Monthly Archives: February 2017

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

NMA Salutes President Trump and Congress for Overturning Unnecessary Stream Rule and Saving Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn issued this statement today following President Trump’s signing of the congressional resolution of disapproval that overturns the stream rule:

“By signing legislation Congress recently passed to overturn the stream rule, President Trump made a major down payment on his campaign pledge to revive the coal industry and preserve the livelihoods of one-third of our nation’s miners whose jobs would have been sacrificed by this massive regulation.

“His action nullifies a duplicative, unnecessary yet extremely costly regulation targeting coal miners and their families who for eight years have borne the brunt of a full-scale regulatory assault on their livelihoods. From across the country, state mining agencies have rejected the stream rule and the deeply flawed process that prevented their consultation. With the president’s action today, they can now exercise their lawful authority as Congress intended.

“The president has seized a dramatic opportunity early in his term to revive not only an industry and its employment base but the primacy of democratic decision-making over government by regulation.”

See the release here.

Trump to Sign Bill Repealing Obama’s Last-Minute Coal Rule

Via The Washington Examiner:

President Trump is scheduled to sign a bill Thursday to roll back the Obama administration’s midnight regulations on the coal industry.

The bill, called a resolution of disapproval, was passed by the Senate and House using special powers under the Congressional Review Act to reverse regulations.

The resolution would repeal the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, which critics said was rushed out in the waning weeks of the Obama administration, piling on strict new rules for the coal mining industry that will add significant cost and lead to job losses. The rule bans mining companies from putting waste in streams.

The bill signing follows a key procedural vote, 54-46, in the Senate earlier Thursday to consider the confirmation of Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

The vote sets up a final vote on Pruitt’s confirmation expected Friday. Democrats are using floor speeches throughout Thursday to rail against Pruitt as the wrong choice to lead the EPA.

Republicans from coal states made remarks after the procedural vote that Pruitt would be the right choice to roll back overreaching regulations that have led to the closure of coal-fired power plants and the loss of thousands of coal mining jobs.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a top Republican on the Senate environment committee, touted Trump’s signing of the resolution later Thursday as a step in the right direction for her state’s coal industry.

President Trump on Thursday borrowed a page from his predecessor’s playbook, telling reporters he “inherited a mess” from the previous administration and has been working overtime to clean it up.

At a surprise press conference dedicated to announcing his new nominee for Labor secretary, Trump offered a lengthy opening statement in which he detailed a variety of steps he characterized as accomplishments, a clear effort to respond to critics who charge that the White House is disorganized.

“There has never been a presidency that has done so much in such a short time,” he said.

Trump said he took office facing “a mess” both at home and abroad.

“I inherited a mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country, you see what’s going on with all of the companies leaving our country,” Trump said. “Low pay, low wages, mass instability overseas no matter where you look – the Middle East, North Korea.”

“I just want you to know, I inherited a mess,” he repeated.

The president said his fledgling administration is “running like a fine-tuned machine” and has already accomplished much of what he promised his supporters during his campaign. He specifically touted his recently announced joint task force on women’s entrepreneurship with Canadian leaders, and his “enormously productive talks with foreign leaders” since taking office.

Administration officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, have been laser-focused on preventing Islamic State extremists from entering the U.S. or gaining influence overseas, Trump said.

“ISIS has spread like cancer — another mess I inherited,” he said, later adding that “our administration is working night and day to keep [Americans] safe.”

See the article here.

Trump Should End Obama Coal Lease Moratorium

Via LifeZette:

President Donald Trump has certainly jumped out of the starting gate by issuing a flurry of executive orders taking aim at onerous regulations held over from the Obama administration. It’s a mixed bag, however, given the variety of issues confronting the economy.

There is one step that the new administration could take immediately to ensure affordable energy for America’s struggling middle class: end the moratorium on federal coal leases.

Last year, the Obama administration announced a three-year moratorium on the leasing of coal reserves on federal lands. Because the coal mined from these reserves accounts for 42 percent of total U.S. production, this moratorium poses serious consequences for U.S. energy diversity.

Undeniably, the motivation for the moratorium was inspired by a “keep it in the ground movement” aiming to end coal-fired power in the United States. But such an ideological agenda overlooks the significant technological advances that have emerged over the past 30 years. Today’s coal plants are much cleaner and far more advanced than ever before, thanks to specialized equipment that scrubs emissions of sulfur, mercury, and particulate matter.

Because coal has gone high-tech, it’s disappointing to see such a headstrong rush to end a significant, long-term source of affordable, reliable electricity for the United States. In part, that’s because there’s a financial aspect involved. Coal leased from federal lands has generated more than $12.6 billion in royalties, rents, and bonus payments over the past decade. In 2014 alone, the program generated revenues of $1 billion for American taxpayers and was responsible for 40 percent of total coal-generated electricity in the United States.

