponds along rivers, though a timeline has not been disclosed.

Kelley said Alabama Power is planning to issue a request for proposals for renewable energy projects this year, and does plan to add some renewables to the mix over time. Those are likely to be smaller investments since the company believes it already has enough capacity to meet its needs for several more years.

Alabama Power’s Integrated Resource Plan from 2013 says the company does not expect a need for new large-scale generation until 2030. An updated version of that triennial planning document is expected by the end of this year.

Or as Kelley put it, renewable projects would be intended “to fill gaps where renewables are cost-effective or to meet the specific needs of specific customers.”

The situation could change, however.

“Of course, additional changes in environmental regulations targeting coal, significant increases in the price of natural gas or other fuels or technologies – or price decreases – as well as other factors could result in adjustments to these plans,” Kelley said.

“At all times, we are looking at the most efficient and the most cost-effective ways to meet the energy needs of our customers.”

See the article here.

Coal Crushed by Needless Regulation

Via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: 

For decades, Colorado has proudly mined the coal that fuels American industry. During World War II, coal helped fire the steel foundries and factories that built America into the “Arsenal of Democracy.” And today, with coal still supplying roughly 35 percent of U.S. power generation — more than any other single power source last year — coal continues to keep millions of Americans warm in winter and cool in summer.

Unfortunately, Colorado’s coal industry is now facing an all-out assault from Washington. It’s not one that’s been widely reported. But Colorado is one of 17 coal-producing states that have formally protested the Obama Administration’s “Stream Protection Rule” (SPR), the most recent of a fistful of regulations that some experts say will spell the end of the industry and the thousands of jobs it supports. That will also mean higher energy costs for both basic industries and low-income families, with troubling repercussions for the wider economy.

How did this battle for coal’s existence come about so suddenly? Because the Obama administration — ignoring the welfare of coal states — has moved aggressively to ensure that coal will now be kept in the ground. With little fanfare, the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining has unveiled a massive, 2,100-page regulation that rewrites nearly its entire program, conflicts with scores of existing laws and authorities, and threatens to render the majority of America’s coal reserves off-limits to further mining.

If there was a poster child for needless, costly regulation, the SPR would certainly qualify. Despite its name, this regulatory behemoth actually has little to do with protecting streams. That’s because the agency’s own reports already show that virtually all U.S. mining operations carry no off-site environmental impacts.

Instead of protecting streams, the SPR aims to protect regulators. A skeptical Congress is asking why OSM needs more funding when market conditions have already left it with fewer coal mines to regulate. Lacking a credible answer, OSM has responded by seeking to co-opt additional authority currently shared by the states and the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to being needless and duplicative, the SPR is certain to drive up the cost of mining and thus the number of unemployed miners. The SPR’s language is so broad that a full reading could be used to essentially eliminate the safest and most efficient techniques for coal mining, including the long-wall mining currently used in some of the largest coal-producing states. An independent analysis of the rule projects the loss of at least 40,000 high-wage coal mining jobs nationwide. Total job losses throughout the U.S. coal supply chain — from railroads and power plants to ports and heavy equipment — could reach 281,000 jobs.

The impact of keeping so much affordable energy in the ground would be staggering. The annual value of lost coal production could reach $29 billion, with federal and state tax revenue falling by as much as $6.4 billion annually. Coal communities won’t be the only losers, however. Without the affordable power that coal provides, the U.S. economy will face troubling ripple effects. Displacing affordable coal power with higher-cost alternatives will mean heavier price burdens on everyone, including those who can least afford it.

It’s bad enough that the SPR is unnecessary and costly. But adding insult to injury is the fact that OSM wants to impose these costs on states with whom it failed to consult during six years of protracted rule-making. That helps to explain why the agency has successfully expanded its regulatory program by duplicating responsibilities already carried out by states and other federal agencies.

The SPR is a rule in search of a purpose — a regulation that is more about politics than environmental protection. Colorado is right to demand accountability from a federal agency that has clearly lost its way.

