Monthly Archives: June 2016

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Letter: Obamas’s War on the Electric Grid

Via The Sun Journal:

In 2008 President Obama stated, “If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.” And under the increased onerous regulation imposed on them by the EPA, existing coal fired power plants are shutting down. The effect has also rippled through the coal mining industries in West Virginia and Pennsylvania with thousands of coal miners being laid off and mines shuttered. Coal used to supply 39 percent of the electrical demand for the U.S. By 2025, it is predicted that coal will supply only 25 percent . Our power grid is already severely taxed (no spinning reserve) given the age of the equipment (nuclear plants are already beyond their life cycle) and green energy cannot pick up the difference. The result will be rolling blackouts or worse. Those “smart meters” (there are over 43 million of them in the U.S.) can and will limit your electrical usage. Remember the carbon footprint that Al Gore so passionately talked about (but personally ignored) during his Climate Change initiative? These meters will monitor your usage and a carbon tax will be imposed on your usage as part of this initiative.

See the article here.

NMA Condemns Administration’s False Assumptions Behind Coal Royalty Change

Washington, D.C. – While claiming action in the name of the American taxpayer, this latest assault on the coal industry is nothing more than another covert operation in the administration’s “keep it in the ground” campaign. The casualties will be an industry that has worked diligently to provide Americans with low cost, reliable energy, and the low-income families who rely on that energy.

Royalty rates are already above market. Current royalties, bonus bids and fees amount to an effective 40 percent tax rate on federal coal, undermining the specious claim that somehow taxpayers are being cheated. And all this at a time when the industry is being arbitrarily punished by this administration for providing low-cost energy while at the same time hemorrhaging high-wage jobs – more than 67,400 since 2011–in some of the nation’s most economically depressed areas.

Freezing all pending and future coal leases, altering the valuation of royalties and raising royalty rates on federal coal leases will discourage production from federal lands that account for a significant share of total electricity generation, scare away investment, lead to further job losses, increase the price of energy on middle and low-income families and eliminate billions of dollars in state and federal revenue.

This valuation policy is election-year politics that does a disservice to American consumers and taxpayers and to the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose livelihoods rely on coal production.

See the release here.

Street: Clean Power Plan Hurts Virginia

Via The Roanoke Times:

It’s not every day that the U.S. Supreme Court protects states from complying with a costly federal regulation. Rarer still is a state that refuses to take advantage of this ruling. In February, the high court took the unusual step of halting President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” , believing that states should not be compelled to pay the exorbitant costs it would impose until a federal court determines its legality.

The Supreme Court’s decision can only be read as reflecting a high level of dissatisfaction with the legal basis for the president’s plan. Essentially, the CPP would use the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to mandate a large-scale transformation of America’s energy grid. It would be one of the most far-reaching regulations ever imposed by EPA, directing states to reduce power sector carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent nationwide by 2030.

The costs of such a plan are indeed immense, and would necessitate a scramble on the part of individual states, especially to meet planned, interim targets set for 2022. Individual states would need to rapidly undertake the construction of new grid infrastructure, including the many new transmission lines and related power projects needed to generate and carry electricity from planned wind and solar assemblies.

For all the financial investment the CPP would dictate, the wind and solar power it envisions have yet to prove reliable for round-the-clock electricity. Such “renewable” sources of energy are intermittent — the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. As Europe has already learned from its green experiments, wind and solar require back-up power generation from coal and gas plants. So, part of the cost of the CPP for each state would be new gas-fired and coal-fired stations to buttress projected wind and solar plants, costs that utility companies will pass on to consumers. Much of this cost will simply be to replace the 40 percent of America’s current coal fleet to be closed by the CPP.

Many states were thrilled to receive a stay from the high court. In fact, 27 states had already sued EPA to halt the CPP. But Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has affirmed his willingness to continue implementing the plan despite the stay, even though Virginia currently relies on affordable coal for 28 percent of its power generation.

Not only is the plan now unnecessary and costly to implement, but its effectiveness is questionable. For all the expense of transforming the state’s power grid, the CPP would achieve only a theoretical 0.02 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100.

Such massive cost hikes for such limited gain, drove the U.S. Senate to adopt a resolution opposing the CPP. Unfortunately, both of Virginia’s senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, chose to vote against the resolution.

Kaine and Warner may have forgotten that Virginia is a significant coal producer, the industry and its employees are currently under great stress from poor market conditions and a host of federal regulations. This makes the senators’ decision all the more puzzling. Since Virginia is currently under no legal obligation to implement the CPP, why contribute to the misery in the Commonwealth’s coalfields? The stay by the Supreme Court means that all compliance deadlines are now suspended, possibly for years until pending litigation is resolved.

Virginia should put its pencil down and stop implementing a plan that will add costs to its consumers, contribute to the destruction of its coal industry and destroy the good jobs the industry supports. A far better course for Virginians would be to follow the example of states that are rejecting the CPP as an unnecessary and costly burden on their citizens with little practical or environmental benefit.

See the article here.

Editorial: Consumers Should Be Skeptical of EPA’s Pitch for ‘Clean Power’

Via The Lima News:

Almost daily come reports that this could be the hottest year on record.

All the more reason for President Barack Obama to beat the drum for climate change mitigation strategies. Prime among them is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, announced last year as the heat of August enveloped the nation.

The EPA and Obama pushed the Clean Power Plan as a carbon dioxide emission reduction strategy whose financial benefits will far outweigh its compliance costs. The plan calls for reducing emissions to well below 2005 levels by 2030. To get there would require sea changes in electricity generation that could put the cost of power out of reach for lower-income Americans.

Since we still have the right of free speech when it comes to skepticism over climate change strategies, their effects and their costs, we offer a thoughtful analysis of the Clean Power Plan and what it wouldn’t do — which is actually lower global temperatures by a significant amount.

In “Missing Benefits, Hidden Costs: The Cloudy Numbers in the EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan,” economist Jonathan A. Lesser argues that the public has been sold a bill of goods. Sound familiar? It should: The administration is adept at selling programs with false advertising.

Lesser’s analysis, published by the Manhattan Institute, says EPA’s cost-benefit claims “significantly overestimated” the level of emission reductions and air pollution as well as “significantly underestimated” the specific costs of mitigation strategies.

Still, it doesn’t take much of a heat wave (or widespread flooding or any other weather phenomenon linked to climate change) to get the public on the EPA’s side. Emotion is a powerful way to move the needle.

But this is too important to let the heart overrule the head. Climate change skeptics have often pointed to the over-reliance on computer models in predicting global temperature trends. The Clean Power Plan’s proponents play the same shell game. Lesser says the fundamental question is whether the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis proves that the Clean Power Plan’s benefits will exceed its costs.

“To this question,” he writes, “the answer is clearly no.” Why? The EPA uses “multiple layers of unrealistic, arbitrary and inconsistent assumptions.” No surprise there. It’s a hallmark of “settled science.”

What consumers should be skeptical about is the effect the EPA says the plan will have on their pocketbooks.

“In effect, the CPP will require U.S. consumers, businesses and taxpayers to incur billions of dollars in higher costs each year for their electricity … in exchange for [carbon dioxide] reductions that will have no measurable impacts on world temperatures and climate.”

No measurable effect. Isn’t that the point of all this?

Having no “settled science” facts to back up his support of the Clean Power Plan, Obama appeals to the heart in fretting over Glacier National Park having no glaciers and Joshua Tree National Park having no Joshua trees. For Americans who will never visit a national park, Obama invoked the ultimate icon of America’s promise. Climate change, he said, could destroy the Statue of Liberty.

We’d all better let the EPA do what it wants, then.

And we would, if the EPA wasn’t carrying the torch of a political agenda rather than a solid science-based blueprint.

See the article here.

Guest Opinion: Daines Right to Fight Interior for Montana Coal

Via The Billings Gazette: 

The Department of Interior has placed a sweeping moratorium on new federal coal leases in the United States. The stated objective of the moratorium is to pause the leasing in order to conduct a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement of this program.

But there are strong suggestions that the true aim of Interior’s move is to simply place a permanent stop to all federal coal production. Even environmental groups, Interior’s usual allies, agree that this is more than a temporary pause as they laud the decision as a means to kill coal jobs.

Interior recently completed a series of public listening sessions to collect comments on their PEIS process. They held sessions in a number of coal-producing Western states, but they conspicuously avoided Montana, arguably the state most impacted by their decision. Oh, but they did find time to hold a hearing in Seattle — though Washington produces no federal coal and is not impacted by the proposal.

Interior’s snub prompted Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., to hold his own listening session for Montanans, the comments from which will be put on the record with Interior. Hundreds of people turned out for Daines’ hearing on June 21 in Billings, with opposition to Interior’s decision outweighing the supporters by about four to one.

Elimination of federal coal leasing in Montana is a really big deal. Montana holds the largest coal reserves in the country, but more than half of that coal is owned by the federal government.

That means there are thousands of jobs in Montana directly dependent on federal coal. Interior’s decision to stop coal leasing will eventually destroy all those jobs — at the mines, on the railroads, and in generating facilities.

This is going to be an enormous economic hit to the state of Montana. And though it’s centered in southeastern Montana in places like Colstrip, it’ll have a ripple effect that touches every community in the state.

Montana’s budget depends a great deal on coal production. Federal coal is especially valuable because half of the royalty revenues collected by Interior are returned to the state, amounting to about $50 million per biennium for the state general fund.

That revenue is in addition to all the other taxes paid by coal companies on federal production — taxes on property, business equipment, payroll, and income. Simply put, our state budget is very dependent on coal production —especially production of federal coal — and undermining that industry will make it more difficult to fund education, law enforcement, infrastructure, and other core functions of government.

Production of tribally-owned coal is also put in jeopardy by Interior’s decision. Already, the Crow have laid off hundreds of workers due to the political attacks that have undermined the industry over the last two years.

Interior has claimed that the leasing moratorium is necessary so they can determine if coal companies are paying their “fair share” for the federal coal they produce. That excuse rings hollow. Recent data indicate that coal producers pay five times as much in federal royalty payments as they make in profit from mining that coal.

The real objective of Interior’s leasing moratorium is fairly obvious: put a stop to federal coal mining. When taken together with the plethora of other federal regulations aimed at killing coal, the picture becomes clear. The biggest threat to Montana coal is not soft markets — it’s entirely political.

We need our political leaders to fight back. Daines deserves a big thank you from all Montanans for protecting their interests in this matter. It’s a fight we can’t afford to lose.

See the article here.

Ending Federal Coal Would Hurt Main Street America

Via The Daily Sentinel:

Much has been written of late to bury America’s coal industry. The overriding presumption is that coal is no longer needed, soon to be replaced by breakthroughs in renewable power. And although coal still provides 35 percent of total U.S. power generation, President Obama is now pushing headlong with a fistful of policies to simply drive coal off our electric grid and out of business.

There’s a major conflict at work here, though. In attempting to “keep coal in the ground,” the president wouldn’t just be harming the coal and fossil fuel industries. He’d also be hurting the very people whom he has always publicly committed to helping: Main Street America.

This isn’t simply about the tens of thousands of coal workers whose livelihoods are at stake, or even the additional workers in related sectors, like freight, rail, and steel, whose jobs would be impacted. No, what’s really at issue here is whether America will continue to enjoy affordable, reliable power.

