Monthly Archives: August 2016

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Congress Should Bar Stream Rule

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

When Barack Obama became president, more than half the electricity generated in the United States came from coal-fired power plants. Coal was the most economical means of providing electricity.

Now, electricity from gas costs about the same as that from coal. Only about 40 percent of the nation’s power comes from coal.

That has occurred for two reasons: First, the price of gas plummeted, in large measure because of the shale drilling revolution.

Second, Obama’s war on coal and affordable energy has made it more expensive to mine coal and to burn it in power plants.

To a great extent, Obama has succeeded in his campaign to destroy the coal industry. With that has come the devastation of regions such as West Virginia.

But the president is not satisfied. He seems determined to finish the job as quickly as possible.

To that end, his administration has churned out new regulations at a frantic pace. Anything and everything that can crush the coal industry is either on the books or well on the way there.

Next on the White House agenda is a set of rules allegedly intended to safeguard streams in the United States. It is a major worry for miners and mining companies, as two U.S. senators were told earlier this month.

Sens. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, visited the Rosebud Bergholz Mine in East Ohio. There, they were told the administration’s so-called Stream Protection Rule would be yet another burden on the coal industry.

Mine Permitting Manager Gary Alkire noted the measure would, if implemented, make it difficult or impossible for many mines to operate where even very small streams are present.

Both surface and underground mines would be affected in what clearly is pursuit of a vendetta against the industry. The proposed rule would replace one put in place in 2008, just before Obama took office.

As so often is the case with its anti-coal campaign, the White House plans to bypass Congress in implementing the new rule.

Lawmakers ought to have stopped Obama’s unconstitutional power grab years ago. Yet, in part because of blind loyalty among Democrat senators and representatives, they have not done so.

Now, with the SPR, would be a good time for lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle to start standing up for their constituents instead of bowing to the president.

See the article here.

Why a Smart Energy Policy Can Include Coal

Via Power Engineering International: 

A pulverized coal plant in the US is an example of how combining the right operational model with best-in-class technologies can produce affordable, reliable and secure power with the lowest possible environmental impact, write Robert Giglio and Steve Nelson

Longview Power’s 770 MWe coal power plant in West Virginia

Credit: Longview Power

While energy policymakers and power industry leaders have differing views on how to move toward a clean, reliable and affordable power delivery system, they all agree on one thing: that a portfolio of fuel and technology options is the best strategy to meet our future energy needs while enduring the continued uncertainty inherent in the energy sector.

The corollary is even more important – that over-reliance on a single technology or fuel can have devastating impact. This can be seen today in Japan’s power industry after the Fukushisma nuclear accident, in oil exporting countries with oil prices more than half the value they were a year ago, and in the US when heavy frame gas turbines were being sold on eBay at rock bottom prices after the collapse of the combined-cycle build boom in 2006.

All technologies and fuels have their advantages, disadvantages and carry risk. For pulverized coal, its advantages are low cost, large scale, reliable power. Its disadvantage has been – and continues to be – its environmental footprint. However, taking a closer look at recent new pulverized coal plants coming online, likeLongview Power’s 770 MW plant in West Virginia, the reality is not matching the headlines we see in the media.

The Longview project

The Longview project is a good example of combining the right operational model with best-in-class technologies to produce very affordable, reliable and secure power with the lowest environmental impact. Longview Power teamed with affiliated mining company Mepco to build an integrated coal-mine-to-power energy complex in Maidsville, West Virginia, in the US.

The power plant is located within 8 km of the coal mine which produces high sulphur bituminous coal primarily for the Longview power plant. The power plant began commercial operation in December 2011 and has a rated net capacity of 700 MW and a gross capacity of 770 MW.

The plant is owned by major private investment companies and employs over 600 skilled local workers annually, and adds approximately $43 million per year to the local economy in terms of indirect employment and material supply. Due to its mine-mouth project structure and its high power plant efficiency, the plant is among the lowest cost generator in the US, and the world for that matter. Its marginal generating cost is lower than all the natural gas combined-cycle and nuclear power plants on the PJM grid that it serves. As shown in Figure 1, its marginal cost is even below most of the hydropower plants on the PJM grid, with only wind and solar dispatched in front of Longview.

With this cost profile, it is no wonder why Longview produced 98.5 per cent of its total rated power production since completion of recent repairs, and why Longview Power is aiming to achieve a 92 per cent capacity factor for 2016.

One key factor in achieving this low level of electricity production cost is due to a very low fuel cost. Since Mepco is an affiliated company, the coal price is negotiated for the benefit of both companies and operational enhancements are developed continuously. Further, the coal travels from the mine to the power plant on a 7.2 km conveyor, avoiding the higher staff, equipment, fuel and maintenance cost of trucks, trains, roads and tracks that most other coal plants carry.

Another key factor is related to Longview’s recent efforts to optimize plant efficiency and achieving a very high net plant efficiency of 39.5 per cent (fuel HHV basis), which allows the plant to produce full power while consuming 17.5 per cent less fuel than the average coal plant in the US. This, in itself, saves Longview over $10 million per year in the plant’s operating cost.

Clean and efficient power

The Longview plant is subject to very strict environmental standards. In fact, the state of West Virginia imposed on Longview the lowest NOx, SOx, PM, CO and mercury emissions limits ever imposed on a coal plant in the entire US.

The plant consistently meets all permitted emissions and is now the cleanest operating coal power plant in the PJM power market and one of the cleanest in the US. As Figure 2 shows, Longview’s’ permitted stack emissions are many times lower than other coal plants in state of West Virginia. Further, as Figure 3 shows, the plant’s actual stack emissions are also well below the limits of the EPA’s strict Mercury Air Toxins Standard (MATS).

Due to Longview’s high net plant efficiency, the plant’s actual emissions on a tonne/year or mg/MWh basis are reduced by another 17.5 per cent as compared to the average coal plant in the US. This not only applies to SOx, NOx, PM, CO, and mercury air emissions, but also to CO2, as well as all solid and liquid waste streams from the plant, the coal mine and the fuel delivery system.

The mine-mouth project structure itself provides other environmental benefits. The power plant is designed to burn run-of-mine coal, avoiding the waste water streams and coal tailings associated with coal washing, which is a common practice in many coal mines and plants around the world. In fact, at Longview, no waste water from any part of the plant or mine is discharged to surface waters.

Since a conveyor transports Longview’s coal to the plant, truck and train emissions, road dust, and noise are completely avoided. A significant portion of boiler fly ash is sold for beneficial use and the remaining portion is dry landfilled on site, again minimizing truck and train traffic through local communities where people enjoy the peace and quiet of the country while utilizing Longview’s power for their homes, schools, farms and businesses.

Technology matters

Technology is a big part of Longview’s best-in-class performance. To achieve its high plant efficiency and reliability, the power plant utilizes a unique low mass flux, vertical-tube, supercritical pulverized boiler supplied by Amec Foster Wheeler. This is the only supercritical pulverized coal plant in the US and among only a few in the world that use this advanced coal boiler technology.The Amec Foster Wheeler PC boiler utilizes supercritical steam conditions (steam pressures above 221 bar or 3206 psia) which allows the steam to absorb more heat from the burning fuel, resulting in higher plant efficiency.

Figure 1. Dispatch merit curve for PJM grid served by Longview

It is the supercritical steam condition that allows Longview to achieve its very high plant efficiency of 41.3 per cent/39.5 per cent based on the coal’s lower/higher heating value. Longview is the most efficient operating coal plant in the US, giving the plant its best-in-class emissions levels and cost competitiveness. Table 1 shows Longview’s steam and plant performance values at its full load design operating conditions.

Nearly all supercritical sliding-pressure boilers angle and wrap the tubes containing water and steam in a spiral or helix pattern to form the lower section of furnace walls, as illustrated in Figure 4. This is done to even out tube-to-tube temperature differences and mechanical stresses that occur between the tubes near the burners, which receive an intense level of heat, and those much further from the burners receiving much less heat. Under supercritical steam pressures, the temperature difference and associated stresses can be significant and overtime can virtually tear the tubes apart and cause them to fail.

But what makes Longview’s boiler so different than all the other supercritical sliding-pressure boilers is that its entire furnace is formed with only vertical tubes which carrying a very low mass flux of steam and water (under 1000 kg/m2-s). This is a much simpler design that costs less to build and is easier to repair and maintain.

The boiler is simply hung from top supports with the vertical boiler tubes playing a dual role of supporting the boiler and producing steam. For spiral designs, since the tubes wind around the furnace in a helix pattern, they want to untwist if supported only vertically and require a more complex furnace support system which is more costly, heavier, and requires special bracing when repairing furnace tubes.

Further, the steam has a much shorter distance to travel in the vertical tube design to reach the top of the furnace, as compared to the longer path of the spiral tube design. The shorter tubes and the low mass flux allow the vertical design to have a much lower steam pressure drop, which translates into lower boiler feedwater pumping power and higher net plant efficiency.

Spiral designs typically incur an additional 10 bar or 145 psia steam pressure loss across the furnace, which translates into about 1 MW of additional boiler feed water pump power consumption. At $50/MWh this loss can translate into annual lost power sales revenues of about $432,000, and can add up to a $6.6 million NPV over the life of the plant.

To overcome the tube-to-tube temperature and stress problem, the Amec Foster Wheeler vertical tube boiler design uses a much smaller tube diameter which carries much less water and steam. This allows buoyancy forces within the water and steam in the tube to become stronger, causing the water and steam flow to increase and provide additional cooling to the tubes receiving more heat.

This provides a passive self-cooling protection mechanism limiting the temperature and stress between tubes and across the furnace walls. As an added protection, the inside of the tubes receiving high heat are grooved or rifled with a spiral pattern to enhance tube cooling.

These design enhancements add up to a safe, low maintenance, highly reliable, long life boiler.