Hal Quinn is president of the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

The Federal Coal Moratorium — Politics Masquerading as Policy

Via The Desert News: 

Some Americans may not realize it, but coal still provides roughly 35 percent of all the electricity generated in the United States. That’s the largest share of affordable electricity from any one energy source. States that rely on coal as their primary source of power enjoy the lowest electricity costs nationwide.

Partly for that reason, coal-generated power enables them to serve as major hubs for America’s domestic manufacturers. Basic industry needs cheap, reliable power. In states with primarily coal-based power, industrial electricity prices can be two to three times lower than the power prices of competing countries. The coal advantage extends to employment; energy-intensive industries tend to offer high-wage jobs.

Unfortunately, affordable power faces a surprising opponent: our own government. The Obama administration has announced a three-year moratorium on the leasing of coal reserves located on federal lands. Because the coal mined from these reserves accounts for 42 percent of total U.S. production, such a moratorium could eliminate a major portion of domestic coal supplies, creating less fuel diversity — with serious consequences for power generation.

A moratorium on federal coal would also deprive U.S. taxpayers of billions of dollars in revenue. Coal currently leased from federal lands has generated more than $12.6 billion in royalties, rents and bonus payments over the past decade. States with federal coal leases would also see revenue drop, draining state budgets and forcing higher taxes or painful reductions in services. Wyoming has already warned that school funding may be cut due to falling coal revenue.

Beyond the revenue it generates, the greatest value of federal coal may be its central role in anchoring a stable, reliable mix of electricity sources. A study by IHS Energy found that the current base load generation mix anchored by coal saves ratepayers roughly $93 billion in annual electric bills while also reducing utility bill volatility by 30 percent.

The risk posed by this moratorium is bad enough, but it’s all the more reckless for being unnecessary. The current coal leasing program doesn’t need major reforms, let alone a work stoppage. The present system meets standards that guarantee taxpayers receive fair market value for coal leased at auction. Multiple reviews by federal and state agencies ensure the environment is protected.

In fact, the argument that taxpayers are somehow denied a fair return from the current federal coal program falls flat. The 12.5 percent royalty paid on coal leased from federal land is approximately 40 percent higher than rates paid for coal mined on private land in the Midwest and Appalachia. Companies pay additional fees based on the coal under lease. Small wonder recent investigations by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Interior’s inspector general found no reason to overhaul the program.

Undaunted, the Obama administration has floated the idea of increasing the royalty rate for leased coal. But doing so would squeeze coal producers already operating on a tight margin. Higher royalties will discourage production, keeping affordable energy off the market and revenue from taxpayers.

Without a defensible rationale for its coal lease moratorium, we’re left with the Obama administration’s political rationale. It wants to keep faith with climate change activists who want fossil fuels to stay in the ground. But keeping faith with climate alarmists will break faith with taxpayers and consumers. They will derive zero benefit, let alone a “fair” return, when coal is locked underground.

The federal coal leasing program fairly values an important public resource and generates substantial revenue for America’s taxpayers. A move to replace the current program with costly new fees and higher royalties, or with a flat-out moratorium, serves no legitimate public purpose.

Hal Quinn is president of the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

HEITKAMP: We Need to Stand Up for Coal Country

Via The Grand Fork Herald: 

Walking up and down the wind-swept prairie slopes near Beulah this week, it occurred to me that this swath of grassy land—an unmined portion of lignite coal country—probably doesn’t look like a coal mine to someone who’s not from North Dakota.

In North Dakota, we know that our coal mining is nothing like what happens in the mountains of Appalachia. We also know that our lignite industry’s environmental stewardship and reclamation practices are second to none. But the administration’s one-size-fits-all draft Stream Protection Rule, released last year, treats our mining the same as Appalachian mining and poses serious challenges for our state.

That’s what coal industry leaders reinforced with U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary Janice Schneider this week when we toured Freedom Mine, giving Schneider a glimpse of how this harmful regulation would impact our state. We showed her how the presence of small seasonal streams, which dry up in the summer, could prevent the lignite industry from accessing 600 million tons of coal across the state if the rule goes into effect as written.