That issue will be discussed in Grand Junction on June 23, when the U.S. Department of the Interior holds a hearing on President Obama’s three-year moratorium on the leasing of coal from federal lands. This moratorium would have implications far beyond Western coal fields.

Here’s why. Federal coal anchors a stable, reliable mix of electricity sources nationwide. Coal mined on federal lands accounts for 42 percent of total U.S. coal production, the source of more electricity than any other fuel. Simply put, a halt to federal coal would pose very real consequences for affordable power generation in America. As IHS Energy has reported, America’s current base load power generation, which has long been secured by plentiful coal, saves ratepayers roughly $93 billion in annual electric bills.

Federal coal leases have also generated more than $12.6 billion in royalties, rents, and bonus payments over the past decade. So, not only would a moratorium eventually force families to pay more for electricity, but U.S. taxpayers would lose billions of dollars in revenues, and states with federal coal leases would lose much-needed income as well as high-wage jobs.

There are consequences for using higher-cost energy, and the biggest losers are always the low-income households that pay a greater share of their income for basic utilities. But costlier power also means higher prices throughout the economy — for retail goods, which hurts consumers, and for America’s domestic manufacturers, whose one advantage in recent years against subsidized overseas competition has been low-cost power.

Despite these impacts, the president came to office vowing to address climate change by making fossil fuels more expensive and by forcing much of America’s fleet of coal plants into retirement. But making coal costlier will make electricity costlier, with little impact on global climate—a stubborn fact EPA does not deny. Even if the United States commits to costly reductions in CO2, emerging nations like China and India are on course to vastly expand the world’s coal fleet, rendering any leasing moratorium—like other Obama policies—a costly and largely symbolic gesture.

Consistent with its plan to make coal more expensive for consumers, the Obama administration has floated the idea of increasing the royalty rate for leased coal. Anti-coal activists claim the current rates are too low, but the 12.5 percent royalty rate on federal coal, plus bonus bids and other fees, provide taxpayers with 39 cents of every dollar in federal coal sales. The royalty alone runs approximately 40 percent higher than rates paid for coal on private land in the Midwest and Appalachia.

Overall, the moratorium is about affordable power, an issue whose importance will only grow as power costs increase. The federal government must recognize that keeping coal in the ground keeps affordable electricity from consumers, revenue from taxpayers, and good jobs from American workers.

We cannot bolster the middle class by raising the cost of energy. Nor can we create high-wage jobs and restore U.S. manufacturing while destroying the very industries that support them.

See the article here.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Missing Benefits, Hidden Costs

Via The West Virginia MetroNews:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s sweeping Clean Power Plan, which is supposed to save the planet by putting the coal industry out of business, is currently on hold.  The U.S. Supreme Court made the unusual move earlier this year of issuing a “stay” on implementation while West Virginia and two dozen other states have a chance to challenge the rule in federal court.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and his fellow attorneys general will try to show that the EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to implement rules forcing states to reduce CO2 emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, a goal that can only be met with less coal and lots more reliable wind and solar power.

There’s also the issue, however, of whether the benefits of such a dramatic reduction are worth the cost. A new paper by economist Dr. Jonathan Lesser, president of Continental Economics, Inc., suggests the federal agency’s numbers are skewed.

Lesser, in the study conducted for the free market think tank Manhattan Institute, concludes the “EPA’s estimates of billions of dollars in annual benefits from (a reduction of) CO2 emissions are unsupportable, not because of the arbitrariness of SCC (social cost of carbon) values, but because CPP (Clean Power Plan) will have no physically measurable impact on world climate.”

Lesser says that using the EPA’s own models, the Clean Power Plan would reduce global temperatures by less than 0.01 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, a statistically insignificant change that the EPA bills as integral to stopping global warming and protecting the health and well-being of the population.

Where the impact of the regulation will be felt, however, is in the pocketbooks of rate payers. “The CPP will require U.S. consumers, businesses, and taxpayers to incur billions of dollars in higher costs for their electricity (along with the ripple effects that higher electricity prices have on other goods and services),” Lesser writes.

The Obama administration maintains that the United States must set an example on carbon reduction that the rest of the world will follow. Lesser says it’s unknown whether this approach will work, “but the EPA never considers the economic implications if its view is wrong and if implementation of the CPP does not lead to other nations imposing their own CO2 reduction policies.” In fact, Lesser points out that other nations will benefit by not following the U.S. lead and securing an economic advantage.

Lesser maintains the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis relies “on multiple layers of unrealistic, arbitrary, and inconsistent assumptions.” For many, however, the EPA’s word is taken as gospel, especially by the anti-carbon crowd that finally has a sympathetic ear in the White House and an emotional hook upon which to hang its argument for getting fossil fuels out of the energy mix.

Instead of throwing up our hands and accepting the end of coal and bans on hydraulic fracking, we should be asking more questions about the EPA’s dubious climate control plan.

See the article here.

Lawmaker Forces EPA Chief To Watch Video Of Unemployed Coal Miners

Via The Daily Caller: 

Rep. Gary Palmer took time in a congressional hearing to respond to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy’s claim there is no evidence EPA regulations are killing jobs.

The Alabama Republican showed McCarthy, and everyone else at the hearing, a video featuring coal miners who had lost their jobs, as the industry buckles under the weight of federal regulations and poor economics.

“Administrator McCarthy, if you don’t remember anything else out of this hearing today, I want you to remember the faces and the voices of the people who’ve had their lives absolutely destroyed by the EPA’s policies,” Palmer said after showing McCarthy the video.

Palmer was reacting to comments McCarthy made in April when talking about agency regulations and how they impact the economy. McCarthy said she couldn’t find “one single bit of evidence that we have destroyed an industry or significantly impacted jobs other than in a positive way.”

Apparently, thousands of out-of-work coal miners across the country would beg to differ, according to Palmer, and just a few of them were featured in the video he made Obama’s top environmental regulator watch.

“You know it’s really easy to sit here and have this discussion about these regulations and try to deny they have an impact on people, but, you know, you are having an impact on people and unnecessarily so,” Palmer said.

“You’ve destroyed thousands of jobs,” he added, “and I don’t look at them as collateral damage. Here’s a guy who, one of those families who sat their and he cried through the interview.

“You got another guy whose wife’s diagnosed with cancer right after he lost his job. You got two daughters having to drop out of college,” he said, referring to miners depicted in the video.

Indeed, nearly 13,000 coal miners have lost their jobs in the last year as the coal industry continues to contract. Coal companies have blamed, to varying degrees, EPA regulations for making it basically illegal to build new coal plants and too costly to keep older plants open.

Joblessness in coal country has gotten so bad, coal miners unions, which are traditional democratic allies, have thrown their weight behind Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump has promised to repeal EPA regulations blamed for castrating the industry, while Democrat Hillary Clinton has promised to increase environmental regulation and provide mining towns with welfare.

“We’re going to get those miners back to work,” Trump said at a recent campaign rally. “The miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which was so great to me last week, and Ohio and all over, they’re going to start to work again. Believe me. You’re going to be proud again to be miners.”

See the article here.

Montana Residents Address Coal Concerns for National Record

Via KPAX 8:

The value of coal to the state of Montana once again front and center Tuesday as residents raise concerns on both sides of the issue.

Back in January, the Obama administration ordered a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.

But when it came to hearing from Montanans on the proposed moratorium, the Department of Interior bypassed the Big Sky state. That’s when Montana Sen. Steve Daines decided to hold his own forum in Billings.

The conversation on coal took another turn Tuesday, one that will be officially entered in the records by the United States government.

“Our passion is way beyond politics. It’s more about the economy and jobs,” said Rep. Duane Ankney of Colstrip.

Coal concerns came from Montana leaders and 57 others in the audience which Sen. Daines promised the Department of Interior will see and read the comments for its scoping process.

“Coal touches everyone,” one man said.

Another brought a sign stating coal helps keep the light on.  “I like this little sign, simple but pretty darn true,” he said.

Testimony also pleaded Daines to gather a simple majority and “defund the EPA and get rid of the attack dogs, that’s what we need.”

“Coal is directly responsible for over 7,000 jobs in Montana alone,” said Colstrip United Co-Founder Ashley Dennehy.

“It is estimated that approximately 3.5 jobs are created for every coal job. That’s a lot of Montanans working and that’s a lot of Montanans that are working.”

But government officials couldn’t dodge criticism for their involvement and sometimes lack thereof.

Some Montana leaders did not attend the meeting; however Daines video called in for 20 minutes before leaving for another energy meeting.

“I really have a problem with our powers that be that not a g** damn one of them could be here,” said a coal proponent. “I think it’s pretty darn important.”

Opponents also stepped up to the microphone, dawning “No Coal Loophole” stickers.

“We’ve got enough to mine and let it go around. And we ought to do that,” said Billings attorney Tom Towe. “It’s for our benefit, I think we should. But we can’t ignore climate change.”

While Washington is nearly 2,000 miles from the Treasure State, DC will have an earful of Montanans voices.

“Our federal government needs to look at each state individually, because we are individual states, not all as one,” said another proponent of coal.

It should be noted that January’s decision does not affect coal leases that are currently in place.

See the article here.

White House Economists Commit Political Malpractice to Keep Coal in Ground

Washington, D.C. ̶ Today’s report from the White House Council of Economic Advisors is the latest assault from the “Keep It in the Ground” movement. This collaboration between the Obama administration and extreme environmental interests again demonstrates the White House working overtime to advance more job crushing and market distorting policies.

Coal is the largest source of electricity generation in the U.S., and coal mined from the federal coal lease program last year accounted for more than 44 percent of that total. To raise costs on the U.S. economy by deliberately creating a less diverse, less affordable energy supply constitutes political malpractice.

There is no legitimate rationale for freezing coal leases and raising royalty rates on federal coal leases that are already valued above market. Discouraging production from federal lands and from further investment in this valuable energy resource will put at risk Americans’ most reliable, abundant and affordable source of energy.

The loss of coal-generated revenue is already prompting some states to cut spending for schools, healthcare and infrastructure, or raise taxes. Keeping coal in the ground will be especially painful for low-income and fixed-income families struggling to pay their energy bills. The impact on working Americans already facing a bleak job market will be severe, adding to the more than 67,000 coal mining jobs lost just since 2011.

Americans should have access to affordable energy, powered by a diverse mix of coal, natural gas, nuclear power, oil and renewable sources. The loss of this advantage will be an enduring and regrettable legacy of this administration and its enablers.

See the release here.

Washington Tells Us Our Electric Bills Will Rise

Via Pagosa Daily Post:

You have to admire the Obama Administration’s optimism. Even though the Supreme Court issued a stay on the president’s “Clean Power Plan” (CPP) earlier this year, the EPA insists that states should keep moving forward with efforts to radically alter their power sector. It’s a bold move, since the High Court has already determined that states shouldn’t be compelled to incur such hefty costs before the case is fully litigated.

At the time of the High Court’s ruling, 27 states had formally opposed the CPP. That number has now risen to 29, as states grow increasingly concerned with both the federal overreach and massive costs involved.

Although the president likes to tout the CPP’s projected energy efficiencies, he makes little comment about its economic ramifications. But if there were any doubt as to the plan’s hefty price tag, federal number crunchers at the Energy Information Administration (EIA) have released an analysis of the CPP’s impact.