Smart emission control

Using the simple principle that it is much less costly to prevent NOx from forming in the first place than it is to reduce it afterwards, the firing system of the Amec Foster Wheeler boiler has many advanced and innovative design features. Mill fineness control, combustion air control to each windbox and each burner, staged low-NOx combustion and over-fire air technologies are utilized to achieve very low NOx levels leaving Longview’s furnace.

In addition to ultra-low CO emissions, this minimizes the reduction needed by the SCR system, which has a large long-term cost benefit over the life of the plant when considering ammonia consumption and catalyst replacement cost.

Figure 2. Permitted title V operating and acid rain emission limits for coal plants in West Viginia
Figure 3. Longview’s actual stack emissions are well below MATS limits
Figure 4. Conventional sprial vs vertical tube furnace design

For example, the burner wind-boxes are compartmentalized between each of the sic burner rows (three rows on each side of the opposed wall-fired boiler). A system of air dampers, flow measurements and control logic is designed so that air flow can be controlled to each burner row as well as biased from side to side within each row. This degree of measurement and controls dedicated to reliably and effectively controlling air/fuel ratio, CO, and NOx is truly unique and not reliably accomplished in many other coal plants.

Instead of using the typical ESP + Wet FGD scrubber configuration behind the boiler, Longview utilizes a DSI + Fabric Filter + Wet FGD scrubber with two dual flow trays. This configuration provides best in class removal rates (e.g., 99.5 per cent SO2 removal), fuel flexibility and redundant systems (facilitating on-line maintenance) to control multiple pollutants most cost-effectively.

The dry sorbent injection system (DSI) can utilize a range of sorbents to control metals and acid gases in the vapour phase by adsorption onto solid ash particles. The fabric filter captures these particles as well as the boiler’s fly ash to levels well beyond an electrostatic precipitator (ESP). The dual flow trays in the wet FGD expand the FGD’s capacity to capture all acid gases.

All of these systems are designed with flexibility in mind to endure continued tightening US environmental regulations and changes in fuel quality over the long life of the Longview energy complex.

The Longview energy complex sets a new level of best-class performance for today’s modern coal power solutions. It demonstrates a solution for safe, secure, reliable and affordable coal power with minimal environmental impact.

Today, coal produces about 40 per cent of the world’s electricity, the largest share from any source. In 30 years from now, nearly all long-term forecasts show that coal will still produce about one-third of the world’s electricity. At the global level, this supports the smart strategy of keeping a diverse portfolio of generating options.

In order to maintain this level of coal, forecasters estimate that between 1500 GW and 2000 GW of new coal plants will be built over the next 30 years to meet growing electricity demand and to replace aging coal plants.

Robert Giglio is Vice-President of Strategic Planning and Business Development at Amec Foster Wheeler andSteve Nelson is Chief Operating Officer at Longview Power.

See the article here.

N.C. Policy Makers, Regulators Attack EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Via The Charlotte Business Journal:

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, requiring states to achieve 30% reductions in carbon emissions, did not get much love at the Carolinas Federal and State Policy Briefing sponsored by E4 Carolinas.

Congressman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) lamented the “bias at the EPA that you can’t trust these state regulators.” N.C. Utilities CommissionChairman Ed Finley dodged a direct answer but emphatically asserted he has “very strong feelings” about the plan.

Almost no one had a kind word. The only exception was in many ways exceptional because it came from former state Rep. Mike Hager. The Republican from Rutherford County spent three terms in the N.C. House — rising to majority leader before he resigned earlier this month — generally opposing environmental regulations as anti-business and counter-productive.

Some advantages

To be sure, Hager is not a fan of the federal plan, he said at the meeting Friday held at Piedmont Natural Gas’ headquarters in Charlotte.

“Would I rather not have seen the Clean Power Plan? Yes. Would I prefer that they phase it in if they are going to do it? Yes,” he said.

But unlike other speakers there, he sees some advantage to the plan.

“It does the allow the opportunity for entrepreneurs to step up and say ‘I’ve got an idea about how we can do things better,’” Hager told the 70 or so attendees. “It will drive innovation.”

Court challenge

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations that would require power plants to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. To achieve this target, utilities would have to burn less coal and use more wind and solar power.

The rule also encourages greater use of natural gas, which produces less than half the carbon emissions made by coal plants. The plan is currently on hold as more than two-dozen states ( including North Carolina) have appealed the regulations.

The U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to prevent the regulations from going into effec t while they are being reviewed by the appellate courts. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is slated to hear oral arguments in the appeal next month.

Wind, solar tax credits

The briefing covered a number of other issues. There were discussions of the need to encourage more use of nuclear power, opposition by some groups to off-shore wind projects in North Carolina and the possibility that the state could be moving to allow independent renewable power producers to sell electricity directly to customers.

Hudson opined that the U.S. Congress might extend tax credits for solar and wind power beyond last year’s decision to let the current 30% credit stay in place until 2020, after which it will gradually decline to a 10% credit.

“I think there is some appetite in Congress to extend the tax credits,” he said. “I think we need a more comprehensive look at whether we are going to invest in energy through tax credits or research awards.”

Extension of the solar credits may be more likely than wind credits, Hudson said. His own preference, he said, would be to create a tax credit for power production rather than a credit for investment.

‘Deep six’

But nothing produced the kind of fervor and venom reserved for the Obama plan.

“It wasn’t clean, wouldn’t produce power and isn’t much of a plan,” said Secretary Donald van der Vaart of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. “We should be proud of our role in deep-sixing that horrendous rule, and I don’t think we talk about it enough.”

The plan is not dead, but just on hold for now. Van der Vaart is confident of the state’s legal position that the EPA has exceeded its authority. But he says whether the plan is struck down by the Supreme Court ultimately depends on who fills the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

He also contends North Carolina will achieve a 30% reduction in carbon emissions without the Clean Power Plan.

No pause button

Paul Newton, former N.C. president for Duke Energy and now the Republican candidate to replace Sen. Fletcher Hartsell to represent Cabarrus and Union counties, said the rule is flatly unfair to North and South Carolina.

The rule as written, he said, does not give North Carolina credit for decisions made by Duke (NYSE: DUK) before the rule was announced to replace old coal plants with highly efficient natural gas plants. And it doesn’t give South Carolina credit for SCANA Corp.’s decision, also made before the rule was announced, to build a 2,334-megawatt nuclear plant that will produce power with no carbon emissions.

He said the plan would drive up power costs and hurt the economy in the Carolinas and nationwide.

“We can’t hit the pause button” on building for future power demand, he said. “We can’t agree to just fall behind other countries in (gross domestic product) and economic development.”

See the article here.

Stream Rule Frustrates Wyoming Regulators

Via The Casper Star-Tribune:

Officials at the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality are frustrated by a proposed federal rule that they say could cost the state more than $1 million a year in lost revenue and $500,000 in implementation.

The stream protection rule, developed by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), would force companies to return streams and banks that have been adversely affected by mining back to their former condition.

Federal regulators have waded into Wyoming policies on a few fronts recently. The agency that is now proposing the stream protection rule announced last month that it would begin crafting a rule to make self-bonding more challenging for coal mines. Self-bonding is a contentious practice that Wyoming regulators have consistently defended.

 State regulators and the mining industry contend the proposed stream rule incorrectly attempts to impose regulations intended for Appalachia to the arid ecosystems of the western United States. Proponents maintain that the federal push for more potent rules on water protection is a necessity in the West.

The rule would require operators to collect data before mining to enable a fair comparison of the post-mining impact and apply clean-up strategies to seasonal streams and those that only contain water after rainfall.

But as proposed, the rule includes a number of clean-up obligations that don’t make sense in arid regions with sparse vegetation, like replacing 100 feet of riparian plants on either size of a reclaimed stream, said Todd Parfitt, director of the Wyoming Department for Environmental Quality.

One of the Wyoming regulators’ main concerns is the cost, he said. The federal agency estimated lost revenue to Wyoming, based on coal that could not be mined under the new rule, at $360,000. The state’s Department of Revenue, in comparison, calculated the cost at a steeper $1.6 million a year.

“The difference was they didn’t include ad valorem tax. They didn’t include mineral royalties to the state, to the federal government, abandoned mine lands fee collections and black lung fee collections,” Parfitt said. “They missed the mark.”

However, the streams rule is not just about lost revenue, Parfitt said. It’s about how federal agencies work with states.

“This began back in 2010. We signed an agreement with OSM, that we would be a cooperating state, along with 10 other states. They came up with an early version (of the rule) that we commented on in January 2011.” Parfitt said. “That is the last communication we had with OSM until sometime mid-2015, when they went out to public notice.”

In 2011, the Western Governors’ Association protested the rule process in a letter to then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The proposed rule was clearly constructed for Appalachia, where mountaintop mining occurs, and should not apply to Western states, they argued.

“Certainly [the rule process] is very concerning because it creates a trust deficit that doesn’t need to be there,” Parfitt said.

 Though state regulators are frustrated, the streams rule has gone through many public comment periods and the federal agency has held public meetings on the issue in six states. The rule is currently being reviewed by President Barack Obama’s Office of Management and Budget. Many Western states, including Wyoming, made their concerns known to that department in June, Parfitt said.

Industry voices are largely opposed to the rule.

Cloud Peak Energy Resources, which operates the Antelope Mine outside Gillette, voiced its concerns during the public comment period, said Rick Curtsinger, spokesman for the company.

“All of Cloud Peak Energy’s operations are located in the Powder River Basin,” the company wrote. “This semi-arid region produces most of the nation’s coal. OSMRE’s one-size-fits-all approach is ill advised because of the significant differences in rainfall, chemical and geological conditions as well as different mining methods for the different mining regions of the U.S.”

 The National Mining Association, which represents the interests of industry, also voiced its disapproval, calling the proposed regulation “a rule in search of a problem.”