The rule was initially meant to regulate mining and curb runoff in states like West Virginia, where streams flow year-round and the mountainous geography is fundamentally different from ours. Applied to North Dakota, this rule just doesn’t make sense.

The congressional delegation joined the tour, and we encouraged Schneider to listen to our coal industry leaders and rework the rule. Last week, I also called on Schneider to make sure Interior hears North Dakotans’ constructive feedback—and that officials come back to North Dakota to meet again before the rule is finalized.

It’s not just the Stream Protection Rule, though. Many of the administration’s latest moves threaten mining in our part of the world—and a threat to coal is a threat to North Dakota jobs, our economy and our reliable, redundant and affordable supply of electricity.

The freeze on new federal coal leases is another roadblock the administration has tossed at coal this year. The administration’s action seems punitive and responsive to ideological forces that are anti-coal, as there have been no bidders to speak of at recent federal lease sales.

Federal leases are no small matter for North Dakota. Around 20 percent of our coal comes from federal leases, generating around $1 million a year in royalties for the state. Half of those funds support North Dakota counties and schools, especially in coal-producing areas.

Already, the congressional delegation has pushed back. The two pending North Dakota lease applications from BNI coal should be considered and acted upon, as I’ve urged the administration to do.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules on power plants also pose a threat to North Dakota. The emissions reduction EPA is asking of our state quadruped between the draft rules and the final version released last fall, making it clear that EPA needs to go back to the drawing board.

Coal and coal miners have kept the lights on for decades. To build a viable future for coal, all sides need to give a little, and that includes making coal more efficient.

North Dakota has been paving the way to accomplish that, but we also need federal regulations that make sense for our state, rather than penalizing workers and an industry that are working in good faith to make advancements.

While the courts have put a hold on this rule, we need to work to guarantee EPA sees how it’s treating North Dakota unfairly so the agency reworks it.

By bringing U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to the state over the past few years, I’ve worked to educate officials on how these rules impact us on the ground.

With so many challenges for coal-fired power, I’m fighting for investments in clean coal technology—and we’ve seen progress. The energy bill the U.S. Senate passed this year included my provisions supporting clean coal, and I’ve convinced colleagues across the ideological spectrum that it’s vital to invest in this technology in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.

Now more than ever, we need to stand up for coal country by making sure this and future administrations see the real-world impacts its regulations have. That’s critical if we’re going to secure a viable future for coal and the good-paying jobs it supports.

Heitkamp, a Democrat, represents North Dakota in the U.S. Senate.

See the article here.

The Candidate in the Coal Fields

Via HuntingtonNews.Net: 

This picture was worth a thousand words.  An AP photo of Hillary Clinton confronted during a West Virginia campaign stop by unemployed coal miner Bo Copley and his wife, holding a picture of their young daughters. Copley, tearful and choked up, managed to ask the presumptive heir to President Obama’s anti-coal policies how she could “come in here and tell us you’re going to be our friend” after promising on CNN two weeks earlier to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

The pained smile on Clinton’s face said “Good Question.” Think of a defendant stumped under cross examination by an irrefutable piece of evidence. But her answer said much more than her views on coal mining.  “I don’t know how to explain it,” she said, “other than what I said was totally out of context for what I meant.”  What was this context from which her meaning was wrongly plucked? “It didn’t mean that we were going to do it,” she said.  “What we said is that is going to happen unless we take action to help and prevent it.”

That’s not what the 39-year-old Copley heard, nor was it what I heard.  What I suspect we got was the logical conclusion of the “context” Clinton herself spelled out weeks earlier when she confirmed to a group of enviro NGOs that the goal of the Obama administration is “to keep coal in the ground” and that her administration would strive to do the same thing.