For starters, the EIA says the plan will mean “significantly higher” prices for residential and commercial electricity. They attribute this to “higher transmission and distribution costs” coming at a time when electricity consumption will also grow slightly (in 2015-2040), compared to 2000-2015.

Interestingly, the EIA projects that these higher electricity prices will actually reduce demand 2% by 2030. Why? Because “compliance actions and higher prices” will force cash-strapped consumers to adopt their own austerity measures.

A key part of the CPP is the dismantling of coal-fired power in the U.S. As the EIA sees it, “Coal’s share of total electricity generation, which was 50% in 2005 and 33% in 2015, falls to 21% in 2030 and to 18% in 2040.” Coal power plants currently anchor America’s base-load electricity generation, so it’s understandable that their elimination would drive up prices. But is such a move justified?

The EIA projects that “renewable energy” (solar and wind) will play a “significant role in meeting electricity demand growth throughout most of the country.” It’s a bold gamble, since the EIA believes that renewables will account for 27% of total U.S. generation by 2040. But EIA data shows wind and solar power supplying only 5.6% of U.S. electricity generation in 2015. So, the jump to 27% will require significant investments.

What’s instructive is EIA data on Germany, where residential retail electric prices have risen, and are expected to keep rising, due to higher taxes and fees for renewable power. Overall, Germany’s foray into green energy has driven the average residential electricity price to 35 cents/kWh, almost three times the U.S. average of 13 cents/kWh. Along with Denmark, Germany has some of the highest residential electricity prices in Europe.

Under the Clean Power Plan, the EIA envisions the most significant changes in power generation occurring in regions where coal-fired power has played a key role, including the industrial Midwest. In the Northern Plains, coal power displaced by the CPP is expected to be replaced with increased renewables generation.

The net “benefit” of the CPP is that it will lower total power sector carbon dioxide emissions 20% by 2030. However, the EIA doesn’t mention the simultaneous increase in CO2 emissions from new coal plants in China, India, and other emerging Asian nations.

Overall, the CPP will impose massive expenses on businesses and consumers for CO2 reductions that will be instantly negated by far larger CO2 emissions growth overseas. Perhaps this explains why the Obama Administration’s former Department of Energy fossil fuel director, Charles McConnell, recently told a Congressional panel that the EPA’s plan is “ideological mumbo jumbo” that will not significantly affect global CO2 emissions. As McConnell, who now serves as executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative, subsequently explained, he is “not against climate regulations … but I am against stupid regulations.”

The Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan remains in effect, and governors currently have no legal obligation to comply. But thanks to the findings of the Energy Information Administration, they now have more reasons not to follow through.

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

See the article here.

Lawmakers Clash Ahead of Seattle Listening Session

Via E&E Publishing: 

A Seattle listening session today on federal coal policy is setting the stage for a showdown between two senators who have staked out opposing views on the issue.
In the midst of the Bureau of Land Management’s planned six-hour listening session to solicit feedback on its leasing moratorium and potential reforms, Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines will host his own public meeting in Billings as a way to make sure his pro-coal constituents have a say.

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will send her staff to the Seattle session to read a letter commending Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on coal leasing reform efforts.
Signed by 14 Democrats, it asks BLM to consider climate change and the nation’s long-term energy needs as it reviews the moratorium.

“The time has come to accelerate America’s shift away from the dirty, carbon-based fuels of the past to the cleaner, more efficient fuels of the future,” Cantwell wrote yesterday in a Seattle Times op-ed.

“The federal government should continue investing in clean energy and stop subsidizing private companies to take coal from public lands,” she wrote.
To set the tone prior to Daines’ meeting, the group Count on Coal Montana will be hosting a pro-coal rally to voice opposition to the moratorium. Daines will address the group at noon via a webcast from Capitol Hill.

Daines claims BLM has snubbed his state by holding a meeting on the scope of its review in Seattle “where there is little to zero coal.”

As of the end of 2013, Montana held more than one-fourth of the nation’s estimated recoverable coal reserves, he estimated.

“Coal plays a vital role in Montana’s economy and provides a reliable source of affordable energy for hardworking Montana families,” Daines said. “I look forward to hearing the concerns of Montanans who will be most impacted by the Obama administration’s war on energy and the good-paying jobs it supports.”
Last month, Daines introduced legislation to put a Jan. 15, 2019, deadline on the Obama administration’s federal coal leasing moratorium and review (E&E Daily, May 18).

Former Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) also criticized BLM’s venue in a Seattle Times opinion column. Hastings, past chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, accused the Obama administration of “hypocrisy” for holding a public hearing on coal in a community “far removed” from the source.

“It’s certainly easy to sit back and criticize the production of fossil fuels (such as coal) when you are not the least bit impacted by policies that limit the production of these energy sources. But the fact is, communities that rely on the benefits of this production are hugely impacted,” Hastings said.
The administration has defended the meeting in Seattle by pointing to an effort by companies to increase coal export capacity in the Pacific Northwest. BLM also scheduled sessions in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, among other locations.

See the article here.

Capito Says EPA ‘Skirting the Law’ with Continued Implementation of Stayed Clean Power Plan

Via The West Virginia Record:

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s release of its proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program, stating they are “skirting the law.”

The CEIP is designed to assist with implementation of the Clean Power Plan, which has been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 “EPA’s blatant disregard for the rule of law and the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the harmful Clean Power Plan is its latest assault against energy-producing states like West Virginia,” Capito said. “By choosing to advance the president’s climate agenda despite its pending legal status, EPA is not only skirting the law, it is wasting significant taxpayer dollars while putting American jobs at risk.”

At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing last week, Capito raised the issue of EPA’s continued and unlawful implementation of the Clean Power Plan.

See the article here.

A Hearing Held in Seattle on our Federal Coal Policy is Absurd

Via The Seattle Times:

As Central Washington’s representative in Congress for 20 years, and as the former chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over energy policy on federal lands, I have always believed in and supported an all-of-the-above energy plan for the United States. This includes hydroelectric power — which we are abundantly blessed with in the Northwest — as well as nuclear, wind, solar, coal, oil, natural gas and others.

Not every source of power generation is available for every region of our country. However, when you consider the population growth that our nation has experienced over the last several decades and the technological advances that have resulted in significantly more power usage within those growing populations, you begin to appreciate one fact: We cannot ignore baseload energy generation that is affordable and readily available when we flip the light switch, especially when the wind is not blowing or when the sun is not shining. Federal and state policies that promote energy development cannot afford to ignore this reality

As an example, our region is blessed with clean hydroelectric power. Yet state law fails to consider this hydroelectric power as a form of renewable energy under the Clean Energy Initiative (Initiative 937) that was adopted in 2006. Not recognizing water running downhill as a renewable energy source is not policy — it is politics. Not surprisingly, many of the folks who argue against hydroelectric power as renewable energy are champions of the “keep it in the ground” movement that opposes fossil-fuel energy and every other source that isn’t wind or solar.

Coal: leave it in the ground or burn it?
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is taking public comment on the federal government’s coal program from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 21 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel at 1400 6th Ave.

 

It’s certainly easy to sit back and criticize the production of fossil fuels (such as coal) when you are not the least bit impacted by policies that limit the production of these energy sources. But the fact is, communities that rely on the benefits of this production are hugely impacted. The job losses in an industry that constantly experiences duplicative and excessive regulations result in a loss of tax revenue to these communities for necessary public services, such as schools, public safety, transportation and parks.

Thus, there is hypocrisy in the U.S. Department of the Interior holding a public hearing on the federal coal-leasing program on June 21 in downtown Seattle — a community far removed from the source of this energy production. Of course we need to seek views from all sides on such an important issue. But having this hearing so far from America’s coalfields is absurd.

An honest discussion of American energy policy would acknowledge that fossil fuels are essential to our economy, and that discussion would advocate that burning these fuels as efficiently as possible, as other countries are doing, would be an intricate part of that policy. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to have an honest discussion, let alone a responsible energy policy, without recognition of the fact that more than two-thirds of U.S. electricity generation comes from fossil fuels.

As a father and grandfather, I want to leave a legacy that respects the environment but doesn’t sacrifice all else for it. The air we breathe and the water we drink is significantly cleaner than it was 30 years ago, and it continues to improve considerably. We should be proud of that and build on it.

However, stacking the deck against a federal program that has generated more than $12 billion to state and federal treasuries over the past decade by having a public hearing in Seattle is nothing short of politics — bad politics.

Doc Hastings represented Washington’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2015.

See the article here.

Dan Peterson: The Growing Cost of Keeping the Lights On

Via Florida Politics:

Much like vacations, road trips, and barbecues, summertime brings with it a seasonal spike in residential energy consumption. The Sunshine State is certainly no exception. We use plenty of power to cool our homes and charge the electronics in the hands of our children. No doubt, this very hot, energy-intensive season is a good time to consider how the rising costs of energy impact a family’s budget and how decisions by unelected bureaucrats in Washington exacerbate the financial burden of all Floridians.

A recent example of such a decision is the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP is a mandate from the Obama administration for electricity producing power plants to reduce CO2 emission by 30 percent by 2030. It is nothing more than the regulatory workaround to the Cap and Trade scheme, which failed to gain traction in Congress in 2010. In effect, it is a takeover of our nation’s electrical power grid via regulation, something that has always been regulated by the states.

Proposed in June 2014 and entered into the Federal Register Oct. 23, 2015, the plan included four strategies to reduce such emissions: lower the heat rates of emissions from existing coal-fired power plants by 6 percent; replace coal-fired plants with ones using natural gas; replace coal-fired plants with ones using alternative/renewable energy sources; and reduce electricity consumers can use through “energy efficiency measures” by 1.5 percent.

Implementation of the CPP would be devastating for consumers and our nation. The Environmental Protection Agency’s plans will force Florida and 46 other states to systematically limit the power plants that we rely on for our power and shift to other energy sources; ones that as yet remain as untested as they are unreliable. While the EPA’s estimates have repeatedly been shown to underestimate the cost of the Plan and exaggerate the benefits, anindependent study has found that Florida’s electricity prices face an 11 percent average annual electricity price increase with a peak year electricity price increase of 15 percent.

In an annual update to the “Energy Cost Impacts on American Families,” study released earlier this month, the numbers indicate that indeed, Americans spend a significant amount of their incomes on energy. Data compiled from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that 40 percent of American families (51 million households) take home an average of $1,643 each month and spend 17 percent of that on energy bills.

The news is even grimmer for the most vulnerable Americans. According to the study, the poorest 25 million families spend a whopping 22 percent, on electricity and gas. The ability for American families to keep their lights on cannot and should not be weighed against cutting back on other essential necessities. However, for many families that stark choice is ever closer to becoming a reality.

This disturbing news clashes with the fact that the United States is blessed with some of the most abundant energy resources in the world. Our country is quickly becoming a major producer of oil and natural gas. Coal, long a staple in the national energy mix, has seen substantial investments totaling more upward of $122 billion by the end of the year to make its use cleaner. Since the 70s, coal has become 92 percent cleaner to use.

And yet, despite the good news, national average electricity prices have continued to creep up, eating more and more out of family budgets. Since 2005, they have climbed by 7 percent, and when adjusted for inflation, 33 percent. Even worse, these cost increases have largely come at a time of economic recovery, when American families could use all the good news they could find.

