Monthly Archives: January 2017

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

GOP Moves To Undo President Obama’s EPA Coal Stream Rule

Via The Wheeling Intelligencer: 

Congressional Republicans are moving swiftly to repeal Obama administration regulations aimed at better protecting streams from coal mining debris.

Coal country lawmakers unveiled legislation Monday to block the rules, which they say would kill jobs in the coal industry, which is reeling from competition from cleaner-burning natural gas.

The legislation unveiled Monday would overturn December regulations through a process that permits Congress to revoke recently-issued rules in a manner that is immune to filibusters by Senate Democrats.

The repeal measure is set for a House vote Wednesday and a Senate vote shortly thereafter.

“The Stream Protection Rule is the latest in a series of overreaching and misguided Obama-era regulations that have targeted America’s coal industry,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. “If this rule were allowed to stay in place, it would add to the economic devastation for people in coal communities.”

The stream protection rules would be the first of several recent Obama administration regulations to be targeted by using the fast-track procedures. Former President Barack Obama easily repelled such moves with vetoes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the “‘stream buffer’ rule is a harmful regulation that unfairly targets coal jobs.”

The regulations would have tightened exceptions to a rule that requires a 100-foot buffer between coal mining and streams. It also would require coal companies to restore streams and return mined areas to conditions similar to those before mining took place.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club support the rules, saying they would protect people in coal country from health risks from pollutants like mercury.

Pro-industry senators among the measure’s numerous sponsors include Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

On the House side, Republican Reps. David McKinley of West Virginia and Bill Johnson of Ohio were among those sponsoring a resolution of disapproval concerning the Stream Protection Rule.

“This rule implemented by President Obama at the end of his term is an outrageous attack on working families in the coal industry,” McKinley said. “As chairman of the Coal Caucus, we’ve made stopping the (Stream Protection Rule) our No. 1 priority because if implemented, it could shut down more coal mines and disrupt the livelihoods of over 80,000 miners and their families.

“Fortunately with President Trump, we now have a partner in the White House who understands how irresponsible and harmful these bureaucratic overreaches can be,” McKinley added.

Johnson, meanwhile, said voters in November “sent a clear message to Washington, D.C. that more regulation is not the answer.”

“We will both protect America’s coal jobs by stopping this rule from taking effect, and prevent the issuance of any similar rule in the future,” Johnson said.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., also was among the resolution’s sponsors.

The action comes less than two weeks after a group of 14 state attorneys general, including Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia and Mike DeWine of Ohio, sent a letter to McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., urging congressional action.

The letter states the Congressional Review Act “provides Congress the authority to take action immediately after President-elect Trump takes office to avoid the harm imposed by the (Stream Protection Rule) and protect both the states and the federal government from having to engage in potentially lengthy litigation on this subject.”

Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming also signed the Jan. 17 letter.

See the article here.

McConnell Pushes for Action on ‘Harmful’ Coal-Mining Rule

Via The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged Monday to undo a coal-mining rule issued in the closing days of the Obama administration.

McConnell introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution blocking the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, days before the House is set to vote on a similar measure.

In a floor speech, he urged the House to move quickly on its resolution “so we can pass [it] here in the Senate and provide relief to our coal communities, our national economy, and our constituents.”

Obama officials and environmentalists have hailed the rule — which protects waterways from the impacts of mountaintop removal mining — as good for water quality and public health. But the coal industry has said it would kill mining jobs.

The rule has been a key target for McConnell and resolution co-sponsor Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), whose states’ coal sectors have been hit hard by the commodity’s downturn.

“It will cause real harm to real people who support real families in real communities,” McConnell said of the rule. “This regulation is an attack on coal families. It jeopardizes jobs and transfers power away from states and local governments.”

The House is set to vote on three CRA resolutions this week undoing energy-sector regulations finalized late in the Obama administration. The resolutions target the Stream Protection Rule, a methane leak regulation, and a directive seeking more financial information from drilling and mining firms.

President Trump has said he wants to cut regulations on the fossil fuel sector, so he’s likely to support the resolutions if they reach his desk.

See the article here.

Coal to the Rescue

Via The Washington Examiner:

A fundamental shift in how America generates electricity is raising serious doubts about its ability to keep the lights on.

Switching from coal to more natural gas and renewables is straining the country’s power grid.

The biggest change in the past two years is what the utility industry calls the big “fuel switch” to natural gas — that is, gas took over as the leading producer of the nation’s electricity supply.

The market is awash with natural gas from fracking, which has made it cheaper and more attractive than other energy sources. A unit of gas has cost $2-$3 for the past few years compared to $14-$17 a decade ago.

On top of that, tighter environmental regulations imposed by former President Barack Obama have forced many older coal plants to shut down, which in turn has created an opening for more power plants run on natural gas and other renewable energy sources.

But depending so heavily on a gaseous fuel instead of piles of rocky coal brings risks, especially because environmentalists fight to prevent pipelines being built, so gas-fired plants have a tough time getting the support infrastructure they need.

All this points toward coal making a comeback as a necessary part of the energy mix to avoid blackouts. Washington forecasts higher natural gas prices and a resulting resurgence of demand for coal-fired electricity in the coming year. Washington oversees wholesale power markets, where price is king. Repealing the Obama administration’s climate rules, as President Trump has touted, also would help coal compete on equal footing with natural gas.

Reliability is electric

Former federal energy commissioners say all of this poses serious challenges if reliable electricity service is to be maintained and brownouts and blackouts are to be avoided.

The federal government is going to have to relearn the nuts and bolts of keeping the lights on, according to Republican luminaries.

“The whole issue of reliability is one that will take a renewed focus here in Washington,” says Tony Clark, a former Republican commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who left the agency last year when his term expired.

Clark recently joined the law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP to serve as senior adviser on electricity and energy policy. He will share his time between the firm’s offices in Washington and its Colorado and other state offices.

Clark expects FERC, the electricity watchdog, to be the focus of more attention this year as reliability becomes a bigger issue for the administration and Congress.

“Both at the agency and on Capitol Hill, you’re going to have probably renewed focus on some of these nuts-and-bolts kind of reliability issues, especially as it relates to baseload power and the impact of environmental regulations on reliability of the grid,” Clark says.

“There are some real issues with the retirement of baseload, the integration of more natural gas-fired units, and the increasing penetration of variable energy resources, and how all those things tie together,” says Clark.

A debate is emerging over the value of baseload plants, which are those that can provide power nonstop, such as any that burn fossil fuels. Wind and solar plants cannot do this, and Clark refers to them as “variable resources.”

Markets in California and the Southwest are “right on the leading edge” of this debate, he says. They are trying to figure out how to deal with the unreliability of electricity supplies that is the hallmark of “green” sources. Fossil fuel plants have to be kept going to keep grid supply stable, Clark says.

The energy markets that FERC oversees are struggling with the challenge of “pricing into the market some kind of assurance that you are going to have the resources to back up and compensate for that intermittency,” Clark adds.

“It’s a really, really big thing, barring some kind of technological revolution on the energy storage side of things, you have to accommodate for the intermittency in some way.”

There are two ways to deal with it, Clark says. Either you must build more transmission to account for times when the grid is over-supplied or under-supplied with electricity, or have fast-ramping power plants that can come online quickly, which means more natural gas.

Added to that is the effect renewable energy is having on nuclear and natural gas power plants.

Federal subsidies are pushing wind power prices so low in some states that baseload plants cannot compete and are being forced out of the market.

Cheap natural gas prices are also making it tougher for nuclear power.

The move toward more natural gas and renewables is expected to continue to grow, even with a new president in the White House who is focused on bringing back the coal industry.

A system built for coal

Coal will come back on its own without President Trump‘s help this year and next as a result of natural gas prices rising in 2017 and 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s independent statistics arm.

The challenges posed by the changing fuel mix will grow worse if ignored, experts say, not least because the system was built for coal.

“The system was designed mostly around central station and coal-fired generation,” says John Moura, head of reliability assessment at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or NERC, the congressionally sanctioned reliability watchdog and cop on the beat when it comes to anything that could turn out the lights.

“There is a lot of reliability you get when you have three months of backed-up supply in your backyard coal inventory,” Moura says.

Natural gas is different because it relies on pipelines to deliver fuel on a just-in-time basis, agreed to in contracts not written with reliability in mind.

Moura says “a lot of reliability” is gained by having big heaps of coal stacked near a power plant so it can make up for unexpected outages or increasing demand during a sudden cold snap or heat wave.

“You don’t get that same level of reliability with the natural gas-fired generator. You can make that generator appear to be just as reliable as a coal unit and have storage,” but there is always going to be a risk, Moura says.

Some natural gas plants have built large storage derricks of the sort one sees at an oil refinery, but that adds costs that get passed on to ratepayers. That is his challenge in advising lawmakers and state regulators who need to understand the facts, he says.

“One of my major goals is to make regulators know what risk they are taking,” Moura says. “You can’t have a complete 100 percent reliable system. We are always going to be taking some risk.”

Moura’s group was chartered by Congress after the 2003 East Coast blackout to work with the federal government to develop mandatory enforceable standards for utilities overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s latest long-term reliability assessment, out last month, looks at reliability over the next decade. Many regions of the country are becoming too dependent on one fuel source, it says.

Even those without reliability problems will face increasing demand for natural gas to backstop renewables and at the same time provide baseload electricity and supply heat.

“NERC has identified that reliance on a single fuel increases vulnerabilities, particularly during extreme weather conditions,” the report says. It also explains how more rooftop solar panels and other small power generators are creating problems because “many utilities currently lack sufficient visibility and operational control of these resources, increasing the risk to [the bulk power system’s] reliability.”

No one knows how much generation capacity is out there on people’s roofs, or when and where such sources will produce electricity. Sometimes, there might be more electricity supply than demand.

“It used to be that the big ramp for demand was in late afternoon and evening and hot summer days when you had huge air-conditioning load,” Clark says. “What happens now, if you got a really solar-dependent region of the country, you could actually have over-supply in those very hours in the afternoon because you have so much solar power that is coming online” all at once.