However, not everyone in the West shares that view.

The Western Organization of Resource Councils has voiced its support for the proposed rule.

“Many of the regulatory changes proposed in the stream protection rule are reasonable, well thought-out and necessary,” the organization said in a statement. “Our organizations have repeatedly called for some of the same proposed policies during the past years and decades.”

Existing rules lack clarity and states fail to properly enforce them, the organization maintains.

“Coal mining companies have repeatedly damaged surfaces and groundwaters, which are vital and necessary for meeting the future water needs of our communities in the West,” the group said

For the Wyoming regulators, there is still a desire to collaborate with federal officials on a streams protection rule that would be acceptable to both groups, Parfitt said.

“Engage with the states, make a rule that makes sense, is scientifically defensible and is appropriate for the different regions of the U.S.”

See the article here.

Industry Has Future, Regulations Stand in Way

Via The Southern Illinoisan: 

Coal executives visiting with The Southern Illinoisan’s editorial board on Wednesday said they are confident the industry, despite the challenges facing it, will have a future in the region for decades to come.

Joshua Carter, the vice president and chief operating officer for Knight Hawk Coal, noted that his company has grown steadily during the past roughly 18 years into a sizable employer in Southern Illinois.

Knight Hawk Coal began operations in 1998 near Ava with 15 employees, he said. Today, the company, which later expanded into Perry County with a second mine, employs about 400 workers directly, as well as another 250 or so over-the-road contract truckers.

Knight Hawk Coal is, by many measures, a Southern Illinois success story. A large portion of the coal the company mines here is shipped to East Coast states, such as Florida and the Carolinas, where coal-fired power plants have been equipped with sulfur dioxide scrubbers.

But Carter and Phillip Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association, said during the hour-long-plus conversation that there are many regulatory and political pressures facing the coal mining industry, making it difficult to compete.

Gonet attributed the industry’s most recent decline to what he deemed “Obama’s war on coal” and new regulations issued by President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the low natural gas prices suppressing the demand for coal.

The “Obama war on coal” mantra is a popular one in Southern Illinois, a rural region that has bled coal-mining jobs over the past 20 years and not seen those opportunities replaced, particularly not with options that come close overall in terms of salary and benefits.

It’s the economic conundrum that makes people nostalgic for the days when thousands of hard-hat-wearing Southern Illinois men made daily treks underground, lunch pail in hand, and emerged from a hard day’s work with coal-stained faces and money in their pockets.

But statistics show, specifically as it relates to Illinois coal production, that the “Obama war on coal” is a gross oversimplification of the economic woes facing the regional coal industry, specifically, and Southern Illinois’ economy generally.

According to statistics provided by Gonet, the most significant decline in Illinois mining followed implementation of the 1990 Clean Air Act passed by Congress and signed by President George H.W. Bush. About 10,000 people were employed in mining jobs that year in Illinois, he said, and the state mined about 62 million tons of coal. That was cut roughly in half by 2003, when Illinois produced 31 million tons and employed only about 3,500 workers.

But Illinois coal production began growing rather dramatically again in 2010 — during Obama’s first term in office, though this is attributed to the growth in coal-fired power plants adding scrubbers in states where a regulated energy market made it financially advantageous, allowing them to accept higher quantities of Illinois coal that is heavy in regulated sulfur, yet also more efficient to burn.

Illinois mined about 58 million tons of coal in 2014, which declined slightly in 2015, to about 56 million tons. But even as output climbed close to pre-Clean Air Act levels in 2014, the number of jobs did not rebound — and that is almost entirely attributed to, not presidential policies, but improved technologies and efficiencies changing the manpower-output ratio.

Still, Gonet points out that 1,630 coal-mining jobs have been lost in Illinois in 2015 and the first half of 2016. That means there are about 2,825 coal-mining jobs left in Illinois at this time, putting the state below 2003 employment levels when output dropped to its lowest point in recent history. Most of the state’s coal mines are in Southern Illinois and south-central Illinois.

Gonet laid this job loss at the feet of the EPA’s regulations, namely the agency’s so-called MATS, which stands for Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

“We fought it because we have the most stringent air emission standards laws in the world,” Gonet said. “We don’t need to make them any stricter. In fact, the benefit that you gain of fewer emissions is not worth the cost to do it.”

For its part, the EPA claims MATS will prevent up to 570 premature deaths in Illinois while creating up to $4.7 billion in health benefits in 2016 by limiting mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants. The Clean Power Plan, according to the EPA, is intended to reduce pollutants — sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide — that contribute to soot and smog and can make people sick. Implementation of that plan was stayed by the Supreme Court in February pending a judicial review.

“We would hope a (Donald) Trump administration would pull the plug on the Clean Power Plan and the MATS rule,” Gonet said. “Our other contention is the president has overstepped his constitutional authority. We clearly do not believe that EPA has the authority under Clean Air Act to control for carbon dioxide.”

Gonet said the Illinois Coal Association doesn’t make endorsements, but he still tells everyone there’s only one candidate in the 2016 presidential race who is supportive of the industry: Donald Trump.

“We see Hillary Clinton as continuing the Obama policies,” Gonet said.

Meanwhile, in recent days a large billboard has gone up on U.S. 51 in Carbondale that includes a large photo of Trump and reads, “Don’t Let Hillary Shut Down Our Coal Mines. Vote Trump.”

It was not immediately clear to the newspaper who placed the billboard. The Illinois Coal Association was not involved, Gonet said.

Gonet said the EPA regulations issued during Obama’s presidency have led to companies closing several dozen coal-fired power plants equating to roughly 100,000 megawatts of capacity. But Gonet said in a follow up interview he could not say what portion of power plants may have been taken off line because of age, or other market forces, including increased competition from natural gas and a depressed global market for U.S. coal.

During the interview at The Southern, Carter said, “We oversupplied the market place as an industry. Supply and demand are well out of balance.” At this time, he said, “the export market is non-existent. There’s no outlet valve there.”

Gonet said he could not differentiate how much of the decline in coal output in 2015 and the first half of 2016 may be attributed to a leveling off of the industry following overproduction versus expensive EPA policies. While opposing the regulations, he did concede that other market forces also likely contributed to the industry downturn.

Further, some market experts have opined that while the EPA’s policies under the Obama administration have had an impact, the coal industry also was impacted by the risky bets some large coal companies made on global markets that didn’t pan out to the degree expected. Locally, workers and retirees have been affected by the Chapter 11 bankruptcies of Arch Coal and Peabody Energy that, as part of reorganizations, have sought to shed promises to pay worker benefits.

On the other hand, Knight Hawk Coal, while affected by domestic regulations and suppressed global markets, has built a reputation as a company that has taken the slow and steady road to expansion.

Carter said he is certain the export market will play a part in the future of coal mining in Illinois, and specifically for Knight Hawk Coal. He noted that the expansion of the Panama Canal will increase access to Asia from Gulf of Mexico and Eastern-based U.S. ports. But when and how future exports will affect Illinois mining, and to what degree, is a difficult thing to predict. “The export market is kind of finicky,” he said.

See the article here.

Warnings of Rate Hikes as Oregon Becomes 1st State to Kill Coal

Via Fox News:

The massive coal-fired plant in Boardman, Ore., is just four years away from being shut down for good – at that point, Oregon coal production will be no more, after the state became the first in the nation to completely ban coal power.

The mandate, signed into law earlier this year, was the result of an environmentalist-fueled push by the Democrat-controlled legislature. Under the plan, coal production will end once the Boardman plant shutters in 2020 – utilities would still be able to buy coal power from out of state for another 10 years, until a 2030 deadline to end coal use entirely.

But the phase-out already has groups warning that residents are headed for big rate increases and brownouts.

“This is basically a wind mandate,” said the Cascade Policy Institute’s John Charles, while suggesting alternative energy sources won’t be able to meet the state’s needs. “There’s no way wind can physically power the grid because days, weeks on end, wind produces zero.”

Coal has been in decline for years. In 2005, coal made up 51 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. Last year, it met 40 percent of the need.

In Oregon, coal power still fills one-third of the electricity demand. Despite a building boom, renewables such as wind and solar power make up just 8 percent of the electricity portfolio.

The major utilities supported the coal ban even though officials can’t say for sure how they’ll keep the lights on. They feared a ballot initiative that would have been even less flexible.

“If the cost of meeting this renewable standard is too high for customers, we don’t have to meet it,” said Ryerson Schwark, a spokesman for PacifiCorp. “If meeting it will impact the reliability of the grid, we don’t have to meet it.”

A major problem could be getting any new power to the grid. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, titled “Project No Project,” found 351 recent ventures that never got built — 140 of the projects were for renewable power. Many were killed due to legal challenges from environmental groups.

Bill Kovacs, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said there are 42,000 pages of federal environmental regulations‎.

“Virtually anything you can find that’s in federal law that isn’t being complied with can be used as the basis of a lawsuit to stop the project,” Kovacs said.

One example of this is playing out in Oregon, where renewable power has become more critical due to the coal ban. The 133-turbine, 399 MW Saddle Butte Wind Park proposed for a large piece of land in Eastern Oregon near Boardman has been under challenge for several years. The developer, fed up with the lengthy process, has stopped paying $30,000 in fees he owes the state.

Irene Gilbert of Friends of Grand Rhonde Valley, which is fighting the project, sums up the growing wind farm fatigue.

“When they’re done, there will be nowhere for animals or people to be in eastern Oregon without living under a wind turbine,” she said.

But some still defend the push to end coal power.

“The people of Oregon were very interested in saying, ‘hey, let’s find a way to get rid of coal,'” said Cliff Gilmore of Renewables Northwest.

See the article here.

Poll: Majority of Voters Support Coal as Part of a Diverse Mix of Energy Resources

As the CPP Returns to Court Next Month, New Polling Shows Americans Concerned about Energy Costs and Support Coal as Part of a Diverse Energy Mix

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A majority of American voters support the use of coal as part of a diverse mix of energy resources, according to national polling released today by the National Mining Association (NMA).