What drives these prices ever upward? Many factors can be attributed, but some of the blame can be placed on the shoulders of the politicians and bureaucrats in our nation’s Capital. Unelected officials at the EPA (EPA) have been incredibly busy churning out regulations that have cost the economy and individual consumers billions of dollars.

It comes as no small relief that a bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General, including Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, has pushed back against Federal overreach by suing the EPA over the CPP, and have secured an unprecedented stay from the Supreme Court while working for a total overturn.

Lowering the cost of energy should be of utmost concern to policymakers both in Washington and Tallahassee. Reducing the percentage of income that every family uses to pay for energy will enhance the quality of life for millions of Americans and drive the economic growth our nation so acutely needs. While the efforts of Pam Bondi and other Attorneys General is a good first step, regulators must realize that while their schemes might be done with good intentions, there exists a human cost that cannot be ignored, especially when it affects the most vulnerable members of our society.

See the article here.

Washington Tells Us Our Electric Bills Will Rise

Via Breitbart:

You have to admire the Obama Administration’s optimism. Even though the Supreme Court issued a stay on the president’s “Clean Power Plan” (CPP) earlier this year, the EPA insists that states should keep moving forward with efforts to radically alter their power sector.

It’s a bold move, since the High Court has already determined that states shouldn’t be compelled to incur such hefty costs before the case is fully litigated.

At the time of the High Court’s ruling, 27 states had formally opposed the CPP. That number has now risen to 29, as states grow increasingly concerned with both the federal overreach and massive costs involved.

Although the president likes to tout the CPP’s projected energy efficiencies, he makes little comment about its economic ramifications. But if there were any doubt as to the plan’s hefty price tag, federal number crunchers at the Energy Information Administration (EIA) have released an analysis of the CPP’s impact.

For starters, the EIA says the plan will mean “significantly higher” prices for residential and commercial electricity. They attribute this to “higher transmission and distribution costs” coming at a time when electricity consumption will also grow slightly (in 2015-2040), compared to 2000-2015.

Interestingly, the EIA projects that these higher electricity prices will actually reduce demand 2 percent by 2030. Why? Because “compliance actions and higher prices” will force cash-strapped consumers to adopt their own austerity measures.

A key part of the CPP is the dismantling of coal-fired power in the U.S. As the EIA sees it, “Coal’s share of total electricity generation, which was 50 percent in 2005 and 33 percent in 2015, falls to 21 percent in 2030 and to 18 percent in 2040.” Coal power plants currently anchor America’s base-load electricity generation, so it’s understandable that their elimination would drive up prices. But is such a move justified?

The EIA projects that “renewable energy” (solar and wind) will play a “significant role in meeting electricity demand growth throughout most of the country.” It’s a bold gamble, since the EIA believes that renewables will account for 27 percent of total U.S. generation by 2040. But EIA data shows wind and solar power supplying only 5.6 percent of U.S. electricity generation in 2015. So, the jump to 27 percent will require significant investments.

What’s instructive is EIA data on Germany, where residential retail electric prices have risen, and are expected to keep rising, due to higher taxes and fees for renewable power. Overall, Germany’s foray into green energy has driven the average residential electricity price to 35 cents/kWh, almost three times the U.S. average of 13 cents/kWh. Along with Denmark, Germany has some of the highest residential electricity prices in Europe.

Under the Clean Power Plan, the EIA envisions the most significant changes in power generation occurring in regions where coal-fired power has played a key role, including the industrial Midwest. In the Northern Plains, coal power displaced by the CPP is expected to be replaced with increased renewables generation.

The net “benefit” of the CPP is that it will lower total power sector carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent by 2030. However, the EIA doesn’t mention the simultaneous increase in CO2 emissions from new coal plants in China, India, and other emerging Asian nations.

Overall, the CPP will impose massive expenses on businesses and consumers for CO2 reductions that will be instantly negated by far larger CO2 emissions growth overseas. Perhaps this explains why the Obama Administration’s former Department of Energy fossil fuel director, Charles McConnell, recently told a Congressional panel that the EPA’s plan is “ideological mumbo jumbo” that will not significantly affect global CO2 emissions. As McConnell, who now serves as executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative, subsequently explained, he is “not against climate regulations … but I am against stupid regulations.”

The Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan remains in effect, and governors currently have no legal obligation to comply. But thanks to the findings of the Energy Information Administration, they now have more reasons not to follow through.

See the article here.

Quinn: In Defense of the Coal Industry

Via The New York Times:

To the Editor:

The New York Times published two articles intended to raise alarms and vilify the coal industry (“$1 Billion Coal Cleanup, but Who Gets the Bill?,” front page, June 7; and “Will Big Coal Pay to Clean Up Its Messes?,” editorial, June 10). Both are based on the unfounded premise that the coal industry is trying to shirk its environmental responsibilities when it comes to mine reclamation.

Modern mining has a successful track record in effectively fulfilling its reclamation commitments. These efforts continue, notwithstanding the financial challenges posed by regulatory policies intended to cripple the industry — policies supported by The Times.

The federal law requiring reclamation plans and procedures was passed in 1977 to address legacy defaults from earlier decades. Today’s operators that self-bond meet their reclamation obligations. Companies, including Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy, which you cite, have in recent years won awards for outstanding reclamation activities by the federal agency that manages the 1977 law, the Interior Department.

These awards honor performance that exceeds federal standards. In addition to prevailing reclamation practice, the coal industry has contributed more than $9 billion to a federal fund dedicated to restoring lands from the prior era.

HAL QUINN

See the article here.

Lies, Damned Lies, And The EPA’s ‘Clean Power Plan’

Via Investor’s Business Daily:

President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” is on pause, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in March after more than two dozen states filed suit to stop it. A new report shows why the plan should be scrapped entirely, and the EPA sued for fraud.

By its own admission, the EPA says Clean Power Plan is one of the most sweeping regulations ever enacted. It would require electric companies to cut CO2 emissions 32% within 25 years — basically by shuttering coal plants and force feeding “renewable energy.”

In pushing the Clean Power Plan, the EPA claimed it would cost industry $9 billion a year, but produce up to $54 billion in annual health benefits, including “avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.”

Who could complain about that?

Turns out, the benefits of the Clean Power Plan will be closer to $0, while the costs would be far higher than the EPA claims.

That’s the conclusion in an in-depth report by the Manhattan Institute’s Jonathan Lesser.

Put simply, Lesser says the EPA’s benefit calculations are based on faulty assumptions and statistical legerdemain. He notes, for example, that since the Clean Power Plan will have an infinitesimal impact on global CO2 levels, it can’t have a $20 billion impact on health.

The EPA also claims $34 billion in side benefits because the rules will reduce other pollutants. But Lesser notes that the EPA has been double counting this co-benefits, using them to justify other costly rules, and that there’s likely to be zero improvement in health, given how clean the air is already.

EPA regulations to cut mercury emissions, for example, relied almost entirely on these supposed co-benefits to justify the $9.6 billion price tag. The direct health benefits from the reduction in mercury was negligible.

While the EPA wildly exaggerated the health benefits of the Clean Power Plan, it also made assumptions guaranteed to minimize the actual cost of the rule, Lesser found.

This isn’t the first time the EPA has been charged with fudging the numbers and relying on faulty science to justify massively expensive regulation.

The EPA has long claimed, for example, that cutting smog pollution will sharply reduce asthma attacks, as it is doing with the Clean Power Plan.

But the data show the opposite. As smog levels have plunged across the country,asthma levels have climbed.

The EPA also assumes in all its regulations that there is no safe level for any pollutant, a claim that defies science and common sense. At some point, there’s nothing to gain from squeezing another molecule of pollution out of the air.

Even those who take global warming seriously should insist that the EPA come clean about the real costs and dubious benefits of its regulations.

See the article here.

Study: EPA Overstated Benefits And Ignored Costs of Clean Power Plan

Via The Daily Caller:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan overstates its benefits and underestimates its costs, according to a new study published Thursday by the conservative Manhattan Institute.

“My conclusion is that there are few benefits, which have been massively overestimated, and huge costs, which have been massively underestimated,” Dr. Jonathan Lesser, author of the study and president of the economic consulting firm Continental Economics, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “From a cost-benefit perspective, there’s simply no justification for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. ”

The study found the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis significantly overestimated the direct benefits of the plan. The EPA claims the plan will provide annual benefits worth $20 billion and that other various “co-benefits” could be worth an additional $14 to $34 billion. The agency claims the costs will be a mere $9 billion each year. A study by NERA Economic Consulting for an industry group estimated the Clean Power Plan will cost a much more staggering $41 billion annually.

“The EPA’s analysis has got a lot of errors and sloppy modeling,” Lesser continued. “The agency classifies deaths from heart disease or lung issues as premature and caused by pollution with no age cut-off. So if your aging 90 year old grandmother who smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day dies of lunch cancer, that’s a premature death caused by pollution which the Clean Power Plan would have prevented according to the EPA. ”

The EPA has a long history of assuming extremely dubious health benefits from regulations. In 2012, proposed EPA mercury regulations would have cost users $10 billion to protect a speculative computer-modeled population of unborn children whose mothers annually consume more than 225 pounds of local freshwater fish caught from the most polluted 10 percent of U.S. inland waterways. The regulation found eating such fish would create an undetectable loss of 0.00209 IQ points for children born into subsistence-fishing households in America.

“The EPA assumes $20 billion worth of benefits from the social cost of carbon, ” Lesser told TheDCNF. “However, using the agency’s own climate models the plan will have no impact on the rate of global warming. Where are the benefits coming from? I think that its impossible that the EPA didn’t double-count the plan’s co-benefits.”

The study found many of the EPA’s co-benefits come from assuming coal plants will be closed twice. Many of these plants are already slated to close due to other EPA regulations.

The environmental justifications for the Clean Power Plan are also weak. Analysis by the libertarian Cato Institute using models created by the EPA states the plan will only advert 0.019° Celsius of warming by the year 2100, an amount so small it can’t be detected. The EPA actually omitted the amount of warming the Clean Power Plan will prevent from its regulatory impact analysis. The agency admits it assesses the plan’s benefits “qualitatively because we do not have sufficient confidence in available data or methods.”
“On the cost side, EPA underestimates the costs. Their models assume perfect certainty about the future and make a lot of assumptions about improving operating efficiency of green and conventional energy,” Lesser stated. “They just assume that without the Clean Power Plan, nobody who owns a power plant would ever become more efficient. Finally, the agency just assumes you can easily improve green energy. The agency outright assumes that you can double the amount of wind power used without raising costs and even assumes that solar panels will be generating electricity at midnight! This indicates sloppy modeling.”

The Clean Power Plan will eliminate most cheap coal power plants and replace them with much more expensive and unreliable sources like solar and wind. The EPA’s analysis assumes wind and solar power will solve all technical issues by that time period. The agency even assumes solar panels will generate electricity at midnight.

“Another big problem is that the Plan harms the American economy by raising energy prices which increases the costs of goods and services. The more the EPA harms our economy, the less incentive there is for other countries to make a similar sacrifice. The EPA actually assumes that the plan will somehow encourage other countries to cut CO2 emissions when it will reduce their incentive to do so.”

As electricity becomes more expensive, the cost of producing goods and services that use electricity increases, effectively raising the price of almost everything. These higher prices are ultimately paid for by consumers, particularly the poorest Americans. The poor tend to spend a higher proportion of their incomes on electricity, gasoline, food and other basic needs. When the price of electricity increases, the cost of producing goods and services that use electricity increases too. Thus, high electricity prices effectively increase the price of most basic goods.