“But as soon as the sun goes down in late afternoon-evening you still have very high air-conditioning load needs, but the solar power isn’t there anymore,” Clark says. That’s why natural gas is becoming an increasingly important issue, because it’s the only resource that can ramp up quickly enough to meet the drop in electricity from solar.

The California case

California is the best example of how the problem is playing out in markets increasingly dependent on the sun for electricity, but also increasingly reliant on natural gas.

The closure of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility near Los Angeles made national news in 2015 when a major leak forced families to flee their homes. The cause of the leak is still being investigated, but the effect of the lost supply on the electric grid has been profound.

The closure and the state’s renewable energy and climate policies have set up the likelihood of a major blackout in one of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas.

Increasing reliance on solar power flowing into the California grid means gas generators near Los Angeles must ramp up supply quickly once the sun sets. But where will the fuel come from with Aliso Canyon only partially operational?

Norman Bay, then FERC’s chairman, warned of blackouts last year and worked with California grid operators to stave off problems last summer. Blackouts were avoided, but the situation may have gone from stable to dire in the past week.

Regulators say that if or when Aliso Canyon reopens, its storage capacity will be only one-third of what it used to be. California utility regulators and the site’s owner, Southern California Gas, issued a warning Jan. 23 that customers should cut their gas use or face a blackout.

Thermostats should be lowered to 68 degrees, clothes washed in cold water, and gas stoves and appliances left unused. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

“By conserving natural gas during this critical period, SoCalGas customers can help lower the risk of possible natural gas and electricity shortages” — ie, blackouts and brownouts.

All but 5 percent of Southern Californian residents use natural gas for home heating, and 60 percent of the electricity used in California comes from natural gas power plants.

Moura says any further loss of natural gas supply would be a serious problem. Policy decisions the state made a decade ago banned fuel oil and other fossil fuels that could produce electricity if natural gas supplies were disrupted.

Increasing use of renewables is also making it harder for large baseload gas-fired power plants to remain profitable in the California electricity market that is valuing one resource over another.

Renewables vs. natural gas

Last year, the large La Paloma gas plant in California announced it was being forced out of business because of market forces created by the Golden State’s climate change and renewable energy mandates.

Philip Moeller, a former FERC commissioner, says that will be a problem FERC addresses in 2017, and that there is talk about tweaking market rules so baseload plants such as La Paloma are no longer undervalued.

He now is senior vice president of energy delivery and chief customer solutions officer at the Edison Electric Institute, which represents the utility industry. He served with Clark as the other Republican on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the Obama administration. The five-member commission has two Democrats and two Republicans, and the chairman typically belongs to the same party as the president. Trump last week, however, named Democratic commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to be acting chairwoman of the commission.

Moeller thinks gas plants under financial strain have a strong argument for compensation from states since they provide a vital service.

“If they are providing something to the grid that is essential for reliability, they should be compensated for it,” Moeller says.

John Hughes, president and CEO of the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, disagrees.

“The simple answer is no,” says Hughes, who represents large industrial users of electricity, which are typically allergic to anything that drives up cost. The problem is the “flawed market design” of the regional transmission operators that FERC oversees, he says. “A single clearing price for all resource types is incapable of efficiently compensating long-term investments inherent in baseloaded generators.”

A scheme of ad hoc payments to reward baseload plants doesn’t solve problems, Hughes says, adding that previous arrangements not overseen by the feds “did a better job compensating different resource types.”

Nuclear experiment

Some states are enacting programs outside federal processes to boost baseload nuclear power plants by giving them clean energy credits, essentially paying them to stay online.

New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo did that last year by including nuclear power in the state’s renewable energy mandate. Moeller expects New York to be sued sometime this year over the plan.

Merchant utilities, including a number of natural gas plant operators in the Northeast, are challenging New York’s zero emission credit scheme at FERC. The utilities argue that Cuomo’s clean energy program upsets basic market principles that should encourage competition and drive generation costs down.

Moeller says it’s probably better to address power plant closures through the commission process rather than through the states. “It’s a little bit more focused on actual markets and the compensation that can come out of a market-based product that pertains to reliability services,” he said.

The line between state and federal jurisdiction over incentives for power plants in federally overseen electricity markets has been blurred in recent years. The Supreme Court gave the commission the upper hand last year, asserting the federal government’s jurisdiction in setting gound rules for paying big power plants.

Clark and others expect Northeastern states eventually removing themselves from FERC’s oversight to pursue aggressive climate policies.

Many say this would be a mistake. “The Northeastern states are notorious for policies that de-industrialize their economies. They are nothing if not consistent,” Hughes says.

R Street Institute, a free-market think tank, wants Trump to support FERC’s competitive markets to keep energy prices low, foster new technologies and drive out market-distorting incentives.

“Low natural gas prices are transforming the electricity sector, clean-energy technologies are increasingly competitive and innovators are at work identifying the next generation of solutions,” R Street said in recommendations to Trump. “It’s time for all forms of commercialized energy, fossil and renewable alike, to compete in the open market by prioritizing a phase-out pathway for all energy subsidies and other distortionary policies.”

See the article here.

Policies Aim at Increasing Economy, Energy Independence

Via The Times Record News:

Anyone who had a connection to the oil and gas industry felt the power of federal bureaucracy during the eight years President Barack Obama governed the nation from the White House.

The industry, however, did not know magnitude of all of the new federal regulations until last week when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California wrote in the Washington Post that the Federal Register, where all new regulations are published, hit 97,110 pages in 2016 alone.

“Washington’s many agencies, bureaus, and departments propagate rules that weigh down businesses, destroy jobs, and limit American freedoms,” McCarthy wrote. “Career bureaucrats who never face the voters wield punishing authority with little to no accountability. If there’s a swamp in Washington, this is it.”

McCarthy said federal regulations cost the American people about $1.89 trillion every year, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “That’s more than 10 percent of GDP, or roughly $15,000 per American household.”

He said the House of Representatives has a plan “to strip power from the bureaucracy and give it back to the people.”

The House already has passed the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, which would require congressional approval before new regulations that cost at least $100 million can become law, and the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would require agencies to choose the least-costly option available to accomplish their goals. That bill would also prohibit large rules from going into effect while they are being challenged in court. Further, it would end the “Chevron deference,” a doctrine that stacks the legal system in favor of the bureaucracy by directing judges to defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own rules.

Also, the House next week will begin repealing specific regulations using the Congressional Review Act, which allows a majority in the House and Senate to overturn any rules finalized in the past 60 legislative days, McCarthy wrote.

“Perhaps no aspect of America’s economy has been as overregulated as energy,” he noted in the column. “So the House will repeal the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, which could destroy tens of thousands of mining jobs and put up to 64 percent of the country’s coal reserves off limits, according to the National Mining Association.

“Likewise, the Obama administration moved at the 11th hour to limit the oil-and-gas industry through a new methane regulation. It could cost up to $1 billion by 2025, the American Petroleum Institute estimates, even though the industry is already subject to the Clean Air Act and has leveraged technological advances to dramatically reduce methane emissions. The additional regulation would force small and struggling operations — in the West in particular — to close up shop, which is why it will be one of the first to go.”

The House will also take the axe to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure rule for resource extraction, which adds an unreasonable compliance burden on American energy companies that isn’t applied to their foreign competitors, he said. This rule, which closely mimics a regulation already struck down by the courts, would put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

President Trump delivered on a campaign promise in his first full day in the White House on Jan. 23 by directing the State Department to begin a re-examination of approving the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will transport crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. He also implemented action to get the Dakota Access pipeline completed in North Dakota, where protesters have blocked further construction.

The actions of the president and the House are clear signals that the energy and economic policies of the nation are headed in a new, pro-growth era designed to increase employment and bolster energy independence.

See the article here.

Killing Obama’s Last-Minute Coal Regulation

Via LifeZette:

As congressional Republicans headed to Philadelphia earlier this week to set goals for the new year, President Trump announced one of his own: erasing 75 percent of government regulations affecting businesses.

This is either hyperbole, intended to grab attention, or it’s aspirational — anticipation that the new administration can achieve a lot in four years. In any event, 75 percent of anything is a big chunk. Especially if it’s three-quarters of the roughly 3,300 new regulations that are promulgated each year, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers.

But even though the president has set an ambitious plan, the Obama administration left behind a target-rich environment in which to pursue it. And it’s a goal that job-hungry voters will approve. They understand that whatever the presumed benefits, regulations do not create jobs. In truth, jobs only come from investment and economic growth.

The new president’s deregulation goal is ideal for a GOP eager to deliver the goods to restive voters — and a smart effort for Democrats who’ll face them in two years. But an administration and Congress bent on deregulation face an ironic quandary. With a plethora of bad regulations to choose from, where to begin?

There’s no better starting point than the “stream rule,” a massive regulation finalized in the waning days of the Obama administration by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

The stream rule is a pure expression of all that ordinary Americans loathe about rule by bureaucracy. The full regulatory framework runs to more than 2,600 pages, and was drafted without the input of key mining states — despite the OSM’s legal obligation to consult with them.

The Obama administration clearly wanted to impose a grievous burden on coal producers, though, and it did so by transferring to federal bureaucrats the traditional authority held by state agencies. But it also duplicated regulatory responsibilities already held by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s a redundant effort, however, since OSM’s own reports from mining states already show virtually no off-site impacts from U.S. coal mine reclamation activity.

The result is a regulatory shell game that adds no environmental improvements to those already in place. More troubling, however, is the finding of an independent analysis suggesting the new rule could jeopardize 42,000 direct jobs and cost tens of thousands of additional jobs supported by coal mining.

Fortunately, Congress has provided a way to oppose last-minute regulations developed behind closed doors. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) provides that, with a simple majority vote in both houses, Congress can send the president a gift-wrapped pledge of allegiance to the larger goal of creating good jobs while voiding a serious threat to America’s industrial economy.

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With President Trump’s signature, the resolution can spare thousands of livelihoods and show that Washington is finally listening to voters — not just to environmental activists.

See the article here. 

A GOP Regulatory Game Changer

Via The Wall Street Journal: 

Todd Gaziano on Wednesday stepped into a meeting of free-market attorneys, think tankers and Republican congressional staff to unveil a big idea. By the time he stepped out, he had reset Washington’s regulatory battle lines.