Realistically, it is America’s working class who would pay the price for a continued moratorium on federal coal and the power it provides. A study by IHS Energy found that America’s current base load power generation, which has long been anchored by plentiful coal, saves ratepayers roughly $93 billion in annual electric bills.

Contrast that, however, with the 40 percent of U.S. households currently spending 17 cents of every after-tax dollar on energy-related expenses. Simply put, many Americans are struggling right now, and they depend on affordable energy for their homes, jobs, and livelihoods.

With the new administration actively fighting to save coal, President Trump should now turn to the leasing moratorium. After Ryan Zinke is confirmed as the new interior secretary, he could move immediately to end the moratorium. The move would ensure that America’s working class has access to affordable and reliable electricity — which must remain a key priority for Washington.

See the article here.

Reviving W.Va. Coal Mines

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

Last November’s election of Donald Trump as president and a new class of leaders on the state-level represents a defining moment for our great state and for the West Virginia coal industry.

This new leadership recognizes our natural resources as valuable assets, and they have pledged to aggressively advance policies designed to promote and foster full development of our energy industries.

After enduring years of a weak economy, flat growth, an abundance of newfound shale gas, subsidies for competitive fuels and perhaps most importantly, a president who used every resource and federal agency to work against coal production, the new direction offered by President Trump, Governor Justice and our legislature is a welcome and refreshing change.

Since November, we’ve already seen renewed confidence and interest in West Virginia coal from within the investment community. We also have experienced a modest uptick in pricing levels and growth in metallurgical coal operations. The real question is whether these favorable trends can be sustained going forward and what steps we can take to maximize the opportunities in front of us.

It is our time to lead the way and to partner with our president and federal government to take the reins of our domestic energy assets and the policies that govern them.

As coal markets begin to blossom, we must be prepared to move quickly and offer the finest quality coal, produced by the best miners in the world, at the lowest price possible. A more competitive tax structure and a continued modernization of mining rules are just two macro-level policies we should pursue.

As a state, we must aggressively pursue homegrown coal consumption. We only consume roughly 30 percent of all the coal we mine in West Virginia. By increasing this total, we will provide security for our in-state coal operations, their output and a greater chance of reaping the benefits here at home.

The Legislature acted during the 2016 session to secure the percentage of West Virginia coal that is consumed within our borders by providing an incentive for utilities to upgrade in-state coal plants to continue consuming “local” coal in an environmentally clean fashion.

During the 83rd Legislature, we recommend that lawmakers and the executive branch take a serious look at how to grow the percentage of coal consumed within our state’s borders.

It’s also time that we reconsider initiatives that have been considered in the past.

It’s been 30 years since former Gov. Arch Moore called for the construction of state-owned, mine-mouth power facilities to burn more coal in West Virginia and export the power to areas of demand. Thirty-five years have passed since then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller created the Coal Development Authority to assist coal producers with marketing opportunities. In early 2000, the Clean Coal Technology Council was signed into law by Governor Wise but never convened. Former Governor Joe Manchin proposed coal-to-liquid plants be constructed to provide fuel for state vehicles. And as many realize, multiple coal-to-liquid plants have been proposed but never developed.

The time is right to revisit some of those initiatives to determine their feasibility.

Many also may recall the FutureGen project. This $2 billion dollar, state-of-the-art, zero-emission, coal-fired power plant was held up as the coal plant of the future and incorporated coal sequestration technologies.  While the project was approved to be built in the Midwest, it was scrapped by President Obama before the first shovel of dirt was turned.

FutureGen could be the coal industry’s alternative to the shale gas cracker, as it relates to the investment, technology and jobs it would provide. Why not build it in West Virginia?

Certainly, there would be plenty of space along with the necessary infrastructure for this project on the Hobet site proposed by former Governor Earl Ray Tomblin or possibly on one of the former power plant sites that were forced to close due to EPA regulations.

Given the new administration and their support for coal and energy development, programs like FutureGen, mine-mouth power plants and coal-to-liquids plants all should be seriously considered and reviewed for feasibility.

A coalition of experts on the technology, investment and policy sides of the equation should be formed, to include the coal industry, university researchers, our legislative and congressional representatives and others to develop the blueprint and path forward.

With the incoming political leadership in Washington and at the state level, coupled with a legislature that has demonstrated its interest in seeing coal remain a centerpiece of our state’s economy, we believe an all-out attempt to should be initiated to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform West Virginia into the nation’s capital for coal and energy.