Raising the price of electricity to modestly effect global warming is estimated to hurt the poor 1.4 to four times more than the rich, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“My conclusion is that there are few benefits, which have been massively overestimated, and huge costs, which have been massively underestimated. This doesn’t mean that there’s no justification for slowing global warming or reducing CO2 emissions, but from a cost benefit perspective, there’s simply no justification for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Neither of the EPA’s justifications are valid,” Lesser said.

The plan has already been legally challenged by 27 state governments and temporarily blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court.

See the article here.

House Lawmakers Clash Over Coal Royalties

Via Environment & Energy Daily:

House lawmakers are split along partisan lines on legislation that would allow state and tribal leaders a greater say in federal land decisions in the wake of the Obama administration’s controversial moratorium on new federal coal leases.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources met yesterday to discuss H.R. 5259, the “Certainty for States and Tribes Act,” introduced last month by Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.).

The bill would re-establish the Royalty Policy Committee, which was originally founded in 1995 to provide land policy recommendations to the Interior Department secretary. Republican lawmakers say the RPC would give a stronger policy voice to state and tribal leaders in large Western states like Montana and Wyoming that have large tracts of federal land.

“When the Department of the Interior makes a decision affecting revenues or royalties from federal lands, the schoolchildren of New York, or Iowa, or Texas are not seriously affected,” said subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.). “But in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana a child’s future is directly impacted by such a decision.”

Education departments in large Western states often rely heavily on coal and mineral royalties to fund programs and pay for school construction, but the Obama administration earlier this year halted federal leases while Interior conducts a comprehensive review of the leasing program (Greenwire, Jan. 15).

Re-establishing the RPC would build “meaningful partnerships” between states, tribes and the federal government to keep fossil fuel and renewable energy funds flowing into schools, said Jillian Balow, Wyoming’s superintendent of public instruction, who testified at the hearing.

Professor Mark Squillace of the University of Colorado Law School, however, said the bill ignores profound problems with federal coal leasing policy.

“In particular, I would highlight a study that was done by an independent outfit suggesting that state and federal taxpayers have lost $28.9 billion because of the failure of the federal government to insist upon fair market value of their leasing,” he said at the hearing. “That’s a lot of money that could be going to things like Ms. Balow was talking about in terms of improving the school systems in states like Wyoming.”

But Republicans stressed that all members should support the transparency the RPC would provide in federal land decisions given their disproportionate effect on Western states.

“It is not about global warming or coal,” Zinke said at the hearing. “It is about a process that allows our communities a say.”

“In Montana these issues are red, white and blue and they’re not red or blue,” he said.

Democrats and Interior officials, however, were skeptical about language in the bill that would give the RPC broad powers to determine federal land policies.

But while subcommittee ranking member Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) said re-establishing the RPC could be “very helpful” in getting taxpayers their fair share of royalty revenues, Interior officials dismissed the idea.

“Re-establishing the RPC is unnecessary,” said Amanda Leiter, deputy assistant secretary of Land and Minerals Management. “The department already has various formal and informal arrangements to receive input from states, tribes, industries, NGOs and other stakeholders on key minerals issues.”

Leiter said Interior had already received input on the review of its coal leasing policy during a public comment period, but Republicans questioned the efficacy of that approach.

“To have an advisory board, which gives those communities that are at dead center a weight that is greater than a comment of ‘I like clean air,’ I think, is appropriate,” Zinke said.

Leiter voiced concern, alongside Democrats, about a section in the bill that would set a three-year time limit on the Interior secretary’s review of federal coal leasing policy, a measure that Republicans say would increase government accountability.

The limit could present challenges in finalizing new federal leasing policy recommendations, she said.

Lawmakers also clashed over the reasons for the coal industry’s recent downturn, reflecting a broader partisan trend as the country enters a period of economic and environmental transition.

Republicans blamed excessive regulation and job-killing federal interference for coal’s struggles, while Democrats pointed to the rise of natural gas and renewables, saying that new policy should aim to help former coal communities, rather than attempt to bring the industry back.

But it was clear yesterday that the debate has wide-reaching impact beyond the pockets of coal executives and taxpayers benefiting from federal leases.

“The average age of coal miners is about 55 years old,” said Mike Johnson, a union officer from Montana “They’re too old to retrain and try to start a new career. They’re too young to retire. It’s a very, very hard situation to have your life turned around like that.”

See the article here.

Zinke Pushes to End Coal Lease Suspension, Empower Communities

State and tribal governments deserve a bigger say in federal coal policies, U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke said Tuesday, while seeking to overturn a temporary federal ban on coal leases.

Montana’s lone Congressman, told the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources that the federal decision suspending coal leasing earlier this year was hurting state and tribal economies.

Leasing was suspended in January by Department of Interior, which contends the public isn’t getting a fair royalty price for its coal. The department estimates there’s a 20-year coal supply available without new leases. It’s expected to take several years to establish a more equitable royalty rate, Interior estimates.

To undo the suspension, Zinke has proposed the “Certainty for States and Tribes Act.” In addition to ending the suspension, the bill directs the Secretary of Interior to re-establish a royalty policy committee from which state, tribal and energy interests consult the department. A state would need to have $10 million in leasing royalties annually to be considered for the committee.

“This administration seems to be waging a war on coal specifically, and other natural resources, fossil fuels, and we’ve seen how hard hit Montana is as a result,” Zinke said.

Zinke cited the loss of research databases at Montana school libraries because of declining coal revenue. In Musselshell County, commissioners are preparing for a $300,000 shortfall because of slumping coal taxes and the local school district is faced with paying for a $9.8 million construction bond as its largest taxpayer falters.

The Crow Tribe has cited lost coal revenue at its southeast Montana mine for a multimillion deficit in the tribal budget. Quarterly payments from the Absaloka Mine, operated by Westmoreland Coal Company, were off $1.2 million in 2015. The tribal government furloughed a quarter of its workers in January as a result.

“For the Crow, there are treaties, the treaties specifically state that the United States will not interfere with their manifest destiny if they choose to mine their coal,” Zinke said. “The problem is, we’re getting in the way of a treaty. Either Indian tribes are sovereign, or they’re not.”

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., questioned the bill’s merits, both for reinstating coal leasing before Interior officials determine a more lucrative royalty rate for public coal, and for seeming to allow states, tribes and coal companies a committee from which to override federal policy.

“This legislation would make the committee effectively able to stop a regulation in its tracks if it estimates there will be negative economic impact,. As far as the Congressional Research Service can tell, this is unprecedented,” Lowenthal said. “It’s very possible this provision could block critical health, safety or environmental regulations.”

 But the undoing of Interior’s suspension of coal leasing was Lowenthal’s biggest concern. He said 1.8 billion tons of coal would again be eligible for lease at royalty rates Interior estimates have cost the public billions of dollars.

Mark Squillace, a professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado Law School, said state and federal losses to under-calculated coal royalties exceed $28 billion. Leasing more coal before adjusting the royalty rate, something the government hasn’t done in 30 years, just compounds the public’s loss, he said.

“We ought to recognize that coal is in decline,” Squillace said. “We need to manage that decline in a responsible way that can help coal-dependent communities transition away from coal.”

The professor’s remarks didn’t sit well with Jillian Ballow, Wyoming’s superintendent of public instruction, had minutes earlier praised Wyoming coal revenue for financing 100 school construction and remodeling projects in her state since 2003. Coal revenues also cover roughly a third of Wyoming’s state budget, she said.

“This bill is really a responsible way for states, tribes and the federal government to engage so that all Americans can benefit.”

Earlier this year, Wyoming braced for a 9 percent hit to its state general fund because of a crashing coal industry. Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, estimated the state would needed to cut $300 million or more over the next two years because of souring coal markets.

Mike Johnson, a union representative from Montana told the subcommittee that federal management of public lands had cost him his job at a Missoula paper mill, apparently because of federal logging contracts, and now threatened his livelihood in Eastern Montana, where Colstrip miners and power plant workers were bracing for an unwelcome transition out of the coal economy. The power plant at the heart of the community is challenged by energy market prices driven down by natural gas, and climate change-cautious customers in the Pacific Northwest who no longer want coal power. Additionally, there are tougher federal pollution standards on the horizon that could shutter the older portions of Colstrip power plant built in the 1970s.

“These people have lived there for generations and generations. They don’t want to be retrained. They don’t want to have to relocate,” Johnson said. “Most of them, the average age of coal miners is about 55 years old, they’re too old to retrain and start a new career. They’re too young to retire. It’s a very very hard situation to have your life turned around like that.”

The subcommittee expects to mark up Zinke’s bill by month’s end.

See the article here.

“Keep it in the Ground” Energy Policies Threaten America’s Prosperity

Washington, D.C. — The National Mining Association (NMA) this week highlighted the mounting evidence that unbalanced energy plans designed to limit America’s energy diversity are threatening the U.S. economy, communities, and access to reliable and affordable energy.

On June 14, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hears testimony from those most impacted by the Administration’s assault on fossil fuels— states, schools, unions and others that depend on coal for vital state revenues and jobs. Both revenue and jobs are at risk given current administration moves to raise royalties and impose a three-year moratorium on federal coal production.

“Keep fossil fuels in the ground policies are an assault on affordable power and a threat to communities across America,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO.

“The Obama administration’s three-year moratorium on the leasing of coal reserves located on federal lands could jeopardize almost half of domestic coal supplies, creating less fuel diversity — with serious consequences for power generation, jobs, communities and American families. We applaud H.R. 5259, which seeks to limit the moratorium and to ensure that those who are impacted by federal land management policies have a voice in decisions over their livelihoods.”

At the same time that H.R. 5259 offers a voice to those directly impacted by unbalanced, “keep it in the ground” policies, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management continues to hold public meetings on the federal coal program thousands of miles away from the communities most impacted by the policies. The next three public hearings are slated for Seattle, Wash. and Grand Junction, Colo. next week, and Pittsburgh, Pa. the following week.

Quinn added, “Fossil fuels generate 67 percent of our nation’s electricity; wind and solar account for only 5.6 percent. That’s why keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and away from American consumers, needlessly threatens American communities, businesses and homes.”

Quinn urged the administration to return to the all-of-the-above energy policy that has served the nation well for generations. “A diverse mix of coal, natural gas, nuclear power, oil and renewable sources, ensures that electricity is reliable and affordable to all,” said Quinn.

See the release here.

Obama Legacy Will Be Power Blackouts

Via Newsmax:

President Obama is burning his so-called bridges to a “green energy” future that will leave America’s families and industries powerlessly impoverished.

Any notions that generously subsidized solar and wind will significantly compensate capacity losses from shuttered coal plants and overregulated oil and natural gas suppliers are scientifically and economically delusional.

And as for any prospects that truly clean non-fossil nuclear or hydropower can make up the slack, forget about that too.

Let’s start with some simple arithmetic. If you have heard some really exciting news that the Obama administration has already doubled the amount of total U.S. energy derived from “renewable alternative” sources (solar, wind and biofuels), that would be true.

Thanks largely to $150 billion in generous federal subsidies, combined total renewables grew from supplying slightly more than 2 percent of our “primary fuel” (including electricity) to a whopping 4 percent today.