So, promising a $30 billion aid package for coal fields ravaged in part by the very policy she supports is farcical.  It recalls that notorious Vietnam-era epitaph for a Viet Cong hamlet flattened by GIs: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”  Appalachia might not need an aid package, however, if coal workers hadn’t been buried by policies designed to drown their high-wage employer.

Donald Trump gleefully pounced on Clinton’s awkward retraction during his eulogy for the Cruz campaign.  He would keep coal jobs, Trump promised.  How he would do so was left unsaid.

Two things to take away from this last tango in Appalachia.

First, coal is back.  Both candidates acknowledged, albeit in different ways, that coal is too vital a resource to dismiss – for its economic importance and, implicitly, for its political importance. This will come as a news flash to coal’s critics, who say, “We don’t need coal’s fuel or its jobs.”  Their mantra has been: “Don’t worry about coal as a political force, it’s so yesterday.”

It’s now plain why this conventional wisdom is so wrong.  It’s because coal’s critics – in the administration, in the major media, in the affluent green congregation worshiping at the altar of climate change – all avert their eyes from coal communities and industries they support.  Ignore them—the blue-collar workers, their families, the low-income households relying on affordable electricity—and of course “keeping fossil fuels in the ground” seems painless. That way they don’t feel the pain of those who do.

This leads to the second, larger point underscored by the campaign’s coal kerfuffle: It dramatizes how far both parties have drifted from their historical, traditional moorings.  The GOP standard-bearer—a brass knuckled business tycoon from silk-stocking Manhattan—supports miners. His Democratic rival, a woman representing the party that supposedly defends blue-collar workers —a Midwesterner who built her legal career in Bill’s Ozarks—sides with the affluent climate class.

No wonder more of us say we no longer understand this country; we just live here.

See the article here.

EPA Shut Down Enough Coal Power Plants In US To Supply All Of Great Britain

Via The Daily Caller:

America shut down enough coal power plants last year to blackout Great Britain, according a report published by pro-industry Institute For Energy Research (IER), citing data from The Sierra Club.

The total amount of electrical power generation going offline in America is equivalent to blacking out the entirety of the United Kingdom.

American coal use has fallen by 29 percent since 2007, according to the IER report, causing dire economic consequences. The world’s largest coal company, Peabody Energy, was forced to declare bankruptcy last month. Arch Coal filed bankruptcy, as well, in January and coal companies like Alliance Coal announced mass layoffs.

“This should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention. President Obama kept his promise to bankrupt coal plants, and his administration has impeded domestic natural gas, oil, and coal production at every turn,” Dan Simmons, vice president for policy of the IER, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Research shows these plant closures will harm all of us by increasing electricity costs and making it more difficult to keep energy intensive businesses in the United States. The Obama administration has never been serious about economic growth, and that won’t change as long as the president continues to shut down affordable, reliable energy production.”

Coal’s fall is due to regulations by Obama’s EPA and cheap natural gas, which “spurred increases in natural gas-fired power generation in several states, generally at the expense of coal-fired generation,” according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The systematic deconstruction of the coal industry has created very real economic hardship for the”coal country” of Appalachia, which has been economically devastated and offers very few job options for the now unemployed workers. Coal mines lost 7,500 jobs last year alone, according to federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In just the last three years, mine employment has fallen by 75,000, according to IER. These were high wage jobs too, as a typical miner earns $83,700 a year—a salary that cannot be replicated in other fields without extensive education.

The situation for coal miners would likely get worse if Obama’s Clean Power Plan is fully implemented. The EIA predicts the plan would more than double the number of coal plants shutting down over the next five years. The shutdowns have a cascading effect, causing coal production to collapse by more than 30 percent over the next decade.

Despite the mass shutdown of American coal power, U.S. electricity is still far cheaper than the rest of the world’s. The average European spent 26.9 cents per kilowatt-hour on electricity, while the average American only spent 10.4 cents, according to calculations performed earlier this month by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

See the article here.