See the article here.

Stream Rule Provided No Discernible Environmental Benefits

Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 

The editorial “Coal 1, Water 0″ (Feb. 7) shows either a complete lack of understanding of the Interior Department’s stream rule or a deliberate attempt to mislead readers.

Far from protecting streams, those who have taken the time to examine what the rule actually does know that it provides no discernible environmental benefits. What the rule does accomplish is duplicate and interfere with extensive existing environmental protections at both the federal and state levels, duplication and interference that are expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

The rule’s only purpose appears to be to support the environmental lobby’s “keep it in the ground” platform, locking important U.S. domestic coal reserves away and putting tens of thousands of Americans out of work. Or to preserve the agency’s mission now that there are many fewer coal mines to regulate.

Congress acted responsibly against a rule that is all pain and no gain for American jobs and the energy economy.

Hal Quinn  •  Washington, D.C.

President and CEO, National Mining Association

See the article here.

Sean Spicer: Coal Will Be One of the Cleanest Uses of Technology that We Have

Via The Independent:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the US would produce “clean coal” and that rolling back regulations from coal plants would be done in a way that was “environmentally friendly”.

He told reporters that the Environmental Protection Agency, which will be led by Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt who once sued the same agency, will liberate coal plants so that they can stay open and keep existing jobs.

When asked by a local news reporter in Virginia about residents’ concerns about the impact to the environment, he replied: “I think when you hear him talking about coal specifically, it’s under the guise of clean coal, and I think the technology we’re able to utilise these days make it one of the cleanest uses of technology that we have.”

He added: “And the President’s point, is that as we bring back this industry is that we can do it in a way that is environmentally friendly and it becomes a great and greater energy source.”

He pointed to figures from the Department of Energy that projected a 3 per cent increase in the production of coal which was a “big reduction” compared to the past. More than two thirds of US energy production is from fossil fuels.

He blamed regulations placed on coal plants by the EPA, which prevent them from “staying open”.

“And I think you can do that [roll back regulations and make it environmentally friendly] if you harness technology we have and harness the power of clean coal.”

President Trump said in 2013 that climate change was a “hoax invented by the Chinese”.

He told the New York Times last year that he believed there was “some connectivity” between climate change and humans.

His stance to reduce regulations in the energy industry – including shale gas, oil and coal – in the name of providing employment has done little to reassure climate change campaigners, however.

The President has also signed an executive order with the intention to get the Dakota oil pipeline built, a oil and gas pipe which cuts through several states and the Missouri river, threatening the water supply of the largest Native American tribe in the country.

Mr Pruitt, who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate to head the EPA, once sued the agency on behalf of his energy industry clients. He is also reportedly a climate change sceptic.

See the article here.

Another Wave Of Coal Plant Closures Is On The Way, But Can Trump Stop It?

Via The Daily Caller:

President Trump has a lot of work ahead of him if he’s going to turn the coal industry around, since experts predict another 12 gigawatts of factory retirements are expected in the coming years.

Trump promised to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations hampering energy production, including those targeting coal mining. But data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) shows another wave of coal-fired power plant retirements are on the way.

The vast majority of U.S.-produced coal is used to generate electricity, so more power plant closures don’t bode well for coal mining companies — especially those struggling with or on the verge of bankruptcy.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects coal-fired power generation to increase slightly in 2017 due to higher natural gas prices. Coal plants are primarily being closed due to increased regulatory burdens and competitively-priced natural gas.

In the long-run, however, coal’s share of electricity generation is projected to continue to shrink.

Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” promises to repeal President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan,” which includes a major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation affecting coal power plants expected to offline more coal capacity.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) is expected to cost $1 trillion and reduce coal production 32 percent as coal-fired power plants are forced to self-destruct — all to avert 0.02 degrees Celsius in projected projected global warming.

Repealing the CPP would brighten coal’s future prospects, but it won’t stop all the coal-fired power plant closures down the road. EPA rules on mercury, particulate covering sulfur dioxide pollution, also put coal plants at risk for closure.

See the article here.

Gov’t Data Says Coal Is Staging A Comeback

Via The Daily Caller:

Coal power could see a revival in the near future, according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

U.S. coal production fell by 18 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year, but changing market conditions suggest a comeback is one the way, according to the EIA report.

(Graphic from U.S. Energy Information Administration)

(Graphic from U.S. Energy Information Administration)

EIA projects natural gas prices will rise next year, causing coal power to regain some market share in the electricity generation mix. Since most U.S. coal is used to generate power, this will likely cause coal production to increase.

Coal power has been in decline for years due to strict regulations and market conditions that favored natural gas power.