With arguments on the Clean Power Plan (CPP) just weeks away, the poll, conducted Aug. 3-5, found that nearly seven in 10 voters support a continued mix of resources that includes coal, natural gas, nuclear power and renewable sources, with just 15 percent opposing (19 percent did not answer).

“The numbers are clear: Americans expect reliable and affordable energy, powered by a diverse mix of energy sources including coal, natural gas, nuclear power, oil and renewable sources,” said Hal Quinn, NMA’s president and CEO. “The CPP would block that choice by unlawfully restructuring our entire energy grid to reduce an affordable energy option and inevitably raise energy prices for all Americans.”

Findings at a glance: Voter sentiment vs. CPP realities

Poll finding: Nearly seven in 10 voters support a mix of coal, natural gas, nuclear power and renewable power sources to ensure reliability and lower costs, with just 15 percent opposing (19 percent did not answer).

Fact about CPP: The EPA’s own estimates forecast that the CPP will force the retirement of 56 coal-fired power plants from 2016–2018—plants that used 55.3 million tons of coal in 2014—limiting the ability to rely on coal for the diversification that allows price increases in any one fuel to be offset by another.

Poll finding: When asked about their energy concerns, American voters are most concerned about costs, with dependence on foreign resources and environmental impacts following.

Fact about CPP: If CPP is implemented, the typical annual household electricity bills in 2020 will be more than a third higher than they were in 2012, (an estimated $680 per family). At the same time, climate change benefits will be virtually unmeasurable, with global temperatures reduced by just 0.016 degree Fahrenheit over the next century. To view state-by-state impacts of the CPP, visit: http://www.countoncoal.org/costly-power-plan/

Poll finding: Eighty-seven percent of Americans think their electricity costs, which today come from a mix that includes 34 percent coal, are either “just right” (46 percent) or “too high” (41 percent).

Fact about CPP: Currently Americans save an estimated $93 billion in electricity costs annually through the diverse power grid that is anchored by coal. Under the CPP, however, more than 40 states will face double-digit increases in the cost of electricity, with the CPP increasing wholesale electricity prices by $214 billion, and an additional $64 billion for the construction of replacement generating capacity.

Poll finding: Seven in 10 voters, regardless of party affiliation, support federal investment in the development of technologies that will continue to make coal-powered energy cleaner.

Fact about CPP: While ignored by the CPP, clean coal technologies are making combustion of coal more efficient, achieving a more than 90 percent reduction in emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide over the last few decades. Ongoing advancements in high efficiency, low emission (HELE) coal technologies and carbon capture and storage (CCS) hold significant promise for the future. These advances in technology will slow or vanish without a durable coal-based generation capacity.

Methodology: This poll was conducted from August 3-5, 2016, among a national sample of 2001 registered voters. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, region, annual household income, home ownership status and marital status, with a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

To access the related infographic, please click here.

About the National Mining Association

The National Mining Association (NMA) is U.S. mining’s advocate in Washington, D.C. and beyond. NMA is the only national trade organization that represents the interests of mining before Congress, the administration, federal agencies, the judiciary and the media—providing a clear voice for U.S. mining. NMA’s mission is to build support for public policies that will help America fully and responsibly utilize its coal and mineral resources. www.nma.org

See the release here.

Suggestions for Trump, Clinton

Via the Casper Star-Tribune:

Editor: 

This is an open letter to Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton.

If there’s any good news for coal these days, it’s that you both have promised relief for coal communities hit hard by market forces and the president’s regulations. Donald Trump, you say you’ll put coal miners back to work. Hillary Clinton, you pledged to put coal communities back on their feet.

The upheaval underway in the power sector, and the depth and duration of the regulatory assault on an industry struggling with market competition, will not make either promise easy to keep—even assuming the sincerest of intentions. In the past five years, coal fields have lost more than 67,000 jobs paying an average of $83,700 annually with good benefits.

But one thing is plain. No promise of relief for miners and their families is possible without a sustainable coal industry that is strong enough to play a part in the energy transition now underway. Without coal producers, there are no jobs capable of supporting families. And without good paying jobs, there is no realistic prospect for a viable economy to replace the one destroyed, let alone a community that families want to live in.

However, there is one sure way that you, as president, could begin to make good on your promise: Stop digging the regulatory hole deeper.

Here is a free, three-step guide for your first term—to end the carnage in the coal fields:

Pull the plug on EPA’s costly Clean Power Plan. (Direct job savings: 40,000 by 2035. Environmental cost: too insignificant for EPA to measure.)

Stop the Department of the Interior’s unnecessary Stream Protection Rule. (Direct job savings: at least 40,000 and possibly 77,500. Environmental cost: insignificant, say state agencies.)

End the moratorium on federal coal lease sales. (Direct job savings: up to 60,000 supply chain jobs now in jeopardy. Environmental cost: none, say the Department of Interior’s own reports from Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota.)

You won’t be able to bring all of the jobs back. But thanks to your predecessor, you can easily stop the rest from disappearing.

See the article here.

Missouri Faces Troubling Uptick in Energy Prices Due to SPR

Via The Buffalo Reflex:

We sometimes forget that Missouri has been a coal-producing state for decades.

Although not a major producer like Wyoming or West Virginia, our state has mined coal, along with lead, zinc, copper and silver for more than a century. And all of this mining has not only employed thousands in family-supporting middle class jobs, but it has also underpinned some of America’s key industrial sectors, thanks to the lead we extract for car batteries and computers and the copper we contribute to electric wires and home appliances.

In one area, however, coal is still of preeminent importance to Missouri — power generation. Thanks to the modern technology that scrubs emissions from coal-fired power plants, Missouri relied on coal for 78 percent of its electricity generation in 2015, ranking us number four nationally in coal usage.

There are real benefits to using coal, particularly when it comes to reliable and affordable power generation for our cities, schools and water infrastructure. It’s not just Missouri, though, that has become accustomed to the low-cost and robust power generation driven by coal. Much of America has, as well, and coal still generates more than one-third of U.S. electricity – more than any other single power source.

Unfortunately, Missouri’s enjoyment of low-cost electricity faces a real challenge. The Obama administration is preparing to implement a Stream Protection Rule aimed at keeping coal in the ground. And that will have serious implications for the cost of electricity in America.

You wouldn’t know it from the name, but the Stream Protection Rule could spell the end for much of the U.S. coal industry. Why? Because the SPR extends far beyond streams and deals more with enhancing a federal agency’s mission than any environmental effort. We know this because the federal government’s own reports show that, after decades of careful and improved oversight, virtually all U.S. mining operations now carry no offsite environmental impacts.

Regardless, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining is preparing to foist the SPR on coal states. This matters to Missouri because the SPR is certain to drive up the cost of mining. And keeping coal in the ground will be expensive. The annual value of lost coal production from the SPR could reach $29 billion, with federal and state tax revenue falling by as much as $6.4 billion annually. That’s why America’s biggest losers may not be coal communities. Displacing affordable coal power with higher-cost alternatives will mean heavier price burdens on everyone, including the low-income households who can least afford it.
Missouri has already learned how to modernize its coal plants, and to ensure that they produce affordable power without the waste emissions that once gave coal a bad name. But driving up the cost of coal by eliminating much of America’s coal production will hit our state hard.

Overall, the Stream Protection Rule is an unnecessary overreach by the federal government, and one that will not only close down many of America’s coal producers, but needlessly drive up electricity prices. Our elected officials need to say no to a heavy-handed effort that will hurt many working families.

Terry Jarrett served on the Missouri Public Service Commission from 2007-2013.

See the article here.

Congress Must End Ill-advised Clean Power Plan

Via Lehigh Valley Live:

A review of America’s energy policy-making history is instructive:

During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the nation enacted (constitutionally and lawfully) the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act to force installations burning relatively clean gas and oil to convert to coal.  The folly of this eventually became clear and PIFUA was repealed nine years later with little difficulty and fanfare (constitutionally and lawfully).

Later the nation enacted (constitutionally and lawfully) the ethanol program to replace gasoline with “clean” biofuel.  Predictably, this resulted in stunning environmental damage to land and waterways as well as economic and humanitarian misery to those most poor.  It resulted in increases in some types of air pollution and arguably greenhouse gas emissions as well.  This folly is now so obvious that even some Democratic congressmen and environmental groups are beginning a movement to roll back the ethanol mandate (constitutionally and lawfully).  This will be difficult because powerful constituencies have developed around ethanol.

Today the Environmental Protection Agency is advancing (unconstitutionally and unlawfully) the misnamed Clean Power Plan to drive fossil fuel power plants out of existence to “fight global warming.” Although under a stay order by the Supreme Court, EPA is proceeding contemptuously anyhow. Once EPA’s damage to America’s electricity supplies becomes obvious, the road back will be long and painful.

Paradoxically, all this would have no measurable effect on Earth’s temperatures while damage to the environment and human health from wind farms mounts.
Congress (constitutionally and lawfully) must end the CPP folly immediately.

James M. Policelli
Plainfield Township

See the article here.

Coal Plays Essential Role in U.S. Economy

Via The Des Moines Register:

I hope that Trump and Pence do end the war on coal if elected, considering that just one coal company, Murray Energy, may soon have to lay off up to 4,400 coal miners in six states [Steve King endorses Trump, Pence at Sioux City rally, Aug. 9]. In fact, the entire U.S. economy will suffer if over-regulation drives coal out of your nation’s energy mix.

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

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

Things will likely be even worse for America if President Barack Obama’s climate policies are continued by the next administration. After all, the U.S. gets 33 percent of its power from coal (59 percent in Iowa).

Who will provide jobs if American businesses cannot rely on cheap and reliable electricity generated from coal?