These days Mr. Gaziano is a senior fellow in constitutional law at the Pacific Legal Foundation. But in 1996 he was counsel to then-Republican Rep. David McIntosh. He was intimately involved in drafting and passing a bill Mr. McIntosh sponsored: the Congressional Review Act. No one knows the law better.

Everyone right now is talking about the CRA, which gives Congress the ability, with simple majorities, to overrule regulations from the executive branch. Republicans are eager to use the law, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week unveiled the first five Obama rules that his chamber intends to nix.

The accepted wisdom in Washington is that the CRA can be used only against new regulations, those finalized in the past 60 legislative days. That gets Republicans back to June, teeing up 180 rules or so for override. Included are biggies like the Interior Department’s “streams” rule, the Labor Department’s overtime-pay rule, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s methane rule.

But what Mr. Gaziano told Republicans on Wednesday was that the CRA grants them far greater powers, including the extraordinary ability to overrule regulations even back to the start of the Obama administration. The CRA also would allow the GOP to dismantle these regulations quickly, and to ensure those rules can’t come back, even under a future Democratic president. No kidding.

Here’s how it works: It turns out that the first line of the CRA requires any federal agency promulgating a rule to submit a “report” on it to the House and Senate. The 60-day clock starts either when the rule is published or when Congress receives the report—whichever comes later.

“There was always intended to be consequences if agencies didn’t deliver these reports,” Mr. Gaziano tells me. “And while some Obama agencies may have been better at sending reports, others, through incompetence or spite, likely didn’t.” Bottom line: There are rules for which there are no reports. And if the Trump administration were now to submit those reports—for rules implemented long ago—Congress would be free to vote the regulations down.

There’s more. It turns out the CRA has a expansive definition of what counts as a “rule”—and it isn’t limited to those published in the Federal Register. The CRA also applies to “guidance” that agencies issue. Think the Obama administration’s controversial guidance on transgender bathrooms in schools or on Title IX and campus sexual assault. It is highly unlikely agencies submitted reports to lawmakers on these actions.

“If they haven’t reported it to Congress, it can now be challenged,” says Paul Larkin, a senior legal research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Larkin, also at Wednesday’s meeting, told me challenges could be leveled against any rule or guidance back to 1996, when the CRA was passed.

The best part? Once Congress overrides a rule, agencies cannot reissue it in “substantially the same form” unless specifically authorized by future legislation. The CRA can keep bad regs and guidance off the books even in future Democratic administrations—a far safer approach than if the Mr. Trump simply rescinded them.

Republicans in both chambers—particularly in the Senate—worry that a great use of the CRA could eat up valuable floor time, as Democrats drag out the review process. But Mr. Gaziano points out another hidden gem: The law allows a simple majority to limit debate time. Republicans could easily whip through a regulation an hour.

Imagine this scenario: The Trump administration orders its agencies to make a list of any regulations or guidance issued without a report. Those agencies coordinate with Congress about when to finally submit reports and start the clock. The GOP puts aside one day a month to hold CRA votes. Mr. Obama’s regulatory legacy is systematically dismantled—for good.

This is aggressive, sure, and would take intestinal fortitude. Some Republicans briefed on the plan are already fretting that Democrats will howl. They will. But the law is the law, and failing to use its full power would be utterly irresponsible. Democrats certainly would show no such restraint were the situation reversed. Witness their treatment of Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees.

The entire point of the CRA was to help legislators rein in administrations that ignored statutes and the will of Congress. Few White House occupants ever showed more contempt for the law and lawmakers than Mr. Obama. Republicans if anything should take pride in using a duly passed statue to dispose of his wayward regulatory regime. It’d be a fitting and just end to Mr. Obama’s abuse of authority—and one of the better investments of time this Congress could ever make.

See the article here. 

Healy: Coal Should Be Part of our Energy Future

Via The Journal Sentinel:

The United States has been a global economic leader since the end of World War II. Our skills, innovation and research and development capabilities have kept America at the forefront of new technologies for decades. This has allowed us to outpace our economic rivals and dominate valuable markets.

The renewable energy sector provides a good case in point. The development of geothermal, wind, solar and water energy sources have broadened the domestic energy supply and positioned the U.S. as a world leader in this arena. Why are we not putting that same focus on new clean coal technologies?  It is one of our most important homegrown sources of energy, and, despite popular perception, still abundant.

Unfortunately, despite its low cost and capability to produce jobs, coal has been recast in the American mindset as old-fashioned and damaging to the environment. Those who speak favorably of clean coal technology are typically branded as behind the times or dismissive of long-term planetary health. Shaming has become a potent weapon for those who want to shut down intellectual discourse on the positive role of fossil fuels in America’s energy future.

Many may not realize that America is a leader in clean coal technology. We have developed carbon reduction and storage (CCS) practices that, once fully developed, could be exported around the world to reduce carbon emissions. This technology can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes. CCS actually prevents carbon dioxide from entering the air.

Another state of the art coal technology is High Efficiency, Low Emission (HELE) power plants. These plants use “ultra-supercritical” technology to reduce carbon emissions produced by coal-fired power generation and produce more energy while using less coal. The U.S. has one HELE plant, based in Arkansas. It burns 180,000 fewer tons of coal and produces 320,000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide each year. This makes it 15% more efficient than any other plant in the country. Despite this success, the federal Environmental Protection Agency does not support HELE technology. The agency argues it will lead to greater coal emissions worldwide.

Ironically, both China and India have adopted HELE technology and have reduced drastically their carbon dioxide emissions. India has reduced its carbon emissions by 6 million tons and has commissioned 51 HELE plants in the past five years. When the first and only supercritical technology plant was built in the U.S. in 2012, China already had 46 in operation. Clearly, America is lagging behind in the arena of energy innovation.

Donald Trump has touted clean coal as the solution to long-term energy policy. With his first 100 days now in motion, the president has an important opportunity to enact policies in support of clean coal technology and the reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions. After nearly a decade of overregulation and punitive policy-making, Americans can finally bring fossil fuels back into the national dialogue and strive to make this nation number one in clean coal technology.

Brett Healy is the president of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy

See the article here.

How the House Will Roll Back Washington’s Rule by Bureaucrat

Via The Wall Street Journal:

When President Trump delivered his inaugural address last week, he declared that “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” Note that he said we are transferring power, in the present tense. The House has already begun turning the president’s words into reality by targeting the part of Washington that poses the greatest threat to America’s people, economy and Constitution: the federal bureaucracy.

Washington’s many agencies, bureaus and departments propagate rules that weigh down businesses, destroy jobs, and limit American freedoms. Career bureaucrats who never face the voters wield punishing authority with little to no accountability. If there’s a swamp in Washington, this is it.

In President Obama’s final year the Federal Register hit 97,110 pages—longer by nearly 18,000 pages, or 15 King James Bibles, than in 2008. Federal regulations cost the American people about $1.89 trillion every year, according to an estimate by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. That’s more than 10% of GDP, or roughly $15,000 per American household. The Obama administration has also burdened the public with nearly 583 million hours of compliance over the past eight years, according to the American Action Forum. That’s averages to nearly five hours of paperwork for every full-time employee in the country.

Faced with a metastasizing bureaucracy, the House is undertaking structural and specific reform to offer the nation a shot at reviving the economy, restoring the Constitution, and improving government accountability, all at once. The plan to strip power from the bureaucracy and give it back to the people has two steps.

First, we began structural reform by passing the REINS Act, an acronym for Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny. If the bill becomes law, new regulations that cost $100 million or more will require congressional approval before they take effect. The House also passed the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would require agencies to choose the least-costly option available to accomplish their goals. That bill would also prohibit large rules from going into effect while they are being challenged in court. Further, it would end “ Chevron deference,” a doctrine that stacks the legal system in favor of the bureaucracy by directing judges to defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own rules.

Second, the House next week will begin repealing specific regulations using the Congressional Review Act, which allows a majority in the House and Senate to overturn any rules finalized in the past 60 legislative days.

Perhaps no aspect of America’s economy has been as overregulated as energy. So the House will repeal the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, which could destroy tens of thousands of mining jobs and put up to 64% of the country’s coal reserves off limits, according to the National Mining Association.

Likewise, the Obama administration moved at the 11th hour to limit the oil-and-gas industry through a new methane regulation. It could cost up to $1 billion by 2025, the American Petroleum Institute estimates, even though the industry is already subject to the Clean Air Act and has leveraged technological advances to dramatically reduce methane emissions. The additional regulation would force small and struggling operations—in the West in particular—to close up shop, which is why it will be one of the first to go.

The House will also take the ax to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure rule for resource extraction, which adds an unreasonable compliance burden on American energy companies that isn’t applied to their foreign competitors. This rule, which closely mimics a regulation already struck down by the courts, would put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

The bureaucracy under President Obama has also threatened America’s constitutional rights. A new rule from the Social Security Administration would increase scrutiny on up to 4.2 million disabled Americans if they attempt to purchase firearms. This would elevate the Social Security Administration to the position of an illegitimate arbiter of the Second Amendment. And in an affront to basic due process, the bureaucracy has attempted to blacklist from federal contracts any business accused of violating labor laws—before the company even has a chance to defend itself in court.

With President Trump’s signature, every one of these regulations will be overturned. In the weeks to come, the House and Senate will use the Congressional Review Act to repeal as many job-killing and ill-conceived regulations as possible. That’s how to protect American workers and businesses, defend the Constitution, and turn words into actions.

See the article here.

North Dakota Does Not Need the Stream Rule, Nor Does the Nation

Via RealClearEnergy:

As I joined my congressional colleagues for the opening session of the new 115th Congress, one frequent topic was how we could quickly restore good jobs and stronger economic growth.

A great start would be to lift the regulatory burden off American industries. If President Obama succeeded at little else, he was the undisputed champion of overregulation. In a little over two months since the Presidential election on November 8, his administration issued 145 regulations, with 31 of those having an economic impact of $100 million or more, totaling $16.4 billion in final rules.

One of those economically significant regulations was the stream rule, a 1,600-page behemoth from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). Unfortunately, the stream rule will impose duplicative and wholly unnecessary restrictions on coal mining that will be especially costly for North Dakota. The western half of our state has an 800-year supply of lignite coal, an abundant energy source generating reliable and affordable electricity. Our lignite industry supports 4,000 direct and 11,500 indirect well-paying jobs, the kind of jobs that rated a top priority among voters in the November election.

