Monthly Archives: December 2016

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Congress Can Act to Help Coal Survive Regulatory Onslaught

Via The Kearney Courier:

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. As the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its Constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Canceling the stream rule matters to Missouri, though, since the state generates 78 percent of its electricity from coal, yielding some of the lowest utility prices in the nation.

It’s not just Missouri that should be concerned about the stream rule. Congress should be alarmed too.

First, there’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

Second, OSM’s own annual reports confirms under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary, and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

Finally, the economic impacts predicted by OSM are in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region— found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have placed the stream rule in the congressional crosshairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. President-elect Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Dial Back Rules Threatening North Dakota’s Coal Miners

Via The Grand Forks Herald:

WASHINGTON—On its way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at North Dakota’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states that are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Canceling the stream rule matters to North Dakota, because the state’s coal industry employs more than 1,600 workers. North Dakota also generates 75 percent of its electricity from coal, yielding some of the lowest utility prices in the nation.

But it’s not just North Dakota that should be concerned about the stream rule. Congress should be alarmed, too.

First, there’s no environmental benefit from this massive rewrite of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing.

It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

Second, OSM’s own annual reports confirm that under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

Finally, the economic impacts predicted by OSM are, in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal-mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate.

Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality; this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have placed the stream rule in the congressional crosshairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. President-elect Trump undoubtedly would sign it, given that he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal-mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Quinn is president and CEO of the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

Trump’s Day-One Chance to Turn Back ‘War on Coal’

Via Lifezette.com

During the recent election cycle, Donald J. Trump vowed to roll back the onerous environmental restrictions currently besieging America’s coal communities. It was a sensible campaign pledge, since the coal industry has shed 68,000 jobs in recent years — in large part due to overzealous targeting of industrial carbon dioxide emissions.

Who knew, however, that the president-elect would face his first regulatory challenge immediately upon taking office? That’s because President Obama has just issued a last-minute “stream rule” that could potentially render as much as two-thirds of U.S. coal reserves off-limits to mining.

It’s a rather astounding bit of nerve on the president’s part — to issue a new rule that will take effect literally one day before Trump takes office. But such is the fierce divide over energy and environmental policy, with ideological concerns taking precedence over job creation.

The stream rule that President Obama has just announced is a brazen, last-minute effort to seal the coffin on America’s coal industry. Running more than 1,640 pages, the rule simply duplicates existing environmental protections already ensured by various state and federal agencies. Currently, these authorities administer a host of oversight measures to ensure both the safe extraction of coal and the mandatory reclamation of finished mining sites. The new stream rule not only duplicates these controls but also interferes with existing procedures — a redundancy expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

It’s not entirely surprising that the rule contradicts the present oversight system, since the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) that formulated the regulation simply disregarded its legal obligation to consult with states during the development phase. As a result, 19 states have written letters to OSM urging it to comply with congressional mandates and to re-engage with state agencies in order to rectify such a troubling bureaucratic roadblock.

America’s coal communities — the tens of thousands of miners, households, and businesses that coal supports — should not have to seek protection from their own government. Now, with a new administration, they won’t have to.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass a resolution within 60 days to disapprove the stream rule. All that would be required is a simple majority vote in both the House and the Senate, with the incoming president subsequently signing the resolution.

The clock is ticking, however, and America’s coal miners will have to wait anxiously to see if Congress and President-Elect Trump can take such timely action. Overturning such a rule would be a tremendous first step for the new administration to deliver on the promise of pursuing policies that not only boost energy production but also create good-paying, middle-class jobs.

Luke Popovich is vice president for external communications at the National Mining Association (NMA).

See the article here.

Guest Opinion: Congress Must Act Quickly to Axe Stream Rule

Via The Billings Gazette:

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Here’s why:

  • There’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.
  • OSM’s own annual reports confirm that, under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary, and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.
  • The economic impacts predicted by OSM are in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.
An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have placed the stream rule in the congressional cross hairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Hal Quinn is President and CEO of the National Mining Association.
See the article here.

Capozzola: Obama Issues Last-Minute Rule, Wants to Finish Off U.S. Coal Industry

Via Breitbart.com

So President Obama has gone and done it.

In a rather vindictive move, his Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is out with a broad new “stream rule” that could potentially designate as much as two-thirds of U.S. coal reserves off-limits to mining. In fact, a study of the rule suggests that at least one-third of America’s remaining coal jobs could be put at risk due to the restrictive nature of the rule.

The president has certainly chosen one heck of a last-minute Christmas present. The rule will actually take effect exactly one day before Donald Trump’s inauguration—thereby imposing a very late obstacle to the new administration’s quest to craft a more pragmatic energy policy.

The full text of the new regulation clocks roughly 1,640 pages. And despite OSM’s legal obligation to consult with state agencies, the final rule was drafted without the input of key mining states. What’s particularly troubling is that the regulation simply duplicates the existing oversight already being conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and various states agencies.

Significantly, the actual language being proffered by OSM suggests that the minutiae of the rule is happily intended to kill off the nation’s coal industry. OSM says the rule will “result in the protection or restoration of 22 miles of intermittent and perennial streams per year.” Essentially, the rule bans mining within 100 feet of these streams, which establishes a fairly broad mandate since intermittent streams are one of the typical features of almost every wooded area in North America.

However, green activists like to vilify coal as a “dirty” fuel. But this overlooks the fact that America’s coal-fired power plants are now 90% cleaner than 30 years ago, thanks to the 15 different high-tech mechanisms that trap power plant emissions. And America’s mining companies are already legally required to reclaim the land surrounding mining sites, a task for which they’ve readily invested billions of dollars in recent years.

The supposition, though, is that coal companies simply want to make money—with no thought to the “greater good.” But America has gained much from the extraction of coal, including the affordable power that has long supported safe, first-world living, modern sanitation, and an industrial sector driven by robust electricity generation.

And so, the real question is whether such a redundant new “stream rule” is even necessary. Not when U.S. mining companies are already working diligently to eliminate offsite impacts under the watchful scrutiny of both state and federal agencies.

The U.S. coal industry has lost 68,000 good-paying, middle class jobs in recent years. The new stream rule could boost that toll by potentially tens of thousands of jobs. It could also eliminate billions of dollars in state and federal tax revenues—a troubling prospect for a country already struggling to create middle-class jobs.

If Washington decides that the new stream rule isn’t worth the economic pain, there is some recourse. Under the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority vote in both Houses of Congress could pass a resolution of disapproval. Congress has 60 days to pass such a resolution. But if the resolution succeeds, the new president could sign it, thereby eliminating the stream rule entirely.

With thousands of coal jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues at stake, it would be understandable if Congress votes to end such an unwieldy regulation.

See the article here.

Obama’s Overreach

Via The Leader-Herald:

President Barack Obama could not resist a parting shot that extended his legacy of vindictive executive overreach. When his administration released a new Stream Protection Rule on Monday, the intent was clear: one last attempted blow to coal miners and their families.

In a re-working of the George W. Bush administration’s Stream Buffer Zone Rule (which, by the way, was vacated by a federal judge), the new rule requires additional data gathering and monitoring at and around mine sites, and imposes new financial assurance and reclamation requirements.

It was a work-in-progress for most of Obama’s administration — taking so long, in fact, that most states ended up withdrawing from cooperative agreements to work on the rule with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation after they realized they were being kept in the dark for much of the process.

Implementation of such a rule — which industry leaders criticize as federal overreach based on questionable science — would threaten the livelihoods of 80,000 coal miners and their families, according to U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., who estimated implementation of the rule would result in a decrease of up to 85 percent in coal reserves available for mining.

But Obama is not worried about the rule’s implementation, or streams, for that matter. He wanted to send a message.

“This rule is nothing but an insult to the working men and women of this country,” McKinley said. And that is all Obama means it to be, because he, like McKinley, knows Congress and President-elect Donald Trump will overturn it.

“It is clear that this administration was not paying attention in November,” McKinley said.

On the contrary, what is clear is that Obama and his followers were paying attention, and could not resist the chance to demonstrate one more time that voters who do not see things their way will be targeted for punitive action.

One good thing about Obama’s move on Monday: Because it occurred just a month before Trump takes office, the federal bureaucracy cannot claim the program is too far along to be canceled in January.

That is precisely what Trump should do on his very first day in office.

See the article here.

Fighting for Coal

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

Members of a 24-state coalition led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are urging President-elect Donald Trump and congressional leaders to act quickly next month in withdrawing President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and to take necessary steps to ensure that similar or more extreme job-killing proposals never again take shape.

The coalition forwarded a letter to Trump, and congressional leaders last week, urging prompt action.

In the bipartisan letter – addressed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Senate President Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan — the coalition suggested a four-point strategy that begins with Trump rescinding his predecessor’s Climate Action Plan on day one.

 “An executive order on day one is critical,” Morrisey wrote in the letter. “The order should explain that it is the administration’s view that the (Clean Power Plan) is unlawful and that EPA lacks authority to enforce it. The executive order is necessary to send an immediate and strong message to states and regulated entities that the administration will not enforce the rule.”

In the letter, the coalition suggests Trump follow with formal administrative action to withdraw the Power Plan and related matters in court. Such action will properly effectuate the rule’s withdrawal, while negotiating an end to pending litigation, the 24 states said in the letter.

Finally, the coalition is recommending Congress take longer-term legislative action. Morrisey said the proposed legislative fix aims to prevent any future U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from drafting similarly unlawful and/or more extreme rules.

 West Virginia and Texas led a 27-state coalition challenging the EPA’s Power Plan on Oct. 23, 2015, the very day it was published. That original coalition was successful in halting the rule’s enforcement by winning a stay of the regulation on Feb. 9, 2016, before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The legal challenge argues the Power Plan exceeded EPA’s congressional authority by transforming the nation’s energy industry, double regulating coal-fired power plants and forcing states to fundamentally shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fired generation. Furthermore, it argues the Power Plan violates the U.S. Constitution by attempting to commandeer and coerce the states into carrying out federal energy policy.