Meanwhile over the same period, the total increase of non-subsidized oil and gas also doubled, but added eight times more energy than the total growth of wind, solar and biofuels combined. Oil and gas now supply about 63 percent of all U.S. primary fuel. Coal provides another 18 percent.

Bill Gates, a leading “green energy proponent,” candidly discussed false industry narrative in a November 2015 Atlantic magazine article titled “We Need an Energy Miracle.”

Referring to “self-defeating claims of some clean-energy enthusiasts,” he said, “They have this statement that the cost of solar photovoltaic is the same as hydrocarbons. And that’s one of those misleadingly meaningless statements.

What they mean is that at noon in Arizona, the cost of that kilowatt-hour is the same as a hydrocarbon kilowatt-hour. But it doesn’t come at night, it doesn’t come after the sun hasn’t shone, so the fact that in that one moment you reach parity, so what?”

As Gates pointed out, “The reading public, when they see things like that, they underestimate how hard this [economical energy technology] thing is. So false solutions like divestment or ‘Oh, it’s easy to do’ hurt our ability to fix the problems. Distinguishing a real solution from a false solution is actually very complicated.”

Google learned the same very hard lesson. In 2007 the company initiated an ambitious program known as RE<C (renewable energy less than coal) to invest in promising renewable energy technologies with the goal of generating gigawatt-scale electricity more cheaply than coal plants within years rather than decades.

Included were a wide range of innovative self-assembling wind turbine towers, drilling systems for geothermal energy, and solar thermal power systems, which capture the sun’s energy as heat.

Google shut down RE<C in 2011 after determining that it could not meet its target.

Google’s engineers also concluded that even their most optimistic cost-reduction scenarios for solar power, wind power, energy storage and electric vehicles would have little climate impact. They appropriately noted that today’s renewable sources are limited by suitable geography and intermittent nature.

Wind farms, for example, make economic sense only in certain parts of the nation. Google’s best-case renewable supply models indicated that fossil fuel use would continue to be necessary for electricity generation, transportation, agriculture and construction.

Bill Gates is honest about the dishonesty of alarmist climate claims, pointing out that global heating levels have not matched model predictions — with much uncertainty on both the “good and bad side.” He admits, “By over-claiming, or even trying to ascribe current things more to climate change than to other effects, environmentalists lend weight to the skeptics.

“Like, in the near term, the Pacific oscillation, this El Nino thing, has a much bigger impact on current weather than [man-made] climate change has had so far.”

Nevertheless, in the interest of ending billions of years of those climate changes, President Obama has made good on his pledge to bankrupt the coal industry. And don’t expect his administration’s like-minded allies’ war on fossil fuel carnage to end there.

While previously touting natural gas as a lower emission bridge fuel to renewables, Sierra Club’s “Beyond Dirty Fuels” campaign leader Lena Moffitt takes great pride that her organization has “moved to a very clear and firm and vehement position of opposing gas.”

Interviewed on “S&P Global Market Intelligence,” she said, “We are doing everything we can to bring the same expertise that we brought to taking down the coal industry and coal-fired power in this country to taking on gas in the same way.”

Moffitt emphasized, “That is the one Sierra Club policy that we are all working toward: getting us to 100 percent clean energy, which, of course, would include no new gas.”

Yes, this includes opposition to fracking to get it, refineries to process it, pipelines to transport it, LNG terminals to export it, and the future energy and jobs that will rely on it.

In other words, to burn down a bridge fuel to nowhere.

See the article here.

A Cautionary Tale on Coal

Via TribeLive:

I was happy to read that at least two state attorneys general are pushing against the political persecution of ExxonMobil by climate activists, who want to use lawsuits, the threat of expensive litigation and possibly jail time to silence critics of global warming alarmism ( “Chilling heat: Two AGs counter brethren’s climate claims” ). Unfortunately here in Canada, my fellow residents of Ontario were too frightened of climate activists to oppose the plan to end coal-fired power generation.

Ontario was once an industrial powerhouse and the home of thousands upon thousands of well-paid manufacturing jobs. But the province lost at least 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 15 years when companies either went bankrupt or left Ontario.

That happened largely because our electricity prices have increased 318 percent since 2002, now giving us one of the highest rates in North America. The single most important cause for this staggering rise is that, in the name of “stopping climate change,” we shut down all of our inexpensive coal plants. In 2002, those plants provided about 25 percent of our electricity.

Things will likely be even worse for the United States if President Obama’s climate policies are continued by the next administration. After all, the country gets 33 percent of its power from coal. Pennsylvania gets 40 percent.

See the article here.

EPA Accused of ‘Scare Tactic’ on Clean Power Plan Stay

Via Bloomberg BNA: 

Suggestions that the Environmental Protection Agency might not extend the deadlines in its Clean Power Plan, should the rule ultimately be upheld following a lengthy judicial stay, are a “scare tactic” to force states to continue their preparations, opponents of the rule testified June 9.

The EPA’s insistence on moving forward with model trading rules to guide state implementation of the carbon dioxide standards for power plants (RIN:2060-AR33), which has been halted by the U.S. Supreme Court, and an incentive program for early investment in renewable generation and energy efficiency effectively force states to continue their compliance planning, Allison Wood, a partner at Hunton & Williams LLP who represents the power industry, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

States will still be forced to review the proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program and offer comments on the proposal or forgo their right to challenge the rule later, she said. “This fear effectively negates the relief provided by the stay,” Wood testified at the hearing.

The Supreme Court has already stayed the Clean Power Plan even though the rule will not be argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit until September (West Virginia v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 15-1363, 5/16/16 ).

EPA Abiding by Precedent

Richard Revesz, director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law, which is supporting the EPA in litigation over the Clean Power Plan, told the committee there is “ample precedent” for the EPA to continue its work despite the court’s stay. Moreover, he said courts don’t make decisions on tolling deadlines at the start of a lawsuit but only once it’s concluded.

“Tolling decisions are made when a stay is lifted, not when a stay is put in place,” Revesz said.

But those tolling decisions often extended the compliance dates longer than the rules themselves were stayed, Wood said, citing the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which was stayed for nearly two and a half years before it was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court. When the deadlines were eventually tolled, they were extended by nearly three years—longer than the litigation took—in order to coincide with the new calendar year, she said.

“You didn’t shorten it, you lengthened it,” she said.

Some States Moving Forward

Despite the stay, a handful of states are voluntarily making plans to comply with the Clean Power Plan should it be upheld and have sought assistance from the EPA as they prepare. Fourteen states have asked the EPA for additional guidance on the upcoming model trading rules as well as the soon-to-be-proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program, a voluntary matching fund for wind and solar power generation and demand-side energy efficiency measures in low-income communities in states that take early action toward meeting the Clean Power Plan targets.

That early planning will place those states on a better footing to meet their Clean Power Plan targets should the rule go into effect, said Katie Dykes, deputy commissioner for energy at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and chairwoman of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“Connecticut and the other RGGI states have some of the most aggressive Clean Power Plan targets in the country, but we’re well-placed to meet them because we’ve taken proactive action,” she testified.

However, the extraordinary nature of the Supreme Court’s stay should give states a warning that several justices think that the rule is in significant legal jeopardy, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the committee chairman, said.

“While a stay is not the final decision, it makes clear that the highest court in this country has serious reservations on the legal soundness of the rule,” Inhofe said.

Following the hearing, Inhofe sent a letter to the EPA asking whether it would abide by any tolling requirements should the Clean Power Plan ultimately be upheld.

See the article here.

Showers But With a Chance of Sun

Via World Coal: 

The current state of the US coal industry is a microcosm of a global market for coal still ailing from unfavourable macroeconomic trends. This year will extend a difficult period of capacity adjustments that US producers are making to align production with more modest demand scenarios. US coal production, last year, was down 10% from 2014 and is expected to decline further this year, based on preliminary data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). The number of active mines has fallen but the number of operating sections within the mines has fallen further.

The EIA’s parsing of coal demand explains why. Demand from all sectors, last year, fell by 13%. Coal exports, for example, declined sharply in 2015, down 23 million short t from 2014 to approximately 74 million short t. In addition to the impact from Asia’s slowing economies, US shipments to the EU, traditionally a major destination for US coal, declined by 28%.

Adding significantly to the oversupply challenges has been the competition from unexpectedly low natural gas prices. Today, natural gas generates almost as much electricity as coal, even as coal remained the domestic market leader last year, generating more than 34% of the nation’s electricity.

The suddenness and steepness in the decline in demand for coal has had an indiscriminate effect on US coal producers. Many were deep into a new investment cycle, acquiring new capacity in anticipation of growing offshore demand. The resulting burden of debt service has added to the challenges of producers as they struggle with soft and shifting markets.

Further impacting coal domestically is the growing saturation of renewable generating capacity fuelled by generous tax policy that encourages solar and wind investment. Offshore, a strong dollar against world currencies has made US coal exports less competitive relative to other coal supplying regions.

US government policies have also played an outsized role in the dramatic change we see in the outlook for domestic coal. Beginning with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants in 2011, regulations have contributed to the loss of at least 33 GW of coal generating capacity in addition to more expected to be retired this year. For example, the administration’s Clean Power Plan, designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, is expected to double the capacity already lost to fuel switching and prior regulations, while triggering double digit increases in wholesale electricity costs and adding US$216 billion to the nation’s utility bill by 2030.

Other rules aimed at coal production could render a substantial amount of US coal reserves inaccessible. A proposed three-year moratorium on coal produced from federal lands largely in the West will throttle production from the largest source (43%) of total domestic production. Higher royalties and fees on government coal leased at auction may follow.

The toll of these policies demonstrates the steep price of keeping coal in the ground. The US has lost about 40 000 coal mining jobs since 2011 and many tens of thousands more that coal supports throughout the supply chain – from mines and power plants to railroads and ports.

Fortunately, the effects of policy, like the effects of market forces, are not immutable. A presidential election year in the US offers our industry, its employees and its varied allies the opportunity to vote in a government with a more balanced energy policy and hopefully see out many of the damaging policies from this government.

Change may well be coming in the marketplace, too. The commodity cycle that didn’t stop at the top will not stop at the bottom either. Global demand for coal is likely to pick up next year, albeit at a gradual pace initially with more rapid growth in the years thereafter. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim reminded member country representatives last month that the bank expects “a marked increase of coal consumption” in coming decades.

Elsewhere we see sustainable improvements for domestic coal. The introduction of new safety technologies and practices helped US coal mining achieve a record safety year in 2015. Companies that adopt the National Mining Association’s own CORESafety™ initiative, wholly or in part, can document improved safety performance that results from following the programme’s best practices.

Similarly, the environmental performance of our industry continues to improve. Our fleet average reduction of conventional pollutants per unit of electricity – 90% since the 1970s – rivals the achievement of any industry. By 2019, the US coal-fired power industry will have invested more than US$126 billion in emission reductions, leaving a fleet that is more efficient and cleaner than ever before.

Our commitment to high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) technologies remains a more rational and sustainable solution for addressing climate change concerns than an approach based on ending coal’s use. Missing from this strategy, we believe, is an effective approach for addressing either the environmental issues of affluent nations or the pressing economic concerns of emerging countries seeking their rightful place among rich ones.

So, for 2016, the forecast for US coal is for continuing showers, heavy at times, with possible sun in the near future.