The coal industry is somewhat optimistic about its chances of recovery. President Donald Trump has repeatedly pledged to save coal by rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations.

Coal power provided about 33 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S. in 2015, according to data from the EIA. Natural gas provided another 33 percent, while nuclear generated 20 percent. That same year, wind and solar power only accounted for 4.7 and 0.6 percent, respectively, of electricity generation.

Even though coal is still a major part of the U.S. power grid, there are 83,000 fewer coal jobs and 400 fewer coal mines than when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

A 2015 study found the coal industry lost 50,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012 during Obama’s first term.

During Obama’s second term, industry employment in coal mining fell by another 33,300 jobs, 10,900 of which occurred in the last year alone, according to federal data. As a result, many ex-coal miners are unemployed and Appalachian “coal country” faces very real economic devastation as a result.

Currently, coal mining employs 69,460 Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of the blame for job loss is targeted at federal regulations aimed at preventing global warming, which caused coal power plants to go bankrupt. Yet the energy market does seem to have moved away from coal and towards natural gas, though the extent of this transition is unclear.

See the article here. 

This Time, ‘Elections Have Consequences’ for the Sierra Club

Via The Hill:

In the next week or so, the Sierra Club will twice be reminded of former President Obama’s boast that “elections have consequences.”

The Senate will likely confirm Scott Pruitt’s nomination for EPA administrator following the Environment and Public Works Committee’s recent vote.

Further, President Trump is expected to sign the resolution of disapproval that Congress passed last week to void the so-called Stream Protection Rule.

As the new administration gears up, canceling the stream rule will likely be the first bill signed during the Trump presidency.

The climate lobby that owned EPA for the last eight years is watching all of this transpire with dread, fretting that Caligula is about to capture the convent.

However, the many thousands of workers and businesses punished by EPA’s regulatory overreach are ready to welcome Pruitt as their savior.

It’s a stunning turnaround. But how did it happen?

Ironically, the Sierra Club may have provided one answer recently when it announced a new plan to cut 28 gigawatts of coal-fired power. Such a massive dismantling of coal power could destroy 65,000 U.S. jobs.

Of course, that’s not how the Sierra Club announced its new plan, but that was what some of us heard.

To the red-carpet supporters, billionaire philanthropists, and trust-fund intellectuals who cheer the club’s ambition to shut down another 28 gigawatts of coal-based generation, the jobs impact of this new goal will be lost in translation.

Cost is no consideration for this crowd. They don’t worry about higher electricity costs, nor are their job prospects hurt by an assault on coal.

But the jobs impact of closing so much plant capacity is not lost on voters, especially not the hundreds of thousands of men and women whose jobs are tied to the U.S. coal supply chain.

Here’s what these workers hear. The Sierra Club’s 28 GW target equates to roughly 90 million tons of lost coal production — the annual volume of coal required to supply these power plants.

This lost volume translates into job losses of 10,000 direct coal mine workers, according to data from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, and 9,000 direct coal plant workers, based on DOE’s “Energy and Employment Report”.

Add to this toll the standard 3.6 multiplier for indirect job losses that is derived from U.S. labor bureau data and the Sierra Club’s “goal” will kill another 46,000 jobs in the supply chain, including those in power plants, railroads, barge transport, ports, and equipment vendors.

Notably, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show fossil energy jobs of this kind paid an average of $111,300 in 2015 — the type of wages that typically help to support a strong middle class.

 

Voters across the country often ask one another, “Where have all the good jobs gone? Why can’t we create the kinds of jobs that once supported a family?”

It isn’t necessarily China, automation, or a lack of qualified applicants that is slowly eroding living standards for the once great American middle class.

In part, it’s the rising influence of well-funded advocacy groups pursuing trivial environmental improvements at the expense of economic growth and job creation.

For example, the stream rule that Congress overturned last week would not have delivered any meaningful environmental improvement.

The regulation simply duplicates existing oversight responsibilities already conducted by state and federal regulators. Such redundancy would have imposed heavy costs on coal producers.

There’s also the Clean Power Plan — President Obama’s contribution to the Paris Climate accords — that is now hamstrung in litigation.

It’s estimated that the plan would destroy tens of thousands of additional jobs in the fossil energy sector just to deliver a global warming reduction so trivial that the EPA didn’t even estimate it.

The Obama administration’s single-minded devotion to the environmental left has meant a blunt clubbing of blue collar jobs.

It proved costly for the president’s legacy in November. What industrial America saw was a focus on reduced carbon emissions and lower coal production that hurt tens of thousands of workers.

Small wonder that on Election Day they turned on their tormentors and the candidates who had turned against them first.