While there is no magic wand that Trump can wave that will automatically restore the thousands of coal mining jobs that have been lost over the past eight years under the Obama administration, the repeal of the job-killing Clean Power Plan would be a good start. The removal of these burdensome, anti-coal regulations, can only help the still struggling industry, which has faced multiple challenges in recent years, including intense competition from natural gas.

With the support of Republican majorities in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, Trump should be well positioned to act upon the request of the 24-state coalition.

See the article here.

Obama Administration’s New Rule Could Eliminate Thousands of Jobs

Via The Washington Post:

The Dec. 20 news article “Last-minute rule to make coal industry cleaner met with praise, criticism” missed several key points.

The rule provides no discernible environmental benefits. It simply duplicates and interferes with extensive existing environmental protections at the federal and state levels and it does so in a way that could potentially lock away more than half of the nation’s existing coal reserves.

Set aside the duplication and interference, which are prohibited by current regulation, and the lack of environmental benefits, and consider the costs.  A study commissioned by the National Mining Association predicted that at least a third of coal-mining jobs will be lost given the massive volumes of coal that would be uneconomic to mine. Add the loss of coal-supported jobs in manufacturing, power plants and freight rail and the number rises into the hundreds of thousands.

With so much at risk for no gain, the rule embodies all that is wrong with regulation and all the reasons Congress must overturn it.

 Hal Quinn, Washington

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

See the article here.

Coal Country Lawmakers Ready to Fight Stream Protection Rule

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

Critics of the Obama Administration’s new Stream Protection Rule believe it is a parting shot from the president to the coal industry on his way out the door of the White House.

The rule is scheduled to be entered in the federal register Tuesday, and become effective January 19, one day before Donald Trump is inaugurated. West Virginia Congressman Alex Mooney (R-WV2) contends Obama is making one final effort to eliminate coal from the nation’s energy portfolio.

“The deal with the Obama Administration, whether it’s coal ash disposal, Clean Power Plan, or this stream buffer zone, every time you meet the environmental standard they just move the goal post another time,” said Mooney on MetroNews Talkline. “Obama said he was going to bankrupt the coal industry. This is part of their agenda.”

The stream protection rule significantly tightens the standards for underground and above ground mining. West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said guidelines are so stringent that it makes it nearly impossible to mine coal.

“It’s going to make it difficult because it sterilizes reserves,” said Raney. “It’s going to have a direct impact on underground mining.  In this particular rule, in this case, it’s an effort to stop the majority of mining in this country.”

The federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) was supposed to develop the rule in conjunction with the states, but Mooney said the agency just gave lip service to the concerns of the states.

“There are different types of ‘listening’. There’s listening just so they can simply say you had a chance to say something and then there’s the type of listening where they really take into account what you say and work with you on it,” Mooney said.

Opponents of the rule on Capitol Hill will try to block the measure through a rarely used maneuver called the Congressional Review Act where lawmakers pass a resolution blocking a rule and send it to the president for his signature

“I am highly confident he will sign it,” Mooney said. “When President Trump visited West Virginia and other coal mining states he made it clear he was going to roll back President Obama’s war on coal and this is a big one.”

See the article here.

Stream Rule Aim Is to Harm Miners

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

President Barack Obama could not resist a parting shot that extended his legacy of vindictive executive overreach. When his administration released a new Stream Protection Rule on Monday, the intent was clear: one last attempted blow to coal miners and their families.

In a re-working of the George W. Bush administration’s Stream Buffer Zone Rule (which, by the way, was vacated by a federal judge), the new rule requires additional data gathering and monitoring at and around mine sites, and imposes new financial assurance and reclamation requirements.

It was a work-in-progress for most of Obama’s administration — taking so long, in fact, that most states ended up withdrawing from cooperative agreements to work on the rule with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation after they realized they were being kept in the dark for much of the process.

Implementation of such a rule — which industry leaders criticize as federal overreach based on questionable science — would threaten the livelihoods of 80,000 coal miners and their families, according to U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., who estimated implementation of the rule would result in a decrease of up to 85 percent in coal reserves available for mining.

But Obama is not worried about the rule’s implementation, or streams, for that matter. He wanted to send a message.

“This rule is nothing but an insult to the working men and women of this country,” McKinley said. And that is all Obama means it to be, because he, like McKinley, knows Congress and President-elect Donald Trump will overturn it.

“It is clear that this administration was not paying attention in November,” McKinley said.

On the contrary, what is clear is that Obama and his followers were paying attention, and could not resist the chance to demonstrate one more time that voters who do not see things their way will be targeted for punitive action.

One good thing about Obama’s move on Monday: Because it occurred just a month before Trump takes office, the federal bureaucracy cannot claim the program is too far along to be canceled in January.

That is precisely what Trump should do on his very first day in office.

See the article here.

Lawsuit, Resolution Aim To Push Stream Rule To ‘Dumpster’

Via E&E Publishing: 

Critics this week opened up two new fronts in their campaign to take down the Obama administration’s controversial new restrictions on coal mining pollution.

North Dakota yesterday became the first state to sue the Interior Department over the Stream Protection Rule released earlier this week. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress moved forward with their own plan to kill the regulation (Greenwire, Dec. 19).

The National Mining Association, which has spearheaded opposition to the rule, yesterday said the rule, which imposes new standards and monitoring requirements on coal companies and state regulators, is “destined for the dumpster.”

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) filed the lawsuit against Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to vacate and prohibit any enforcement of the Stream Protection Rule.

“This case involves a last-ditch effort by the outgoing Administration to encroach on the clear authority granted to the State of North Dakota and the [North Dakota] Public Service Commission,” he said.

The commission is the primary coal regulator in North Dakota under the cooperative federalism model outlined in the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

North Dakota contends that the Stream Protection Rule violates both SMCRA and the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment regarding states’ rights by overextending OSMRE’s authority.

The rule defines what constitutes “material damage” to water beyond the area permitted for mining. Under new data collection requirements, regulators are to use new baseline data to determine whether there are violations of the Clean Water Act or Endangered Species Act at mine sites, or whether pollution precludes any downstream groundwater use that existed before mining began.

OSMRE has said the rule was intended to modernize outdated standards to include new science, including research linking mountaintop-removal coal mining to elevated rates of cancer and other illnesses downstream, particularly in Appalachia.

The coal industry questioned those studies, arguing that the rule imposed a massive burden that was intended to put the coal industry out of business, not prevent environmental damage.

State regulators also condemned the rulemaking after nine out of the 11 states that signed on to help write it withdrew in protest over the outreach by OSMRE, which has vigorously defended the transparency of the seven-year process.

“The agency ignored all of our input and went ahead with a one-size-fits-all rule that will be extremely destructive to North Dakota industry while addressing no identified problem in our state,” said Public Service Commission Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak.

According to court documents, OSMRE’s most recent evaluation of North Dakota’s regulatory program found no issues, but OSMRE has said those evaluations do not account adequately for pollutants like conductivity and selenium.

Congressional resolution

Stenehjem urged President-elect Donald Trump and Congress to quickly repeal the rule, but Capitol Hill coal advocates already have a plan.

Hours after the rule came out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised to use the Congressional Review Act to strike down the rule (E&ENews PM, Dec. 19).

The seldom-used law gives Congress 60 workdays to void a regulation.

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) yesterday introduced a resolution of dismissal, H.J.Res. 107, in the House.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in saying no to this president — no more over-regulation, no more lost jobs, and no more policies that put West Virginians out of work,” Jenkins said in a statement.

President Obama would likely veto it, but Jenkins, Republicans and coal-state Democrats have plenty of time to pass the resolution after Trump takes office promising to ax coal regulations.

The dismissal requires only a simple majority to pass, undercutting filibuster attempts. Under the law, a dismissal means the rule could not be reintroduced without Congress’ consent unless it is “substantially” changed. According to the Congressional Research Service, “substantial” is not defined, but actions made under the law are not subject to judicial review.

See the article here.

W.Va. Reacts to Ruling on Stream Protection

Via The Weirton Daily Times:

Officials throughout Appalachia and the coal industry are reacting following Monday’s announcement by the Obama administration of final rules aimed at protecting 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests from any impacts of coal mining.

Among those promising quick legal action against the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule was St. Clairsville-based Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s fifth-largest coal producer. The company believes the rule effectively outlaws underground longwall mining.

“This unlawful and destructive rule is nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt to destroy our nation’s underground coal mines and put our nation’s coal miners out of work,” said Murray spokesman Gary Broadbent. “The Stream Protection Rule has been illegally taken from the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 in which Congress specifically said, at least three times, that the law applies only to surface coal mining. We will immediately file our already prepared lawsuit to block this illegal rule.”

West Virginia and Ohio’s Republican attorneys general, Patrick Morrisey and Mike DeWine, issued a joint press release, saying they are “closely reviewing the regulation and will take appropriate legal action to safeguard the states’ interests.”

Coal already is struggling under steep competition from cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas, as well as regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas pollution that contributes to climate change.

U.S. coal production has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 30 years, and several coal companies have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent months, including three of the country’s biggest coal producers, Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the rule part of Obama’s “eight-year war on coal” that he said has cost jobs and hurt coal miners and their families. He and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said they look forward to working with Trump to provide “relief” to coal communities hard-hit by the industry’s downturn.

McConnell said he will introduce a resolution of disapproval under the rarely used Congressional Review Act to overturn the stream-protection rule and vowed to “use every tool available to turn back this regulatory assault on coal country.”

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota also criticized the rule, which can be rejected by a majority vote in Congress.

Manchin called the rule “alarming in its scope and potential impacts” and said he will “pursue legislation to ensure it does not harm our coal mining communities and economies.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., vowed to block the Interior Department’s rule from taking effect.