See the article here.

How Green Energy Hurts the Poor

Via The Detroit News:

The clean energy mantra is so loud that it often drowns out the feeble cry of energy poverty. Many Americans are finding it more and more difficult to pay their utility bills, yet this important issue is nearly absent from the debate about America’s energy future.

Modern progressives, who have long fancied themselves as champions of the poor, now see energy policy only through the lens of climate change. Their call to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at any cost, drives public policy. Consequently, the sources of our most reliable and affordable electricity, existing coal power plants, are being shut down across the country as overzealous federal and state regulatory mandates force utilities to use less reliable, and more expensive sources such as wind and solar power.

For those on fixed incomes, increasing energy prices mean that the gap between what they can afford to pay and what they are paying for electricity is widening. If we continue to push aside cheap coal-generated electricity for more expensive alternatives, many more of the nation’s poor will fall into that gap as they struggle to keep their lights on and their refrigerators running.

To be considered affordable, utility bills should be no more than 6 percent of one’s income. But according to new research, energy costs now represent 20 percent or more of income for many of the poorest Americans. That affordability gap of 14 percentage points translates into an extra $40 billion per year.

Only about 1 in 5 families eligible for the federal government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program actually received funding last year. While climate change evangelists might suggest the answer to this affordability crisis is more funding for energy assistance programs, that’s only a Band-Aid solution that ignores the critical issue of why energy costs are rising.

While low-cost natural gas — thanks to the shale revolution — has moderated rises in energy prices, we cannot assume that natural gas will stay cheap forever. Today, natural gas is the largest source for generating the nation’s electricity. It also heats half of American homes and is being exported in ever-growing volumes.

In the past, when natural gas prices spiked (which they have a history of doing), utilities could turn to abundant, reliable and low-cost coal power to hold down energy costs. But many of those coal plants, once the backbone of our electricity sector, are now gone or are threatened with regulation-induced death. While coal is still used to generate a third of the nation’s electricity, an ever-lengthening list of EPA regulations continues to push critically important coal plants into early retirement.

But renewable energy can’t fill that void any time soon. Despite receiving tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, wind and solar still generate less than 6 percent of the nation’s electricity and remain undependable sources of electricity generation.

Improving the environmental performance of our energy sector is a worthy goal. But doing so by regulatory fiat, while trading reliable and low-cost energy for more expensive and less reliable alternatives, is not the right path forward.

Purposefully driving up the cost of energy, while millions of Americans already struggle to pay their utility bills, is irresponsible. We cannot cut the world’s carbon emissions alone, but we can certainly make U.S. energy poverty a full-blown crisis if we continue on our current course.

Innovation and competition, not heavy-handed regulation, are the keys to keeping the cost of energy from breaking household budgets. Maintaining, or even lowering, energy costs must be as important a consideration in U.S. energy policy as any efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Michael Jensen is a research associate at Strata. William Shughart, research director of the Independent Institute, is J. Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice at Utah State’s Huntsman School of Business and a Strata senior fellow. This has been adapted from InsideSources.

See the article here.

The ‘War On Coal’ Threatens A Sleepy Colorado Mining Town

Via The Daily Caller:

CRAIG, Colo. — Coal, from extraction to use as a generation source, forms the literal bedrock of Craig.

The past few years have shaken the once quiet town, as an onslaught of federal government regulations and actions by environmental activists bent on keeping Moffat County’s key natural resource in the ground have sparked concerns not only over the future of coal, but the future of the region itself.

Colorado’s second largest in total land area, Moffat County comprises more than 4,700 square miles of land including remote wilderness areas like Dinosaur National Monument. The county has fewer than 14,000 residents however, in a space roughly the size of the state of Connecticut or larger than Delaware and Rhode Island (2x) combined.

Visible from all parts of the tiny Colorado community, Craig Station, a 1,304 MW coal-fired power plant operated by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, sits on a gently rolling hill five miles south of Craig’s main street, U.S. Highway 40. A city limit sign featuring a stylized outline of the installation greets drivers approaching from the south on Colorado State Highway 13.

The roughly 9,000 residents of the city, situated 200 miles northwest of Denver, have been on edge the past few years as they endured wave after wave of uncertainty, from a potential endangered species listing for the greater sage grouse to awaiting the unveiling of the administration’s most ambitious environmental rule: the Clean Power Plan regulation targeting coal-fired electrical generation units. Then there’s the state renewable energy mandate, seeking 30 percent renewable energy by 2020. Add in a pair of lawsuits challenging the environmental permitting for the Colowyo and Trapper mining operations, two nearby coal mines that provide the raw, low sulfur subbituminous coal for Craig Station.

It has become, as the American Energy Alliance called the city’s predicament in 2012, a “perfect storm” for Craig, and an instructive lesson in how onerous regulations and disruptive activism can work to bury a town–to kill it in order to save it.

‘Tough shit’

A bumper sticker declaring “WildEarth Guardians = Terrorism” features prominently on the drive-thru window of Clyde Hettinger’s Dark Horse Discount Liquor store. Hettinger isn’t shy about publicly displaying his support for the driving source of the region’s economic engine or in his description of the environmental organization targeted by his signage.

“We support coal,” says one side of the marquee in front of Dark Horse. “Coal keeps the beer cold!” says the other.

“We have to support them because they support us. We believe in coal. We believe in our economy. We believe in the people here,” Hettinger said.

“The WildEarth Guardians don’t understand what makes the world go round. We’ve got a sign in our window that says WildEarth Guardians are terrorists, and the people love it. That’s just what they are. They’re trying to panic the people with no real facts,” Hettinger declared.

A May 2015 decision in a lawsuit brought by the WildEarth Guardians in 2013 threatened to shut down both Colowyo and Trapper mines. The activists claimed that Colowyo Mine and others had been inadequately permitted under the National Environmental Policy Act, and sued the U.S. Office of Surface Mining. The judge agreed but delayed the decision for 120 days, allowing the agency and the mine to address concerns before a September deadline. A similar decision faced Trapper Mine.

The lawsuits caused an immediate uproar as hundreds of direct jobs at the mines and the region’s economy faced a grinding halt if the permits to mine were rescinded. WildEarth Guardians, and those associated with the group in any way, immediately became persona non grata. New Belgium Brewery saw its products and signage pulled from store shelves in the wake of the discovery that the company had previously donated a small amount to the environmental lawfare outfit.

Company outreach did little to comfort Craig business owners. New Belgium has not been on Hettinger’s shelves ever since.

“My initial response is tough shit,” said Jeremy Nichols, a spokesman and director of climate and energy for WildEarth Guardians, in the midst of last summer’s legal proceedings. But it wasn’t just a bit of off-color language that prompted such a backlash, even as Nichols’ comment further stoked the ire of local residents and drew statewide attention to the plight of Colowyo Mine. Nichols’ ultimate and immediate goal is to “keep it [coal] in the ground.”

And that’s just not going to happen, says Ray Beck, Mayor of Craig.

“I don’t think it’s right that we pick winners and losers and that’s what they [WildEarth Guardians] do. We should sit down at the table–these types of decisions don’t start in the courts–and that’s their mission. If they don’t get what they want, then they’re going to sue you. They’re going to take you to court. That’s not right,” said Beck, who criticized the group’s mission and tactics.

“Let’s sit down at the table, let’s have this conversation, let’s collaborate, let’s compromise. Don’t decide we’re going to sue you because you’re not keeping the coal in the ground, that’s not the answer. In fact it’s the solution to a more vibrant community, not only here but in the state of Colorado and throughout the nation, and that’s the conversation we should be having,” Beck said.

The mayor defended the region’s economy, even as he acknowledged that adjustments in the form of diversification would be necessary and welcome.

“Western Colorado has not recovered from the 2008-2009 recession. We’re going to keep moving forward, we’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep standing up and trying to preserve what we have,” Beck continued.

As recently as 2013, Colowyo Mine generated more than $206 million in direct and indirect economic activity in the region, and paid $12 million in federal and state royalties, severance, sales, and property taxes that year.

At the same time, Beck conceded that Craig, as well as other communities on the Western Slope, would have to begin diversifying their economies, or face the same fate as Delta, Colorado, which has lost hundreds of well-paying coal-related mining jobs since 2012, and seen student enrollment drop in Delta County Schools, as mining families relocate. Mines in that area have also been subject to WildEarth Guardian lawsuits.

“We faced some incredible challenges over the past year or so from organizations that say ‘keep it in the ground,’ basically just stop extracting fossil fuels. No more fossil fuels. I think that is extremely ill-conceived, it’s short-sighted, it’s unrealistic,” said Diana Orf of the Colorado Mining Association.

Despite the desires and legal efforts of activist groups like WildEarth Guardians in Colorado, or Bill McKibben’s 350.org nationally, said Orf, coal isn’t headed into the sunset.

“Certainly modern society needs to charge their cell phones, keep their computers operating, they like to drive their cars. If it’s an electric car, it’s still powered by electricity, a large percentage of which comes from coal or natural gas, which is also a fossil fuel. If we are going to continue to live anything resembling a modern society and not devolve into a third world country as far as our lifestyle, we need fossil fuels. They will not go away anytime in the near future,” she said.

“We’re going to make sure that rules and regulations that are thrust upon us make sense, that they’re fairly administered. When it comes to legal actions, we’re going to make sure that we can defend ourselves, make sure that the law is followed, and that our consumers are protected,” said Lee Boughey, Tri-State’s Senior Manager of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs.

‘Costly Power Plan’

The 2015 finalization of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan rule drew quick reaction from all sides, as it proposed to reduce state emissions of carbon dioxide by 28 percent overall or 40 percent in pounds of CO2/MWh of electric generation by the year 2030.