Alabama’s Coal Industry Crushed by Needless Regulation

Via AL.com: 

For decades, Alabama has proudly mined the coal that fuels American industry.  During World War II, coal helped fire the steel foundries and factories that built America into the “Arsenal of Democracy.”  And today, with coal still supplying roughly 37% of U.S. power generation – more than any other single power source last year – coal continues to keep millions of Americans warm in winter and cool in summer.

Unfortunately, Alabama’s coal industry is now facing an all-out assault from Washington.  It’s not one that’s been widely reported.  But Alabama is one of 17 coal-producing states that have formally protested the Obama Administration’s “Stream Protection Rule” (SPR), the most recent of a fistful of regulations that some experts say will spell the end of the industry and the thousands of jobs it supports. That will also mean higher energy costs for both basic industries and low-income families, with troubling repercussions for the wider economy.

How did this battle for coal’s existence come about so suddenly?  Because the Obama administration–ignoring the welfare of coal states—has moved aggressively to ensure that coal will now be kept in the ground.  With little fanfare, the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining has unveiled a massive, 2,100-page regulation that re-writes nearly its entire program, conflicts with scores of existing laws and authorities, and threatens to render the majority of America’s coal reserves off-limits to further mining.

If there was a poster child for needless, costly regulation, the SPR would certainly qualify.  For example, despite its name, this regulatory behemoth actually has little to do with protecting streams. That’s because the agency’s own reports already show that virtually all U.S. mining operations carry no offsite environmental impacts.

Instead of protecting streams, the SPR aims to protect the regulators.  A skeptical Congress is asking why OSM needs more funding when poor market conditions have already left it with fewer coal mines to regulate. Lacking a credible answer, OSM has responded by seeking to co-opt additional authority currently shared by the states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to being needless and duplicative, the SPR is certain to drive up the cost of mining and thus the number of unemployed miners. The SPR’s language is so broad that a full reading could be used to essentially eliminate the safest and most efficient techniques for coal mining, including the long wall mining currently used in some of the largest coal-producing states. An independent analysis of the rule projects the loss of at least 40,000 high-wage coal mining jobs nationwide.  Total job losses throughout the U.S. coal supply chain – from railroads and power plants to ports and heavy equipment – could reach 281,000 jobs.

The impact of keeping so much affordable energy in the ground would be staggering. The annual value of lost coal production could reach $29 billion, with federal and state tax revenue falling by as much as $6.4 billion annually. Coal communities won’t be the only losers, however. Without the affordable power that coal provides, the U.S. economy will face troubling ripple effects.  Displacing affordable coal power with higher cost alternatives will mean heavier price burdens on everyone, including those who can least afford it.

It’s bad enough that the SPR is unnecessary and costly. But adding insult to injury is the fact that OSM wants to impose these costs on states with whom it failed to consult during six years of protracted rule-making. That helps to explain why the agency has successfully expanded its regulatory program by duplicating responsibilities already carried out by states and other federal agencies.

The SPR is a rule in search of a purpose – a regulation that is more about politics than environmental protection. Alabama is right to demand accountability from a federal agency that has clearly lost its way.

See the article here.

Hillary Clinton Hears Wrath of Coal Supporters in West Virginia

Via The New York Times:

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — Hillary Clinton came to campaign in coal country — and she had her feet held to the fire.

As Mrs. Clinton stepped onto the sidewalk on Monday to tour a health and wellness center here, a crowd of protesters stood in the rain, many of them holding signs supporting the leading Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump, and chanted, “Go home!”

Later, when Mrs. Clinton sat down with residents to discuss health care and other issues affecting the community and coal miners in particular, the chants of the protesters outside could still be heard.

“No matter what they might be saying out there, they have a friend,” Senator Joe Manchin III, who accompanied Mrs. Clinton, told the panel participants.

But not everyone was buying it.

“Supporting her hurts you,” Bo Copley, a 39-year-old father who tearfully explained that he had lost his job in the coal industry and who struggled to support his family, pointedly told Mr. Manchin.

