Monthly Archives: March 2017

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

How President Trump Avoided a Catastrophe in the Coalfields.

Via The Williamson Daily News: 

Many Americans have already forgotten about the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama administration’s signature effort to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants. But not the nation’s coal communities. They’ve lived with this regulation as an ever-present threat even after its implementation was stayed by a federal court.

West Virginia’s coal communities saw the CPP for exactly what it was: a thinly-veiled assault on their livelihood—and one that would would cripple an already reeling industry while providing little environmental benefit.

Fortunately, the Trump administration has done just what it promised. By executive order, President Trump has axed the CPP and another vestige of the Obama administration’s anti-coal policy, the moratorium on all new leases of federal coal reserves.

Just a few months ago, those waging the War on Coal felt like they were on the precipice of victory. Now, they are now in full retreat. The industry can finally compete again without having both of its arms tied behind its back by an overzealous U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior.

We’ve been told that coal plant retirements, falling coal demand, and lost mining jobs were all the result of market competition from cheap natural gas. While lower natural gas prices have played a role, the elephant in the room has been the regulations designed to close coal plants while make it more expensive to mine coal.

To understand just how dangerous the CPP would have been, simply look at the facts. By the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s own calculation, the regulation would have meant the unnecessary and premature closure of many of America’s remaining coal power plants. With reduced demand for coal, production would have fallen by 240 million tons per year. That level of production supports nearly 30,000 coal mining jobs and another 100,000 jobs in the supply chain.

Eastern coalfields would have been victimized, adding to the 68,000 jobs our industry has lost since the first major power plant regulation took effect in 2011.

Consumers across the country would have paid through the nose for this folly. Replacing so much lost coal generating capacity would have cost $64 billion. And because this low-cost power would have been replaced with more expensive alternatives, wholesale electricity prices would have soared.

Energy Ventures Analysis, a leading consulting firm, calculated that wholesale electricity prices would have experienced double digit percentage increases in more than 40 states. The average American household would have paid an additional $680 per year compared to electricity costs in 2012. These are staggering numbers. And for what?

Environmental activists were willing to sacrifice America’s coal industry, and the affordable power it provides, even as coal demand continues to rise overseas. China and India now consume as much coal as the rest of the world combined.

The Trump administration has thankfully restored commonsense to our energy policy. Instead of viewing the coal industry as a problem in need of fixing, the country can again embrace an all-American resource that provides one-third of our electricity and supports hundreds of thousands of good jobs. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook near misses, damage avoided. We would be wise not to make that mistake with the War on Coal. The Trump Administration may not restore coal to its glory days but at least it is not waging war on a hallowed American industry, the best coal miners in the world, and the communities where they live.

William Raney is the president of the West Virginia Coal Association.

See the article here. 

Trump Isn’t Saving the Coal Industry. He’s Letting it Compete.

Via The Hill:

President Trump this week signed the American Energy Independence Executive Order, an action being used by allies and critics alike to rally their bases, particularly when it comes to the re-examination of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

But while one side predicts environmental Armageddon, and the other cheers for an industry’s resurgence, there are significant truths that are being overlooked by each extreme.

In considering the president’s regulatory reset, context is key. The Trump administration follows a frenzied regulatory attack on the economy that is without precedent.

The Obama administration circumvented Congress and ignored voters’ demand for good jobs in order to practice what might be called public relations by regulation — a record number of cleverly-named regulations proclaiming “stream protection” and “clean power” that were designed to please activists and seduce the public but that rarely accomplished their stated purpose.

The Clean Power Plan is the perfect example. Widely touted as the pinnacle of former President Obama’s climate action plan, in fact the CPP offered negligible climate benefits.

Under the plan, global temperatures would have been reduced by just 0.018 degrees Celcius, with atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reduced by less than 1 percent and the rise in sea levels reduced by 0.3 millimeters by 2050.

In fact, as she departed late last year, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted the CPP’s importance was mostly symbolic. It was effective at burnishing the administration’s environmental legacy, but it added little to its real environmental accomplishments.

Unfortunately, what was all too real was the significant damage the CPP would have caused everyday Americans, through rising electricity costs, and the coal industry, through lost jobs. Under the CPP, the typical annual household electricity bills in 2020 would be more than one-third higher than they were in 2012, with 45 states facing double-digit increases in the cost of wholesale electricity.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the CPP would have taken another 25 percent of coal generation capacity off the grid, causing direct and indirect job losses totaling 127,000.

How could the EPA have justified such significant costs for negligible benefits? Looking at a court case from last year, it probably didn’t even consider them. Last year a federal court found that EPA was required under the Clean Air Act to study how its rules affect employment in the coal sector. The EPA responded that it would take two years just to review job impacts. Such a bother!

Another truth that is lost can be found among the media headlines that insist “Trump Can’t Save Coal.” No one has asked our president to save coal. Our industry has simply asked the government to get out of the business of picking winners and losers in the energy market.

With the American Energy Independence Executive Order, President Trump is doing just that. Now, for the first time in eight years, we can compete in the marketplace with natural gas and subsidized renewable fuels without simultaneously having to fight our own government.

The EPA can now re-examine a rule that stepped on states’ authority by putting an environmental agency in charge of transforming the nation’s energy grid. Working with stakeholders across the country, the EPA can better understand the impacts of its policies and develop a new path forward that cares for America’s people and environment at the same time — not one to the exclusion of the other.

Much to the dismay of headline writers everywhere, Trump’s executive order spells neither environmental doom nor industry salvation. It is a return to common-sense energy policy and a realistic appreciation of regulatory costs that has been lacking for almost a decade. That is something to celebrate.

See the article here. 

U.S. Can Have a Viable Coal Industry

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Yes, President Donald Trump throws a lot of punches via his ever-present Twitter account.

But he’s landed some good jabs lately against critics of America’s coal industry. And while some argue the president is raising expectations too high, no one really expects him to return coal to its glory days, at least not anytime soon.

Instead, the Trump administration is prudently aiming to make coal a viable industry again — which is a good thing for high-wage employment and for maintaining a diverse supply of affordable energy for households and businesses.

In just over two months in office, Trump, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have systematically dismantled the elaborate regulatory juggernaut that Team Obama used to beat coal down.

This isn’t about granting favors, it’s about fairness.

First, Congress and the president moved against a massive stream rule allowing the Office of Surface Mining to both muscle in on state mining oversight and duplicate EPA authority over water quality standards. Essentially, OSM created an expanded role for itself even as the number of U.S. mines has dwindled.

Significantly, this stream rule imposed hefty new costs even though U.S. mining operations are now virtually free of off-site impacts, according to OSM’s own annual evaluations from the states.

But the rule’s redundancy would have rendered more than half of the nation’s coal reserves uneconomical to mine, putting a third of America’s remaining coal jobs at risk. Trump was right to sign a resolution voiding the rule.

Second, with Administrator Pruitt in place, environmental activists no longer enjoy walk-in privileges to write the sort of climate change regulations that ignore costs while targeting coal jobs. The president has pledged to void the Clean Power Plan and review the Obama administration’s commitment to the U.N. Paris conference.

The CPP alone could have cost 126,000 jobs throughout the mining, power plant and railroad sectors, while raising wholesale electricity prices by $214 billion over the next 15 years. Taxpayers would also have been stuck with a $64 billion bill to replace transmission infrastructure lost due to the closure of more coal plants.

The president hasn’t stopped there, though. He’s also taken a hard look at the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS), which he described as “horrible, horrible.” It’s an apt summary of the EPA’s once voracious appetite for regulatory power over the economy and private property.

With WOTUS, the Obama EPA was able to reclassify a rainwater ditch as “navigable waters,” inviting a host of new restrictions on everything from farming to home building. Thankfully, the president understands that requiring EPA permits for prairie potholes does nothing to improve water quality.

The president has also helped the coal industry get back on its feet by lifting the moratorium on new federal coal leases ordered by former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Even though the annual coal output of the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming is only 4.7 percent of global production, the Obama administration wanted to sacrifice it to please climate activists who claimed the federal coal program isn’t profitable enough. That strains credulity, though, since the government earns almost 40 cents of every dollar generated from federal coal lease sales.

Zinke has suggested he would review the federal leasing program. But in the interim, the administration lifted the current ban on new federal leases and thus removed the dark cloud hanging over a mining region that produces 40 percent of the nation’s coal.

Overall, it’s unclear what the Trump administration plans to do about the EPA’s presumed authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

But the new EPA management likely has a more restrained view of its power under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 emissions. And that could affect U.S. participation in the Paris climate accord.

Regardless, what’s welcome is the possibility that Washington is now less likely to destroy an industry that still generates a third of the nation’s power.

And more likely to balance the costs we all pay with the benefits we all want.

Luke Popovich is vice president for external affairs at the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

Colorado Coal Communities Saved from Costly Power Plan

Via The Craig Daily Press:

Many Americans have already forgotten about the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Obama administration’s signature effort to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants — but not the nation’s coal communities. They’ve lived with this regulation as an ever-present threat even after its implementation was stayed by a federal court.

Colorado’s coal communities saw the CPP for exactly what it was: a thinly-veiled assault on their livelihood — and one that would cripple an already reeling industry while providing little environmental benefit.

Fortunately, the Trump administration has done just what it promised. By executive order, President Trump has axed the CPP along with another vestige of the Obama administration’s anti-coal policy, the moratorium on all new leases of federal coal reserves.

Just a few months ago, those waging the “War on Coal” felt like they were on the precipice of victory. Now, they are in full retreat. The industry can finally compete again without having both of its arms tied behind its back by an overzealous Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of the Interior.

We’ve been told that coal plant retirements, falling coal demand, and lost mining jobs were all the result of market competition from cheap natural gas. While lower natural gas prices have played a role, the elephant in the room has been the regulations designed to close coal plants while make it more expensive to mine coal.

To understand just how dangerous the CPP and coal leasing moratorium were, simply look at the numbers. The moratorium on the leasing of federally controlled coal was designed to keep America’s largest source of coal firmly in the ground. Roughly 41 percent of U.S. coal production comes from public lands, providing a major source of electricity generation nationwide. An indefinite moratorium on this resource would have proved crippling, potentially jeopardizing many of the 14,000 miners whose livelihoods depend on federal coal.