“Fortunately, the decision by voters last month makes today’s announcement by the Office of Surface Mining an exercise in futility,” she said. “Working with President-elect Trump and our Republican congressional majority, I am confident that we will be able to use the Congressional Review Act to stop this rule from taking effect.”

Also vowing Monday to overturn the rule were U.S Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Bill Johnson, R-Ohio.

“This action is outrageous,” McKinley said. “The (rule) is yet another attack on the coal industry and this administration’s final shot in the war on coal before President Obama leaves office.”

“At least a third of coal-related jobs across the United States are now at severe risk due to the fact that this rule … essentially deems such a plentiful amount of coal economically infeasible to mine … ,” Johnson added. “The people of coal country and across America voted in November, and they voted to protect coal, coal-related jobs and our way of life. I will continue to fight tooth-and-nail to protect jobs in eastern and southeastern Ohio, and to work with the incoming administration and House leaders to overturn this ill-advised, job crushing rule.”

The negative reaction to the rule from coal industry officials was swift and severe. The West Virginia Coal Association called on Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who has pledged to put out-of-work coal miners back on the job, to overturn the rule.

“We are hopeful that Congress and the incoming Trump administration will take swift action to overturn this irresponsible regulation as quickly as possible,” said WVCA President Bill Raney. “We look forward to working with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey should legal action by the states be necessary to prevent this job-killing regulation from taking effect.”

See the article here.

Four Obama Regulations Trump Can Undo Right Away

Via The Washington Examiner:

President-elect Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington struck a chord with millions of Americans and helped propel him to his stunning election as the nation’s 45th president.

Trump can start by reversing many of the laws the Obama administration created on its own, in its serial abuse of executive authority. Unable to get Congress to enact his environmental and energy policies, Obama had federal agencies concoct regulations that accomplished the same thing and he bound the U.S. to self-inflicted wounds via an international climate agreement.

Trump has pledged to tackle these abuses, and Obama’s unilateral actions are vulnerable to Trump’s own administrative counter-measures. It’s a game two can play. Here’s where Trump can start:

Clean Power Plan: After failing to pass cap-and-trade legislation through Congress, Obama had his political appointees at the EPA slap coal-fired power plants with greenhouse-gas-emission limits they knew the industry couldn’t meet—the Clean Power Plan, Obama called it. In doing so, EPA usurped the states’ role in regulating electricity markets within their boundaries, and even commandeered the states to enforce its new policy. The power grab is on hold by the Supreme Court pending the outcome of lawsuits filed by 27 states and the energy industry. Trump has said that the Clean Power Plan must go, and his Justice Department could ask that the case be dismissed, sending the rule back to EPA, where it could be rewritten and defanged.

Paris Climate Change Agreement: The December 2015 U.N.-sponsored Paris climate change agreement is the latest effort by transnational bureaucrats, environmentalists and purveyors of green energy to entangle the U.S. in a global commitment to abandon fossil fuels. It also entails a substantial transfer of wealth from American taxpayers into the waiting hands of Third World potentates to assist the latter in various schemes to combat climate change.

During the campaign, Trump vowed to withdraw the U.S. from this scam. It will send an unmistakable message that the U.S. — the world’s largest producer of natural gas and fastest-growing producer of oil — intends to use its vast energy resources as befits a country that’s serious about its global role and the economic well-being of its people.

Waters of the United States: The Obama administration is firmly committed to putting unelected and unaccountable Washington bureaucrats — working hand in glove with green activists — in control land- and water-use decisions throughout the country.

Under the guise of “clarifying” EPA’s regulatory authority over certain bodies of water under the Clean Water Act, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers devised regulations that will bring millions of acres of private land under federal jurisdiction. Obama’s “Waters of the United States” rule will impose federal zoning on farms, ranches, orchards and other private property from coast to coast. WOTUS is on hold nationwide pending the outcome of a slew of lawsuits filed against it, and the case could come before the Supreme Court after Trump takes office. President Trump’s Justice Department can cease defending WOTUS in court, sending the rule back to EPA for a rewrite that would effectively nullify the power grab.

Environmental Protection Agency: Accustomed to issuing rules and regulations with the force of law behind them, EPA has become a de facto lawmaking body (minus the accountability such bodies usually have). With its disregard for standard administrative procedures, its misuse of science to forward its regulatory agenda, and its funneling of taxpayers’ money to political cronies on the outside, EPA has become a state within a state. The agency is too institutionally corrupt to be reformed.

Congress didn’t create EPA — President Nixon brought it into being by a 1970 executive order. Trump can dismantle it with his own executive order.

Trump has already expressed interest in devolving EPA’s functions to state environmental agencies. It’s an idea whose time has come. Appointing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a relentless EPA critic, to head the agency bodes well for change.

Draining Washington’s swamp will be a messy business. Those creatures that have grown fat and happy off the swamp’s corruption will scream bloody murder at the mere thought of losing their power and privileges. This is a fight Trump should relish.

See the article here.

Gillette Hopes Trump Puts Coal in Christmas Stockings

Via WyoFile:

Lula Belle’s Cafe is a freestanding white-stone building between the railroad tracks and the bottom end of Gillette’s sloping main street. Smoking is still allowed inside, and the ashtrays between mugs of coffee suggest that’s the way the customers like it.

Clientele varies from ranchers and retirees lingering over their coffee in the morning, to railroad workers taking in big daily specials on their lunch break, and all manner of coal miners and oil field workers throughout the day. It is a jovial home of coarse but friendly jokes, homestyle food and a smell of cigarettes that lingers in clothes long after one departs.

Jena Meader, who has worked on and off at Lula Belle’s since she was 12 years old, said she never has seen the cafe more jovial than the morning after Donald Trump surprised the pundits and upended the polls to become president-elect. On that day she was threading through the crowd serving coffee and food as the restaurant did a brisk trade. All day long people talked loudly about their surprise, and their excitement, at who would be 45th president of the United States. In Campbell County, 15,778 people voted for Donald Trump. Just 1,324 cast their votes for Hillary Clinton.

“Everyone was relieved,” Meader said. “They felt the coal industry would rebound.”

The optimism that Trump will bring coal back has reverberated throughout Gillette in the six weeks since the long campaign ended. The hope extends not only to coal, but also to oil and gas — the markets for which went bust over the last few years. It is an optimism fueled by Trump’s rhetoric and businessman background.

Meader can’t remember a day of equivalent joviality at Lula Belle’s per se, but she said she can remember it’s opposite: Nov. 6, 2012, the day President Obama was re-elected. Lula Belle’s that day was “somber,” she said.

When President Obama first won office in 2008, Meader does not remember a depressed mood. The crowd at Lula Belle’s is “blue collar, intelligent people,” she said, and though almost wholly Republican, they were still cognizant of a historic event — the election of the nation’s first black president.

But the Obama administration’s policies toward coal turned residents here strongly against him, she said, and by the day of his second election, the customers of Lula Belle’s felt he was a president who didn’t have them in mind.

The attitude in Lula Belle’s come November 2020 could depend on President-elect Trump’s ability to keep his promise to coal country. Can he stave off a decline that some research suggests is more a result of market forces than the “war on coal” oft-cited in Campbell County as being waged by the Obama administration.

Soaring optimism

At nearby Brothers Coffee, a smoke-free place where speakers usually broadcast Christian rock music, owner Judi Sipe said similar optimism permeated the day after the election. It enveloped its owner, a diminutive woman who calls many of her customers “babe,” hosts open mic nights and sells Trump t-shirts along with the coffee and snacks. The day after the election, she described the pervading sentiment as one of relief.

“Gillette won’t die like a lot of people thought it would,” she said.

One of her regulars is a dispatcher on the railroad, who comes in after his night shifts for a cup of coffee and breakfast. The day after the election, he told her he soon anticipated getting more hours as coal-train traffic picked up. For that to happen, a Trump administration would have to reverse a year long slide for coal that until recently seemed to show little sign of settling.

The challenge is significant, but so is what it would mean to the community, and to individual miners.

Richard Reavey, vice-president of external affairs for Cloud Peak Energy that has two major mines in Gillette, described his outlook on the next four years as “cautiously optimistic.” He hopes to see federal coal leasing revived and a “reset” on the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. What the industry most needs is regulatory certainty, which Trump’s team could deliver with a well-thought-through replacement for the Clean Power Plan, he said. A new plan would regulate carbon dioxide emissions in a way that “coal producers, utilities and mainstream environmental groups can live with.”

No matter what, “it’s great to have a fossil fuel friendly administration,” he said.

In 2016, three of the largest coal companies in Gillette, Arch Coal, Alpha Coal Resources and Peabody, went into bankruptcy. That was a result of depressed coal markets due to cheap natural gas and a global economic slowdown, according to University of Wyoming economist Robert Godby. After 2008 there was little growth in demand for electricity.

Duffy Jenniges, an ex-railroad worker, is known as Lula Belle’s resident Democrat. He thinks Gillette will be disappointed when jobs don’t suddenly appear after President-elect Trump’s inauguration. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

The hurt on the big multinational coal corporations was compounded by overseas investments they’d made in metallurgical coal that wound up being a mistake. Their bankruptcies were followed by layoffs at Gillette mines. Over March and April, more than 500 Gillette coal miners lost their jobs. The effects on the town were widespread.

Toward the end of summer, however, coal in the Powder River Basin got some seasonal relief. Utilities restocked and production during the third quarter of the year, from July through September, rose to surpass the previous quarter by nearly 30 percent, according to data from the Wyoming State Geological Survey. While that’s still almost 15 percent less production than in the same quarter in 2015, it meant some mines started to hire again, exciting laid-off coal workers.

That was the case for Mark Frausto, a military veteran and laid-off mine mechanic featured in an Oct. 4, WyoFile story. At that time, he had been on unemployment for five months. He was frustrated, continually searching for jobs and ready to leave Gillette. But later that month he saw an opening for a mechanic at the Buckskin mine, owned by Kiewit Mining Co. He applied immediately.