Somehow OSM was not paying attention to the election results. Independent studies of the stream rule’s impact on 36 mining operations showed this regulation alone could cost at least 42,000 direct coal jobs and up to 75,000 additional jobs in coal’s supply chain – from the power plants and railroads to the ports. For example, BNI Coal Co. estimated the stream rule would strand half of the company’s coal at its Center Mine, northwest of Bismarck.

Mining isn’t the only victim of this overreach. Because miners will be forbidden from operating in much of the Prairie Pothole region of our state, where seasonable streams are intermittent, they won’t be able to provide saline-free topsoil to farmers and wildlife. The rule impairs mining operators from working with farmers to improve land by prohibiting mining operators from removing toxic saline seeps.

North Dakotans will accept responsible regulations that create significant environmental improvements at reasonable costs. But OSM offers no environmental benefits beyond those already in place. That’s because the stream rule is a grab bag of costly but unnecessary restrictions that duplicates coal mining oversight already conducted by state agencies and other federal agencies.

Once again we see the familiar sign of a federal agency trying to muscle in on an effective state program. Our state mining agency performs coal reclamation extremely well. In a recent report OSM itself acknowledged that “North Dakota has an effective program with no issues.” In fact, OSM found strong compliance with coal reclamation requirements in states that manage 97 percent of the nation’s coal. Maybe that explains why OSM failed to consult with state agencies in the development of a rule it knew would be opposed as unnecessary.

Fortunately, we have the means to stop this rule. With a simple majority vote in each House, Congress can pass a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) with the president-elect’s support. That would void the stream rule and begin to reassert congressional authority over rogue regulators that under the past administration have formed a virtual fourth branch of government.

Prompt congressional action would also show we hear the concerns of voters. They would rather we defend 100,000 jobs than more job-killing regulations.

See the article here.

Clock Ticking on Trump’s Promise to Kill Environmental Regs

Via The Washington Examiner:

The countdown has begun on Capitol Hill to dig out from under the Obama administration’s environmental regulations, now that President Trump, who has vowed to repeal a number of regulations in his first 100 days, has moved into the Oval Office.

The Republican-controlled Congress needs to move quickly to head off two regulations that the GOP leadership has targeted for repeal: a rule imposing big restrictions on coal mining and another for regulating oil drillers’ methane emissions.

The Republican leadership plans to employ special powers under the Congressional Review Act in its first major effort to quash the rules before the 60-day deadline for doing so is up.

Analysts say the Trump administration likely will make the Congressional Review Act a household word because of how key it is to fulfilling the goals of the new president’s deregulation agenda, which targets a number of Obama-era energy rules for repeal.

“One unique feature of this transition is that President-elect Trump will have an opportunity to reverse a number of the Obama administration’s regulatory rules through a rarely used law, the Congressional Review Act,” said Douglas Dziak, environmental and energy principal with consulting firm Nixon Peabody, in a post published last year after Trump won the election.

“The CRA may prove to be a surprisingly rapid change agent for rules the Obama administration promulgated since spring 2016,” Dziak said. “How many rules does this include? Estimates range from dozens to hundreds of regulations.”

But time is of the essence to introduce and pass the resolutions and get them to Trump’s desk within the next 60 days — not normal days, but legislative calendar days that correspond with Congress being in session.

Under the Congressional Review Act, many of the rules that were enacted from the early summer until the end of last year can be repealed by passing the resolution of disapproval, aides said.

The resolutions can be passed using a simple majority, which could help in the Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to even be considered on the floor.

Democrats are likely to put up high hurdles in the run-up to votes in both chambers. The House’s top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., is trying to form a bloc of opposition to undermine the effort, according to a letter he sent ahead of the inauguration to his fellow party members.

“These two regulations contain critical health, environmental and fiscal protections for the American people, and repealing them … would be a colossal waste of taxpayer money for the sole benefit of the oil, gas and coal industries,” Grijalva wrote in the letter. “This is an especially egregious gift to the mining industry, and the committee majority knows full well that any public debate will only embarrass them,” he said. “Democrats need to stand together to make sure they don’t get away with it.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in a floor speech in the first week of the 115th Congress vowed “swift action” on both the rules, which he said impose “limits to our energy production.”

McCarthy warned former President Obama soon after Trump was elected not to push out eleventh-hour regulations. “Should you ignore this counsel, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions and, if appropriate, overturns them pursuant to the Congressional Review Act,” McCarthy wrote just weeks after Trump won.

In Obama’s final year in office, Republicans had tried to use CRA resolutions to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate regulations for existing power plants, known as the Clean Power plan, but the effort was doomed to failure with Obama, and his veto power, still in the White House.

Now with Trump, whose stated goal is to dismantle job-killing regulations, the resolution almost certainly will move ahead.

Movement on the resolutions will begin quickly, likely beginning with the Stream Protection Rule, which was rushed out by the Interior Department at the end of last year.

The regulation would make it more difficult for coal mining companies to operate, with strict new protections for runoff into waterways.

The mining industry’s lead trade group, the National Mining Association, said in a brief that the rule provides “no discernible environmental benefits while duplicating extensive existing environmental protections — something that is expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.”

The industry group said the rule would place 78,000 jobs at risk. “When coal-supported jobs in manufacturing, power plants and freight rail are included, the toll on employment rises to between 113,000 and 280,000.”

McCarthy said the regulation will be one of two of Obama’s midnight rules to be targeted using the CRA resolutions. The second will be the Interior Department’s venting and flaring regulations for controlling methane emissions from oil and gas fracking wells. The methane regulations are part of President Obama‘s broad Climate Action Plan, with the goal of cutting methane by 40 to 45 percent by 2025.

Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that is blamed by many scientists for warming the temperature of the Earth and hastening the phenomenon known as global warming or climate change.

But the clock is winding down to beat back the Obama methane regulations, with lawmakers missing an opportunity to strike down one layer of methane rules from the EPA. The Interior Department rules and EPA regulations cover different types of methane emissions. The EPA rules are focused more on leaks from the well head and distribution infrastructure. The Interior Department’s regulations cover intentional practices like flaring that burn off excess gas during production.

House lawmakers working on a resolution in recent weeks only just realized that the 60-day window had passed on the EPA methane rules, but they are still within the limits of repealing Interior’s Bureau of Land Management regulations.

They missed the EPA deadline, said Christopher Guith, vice president of federal affairs for the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, who is tracking the effort. “But not too late for BLM’s methane venting and flaring rule, which will likely get CRA’d,” he said in an email.

The Stream Protection Rule may rank higher on the Republican repeal agenda, especially given that Trump responded to the rule being finalized as one of his first statements on energy after he was elected.

The regulation was published in the Federal Register Dec. 20, which started the 60-day clock. The coal regulation went into effect one day before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

The Senate leadership plans to introduce its resolution opposing the regulations at the end of a 15-day reset period between congressional sessions, aides say. A spokeswoman for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the senator plans to join with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, in introducing the resolution of disapproval. A spokesman would not give a specific date on when the resolution would be issued.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., vowed to do the same. Ryan said the rule was implemented without “any real input from the states,” with the power to “wipe out literally thousands upon thousands of jobs in coal country.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, plans to introduce the resolution of disapproval to abolish Interior’s venting and flaring rules, he told Trump’s pick to lead the agency, Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., at a confirmation hearing last week.

House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is confident the methane rule will be stricken down by Congress even after a federal judge refused to grant the energy industry an injunction last week, according to a spokeswoman.

“This is one of the Obama administration’s most egregious abuses of power,” said spokeswoman Molly Block. “Although the Wyoming judge didn’t grant a preliminary injunction, it will be overturned with a CRA.”

See the article here.

Attorneys General Work To Reverse Stream Protection Act

Via The Wheeling Intelligencer:

WHEELING — As a new administration takes office, several state attorneys general say they’re trying to save the coal mining industry by filing a lawsuit they hope will revoke the outgoing Obama Administration’s Stream Protection Rule.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine were among the attorneys general from 13 states who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed this week. They say the rule is illegal because it oversteps states’ regulatory powers over coal mines. If it’s not stopped, the rule could “drastically reduce — if not eliminate — coal mining across large portions of West Virginia,” according to a news release from Morrisey’s office.

The rule, according to the release, prohibits any change to land and environment around coal mines, subjecting longwall mining to unrealistic standards and interfering with states’ ability to regulate many mining activities.

Morrisey said the rule “tramples on states’ authority, and we believe that the (Obama) administration has failed to address the states’ concerns about how these areas are regulated.”

Congress’ Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act gives states the primary, regulatory powers over coal mining, Morrisey said.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asks the court to “vacate the rule, prohibit the defendants from enforcing the rule and remand the case so the Department of Interior and Office of Surface Mining can issue a new rule that complies with the Surface Mining Act and the U.S. Constitution.”

The rule was issued Dec. 20, and took effect Thursday, the eve of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The timing “we believe is just wrong,” as it begins during one administration and continues through the next administration’s transition, Morrisey said.

Besides West Virginia and Ohio, the other plaintiffs are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

The lawsuit marks the first time in recent memory that attorneys general have sued the Department of the Interior, Morrisey said, noting usually they file lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Since the rule was issued, the group of attorneys general has been researching and putting together a case that could be resolved three ways: in court; administratively after the plaintiffs have urged the Trump transition team to “signal that this rule is illegal”; or through Congress.

“We’re going to keep pushing as hard as we can” to get the rule reversed, Morrisey said.

See the article here.

Kentucky, 12 Other States Sue to Block Obama Coal Mining Rule

Via The Lexington Herald-Leader:

Kentucky and 12 other states have sued in an effort to block a federal rule aimed at reducing the impact of coal mining on streams.

The states filed the challenge Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Kentucky and the other states argue the rule, known as the stream protection rule, runs afoul of their rights, violates federal surface-mining law, and exceeds the authority of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The rule will hurt the already-suffering coal industry, making mining “impossible in vast areas of the country” by barring mining within 100 feet of streams, the complaint said.