To woo voters back, the governing class must end its romance with the green lobby.

Their evangelical zeal for punitive energy regulations — from stopping pipelines to shuttering power plants — and indifference to the welfare of working Americans are incompatible with the economic growth and high-wage jobs that voters want.

The Sierra Club can’t read election results, but Congress’ actions this week demonstrate that Washington can.

See the article here. 

Guest Opinion: Daines Votes to Protect Montana Coal Jobs

Via The Billings Gazette:

What a great day it will be when Montana is represented in the Interior Department by Rep. Ryan Zinke. Secretary-nominee Zinke knows well the issues important to the West and Indian Country, and I hope for better days ahead for all rural and Native peoples under his leadership at the Interior Department.

Unfortunately, at times in the recent past, the concerns of rural communities, tribes, and those of us in fly-over country seem to have been less than important to our government in D.C., and particularly those at the Interior Department. They handed down rules not written for the West and remained unconcerned by the needs and lifestyles of Montanans.

Recently “Dear Tribal Leaders” letters have become the norm for how the federal government communicates with Tribes on critical issues including the trust relationship the government shares with tribes on natural resource management. Rural communities shared the neglect.

Late last year I and others from southeastern Montana spent considerable effort defending our coal production jobs and economy from misguided regulations enacted in the waning hours of the Obama administration. The worst of which was the so called “Stream Protection Rule” or SPR written within the Department of Interior.

The SPR said, among many, many other things: that Montana mines had to provide 12 months of water quality samples, even on seasonal streams that don’t exist most of the year or might be frozen solid all winter. These rules didn’t fit Montana, where we already have an A-rated stream protection system in place that was written specifically for our local concerns, not somewhere back East.

Our group from southeastern Montana met with enthusiastic support from Zinke and Sen. Steve Daines’ offices when we visited D.C. to show our opposition to the SPR. When we went to the White House the response was quite the opposite. In fact, the Obama White House seemed less than interested in Montana’s concerns.

Officials we spoke with admitted they were not aware of all the negative potential impacts on Montana and particularly the Crow Tribe that the SPR would bring. Still, our pleas fell on deaf ears as a national one-size-fits-all “Stream Protection Rule” was drafted without appropriate consultation and then written and published without changes requested by Montanans.

Last week, Congress voted to rescind the SPR through a seldom used Congressional Review Authority of Obama’s slew of last-minute environmental regulations. Montana’s tribes, communities, and jobs were at risk, and Daines again showed his commitment to Montana jobs by supporting repeal of the Stream Protection Rule.

Senator Daines, thank you for standing with Montana’s jobs and voting to repeal the Stream Protection Rule.

See the article here.

Coal’s Reprieve: Congress Undoing Obama’s Attempt to Bury Mining

Via The West Virginia MetroNews:

The new Congress has made quick work of former President Obama’s last-minute attempt to finish off the coal industry. Both the House and Senate used the Congressional Review Act to roll back the previous administration’s Stream Protection Rule, and President Trump is expected to give his approval.

West Virginia’s Congressional delegation stood united in supporting the act.

“Fortunately with President Trump, we now have a partner in the White House who understands how irresponsible and harmful these bureaucratic overreaches can be,” said Congressman David McKinley (R-1st).

The Obama administration spent six years working on standards that would make it increasingly difficult to get a permit to operate a surface or underground coal mine. Along the way, the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement shut out state agencies that have jurisdiction and handed over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service veto power of permits.

A study by the National Mining Association estimated that the new regulations would have reduced the amount of recoverable coal between 51 percent and 88 percent in underground mines and 38 percent to 67 percent in surface mines, as well as put one-third of all coal jobs at risk.

These rules, along with the Clean Power Plan, which is currently on hold by order of the U.S. Supreme Court, would have put coal out of business, which is exactly what the anti-carbon crowd has been pushing.

The Obama administration’s EPA hurt West Virginia’s economy badly. The state is benefiting from the enormous reserves of gas now accessible through hydraulic fracturing, but drilling doesn’t create as many jobs as coal mining and increased severance tax collections on gas are not enough to offset the loss in coal severance tax.

For Fiscal Year 2012, coal companies paid $531 million in severance taxes, with $421 million going into the state treasury. (Tthe rest went to local governments and for debt service on the Workers Compensation Fund.)  Just four years later, those collections and distributions had been reduced by half. Imagine how much easier it would be to solve the state’s budget problems with another $200 million from coal severance and the additional revenue from higher consumer sales and income tax collections.

Coal will never be the dominant energy source it once was, but it is still an integral part of the global energy portfolio. The new administration is Washington is at least going to give coal a fighting chance.