Frausto interviewed, and the next day, while working on fencing at his dad’s property outside of town, he got the call. The job was his. When he showed up at the mine, people kept coming up and shaking his hand and congratulating him, he said. Now he alternates between day or nighttime 12-hour shifts

Between new hires and the election results, Frausto said spirits at Buckskin were high. While he isn’t particularly political — either on Facebook or in conversation — he does believe Trump will bring back more energy jobs as per his campaign rhetoric.

“I think our energy industry is gonna go back again,” he said. “I think it’s gonna boost up.” Trump promised it on television for all the world to see, he said.

Mostly, however, Frausto is just relieved to be working. He is beginning to pay off bills that had piled up during his long run of unemployment, including medical expenses for his wife Desirae.

“We can see the light,” Desirae said on a recent Saturday. Frausto’s two daughters from a previous marriage — Alita, who is 14, and Kiana, who is 12 — were with them for the weekend, up from Douglas. The girls sat in front of the TV early in the afternoon on Saturday talking about boys and wondering if their father would drive them home Sunday or Monday.

Frausto, standing over them with arms crossed and legs spread, had that question settled. It would be Monday. “Daddy’s working tomorrow,” he said, grinning. “Gonna get some overtime.”

“Save the community as well as the coal mine”

Branden Walsh, an employee at Arch Coal’s Coal Creek Mine, is also getting overtime, for the first time in a while, he said. Coal Creek has yet to staff back up after reductions, so there’s work to go around. “As much as I can take,” he said.

Walsh watched the elections at the Fireside Lounge, a roadside bar toward Gillette’s western edge, with a room full of pool tables and a crowd that runs to the younger, and rowdier, side. “There was a lot of cheering and it was quite the party afterwards,” Walsh said of the moment it became clear Trump would carry the electoral college. “People were buying drinks all around.”

When miners realized they wouldn’t see a Hillary Clinton presidency, “it felt like there was kind of a weight lifted,” he said.

Walsh has acted as an unofficial voice for a group called Interfaith Workers Justice, a non-union workers’ rights group. He was upset at the way some of the big multinational companies treated their workers during layoffs, by slashing benefits and health insurance. He also worries about companies walking away from their obligations to perform environmental reclamation on mines, because he thinks the industry needs to leave communities like Gillette healthy in the long run.

Of president-elect Trump, Walsh said, “I think he will try and bring jobs back, I think he was sincere in his talks to do so.” His message for Trump is that he hopes Trump will realize really helping coal miners and coal communities means more than that.

“Loosen up on the coal mines a little bit, but at the same time make sure that they’re going to take care of reclamation and their employees,” he said. “Save the community as well as the coal mine,” he said.

While he hopes Trump recognizes that need, Walsh also is aware from the President-elect’s rhetoric that his chief focus is on the jobs side, he said. When told of a $30 billion package Hillary Clinton had proposed for coal communities, Walsh said he didn’t think the federal government could really afford such a bailout. “It’s easy to promise billions of dollars worth of revitalization projects when you’ve got blank checks,” he said.

Trump offered something that resonated more to the miners: helping them mine on by helping the business they work in.

“I don’t think there were many Hillary supporters at the coal mine, and if there were they didn’t say much,” Walsh said.

If Trump can’t fulfill his promise, Walsh said he’ll have a hard time holding his support in the community. After all, in Gillette, Trump’s promises resonate far beyond coal. Whether explicitly or not, he promised to keep alive a way of life, and an industry that brought this town from a small ranching community to the coal capital of the most productive coal-mining state in the nation. Along the way a community formed that most residents say provides an excellent way of life, funded by what seemed for a time to be boundless mineral revenues. It’s a place, and a culture, that many believed had become threatened with extinction.

As Walsh put it: “Everybody is pretty much banking on him.”

But just before closing on a slow Thursday afternoon at Lula Belle’s, in the heart of dark red Campbell County, there is at least one person who doesn’t believe president-elect Trump will be filling Gillette stockings with coal this Christmas.

For the dissenting opinion, Jena Meader gestures from behind the counter towards Duffy Jenniges, who she calls Lula Belle’s “resident Democrat.” With the exception of his faded ball cap, which says “Duff” in large letters, Jenniges doesn’t differ much in looks from other patrons There’s a worn flannel jacket on his back, a cigarette dangling in his fingers, and others in the ashtray next to his coffee cup. But Jenniges is indeed a Democrat.

While other left-leaning voters in Gillette have told WyoFile that they prefer to keep quiet about politics, Jenniges, a former railroad worker and union chief now long retired, said he’s not afraid of his label. Still, he understands the trepidation of like-minded Campbell County voters.

For Democrats here, he said, “It’s like a big game of whack-a-mole. If you stick your head up, somebody’s gonna whack it.”

Jenniges ran for Gillette’s House District 52 against Republican Bill Pownall in this year’s general election, and got roughly 18 percent of the vote. It was at least Jenniges’ fourth time running, he said.

“I don’t stand a chance in hell of winning, but at least for three or four months I get to tell everybody what’s on my mind,” he said.

Jenniges blames natural gas, not regulation, for coal’s decline in the last year. On top of that, he thinks automation of coal jobs presents a longer-term threat in the Powder River Basin. Mining technology has evolved to the point where the mines need fewer and fewer laborers, he said.

Needless to say, Jenniges does not have much faith in the president-elect’s ability to keep his promises to coal country.

“The people running around this town right now think come the 21st, the sun’s gonna come out and jobs are gonna fall from the f****** sky,” he said. “They might be a little disappointed when things don’t turn into Nirvana.”

See the article here.

Obama’s Last Coal Rule Likely Headed for the Chopping Block in Congress

Via Politico:

The Obama administration’s years-in-the-making rule to protect streams from mountaintop removal coal mining is on track to go into effect a day before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, meaning Congress will have to step in to kill it quickly.

Trump has railed against regulations on the coal industry in general, although he has not specifically addressed the Interior Department’s stream rule, which has been in the works since 2009 and was finally released Monday. His pick to be Interior secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), is an ardent coal backer and has called for Congress to block the rule. Zinke would be in charge of unwinding the rule, but that process could take years through normal administrative channels. A quicker route runs through Congress, where Republicans are assembling a hit-list of recently passed rules they can block with little recourse from Democrats.

“It is disappointing, but certainly not surprising, that the Obama administration has decided to pursue this last-ditch effort to further harm West Virginia coal jobs,” said Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who says the rule will hurt miners in her state. “Fortunately, the decision by voters last month makes today’s announcement by the Office of Surface Mining an exercise in futility. Working with President-elect Trump and our Republican congressional majority, I am confident that we will be able to use the Congressional Review Act to stop this rule from taking effect.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who cosponsored a bill with Capito and other Republicans that would have effectively blocked the stream rule, did not specifically mention the CRA in a statement on the rule Monday. But he said he would “pursue legislation to ensure it does not harm our coal mining communities and economies.”

The Obama administration did not brief outside green groups ahead of the rule’s release Monday, a step it has taken with major rules in the past, said Thom Kay, a senior legislative representative for Appalachian Voices who has participated in previous briefings.

Some environmentalists expressed surprise that the Obama administration essentially forced the stream rule into a GOP firing line, practically guaranteeing its repeal in some form. Trump’s electoral victory last month quickly spurred speculation that Interior might shelve the rule rather than finalize it, in order to avoid a CRA showdown that could prevent the department from ever updating the rule again.

While some green groups are upset the Obama administration was not more aggressive, others are planning to defend the rule as a modest step to improve water quality in the coalfields, in line with Trump’s previous insistence that he favors “clean” air and water without unduly harming businesses.

“I just hope people read it before they propose killing it. It’s very different than the proposed rule. One of the primary pieces in the monitoring, so if there is a big change in water quality because contaminants get into the water supply, they can be addressed immediately,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “I’m hoping that folks take a look at the changes that were made and how the concerns that were raised were addressed, but it’s going to be a difficult rule to protect.”

Republicans have been critical of the Obama administration’s rulemaking since 2011, when a leaked internal document estimated an earlier version of the rule would cause coal mining job losses in excess of 7,000. Interior has long disputed that figure, and argued the revised rule would end up creating jobs in coal communities.

The final rule estimates an annual average employment gain of 156 jobs between 2020 and 2040, largely because of increased reclamation work — including annual coal mining job losses of 124, compared with 280 jobs gained each year from implementation.

Congressional leaders will have to decide which rules to prioritize, but given Trump’s campaign promises to restore the coal industry by repealing regulations, this rule presents a tempting target that would showcase immediate results early in his presidency.

“We want clean air. We want clean water. But to do that, you don’t have to destroy our country and destroy our businesses,” Trump said at a rally in North Carolina earlier this year.

Repealing the stream rule is unlikely to prove a panacea for the ailing coal industry, which has declined for decades under administrations of both parties, because of technological changes, environmental regulations and competition from cheap natural gas. A recent Energy Information Administration report found that coal production in 2015 was at its lowest since 1986, with Appalachia seeing an even stronger decline. Employment in coal mines was at just less than 66,000, the lowest level EIA had seen since tracking began in 1978.

Still, the National Mining Association immediately called for lawmakers to pass a CRA resolution, which would not only would kill this rule but would prevent Interior from ever issuing an update that is “substantially the same” in the future.

CRA resolutions, which cannot be filibustered, are subject to up to 10 hours of debate in the Senate and can only be used within 60 legislative days of a rule’s enactment, limiting the number that Republicans could push through given a heavy workload to confirm political appointees and start on their own legislative agenda, including overhauling the tax code and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Congress may only have time to undo two or three energy rules with CRA resolutions, given the floor time they require and the desire to target non-energy rules as well, and the stream rule is a prominent target for one of those spots, according to a note to clients from analyst Kevin Book of ClearView Energy. (Interior’s recent venting and flaring rule is “a strong contender for the No. 2 position,” he added.)