“This rule, adopted by the federal government at the eleventh-hour, is not environmentally needed, conflicts with existing protections, and will do great harm to not only the state’s coal industry but to Kentuckians across the commonwealth,” Charles Snavely, secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, said in a news release.

The lawsuit argues that President Barack Obama’s administration adopted the rule without allowing adequate participation by states, and that it would significantly expand the requirements of federal law but provide no additional environmental benefits.

Attorneys representing the cabinet and Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office signed the complaint.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to block enforcement of the rule and an order killing it.

The other states involved are Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a separate lawsuit challenging the rule, according to the Associated Press.

OSM worked on the stream protection rule for years before putting it in place in late December with a month left in the Obama Administration.

The requirements include more monitoring aimed at protecting water quality; greater efforts to protect the watershed outside the area covered by the mining permit; new reclamation standards; and language making it tougher for companies to mine through certain streams or bury them with waste rock blasted out during surface mining.

OSM said when it unveiled the proposed rule that it would result in improved quality in more than 6,100 miles of streams.

When the agency held a comment session on the rule in Lexington in September 2015, it estimated the rule would push down coal production by less than 1 percent in Appalachia.

The agency estimated that in Appalachia, the rule would cause the loss of an average of 210 coal jobs a year from 2020 to 2040, but would create 120 jobs a year in work needed to comply with the standards.

The coal industry said the job losses would be far greater.

Environmentalists have long argued that state and federal regulators have not done enough to keep streams from being destroyed by mining. Many saw the new stream protection rule rule as a step in the right direction, though some said it should have been even tougher

Teri Blanton, a former president of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said it was wrong for the state to try to scuttle the rule.

“I think the state could better spend their money protecting the streams than joining this lawsuit,” Blanton said. “Everybody deserves clean water.”

The lawsuit may not be necessary to kill the rule. Republicans have pledged to get rid of it under President-elect Donald Trump.

See the article here.

Morrisey Puts Stream Protection Rule in Crosshairs

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is wasting no time attacking a last-minute environmental regulation pushed by the Obama Administration.

It’s called the Stream Protection Rule, and Morrisey says it can hurt coal mining jobs around the state.

 “We, Ohio and West Virginia, just filed a lawsuit against the illegal Stream Protection Rule,” he said Wednesday. “It would limit coal mining in disregard to the current statute.”

Morrisey said the rule will prohibit any changes to the land and environment around the coal mine and make it difficult, if not impossible, to mine.

The rule should not displace or change state regulations protecting streams already place, he said.

“This is a last-ditch attempt by the Obama Administration to stifle coal,” he said. “We are not going to let that happen. That’s why we filed and we will aggressively challenge it.”

Morrisey said 13 states are part of the suit, with Ohio and West Virginia leading the way.

A move is also under way in Congress, he said, to quickly nip the rule in the bud before it goes into effect.

Called the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining (STREAM) Act, the proposed bill gives Congress the right to review proposals like the Stream Protection Rule before implementation.

“They (legislators) can step in and override these last-minute initiatives,” he said, adding that he hopes Congress can “quickly set aside this regulation” but the two-pronged attack should see results.

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) finalized the Stream Protection Rule last December.

Morrisey has already successfully challenged the Environmental Protection Agency emission standards changes that would, he said, add another blow to the coal industry.

All of these regulations have hurt coal jobs, he said, and he hopes the Trump Administration will bring a new direction in environmental regulations.

 “We are excited about working with the Trump Administration,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic in receiving help in finishing our work.”

Morrisey is also optimistic Trump’s pick to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is now undergoing the confirmation process.

“He would do a terrific job at the EPA and be a lot more receptive to West Virginians than the current administration,” he said.

Morrisey said he is also ready to work with newly inaugurated Gov. Jim Justice.

“We are rolling up our sleeves and we want him to be a successful governor,” he said. “We will hear his ideas and we obviously want to work with him. We need to work to remove the barriers for job creation in our state. We want to work with the new governor on any issue to move the state forward and create jobs.”

See the article here.

US Mining and Voters in Sync Regarding Job Creation, Economy

Via Mining.com:

The National Mining Association asserted Wednesday that a Morning Consult national poll commissioned by the National Mining Association shows voters and the US mining industry share the same top priority — job creation and a strong economy.

“Fortunately, there are actions the Trump Administration and the New Congress can take on day one to save jobs in our industry and address voter concerns,” NMA CEO Hal Quinn declared in a Jan. 18, 2017, news release.

The polling of 1,991 registered US voters was conducted during January 12-13 of this year. Of those surveyed 33% said they see job creation and the economy as the top priority for the incoming Trump Administration and the New Congress. Other priorities identified by voters were healthcare (26%), national security (24%), infrastructure (6%) and energy policy (4%).

“Over the last several years, the mining industry has been beleaguered by a regulatory onslaught and bureaucratic labyrinth that has cost jobs throughout the supply chain that rely on mining,” Quinn said. “Fortunately many of these regulatory and administrative hurdles can be addressed with actions by the new administration and Congress, backed by strong public support, to save current jobs that are at risk and create the potential for new jobs by clearing obstacles to future employment.”

Among the hurdles cited by NMA are the EPA proposal to add new hardrock mining financial assurance requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The proposed new requirements, which were published in the Federal Register on January 11, 2017, “…puts much of the hardrock mining industry at risk by placing on an already comprehensively regulated industry an exorbitant and unnecessary financial burden that EPA estimates at $7.1 billion,” the NMA observed. “This sum is in addition to billions of dollars of financial obligations already committed through existing state and federal programs.”

“The (Trump) administration should take a fresh look at this rule with an eye towards eliminating obvious duplication and minimizing excessive burdens on the industry,” the association recommended.

In the news release, the NMA urged Congress to enact the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2017, which has been introduced by Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, both Nevada Republicans. Previous versions of the legislation–aimed at streamlining the mining permitting process to boost the economy and job creation–have won the approval of the U.S. House, but died in the U.S. Senate.

“The U.S. is blessed with abundant mineral wealth essential for our basic infrastructure needs, our national defense systems and the consumer products we use every day,” said Quinn in a news release issued on January 17th.

The legislation addressed what NMA called a “painfully slow mine permitting process that can take seven to 10 years, putting into place a path for efficient, timely and thorough permit reviews and incorporating best practices for coordination between state and federal agencies.”

“If adopted, this legislation will support our ability to fully utilize abundant domestic mineral resources that are essential for basic infrastructure needs, national defense systems and consumer products.”

NMA Coal Sector Concerns

The NMA also urged the Trump Administration to rescind EPA’s Clean Power Plan—stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court and now under review by the D.C. Court of Appeals—which aims to close 53,000 megawatts of coal power capacity. “By rescinding the CPP, the administration can save 27,700 high-wage coal mining jobs, along with another 99,700 in the coal supply chain, including railroad workers, machinists, mechanics, truckers and other occupations that depend on coal mining,” the association suggested.

NMA Vice President-External Communications Luke Popovich observed, “Quicker yet would be a decision by the White House to simply ignore the Obama Administration’s moratorium on federal court leases…”

The new Congress and the Trump Administration could act to pass and sign into effect “a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval nullifying the Interior Department’s reckless stream rule,” the NMA asserted. “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.”

Popovich contends that the “job-killing regulations” advocated by environmental organizations and “enthusiastically accepted by a grateful [Obama] Administration,” helped sweep President-Elect Donald Trump into the White House.

See the article here.

West Virginia Needs Coal Jobs and a Better EPA Under Pruitt

Via The West Virginia Record:

Dear Editor:

 Retaining a coal job over the past few years has not been easy, but I’ve been blessed to keep my job at Mepco. Still, like so many others in my community, I’ve been worried about the of future of my career over the past eight years as the “War on Coal” has seemed to have no end in sight. However, we now have the opportunity to really embrace clean coal moving forward in this country.

Mepco supplies most of the coal used at the Longview Power plant. Longview proves every single day that you can use coal efficiently and in a clean, environmentally sound way. To continue benefiting from clean coal in the future, we need to have an EPA that is balanced and without political agenda. I was encouraged to see President-elect Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA for this reason. I’m also very proud of Senator Capito for her bold leadership to quickly call for his confirmation to help fight for our coal jobs. Senator Manchin has also been encouraging in his statements supporting Mr. Pruitt, and for that I am very grateful.

Let’s hope that our West Virginia senators can lead their colleagues in the U.S. Senate and bring this EPA back to the real world. We need our coal jobs, and we can and should use clean coal.

Sincerely,

Steven Golden

Morgantown

See the article here.

Kentucky Joins Fight Against Stream Protection

Via The Courier-Journal:

The rule requires companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities and to plant trees or other vegetation.

Kentucky’s environmental protection cabinet on Wednesday announced that it had joined other states in suing to overturn an Obama administration rule aimed at protecting streams from mining activities.

When it finalized the regulations known as the “Stream Protection Rule” in December, the U.S. Interior Department said that would establish “clear requirements for responsible surface coal mining that will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests over the next two decades, preserving community health and economic opportunities while meeting the nation’s energy needs.”

The rule requires companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities, and replant these areas with native trees and vegetation.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has called it a continuation of a war on coal and told the Associated Press last month he intended to seek to overturn it in Congress.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet published a blog on Wednesday that objected to what it called a “one size fits all” approach.

“The … cabinet maintains that the rule illegally interferes with states’ rights to govern without undue interference from the federal government,” the cabinet wrote. “If allowed to stand, the rule would also have a devastating impact on Kentucky’s coal industry and the thousands of miners employed in that industry.”

Twelve other states joined in the lawsuit, the cabinet wrote.

See the article here.

Excessive EPA Regulations Harming Coal Industry

Speaking as a CEO of a major coal-fired power plant and a coal mining company, I am compelled to start with the devastation of the coal industry, particularly in West Virginia but throughout all coal country. This devastation has been caused by excessive and politicized Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Years of EPA regulatory interference stalled the normal replacement of our aging power plants. The clean coal Longview Power plant was built during a brief window of opportunity before the Clean Power Plan created a regulatory environment that has made construction of new coal-fired power plants impossible.