Written by Hal Quinn, National Mining Association.

See the article here.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan Could Cost Alabama Seniors

Via AL.com:

For years, the most radical environmental groups have promoted a keep it in the ground ideology. This thinking, which aims to keep all fossil fuels literally in the ground seemed so far out there, so obviously incompatible with our energy needs and standard of living, it was just laughed off. But this fringe ideology is now shaping U.S. energy policy and the result could be disastrous for Alabama’s senior consumers.

Under the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” (CPP), Alabama electricity prices could be 16 percent higher, on average, each year, according to a report compiled for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

The peak year Alabama electricity price increases (the largest increase in any single year) could be as much as 21 percent due to the CPP. Also, consider the rejection of offshore leasing along the Atlantic seaboard, new federal rules on hydraulic fracturing and natural gas production.

The list goes on and on. These polices, promoted the under guise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions or protecting habitats, are all aimed at slowing or stopping the production and use of domestic fuels. The Obama administration and its allies know these polices would be dead-on-arrival if Congress was given an opportunity to vote on any of them.

That’s why this radical energy policy is being carried out through regulatory fiat. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior have become factories for new rules and regulations aimed at making it harder and more expensive to produce our oil, natural gas and coal.

This regulatory approach to energy policy is so dangerous because it’s designed to affect great change without causing undue attention. There are so many new rules, often regionally, or fuel-specific, it’s hard to keep track. Each rule taken alone may not seem like a game-changer but when added up they form a regulatory tsunami that will send energy costs, and our cost of living, soaring.

Take for example two policy proposals affecting the coal industry that have not received the attention they deserve. The innocuous-sounding Stream Protection Rule (SPR) is a classic example of a wolf in sheep’s clothes. Aimed at revising hundreds of rules already in place to protect streams from coal mining, it’s a 2,100 page behemoth that will make it so prohibitively expensive to produce the majority of the nation’s coal reserves, they might as well cease to exist.

Considering that coal-generated power is our most affordable source of electricity and meets a third of our electricity demand, one might assume we have a serious stream protection problem on our hands to warrant such extreme action. But that’s just it, the nation’s streams are already well protected.

According to the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, the very office that authored the proposed rule changes, more than 90 percent of active mining operations are free of any off-site impacts. The SPR has nothing to do with protecting streams and everything to do with an anti-coal agenda.

The Department of the Interior’s proposed moratorium on all new coal leasing on federal lands is equally as dangerous. It’s likely the beginning of the end of coal, oil and natural gas leasing on all federal lands, including the Gulf of Mexico.

If the Department of the Interior can get away with stopping coal leasing on federal territory – which accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s coal production – what’s to say oil and natural gas production won’t be next?

The cost of slashing production of the fuels that are the lifeblood of our economy will be steep. For many Alabamians struggling to make ends meet, particularly those on fixed incomes, surging energy costs could be crippling.

Energy costs for 665,000 Alabama households earning less than $30,000 before taxes represent 25 percent of their after-tax family incomes, before accounting for any energy assistance programs. Minorities and senior citizens are among the most vulnerable to energy price increases due to their relatively low household incomes.

Pursuing a cleaner energy future is a worthwhile goal but it can’t come with an undue burden on seniors. Radical environmental ideology simply cannot be allowed to shape our energy policy. Instead of cutting U.S. energy production and driving up the cost of the domestic energy sources we rely on, we need to put affordable energy first.

See the article here.

GOP, Some States Press EPA for Answers on Implementation Plans

Senators yesterday took up the question of whether U.S. EPA can work on guidelines related to the Clean Power Plan while the program for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants is frozen by the Supreme Court.

In the last few months, EPA has continued to work on an incentive program to credit states for early action on renewable energy and efficiency. The agency has also indicated it would release model rules to guide states on shaping emissions trading programs.

During a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Republicans and their witnesses charged that EPA was attempting to bypass the high court stay.

After the hearing, EPW Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) released a letter to EPA acting air chief Janet McCabe demanding answers on the agency’s lack of conclusive statements on how it would handle the Clean Power Plan’s compliance deadline if the courts were to uphold the rule.

The uncertainty has been a thorn on the side of EPA and its defenders. Inhofe asked for answers to a series of questions on EPA’s activities during the stay by a June 21 deadline.

“EPA is attempting to downplay the significance of the stay and argue against clear legal precedence as a last-ditch effort to scare states into spending scarce resources complying with a rule that could very well be overturned,” Inhofe said at the hearing.

The EPW Committee’s Democrats yesterday presented a united front in support of the Clean Power Plan and broader action to address climate change.

As usually occurs with congressional hearings related to climate change, emotions ran high at times.

After Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) called the Republican Party the “de-facto political wing of the fossil fuel industry,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) shot back that the comment was “beneath my friend.”

“It is insulting for a member of this Senate,” Wicker said, “to come in here and to suggest that this hearing … somehow demonstrates that members of the Congress are owned by the fossil fuel industry.”

Finalized last August, the Clean Power Plan is the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s domestic climate agenda and requires states to develop plans to lower power plant carbon dioxide emissions. In a 5-4 decision in February, the Supreme Court unexpectedly stayed the program until complex litigation was resolved.

EPA has said it would help states that voluntarily want to continue planning efforts, along with continuing to work on related rulemakings. In April, a group of 14 states asked EPA for more information and technical assistance on the Clean Power Plan.

“Many states and tribes have indicated that they plan to move forward voluntarily to work to cut carbon pollution from power plants,” EPA said in a recent statement, “and have asked the agency to continue providing support and developing tools that may support those efforts.”

‘So many variables’

At yesterday’s hearing, Republican witness Allison Wood, partner at the firm Hunton & Williams LLP, charged that EPA’s work on the related Clean Energy Incentive Program and model trading rules would compel states to take action that violates the spirit of the stay.

EPA will likely open up a public comment period on its proposed CEIP. States — even those like West Virginia that have decided to halt work on the Clean Power Plan — would have to expend resources on commenting or litigating those other rules, Wood argued.

“The problem is, they’re trying to provide additional tools to the states that want to continue to work — EPA ends up forcing states and regulated entities that do not want to work during the stay to do so,” she said.

Another majority witness, Michael McInnes, CEO of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., a rural electric cooperative, urged states to halt all planning activities under the Clean Power Plan. Tri-State was among the many rule critics that requested a court stay of the program.

But McInnes told lawmakers that two of the five states in which Tri-State operates have decided to continue developing plans.

“We feel it is wasteful to spend taxpayer and ratepayer money developing a plan for an unknown target,” he said.

“There are so many variables that could change — a new rule, a modified rule, a new president withdraws the rule or proposes a new one, markets could change, new technology could be developed — so any plan developed today will likely have to be redone,” he said.

‘Without merit’

Environmentalists yesterday defended EPA’s activities during the stay.

“The attacks raised today by Senate Republicans are, as usual, without merit,” said Alejandra Nunez, staff attorney with the Sierra Club’s environmental law program.

“Despite the Supreme Court’s decision to stay the Clean Power Plan, it is entirely appropriate for the EPA to continue working on implementation of the rule in order to assist states, many of which have asked the agency to continue working with them on their planning,” she said.

Richard Revesz, a witness for the Democrats, told lawmakers it was both “legal and appropriate” for EPA to continue working on regulatory matters related to the Clean Power Plan such as the model trading rules.

Revesz, who directs New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity, argued that those related activities don’t create enforceable obligations for states.

In previous administrations, EPA has continued working on implementation activities for Clean Air Act rules that had been stayed by courts, he said.

The agency, for example, issued regulations related to the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule during a stay issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“Rather than coercing states into compliance,” Revesz said, “EPA’s continued implementation work will simply provide [states] with useful resources.”

Along with questioning EPA’s activities during the stay, Inhofe repeated criticisms of the broader Clean Power Plan.

He asked witnesses to respond to a recent statement by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that there was not “one single bit of evidence that we have destroyed an industry or significantly impacted jobs other than in a positive way” (ClimateWire, April 14).

Republican Missouri state Rep. Jack Bondon, who has sponsored legislation to halt state planning activities during the stay, said that he would “take exception to that,” citing the recent bankruptcy announcements by Peabody Energy Corp. and Arch Coal Inc., both of which are headquartered in Missouri.

“There are certainly a number of reasons why a company does that,” Bondon said. “But the uncertainty created by the Clean Power Plan and the future of moving away from coal will impact their employees.”

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) complained that the coal industry had rejected an offer of billions of dollars for carbon capture and storage technology via the 2009 cap-and-trade bill. He argued that the bill, which ultimately was unsuccessful, was an attempt to help coal companies stay alive in a way that works “for all the interests.”

“I just don’t want to hear the crocodile tears from Peabody Coal, Arch Coal,” Markey said. “We were trying to give them a bridge to the future. Do you think they wish they could go back to 2009 and grab that money?”

Flawed Resources for the Future Report Ignores Clear, Irreparable Impacts of the Clean Power Plan on Coal

Resources for the Future’s report contains many advocacy positions but no real economic analysis. Any report that would claim “the Clean Power Plan will result in near-zero costs” to the coal industry—as does this report— defies common sense and simply must be dismissed for nothing more than a propaganda piece devoid of any factual value.

EPA’s own modeling forecasts that the CPP with force the retirement of 56 coal-fired power plants from 2016–2018, with all but three retiring in 2016. Given these projections, beginning immediately through 2018, an estimated six coal mines will close, three more will significantly curtail production and 1,856 coal miners will lose their jobs.

Economic studies are clear: the CPP will have an immediate, significant and irreparable impact on the coal industry. “Evaluation of the Immediate Impact of the Clean Power Plan Rule on the Coal Industry,” an economic report that supported the successful request for stay granted Feb. 9 by the U.S. Supreme Court, describes the facts. The electric power industry requires long lead times to plan, permit and construct power plants and the associated infrastructure, and therefore requires near immediate action to plan for compliance. To comply with the CPP, utilities must commit immediately to coal plant retirements. Once committed, the decision to retire and replace existing coal-fired power plants will be irrevocable. With plant closures come mine closures, directly impacting jobs and the value of investments, while also incurring massive mine closing costs, to say nothing of downstream costs to the economy and plant and mining communities.

Coal is an invaluable “resource for the future” that the U.S. will no longer have if the CPP is implemented. The costs of the CPP to the U.S. economy, to Americans and to the coal industry are real, undeniable and immediate.

See the press release here.

GOP Senator: EPA Could Restructure Every Industry if Clean Power Plan Survives

Via The Washington Examiner: 

A top Senate Republican is warning that the Environmental Protection Agency will try to restructure every industry in the country if it can successfully defend its Clean Power Plan in court.

The Clean Power Plan is President Obama’s signature environmental regulation on new and existing coal and power plants and has been in the crosshairs of Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., since it was first proposed. Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said Thursday he thinks the regulation could just be a sign of things to come.

The EPA is currently being sued by more than half of the country to block the regulation from coming into effect, and the Supreme Court has issued a stay against the rule while the legal challenge is heard. If the EPA successfully defends the rules, Inhofe thinks that could end up being a major turning point for the agency.

“If EPA can convince the courts to uphold their approach to regulating the utility industry through the means Congress never authorized, then they will take those arguments and use them to restructure every industrial sector in the country in a manner that appeases the political obligations of the president,” he said.