“I look forward to working with the Trump administration to overturn this unparalleled executive overreach and implement policies that protect communities forsaken by this administration,” House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop said in a statement.

There are no “concrete” plans for a CRA vote, said Bishop spokeswoman Molly Block. But it’s on the list for consideration, she said, along with the Bureau of Land Management’s recent venting and flaring rule. Repealing older regulations despised by the GOP, including the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule, would require more lengthy and more difficult administrative rulemakings that could takes years, or securing 60 votes in the Senate to amend the laws underlying them.

The CRA has been used only once successfully, to kill an ergonomics rule finalized in the final days of Bill Clinton’s administration. But observers expect that the Republican-controlled Congress will exercise that power significantly to attack Obama regulations across the board early next year.

Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw declined to discuss the potential for Congress or Trump to roll back the rule, saying only that the department “is expected to carry out applicable laws that guide our mission of responsible stewardship of public lands, water and wildlife management and that is what we will continue to do … no matter who the president is.”

The stream rule, out of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, is the broadest regulation directly affecting coal mining since the Labor Department cracked down on safety violations following the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 miners.

“This updated, scientifically modern rule will make life better for a countless number of Americans who live near places where coal is being mined,” said OSM chief Joseph Pizarchik.

It updates a 1983 regulation aimed at protecting streams from the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining, particularly in Appalachia. A George W. Bush-era rewrite that drew environmentalists’ scorn never went into wide effect, and ultimately was tossed out by a federal judge.

The updated regulation keeps in place a 100-foot buffer zone around most streams, even intermittent waterways. It strengthens other aspects of the rule, requiring companies to establish baseline pollution levels in waterways before mining begins for better impact management during and after mining, as well as new details on how to restore and protect plants and wildlife.

Several green groups have also argued that the Obama update was too moderate and didn’t go far enough in light of scientific advances in understanding mining’s effects on water and aquatic life.

“Though it isn’t perfect, the Stream Protection Rule does provide important protections that can help keep coalfield communities safe and takes steps toward holding coal mining companies accountable,” said Dalal Aboulhosn, the Sierra Club’s deputy legislative director for land and water.

Kay said he was “disappointed” the rule didn’t go further to curtail mountaintop removal mining.

“Moving forward, the Trump administration should be focusing on ways to diversify and strengthen Central Appalachia’s economy, rather than taking on a political fight against a moderate and reasonable rule,” he said.

See the article here.

President Obama Takes One Final Shot at Coal

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

The Obama administration on its way out the door is delivering one last blow to the coal industry–the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement’s (OSM) final version of the Stream Protection Rule.

The rule piles on controversial new regulations to the mining industry, which is already laboring under the heavy hand of the EPA and market forces.

It will take awhile to pore over the 1,648 pages, but if the final rule resembles earlier versions then the coal industry should brace for the worst.

The National Mining Association released a study last year on the proposed rule predicting the amount of recoverable reserves in Appalachia would decrease between 51 percent and 88 percent in underground mines and 38 percent to 67 percent at surface mines by the time all the new regulations are met.

The study also predicted a direct loss of mining jobs nationwide of between 40,038 and 77,520. That would just about finish off the coal industry, achieving the intended goal of this administration, the EPA and the environmental groups that have held the upper hand for the last eight years.

Notably, it’s not just the coal industry that has recoiled against the new rule. States that would be most impacted by the changes have pushed back as well, often because OSM ignored its responsibility of working cooperatively with those states to develop the rule.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman testified before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last year that OSM had “lost its way” by taking a unilateral regulatory approach.

“OSM flouted the cooperating agency process and excluded states from participating in this rulemaking, even though this rule will drastically affect how those states regulate the mining industry,” said Huffman.

He was not alone.  Ohio Department of Natural Resources Mineral Resources Management Division Chief Lanny Erdos told the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works earlier this year that the proposed rule supersedes traditional state jurisdiction of mining operations and “is tantamount to providing the federal government veto power over a permit without any explanation whatsoever.”

At least ten states, including West Virginia, that initially pledged to work with OSM to develop the new stream rule pulled out after it became apparent the federal agency had no interest in their concerns.

The new rule is scheduled to be entered into the federal register today, making it effective in 30 days, January 19th, exactly one day before Obama leaves office.  But the change of administrations will give opponents an avenue to stop the rule.

Donald Trump has promised to roll back many of Obama’s regulations and put miners back to work.  If congress passes a resolution of disapproval of the regulation and Trump signs the resolution, then the new Stream Protection Rule will be voided.

That’s what should happen, but in the meantime the outgoing president is hurling one more Hail Mary government overreach for one last score against the coal industry.

See the article here.

Obama Adds Last Minute Anti-Coal Regs Before Trump Takes Office

Via The Daily Caller: 

The Obama administration added another layer of anti-coal mining regulations to the books Monday, just before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The new regulations require coal companies which have finished mining in an area to restore the land to the same condition that existed before digging began. Obama’s Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called the new regulations “a balanced approach to meeting the nation’s energy needs.”

Companies are currently obligated to rehabilitate the areas they mine, but the new regulations are much more strict and largely focused on groundwater protection. The regulations replaced by the rule had been in force for 33 years — a rule under development since 2009.

The rule will almost certainly face opposition from Republicans, as it was enacted only a month before Trump takes office. This is exactly the sort of regulation Trump pledged during his campaign to reverse. Trump claimed during his campaign that he’d help turn around the coal industry, which is beset by debt, job losses, regulations and declining profits which make Obama’s new cleanup requirements much more difficult.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and cheap natural gas are devastating coal companies as well, even forcing Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, to declare bankruptcy earlier this year. Other American coal companies have faced financial problems too. Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy as well in January and coal companies like Alliance Coal announced mass layoffs.

A 2015 study found the coal industry lost 50,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012 during Obama’s first term. During Obama’s second term, the industry employment in coal mining has fallen by another 33,300 jobs, 10,900 of which occurred in the last year alone, according to federal data. Currently, coal mining employs 69,460 Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of the blame for the job losses is targeted at federal regulations aimed at preventing global warming, which caused coal power plants to go bankrupt, resulting in a sharp decline in the price of coal.

“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” Obama said during a 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also pledged that, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Employment has fallen so drastically because coal production has fallen by 15 percent since 2008 as companies have been forced by environmental regulations to shut down 400 mines. Companies opened 103 new mines in the U.S. in 2013 while 271 coal mines were idled or shut down, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As a result, many ex-coal miners are unemployed and Appalachian “coal country” faces very real economic devastation as a result. The coal-producing areas of eastern Kentucky have an unemployment rate of 8 percent and parts of West Virginia have double-digit unemployment.

The Obama administration responded by offering a mere $14.5 million in federal funding for programs to retrain out-of-work coal miners, after imposing regulations that greatly hampered the American coal industry.

See the article here.

 

NMA Strongly Opposes Interior Department’s Duplicative Stream Rule

The National Mining Association (NMA) today expressed its strong opposition to the Interior Department’s stream rule, calling on Congress to swiftly pass a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval and the president to sign it without delay.

The rule, which the Trump Administration has said it opposes and will act to rescind, provides no discernable environmental benefits while duplicating and interfering with extensive existing environmental protections at both the federal and state levels—duplication and interference which is expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

“The decision to promulgate this duplicative rule at this stage is post-election midnight regulation and therefore obstructionism at its worst,” said Hal Quinn, NMA’s president and CEO. “This is after the agency failed in its obligation to engage mining states in the rule’s development and ended up with a massive rulemaking that is a win for bureaucracy and extreme environmental groups, and a loss for everyday Americans.”
Quinn said the rule’s primary purpose appears to be to support the environmental lobby’s “keep it in the ground” platform, locking away important U.S. domestic coal reserves, while putting tens of thousands of Americans out of work, raising energy costs for millions of Americans, and preserving the agency’s regulatory mission that is diminished with the declining number of coal mines.

The rule:
• Disregards State Authority and Expertise. Eight out of 10 states that originally signed on as state cooperating agencies withdrew from their agreements after a four-year period without any dialogue because OSM ignored its legal obligation to consult with the states during the rule’s development.

    o Nineteen states have written letters to OSM urging the agency to comply with congressional mandates and re-engage with the states.

• Duplicates, Contradicts and Creates Confusion Around Established State and Federal Regulations. Extensive environmental protections are currently administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the states’ regulatory authorities. SMCRA expressly prohibits rulemaking that creates regulatory overlap resulting in uncertainty through inconsistent requirements.

• Harms U.S. Jobs. A technical analysis of the impact of the proposed rule shows that at least a third of coal related jobs are now at risk owing to the massive volumes of coal that would be uneconomic to mine. The final rule closely tracks the proposal, so similar impacts are anticipated. Estimated job losses are based upon an independent analysis performed at 36 operating surface and underground mines across the country. By contrast, OSM’s analysis of economic impacts relied upon “hypothetical mines.”

• Blocks Access to Important American Resources. Under the rule, up to 64 percent of total U.S. coal reserves could be off limits to mining nationwide—a result at direct odds with SMCRA, which directs regulatory policies to encourage surface and underground mining.

• Reduces Much-Needed Tax Revenues in Coal Communities and States. Coal mining contributes more than $18.5 billion annually in state and federal tax revenues. The rule is expected to reduce these revenues by between 15 and 35 percent, devastating communities that have already been hit hard by job losses and reduced mining activity. These revenues are a vital source of financing for education, infrastructure, and emergency services in many states which would be forced to find alternate funding or forgo services.

See the press release here.

The Trump Cabinet: Bonfire of the Agencies

Via The Washington Post:

Democrats spent the first two decades of the post-Cold War era rather relaxed about Russian provocations and revanchism. President Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for suggesting that Russia was our principal geopolitical adversary. Yet today the Dems are in high dudgeon over the closeness of secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, to Vladimir Putin.