As a result of this regulatory stranglehold, good-paying, middle class jobs have disappeared from Appalachia. And, if we continue to rely on our aging coal fleet, the region will soon face even more drastic job losses. We have six counties in the state of West Virginia that are in a depression as a result of these regulatory burdens, and we need common-sense leadership at the EPA to stop this interference.

The first and most important measure of the new Trump Administration’s success should be the preservation and creation of good paying middle class jobs. Replacing the nation’s aging coal-powered generation fleet with modern, efficient clean coal plants, such as the Longview Power plant that I oversee, would add thousands of manufacturing, engineering and construction jobs. As an example, the construction of Longview helped to insulate Morgantown, W.Va., from the 2009 recession. This approach will maintain and sustain the coal industry for years to come.

Clean coal plants such as Longview Power operate efficiently and at a low cost while effectively removing substantially all of the harmful pollutants (SOx, NOx, PM and Mercury) that truly define dirty coal. In addition, because of its advanced modern design and seamless operations, Longview is 20 percent more efficient and also emits significantly less CO2 than the 40- to 50-year- old coal plants that currently operate in West Virginia.

In short, we can — and should — use coal in this country, and at Longview Power, we are doing so in a smart, environmentally sound way. For far too long, the EPA has simply failed to balance environmental protection and economic impact. It is remarkable that a modern, clean and low CO2 producing coal plant like Longview Power cannot be built in the United States, while Germany, Japan, China and other countries are building them. This must change if we wish to meet the energy needs of a resurgent manufacturing economy.

Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, will take a fresh look at bringing clean coal back into the discussion with science-based decision making. We must find thoughtful and appropriate ways to take a balanced approach to environmental regulations that conserve and protect our environment while utilizing clean coal.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mr. Pruitt was a leading national figure to rightly question the federal overreach of the Clean Power Plan and other overstepping federal bureaucracies. Under his leadership at the EPA, West Virginia could partner with the federal government to site and build “highly efficient, low emissions” coal plants like Longview Power to replace our aging coal fleet and sustain our coal industry.

Furthermore, the EPA could admit that additional research is necessary before carbon capture and sequestration will be commercially feasible. The federal government also could focus on tax credits to induce building highly efficient, modern clean coal-fired plants like Longview Power that substantially eliminate harmful pollutants through efficiency and updated technology.

Updating our energy infrastructure, including taking action to replace our aging coal generation power facilities, should be a priority in the first 100 days to address these issues.

The country needs to embrace an “all-of-the above” energy policy in order to meet its energy needs. Clean coal should play an important role because of its abundance, dependability and low cost. In fact, Longview Power is producing power reliably and at low cost from clean coal in West Virginia right now, and we are excited to continue to discuss the future of clean coal with policymakers using our story as an example.

I believe Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation to lead the EPA will bring balance back to the discussion around environmental policy, economic realities, and the intersection of addressing both in a reasonable way.

I encourage the Senate to act expeditiously to confirm Mr. Pruitt, who will ensure that our environmental policies do not block our implementation of a diverse and comprehensive energy policy. As a nation, we can achieve our environmental goals while still using clean coal if we do it wisely, which we clearly demonstrate every day at Longview Power.

See the article here.

Judge Thwarts Obama EPA’s Lawless War on Coal

Via PJ Media:

Here’s a radical concept: federal agencies created and empowered by congressional statutes have to comply with those statutes — i.e., they have to obey federal law — in exercising their power.

It is a rudimentary concept, of course, but one with which the Obama administration has appeared only vaguely acquainted throughout its eight years. Now, a federal judge in West Virginia is providing remedial instruction for the Environmental Protection Agency, and in the process, is derailing the administration’s war on the coal industry.

As Powerline’s John Hinderaker explains, Judge Preston Bailey has directed the EPA to comply with a straightforward statute that unambiguously requires the agency to evaluate the effects on employment of its plans to enforce the Clean Air Act.

The case arises out of the EPA’s issuance of draconian regulations of air pollutants from coal and oil power plants. The libertarian Cato Institute recounts that the regs “provide far less than a penny in benefits for each of the nearly $10 billion in costs it imposes on the U.S. economy.” The Supreme Court, in Michigan v. EPA (2015), has already slapped the agency down due to the irrationality of this enormous-cost/negligible-benefit formula that is clearly designed to annihilate these industries. But, Cato explains, EPA is doubling down by trying to justify its $10 billion price tag with benefits outside those the statute permits it to count (which it euphemistically calls “co-benefits”).

The West Virginia case, Murray Energy Corporation v. EPA, is a successive instance of the defiant agency’s effort to ram through its regulations heedless of judicial rulings.

Murray Energy sued the EPA for, among other things, failing to comply with the statutory scheme it so oppressively enforces. In particular, the agency ignores the section of the Clean Air Act (section 7621 of Title 42, U.S. Code) that directs:

The Administrator [of EPA] shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of this chapter and applicable implementation plans, including where appropriate, investigating threatened plant closures or reductions in employment allegedly resulting from such administration or enforcement.

I italicize “shall” because, in the law, shall (as opposed to, say, “may” or “should”) denotes something that must be done — it is not a suggestion.

Yet, the EPA does not even deign to take notice of it. In Murray Energy, there appears to be no question that the agency ignored the statute. In ruling for the company back in October, Judge Bailey ordered the EPA, within two weeks, to file a plan and schedule for how it would comply with the provision mandating Administrator Gina McCarthy to evaluate losses or shifts of employment that would occur if the EPA’s suffocating proposal went into effect.

See the article here.

Reminding EPA Of Limits to Power

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials enjoy enormous power, granted by Congress. They can decide unilaterally that individuals, families and businesses must do certain things to comply with the EPA’s definitions of clean air, water and soil.

But there are some limits. The agency does have to explain the justification for its mandates, as well as their impact on Americans.

During the past eight years, the agency’s explanation for new rules has amounted to this: Because we said so.

It just won’t do, as U.S. District Court Judge John Preston Bailey recognizes.

Ruling in a lawsuit against the agency, filed by Murray Energy Corp., Bailey has ordered the EPA to identify specific impacts of its Clean Air Act mandates on the coal industry. EPA officials have until July 1 to comply.

During President Barack Obama’s tenure, he has made no secret of his plan to wreck the coal industry and shut down coal-fired power plants. At the same time, he and EPA officials insist their orders are not to blame for the decline of mining. Competition from natural gas is the culprit, they claim.

That is nonsense amounting to a bald-faced lie.

The EPA is required to provide reports on the impact of its initiatives. It has not done so.

That explains Bailey’s annoyance with the agency. As he wrote in his order, “It is time for the EPA to recognize that Congress makes the law, and EPA must not only enforce the law, it must obey it.”

For many years, under not just Obama but other presidents, the EPA has been moving toward environmental dictatorship. Bailey, whose jurisdiction includes the Northern District of West Virginia, is far from the only federal judge to have recognized that.

Bailey’s order, then, is about more than coal miners and families paying higher electric bills. In a very real sense, it also is about reminding many in the executive branch of government that Americans did not revolt against imperial rule once, only to tolerate an attempt to revive it.

See the article here.

Dominion: Lack of Transmission, Coal Shutdowns Bring Blackouts to Virginia Peninsula

Via UtilityDIVE:

  • Dominion Resources will shutter its Yorktown coal plant in April, and afterwards may need to use rotating blackouts on the Virginia Peninsula in order to maintain grid reliability and avoid voltage collapse.
  • The Yorktown’s two units do not run often, and violate environmental emissions standards. They are required to close by law, RTO Insider reports, and once they are offline, the grid will become unstable.
  • The Army Corps of Engineer is considering a transmission line could replace the lost power but it will need to cross the James River, and that proposal has many opponents. The design calls for more than a dozen transmission towers.

It will take at least a year to construct the Surry to Skiffes Creek 500 kV Line, but the Yorktown power plant must close in April and the transmission project is still under review. So until the line can be built or another solution found, Dominion has developed a plan that keeps the broader grid stable—though it could require dropping service to 150,000 customers.

Dominion presented its plan to PJM this week. Absent the two coal units, the generator said there is a “long list of N-1-1 contingencies that result in voltage collapse and thermal overloads.”

PJM’s board approved the Surry-Skiffes line in 2012, and the Virginia State Corporation Commission signed off the following year. But the plan has faced opposition from many who say the transmission line is not appropriate for the scenic river and historic area.

Dominion’s proposal calls for building a 7.76-mile 500 KV overhead transmission line, running from the Surry nuclear power plant switching station in Surry County to the proposed Skiffs Creek switching station. Last April, however, the Virginia Supreme Court handed opponents of the project a win, ruling aspects of the line were subject to local siting rules.

Dominion previously warned that the new transmission line is essential to the region’s power supply, but still faced opposition.  It told the grid operator that its New Remedial Action Scheme, as it calls the plan, is “only a stopgap measure.”

See the article here.

Donald Trump’s Administration Must Keep the Promises Made on Clean Coal

Via The Hill: 

A number of new coal-powered energy plants equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology are due to come online across the U.S. over the coming weeks, much to the ire of green activists. CCS technology captures up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions created when fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity. Campaigners argue this type of technology could prolong global reliance on fossil fuels at a time when governments should be investing in clean, renewable sources of energy.

In fact, environmentalists railing against climate change mitigation technology appear to be oblivious to the fact that fossil fuels will make up a significant proportion of America’s energy mix for the foreseeable future. The hard reality is that while renewables are growing and becoming more cost-effective, their reliance upon capricious natural phenomena to generate energy (such as the wind blowing or the sun shining) makes them an unreliable safeguard for America’s energy security.

Research published last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) highlighted the unreliability of renewable sources of energy, recommending a mix between renewables and “fast-reacting fossil technologies” as the best way governments can move forward. The study found that installing 1MW of renewable capacity leads to a further 1.12 MW of fossil fuel technology coming online.

No matter how quickly environmentally-progressive politicians would like to see renewables take over from fossil fuels, the fact remains that coal plants are still responsible for a third of global energy production, making it vital that CCS is properly explored.

The opening of new clean coal plants built by Petra Nova in Texas and Southern Co. in Mississippi over the next few weeks could be pivotal in convincing Donald Trump’s incoming administration of the benefits of CCS, and play a key role in persuading his Cabinet to honor promises he made on the campaign trail to back this type of technology. Trump vowed to put an end to restrictions limiting jobs in the coal and shale gas industries during his first 100 days in office, hinting that “clean coal” could play a role in enabling him to do so.