The CPP’s impact would have been worse. By the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s own calculation, the regulation would have meant the unnecessary and premature closure of many of our remaining coal power plants. With reduced demand for coal, production would have fallen by roughly 240 million tons per year, impacting nearly 30,000 coal mining jobs along with another 100,000 jobs in the supply chain.

Consumers across the country would have paid for this folly, too. Replacing so much generating capacity would have cost $64 billion. And because this low-cost power would have been replaced with more expensive alternatives, wholesale electricity prices would have soared. Energy Ventures Analysis, a leading consulting firm, calculated that electricity prices would have experienced double-digit percentage increases in more than 40 states. The average American household would have paid an additional $680 per year in electricity costs compared to 2012. These are staggering numbers. And for what?

Environmental activists were willing to sacrifice America’s coal industry, and the affordable power it provides, even as coal demand continues to rise overseas. China now consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined.

The Trump administration has thankfully restored some common sense to our energy policy. Instead of viewing the coal industry as a problem in need of fixing, the country can again embrace an all-American resource that provides one-third of our electricity and supports hundreds of thousands of good jobs.

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook near misses, damage nearly avoided. But we would be wise not to make that mistake with the War on Coal. The president may not have ended it, but at least it will no longer be waged by our government.

See the article here.

Jarrett: Overturning Clean Power Plan Means Breathing Room For Struggling U.S. Economy

Via The Roanoke Times:

It made for colorful news this week — President Trump announcing a halt to the Obama Administration’s massive “Clean Power Plan” (CPP). Pundits immediately leapt to criticize the president, saying that canceling the CPP would mean more costs and more “pollution” for America’s consumers.

Such fear-mongering is simply incorrect, though, and demonstrates that critics fundamentally misunderstand the science and logistics involved. The “pollutant” being regulated under the CPP is carbon dioxide (CO2), the inert gas that all humans and animals expel every day. And while the climate debate is still raging over CO2’s potential contribution to a warmer climate, it’s simply wrong to argue that it is pollution. Thankfully, however, canceling the plan will save money — billions and billions of dollars that would have been earmarked for a vast overhaul of the nation’s power sector.

The CPP’s proposed switchover to an entirely new power grid would have cost $51 billion in annual GDP, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with the loss of 224,000 jobs each year. Among other things, the CPP would have prematurely forced 25 percent of America’s low-cost, reliable coal generation capacity off the electric grid, enough to power 24 million homes.

Under the CPP, the wholesale price of electricity for a typical household in 2020 would have been more than a third higher than in 2012 (for an average annual increase of $680), with 45 states facing double-digit increases in the wholesale cost of their electricity. All in all, according to Energy Ventures Analysis, Americans would have faced $214 billion in higher energy costs by 2030. And they would have had to come up with $64 billion to construct the new power lines and power plants needed to produce all of this power.

To President Obama, these costs were worthwhile, since they would have meant the rapid phase-out of coal — even though it currently generates 32 percent of the nation’s power supply. All in the quest to pursue higher priced and less reliable wind and solar power…

What would the public have gained for such huge sacrifices? A fully implemented CPP would have yielded only a theoretical 0.018 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100. And it would have reduced industrial CO2 emissions by less than 1 percent. These are very insignificant achievements for such a staggering price tag. And so, when one considers the real-world costs, it becomes more and more apparent that President Trump just helped the nation to dodge a major bullet.

Unfortunately, misinformation plagues every aspect of this heated debate. Not only is carbon dioxide not a “pollutant,” but wind and solar power have yet to prove as reliable as coal in terms of scalability for electricity generation. That’s because wind and solar are intermittent — the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow — and they still require back-up generation from coal and gas plants.

All of this helps to explain why 27 states sued the EPA to halt such a costly transformation of their energy grid. In fact, many of these states continue to depend on coal-fired power. It’s not just reliability and affordability at issue, however. America’s utility companies have spent many billions of dollars over the past decade to equip their power plants with advanced emissions-scrubbing technologies that make new coal plants 90 percent cleaner than ones they replaced 30 years ago — a worthwhile trade-off for the low-cost electricity they provide.

If America were luxuriating in budget surpluses and awash in high-wage jobs, there might be reasons to risk experimenting with our electricity grid. But in the current economic environment, it’s sensible for the president to maintain the energy diversity that coal provides by rejecting the CPP as an expensive gamble — and one with little practical or environmental benefit.

See the article here.

Navajos Celebrate End of Obama’s Job-Killing Energy Policies

Via Brietbart:

Former President Barack Obama’s efforts to shut down the coal industry in the United States have threatened the well-being of generations of coal plant and mine workers, including those of the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine on Navajo land in Arizona has directly and indirectly provided 3,100 jobs and $180 million in annual income to workers and their families.

The lease agreements, royalties, and other payments are tied to the plant and mine account for approximately 20 percent of Navajo Nation annual general fund revenue, with the money used to fund schools, emergency services, infrastructure, and public parks.

And now, because regulations have driven up the cost of coal, the plant owners who lease the land have announced it will close in 2019, adding even more strain to a community that suffers from a 42 percent unemployment rate and 43 percent of its people living below the federal poverty line.

Now, the Navajo Nation hopes that President Donald Trump and the Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will help resolve this crisis by working to keep the plant open for 10 years so that alternative income streams can be developed ahead of its closure.

“The president made a pledge to the coal industry to do whatever he can to help those workers,” a senior white house official told reporters on Monday ahead of Trump’s executive order on Tuesday to roll back much of the “climate change” policies put in place by Obama.

Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, is counting on the Trump administration’s resolve. Begaye told Breitbart News:

For decades, clean coal power has been a critical economic engine for the Navajo Nation by creating thousands of jobs and substantial revenue for our people. The expedited closure of the Navajo Generating Station, the largest clean coal fired coal plant in the western United States, would create an economic disaster that would devastate Navajo families and our entire economy.

President Trump ran on a pledge to ‘bring back coal’ and we believe that he will keep his word and stand up for coal workers on the Navajo Nation and across the United States.

We are also optimistic about working with the Trump Administration to help our people given the President’s unwavering support for coal jobs and mine workers.

Begaye traveled to Washington earlier this month to meet with federal officials and lawmakers, and he wrote in a recent oped in The Hill that he is “optimistic” about the future. He wrote:

We are … optimistic about working with the Trump Administration on this issue given the president’s unwavering support for coal jobs and mine workers. President Trump ran on a pledge to ‘bring back coal’ and provide economic opportunities for workers who have been left behind by coal’s declining fortunes.

President Trump has an excellent opportunity to deliver on this promise by using the bully pulpit to help our people keep this plant open long enough to find new, high paying jobs.

According to the federal Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2016 (AEO), “Coal prices will generally increase through the year 2040. The amount that coal prices increase depends on projections for coal demand and coal mining productivity. The implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan is a major factor in the projections for coal demand in the AEO.”

See the article here.

Trump’s Energy Progress

Via The Wall Street Journal:

One area where President Trump is notching early victories is unleashing American energy, which for years has been held hostage to progressive climate obsessions. On Tuesday Mr. Trump signed an executive order to rescind many of the Obama Administration’s energy directives, and he deserves credit for ending punitive policies that harmed the economy for no improvement in global CO 2 emissions or temperatures.

The order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan, which the Supreme Court stayed last year in an extraordinary rebuke. The plan essentially forces states to retire coal plants early, and the tab could top $1 trillion in lost output and 125,000 jobs, according to the American Action Forum. Also expected are double-digit increases in the price of electricity—and a less reliable power grid. All for nothing: A year of U.S. reductions in 2025 would be offset by Chinese emissions in three weeks, says Rice University’s Charles McConnell.

The rule also fulfills a campaign promise to end Barack Obama’s war on coal. It’s true that market forces are reducing coal’s share of U.S. electric power—to some 30% from about 50% a decade ago—thanks mainly to fracking for natural gas. Yet Mr. Obama still deployed brute government force to bankrupt the coal industry. Mr. Trump is right to end that punishment and let the market, not federal dictates, sort out the right energy mix for the future.

The story is similar on a methane rule that the executive order will begin to roll back. Total U.S. methane emissions have dropped 15% since 1990, as Bernard Weinstein of Southern Methodist University told the House last fall, even though domestic oil-and-gas production has doubled over the past decade. One reason is that energy companies have a financial incentive to capture the stuff and sell it. Still, EPA promulgated expensive new emissions targets, equipment rules and more.

The order also dumps the “social cost of carbon,” which is a tool the Obama Administration employed to junk mandatory cost-benefit analyses for regulations. For example: An EPA power plant rule predicted net benefits from $26 billion to $46 billion, but as much as 65% of that derived from guesswork about the positives of reducing carbon, as Bracewell & Giuliani’s Scott Segal explained to Congress at a 2015 hearing. The Obama Administration rolled out these new calculations with no public comment, and the models surely wouldn’t survive a rigorous peer review.

Our contributor Paul Tice makes an intriguing case nearby that the Trump Administration should go further to bring regulatory certainty for energy investment. He argues that the EPA should revisit its 2009 “endangerment finding,” which blacklisted carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

The Trump Administration could update this finding, as recent literature has revealed a pause in rising global temperatures that can’t be explained by carbon reductions. Meantime, progressives will continue to flog the endangerment finding in court as long as it exists, and then use it as a pretext for more regulation when a Democrat returns to the White House.

Another question is whether President Trump will withdraw from the Paris climate deal, which would—in theory—force annual U.S. emissions reductions of 26% over 2005 levels by 2025. That decision is “still under discussion,” according to a White House official who briefed reporters Monday night.

Yet the Clean Power Plan would only fulfill a fraction of the U.S. Paris commitments at an exorbitant cost. Not even Mr. Obama’s entire regulatory agenda would have reached the targets. Already other countries with no intention of reducing their emissions are demanding U.S. compliance and threatening tariffs, so a prompt exit may minimize the damage.

Environmental groups are accusing Mr. Trump of “reversing climate progress,” even as they call the order “symbolic” because the regulatory damage to the coal industry—from rules on mercury, ozone, dust—is mostly irreversible. In any event, Scott Pruitt’s EPA can expect lawsuits that may take years to untangle.

The Trump order is a promise in the bank for the voters who elected the President because he promised to focus on jobs and revving up the economy. It’s also a welcome return to regulatory modesty: One of the more outrageous aspects of the Obama anti-carbon agenda is that agencies rammed through what Congress refused to pass in legislation.

As for climate change, President Trump’s order will have the same practical effect on rising temperatures as the Clean Power Plan: none.

See the article here.