Hypocrisy aside, it is true that, as head of ExxonMobil, Tillerson made major deals with Russia, received Russia’s Order of Friendship and opposed U.S. sanctions. That’s troubling but not necessarily disqualifying. At the time, after all, Tillerson was acting as an agent of ExxonMobil, whose interest it is to extract oil and make money.

These interests do not necessarily overlap with those of the United States. The relevant question is whether and how Tillerson distinguishes between the two and whether as agent of the United States he would adopt a tougher Russia policy than he did as agent of ExxonMobil.

[A small victory for the republic: Rex Tillerson isn’t a kook or a crank]

We don’t know. We shall soon find out. That’s what confirmation hearings are for.

The left has been in equally high dudgeon that other Cabinet picks appear not to share the mission of the agency which they have been nominated to head. The horror! As if these agency missions are somehow divinely ordained. Why, they aren’t even constitutionally ordained. The Education Department, for example, was created by President Carter in 1979 as a payoff to the teachers unions for their political support.

Now, teachers are wonderful. But teachers unions are there to protect benefits and privileges, not necessarily to improve schooling. Which is why they zealously defend tenure, protect their public-school monopoly and reflexively oppose school choice.

Conservatives have the odd view that the purpose of schooling — and therefore of the Education Department — is to provide students with the best possible education. Hence Trump’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, a longtime and passionate proponent of school choice, under whom the department will no longer be an arm of the teachers unions.

She is also less likely to allow the department’s Office for Civil Rights to continue appropriating to itself the role of arbiter of social justice, micromanaging everything from campus sexual mores to the proper bathroom assignment for transgender students. If the mission of this department has been to dictate policy best left to the states and localities, it’s about time the mission was changed.

The most incendiary nomination by far, however, is Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. As attorney general of Oklahoma, he has joined or led a series of lawsuits to curtail EPA power. And has been upheld more than once by the courts.

Pruitt has been deemed unfit to serve because he fails liberalism’s modern-day religious test: belief in anthropogenic climate change. They would love to turn his confirmation hearing into a Scopes monkey trial. Republicans should decline the invitation. It doesn’t matter whether the man believes the moon is made of green cheese. The challenges to EPA actions are based not on meteorology or theology, but on the Constitution. The issue is that the EPA has egregiously exceeded its authority and acted as a rogue agency unilaterally creating rules unmoored from legislation.

Pruitt’s is the most important nomination because it is a direct attack on the insidious growth of the administrative state. We have reached the point where EPA bureaucrats interpret the Waters of the United States rule — meant to protect American waterways — to mean that when a hard rain leaves behind a pond on your property, the feds may take over and tell you what you can and cannot do with it. (The final rule excluded puddles — magnanimity from the Leviathan.)

On a larger scale, Obama’s Clean Power Plan essentially federalizes power generation and regulation, not coincidentally killing coal along the way. This is the administration’s end run around Congress’ rejection of Obama’s proposed 2009-2010 cap-and-trade legislation. And that was a Democratic Congress, mind you.

Pruitt’s nomination is a dramatic test of the proposition that agencies administer the law, they don’t create it. That the legislative power resides exclusively with Congress and not with a metastasizing administrative bureaucracy.

For some, this reassertion of basic constitutionalism seems extreme. If so, the Obama administration has only itself to blame. Such are the wages of eight years of liberal overreach. Some legislation, like Obamacare, will be repealed. Some executive orders will be canceled. But most important will be the bonfire of the agencies. We may soon be secure not just in our puddles but our ponds.

See the article here.

Clearing the Air at the EPA

Via The Roanoke Star: 

President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is welcome news. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt has strongly pushed back against many rules and regulations coming from Washington, DC. In particular, he has led states in suing to block the EPA’s overreaching policies.

Many in the media report this news with shock. They wonder how someone “CURRENTLY SUING” the EPA could possibly be fit to lead it. I wish those stunned by this appointment would listen to or read the testimony I have heard from EPA officials in Energy and Commerce Committee hearings. What I find stunning is the logic offered by agency officials to justify actions at odds with the plain text of laws passed by Congress.

Take the Clean Power Plan. I have written often in this column about the EPA’s claim that it can use the Clean Air Act to force states to create and implement a plan to reduce their carbon emissions. It is bad for coal miners and all consumers of electricity, but it is also bad for the rule of law. Under the Clean Power Plan, the EPA claims it can regulate existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, but the EPA already regulates them under Section 112. The problem is that the language of the Clean Air Act prohibits this type of dual regulation, a point that the EPA itself has conceded in the past (before changing its tune).

When famed liberal legal scholar Laurence Tribe, who taught America’s first environmental law class and mentored President Obama, testified before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, he stated:

“EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress, and the Federal Courts – all at once.  Much is up for grabs in this complex area. But burning the Constitution of the United States – about which I care deeply – cannot be part of our national energy policy…”

The EPA cited the Clean Air Act in another power grab, this time to regulate truck trailers. The law authorizes the EPA to regulate emissions from motor vehicles, defined in the US code as follows:

42 USC 7550(2)

The term “motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle designed for transporting persons or property on a street or highway.

When I asked EPA official Janet McCabe how a trailer could be considered a self-propelled vehicle, she claimed that trailers are covered because, “without a trailer, a truck is not transporting goods.” Based on this logic, because trucks don’t currently drive themselves, the EPA could regulate the size of the driver, too!

On a number of occasions during the current administration, the courts have found that federal agencies exceeded their authority in making rules. The fact that this has happened repeatedly tells me that many of the lawyers employed by the federal government are not doing their jobs.

Lawyers employed by the federal government should not evaluate proposed regulations by their goal or their supervisors’ wishes, but rather by their compliance with the Constitution and the law.

I believe that the lawyers for the EPA and other agencies have acted with malfeasance in this regard. When the federal government’s lawyers improperly sign off on ridiculous arguments, Scott Pruitt and other state attorneys general have a duty to stand up for the powers the Constitution reserves to the states, just as congressmen have the duty to stand up for the powers delegated to the legislative branch.

As EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt’s first task should be to clean house in the EPA’s Office of General Counsel, which provides legal advice to the agency.

Under its present leadership, the EPA apparently believes that it’s better for a thousand people to lose their jobs than for a single tree to be axed or one chunk of coal to be burned. We need the EPA to balance protecting our environment without destroying our economy. As the Supreme Court ruled in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, it should not pursue an environmental agenda at all costs.

The EPA must also recognize that it should carry out the laws passed by Congress, not rewrite them or create new ones.

Scott Pruitt has shown that he understands the proper role of the EPA. He is an excellent choice to lead the EPA and I urge the Senate to confirm him promptly.

Congressman Morgan Griffith

See the article here.

EDITORIAL: High Hopes for New EPA Leader Pruitt

Via The Gazette:

There’s a new sheriff in town, and nothing hammers it home like Thursday’s nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

A man suing the EPA may soon control it. We have confidence this appointment will directly benefit Colorado Springs and the rest of the country.

If confirmed, we hope Pruitt immediately stops the agency’s insane lawsuit against Colorado Springs. He can end it with a pen and a phone.

The EPA suit against Colorado Springs pertains to stormwater infrastructure problems the city is aggressively correcting. The suit threatens to enrich lawyers with the money our community could otherwise use to protect clean water.

We also hope Pruitt will stop federal regulators from obstructing plans to widen Interstate 25 and other essential transportation projects. State highway officials say EPA regulations could help tie up the I-25 project for 10 years, feeding bureaucrats and lawyers with money that could otherwise buy pavement. No one needs a decade to ensure two more lanes of asphalt, through an existing high-speed corridor, won’t destroy Mother Earth.

Those are some local reasons to applaud this selection. On a national scale, Pruitt’s leadership could fuel an economic resurgence. He could help turn smoldering economic embers into a raging inferno.

Environmental protection is important. That’s why President Richard Nixon created the EPA by executive order in 1970. Since then, careless abuse of the agency’s authority has inadvertently killed jobs and smothered economic growth.

Through the EPA, President Barack Obama tried to impose the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt sued to stop it, along with Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and others. The Supreme Court of the United States, after reviewing the suit, put the plan on hold until it could hear the full case. The court ruled the plan may cause “irreparable harm” to communities and states, with lost jobs and other economic burdens.

The Clean Power Plan would force communities throughout the country to close power plants. They would be stuck with costs of replacement sources powered by solar, wind and natural gas. For some communities, the costs would be billions.

EPA energy regulations have ushered the early demise of the coal industry throughout Colorado and other states with economies and cultures built around mining.

Meanwhile, the EPA wants more onerous methane regulations that would stifle the oil and gas industry’s production of natural gas.

A variety of new and looming emissions regulations, combined with the government’s heavy corporate tax burden, have made the United States a less competitive host of manufacturing.

“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” President-elect Donald Trump said in a news release announcing Pruitt’s nomination. Pruitt “will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”

The environment is sacred and warrants protection. We should embrace and invest in new and emerging sources of power. Meanwhile, jobs and economies are also sacred and in need of protection.

We hope Pruitt, Congress and Trump can strike the right balance. Protect water and air, and allow our economy to soar.

See the article here.

Cleaner Coal Should be a Priority for Washington

Via The Pueblo Chieftain: 

As the recent election cycle demonstrated, American politics is beset with a number of polarizing issues. Among the most obvious has been the debate over coal.

Where Hillary Clinton favored renewable energy at the expense of the coal industry, Donald Trump has promised to launch a coal renaissance. This “either/or” schism overlooks a larger point, though, since technological advances eventually could lead to coal — and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports — playing a key role in the clean energy transformation of the 21st century.

Before this is even possible, however, government policy must find a middle course that balances costs with reasonable goals. Roughly 200 U.S. coal plants have closed in recent years, due in part to burdensome regulations that failed to adequately assess job losses. Ironically, President Barack Obama may have offered a helpful solution back in 2008 when he first suggested, “If technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. That I think is the right approach.”