And despite what some claim, America’s current energy mix is not a result of market forces or of natural selection – it has been created by market distortions brought about by the introduction of often politically-motivated subsidies. Outgoing President Barack Obama stuck to his 2008 promise of bankrupting anyone wanting to build coal plants and championed instead natural gas and renewables through a complex web of subsidies and favorable regulations.

Others, who recognize that CCS is a valuable technology but criticize it on cost grounds suffer from a myopic view of just how important federal and state subsidies have been to boosting the renewable sector. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), 72% of the Department of Energy’s subsidy budget goes to renewables – amounting to $11.6 billion in 2013 alone. In 2015, Bloomberg New Energy Finance revealed that federal subsidies provided wind and solar developers with as much as $24 billion between 2008 and 2014, leading to a 12-fold increase in installed capacity over the past decade, helping to lower costs by at least 10% each year.

Similarly, Elon Musk’s renewable empire has benefited from $4.9 billion in governmental support, with New York state giving SolarCity $750 million for its factory and Nevada incentivizing Tesla with $1.3 billion to build its famed battery factory there. With the right political will, CCS technologies can very well create new high tech jobs while also providing job security to the 182,700 people working in the mining industry.

The argument that carbon capture technology is too expensive is also a complete red herring, which roundly neglects to acknowledge how quickly production costs would fall thanks to economies of scale. For example, since the 1970s, solar energy prices have fallen from $76/watt to $0.57/watt since the 1970s.

If a similar feat could be achieved by the Trump administration with CCS, climate change mitigation technology could greatly reduce carbon emissions around the world.

And it’s not just the U.S. that’s having a change of heart when it comes to CCS. A recent Anglo-Indian project is already developing CCS technology, promising to capture carbon emissions produced during the electricity production process for just $30 per ton, without any government subsidies. This is much lower than the $120-140 typically achieved in the global power sector. With 300 million people lacking access to electricity, Indian demand for coal is expected to rise by over 50% by 2027. Unlike the Obama administration, India is looking to upgrade its coal plants by converting them into modern super critical plants, which produce more power from less coal and with fewer CO2 emissions.

The use of new technologies such as CCS and fast-reacting fossil fuels has the potential to drastically cut emissions in countries that are years away from developing renewable energy sources. The case for investing in CCS and similar climate change mitigation technology is clear. Far from prolonging the world’s dependence on fossil fuels as some maintain, emboldening CCS could be the main tool in Trump’s toolkit to appease coal miners in Virginia while also honoring America’s climate change commitments.

See the article here.

Obama’s Interior Dept. Calls for Major Changes to ‘Modernize’ Federal Coal Program

Via The Washington Post:

With just days until President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Department of the Interior finalized a report Wednesday calling for major changes to the federal coal program by which the U.S. manages the leasing of land to companies for exploration and production across 570 million publicly owned acres.

A year ago, new leases were placed on hold pending this report. Trump, who campaigned as an ally of the coal industry, has pledged to reverse that controversial moratorium.

Interior Department lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, are estimated to contain 7.4 billion tons of coal that could be mined and sold. Environmental groups have charged that if these fossil fuel resources are actually dug up and burned the consequences could be severe for the planet’s climate, and continual domestic coal leasing had also come into increasing tension with President Obama’s ambitious climate change policies.

At the same time, domestic coal production has declined dramaticallyin recent years because of major changes in U.S. electricity generation. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the decline has been from nearly 1.2 billion short tons in 2008 to 743 million in 2015.

“It appears that modernization of the Federal coal program is warranted,” stated the report, a so-called scoping document that sets the stage for a broader environmental impact assessment of the coal program. “While energy markets, communities, environmental conditions, and national priorities have changed dramatically, the program has remained fairly static in its administration over the last thirty years.”

The new report sketches out a series of potentially ambitious changes to the current federal coal leasing program, which has not been updated since the 1980s. Those reforms would include charging a higher royalty rate to companies, factoring in the climate impact of the coal being burned through an additional charge to firms and setting an overall carbon budget for the nation’s coal leasing permits.

But the document said more analysis would be required to assess how the federal coal program contributes to climate change, whether taxpayers are getting a good return on the program and other matters.

Trump has vowed to increase coal extraction in the United States rather than impose tighter restrictions, making it unlikely the incoming administration will heed any of the new recommendations.

The federal coal leasing program — which in 2015 accounted for 42 percent of all coal produced in the U.S. — has come under sharp criticism for not providing a fair rate of return for taxpayers.

Mining companies currently pay a 12.5 percent royalty rate for coal taken from surface mines, compared to an 18.75 percent royalty for oil and gas from offshore drilling, and many federal auctions often involve just one bidder.

Coal companies, however, say the actual rates paid to the government are much higher because of bonuses and other fees paid through lease agreements.

The vast majority of federal coal leasing takes place in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River basin, and the report notes that between 80 and 90 percent of the coal produced in the nation is used for electricity generation. Some is sold overseas, to countries such as China.

Over the last decade, BLM-administered leases have generated more than 4 billion tons of coal and $10 billion in federal revenue, which is shared with the state from which it was mined.

Coal mined from federal land in the Powder River basin accounts for roughly 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2014 study by the Center for American Progress and the Wilderness Society.

Both the Government Accountability Office and independent groups have issued findings suggesting federal taxpayers deserve higher payments from companies extracting coal from federal land. The practice of auctioning coal mining rights to a single bidder may have cost taxpayers as much as $28.9 billion over the past 30 years, according to a 2012 analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a Cleveland, Ohio-based think tank.

The National Mining Association denounced the department’s move Wednesday, but also looked for a quick reprieve from Trump.

“Today’s report represents the outgoing administration’s last step to delegate its energy and land management responsibilities to the ‘keep-it-in-the-ground’ crowd,” said its CEO Hal Quinn. “It’s a compilation of the same politically-contrived reasoning that has driven the disruptive coal leasing moratorium but can be terminated on day one of the new administration.”

“I look forward to President-elect Trump and Secretary Zinke reversing the moratorium on coal leasing, unleashing American energy and innovation and expanding high-paying energy jobs,” added Montana Senator Steve Daines, in a press release that termed the new Interior report “laughable.”

But others were more favorable. “It is our sincere hope that the next Secretary of the Interior will follow through with a review of the federal coal program,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, in a statement. “It is a disservice to taxpayers, and to the states and towns that depend on revenue from coal mining, to ignore the well-documented problems with virtually every aspect of the process. … If the next Administration or Congress want to bail out the coal industry, then they should do it in a transparent and accountable way, instead of undercutting an attempt to fix this broken system.”

See the article here.

A Steep Price for Ignoring Working Americans

Via TribLIVE:

Congress returned last week, just in time to digest a prescient election post-mortem from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. In a New Year’s Day dissection of his party’s November collapse, Bourdain blamed “privileged Eastern liberals for showing utter contempt” for working-class America.

As Bourdain sees it, when media and pop culture figures “mock them at every turn and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good.”

Bourdain could well have been describing coal country when he recounted his various travels in what he calls “God-fearing America.” There he found “nice” people doing what everyone else in the world is doing: “the best they can to get by and take care of themselves and the people they love.”

There’s a belated message here for an administration that has been arguably tougher on coal states than on some of our foreign enemies.

Clearly, even state pollsters missed the impact that alienated blue-collar America would have on the election. As The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel noted recently, local pundits called it one way throughout the industrial heartland. Yet the people voted the other way. It must be time, then, to change the bait when Republicans can capture the Kentucky legislature, while the Democrat standard-bearer draws only 26 percent of West Virginia voters.

So how do Democrats bring the economically marginalized and politically disenfranchised back into the fold? It’s a pressing question, since 10 Senate Democrats are less then two years away from re-election in states carried by Donald Trump.

One way to win back blue-collar workers is to stop groveling before the Sierra Club and the “privileged Eastern liberals” who fund it, and instead propose policies that treat working Americans as real people rather than deplorable abstractions.

For example, there is scarcely an interest group whose regulatory agenda has been more systematically hostile to economic growth and blue-collar America than “keep it in the ground” activists. After losing the midterm elections across the board, President Obama decided to fulfill the Sierra Club’s fantasies via a string of executive orders and regulations. But this only accelerated the steady erosion of working-class support that had helped to bring him into office.

The result: The environmental left has managed to pit the traditional party of working men and women against working men and women, costing miners their jobs and Democrats their seats.

The election proved there will be scant penalty for elected officials who ignore the demands of the Sierra Club and the spring break Bolsheviks who swell its ranks. Elected officials can win by offering more responsible environmental solutions — ones that respect the interests of working people and their need for affordable energy.

If a celebrity chef from New York can see this, maybe the DNC intelligentsia can, too. So here’s to a reboot of the political landscape, with the interests of coal miners and factory workers featured more prominently.

See the article here.

NMA Condemns Administration’s Politically Contrived Coal Lease Policies as Damaging to Jobs, Communities and Taxpayers

Days before leaving office, the Obama administration has once again advocated policies designed solely to destroy America’s coal industry in the face of a political referendum favoring good jobs and affordable energy. Instead of the open and honest conversation promised by the administration on federal coal leasing policies, today’s report predetermines outcomes before the program review has been completed.

“The Secretary of the Interior’s purported rationales to overhaul the federal coal lease program rest on politically contrived reasoning that will result in less federal and state revenue, the loss of more high-wage jobs as well as an indispensable source of affordable electricity for millions of families,” concluded NMA president and CEO Hal Quinn.

The Secretary has outsourced the Department’s energy and land management responsibilities to “keep it in the ground” activists by blithely accepting their unsupported contentions, beginning with the long-rejected notion that the current leasing system fails to deliver a fair return. In fact, bonus bids paid for leases have outpaced the increase in coal prices. Detailed analyses by Norwest Corp. show Federal royalty rates are 30-65 percent higher than prevailing rates for private coal, where bonus bids are seldom paid as they always are on federal coal. In the major federal coal leasing region, the combination of leasing fees, royalties and taxes amounts to payments of 39 percent of revenues for federal coal producers, which are in addition to any corporate taxes paid on any final profits.