Coal still must hold its own against cheap and clean natural gas, as well as alternative fuels, but coal companies won’t have to worry about fighting a Washington-imposed death spiral.

See the article here.

Coal Miners Rejoice After Senate Votes to Repeal Stream Protection Rule

Via Fortune.com:

The battered U.S. coal industry rejoiced after the Senate voted on Thursday to repeal a rule that limited companies from dumping mining waste in streams, saying the move could halt the sector’s decline.

The Senate, approving a resolution passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, overturned the Stream Protection Rule as part of a broader move by Republicans to reverse what they see as overregulation by former President Barack Obama’s administration on energy development.

The demise of the rule had been expected. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress, controlled by Republicans, to undo rules finalized at the end of a previous administration.

“This is one very, very important step to get coal back on its feet and stop the hemorrhaging of jobs that we’ve seen,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

The coal industry hopes the move is the first step toward a recovery under President Donald Trump, who has vowed to clear away regulation to support more mining. Coal advocates are hoping his administration will overturn a moratorium the Obama administration placed on new coal leases on federal lands, and scrap regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.

The coal waste rule was intended to protect 6,000 miles (9,700 km) of streams and large areas of forests over the next two decades, the Interior Department said when it issued the rule in December. It argued the rule would protect drinking water without undermining the economy or energy supply.

The coal industry countered that the rule could have reduced the number of direct mining jobs by 30 percent and made 60 percent of its existing reservoirs uneconomic to produce.

Coal companies such as Arch Coal and Peabody Energy – two of the nation’s biggest miners – experienced recent bankruptcies because of a surge in production of natural gas and new regulations curbing carbon dioxide emissions.

Stephanie Weiler, a spokeswoman at Peabody Energy said the company was “pleased” by the elimination of the rule and supported “any actions aimed at reining in unnecessary regulations that don’t improve the environment yet harm the economic and jobs landscape.”

Arch did not immediately comment.

Gary Broadbent, a spokesman for private company Murray Energy, said the rule was an attempt to “destroy our nation’s underground coal mines” and put coal miners out of work.

Democratic Senator Edward Markey said the coal industry’s request that Republicans kill the rule amounted to saying: “Please protect us from having to protect the public.”

See the article here.

‘Overturning Anti-Coal Agenda’

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

The U.S. Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a measure scrapping an Obama-era regulation that Republicans warned would eliminate thousands of coal mining jobs if allowed to be implemented.

The Senate’s 54-45 vote sends the measure to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

Republicans and some Democrats say the rule ignores dozens of federal, state and local regulations already in place.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., supported the measure.

“Today’s vote is step one in overturning the anti-coal agenda that has devastated West Virginia for the last eight years,” Capito said Thursday. “The misguided Stream Protection Rule could have put one-third of the remaining coal jobs at risk nationally, a threat coal-producing states simply cannot afford,” said Senator Capito. “I was proud to introduce this measure with Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and I am glad this harmful anti-coal regulation will soon be overturned.”

“I have led the fight against this rule since my first days in the Senate because it simply isn’t commonsense and kills jobs in our state,” Manchin added. “With passage of this resolution of disapproval, we can now focus on helping the many West Virginia families and businesses that were crippled by this rule and the flawed rule-making process that led to it. Not only did the Department of the Interior and OSMRE fail to consult with stakeholders and consider the economic impacts, including the possible elimination of thousands of jobs, but they also refused to acknowledge that the rule overlapped with existing regulations already on the books from other environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act. I am glad we were able to come together to pass this commonsense reversal of these harmful Obama-era regulations.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey praised the U.S. House and Senate Thursday for taking action to strip implementation of former President Obama’s stream buffer rule.

“I applaud the House and Senate for this week’s swift action to halt this unconstitutional and damaging rule,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “I’m confident President Trump will sign this legislation in short order to protect jobs and overturn this terrible rule once and for all.”

The Interior Department said in announcing the rule in December that it would protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby waters.

The vote was the first in a series of actions Republicans are expected to take in coming weeks to reverse years of what they call excessive regulation during President Barack Obama’s presidency. Rules on fracking, guns and federal contracting also are in the cross-hairs as the GOP moves to void a host of regulations finalized during Obama’s last months in office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the stream rule “an attack against coal miners and their families” and said it would have threatened coal jobs and caused major damage to communities in Kentucky and other coal-producing states.

“The legislation we passed today will help stop this disastrous rule and bring relief to coal miners and their families,” McConnell said.

Democrats called the vote an attack on clean water and a clear win for big coal-mining companies and other polluters.

The Senate vote came as the House took its first steps toward strengthening gun ownership under Trump.