Regrettably, the president never followed through on the possibility of making coal cleaner. And that’s unfortunate since advanced technologies have made extraordinary progress in recent years, leading to coal emissions that are now 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago.

And thanks to pilot programs in Mississippi, Texas and Saskatchewan, this same scientific prowess also is beginning to allow for the capture of coal’s carbon dioxide emissions. Given the right investment, such technology could become a game-changer. In fact, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has suggested that meeting climate targets for this century actually could be impossible without successful carbon capture development.

It’s noteworthy that America has long benefited from a diverse mix of power sources, and electricity generation anchored by coal saves consumers roughly $90 billion annually, according to IHS Energy Consulting. Imagine, then, if the United States could move forward with the affordable, abundant power that coal provides — and without the carbon emissions that have hung a question mark over the future of the world economy.

Instead of consigning coal to the scrap heap — and triggering mass unemployment that would necessitate tens of billions of dollars in federal aid to coal country residents — Washington should focus on efforts to make coal more environmentally friendly. Such a responsible path forward would require combined action from both industry and government. But the development of such advanced technologies could establish America as a global leader while also benefiting a developing world already banking heavily on coal.

It’s clear that America will need abundant power generation in the years to come. And since the United States possesses the world’s largest reserves of coal, it makes sense to incorporate coal as part of a diverse energy mix that also includes natural gas, renewables and nuclear power.

Americans want energy solutions that continue to use and explore advanced technologies. And so, there are obvious advantages to incorporating cleaner coal along with the jobs and revenue that such technology could support.

The advanced coal technologies under development today continue a decadeslong trend of reducing emissions and increasing efficiency at coal power plants.

Thus, the effort to make coal cleaner should be part of an “all-of-the above” strategy for clean energy in the 21st century. The world’s growing need for energy, and America’s own reliance on a diverse energy supply, argue strongly for such a path forward.

See the article here.

Trump EPA Pick Puts Target on Job-Killing Regulations

Via PoliZette:

President-Elect Donald Trump has tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt’s nomination is certain to worry environmental activists focused on global warming issues. But Pruitt, who has led Oklahoma’s challenge against President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” (CPP), could guide the EPA back to its core mission of environmental protection, rather than continue its recent obsession with reducing industrial carbon dioxide emissions.

In selecting Pruitt, the president-elect has staked out a clear position on the looming debate over U.S. energy independence vs. climate change austerity. While serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt argued that the Clean Power Plan infringes on state sovereignty over power generation — a view shared by 27 other states currently challenging the measure.

Overall, the choice of Pruitt suggests that the president-elect is on track to roll back some of the more onerous initiatives of the Obama administration. Significantly, the CPP is one of three efforts that have combined to help dismantle much of America’s coal industry. Opponents of the plan note that it would vastly expand the EPA’s authority to regulate state power grids — a move never previously interpreted in the Clean Air Act. And the plan would impose harsh costs on coal-fired power generation to achieve a theoretical 0.018 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100.

 If the Clean Power Plan were not enough to shut down the domestic coal industry, President Obama has also prepared a “Stream Protection Rule” (SPR) that duplicates existing state and federal controls on coal mining. The rule, which was drafted without the input of coal-producing states, has been written so broadly as to potentially designate half of all U.S. coal reserves off-limits to mining. And where the coal industry has already shed 68,000 jobs in recent years, a fully realized SPR could potentially cost another 78,000 jobs.

The Obama administration’s hostility to coal also extends to the recent moratorium on federal coal leases. Under the guise of seeking a more equitable leasing program, the administration launched a review of the federal coal program that generated revenues of $1 billion for American taxpayers in 2014 while also producing 40 percent of the total coal-generated electricity in the United States.

Overall, this trifecta of regulations has grievously burdened the nation’s coal producers while also driving up the cost of power generation in at least 13 states that rely principally on coal-fired power. At the same time, the president has happily subsidized measures to ramp up wind and solar power. That such renewable energy continues to prove expensive and intermittent (since the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine) has mattered little to green advocates.

Ironically, this investment in green energy has yielded only modest returns even as the domestic coal industry has made enormous investments to reduce emissions. Modern U.S. coal plants are 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago, thanks to impressive advances in scrubbing technologies. Thus, the same money being generously funneled to wind and solar projects could also yield even cleaner coal — which would be a sensible priority since coal has formed the backbone of reliable, robust, and affordable domestic power generation for decades.

The measures implemented by President Obama have obviously been aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But the president’s guiding assumption has been that global warming is a principally man-made phenomenon.

Unfortunately, this discounts the work of climate activists who continue to argue that increased solar activity, not rising carbon dioxide, has driven recent climate trends. And so, President Obama has unilaterally imposed stunning costs on the nation’s power sector based on a potentially flawed ideology.

Pruitt’s selection for the EPA has sparked yet another round of divisive climate debate. But there are reasons to appreciate his nomination since Pruitt appears to recognize the benefits of affordable power for the working people of the United States. It’s worth noting that cleaner coal and expanded natural gas production provide sturdy, reliable power generation. Along with nuclear power, they are the only proven means of reliably producing the massive supplies of electricity needed to treat municipal drinking water, for example, and to process the enormous waste water and sanitation byproducts of large metropolitan areas. And so, there are valid reasons to prioritize such environmental safety issues for the American people.

President Obama’s rush to dismantle coal without assuring a robust alternative could actually threaten the sanitary living conditions of major cities. And so, the nomination of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA could help to foster a wider debate on the growing energy needs of America’s expanding population. While green activists may rush to condemn him, there are important priorities to consider. President-Elect Trump’s choice of Pruitt could redefine some of these pressing environmental concerns, even as the new administration prepares to take office.
See the article here.

Editorial: Spread the Word, Mines Make Everyday Life Possible

Via The Elko Daily Free Press:

Whether people realize it or not, every day they come in contact with something that was produced because of a mine.

According to the National Mining Association, “every American uses an average of 40,000 pounds of newly mined materials every year, including three tons of coal.” I write about the industry regularly and that fact still surprised me.

I knew the average annual salary for a miner is $80,000 or more, which is well above the national average wage of $52,874, but people who don’t know the industry may be shocked by that information.

I thought I should share some of the mining facts I learned while attending the 2016 MINExpo, so people in the industry are a little better informed when talking to those who know nothing about mining. When people wonder why we still have a mining industry, it is good to have facts to back up why mineral resources are still needed.

Computers wouldn’t exist without mined materials. The number of minerals used in the average computer is 66 and an electric car contains 165 pounds of copper – three times as much as a gasoline-powered car. Solar energy is projected to use 70 million ounces of silver in 2016, and 29 minerals are needed to deliver electricity to homes and businesses.

While many in northern Nevada know that we mine gold in the Silver State, they may not realize that the yellow metal is just one of several minerals produced in Nevada. The other “major mined” products are copper, silver, lime, diatomite, sand and gravel, stone, and gypsum, according to the National Mining Association.

Many politicians talk about mining being essential to national security. This is at least one time when they aren’t exaggerating. The U.S. Department of Defense uses 750,000 tons of minerals each year in technologies that protect our troops. Lithium-ion batteries can lighten a soldier’s pack by almost 7 pounds and provide them three times the charge. The U.S. remains 50 percent or more import-reliant on 43 key mineral resources.

These are just some of the reasons mines are needed in Nevada and the rest of the country. However, that doesn’t mean mining companies don’t help our communities in other ways.

At the end of summer, Stantec employees volunteered their time to map noxious weeds in the area, to help eliminate these intrusive species.

Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Mining Corp. have opened their wallets quite a bit lately. While both companies give to many different causes, I focused on two different programs. Barrick helped establish a new student veteran program at Great Basin College, and Newmont hit a new record with its employee driven Legacy Fund.

Most Mining Quarterlies focus on Nevada mines, but this time around, MQ correspondent Adella Harding got to travel to Colorado to visit Newmont’s Cripple Creek and Victor Mine.

This edition also has a story on EP Minerals which mines diatomaceous earth and makes some pretty interesting products.

The Elko Daily Free Press also began sending out mining newsletters every Monday. If you haven’t already signed up, go to the email alerts at elkodaily.com to receive a weekly email on the latest mining news.

While the industry is constantly going through changes, this magazine also will have something new for our spring edition.

You can find the details on all these stories and more in this edition of the Mining Quarterly.

See the article here.

NMA Recognizes National Miners Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Mining Association (NMA) today recognized National Miners Day, a day established to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of our nation’s miners.

“What many Americans don’t realize is that the mining industry drives our supply chain, bringing affordable energy and essential materials to virtually every home and industry in the U.S.,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “From infrastructure to manufacturing, advanced technologies and our national defense system, every aspect of our lives is supported by mining and made possible by American miners. Today we thank this vital yet too often unrecognized group for their extraordinary contributions.”

When asked about the importance of mining to their lives, just half of Americans identified mining as important to their daily lives, according to polling conducted by Morning Consult for NMA on December 1-2, 2016. But when reminded of all the industries and technologies that rely on the essential materials and reliable, affordable electricity made available by mining, that number rises to nearly 80 percent – a 30 percent jump. Seventy three percent of voters went on to say that they are supportive of policies that encourage domestic mining and the use of America’s natural resources.

The national poll was conducted with 1,401 registered voters, and includes a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

Also timed with National Miners Day, and to help raise awareness of the importance of the work undertaken by miners across America, NMA released a new video featuring leaders from across the industry discussing their thoughts on mining’s greatest contributions to the American experience. The video can be accessed here.

See the press release here.

These 5 EPA Regs Could Be The First In Trump’s Crosshairs

Via The Daily Caller:

President-elect Donald Trump could eliminate these five Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations some studies have labeled as “job-killers” that do little for the environment.