Mr. Copley then raised a topic with Mrs. Clinton that appeared to be on many of the protesters’ minds (and signs): a remark she made to CNN in March, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” How could she say that and now say she wanted to help West Virginians? he asked.

Republicans seized on the remarks — which Mrs. Clinton made in the context of creating clean-energy jobs in areas of the country that had previously depended on coal — and blasted them out as evidence that a Hillary Clinton presidency would hurt coal country. America Rising, an anti-Clinton “super PAC,” called the comments a “brazen disregard for the men and women who help power America.”

Mrs. Clinton told Mr. Copley, whose wife, Lauren, sat next to him at the round table, that her statement in the CNN town hall-style forum “was totally taken out of context” and explained that she had presented a plan to help coal country last summer and was committed to the issue.

“The way things are going now we will continue to lose jobs,” she said. “I didn’t mean that we were going to do it,” but rather “that was going to happen if we don’t take action.”

But, Mrs. Clinton added, “I don’t mind anybody being upset or angry,” given the desperation in Appalachia, where she will spend Monday and Tuesday with campaign events in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio. She said, however, that she was “a bit sad and sorry that I gave people an excuse to be angry at me because that’s not what I said at all.”

At one point, Mr. Manchin, who Mrs. Clinton called to apologize after making the remark to CNN, stepped in on the former secretary of state’s behalf. “If I thought she wanted to eliminate one job in West Virginia, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” he told his constituents.

Mrs. Clinton acknowledged she would have a difficult path to win voters over in the May 10 Democratic primary and in the general election.

“I understand the anger and I understand the fear and I understand the disappointment that is being expressed. How could it not be given what’s going on here?” she said. “Because of the misstatement that I made, which I apologized for when I saw how it was being used,” she continued, “I know that my chances are pretty difficult, to be honest.”

As for Mr. Copley, he said he won’t be voting in the Democratic primary. “I’m a registered Republican,” he said.

See the article here.

New Jersey: No Plan To Comply With Federal Clean Power Plan

Via NJSpotlight:

Proponents of EPA policy say state is risking chance that feds will step in and draft regulations to ensure compliance with law.

There is no chance the Christie administration will draft a proposal to comply with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to sharply curb global-warming emissions from power plants, officials said yesterday.

“It’s not in our DNA,’’ said John Giordano, an assistant commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection said yesterday at a break in a hearing called by an advisory council to solicit information on how New Jersey will implement the plan. “We don’t need EPA’s re-engineering.’’

New Jersey is making great strides in cleaning up its air and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, Giordano said, an argument echoed by Board of Public Utilities President Richard Mroz. He called the CPP, as it has been dubbed, an unconstitutional intrusion by the federal government on state rights.

While acknowledging that staff from both agencies are looking at what options are available to comply with the law, Mroz noted “there is no specific effort to draw up a compliance plan.’’

The Christie administration has joined in a lawsuit with 27 other states seeking to block the plan, a step the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily ordered in a narrowly approved ruling this past February. The state contends the plan fails to credit New Jersey for past actions that have already cut carbon pollution from power plants, as well as the more than $4 billion ratepayers have invested in renewable energy and reducing energy use.

New Jersey has the fifth-lowest carbon-dioxide emissions, a primary greenhouse gas, of power plants in the country, officials said. That is a reflection of howelectricity is generated here with nearly half the power coming from nuclear plants and more than 40 percent from natural gas plants, which pollute less than coal-fired units.

The stance taken by the state is risky, according to proponents of the government plan, because if no proposal is submitted, the federal agency will step in and decide what regulatory steps are needed to achieve compliance with the law. That could lead to more costly strategies to consumers to comply with the plan, according to business interests.

Nationwide, the CPP proposes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Essentially, the plan recommends replacing coal-fired plants with natural gas; making existing units more efficient so they emit less pollution; and replacing fossil fuel with renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects.New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan is helping the state cut carbon pollution, Mroz argued, by promoting greater reliance on natural gas by building new generation using the fuel and expanding pipeline infrastructure. Three new natural-gas plants have opened in the state in recent years, with two more pending.