Clean Power Plan’s Cancellation Means Trump is Saving Jobs

Via The Washington Examiner:

The nation’s media went predictably ballistic Tuesday when President Trump formally canceled President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan.” News programs rolled out various talking heads to announce a climate armageddon—now that the president has halted the EPA’s quest to clamp down on carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants.

Completely missing from the prevailing analysis, however, was any sense of the huge economic weight being lifted off the backs of working families. It wasn’t just any burden; it was a $64 billion IOU for the construction of new power plants and transmission lines needed to meet the Obama administration’s vision of a “renewable” future.

But the costs wouldn’t have stopped there, either. The CPP would also have forced Americans to pay $214 billion in higher energy costs by 2030, according to a study by Energy Ventures Analysis. Household electricity bills in 2020 would have risen by more than a third higher than 2012 levels—for an average annual increase of $680. And 45 states would have faced double-digit increases in the cost of electricity.

Trump’s critics don’t mention this huge economic cost when carping about the cancellation of the Clean Power Plan. Nor do they cite the punishing impact it would have had on coal communities. Based on the government’s own estimates of the coal power plants that would be closed by the CPP, the potential job losses throughout the supply chain (from the mines and power plants to the railroads and ports) could have exceeded 127,000.

Critics are also silent on what environmental benefits the country would have bought for such a steep cost. Ironically, the CPP was only projected to yield a theoretical 0.018 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100, along with a less than 1 percent reduction in industrial CO2 emissions. For all the vast expense, the plan was never going to make any real-world difference in global climate anyway.

Whatever the true threat from climate change may be, it’s clear that the plan’s overall impact on global warming would be scarcely perceptible, even as it radically transformed America’s power grid—and at an exorbitant cost.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has estimated that the CPP’s proposed switchover to an entirely new power grid would have cost $51 billion in annual GDP, along with 224,000 lost jobs each year. Overall, the CPP would have meant a rapid phase-out of coal, even though coal currently generates 32 percent of the nation’s power supply. Much of the nation depends on exactly this sort of low-cost electricity production, however. And utility companies have invested many billions of dollars over the past decade to adopt advanced emission-scrubbing technologies, making new coal plants 90 percent cleaner than those built 30 years ago.

There are valid reasons to keep coal in the national mix. Nuclear power is important for keeping our lights on, but it’s not growing. Renewable fuels are growing rapidly, but wind and solar power have yet to prove as reliable as coal in terms of scalability for electricity generation. These sources are intermittent — the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow — and they will still require backup generation from coal and gas plants for many years to come.

Overall, Trump was right to cancel the Clean Power Plan. As the recent election demonstrated, voters are understandably worried about the plight of Main Street America. Canceling the CPP was simply a prudent move for a beleaguered electorate and a bold move to restore good jobs that Americans want.

See the article here.

President Trump Ends ‘War on Coal’

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

President Trump failed in his attempt to fulfill a campaign promise to replace ObamaCare, but he has made good on his pledge to get the EPA’s foot off the throat of the coal industry.  Tuesday the President signed an executive order undoing former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

“My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” he said, making sure to repeatedly give credit to Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who was in the room for the signing.  Credit also goes to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and his team who have led the legal challenge against the EPA’s unilateral attack on fossil fuels.

Coal detractors attacked Trump’s actions with the now-familiar “flat earth” harangue.  “The President fails to realize that climate change is not just a vague, distant concept,” said Florida Democratic Representative Ted Deutch. “I hope the President invested in flood insurance, because when Mar-a-Lago is underwater, he will have himself to blame.”

Rational minds will not question that the climate is changing and that human activity impacts the climate, but there remains reasonable debate, as well as ongoing research, as to the extent of that impact.  Additionally, by the EPA’s own admission, the Clean Power Plan’s limits on carbon emissions would reduce global temperatures by less than 0.01 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

Meanwhile, the less dramatic but critical issue associated with the CPP is the fundamental legal question of whether the EPA has the authority to remake the country’s energy policy and practices. The U.S. Supreme Court clearly has questions, since the high court last year granted a stay in the implementation of the CPP until the legal challenges are settled.

The court’s consideration is likely moot now with the President’s action, but it’s worth reviewing Attorney General Morrisey’s argument for the stay to understand the potential consequences of the CPP.  “And parties on all sides agree that the Plan is currently forcing businesses to shutter (power) plants and make other decisions with long-term and fundamental impacts on energy markets, further compounding the injury to the States as market regulators and energy consumers.”

As Morrisey and others have argued, the rarely used provision of the Clean Air Act that calls for the “best system of emission reduction” was never intended as carte blanche for the EPA’s attempt to exercise authority over all of the states and their power production.

The overreach was clear from the very beginning, but EPA and environmentalists hoped the agency’s power grab would put coal in a death spiral before the courts caught up or there was a change in administrations.

Trump’s action does not mean coal will come roaring back.  Hydraulic fracturing is making massive supplies of cheap natural gas available, while alternative fuels are becoming more commercial viable and, in some cases, preferable to energy consumers.

But at least coal, which remains vital to West Virginia’s economy, can rise or fall based on market conditions rather than the zealotry of unelected bureaucrats.

See the article here.

NMA Applauds Executive Order Targeting the Costly Power Plan and the Coal Moratorium

The National Mining Association (NMA) today applauded President Trump’s executive order on the costly Clean Power Plan (CPP) and the Department of the Interior moratorium on federal coal leasing.

The order begins the process to unwind the CPP, the Obama administration’s signature climate change regulation that was stayed by the Supreme Court one year ago. Lifting the federal coal moratorium would remove the cloud over future investments in a coal region responsible for 40 percent of the U.S. coal supply.

“The clean power plan and the moratorium served the interests of political activists, not the American people,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “The president’s actions today help to restore common sense priorities and the important balance between costs and benefits that have been missing from federal regulatory policies.”

Quinn called the CPP “an unlawful attempt to radically transform the nation’s power grid, destroying valuable energy assets and leaving our economy more vulnerable to rising power prices—all for no discernible environmental benefit.”

EIA recently found that unplugging the CPP would preserve 240 million tons of annual coal production (EIA AEO 2017), saving 27,700 high-wage mining jobs and an additional 99,849 jobs throughout the supply chain, according to NMA estimates.

“The moratorium on federal coal leasing was entirely without merit and rested on politically contrived reasoning,” Quinn added. The moratorium was never about a fair return to the taxpayer, and all about capitulating to the demands of the “keep-it-in-the-ground’ movement. By every metric, the federal coal leasing program is highly profitable to taxpayers with annual leasing revenues in 2015 double the amount received 12 years ago.

BACKGROUND ON OBAMA ERA RULES

Clean Power Plan

The CPP is an Obama Administration policy regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. If implemented, the rule would transform the mix of electricity generation in nearly every state in the nation.  In addition to the National Mining Association, 26 states, the utility industry, electric cooperatives; labor groups and industry associations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers challenged the rule.

Due to the extraordinary nature of the case and the threat of immediate economic harm posed by the rule, the Supreme Court issued a stay on Feb. 9, 2016, suspending any obligation by the states to implement the rule before litigation is completed. The Supreme Court has never issued a stay of a government regulation before a lower court has heard the merits of the case.

All Pain and No Gain

The CPP would be extremely costly while providing no significant environmental benefits. The Energy Information Administration recently forecast the CPP would force 53,000 Megawatts of coal generating capacity into retirement (EIA AEO May 2017) sending coal production down by 28 percent.

The CPP would harm the wider economy, including households and businesses. After implementation, the typical annual household electricity bills in 2020 would be more than a third higher than they were in 2012, or an estimated $680 per family. More than 40 states would face double-digit increases in the cost of wholesale electricity, with the CPP increasing wholesale electricity prices by $214 billion. The construction of replacement generating capacity would cost an additional $64 billion. To view state-by-state impacts of the CPP, visit: http://www.countoncoal.org/costly-power-plan/.

The Federal Coal Leasing Moratorium

The Obama leasing moratorium represented an abrupt about face from the Department of Interior’s earlier rejection of the unfounded claims advanced by special interests that sought to deny the public the twin benefits of a source of low-cost electricity and revenues derived from coal mining. A report prepared by Norwest Corporation revealed that the Secretary of the Interior uncritically accepted incomplete and manipulated data from several advocacy organizations to suggest that federal coal producers pay below market royalties and fees.  In fact, the report shows that federal coal producers are paying above-market royalty rates as well as bonus bids and other fees that are rarely, if ever, charged on private coal leases.

See the press release here.

Tremendous: Trump To Sign Executive Order Targeting Most Of Obama’s Climate Change Agenda

Via Townhall:

It’s refreshing to have a new sheriff in town. Today, President Donald J. Trump is expected to sign a sweeping executive order that rolls back much of President Obama’s job-killing climate change regulations, including the Clean Power Plan (via Time):

President Donald Trump will sign a sweeping executive order Tuesday intended to shift the direction of U.S. environmental policy and begin the process of undoing some of the most prominent Obama-era environmental regulations, according to a senior White House official.The executive order, billed as a measure to promote “energy independence” and create jobs, will target a slew of environmental measures aimed at combating climate change including the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama’s global warming efforts. Some directives take effect immediately, like the end to a moratorium on new leases for coal mining on federal land, while others, like the review of the Clean Power Plan, require a rule making process that could take years to complete.

[…]

The executive order also ends a moratorium launched under Obama on new leases of federal land for coal mining, scraps a measure of the economic impact of climate change used to justify regulation known as the “social cost of carbon” and changes how climate change is considered in federal policy-making.

The Clean Power Plan was an ambitious effort by the Obama administration to cut carbon emissions by nearly 30 percent from 2005 level by 2025. Both Democratic and Republican attorneys general opposed it, over half the states opposed it, and it targeted those living in rural America. Pretty much any state that voted for Romney in 2012 was going to get screwed over by this regulatory overhaul. In coal-producing states, like West Virginia, energy costs were projected to increase 20 percent.

The Supreme Court stayed one of the main provisions, the power plant regulation, last year. Such increases in energy costs also put fixed-income seniors in the crosshairs. The ozone regulations between 2008-2013 cost a projected $56.6 billion in lost wages, along with 242,000 jobs. If Obama had succeeded in the war on coal, 125,800 jobs would’ve been lost in total, along with $650 billion in GDP. Moreover, millions of jobs from the black and Hispanic communities could have been on the chopping block.