At issue was an Obama rule extending background checks for disabled Social Security recipients mentally incapable of managing their own affairs.

Under the rule, the Social Security Administration would provide information to the gun-buying background check system on recipients with a mental disorder so severe they cannot work and need someone to handle their benefits. The rule, finalized in December, affects an estimated 75,000 beneficiaries.

Republican lawmakers criticized the regulation for reinforcing a negative stereotype that people with a mental disorder are dangerous.

“There are people who need help and seek help, but that is not a criteria for taking away one’s constitutional right” to own a gun, said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.

After the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama directed the Justice Department to provide guidance to agencies regarding information they are obligated to report to the background check system.

In Newtown, 20 children and six educators were shot to death when a gunman entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. The gunman had earlier killed his mother inside their home, and he used a gun and ammunition that she had purchased.

Democrats said Republicans were doing the bidding of the National Rifle Association, which opposed the Social Security Administration’s rule. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said his constituents have a right not to be victims of gun violence.

“They have a right to protect their loved ones who may use a weapon against themselves or their family members,” McGovern said.

While gun rights groups opposed the regulation, some advocates for the disabled have also said it is discriminatory. The agency that advises the president and Congress on government policy, the National Council on Disability, said there is no connection between the inability to manage money and the ability to safely possess and use a firearm.

The Social Security Administration regulation also established a process for people to appeal having their names submitted to background check database. But attorneys general from a dozen states wrote to congressional leaders and said such appeals can take months or years to resolve. They said the regulation violates basic notions of due process by permitting an agency to revoke someone’s Second Amendment rights without a hearing.

Republicans are employing a rarely used tool to roll back some of the rules issued in the final months of Obama’s tenure. The Congressional Review Act provides a temporary window for a simple majority of both chambers to invalidate the rule. Trump would also have to sign the resolution of disapproval for the regulation to be deemed invalid. What’s more, the law prevents the executive branch from imposing substantially similar regulations in the future.

See the article here.

House Votes to Repeal Two Obama Energy Regs

Via The Washington Examiner:

The House on Wednesday passed two Republican-backed resolutions to repeal Obama-era energy regulations blamed for unnecessarily curtailing coal mining and burdening the oil industry by directing companies to disclose dealings with foreign countries.

The first resolution of disapproval passed along a strict party-line vote, 228-194, repealing the Stream Protection Rule, which the Republican leadership called a rushed regulation that blindsided states with unnecessary and burdensome rules for coal mining.

The House resolution calls for the regulation to be rescinded once a similar resolution is approved in the Senate and signed by President Trump.

“With companion Senate action expected later this week, this resolution hopefully signals the beginning of the end of a regulatory onslaught that has triggered steep job losses in the nation’s mining communities and deprived our country of affordable energy,” said Hal Quinn, the president and CEO of the National Mining Association, representing the coal industry.

The resolutions give Congress the ability to check regulatory overreach, especially those such as the Stream Protection Rule that was enacted in the waning days of the Obama administration. The resolutions of disapproval are sanctioned under the Clinton-era Congressional Review Act.

The second resolution of disapproval would repeal regulations requiring oil producers to report their dealings with foreign governments to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That resolution, which passed 235-187, would rescind the so-called “foreign-corrupt rule” or its technical name, “Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers.”

The rule was vacated by a federal appeals court in 2013 but was re-proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2016.

The rule is part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act that was passed into law after the 2008 economic crisis. A number of industries have fought many of the reporting requirements under the law.

The American Petroleum Institute, which fought the rule and won in court, said the regulation would cost the industry $96 million to $591 million annually. That breaks down to between $225,000 and $1.4 million annually per company, according to the oil industry group.

The oil group and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed suit against the rule in 2012.

See the article here.

Tell EPA ‘No’ On Stream Rule

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

It has been suggested that President Barack Obama’s motivation during his final months in office was to solidify his legacy. He certainly did that, in a variety of truly upsetting ways ranging from releasing a traitor from prison early to accelerating unnecessary environmental initiatives.

Some of Obama’s legacy has been solidified. His presidential commutations of criminals’ sentences cannot be reversed.

But some of the damage the former president attempted to do can be prevented. U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.; U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are at the forefront of a move to kill one of the most potentially harmful actions.

It is the so-called Stream Protection Rule, which Obama declared ready to go during the last few weeks of his stay in the White House.

Environmental Protection Agency officials see the SPR as part of their suite of initiatives aimed at destroying the coal industry and depriving millions of families of affordable electricity generated from that fuel.

As critics of the SPR have pointed out, it is not needed to safeguard water quality. Its draconian stipulations would make it impossible to mine as much as 85 percent of the nation’s coal reserves.