While it was apparent that Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) would be greenlit by the state’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper to fully comply with the EPA’s compressed timeline, the state’s Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, joined a multi-state effort to challenge the rule’s implementation, prompting a battle at the state Supreme Court over the prerogative of filing such a lawsuit. Coffman prevailed.

The Hickenlooper administration, however,  staunchly defended the ability of CDPHE to continue its work on the Clean Power Plan even as the legal proceedings progressed. A February 2016 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the rule while litigation proceeded in the lower courts ostensibly put the state work on implementation on hold.

Instead, a budget battle erupted between the Colorado legislature who sought to remove funding for any work on the Clean Power Plan, and an agency determined to meet whatever timeline would emerge, including the original September 2016 deadline to file a plan or extension. Eventually, a bipartisan compromise saw $112,000 in funding trimmed from the air quality control division, and the agency reluctantly agreed to halt explicit work on the Clean Power Plan. Records obtained showed the agency had spent approximately $150,000 on planning and stakeholder meetings since August 2015.

“However this plays out, coal has been and will remain a vital part of the state’s energy mix, there’s no question about that,” said Will Allison, Director of CDPHE’s Air Pollution Control Division, at a community meeting in April at Moffat County High School in Craigl.

“We are clearly not developing something to submit to EPA in September 2016. The rule is stayed and we recognize that, and we’re not planning to make a submittal to EPA. We don’t plan to make any submittal to EPA unless and until we’re required to as a matter of law,” said Allison.

He called the rule ‘fairly flexible and broad” but refrained from offering any opinion on the outcome of legal challenges. “The goals that were set for Colorado are ambitious but they are achievable,” Allison said, citing other efforts the state has undertaken, like renewable energy standards, Clean Air Clean Jobs legislation, and efficiency measures.

“However this plays out,” Allison argued, “coal has been and will remain a vital part of the state’s energy mix, there’s no question about that.”

And while he conceded that no direct work would be undertaken, the agency would continue work on clean air issues under its mandate. “That said, we’re not going to sit on our hands, as it were, and do nothing for the next year or two while the court process plays itself out,” he said.

“The people have a right to know what their (CDPHE’s) intentions are . . . what comes out of that is going to impact us from an economic standpoint. When you mandate rules and regulations imposed on our coal-reliant community and our power plant there will be a trickle-down effect and we’re all going to feel it,” said Beck.

“I think it was really important to give the health department a feel for what the community feels about their economy based on generation of power and fossil fuel extraction in the area. I think there’s been a big divide in the past and there’s been more acrimony than actual dialogue,” said Orf. This opportunity for dialogue provided by the stay, she said, would enable communities to figure out how to work within the regulations while still moving forward with their local economies.

Frank Moe, Moffat County Commissioner and small business owner, was one of the main subjects in the 2012 video, “The Perfect Storm over Craig, Colorado.” The owner of a Best Western Inn, Moe and his wife were forced to make staff cuts at their hotel during the previous round of regulatory imposition in the region.

Now an elected official, Moe touted the county’s proactive look at its economy, centered on coal extraction and electricity generation, but singled out the WildEarth Guardians’ rigid “keep it in the ground” mentality as nothing short of an attack on the entire community.

“The attack, and I say attack from the WildEarth Guardians because it was an attack on coal but it was also an attack on our people and our way of life,” said Moe.

(Marquee, Dark Horse Discount Liquor, Craig, Colorado Photo: Michael Sandoval)

“One of the biggest challenges with what I call extreme environmentalists is they don’t put the human equation into their goals and objectives. Keeping the coal in the ground is almost like burying me and my fellow citizens in the ground because that is what our economy is based on,” Moe said. Moe compared the professionalism and collaboration of CDPHE’s outreach to what he saw as the crass and vulgar language and behavior from environmental groups, including those activists not based in the community.

Had the lawsuit against Colowyo or Trapper mines succeeded, even temporarily, while permitting was made compliant, Moe says, small businesses in Craig would have gone belly up immediately.

“I don’t think we’d have a business. I think a lot of our family and friends in the area would not have a business and specifically in the hotel business, I could see numerous bankruptcies that would have happened within three to six months,” Moe said, as the area’s recovery made many local businesses marginal. Any shutdown would likely precipitate a cascading effect, as other stores lose business without the high-paying jobs and economic support provided by Craig Station or the nearby mines.

See the article here.

Via The Washington Examiner:

7. Clean Power Plan, $11.9 billion

Instead of relying on Congress, with its increased Republican opposition, Obama decided to enact regulations using his executive authority to meet his climate goals. (AP Photo)

The Clean Power Plan is considered the centerpiece of President Obama’s effort to battle climate change. And while it is the most publicized of all his actions, its cost, estimated by the EPA to be $11.9 billion, is a source of dispute.

Under the plan, states must cut their greenhouse gas emissions one-third by 2030. To do that, the EPA expects them to cut back on their use of coal-fired power plants.

It is expected that it will take state officials a total of 821,000 hours to file the paperwork to comply with the regulations.

Most of the cost will come in the several years leading up to the final compliance year in 2030, according to the EPA. States have two options for cutting emissions: by the rate of emissions or by a mass-based standard such as an emissions cap.

Under the agency’s rate-based scenario, which is seen as the default for achieving the targets, it would cost states $8.4 billion a year to comply in 2030.

But the conservative American Action Forum, which has compiled the cost of all EPA rules, says the EPA’s assessment of the Clean Power Plan is limited and conservative at best.

By adding the annualized cost estimated by the agency beginning in 2020 at $2.5 billion, before leveling to $1 billion for 2021-25, and then jumping to $8.4 billion in 2026-30, the total cost of the rule is $11.9 billion, based on the think tank’s Regulation Rodeo database and the EPA’s final rule.

The cost estimates for the years 2020, 2025 and 2030 are derived from the EPA’s Integrated Planning Model, which provides one-year cost estimates in five-year increments, said EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison.

“This is a problem throughout the regulatory world, where there is not really a standard way to control for cost,” said Sam Batkins, the group’s regulatory policy director. For example, another expensive EPA rule for coal ash gives a total cost figure over the next 100 years, while the Energy Department provides a total cost over 30 years.

“In this particular rulemaking, EPA didn’t give a net present value of cost, and all indications are this $11 billion figure is not going to be the total cost of the rule.”

Batkins said that in other documents, the agency said that just one of the rule’s “building blocks,” which lay out the types of resources states can use to comply, could cost $30 billion.

Other ways exist to evaluate cost, he said. “There are industry costs that are much higher, and there are industry costs that are probably lower as well. Even within an agency you won’t get a standard, with the exception of the Department of Energy, figure for [cost],” where the total cost and benefits of a regulation are broken down by year and made available to the public.

EPA cost figures should be looked at only as milestones that give an idea of what the cost would be, he said.

States have two options for cutting emissions: by the rate of emissions or by a mass-based standard such as an emissions cap. (AP Photo)

In fact, some industry studies suggest the Clean Power Plan could surpass the cost of all other major electric utility rules combined.

A study done by NERA Consulting for the coal industry shows that the annual cost of the rule could be $39 billion per year, “far outpacing the costs of compliance for all EPA rules for power plants in 2010 ($7 billion) and the annual cost of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule ($10 billion),” the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity said.

The Congressional Research Service, the legislative branch’s nonpartisan research arm, also looked at various industry reports that examine the cost of the rule in a guide to the Clean Power Plan it issued in June.

The guide cites the NERA study, but also a study by the National Mining Association that “projected sharp increases in the cost of both electricity and natural gas as a result of the rule, with a cumulative increase in wholesale electricity costs of $214 billion between 2022 and 2030.”

“Others, including electric power producers and regional transmission organizations, argue that it is too early to arrive at cost estimates,” the CRS guide said. “Much depends on decisions to be made by the states as to how they will structure their regulatory programs and on projections of the cost of natural gas, coal, renewable power and end-use efficiency measures between now and 2030.”

The agency is encouraging states to use emissions trading schemes or participation in regional cap-and-trade programs to comply with the plan. The final rule also includes a clean energy incentive program, which provides states with special credits for ramping up renewable energy development before they must begin complying with the plan in 2022.

The plan has been put on hold by the Supreme Court until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reviews lawsuits filed by dozens of states and industry groups. The challengers argue that it oversteps the EPA’s legal authority under the Clean Air Act and is an unconstitutional power grab over states’ rights to regulate their own energy supplies.

The appeals court is set to hear oral arguments on Sept. 27, and they will be heard by the entire court, instead of a normal three-judge panel. That is meant to expedite the hearing process and move the court to a final decision before the end of the year. After that, it is expected to go to the Supreme Court no matter what the judges decide.

See the full article here.

The Burden of Today’s Energy Policies Fall Heaviest on Low-Income Americans

Via Inside Sources:

The clean energy mantra is so loud that it often drowns out the feeble cry of energy poverty. Many Americans are finding it more and more difficult to paytheir utility bills, yet this important issue is nearly absent from the debate about America’s energy future.

Modern progressives, who have long fancied themselves as champions of the poor, now see energy policy only through the lens of climate change. Their call to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, at any cost, drives public policy. Consequently, the sources of our most reliable and affordable electricity, existing coal power plants, are being shut down across the country as overzealous federal and state regulatory mandates force utilities to use less reliable, and more expensive sources such as wind and solar power.

For those on fixed incomes, increasing energy prices mean that the gap between what they can afford to pay and what they are paying for electricity is widening. If we continue to push aside cheap coal-generated electricity for more expensive alternatives, many more of the nation’s poor will fall into that gap as they struggle to keep their lights on and their refrigerators running.

To be considered affordable, utility bills should be no more than 6 percent of one’s income. But according to new research, energy costs now represent 20 percent or more of income for many of the poorest Americans. That affordability gap of 14 percentage points translates into an extra $40 billion per year.