While coal mining jobs will never return to their full strength, Trump aims to stop the bleeding. Yet, for some coal miners, Trump’s presidency has allowed them to get back to work in the mines.

See the article here.

Pruitt: Trump to Sign Order on Power Plant Regulations Tuesday

Via CNN Politics:

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Sunday that President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order Tuesday that will begin to undo the “Clean Power Plan,” a major initiative of the Obama administration to deal with climate change by reducing carbon pollution from power plants.

Pruitt, who previously challenged the plan as Oklahoma’s attorney general, said the executive order will put in place pro-growth and pro-environment approaches to regulation.
“We’ve made tremendous progress on our environment, and we can be both pro-jobs and pro-environment,” Pruitt told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” “And the executive order’s going to address the past administration’s effort to kill jobs across this country through the Clean Power Plan.”
The EPA plan is meant to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired and natural gas power plants, with a goal of reduce greenhouse emissions up to 32% by 2030. It would require states to meet specific carbon emission reduction standards based on their individual energy consumption, and it includes an incentive program for states to get ahead start on meeting standards on early deployment of renewable energy.

The plan is also considered important to helping the United States meet the goals set out in a climate treaty signed in Paris in 2015. While the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the plan from going into effect to allow legal challenges to move forward, the new executive order could send a negative signal to other countries in the Paris accord about the United States’ commitment to the deal.

Pruitt, however, argues the order is not bound to the international agreement.
“The Clean Power Plan is not tethered to … the Paris Accords,” he told Stephanopoulos. “And so this is an effort to undo the unlawful approach the previous administration engaged in, and to do it right going forward with the mindset of being pro-growth and pro-environment. And we can achieve both.”

When pressed on whether the new executive order would face court challenges, Pruitt said he isn’t worried about potential legal ramifications.

“This Clean Power Plan is something that the Supreme Court, as you know, has said is likely unlawful,” he said. “And so there’s been a stay against this Clean Power Plan. So our actions, starting on Tuesday, shortly after the executive order, will make sure that whatever steps we take in the future will be pro-growth, pro-environment, but within the framework of the Clean Air Act, and it will be legal.”

The plan is being challenged in the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Supporters of the regulations argue in briefs that they will “secure critically important reductions” in carbon dioxide emissions from what are by far “the largest emitters in the United States — fossil-fuel-fired power plants.”

But challengers say the rule exceeds the EPA’s statutory authority and goes beyond the bounds set by the Constitution.
See the article here.

NMA Applauds President, Congress for Overturning BLM’S Muddled Planning 2.0 Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Mining Association (NMA) applauded the President for signing the congressional joint resolution of disapproval that overturns the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Planning 2.0 Rule.

The final rule, published on Dec. 12, 2016, was subject to a successful resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, culminating in a Senate vote to disapprove on March 7.

“As companies that mine important mineral and energy resources on federal lands, our industry needs clarity around the procedures for land use plans but, Planning 2.0 instead delivered added confusion and ambiguity,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “Rather than streamline the land use planning process, as was the original stated intent of the rule, Planning 2.0 achieved the opposite, placing obstacles in the path of responsible mining and other necessary activities that depend on federal land while at the same time marginalizing the participation of states and local stakeholders.”

In comments on the proposed rule, NMA cited numerous concerns with the rule, including the uncertainty created by the potentially unreliable landscape-scale planning boundaries; ambiguity in planning decision authority; and the de facto ranking of land use priorities despite the BLM’s multiple use management mandate under the Federal Land Planning and Management Act.

NMA was joined by a large coalition of more than 90 stakeholder groups united in opposition to the rule. In addition to NMA, these organizations included the National Association of Counties, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Public Lands Council.

See the press release here.

Hope For the Future

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

It is something we are seeing just about every day now. Trains are hauling more coal through Bluefield. It is a comforting sight for those who are hoping to see a long-awaited resurgence of the coal industry.

The reason more coal is being shipped through Bluefield is due to an uptick in the export of metallurgical coal to Europe. The cost and demand for metallurgical coal, which is used in the steel-making process, increased temporarily recently.

“There has been an increase going to the piers (in Norfolk),” Rick Taylor, president of the Pocahontas Coal Association, said last week, explaining that European countries were stocking up some after China cut back on production. “It’s not a huge amount, but there has been an increase.”

 Taylor said China started importing from Australia, which then cut back on its exports to Europe, causing the spike in the demand for U.S. coal. And while the demand for coal exports continues to fluctuate, industry officials remain hopeful.

One reason for that optimism is President Donald Trump’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan.  If all of the contractors who are hired to complete the infrastructure upgrades are asked to use steel made in the United States, domestic metallurgical coal would then be used to make that steel — putting more coal miners back to work.

We’ve also heard reports of more coal miners being called back to work. But official data to back up such reports is not currently available. Taylor says that those statistics are kept, but have not been released.

Gordon Lambert, president of the McDowell County Commission, also believes some coal mining jobs are coming back. He points to a report of some coal mines possibly reopening near the Maybeury community, adding that it’s a combination of the increase in the price of metallurgical coal and the optimism associated with the current political climate.

Any new coal mining jobs that are created will help. And the more miners who go back to work, the stronger our local economy will become. Still, the region can’t place all of its economic development eggs in the coal mining basket. Yes, the coal industry has a pulse, and is showing renewed signs of life. And that’s great.

We, too, are hoping to see a stronger industry resurgence next year if domestic metallurgical coal is, in fact, used as part of Trump’s infrastructure plan.

But it is also critical that we proceed with and prioritize a continued diversification of our regional economy.

This includes a focus on new manufacturing, high-tech, tourism and related industry jobs. And, with hope, new coal mining jobs can be added to that mix as well.

See the article here.

Washington Braces for Trump Climate Order

Via The Hill:

Washington is bracing for President Trump’s executive order on climate change, which could be released any day.

The order is expected to disassemble former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and end the moratorium on federal-land coal mining, steps that would make it all but impossible for the United States to reach its commitments to reduce carbon emissions under the 2015 international climate agreement reached in Paris.

The orders are expected to represent a wholesale overhaul of how the federal government deals with climate change and a major repudiation of Obama’s aggressive second-term global warming agenda.

Trump is said to be considering a broader order than originally thought. Sources said it could include other provisions aimed at climate regulations in general, oil and gas drilling rules and reducing the United States’ commitment in the Paris climate accord.

“What we’ve heard has been extremely troubling,” said Tomás Carbonell, the director of regulatory policy and lead attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund.

The energy sector and Republicans in Congress, however, think just the opposite.

They’re pressing Trump to go big, but to make sure his actions can withstand legal challenges.

“We’re very hopeful the president can deliver on his campaign promise to lift the regulatory weight his predecessor placed on our industry,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

The order’s rollout has been repeatedly delayed, in part because the White House has been trying to decide what to include in it.

“There’s some discussion about how much to throw into it, how comprehensive it’ll be,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a Trump ally who served as an adviser on energy during the presidential campaign.

While energy was not a primary focus of Trump’s populist campaign for president, he made bold promises to roll back Obama’s climate agenda and reduce regulations, with the goal of increasing jobs.

Trump has already taken significant actions to undo Obama’s policies.

Trump’s budget proposed cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, and he signed executive orders taking on the Clean Water Rule and car emissions standards.

He’s taken steps to move forward with the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, both of which are targets for climate activists.

Congress has been helping too. The House and Senate have passed legislation to repeal an Obama regulation protecting streams from coal mining, and the Senate could vote soon to repeal a rule meant to prevent the release of natural gas on federal land.

The work, and the promise of Trump’s order, have encouraged the energy sector.

“Fundamentally, we are talking about unwinding eight years of multi-agency policies and regulations in two months,” said Stephen Brown, vice president for federal government affairs at fuel refiner Tesoro Corp.

Environmentalists are gearing up to fight Trump in the rulemaking process.

Trump’s actions won’t immediately invalidate Obama’s climate rules, but they will direct federal agencies to rewrite them.

That gives his opponents the chance to influence the process, or at least lay the foundation for legal challenges.

“You have to go through rulemaking. You take the same steps to tear it down as you take it build it up,” said David Doniger, the head of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate and clean air program.

Lawsuits against Trump’s move are unlikely on day one. But Doniger said groups like his are working to put together what they’ll need for litigation after the Clean Power Plan is formally nixed.

Greens contend that aggressive climate regulations like Obama’s are required by the law and that Trump will be overplaying his hand if he tries to wipe it out completely.

“Certainly the administration and [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt seem to be moving to roll back these protections,” Carbonell said. “We’ll certainly be looking closely to make sure that there’s not a thumb put on the scale in [the rulemaking] process.”

Environmentalists and Democrats hope to rally the public to their cause.

Climate change is rarely considered a top issue for American voters. But climate action advocates have often framed arguments about its importance in messages Americans can better digest, such as its impact on public health.

With Washington buried by a debate over healthcare reform, the economy and the confirmation process for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, environmentalists say the climate order will give them a bigger platform from which to make their case.

“These kinds of issues are not profile issues when you compare it to health care, immigration and others,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

He said the climate order will give his party a bigger platform from which to make its case.

“Democrats have to raise the profile of this issue and fight as hard as we’re fighting back on a lot of other issues,” he said.

See the article here.

Trump Lays Plans to Reverse Obama’s Climate Change Legacy

Via The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump is poised in the coming days to announce his plans to dismantle the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, while also gutting several smaller but significant policies aimed at curbing global warming.

The moves are intended to send an unmistakable signal to the nation and the world that Mr. Trump intends to follow through on his campaign vows to rip apart every element of what the president has called Mr. Obama’s “stupid” policies to address climate change. The timing and exact form of the announcement remain unsettled, however.

The executive actions will follow the White House’s release last week of a proposed budget that would eliminate climate change research and prevention programs across the federal government and slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent, more than any other agency. Mr. Trump also announced last week that he had ordered Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, to revise the agency’s stringent standards on planet-warming tailpipe pollution from vehicles, another of Mr. Obama’s key climate change policies.

While the White House is not expected to explicitly say the United States is withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, and people familiar with the White House deliberations say Mr. Trump has not decided whether to do so, the policy reversals would make it virtually impossible to meet the emissions reduction goals set by the Obama administration under the international agreement.