That would force layoffs of thousands of coal miners  — in addition to the thousands who already have lost their jobs because of Obama’s war on coal.

McKinley, R-W.Va., is leading a campaign to force the EPA to drop the SPR. That would be accomplished through passage by the House of Representatives and Senate of resolutions of disapproval. Under the Congressional Review Act, such action forces federal agencies to abandon implementation of certain rules.

So objectionable is the SPR that McKinley assembled a coalition to fight it quickly, with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, co-sponsoring the proposed resolution. In the Senate, both Capito and Manchin have introduced resolutions on the issue.

Lawmakers have much on their plates, in part because we have a new president, Donald Trump. But stopping the EPA should be a priority for action. Saying no to the Stream Protection Rule would be a good start.

See the article here.

Winning the Fight on Stream Protection

Via The Morning Consult:

For close to a decade, Republicans have been leading the charge against the regulatory onslaught on coal communities. But now, with an ally in the White House, we can finally begin to roll back some of the punishing regulations of the last eight years. This starts with repealing the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) Stream Protection Rule under the Congressional Review Act.

The final SPR, forced on the American people in the waning days of the Obama administration, is a blatant attack on working families in coal country that could shut more coal mines and send thousands of miners to the unemployment line. The final rule jeopardizes at least one-third of this nation’s good paying coal jobs and removes half or more of total U.S. coal reserves from future extraction. Let’s put that in perspective for a moment: The rule’s associated job loss comes on top of the loss of 68,000 good paying coal jobs over the past few years.

Despite the rule’s devastating impact on jobs and local communities, OSM insisted on finalizing the 1,640-page rule that rewrites more than 400 regulations with little benefit for the environment. Based on the Department of the Interior’s own investigative report, virtually all coal mines have no off-site impacts, and the vast majority of coal mines are being operated safely to the very end – through the final reclamation and restoration process. In other words, success has already been achieved under existing federal and state regulations.

Our main issue with this rule is the way in which OSM went about a costly, seven-year rulemaking process. Rather than defer to the states tasked with regulating 97 percent of all coal mines in the U.S., OSM opted to shut them out completely.

Eleven states, from Alabama to Kentucky and West Virginia to Wyoming, signed on to be cooperating agencies, but their calls went unanswered and their concerns intentionally ignored by unelected OSM bureaucrats in Washington. Many were so fed up with the lack of transparency that they backed out of the process because their input continued to fall on deaf ears.

This statutorily-questionable and duplicative rule imposes harm upon communities and state regulatory bodies with little environmental or economic benefit. It was written without state input, stretches grossly beyond congressional intent and was issued in the waning days of the outgoing Obama administration. This is precisely why Congress created the Congressional Review Act, and this is the reason it will be used to overturn SPR.

Congress taking action on a joint resolution disapproving of this rule sends a strong message to the American people. Its passage will provide certainty to state regulatory bodies tasked with enforcing federal mining regulations under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. It protects coal jobs by preventing the issuance of any future, substantially similar rule that could have a devastating impact on middle-class families in our states.

Coal is not a commodity of the past; it’s an important part of our communities today and far into our future. It keeps the lights on throughout the year, powering 95 percent of electricity needs in West Virginia, 78 percent in Missouri, 77 percent in Indiana, 75 percent in North Dakota and 59 percent in Ohio. It heats homes during the cold Midwestern winters. And it’s an industry that employs more than 66,000 miners throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Current regulations already ensure the protection of streams while also protecting the jobs and economic development that are tied to responsible coal production. Alternatively, this one-size-fits-all rule – as finalized – will crush communities that rely upon these jobs and states that remain heavily dependent on this reliable and affordable source of energy.

Over the past three Congresses, we held numerous hearings on the development and finalization of the SPR, including 13 in the Natural Resources Committee. State regulators testified that they yearned for meaningful participation in this rulemaking. We have heard from communities from Appalachia to the rust belt to the West who have so much to lose if this rule is implemented. In the House, we’ve repeatedly advanced legislation to prevent the finalization of this rule and to guarantee states and communities have a voice. These concerns, among others, were completely ignored by the previous administration.

We have an opportunity to protect thousands of American jobs, and encourage responsible development while ensuring environmental safeguards. With a new administration that understands the balance between energy development from coal extraction and protecting our environment, we have an opportunity to block this harmful regulation and protect the communities forsaken by the outgoing administration.

Now it’s time to win this fight.

Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.) sponsored H.J. Res 38, a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s Stream Protection Rule. McKinley is the chairman of the House Coal Caucus which has 70 members, including Johnson and Jenkins.

See the article here.