As a result, New Jersey is now a net exporter of electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a significant change from the days when the state relied on importing power from dirty coal plants in other states, officials said.

The switch to natural gas has not been without controversy, however. Environmentalists say it steers investment away from carbon-free renewable energy and still relies on a fossil fuel, contributing to climate change. The proliferation of new gas pipelines in the state also has stirred wide opposition, because many cross through environmentally sensitive land.

But some at yesterday’s hearing sponsored by the state Clean Air Council said rapid changes in the energy sector — lower costs for renewable energy, declining demand for electricity, and other factors — raise the specter of today’s natural-gas infrastructure turning into tomorrow’s stranded costs.

“This isn’t tree-huggers saying it could be stranded; it’s the financial community saying it,’’ said Ken Colburn, a principal in the Regulatory Assistance Project, a nonpartisan group that advises regulators and others on clean-energy issues.

Others suggested an aggressive plan to reduce carbon pollution, particularly one employing greater efforts to cut energy use, will more easily achieve compliance with the new law, while also reducing other air pollutants that contribute to health problems.

But one council member, Nicky Sheats, said the CCP falls short in mandating reductions in air pollution affecting minority and low-income communities. The law should establish reductions for specific facilities in those communities, he said.

If that happened, it would make climate-change policy immediately relevant to so-called environmental justice communities, Sheats said.

See the article here.

Leading the Charge Against the War on Coal

Via The Lexington Herald-Leader:

Since the Herald-Leader decided to question my perception of “reality,” when it comes to Kentucky’s coal industry, I’d like to take a moment to remind them of the true, hard facts that shape that reality — a reality for the thousands of Kentuckians who have been hit by the war on coal.

Kentucky has lost over 10,000 coal jobs since 2008, which is a 56 percent decline under the Obama administration. And that doesn’t even count the jobs lost in other coal-related businesses.

Kentucky’s coal-dependent industries have taken massive hits, like CSX Transportation, which laid off over 280 employees in the last year. Why? There isn’t enough coal for them to transport.

Over the last eight years, President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has continued to reach its hands of regulatory overreach into Kentucky’s communities and squeeze the life out of our coal industry. They’ve waged a war on coal so brutal that the destruction has significantly spread to the plethora of industries that depend on coal to survive.

And they’re not ashamed to admit, as Hillary Clinton recently did, that their intent is “to put a lot of coal miners out of business.”

Like many of you, I see the reality of a commonwealth struggling under the onerous regulations enacted by our president and his allies. Which is why I have fought against the liberal Washington machine and the war on coal my entire time in the Senate, and I have led the fight to defend Kentucky from the EPA’s abusive regulations at every chance I’ve had.

In 2011, when the EPA proposed its newly modified and regulation-heavy Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, I introduced a bill to throw out the rule and ban the EPA from producing any substantially similar mandates. I also proudly cosponsored legislation to stop the destructive effects of both the Clean Power Plan and Stream Protection rules.

I’ve also gone one step further and introduced a plan to help revitalize the communities that have already been so incredibly damaged by the Obama-Clinton war on coal. I have proposed designating eligible counties in Kentucky as Economic Freedom Zones, which is an empowering solution using the resources we have right here in Kentucky.

Economic Freedom Zones are areas of reduced taxes and regulations, and increased incentives for businesses. They empower communities by leveraging the human capital, natural resources and business investment opportunities that already exist. By slashing the federal tax rate to 5 percent for a 10-year period in these areas, we can incentivize more businesses to locate in our struggling communities and provide more jobs and opportunities.

If my bill had passed, the West End would have kept $200 million next year. Eastern Kentucky would have kept over $500 million.

Government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers, like politicians have done with the overregulation of the coal industry. My plan gets government out of the way, and lets consumers in the community decide who succeeds. Reducing the taxes in economically depressed areas is a stimulus that will work because the money is returned to businesses and individuals who have already proven they can succeed.