In an announcement that could come as soon as Thursday or as late as next month, according to people familiar with the White House’s planning, Mr. Trump will order Mr. Pruitt to withdraw and rewrite a set of Obama-era regulations known as the Clean Power Plan, according to a draft document obtained by The New York Times. The Obama rule was devised to shut down hundreds of heavily polluting coal-fired power plants and freeze construction of new coal plants, while replacing them with vast wind and solar farms.

The draft also lays out options for legally blocking or weakening about a half-dozen additional Obama-era executive orders and policies on climate change.

At a campaign-style rally on Monday in the coal-mining state of Kentucky, Mr. Trump told a cheering audience that he is preparing an executive action that would “save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work.”

Experts in environmental law say it will not be possible for Mr. Trump to quickly or simply roll back the most substantive elements of Mr. Obama’s climate change regulations, noting that the process presents a steep legal challenge that could take many years and is likely to end up before the Supreme Court. Economists are skeptical that a rollback of the rules would restore lost coal jobs because the demand for coal has been steadily shrinking for years.

Scientists and climate policy advocates around the world say they are watching the administration’s global warming actions and statements with deep worry. Many reacted with deep concern to Mr. Pruitt’s remarks this month that he did not believe carbon dioxide was a primary driver of climate change, a statement at odds with the global scientific consensus. They also noted the remarks last week by Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, in justifying Mr. Trump’s proposed cuts to climate change research programs.

“As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mr. Mulvaney said at a White House briefing.

“The message they are sending to the rest of the world is that they don’t believe climate change is serious. It’s shocking to see such a degree of ignorance from the United States,” said Mario J. Molina, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist from Mexico who advises nations on climate change policy.

The policy reversals also signal that Mr. Trump has no intention of following through on Mr. Obama’s formal pledges under the Paris accord, under which nearly every country in the world submitted plans detailing actions to limit global warming over the coming decade.

Under the accord as it stands, the United States has pledged to reduce its greenhouse pollution about 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. That can be achieved only if the United States not only implements the Clean Power Plan and tailpipe-pollution rules, but also tightens them or adds more policies in future years.

“The message clearly is, ‘We won’t do what the United States has promised to do,’” Mr. Molina said.

In addition to directing Mr. Pruitt to withdraw the Clean Power Plan, the draft order instructs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request that a federal court halt consideration of a 28-state lawsuit against the regulation. The case was argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in September, and the court is expected to release a decision in the coming months on whether to uphold or strike down the rule.

Interactive Feature: Trump Has Choices to Make on Climate Policy. What Would You Do?
According to the draft, Mr. Trump is also expected to announce that he will lift a moratorium on new coal mining leases on public lands that had been announced last year by the Obama administration.

He is also expected to order White House economists to revisit an Obama-era budgeting metric known as the social cost of carbon. Economists and policy makers used the metric to place a dollar cost on the economic impact of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution: about $36 per ton. That measure formed the Obama administration’s economic justification for issuing climate change regulations that would harm some industries, such as coal mining, noting that those costs would be outweighed by the economic benefits of preventing billions of tons of planet-warming pollution.

Eliminating or lowering the social cost of carbon could provide the Trump administration the economic justification for putting forth less-stringent regulations.

The draft order would also rescind an executive order by Mr. Obama that all federal agencies take climate change into account when considering any form of environmental permitting.

Unlike the rollback of the power plant and vehicle regulations, which could take years and will be subject to legal challenges, Mr. Trump can make the changes to the coal mining ban and undo Mr. Obama’s executive orders with the stroke of a pen.

White House staff members and energy lobbyists who work closely with them say they have been expecting Mr. Trump to make the climate change announcements for weeks, ever since Mr. Pruitt was confirmed to head the E.P.A. on Feb. 17, but the announcement has been repeatedly rescheduled. The delays of the one-page announcement have largely been a result of disorganization and a chaotic policy and planning process, said people familiar with that process who asked to speak anonymously to avoid angering Mr. Trump.

One reason for the confusion, these people said, is internal disputes about the challenging legal process required to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. While Mr. Trump may announce with great fanfare his intent to roll back the regulations, the legal steps required to fulfill that announcement are lengthy and the outcome uncertain.

Much of that task will now fall to Mr. Pruitt.

“To undo the rule, the E.P.A. will now have to follow the same procedure that was followed to put the regulations in place,” said Mr. Lazarus, pointing to a multiyear process of proposing draft rules, gathering public comment and forming a legal defense against an expected barrage of lawsuits almost certain to end up before the Supreme Court.

See the article here.

Trump’s ‘Energy Independence’ Order Expected to be Pushed Back Another Week

Via The Washington Examiner:

President Trump has been threatening for weeks to issue an executive order to rein in the Obama administration’s climate change agenda, but it appears another week may be in order before Trump gets out his signing pen.

Administration sources said the order likely will be held back for another week, according to Politico. A White House official would not confirm or deny reports of the delay to the Washington Examiner, saying only that guidance on the order’s release will be passed along “as soon as it’s available.”

Another spokesperson said, “We do not have any announcements at this time.”

The order is expected to end a de facto ban on building new coal power plants in the country, a moratorium on coal mining and the end of far-reaching climate regulations on states.

According to a draft copy of the “Energy Independence” executive order reviewed by the Washington Examiner, the first target on the menu will be the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and New Source standard for power plants.

The draft order states that the power plan would cost $39 billion a year, based on a previous industry-funded study by NERA Consulting that the draft order cites to justify ending the Obama administration’s version of the plan, which requires that states cut greenhouse gas emissions a third by 2030. The study said the plan would result in double-digit increases in electricity prices in 41 states for “meaningless environmental impacts,” according to the order.

Environmental groups have begun lashing back at reports that the administration would be using the NERA report, which the sustainability think tank World Resources Institute said in January “lacked credibility” by underestimating growth in clean energy and overestimating electricity price increases.

The order also looks to rein in the New Source power plant standard, which the coal industry refers to as EPA’s de facto ban on building new coal plants. The regulation requires that all new coal plants be outfitted with expensive carbon capture technology, which the industry argues is cost prohibitive and makes building new coal plants next to impossible.

The order would send both rules back to the drawing board at the EPA, which is expected to extinguish them by following procedures for reconsidering a regulation.

But since both climate rules are being reviewed in federal court, the Trump order also directs the attorney general to request all courts reviewing the climate rules to hold the cases in abeyance, or remand them back to EPA while the administration reviews them.

In addition, the order directs the Interior Department to lift its moratorium on issuing new coal leases to open up mining again.

It also calls for an interagency working group to “reconsider” the Social Cost of Carbon, which is the metric the Obama administration used to justify the cost of its regulations, while directing the White House Council on Environmental Quality to rescind an agency-wide directive by the Obama administration to include climate change in all environmental reviews of projects.

The Trump order also would call for a review of all rules by the EPA and other agencies that “result in impediments to domestic energy production and the expansion of energy production facilities,” according to the draft.

 The order also may include the repeal of some Obama executive orders, such as one for preparing the federal government for climate change impact and another on making climate-resilient projects part of U.S.-funded international development.

See the article here.

Trump Preparing New Executive Actions for Coal Mining

Via The Toldeo Blade:

President Donald Trump said today he was preparing new executive actions to save coal mining and put miners back to work.

“As we speak we are preparing new executive actions to save our coal industry and to save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work. The miners are coming back,” Trump told a rally in Louisville, Kentucky, without providing any details.

Trump made the statement to thousands of supporters at a campaign-style rally, saying He he’s working to turn the Environmental Protection Agency from “a job killer into a job creator.”

Earlier today, electricity company Dayton Power & Light said it would shut down two coal-fired power plants in southern Ohio next year for economic reasons, a setback for the ailing coal industry but a victory for environmental activists.

Dayton Power & Light, a subsidiary of The AES Corporation , said in an emailed statement that it planned to close the J.M. Stuart and Killen plants by June 2018 because they would not be “economically viable beyond mid-2018.”

Coal demand has flagged in recent years due to competition from cheap and plentiful natural gas.

The plants along the Ohio River in Adams County employ some 490 people and generate about 3,000 megawatts of power for coal.

The closure follows negotiations between Dayton Power & Light, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and stakeholders like the environmental group the Sierra Club over whether the company should be allowed to raise electricity prices to pay for upgrades to keep the plants open.

“They are by far our largest employer and it will absolutely be devastating to our community here in Ohio,” Michael Pell, president of First State Bank in Winchester, Ohio, said in a telephone interview. Pell, one of several local community leaders who have lobbied to keep the plants going, has become a spokesman for Adams County on the issue.

He said that as the industry moves away from coal, state and federal authorities should help the county create other jobs and clean up environmental damage from the plants.

The Sierra Club, which has been advocating coal plant closures for years to help combat pollution, argued that they were a bad investment. The group’s “Beyond Coal” campaign director, Bruce Nilles, said the planned closures would bring the total number of U.S. coal plants due to be retired to 250.

“This milestone is a testament to the commitment Americans have to cleaner air and water — and the power of grassroots action to create healthier communities,” Nilles said in an email.

The plants sit at the heart of a region Trump vowed to revitalize with more jobs and greater economic security during his 2016 campaign. As part of his pledge to reinvigorate the area, Trump also said he would “bring back coal.”

Dan Sawmiller, the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” representative involved in the negotiations on the plants, said in a phone interview he would stay in contact with local authorities to try to minimize the impact on jobs in the area.

“We like to see the pollution coming offline, but we really are keenly focused on the impact to the community,” he said.

See the article here.

Week Ahead: Anticipation Builds for Trump Climate Order

Via The Hill:

The coming week could finally bring President Trump’s long-awaited executive order on climate change.

The White House has promised an executive order undoing large swaths of President Obama’s work on climate change.

On Friday, Politico reported Trump could sign such an order on Monday. An administration official declined to comment on the report.

But the timing of Trump’s order isn’t the only question surrounding it. The exact breadth of the actions remains an open question for everyone in the energy and environment sphere.

What’s most likely is that Trump’s order will first begin the process of undoing the Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

That rule was the key climate regulation of the Obama administration, and by directing his EPA to begin unraveling it, Trump would be making good on a key campaign promise to cut back on energy industry regulations.

During the campaign, he also promised to lift a moratorium on coal leasing on public land, something that’s likely to happen within his executive order as well.

But the question remains just how broad the order will be.

Reports this week suggested the White House could expand the order, taking aim at methane regulations, Obama-era guidance that government agencies consider climate change in standard environmental reviews and the “social cost of carbon” metric used to measure projects’ impact on climate change.