Energy assistance programs are proving about as effective in picking up the slack as a pasta strainer is in bailing water out of a sinking ship. Only about one in five families eligible for the federal government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program actually received funding last year. While climate change evangelists might suggest the answer to this affordability crisis is more funding for energy assistance programs, that’s only a Band-Aid solution that ignores the critical issue of why energy costs are rising.

While low-cost natural gas — thanks to the shale revolution — has moderated rises in energy prices, we cannot assume that natural gas will stay cheap forever. Today, natural gas is the largest source for generating the nation’s electricity. It also heats half of American homes and is being exported in ever-growing volumes.

In the past, when natural gas prices spiked (which they have a history of doing), utilities could turn to abundant, reliable and low-cost coal power to hold down energy costs. But many of those coal plants, once the backbone of our electricity sector, are now gone or are threatened with regulation-induced death. While coal is still used to generate a third of the nation’s electricity, an ever-lengthening list of EPA regulations continues to push critically important coal plants into early retirement.

Don’t think for a second that renewable energy can fill that void any time soon. Despite receiving tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, wind and solar still generate less than 6 percent of the nation’s electricity and remain undependable sources of electricity generation.

Improving the environmental performance of our energy sector is a worthy goal. But doing so by regulatory fiat, while trading reliable and low-cost energy for more expensive and less reliable alternatives, is not the right path forward.

Purposefully driving up the cost of energy, while millions of Americans already struggle to pay their utility bills, is irresponsible. We cannot cut the world’s carbon emissions alone, but we can certainly make U.S. energy poverty a full-blown crisis if we continue on our current course.

Innovation and competition, not heavy-handed regulation, are the keys to keeping the cost of energy from breaking household budgets. Maintaining, or even lowering, energy costs must be as important a consideration in U.S. energy policy as any efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

See the article here.

Happy Bday Clean Power Plan, Thanks for the Job Losses and Billions in Costs!

Via Americans for Tax Reform:

Today marks exactly one year since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Obama Administration formally unveiled their coveted Clean Power Plan (CPP). While EPA bureaucrats and the Obama Administration tout the so-called “benefits” of the CPP, the truth is the rule has already begun destroying the livelihoods of thousands of hard-working Americans even before enactment. With the rule turning one today, it is only fitting to reflect on the CPP’s journey to this point since it was first proposed.

In February of this year, the CPP suffered a major blow when the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued a stay of the rule, meaning that the Obama Administration and EPA may not continue with enactment until all legal challenges have played out.

The SCOTUS ruling reinforced what CPP opponents have been arguing since the rule was proposed: that the CPP exemplifies federal overreach; would be disastrous for states and the U.S. economy; and is premised on backwards and illogical legal grounds. Even President Obama’s legal mentor, Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe, has argued that the CPP “is a remarkable example of executive overreach and an administrative agency’s assertion of power beyond its statutory authority.”

Aside from the misleading and unlawful legal gymnastics the Obama Administration had to do just to propose the rule with a straight face, the CPP’s impact on the American economy is already being felt. Despite the fact that the CPP has not yet been enacted, in 2015 alone over 11,000 coal miners lost their jobs and a number of energy companies have filed for bankruptcy. Clearly Obama is comfortable with the state of things as long as his “green legacy” is preserved.

Even Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has expressed her support for the CPP and its impact on jobs and the economy. At a Town Hall in Ohio in April Clinton proudly stated that she is the only candidate with a policy to bring renewables “into coal country, because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Apparently Clinton is not up to date on the news because such policies are already devastating American workers.

On top of the economic extermination already taking place as a result of the CPP, the projected economic impacts if the rule is actually enacted are even more drastic. The rule is projected to cause a 12 to 17 percent increase in electricity prices. Every state in the continental U.S. will see rate increases, with an estimated 44 states seeing double-digit rate increases, and 17 states facing price increase of over 20 percent.

The CPP is also slated to decrease household spending power between $64 and $79 billion, with annual compliance costs projected to reach up to $73 billion. Such impacts are economically unsustainable for many businesses and families. Sadly, the low-to-middle income Americans President Obama has claimed will benefit from the CPP will actually be those hardest hit by reduced income, job losses, and higher energy costs.

Thus as the Clean Power Plan turns one year old today, Americans should thank President Obama and the EPA for birthing this tremendously disastrous and unlawful regulation. Americans can also thank the President and his EPA lackeys for the CPP’s contributions to the American economy: thousands of jobs lost; bankruptcy; reduced U.S. economic output and household income; and skyrocketing energy costs.

Happy Birthday Clean Power Plan! Hope it’s your last!

See the article here.

 

NMA Observes CPP’s First Anniversary

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn today remarked on the first anniversary of the administration’s Clean Power Plan unveiled by the president Aug. 3, 2015:

“The first year of this reckless rule shows why the Clean Power Plan (CPP) should not have a second.

“The CPP is an ill-conceived attempt to transform the nation’s power grid by a federal agency that lacks both the technical competence and the requisite legal authority to do so. On Feb. 9, the Supreme Court issued its stay, voiding any legal obligation for states to implement a rule that will impose hundreds of billions of dollars of costs on the economy, destroy valuable energy assets that will be replaced at great cost – leaving our economy more vulnerable to rising power prices – and lead to further losses of high-wage jobs in an economy that already fails to provide them for a near record number of jobless Americans. And all for an insignificant environmental benefit that appears designed to address political aspirations rather than climate change.

“For these reasons and others, 28 states to date have openly defied the administration by refusing to implement this rule by taking their grievances and EPA to court.

“In year two of the CPP, more states will appreciate that its costs greatly outweigh any conceivable benefit it provides to the country.”

See the release here.

Clean Power Plan: All Pain, No Gain for West Virginia

Via The Hill: 

August 3 will mark one year since President Obama announced the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) strategy to decrease carbon emissions from power plants in order to combat the consequences of climate change.

While anniversaries are normally cause for celebration, the echoes of joyous celebration will not be heard in the hills and hollows of West Virginia.

If implemented, the CPP will disproportionately impact states where coal is the majority generator of electricity. As the bête noire of the environmental movement, coal is often the main target of regulations and directives from regulatory agencies. In West Virginia, America’s second largest coal-producing state, the effects could be especially acute.

According to research performed by Energy Analysis Ventures, an energy consulting group headquartered in Arlington, VA, West Virginia will see wholesale electricity prices rise by 30 percent by 2030 – the second-largest increase over that time period in the nation.

For the nation’s second-poorest state, an increase of 30 percent in the price of a critical good through an EPA diktat is a tough pill to swallow, indeed.

And what about the impact on jobs? For West Virginia, the repercussions would also be disastrous. Lest one should think this is merely some right-wing drivel, the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute has estimated that roughly 24,000 coal-mining jobs will be “displaced” by 2020 as a result of the CPP.

It is not a stretch to believe that a disproportionate amount of those “displaced” jobs will be in West Virginia — a state that has already seen 7,000 “displaced” coal-mining jobs since 2011.

A fair question to ask is: what benefit will result from all of this very immediate, very real human cost? According to the EPA’s own analysis, not much — if any. According to the EPA’s own climate model, the average global temperature will be lowered by .02C by the year 2100, if all aspects of the CPP are implemented.

You’ll have to forgive West Virginians for feeling insulted. For those unaware, West Virginia isn’t doing terribly well, economically and otherwise: we’re the only state in the country where less than half of able-bodied adults have a job. West Virginia has “led” the nation in this category every year since 1976, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began compiling the data.

West Virginia also has among the nation’s highest rates of drug overdose, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and working-age adults on disability benefits. In short, the state is an economic tragedy. It should not be hard to understand why people in this beautiful state are dismayed and bewildered that a group of faceless, unelected bureaucrats can — and do — wield such authority over the outcomes of their lives.

Progress and change brought about by natural market forces are a fact of life and few among us will deny that reality. However, there is a world of difference between natural, market-driven evolutions in an industry and artificial “progress” driven by a select group of ideologues in Washington, D.C. To many in West Virginia, “progress” looks like drug addiction driven by joblessness and hopelessness driven by a sense of helplessness in the face of a regulatory onslaught.

Some politicians have offered to give billions of dollars to coal communities affected by the nation’s ideologically-driven energy policy, but that is insulting to the proud men and women of West Virginia. To us, it seems like the government breaks our legs and then expects gratitude when it offers us crutches. Men and women all over West Virginia just want a fair chance to work and provide for their families — nothing more and nothing less.

As the anniversary of the CPP draws near, you’ll have to forgive the deafening silence in the Mountain State.

Garrett Ballengee is the executive director and Michael Reed is a research associate at the Cardinal Institute for WV Policy.

See the article here.

Examining the Impact of the EPA’s Recent Regulatory Activities

Via The Springfield News-Leader:

Since 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published nearly 4,000 rules — totaling over 33,000 pages — that threaten affordable energy and jobs in the coal, natural gas and many other sectors of our economy. Many of these have been vast oversteps of federal authority like in the agency’s “Clean Power Plan,” but on top of that, they have expanded over 100 greenhouse gas related pre-existing statutes for their own agenda.

The EPA was established more than 40 years ago by executive order to enact several hundred new rules yearly. The wave of rules under this administration are only adding to the burden, and have been deemed “economically significant” — having an annual effect on the economy surpassing $100 million or more and/or fundamentally impacting the economy.

In Missouri and across America, the EPA’s new overbearing standards have hurt coal-fired and natural gas-fired electric generating units, oftentimes issuing new rules just as the most recent edicts had been complied with. From oversight at the state level to businesses and their employees, these initiatives have vastly changed the landscape of America’s vital energy industries in a way that demands us to comprehensively look at the legal and implementation costs of such brazen policies.

In early July, the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing to do just that where we heard daunting testimony. Travis Kavulla, President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and Vice Chairman of the Montana Public service commission, testified that, “The EPA’s regulation creates a carbon planning function vested in the EPA together with the State environmental regulators and governors. This supplants the traditional oversight of utility resource planning by State and utility commissions. This step change in the regulation of utilities will have many consequences, some of which are readily apparent and some of which are as yet unforeseen.”