Inhofe’s comments came at a Thursday hearing of the committee on the impact of the Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan seeks to limit carbon emissions from new and existing coal power plants by setting state goals for carbon emission cuts. States are then able to come up with their own plans on how to reach those goals.

However, many critics of the rules believe it is the Obama administration’s way of going around Congress to institute a cap-and-trade system to drop carbon emissions, even after lawmakers rejected that idea years ago.

Inhofe said the Supreme Court putting a stay on the rule shows that there are serious reservations among the justices on the nation’s highest court about the legal arguments behind the Clean Power Plan. But despite the stay, the EPA is attempting to pressure states into complying with the rule, he said.

“The EPA is attempting to downplay the significance of the stay and argue against the clear legal procedures as a last ditch effort to scare states into spending scarce resources complying with a rule that very well could be overturned,” he said.

See the article here.

NMA Urges States to Put Pencils Down on Clean Power Plan

“There are many good reasons why states should suspend any effort to implement the administration’s costly power plan. The biggest reason is the Supreme Court’s decision that, for all practical purposes, voids the rule until the appropriate legal review determines its dubious legality. The Supreme Court has relieved the nation’s governors of any obligation to begin to implement a costly rule that will raise their state’s power prices, lower the living standards of their citizens, and weaken the fuel diversity and reliability of their power grid.

“Governors are hearing this message. Already, 29 states have seized on the importance of the Supreme Court stay. Indiana’s Gov. Pence promised ‘to use any legal means available to block the rule from being implemented.’ Others should join him by putting their pencils down and spare their citizens the cost of another bad regulation that lacks the force of law.”

See the release here.

EPA Ignores What Senate Will Hear Tomorrow on Clean Power Plan

EPA Ignores What Senate Will Hear Tomorrow on Clean Power Plan

June 8, 2016

It took a Freedom of Information Act request to pry real “transparency” out of EPA.  In contrast to the agency’s public utterances, confidential emails reported last week showed EPA’s alarming reaction to the Feb. 9 Supreme Court ruling that stayed the agency’s Clean Power Plan.

“This is very obviously disappointing, and we are still absorbing it this evening,” said EPA air chief Janet McCabe in a Feb. 9 email.  The stay is “difficult news,” wrote the agency’s top lawyer. “There’s no sugar-coating it.”

The agency tried to, and is still trying to sugar coat a ruling that effectively wrecks the CPP agenda. “We didn’t lose anything yet,” said agency chief Gina McCarthy in the following days. The stay “didn’t mean that anything on the ground had really changed.”

(more…)

Coal’s Competition Shouldn’t Include the Federal Government

Via The Edmund Sun: 

Who can deny the value of competition? In sports, the world’s greatest athletes go toe-to-toe and make each other better. In business, competition rewards innovative ideas and helps entrepreneurs flourish. In both instances, consumers benefit.

But not when the federal government skews the rules. That’s what’s happening with U.S. energy policy right now — to the detriment of taxpayers, energy consumers and free enterprise.

Take the recent bankruptcies of some of the world’s largest coal companies. Several factors created the economic turmoil the industry is facing. Market demand for metallurgical coal, primarily used to make steel, dropped considerably. Cheap and abundant natural gas supplied from the shale boom in the U.S. resulted in fuel switching.

If market factors result in a transition away from coal and toward more economical sources of energy, the economy will stand to benefit. More cost-effective electricity, whether it’s derived from natural gas, nuclear power or solar, will save families money and lower the cost of doing business.

But that’s not entirely what’s happening here. One culprit that cannot be overlooked in coal’s reduction as an affordable, reliable power supply is burdensome federal government regulations.

According to a recent report by the Energy Information Administration, more than 80 percent of the nearly 18 gigawatts of electric generating capacity retired in 2015 was conventional steam coal. The Environmental Protection Agency cites the Mercury Air & Toxics regulation causing 30 percent of U.S. coal retirement in 2015.

The EPA estimates that the regulation would have cost $10 billion per year in compliance expenses. Other estimates have been higher. Regardless, we’re already seeing power-plant closures, pushing energy costs higher for families and businesses.

Maybe you’re thinking those costs are steep but worth it. Reducing mercury emissions sounds like a laudable goal. But you don’t have to scratch too deeply beneath the federal government’s own cost-benefit analysis to realize it is all economic pain, no environmental gain.

According to the EPA’s own analysis, the rule would generate $53 billion to $140 billion in annual health benefits. But the actual mercury reductions (the direct benefits of the regulation) would produce at most $6 million in benefits. In other words, 99.9 percent of the claimed environmental benefits are covered by existing regulations.

The same holds true for the Obama administration’s global-warming regulations. No matter what your position on man’s contribution to global warming is, the federal government’s regulations would have a negligible impact, at best, on global temperatures.

But they do carry significant costs. One cog of the administration’s assault on coal will effectively prohibit the construction of new coal-fired power plants. And the global warming regulations for existing power plants called the Clean Power Plan, which the Supreme Court could very well judge to be illegal and unconstitutional, will prematurely force more power plant closures.

The costs have tremendous rippling effects. Because energy is a necessary input for almost all goods that consumers buy, households are hit by higher prices multiple times over. Global-warming regulations will increase electricity expenditures for a family of four by at least 13 percent a year. Cumulatively, they will cost American families more than $20,000 in lost income by 2035 and impose a $2.5 trillion hit on the economy.

Here’s the other issue with the Clean Power Plan. Power plants in America are already clean. They’re not operating like those in China. Through a combination of regulations and technological innovations, the U.S. industry has dramatically reduced hazardous air pollutants. But the theme behind the federal government’s new regulations is to ignore any reasonable risk assessment and add increasingly stringent rules that put hardworking Americans out of a job, drive up energy bills and force companies to close their doors for good.

In many senses, cleaning the environment is like cleaning a messy house. Taking care of the big things may require some work but have significant impact. Vacuuming, washing the floors, picking up clothes and dusting makes a big improvement. Eventually, as the chores become more difficult, the cost of finishing them is equally as high, if not higher, but the benefit is much smaller. There comes a point where the house is overwhelmingly clean and the cost of moving your refrigerator to clean the small space between that and your cabinets isn’t worth it.

The same holds true for the environment. Air and water quality in the U.S. have vastly improved. Pollution is largely in check. Now, with each additional regulation, the costs grow higher and the benefits shrink, either to a vanishing point or where they are counterproductive. Congress should now empower states to take over the reins for environmental regulation.

Politicians are notorious for breaking promises, but President Barack Obama has kept his word on his commitment to bankrupt coal companies. And the economy will suffer because of it.

See the article here.

Coal Remains Dominant as Electric Power Source

Via The Register-Herald:

Domestic energy use dropped slightly between 2014 and 2015, according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Overall, the nations energy usage dropped about one half of one percent, from 98.2 quadrillion British thermal units in 2014 to 97.7 in 2015.

EIA data shows natural gas and petroleum were the major sources of energy in the U.S last year, supplying 35.4 percent and 28.3 percent, respectively. Coal came in a distant third, providing 15.7 percent of the nation’s energy.

In 2014, petroleum represented 34.8 percent of the nation’s energy, while natural gas was at 27.5 percent. Coal provided slightly less than 18 percent of the county’s energy, EIA data for the year shows.

However, 91 percent of the power sector – one of four sectors – ran on coal during 2015 and 2014.

Coal experienced a slight bump in industrial usage between 2014 and 2015. In 2014 coal made up eight percent of industrial energy use, but the following year it jump to nine percent, according to the EIA.

During the two years, coal usage remained late at less than 1 percent in the residential and commerce sector.

Natural gas saw growth in the electric and industrial sectors. In 2015, natural gas accounted for 35 percent of the electric power generated, a jump from 30 percent the year before, EIA data shows.

In the industrial sector it went from 33 percent to 34 percent during the years.

Natural gas’s usage remained flat in the transportation sector, remaining at 3 percent, while suffering a decline residential and commercial sector, going from 32 percent of usage in 2014 to 28 percent in 2015.

Nuclear energy remained steady at providing 8.3 percent of the country’s energy during the two years. All domestic nuclear power generated was used in creating electric power, according to an EIA chart.

Overall, renewables provided slightly less than 10 percent of the nation’s energy in 2014 and 2015. It remained slightly changed year-to-year, 9.6 percent in 2014 to 9.7 percent a year later.

Petroleum accounted for more than a third of the nation’s energy source, the majority, 73 percent, used in the transportation sector, up from 71 percent the year before.

Fossil fuels, petroleum, coal and natural gas, accounted for slightly more than 80 percent of energy used in the United States in 2015 and 2014.

See the article here.

Wash. Export Terminal Plan Faces Public One More Time

Via E&E Publishing:

The last major coal export terminal actively pending in the U.S. Northwest has its last public hearing tomorrow as time winds down for public comments over the terminal’s draft environmental impact statement.

The Millennium Bulk Terminals proposal includes using railroads to bring 44 million metric tons of coal from Montana, Wyoming and Colorado mines to the Cowlitz County, Wash.-based site along the Columbia River. From there, it would be shipped it to primarily Asian markets.

David Bennett, spokesman for Washington state’s Department of Ecology, said about 1,200 people came to the first hearing and another 500 to 700 came to the second. Speakers are limited to only two minutes each, but Bennett said at the first meetings, “everything was very, very smooth.”

Bennett encourages more people to comment but said the arguments have really centered on a few topics.

“For the individuals, it kind of boiled down to jobs versus environment, economic development versus environmental sustainability.”

The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) already raised several concerns.

The draft EIS states, “Unavoidable and significant adverse environmental impacts could remain for nine environmental resource areas: social and community resources; cultural resources; tribal resources (including salmon fishing); rail transportation; rail safety; vehicle transportation; vessel transportation; noise and vibration; and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Project estimates include an increase in rail traffic of 16 trains per day and 840 ships per year.

The EIS mentioned many of the project problems could be mitigated with plan changes or certain approvals. The statement included that the project would be a huge economic boost, providing about 1,350 temporary construction jobs over the six-year construction period.

The anti-terminal group Power Past Coal had members at the first meeting and said opposition heartily outweighed the proponents. Group members talked of coal’s already poor market conditions and generally highlighted the EIS concerns, such as effects to fishing.

“We know climate change is driving the diving of the salmon population, and there’s no quicker way we can make a difference than ending our addiction to coal,” Bob Rees, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, said in a statement.

Others came to talk about how the terminal would affect Montana.

“A coal port in Longview threatens to open new mining that would damage our ancestral lands, water, and way of life,” Alaina Buffalo Spirit, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in southeastern Montana, said in a statement. “Anyone who says we can’t have economic development while protecting our land, water, and culture isn’t trying hard enough.”

Industry group Count on Coal also had members come out from Montana to highlight the jobs and economic boost this would create for both states.

“By following Washington’s strict environmental standards and creating economic opportunity in both states, the Millennium Bulk Terminal is a win-win for both states, and the environmental review process needs to be conducted in a fair and timely matter,” the industry group said in a statement.

There have been two public hearings over the draft EIS already, one May 24 in Cowlitz County and one in Spokane on Thursday. Tomorrow’s hearing will be in Pasco, with room to comment online until June 14.

After June 14, the Ecology Department, Cowlitz County and Army Corps of Engineers officials will meet with Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview LLC to discuss possible changes to the EIS. After the formal EIS is submitted, the terminal proposal faces a final review.

See the article here.