The fate of the U.S.’s involvement in the Paris climate accord is also up in the air: Trump is consulting with energy industry companies about their position on the climate pact, indicating a softening of his campaign pledge to yank the U.S. out of the landmark deal.

Regardless of the breadth of Trump’s order, it will kick off a flurry of activity both inside of government and out.

Undoing the Clean Power Plan or the methane rules will take years: Trump’s order, like one he recently signed about a water regulation, would simply instruct the EPA to redo the emissions rule, a lengthy process.

The coal moratorium can go away with a simple signature from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but actually reviving the leasing program and conducting a sale — and attracting any interested miners — will take months, as well.

The order will also open the door to lawsuits from environmentalists, who will certainly ask the courts to keep Obama’s climate work intact.

The executive order will be the latest in a string of Trump actions aimed at Obama’s climate work.

His budget plan, released this week, proposes to slash the EPA’s budget by 30 percent and cut several climate programs around the government.

On Wednesday, the EPA and the Department of Transportation formally reopened a review of fuel emissions standards for vehicles finalized during the Obama administration.

Trump has signed executive actions opening the door to the construction of oil pipelines denied by Obama, and Congress has so far sent him three resolutions undoing Obama rules dealing with water quality, land planning and the fossil fuel industry.

But the executive order, when it comes, will be Trump’s biggest foray yet into reversing federal efforts targeting climate change.

See the article here.

‘I’m Thankful I’ve Got a Job Again’: The Trump Presidency Has Allowed Coal Miners In This Town To Go Back To Work

Via Townhall:

For the countless communities that dot rural America, Donald Trump is something of an economic savior. For small towns where coal is the economic driving force, the Obama presidency has been devastating. Mines closed, workers laid off, and economic downturn were becoming commonplace. Then, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in one of the biggest upsets in American political history. He signed executive orders rolling back the regulations that have been crippling businesses, especially those involved with the mining of coal. Now, miners in Hazard, Kentucky can get back to work to support their families (via Fox News):

“I love mining coal,” Carlos Sturdill said 250 feet underground in the E4-1 mine in Hazard. That mine shut down in the Obama years. There are many factors that allowed the mine to re-open and people like Sturdill to get back to work.For starters, the entire economy has seen a bump. That has created a demand for steel. The high-quality coal that comes out of Appalachia is well suited for making steel.

“I’m glad to be working. I’m thankful I’ve got a job again,” Sturdill said. Then you have President Trump who started rolling back regulations early in his time on the job. One of Trump’s early executive orders was to roll back the Stream Protection Rule. The SPR was created in the 11th hour of the Obama presidency and it would have placed a burden on coal companies to test streams before during and after mining. Trump followed up by undoing the 2015 Waters of the US rule, which broadened the definition of a body of water.

According to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the rule “allowed the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to assert Federal authority over an untold number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and any other area where water may flow every 100 years.”

[…]

That does not mean hard times are over for those people dependent on a coal mining paycheck. During the Obama administration, figures obtained by Fox News show that 36,800 coal miners lost their jobs. Last September, the number of people mining coal hit the lowest point since 1985.

Since Trump took office, 300 miners have been re-hired.

Ninety of the new hires are at the E4-1 mine in Hazard. But that was after the mine was hit by a series of layoffs since 2012 that left 460 workers out of a job.

The mining industry won’t return to his former strength, with some putting the blame on the Obama White House’s war on coal over the past eight years. Yet, there is also something to be said about the changing forces within the energy market. More natural gas and oil exploration has hit the coal industry as well, though it’s hard to argue that the Obama regulations didn’t place a boot on the industry’s throat. Obama was winning the war on coal, which would have cost us a projected 125,800 jobs and $650 billion in lost GDP over the next decade. Thank God that didn’t happen.

See the article here.

Cutting the EPA’s Budget Could Save American Consumers and Businesses Hundred of Billions of Dollars

Via Brietbart:

While President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts just $2.6 billion from the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, the benefits for the American economy will likely be much larger.

The biggest economic benefits from Trump’s EPA budget would come from the complete elimination of funding for implementing the “Clean Power Plan,” the Obama administration’s scheme to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity generating sector. The plan would have cost consumers hundreds of billions of dollars in increased energy costs and inflicted even further damage on America’s coal mining sector.

Estimates of the costs of the Clean Power Plan vary, with the EPA itself claiming it would cost virtually nothing while industry estimates say it would cost consumers as much as $214 billion in higher energy costs by 2030. Energy Ventures Analysis, a consultant group that receives much of its income from the energy industry, has said that replacing otherwise perfectly good electricity generating capacity with Clean Power Plan compliant capacity would cost as much as $64 billion.

But even if the costs are smaller, stopping the Clean Power Plan will mean consumers have more money to spend, save and invest in America’s growing economy. And billions of dollars that would have gone to replace existing power generating facilities, can be invested in expansionary economic activity.

Defunding the Clean Power Plan puts into action the idea of “deconstructing the administrative state.” The Clean Power Plan’s demands for a radical reshaping of America’s power industry weren’t included in any legislation passed by Congress or signed by the President. They were the creation of career bureaucrats and Obama administration political appointees.

The Supreme Court went so far as to issue a stay of the plan pending judicial review, blocking the EPA from implementing the scheme pending judicial review. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments over challenges to the plan in September of 2016.

Cutting the EPA staff by 20% may also benefit the American economy if it forces the EPA to backdown from its aggressive regulatory and enforcement agenda. Last year, The American Action Forum, a center-right policy Institute, estimated that EPA now imposes nearly 200 million hours of paperwork to comply with its regulations. It estimated that it would take more than 94,000 employees working full-time to complete one year of EPA paperwork.

“The agency’s burden has surged 23 percent since 2009 and 34 percent since 2002,” the American Action Forum reported.

See the article here.

Waiting Game Continues for Clean Power Plan Order

Via E&E Publishing:

The wait is on for President Trump’s expected move to begin dismantling a major Obama-era climate rule.

Trump was expected to sign off today on an order directing U.S. EPA to repeal the so-called Clean Power Plan rule to slash power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions, but the order appears to have been delayed yet again.

A White House official today said there are no announcements to make regarding the timing of Trump’s directive.

Both the timing and the rumored contents of the order have been in flux. The administration had planned to release the order last week but pushed back its plans.
Some stakeholders expect Trump to issue a broad order to topple several major energy policies, including the Clean Power Plan, a related rule to curb new power plants’ emissions, the Obama-era moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands and potentially other policies.

Others are expecting the Clean Power Plan to be tacked onto a narrower directive that zeros in on the power plant rule.

Supporters and foes of the Obama-era rule are eager to see the contents of Trump’s directive, which won’t come as a surprise. Trump made the repeal of the climate change rule one of his top energy priorities, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt helped lead the lawsuit challenging the regulation during his tenure as Oklahoma’s Republican attorney general.

It still seems possible that the climate order could come this week, although much of Trump’s schedule today is devoted to health care discussions. He is slated to talk about overhauling President Obama’s health care plan this afternoon with Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and top House Republicans.

Energy and climate issues are on Trump’s agenda for tomorrow, however. The president plans to travel to Michigan, where he is expected to announce whether his administration will consider lowering vehicle emissions and fuel economy requirements.

See the article here.

Trump is Poised to Issue a Sweeping Order Dismantling Obama’s Climate Plan this Week

Via The Washington Post:

President Trump could issue a sweeping executive order within days aimed at reversing his predecessor’s climate policies, a measure that energy industry officials and environmentalists have been anticipating for weeks.

The directive will instruct members of the Cabinet to rewrite regulation restricting carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants, lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and revise the way climate change is factored into federal decision-making — all key elements of the Obama administration’s effort to address climate change. It will also reverse an executive order former president Obama issued that instructs agencies to incorporate climate change into the National Environmental Policy Act reviews it applies to federal actions, according to individuals briefed on the order.

While the exact timing of the executive order remains in flux, administration officials are under pressure to address a pending lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. That legal challenge — originally mounted by several Republican attorneys general, including Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt, who now heads the Environmental Protection Agency — argues that the EPA exceeded its legal authority in imposing carbon emission curbs on operators of existing plants. The restrictions aim to cut carbon pollution by about one-third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

Pruitt is no longer a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The directive would instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask the D.C. Circuit to hold the lawsuit in abeyance while the EPA revisited the rules it wrote during President Barack Obama’s tenure. If the court agreed to that request, the agency would have to establish an administrative record on why it had decided to pursue a different path.

Jeffrey Holmstead, a partner at Bracewell LLP who advises utilities opposed to the Obama-era regulations, said in an interview that while he does not think “it’s a heavy lift at all” to legally justify the switch, “that rulemaking record needs to be very robust, they have to justify why they have changed.”

It could take as long as a year and a half to rewrite the rule on existing plants, known as the Clean Power Plan. Environmentalists argue that the regulation, which allows utilities to use measures such as energy efficiency and renewable energy production to reduce their overall emissions, is well within the law. Opponents say the agency only has authority to dictate what steps a utility takes “inside the fence” of its own operations.

“Essentially, it’s a mandate that EPA rules follow the Clean Air Act, instead of creating their own new programs,” said Joseph Stanko, who heads government relations at the law firm Hunton & Williams and represents multiple utilities.

Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown University Climate Center, said in an email that any effort to undo the previous administration’s work to cut greenhouse gas emissions would take time.

“While it’s painful to watch a rollback of standards that took significant effort and input to put in place, the Trump administration will need to follow laws and regulations such as the Clean Air Act and Administrative Procedure Act before knocking down regulations,” Arroyo said. “It’s not as simple as kicking over toy building blocks.”

Asked about the prospect of an executive order Tuesday morning, White House spokeswoman Kelly Love replied, “We do not have an announcement at this time.”

Other aspects of the executive order can take effect immediately after it’s issued, though it is unclear how quickly they will translate into greater coal extraction. One provision tells the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to lift a freeze on federal coal leasing. That moratorium has been in effect since December 2015, and in January, Interior proposed that the program guiding coal exploration and production across 570 million publicly owned acres be updated to factor in the climate effect of such activities and provide a bigger return for U.S. taxpayers.

Separately, Trump will instruct federal officials in the directive to abandon Obama officials’ practice of factoring in the effect of climate change — what is dubbed “the social cost of carbon” — in their policymaking decisions. That calculus, which is set at $36 per ton of carbon dioxide, aims to capture the negative consequences of allowing greenhouse gas emissions to continue to rise. But some conservatives — including both House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), who held a hearing on the issue last month, and senior members of Trump’s Energy Department and EPA transition teams — have criticized it as too sweeping.