Texas Railroad Commission Chairman David J. Porter echoed his sentiment, saying that the Obama administration’s rulemaking has been to “the detriment of state authority and the circumvention of the regulatory authority granted to Congress.” Furthermore, Director of the North Dakota Industrial Commission testified that new regulatory initiatives “interfere directly with North Dakota’s plan for reducing its gas flaring by limiting the power that [North Dakota Officials] have available for powering those natural gas processing plants,” which requires “three to four times as much pipeline in the ground to reach these smaller pads.”

We cannot take our energy sustainability so lightly and, like I tell people in the Ozarks, these are the stakes in November. It has become clear that it will be up to Congress to make the EPA stay within its constitutionally given authority so that our energy industries do not suffer further. These rules apply broadly across the U.S. economy and will continue to hurt productivity as long as the EPA exceeds its authority and acts as a central energy regulator.

Here in Missouri, we rely on coal for 83 percent of our generating power, and this shift could dramatically undermine our electric grid and raise consumer prices. The testimony we heard from experts and officials in our hearing speaks volumes and, as always, I am committed to fighting on behalf of the ratepayers, energy producers and workers who have been, and will continue to be, impacted by these reckless rules unless they are stopped.

For more information on my activities in our district and in Washington I encourage you to follow my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Rep.Billy.Long and my Twitter page at https://twitter.com/USRepLong . You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter, “Long’s Short Report”, by visiting https://longforms.house.gov/newsletter-and-email-updates-form.

Billy Long, the congressional representative from Missouri’s 7th District, contributes a regular opinion piece.

See the article here.

Wyo.’s Gov. Mead Blasts Federal Coal Leasing Review

Via E&E Publishing:

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) contends his state was “caught by surprise” by the Obama administration’s decision to halt federal coal leases and review the program, declaring that “coal miners and their families are at risk.”

In a 75-page letter last week to the Bureau of Land Management, as well as 4,179 pages of attachments, Mead called on the agency to end or at least quickly wrap up its programmatic environmental impact statement, or PEIS, process.

“The BLM needs to stop the PEIS, but at a minimum it needs to commit in writing what it has promised repeatedly, that the PEIS will be completed by January 15, 2019 and, completed or not, that the moratorium will expire on that date,” Mead said. “I will continue to oppose the administration’s unjustified approach to coal.”

Federal coal is financially critical to Wyoming, as it is to Montana — the two states where the reform of the federal coal leasing program will have the largest economic and societal consequences. In both states, half the revenue earned by federal coal leases goes back to state coffers. And both remain in limbo as industry and environmental groups dig in their heels on how the review should unfold.

Asked what the Department of the Interior should analyze in a soon-to-be-completed review, industry groups insist that the coal leasing program is already doing its job: that is, providing a fair return to taxpayers and cheap, reliable fuel.

Environmental groups assert that the review opens the door for the agency to fully analyze all facets of the program — especially the environmental costs, including those of carbon emissions from mining coal on federal lands.

In royalties alone, Montana gets about $500 million annually from coal sales. In Wyoming, coal brings in more than $1 billion annually to the state and local governments. That comes from a share of federal royalties after the coal is mined, a 7 percent state severance tax, property taxes, a share of rent payments paid to BLM, sales taxes and bonus bid payments. Much of that money is used to fund schools and roads.

Speaking at a June meeting in Billings, Mont., Bud Clinch, executive director of the Montana Coal Council, testified that the current three-year moratorium on new coal leases that is underway while the review is completed is “just another thinly veiled tactic in the war on coal.”

“Initially, this moratorium was to cease leasing and analyze if the federal government was getting fair market value for its leases,” he said. “Somehow, it has morphed into this massive all-inclusive analysis from soup to nuts.”

Climate change and other externalities are already analyzed each time the agency considers a lease, he said.

In their comments submitted last week to BLM, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and the Defenders of Wildlife ultimately called on the agency to end the program entirely. They strongly urged that climate change impacts be accounted for, something they say would be an “unprecedented opportunity” for BLM.

“In sum, while comprehensive analyses of the federal coal program’s social, environmental, and economic consequences are critical to BLM’s evaluation of the need for program reforms, those analyses can point in only one direction,” they wrote. “BLM should end federal coal leasing.”

Enviros say cost of coal includes climate

Middle ground does exist. A White House Council of Economic Advisers report released in June modeled four scenarios in which the current 12.5 percent royalty rate for federal coal was raised. The council examined how the market would respond, what revenues would do and what impacts that would have on greenhouse gas emissions (ClimateWire, June 23).

Whether rates were raised to 17 or 29 percent, all scenarios would load federal coffers with hundreds of millions of dollars more in revenue and help the climate, the report found.

Similarly, in a three-page report released last week, nonprofit advocacy group the Mountain Pact argued that small increases to federal coal royalty rates could send a windfall of revenue to states with a heavy mining presence. The report cited figures showing that adding $2.50 to the cost of coal per ton could raise revenues $910 million by 2020 while decreasing coal production less than 1 percent.

Alternatively, without any reform, the report found that the financial impact of climate change — should the agency not reform the program — could devastate mountain communities.

If BLM considers raising royalty rates or adding a price on carbon to the price of coal, one way the extra money raised could be spent is through investment into carbon capture and sequestration technology or to help struggling coal communities retrain workers.

Connie Wilbert, director of the Sierra Club’s Wyoming chapter, said that at the very least, American taxpayers need to get a fair return for their federal coal. She said federal assistance for Western communities is absolutely needed.

But Wilbert said she doubts that the industry would remain operable if the true climate and other environmental costs — impacts from coal dust on health and clean water, for example — were added to the price of coal.

“I personally believe this, and Sierra Club believes this, and it is reflected in our comments, is that through this PEIS and through this analysis of all of the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts and the required analysis of the economics of that, if the coal companies are actually required to internalize and pay according to those costs, at the end of the day, it won’t be an economically viable option anymore,” she said.

Industry: Consumers will suffer

Industry has voiced staunch opposition to raising royalty rates.

“The domestic coal industry is suffering relentless regulatory and administrative attacks from the current administration and fierce competition from other domestic fuel sources coupled with depressed international prices,” stated comments submitted by coal company Cloud Peak Energy Inc. “These regulatory and economic challenges have led to an unprecedented number of coal company bankruptcies.”

In the Powder River Basin are coal giants Peabody Energy Corp., Alpha Natural Resources Inc. and Arch Coal Inc., all of which filed for bankruptcy in the last year.

Jonathan Downing, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, also rejected the idea that raising royalty rates could help struggling Wyoming coal-dependent communities. Instead, he argued that BLM should examine ways to speed up the coal leasing process, which currently takes on average between five to seven years.

“If you increase the cost of that coal, that’s going to in turn get passed on to the consumer,” he said. “I hope they don’t adopt what they’re proposing and take a serious look at trying to make the program more efficient and let us do our job, which is mine cheap, efficient energy.”

A spokeswoman for BLM said the agency hopes to release its report on what will and won’t be included in the comprehensive review by December. A list of participants and their comments will be included.

See the article here.

Missouri Faces a Troubling Uptick in Energy Prices

Via The Southeast Missourian:

We sometimes forget Missouri has been a coal-producing state for decades. Although not a major producer like Wyoming or West Virginia, our state has mined coal, along with lead, zinc, copper and silver for more than a century. And all of this mining has not only employed thousands in family-supporting, middle-class jobs, but it has also underpinned some of America’s key industrial sectors (thanks to the lead we extract for car batteries and computers, and the copper we contribute to electric wires and home appliances.)

In one area, however, coal is still of preeminent importance to Missouri — power generation. Thanks to the modern technology that scrubs emissions from coal-fired power plants, Missouri relied on coal for 78 percent of its electricity generation in 2015 — ranking us No. 4 nationally in coal usage. There are real benefits to using coal, particularly when it comes to reliable and affordable power generation for our cities, schools and water infrastructure. It’s not just Missouri, though, that has become accustomed to the low-cost and robust power generation driven by coal. Much of America has, as well, and coal still generates more than one-third of U.S. electricity — more than any other single power source.

Unfortunately, Missouri’s enjoyment of low-cost electricity faces a real challenge. The Obama Administration is preparing to implement a Stream Protection Rule aimed at keeping coal in the ground. And that will have serious implications for the cost of electricity in America.

You wouldn’t know it from the name, but the Stream Protection Rule could spell the end for much of the U.S. coal industry. Why? Because the rule extends far beyond streams, and deals more with enhancing a federal agency’s mission than any environmental effort. We know this because the federal government’s own reports show that, after decades of careful and improved oversight, virtually all U.S. mining operations now carry no offsite environmental effects.

Regardless, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining is preparing to foist the Stream Protection Rule on coal states. This matters to Missouri because the Stream Protection Rule is certain to drive up the cost of mining. And keeping coal in the ground will be expensive. The annual value of lost coal production from the SPR could reach $29 billion, with federal and state tax revenue falling by as much as $6.4 billion annually. That’s why America’s biggest losers may not be coal communities. Displacing affordable coal power with higher-cost alternatives will mean heavier price burdens on everyone, including the low-income households who can least afford it.

Missouri has already learned how to modernize its coal plants, and to ensure that they produce affordable power without the waste emissions that once gave coal a bad name. But driving up the cost of coal by eliminating much of America’s coal production will hit our state hard.

Overall, the Stream Protection Rule is an unnecessary overreach by the federal government, and one that will not only close down many of America’s coal producers, but needlessly drive up electricity prices. Our elected officials need to say no to a heavy-handed effort that will hurt many working families.

Terry Jarrett served on the Missouri Public Service Commission from 2007 to 2013.

See the article here.