Kentucky cannot afford to elect someone who is determined to destroy its economy. We also cannot afford a handpicked Obama nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. An anti-coal appointee would be catastrophic for Kentucky’s coal jobs and coal-dependent industries.

Kentucky needs leaders who will stand up to the Obama-Clinton war on coal and fight back against their onslaught of regulatory insanity.

When I promised to fight for Kentucky every day in the Senate and to stand strong for coal and Kentucky jobs, I meant it. And I’m still leading the charge. But it is absolutely critical that Clinton and her loyal foot soldiers are stopped now before they win the war that Obama started.

Sen. Rand Paul represents Kentucky in the United States Senate.

See the article here.

Minority Families Would Bear Brunt of Clean Power Plan

Via The Duluth News-Tribune:

Higher energy bills, fewer jobs, lower incomes and more poverty: That’s what lies in store for already struggling black, Hispanic and other minority families if the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is allowed to go into effect.

Enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and unveiled last year, the plan seeks to impose unrealistically strict new limits on carbon monoxide emissions that would shutter most of our nation’s existing energy grid. In order to meet the plan’s requirements, power companies would have to build expensive new facilities and rely on more expensive energy sources than the all-of-the-above energy mix they use today. Ultimately, those costs would be passed onto consumers in the form of higher electricity bills and higher consumer prices.

Minnesota needs to keep its current all-of-the-above regional energy policy that uses a healthy balance of fossil fuels, including coal, and renewable-energy sources. That’s a sound strategy that protects our economy and provides affordable, reliable electricity for our homes and businesses.

Coal is a vital part of the equation because it provides low-cost, reliable power and thousands of jobs, and its production generates a tremendous amount of economic activity in the region. With coal as the source of 46 percent of the electricity used in Minnesota, Minnesotans’ current electricity rates are lower than the national average. However, without coal as part of the energy mix, those rates would increase, adversely affecting families, communities and manufacturing sectors.

Those consequences would affect black and minority families more than any other demographic. A study commissioned by my National Black Chamber of Commerce estimated the new regulations would increase black and Hispanic poverty rates by 23 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Generally, minorities have lower-paying jobs that are the first to be affected when business costs rise, such as higher electricity bills. In fact, the study showed that blacks, Hispanics and other minorities would lose more than 11 million jobs in urban communities nationwide if the Clean Power Act is implemented.

The EPA seems to have no concept of what it takes to support a family, run a business or save for retirement. The burdensome federal regulations that come with this latest power grab would impose untold economic hardship on millions of working families, especially the nearly 1 million blacks and Hispanics in Minnesota. Wealthy people can afford to put solar panels on their roofs or spend extra money on monthly electric bills so they feel better about the way their electricity is produced. The poor don’t have that luxury.

Nearly half the states in the nation are pushing back against the new EPA rules. Last fall, a coalition of 27 states filed suit to challenge the Clean Power Plan. They accused the EPA of going far beyond the authority Congress granted it by ordering a significant transformation of states’ electricity generation — specifically, forcing states to move away from fossil fuels like coal and toward lower-carbon power sources like wind and solar. They were successful in February when the Supreme Court ordered a stay, which immediately stopped the plan’s implementation, while it works its way through the courts.

There are two ways you can help fight this problem at the state level. Ask Gov. Mark Dayton to issue an executive order prohibiting Minnesota environmental agencies from submitting plans to the EPA. Then ask your state senator and representative to pass legislation to the same effect. Tell them you want the people of Minnesota — not the EPA — to decide how their electricity will be generated. (If you have questions about how to do this, call the National Black Chamber of Commerce at 202-466-6888.)

When it’s winter in Minnesota, it’s cold. When it’s summer, it’s hot. Affordable electricity is a necessity. However, with its move to enforce the Clean Power Plan, Washington is forcing black and minority families into a position where they may soon find it impossible to heat or cool their homes, feed their families or provide the other essentials of daily living. That’s not right, and that’s why Minnesota needs an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes coal.

See the article here.