Federal officials will be allowed to return to a more traditional regulatory analysis, according to individuals briefed on the order who asked not to be identified in advance of the announcement. That analysis, which dates back a couple decades, includes a much lower cost associated with carbon emissions.

The directive will also include other language applying to the Interior Department that affects oil and gas development, according to these individuals. Those provisions will address the flaring of methane on oil and gas operations on federal land, and the kind of energy exploration that can take place on land managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

See the article here.

Coal Industry Urges Trump to Protect Fossil Fuel Research

Via The Hill:

A group of coal-mining firms, labor unions and energy-industry associations is asking the Trump administration to spare a critical research office from budget cuts this year.

In a letter to President Trump released on Monday, the groups said the White House should protect the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy from funding cuts.

The office studies fossil fuel technologies such as capturing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. In its letter, the group said the office “yields significant benefits” for the industry.

“Public-private partnerships through the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy are responsible for many innovative breakthroughs since its creation in 1977,” the letter said.

“In light of recent calls for dramatic cuts to the federal budget, we want to stress that every dollar allocated to fossil energy research is an investment in the long-term future of America’s coal and fossil fuel industry.”

Coal companies like Cloud Peak Energy and Arch Coal, as well as labor unions and energy groups like ClearPath Action, signed the letter, sent on Friday.

The note comes days before the Trump administration releases its budget outline for the next fiscal year.

Trump officials have identified the Office of Fossil Energy as one of several Energy Department programs that could be axed.

Lawmakers have raised concerns about the size and breadth of the administration’s reported budget targets. During his confirmation hearing, several senators urged now-Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to preserve the department’s extensive energy industry research accounts during the budget process.

See the article here.

The Clean Power Plan is Gone — and There’s No ‘Replace’

Via E&E Publishing:

The White House intends to unravel the Clean Power Plan without providing a replacement, according to a source briefed on the issue.

An executive order expected to be released next week also instructs the Justice Department to effectively withdraw its legal defense of the climate rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The move aligns the White House with about two dozen Republican state attorneys general who are challenging the way the rule restricts greenhouse gas emissions at power plants.

The result, if successful, would mean the case is “frozen in place,” the source said, preventing the D.C. Circuit, which has six judges appointed by Democrats and four by Republicans, from issuing an opinion this spring. Other legal experts say the case could continue if states or other groups go on defending the rule.

“Justice goes to the court and says … ‘Don’t waste your time trying to put together an opinion when the legal basis for the case that you’re reviewing could potentially go away,'” the source said. “Normally, a court will grant that. There’s no guarantee.”

It was unclear until now if the Trump administration would “repeal and replace” the Clean Power Plan, or just set upon a path to undo it. Some had anticipated that the Trump administration might pursue an alternative and much less stringent rule, but the executive order will only call for the withdrawal of the regulation.

That raises questions about whether EPA would fail to satisfy legal requirements to regulate carbon dioxide and other climate pollutants.

The agency in 2009, responding to the Supreme Court, determined that greenhouse gases endanger human health. That requires EPA to regulate emissions, and the agency did that by promulgating the Clean Power Plan.

“I think, as a matter of law, that carbon is a pollutant has been settled,” said Christine Todd Whitman, who served as EPA administrator under President George W. Bush. “EPA has to act once you have that kind of a finding.”

Waiting for the ‘right time’?

The new details are surfacing as the White House confirmed yesterday that the executive order’s release would be delayed. It was scheduled to be signed by President Trump this week. Now that will likely occur next week.

The delay follows successful efforts by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner, to remove language from the order that was critical of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The current order does not refer to the global pact, and the source said that issue did not hold up the order’s release. The delay was caused by the rise of other priorities, including the release of the Republican health care proposal Monday, the source said.

Trump also caused unforeseen turbulence Saturday by accusing former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower.

Coal companies and mining groups, which Trump described as being victimized by the climate rule on the campaign trail, have waited patiently through the delays. But now that he’s 49 days into his presidency, there are subtle signs that industry wishes he would act more swiftly.

Jeff Holmstead, a former assistant EPA administrator under Bush who represents opponents to the rule, said it’s likely the White House is waiting for the right time to unveil the rule with maximum effect.

“I hope it’s soon,” he added. “I think everybody, certainly all of my clients, think the Clean Power Plan is dead. But there’s always uncertainties.”

Fresh lawsuits await

For some Democrats, the order represents a tightrope walk. It’s bound to be challenged in court by liberal state attorneys general and environmental groups for not providing an alternative to the Clean Power Plan. But if it did provide one, Republicans in coal states would likely feel that Trump had abandoned his campaign promise to terminate the regulation.

“It’s not like [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.] will say, ‘OK, they’re gonna do a new rulemaking on power plants, so I’m sure it’ll be better,'” said Heather Zichal, Obama’s former climate adviser. “They fundamentally don’t think coal plants should be held accountable for their carbon pollution. So how do you deal with that piece? I think politically that’s hard for them.”

Environmental groups are already promising to sue EPA for failing to comply with its own endangerment finding.

“If EPA withdraws [the rule] and does not replace it with strong standards, we will challenge the agency’s action in court,” said Joanne Spalding, the chief climate counsel at the Sierra Club.

The administration anticipates that. The executive order instructs EPA to “revise or rescind” the Clean Power Plan, wording that’s meant to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act by letting EPA, not the White House, determine the fate of the rule.

The agency will then go through the long rulemaking process. But rather than promulgating a new rule, it will terminate an existing one. It will post notice and take comments and then put out a proposed rule. After accepting more comment, the action will be finalized. Then the administration is “off to the races in court,” the source said.

The Clean Power Plan is just one part of the executive order, which is geared around “energy independence.”

It does not address the endangerment finding, which is the underpinning of current and future EPA regulations on greenhouse gases. No decision has been made by White House officials about whether to attack the finding in subsequent actions, the source said.

“That is a huge issue,” the source said. “That’s just going to require a lot of thinking.”

See the article here.

Trump Agency Heads Already Rolling Back Obama-era Rules on their Own

Via Fox News:

President Trump’s newly installed agency heads are starting to take a lead role unraveling a web of Obama-era regulations, acting alongside congressional Republicans and the president himself to roll back rules they claim hurt business or simply go too far.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was the latest to peel back red tape.

On his first day of work, for which he arrived Teddy Roosevelt-style on horseback, Zinke ended a ban on lead bullets and fishing tackle on federal lands and water. The ban was imposed to protect animals from lead poisoning, but had been criticized by the National Rifle Association as an attack on gun owners.

Zinke said in a statement he determined the original order was “not mandated by any existing statutory or regulatory requirement.” The NRA thanked the new secretary for “eliminating this arbitrary attack.”

Zinke also hinted at more to come in another order, directing agencies to identify areas where recreation and fishing can be expanded.

Meanwhile, the EPA reportedly is set to reverse an Obama-era decision to lock in strict gas mileage requirements for cars and light trucks through 2025.

Together, the moves are part of a three-pronged attack on regulations issued over the last several months and years. It’s what White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, at CPAC, dubbed the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

The Republican-controlled Congress has moved since the start of the session to nix rules issued toward the end of the last administration. And Trump has directed others to be rolled back, a plan his agencies also are implementing.

In February, for instance, Trump signed an order instructing the Labor Department to delay implementing a rule requiring certain financial professionals to put their clients’ interests first. The department could simply abolish it. Trump also ordered agencies to ease the “regulatory burdens” of ObamaCare, and look at removing two regulations for every new one.

Yet, as the final members of Trump’s Cabinet are being confirmed, incoming agency heads also appear to be acting on their own.

The EPA, under Scott Pruitt, last week withdrew its request that owners and operators in the oil and natural gas industry provide information on equipment and emissions at existing operations.

The Washington Examiner reported Monday that Trump also is planning on signing an executive order rolling back Obama’s Clean Power Plan – which requires states to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a third – as well as the Interior Department’s moratorium on coal leases.

However, the Clean Power Plan order would merely instruct the EPA to overturn it. A similar order was sent out last week, instructing regulators to re-examine President Obama’s Clean Water Rule.

In another example of agencies taking the lead, Health Secretary Tom Price says his department will go through existing health care regulations and try to “get rid” of those they determine hurt patients, as Republicans push an ObamaCare replacement bill.

Conservatives, however, are hoping the Trump administration will be an opportunity not just to roll back regulations, but get agencies out of the habit of passing their own.

“Regardless of which party controls the White House, we need to get a handle on the regulatory state. Yes, roll back what we can, but also to make sure we’re going through Congress to put checks in place to restore Article 1 [of the Constitution],” Jason Pye, director of public policy and legislative affairs for FreedomWorks, told Fox News.

EPA Administrator Pruitt holds a similar view, telling The Wall Street Journal that his job is not about increasing or reducing regulation.

“There is no reason why EPA’s role should ebb or flow based on a particular administration, or a particular administrator,” he said in a Feb. 17 interview. “Agencies exist to administer the law. Congress passes statutes, and those statutes are very clear on the job EPA has to do.”

As for revoking rules via Congress, conservatives have pointed to the Congressional Review Act – a little-known 1996 law that gives Congress 60 legislative days to reconsider any new regulations. If a resolution of disapproval is signed by the president, then the agency cannot re-submit a regulation in substantially the same form, unless approved by Congress.

The House passed a bill in January – the Midnight Rules Relief Act – that, if signed by President Trump, would allow Congress to disapprove of multiple regulations at once.

Some Republicans are suggesting a slash-and-burn approach. North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows posted online a “100 days” list of rules he wants to see revoked.

But Pye warns most lawmakers are unlikely to be so aggressive.

“I think they’re going to be thoughtful. Some, like the Clean Power Plan or the fiduciary rule, are unavoidable — you have to start rolling those back,” he said. “With that said, we should be pursuing legislative measures, not just rolling regulations back, but making sure a future president can’t impact negatively impact [the] economy through [regulation].”

See the article here.

Trump to Scrap Obama Climate Plan, Costly Coal Rules

Via The Washington Examiner:

President Trump plans to sign an executive order this week that scraps two major Obama energy and climate regulations in one fell swoop.

The presidential executive order aims to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s climate agenda, and the Interior Department’s moratorium on new coal mining leases, which Trump has vowed to quash during his first 100 days in office.