Under President Barack Obama, the EPA made individual rules and regulations that cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Given the high costs, Republican lawmakers encouraged states not to implement such rules because they could be overturned by the courts or by a subsequent administration.

Ozone Rule:

The EPA required every county in America last year to cut ozone from 75 to 70 parts per billion by 2025. The agency did this even though a third of all Americans live in one of the 177 counties that haven’t yet met 2008 standards of 75 parts per billion. Simply ignoring EPA ozone standards isn’t an option either, as local governments risk losing federal highway funds, oil and gas operations may be forced to cease and manufacturers can shut down.

Several accomplished scientists have criticized the ozone rule’s benefits, as there’s no recorded case of anyone being killed by ozone. EPA claims the new ozone standards will avoid 710 to 4,300 premature deaths by 2025, but clinical tests cast doubt on this number.

Critics labeled the EPA ozone rules as the costliest regulations ever imposed on the U.S. economy. Previous EPA estimates for the current standard went as high as $25 billion annually. A study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the EPA’s strictest ozone standards of 65 parts per billion could cause $1.7 trillion in total economic damage and kill 1.4 million jobs by 2040.

Methane Rule:

The agency does not list the amount of temperature increases averted in the rule’s press release, even though the rule exists just to limit global warming. Industry groups estimate the rule would only cause a temperature drop of 0.0047 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, an amount so small it couldn’t even be detected.

The regulation even has the potential to make global warming worse, as it will make producing natural gas harder, leading to more release of CO2 emissions — the primary driver of global warming — according to a 2014 EPA report. The report concluded that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 fell to their lowest levels in 17 years, largely due to hydraulically fractured natural gas out-competing coal as a power source

A report by the firm ICF International, which cited 75 scientific studies and EPA reports, concluded that methane emissions are declining in both absolute terms and per unit of natural gas produced, despite an enormous increase in the amount of gas produced.  Absolute methane emissions from natural gas fell by 15 percent between 1990 and 2014, and emissions per unit of natural gas produced dropped by 43 percent over the same period.

Clean Power Plan:

Clean Power Plan (CPP) would significantly increase the price of electricity in the U.S., and could cost the economy up to $479 billion by 2031, according to a study by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI). The average American’s electricity bill would rise by more than 10 percent as a result of CPP.

The CPP would force states to develop plans to slash carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from power plants with the goal of reducing emissions by 32 percent by 2030. The plan would probably eliminate most cheap coal power plants and replace them with much more expensive and unreliable sources like solar and wind if it survives current legal challenges. This would further increase the price of electricity, which causes the price of everything made using electricity to also spike, effectively raising the price of almost everything.

Climate models created by the EPA and utilized by the Cato Institute show that even if CPP was fully implemented, it wouldn’t even accomplish its goal. The plan would only prevent an additional 0.019° Celsius of warming by the year 2100, an amount so small it cannot be detected.

Waters Of The United States:

The EPA has been attempting to expand its regulatory authority to include every body of water or area that could potentially hold water in the entire U.S., over the express objections of the U.S. Senate.

The EPA’s power grab would replace the phrase “Navigable Waters” in the Clean Water Act with “Waters Of The United States,” immensely expanding the agency’s authority. “Navigable” has been determined by the Supreme Court to only include rivers, lakes, bays, and other relatively large bodies of water. The EPA has been attempting to change the definition internally to regulate ditches and even deserts30 different states have expressed concern about the agency’s overreach.

Despite the failure to push the redefinition through the legislative process, the EPA continued where Congress declined to act and is attempting to make the change through the rule-making process.

The stakes are particularly high for farmers and ranchers, who would have to spend time and money obtaining EPA permits to continue using their own land. A redefinition has the potential to cause “costly atime-consuminging delays” in permitting new development, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. The average permit applicant spends 788 days and $271,596 on an application.

Fining Companies For Not Buying Nonexistent Fuel:

EPA has repeatedly fined companies for not purchasing cellulosic biofuels which don’t exist, using the Clean Air Act.

In 2010, the EPA instructed companies to burn 5 million gallons of certain biofuels which were not yet commercially available. In 2011, the EPA upped the mandate to 6.5 million gallons, but zero gallons were produce. In 2012, the mandate was for 8.5 million gallons, but only 25,000 gallons were produced.

After a federal judge demanded that EPA stop fining companies for not buying fuel that didn’t exist, the agency responded by raising the mandate next year to 14 million gallons.

See the article here.

Bill Keeps Coal in the Energy Mix

Via The Bismark Tribune:

Destructive gridlock too often cripples Congress, and it frustrates me as much as anyone.

Congress shouldn’t be a place where good ideas with bipartisan support fail to move forward. If this election has taught us anything, it’s that Congress needs to get to work finding the kind of practical, bipartisan solutions that I’ve pushed for and that North Dakotans rightfully expect.

Earlier this year, I wrote a bill that most folks in North Dakota — and most folks in Congress — would agree with: The bill would put coal on a viable path forward by encouraging investment in technologies that drastically reduce emissions while making sure coal remains an affordable, reliable piece of our energy mix.

 In North Dakota, we know coal. This resource powers our homes, and coal workers have helped build the all-of-the-above energy strategy our state has proudly implemented for decades. North Dakota gets almost 80 percent of its electricity from coal, and my bill provides the incentives we need to keep coal viable for years to come, while recognizing the need to reduce carbon emissions.

After introducing the bill in July, it quickly gained bipartisan support from a diverse group of lawmakers — spanning the ideological spectrum to include some of the most conservative and most liberal lawmakers. It also has broad backing from a growing list of coal companies, utilities, and environmental groups. Even Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a strong coal supporter who controls which bills get votes in the U.S. Senate, has come out in favor of the bill.

Since joining the U.S. Senate, I’ve worked hard to forge bipartisan consensus wherever I can, and especially on commonsense policies that benefit our state. That’s why I worked with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska last year to successfully lift the decades-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil.

We spent months explaining the economics of lifting the ban to other lawmakers, showing them that it made no sense for a major oil producer like the U.S. to prevent its oil from seeking the best price in international markets. Then, in December 2015, Sen. Murkowski and I forged a bipartisan deal to get the job done by coupling our effort to lift the ban on exporting oil with an extension of tax credits supporting wind and solar energy, further boosting North Dakota’s diverse energy sector.

Now, I’m hopeful Congress can come together like we did last year — this time, to pass my bill extending and expanding the 45Q tax credit to find a path forward for coal-fired generation and make sure that coal remains a key part of our energy mix for decades to come.

 The 45Q provision in the tax code, which my bill uses as a starting point, is one of the most important tools for incentivizing carbon capture projects in coal-fired power plants and other industries. Our bill would provide tax credits to businesses that invest in technologies to limit emissions, capture carbon dioxide, and use that captured carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery or to create usable products. Carbon capture is the key to coal’s future — but it can’t take off unless there’s federal support to encourage investment and implementation of the technology through tax credits and other mechanisms.

With 20 Republicans and Democrats supporting my bill, there’s no good reason for Congress to sit on its hands and do nothing.

Partisan gridlock isn’t just frustrating — it also can quash ideas that I know would benefit our state. But if Congress works together in a bipartisan way as we have done on this bill, it should be able to reach real results that support North Dakota and the entire country. Now’s the time to get this bill across the finish line.

See the article here.

Another View: Time for Reasonable Policy, Plans for Coal Energy

Via The Daily Times:

As the recent election cycle demonstrated, American politics is beset with a number of polarizing issues. Among the most obvious has been the debate over coal. Where Hillary Clinton favored renewable energy at the expense of the coal industry, Donald Trump has promised to launch a coal renaissance. This “either/or” schism overlooks a larger point, though, since technological advances could eventually lead to coal – and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports – playing a key role in the clean energy transformation of the 21st century.

Before this is even possible, however, government policy must find a middle course that balances costs with reasonable goals. Roughly 200 U.S. coal plants have closed in recent years, due in part to burdensome regulations that failed to adequately assess job losses. Ironically, President Obama may have offered a helpful solution back in 2008 when he first suggested “If technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. That I think is the right approach.”

Regrettably, the president never followed through on the possibility of making coal cleaner. And that’s unfortunate since advanced technologies have made extraordinary progress in recent years, leading to coal emissions that are now 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago. And thanks to pilot programs in Mississippi, Texas, and Saskatchewan, this same scientific prowess is also beginning to allow for the capture of coal’s carbon dioxide emissions. Given the right investment, such technology could become a game-changer. In fact, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has suggested that meeting climate targets for this century could actually be impossible without successful carbon capture development.

It’s noteworthy that America has long benefited from a diverse mix of power sources, and electricity generation anchored by coal currently saves consumers roughly $90 billion annually according to IHS Energy Consulting. Imagine, then, if the United States could move forward with the affordable, abundant power that coal provides—and without the carbon emissions that have hung a question mark over the future of the world economy.
Instead of consigning coal to the scrap heap—and triggering mass unemployment that would necessitate tens of billions of dollars in federal aid to coal country residents – Washington should focus on efforts to make coal more environmentally friendly. Such a responsible path forward would require combined action from both industry and government. But the development of such advanced technologies could establish America as a global leader while also benefiting a developing world already banking heavily on coal.

It’s clear that America will need abundant power generation in the years to come. And since the United States possesses the world’s largest reserves of coal, it makes sense to incorporate coal as part of a diverse energy mix that also includes natural gas, renewables, and nuclear power. Americans want energy solutions that continue to use and explore advanced technologies. And so, there are obvious advantages to incorporating cleaner coal along with the jobs and revenue that such technology could support.

The advanced coal technologies under development today continue a decades-long trend of reducing emissions and increasing efficiency at coal power plants.

Thus, the effort to make coal cleaner should be part of an “all-of-the above” strategy for clean energy in the 21st Century. The world’s growing need for energy, and America’s own reliance on a diverse energy supply, argue strongly for such a path forward.

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