“If the administration was sincerely interested in increasing revenue, it would lift its moratorium on federal lease sales and commit to an efficient process that optimizes, rather than reduces, the benefits that flow to every American from the development of the nation’s federal coal resources,” said Quinn.  “Frankly, most of the policies suggested by the Secretary are beyond the power of the executive branch as she conceded earlier in her tenure.  Fortunately for coal miners and energy consumers, the coal leasing moratorium can be terminated on day one of the new administration,” Quinn added.

See the article here.

Obama’s EPA Chief Says Biggest Regret Is Not Connecting With Rural Voters

Via The Daily Caller:

Not being able to sell rural voters on the importance of switching from fossil fuels to solar and wind power is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy’s biggest regret, she said Friday.

“We tried to change the outreach and messaging in rural America in a number of ways, but … has it changed the rhetoric that people hear? It hasn’t,” McCarthy said in an interview at EPA headquarters. “We couldn’t get it, but I wish we had.”

President Barack Obama nominated McCarthy to lead the agency in 2013. Her tenure has been riddled with controversies and marred by heavy-handed regulatory maneuvers.

She implement controversial environmental regulations such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) — which are viewed as job-killers in coal country — and told reporters earlier this year that she gave up talking to “climate deniers.”

“I don’t check out flat Earth society and I’m not talking to climate deniers,” she said in October. “That’s it. Sorry, I know I’m supposed to be for everybody, but my patience has worn thin over eight years.”

Republican lawmakers even demanded she resign after the EPA-caused Gold King Mine spill in 2015, a disaster that dumped nearly 3 million gallons of toxic mine wastewater ran into a Colorado river, contaminating the drinking water for thousands of people.

McCarthy’s hard-nosed regulatory scheme eventually paved the way for then-presidential nominee Donald Trump to successfully campaign in coal states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Trump campaigned throughout the election season on resuscitating the beleaguered coal industry.

The president-elect capitalized on the coal industry’s stumbles — more than 4,800 coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky lost their jobs during the Obama administration, according to Energy Information Administration.

Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a strident EPA critic, in December to head the agency. The Sooner State Republican made no bones about his animus toward the CPP, along with the Paris agreement forged by Obama and approved by McCarthy.

McCarthy said the shift toward green energy projects would move forward despite Trump and Pruitt’s preference for fossil fuels. The new EPA chief will “come in here with policies he wants to implement and changes he wants to make,” she said.

But most of their objectives will be hampered, McCarthy added, by gains made throughout the past few years in green energy.

“These are today’s technologies not yesterday’s,” she said of solar and wind power. “These are the jobs of tomorrow, not of yesterday.”

See the article here.

Congress Can Act to Help Miners Survive a Regulatory Onslaught

Via The Roanoke Times:

Quinn is President and CEO of the National Mining Association.

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 (OSM) 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.

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 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 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.

See the article here. 

Lawmakers Begin Process of Striking Down Stream Rule

Via E&E Publishing:

Congressional Republicans and other pro-coal lawmakers are swiftly lining up to strike down the Obama administration’s new Stream Protection Rule.

Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) each put forward resolutions this week to block the Interior Department’s new restrictions on coal mining near waterways released last month.

Both Jenkins’ H.J. Res. 11 and Lamborn’s H.J. Res. 16 would void the rule using the Congressional Review Act (Greenwire, Dec. 19, 2016). Under the law, Congress has 60 working days to quash a regulation.

Only a simple majority in each chamber needs to approve a so-called resolution of disapproval for it to succeed. The president also has to agree.

With the rule only weeks old, President-elect Donald Trump will have ample time to make good on regulation-cutting and pro-coal promises.
Jenkins’ resolution is the same as one he introduced last month. Lamborn, chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, would like to move his own language.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) yesterday put the Stream Protection Rule near the front of the line for regulations on the chopping block (Greenwire, Jan. 5). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also said his chamber is ready to use the CRA on the rule.

Jenkins said the push is about reversing the Obama administration’s “radical anti-coal agenda.” He said: “I’m here to stand up for West Virginians. For miners.”

Other bills

Last year, Jenkins was a co-sponsor of Virginia GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith’s H.R. 130 to secure expanded black lung disease benefits if Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act.

With Republicans readying to scrap Obamacare, Griffith reintroduced the legislation yesterday. It would preserve a provision championed by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) that restored original eligibility requirements for black lung benefits after Congress tightened them in 1981.

Griffith and Jenkins — alongside Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) — also introduced a resolution that would express Congress’ committment to preserving the expanded benefits.

McKinley this week reintroduced his permanent fix for the looming issue of imperiled pensions and health benefits for more than 120,000 retired union coal miners (Greenwire, Jan. 4).

In the Senate, West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R) are hammering out the latest version of that bill.

See the article here.

Job-Crushing Regulations Trump Can Gut on Day One

Via Lifezette:

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, pending confirmation, will soon hold one of the most vital posts in President-Elect Donald Trump’s administration to restoring job growth in much of the nation.

Pruitt, nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, will be the focus of intense criticism from Democrats during his confirmation hearings.

“There has to be attention to the plain language of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. [The Obama administration] imagined authority that they had, that they did not have.”

Democrats are so agitated by Republicans, and a pro-energy Republican like Pruitt, taking the helm of the EPA because the Obama administration’s entire legacy of radical environmentalist activism will be on the chopping block.

Critics contend President Obama’s overly aggressive EPA chief, Gina McCarthy, and Interior Department, shifted the entire landscape of the energy industry with excessive rule-making.

Trump has picked U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), to be the next interior secretary.

But it’s Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, who caught the attention of the Left. Pruitt is suing the federal government, on behalf of his state, over President Obama’s controversial Clean Power Plan.

The regulation was transparently designed to kill the future of coal plants, says Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow in energy and environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Pruitt was very aggressive at fighting the federal government. When he took office in 2010, he founded a “Federalism Unit” in his office to fight unwarranted or unconstitutional federal regulations.

There is a large swath of possible job-killing regulations that the EPA and Interior have passed under President Obama — regulations that Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke could possibly revoke their first day or week in office.

The Stained Glass Sector
You may be surprised to learn stained glass is a threat to the environment.

Makers of specialty glass, such as stained glass, are not subject to clean-air emission rules because the facilities tend to be too small.

But the EPA decided to change that, according to the conservative research organization America Rising Squared. The EPA began sending out burdensome information requests to glass makers.

The requests cost many glass companies countless man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars to comply. When Spectrum Glass Co. closed in May 2016, after 40 years in business, the Washington State company cited the EPA’s rules as the secondary factor, after problems caused by the Great Recession.

“The entire U.S. art glass industry is now being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency with respect to potential new regulations,” wrote Craig Barker, CEO of Spectrum. “Long-standing interpretations of air quality regulations are being re-evaluated, and if new regulations were applied to our facility, it would require substantial capital expenses.”

The Powder River Basin
Luke Popovich, the vice president for external communications for the National Mining Association, says the industry would like to see Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke address other “low-hanging fruit” soon.

One easy fix that wouldn’t need congressional approval would be the lifting of a three-year moratorium on new coal-mining leases in the Powder River Basin, in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming.

The Obama administration imposed a three-year ban on public lands in January 2016, pending further study. 90 percent of U.S. coal extracted from public lands comes from this basin.

The Stream Buffer Rule
Congress is already considering revocation of an Obama rule that was announced on Dec. 19. The rule expands the definition of what constitutes an ephemeral stream in order to subject more surface coal mines to stream protection rules.

Industry analysis has indicated the blanket expansion could essentially allow regulators to shutter almost any mine due to running water caused by rain.

Popovich said Congress may have power to review this rule under the Congressional Review Act.

Popovich said the rule is a wrongful expansion of Interior’s power.

The Clean Power Plan
The coal-killing plan was aimed at coal power plants. But it may be up to federal courts to revoke the rule before Trump is sworn in.

If it’s revoked by the courts, Trump is likely not to appeal. If it is, Trump’s attorney general will likely appeal to the Supreme Court, says Popovich. The plan is devious, as a new president cannot simply kill it. It may take an act of Congress to adjust it.

In the end, Popovich said he would like Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke to follow the text of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

“There has to be attention to the plain language of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act,” said Popovich. “And to stay within its bounds.”

The Obama administration took the laws and “imagined authority that they had, that they did not have,” Popovich said.

Energy industry leaders say there is little cause for alarmism about their deregulation plans.

On Wednesday, the American Petroleum Institute noted that the federal government reported the first six months of 2016 saw carbon emissions from electricity generation at their lowest point in 25 years, even as electricity demand continues to rise.

See the article here.

U.S. Mines Complete Safest Year Ever, Besting Last Year’s Record

2016 marks the safest year ever for American miners. Together, coal mines and metal/non-metal mines last year recorded the lowest fatality and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining – a sign of continuous improvement for an industry that saw a record low the previous year.

The official figures, issued recently by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, show 25 fatalities for all U.S. mining in 2016. U.S. minerals mining last year recorded 16 fatalities, while coal mining recorded 9 fatalities – the lowest rates ever recorded by the U.S. mining industry.

“We are proud of our industry for showing continued progress because it exemplifies our commitment to making American mines the world’s safest and our determination to return every miner home safely after every shift,” said National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn. “This safety milestone confirms the value of our voluntary safety initiatives and our determination to achieve excellence in mine safety and health year after year.”

Especially successful in driving continuous safety progress is NMA’s own CORESafety® framework. CORESafety has won international recognition among safety experts for its innovative approach that aims to eliminate fatalities and reduce injury by 50 percent in five years (0:50:5). CORESafety offers a management system approach to mine safety, offering not a “top-down-one-size-fits-all” model but a free, scalable framework for operations of all sizes.

To better understand what’s behind the transformation of mine safety, check out our video featuring industry CEOs discussing what CORESafety has meant to the success of their operations.

For more information on the CORESafety program, visit our website at www.coresafety.org. For 2016 mine safety data, visit the Mine Safety and Health Administration website at www.msha.gov.

See the press release here.

Congress Must Act Quickly to Axe Stream Rule

Via The Montana Standard:

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.