A White House spokeswoman told the Washington Examiner that the president plans to combine the rollback of the regulations into the “same action” later this week.

The order is expected to begin the process whereby the Environmental Protection Agency will reconsider the Clean Power Plan climate rules, with the goal of having the plan rescinded.

A panel of 10 judges at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has been reviewing the legality of the Clean Power Plan, which the Supreme Court halted in February 2016. The Trump order is also expected to address the court action, most likely by instructing the Justice Department to inform the court of its actions and ask the judges to consider the president’s order as it makes a decision.

Environmental groups are expected to sue the administration over any actions to reverse the climate regulations.

The Clean Power Plan requires states to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by one-third over the next decade. A coalition of nearly 28 state attorneys general and hundreds of advocacy groups sued the agency over the regulation, saying it oversteps the EPA’s authority to regulate power plant emissions while calling it unconstitutional.

Lifting the coal moratorium may be a little more straightforward.

The moratorium was imposed by the Obama administration last year, while the Interior Department conducted a review of its leasing program to update it with the true costs of coal mining, including the costs that come from coal’s effects on global warming, which is expected to raise the cost of coal mining.

See the article here.

Week Ahead: White House Readies Climate Orders

Via The Hill:

The White House in the coming week could release long-awaited climate change executive orders undoing much of the Obama administration’s work on the issue.

According to reports, President Trump is set to sign an order calling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Obama’s climate change agenda.

The order could also lift an Interior Department moratorium on federal coal lease sales, something Obama’s team instituted during a review of the coal-leasing program.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that an order covering both issues could come in the week ahead, now that Trump has the heads of both the EPA and Interior Department in place.

“We’re going to free up our country, and it’s going be done in a very environmental and positive environmental way, I will tell you that, but create millions of jobs,” Trump said this week, hinting at new energy-related executive orders. “So many jobs are delayed for so many years, and it’s unfair to everybody.”

Since the presidential campaign, Trump has promised to undo Obama’s regulatory work and at the same time, help companies in fossil fuel sectors, including coal.

The Clean Power Plan has been one of the rules he has blasted the most. The rule, finalized in 2015, mandates a 32 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the American electricity sector.

It was the most sweeping environmental rule of the Obama administration and central to many of his climate change initiatives. The regulation was the primary tool in the White House’s efforts to cut overall American emissions by about a quarter, and Obama made it the centerpiece of his pitch to foreign officials in the lead-up to the Paris climate deal.

It is also deeply controversial, opposed by conservative state attorneys general and fossil fuel producers. As a coalition, they launched a legal challenge and won a stay from the Supreme Court last year. They argued against the plan’s merits before a federal court panel in the fall.

A ruling in that case is still pending.

Trump’s order on the issue would likely be similar to one he issued this Tuesday on an EPA water rule. The order itself won’t nix the rule, but it will instruct regulators to reconsider it, and, thus, effectively kill it later.

The Interior Department’s coal moratorium is tied to an agency review of the federal coal leasing program, which allows miners to produce coal on public lands. Obama officials wanted to review the program, and eventually suggested raising royalty rates on coal mined on leased land.

Ryan Zinke, the new Interior Secretary, indicated on Friday that he might continue the still-in-progress royalty review.

But it appears likely the Trump administration will lift the leasing moratorium and begin the process of leasing new tracts of land for coal mining.

One climate issue Trump might not touch next week: the Paris deal. Axios reported Friday that the White House doesn’t expect a decision on the matter. Their report came after the New York Times revealed deep internal divisions within the administration over the future of the global emissions pact.

See the article here. 

Trump’s Coal Council to Drill Down on Advanced Technology

Via The Washington Examiner:

President Trump’s clean coal agenda could get some much-needed clarity as federal advisers take a hard look at advanced technologies to make coal plants more competitive and climate-friendly, as Trump’s plan to repeal regulations will only go so far toward restoring the industry.

Some of the experts slated to lead the discussion at this year’s spring meeting of the National Coal Council, a federal advisory committee, are skeptical about how much Trump can actually do over the next four years to help the coal industry beyond removing regulations.

Eliminating regulations is only a short-term remedy for what ails the coal industry. Removing Obama-era climate regulations would stop some of the planned coal plant retirements while allowing for the construction of newer, more efficient coal plants, which are considered a variant of clean coal technology.

Top consultants say the Trump agenda needs to be paired with a longer-term strategy that looks at more advanced technology such as carbon capture and storage, or CCS, which strips carbon pollution from coal plant emissions.

Amid Trump’s promise to roll back climate change rules and withdraw from the Paris climate accord, much of the talk at the March 14-15 meeting will be on ways to make the coal industry more climate-friendly through the use of CCS. But even that isn’t a sure fix, and it won’t have job benefits for years to come, which is Trump’s primary goal.

“I think everything that drives [Trump’s] policy decisions is geared at the top level, first and foremost, to jobs,” said Andy Roberts, research director for energy consultants Wood Mackenzie. “He wants to restore better economic health to the energy industry.”

Roberts will deliver the keynote address, aptly named “Opportunities for Coal in the Trump Administration,” at the coal council meeting, according to the official agenda.

When it comes to Trump’s jobs priorities, Roberts doesn’t see “clean coal” technologies that Trump continues to tout offering much in the way of putting miners back to work, at least not quickly.

“In the short-term, that means unburdening the industry from regulations to the extent [coal] competes on a level playing field,” Roberts said. But clean coal technologies, primarily carbon capture and storage, “don’t really impact employment in the industry in the short term and medium term at all.”

“It’s not economic,” Roberts added. “It’s never going to be economic versus other forms of energy production.” But it may still be necessary, he said, “depending on what the world decides it’s going to do about topics like climate change.”

That’s why the primary thrust of the coal meeting will be focused on CCS and enhancing “the efficiency and emissions profile of our coal fleet,” according to the agenda. However, the focus of the advisory panel in Trump’s first year has not been determined, Janet Gellici, the National Coal Council’s CEO, said before Rick Perry was confirmed as energy secretary Thursday. The coal council reports to the secretary.

The coal council under former President Barack Obama focused on legislative and policy recommendations for advancing CCS and even more advanced technologies that use the carbon to generate additional revenue stream for power plants.

One of the technologies that will be highlighted at this month’s meeting will come from a company that has been collaborating with Exxon Mobil to commercialize a form of CCS technology for reducing emissions at natural gas power plants. The company sees fuel cells as a solution to the next big challenge for cutting carbon dioxide emissions, which is anticipated to be focused on natural gas power plants.

Currently, natural gas-fired plants are taking market share from coal, since they release 60 percent fewer emissions than coal plants. Gas plants, according to Exxon Mobil, are the reason the nation’s emissions are at their lowest in 25 years.

Nevertheless, any advancements in cutting carbon pollution further will stem from advancements that will come from developing CCS at coal plants, said officials with the company FuelCell Energy, which is collaborating with Exxon on CCS. Capturing carbon from natural gas is slightly different than capturing it from coal, but advancements on either would help the other fuel.

Officials with FuelCell Energy will be discussing its projects with the Energy Department, as well as the joint venture it has with Exxon. They say Trump’s focus on manufacturing is good for clean coal, but also for cleaner forms of natural gas that they anticipate being needed further down the road.

“One aspect that we’re certainly encouraged with is the focus on American manufacturing,” said Kurt Goddard, head of investor relations for the company. “Because fuel cells represent American innovation, they represent American manufacturing.”

Fuel cells had support in previous Republican administrations. Former president George W. Bush created the hydrogen fuel cell initiative to wean the nation off its “addiction to oil.” But it’s not clear if Trump might do something similar.

Fuel cells are a highly efficient means of producing electricity. Rather than burning a fuel, like a standard power plant does, they produce electricity through a chemical process using an electrolyte similar to a battery. But instead of charging it as a battery, the electrolyte is refilled. FuelCell Energy’s device concentrates the carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant as part of its electricity-generation process. The process reduces carbon emissions and other pollutants.

It’s also a form of clean energy that is completely made in America, Goddard said. “Our manufacturing facility is actually in Connecticut, whereas some other forms of clean power generation aren’t necessarily made in the U.S.,” he said, explaining why he believes Trump is supportive of CCS. It’s a technology that is evolving, he said, with interest coming from Exxon, the Canadian oil sands and Europe.

Anthony Leo, the company’s vice president for technology and applications, will discuss its fuel cell clean coal project at this month’s meeting, in addition to the natural gas work he is doing with Exxon Mobil. The coal and gas projects are both being done at Southern Co.’s Barry Plant in Alabama.

The projects are in the engineering phase, with construction not expected to begin for about two years. Exxon CEO Darren Woods underscored the project in a blog post last month.

“Our role as the country’s largest producer of natural gas — which emits up to 60 percent less CO2 than coal for power generation — has helped bring CO2 emissions in the United States to the lowest level since the 1990s,” said Woods, who took over after predecessor Rex Tillerson was appointed secretary of state.

“But the world also will need breakthrough clean-energy technologies such as carbon capture and storage,” he said, noting that the company is “investing heavily in CCS, including research in a novel technology that uses fuel cells that could make CCS more affordable and expand its use.”

An Exxon official emphasized to the Washington Examiner that the company’s piece of the project has received no funding or support from the government.

Roberts observed that the future of CCS could very well resemble what is being demonstrated between the fuel cell company and Exxon. He also said the “model” for clean coal could follow what is happening between SpaceX and NASA, where a private company “is driving a lot of our national space exploration activities, right now, at the direction of NASA but with cooperation.”

Roberts sees demand for clean coal technology coming from Europe, where the continent’s climate change policies require the technologies, even if Trump succeeds in exiting from the Paris climate agreement.

“Maybe if the U.S. steps back for a while, the driving factors happen in Europe,” Roberts said.

Coal use is projected to grow globally, and there will be an increasing need for coal power plants to be made more efficient and with fewer emissions, said Benjamin Sporton, the head of the World Coal Association. He was in Washington last month to discuss advancements on coal technology with congressional staffers.

He was also in the U.S. as part of an International Energy Agency industry advisory team meeting with coal companies to get a sense of where they are on technology development, he told the Washington Examiner in an interview.

“For me it’s a continuum,” he said. “It’s not saying let’s leap to CCS today, because CCS is not a technology that is viable for widescale deployment today. It’s about saying how we start on that pathway to get to somewhere further down the track.”

Expanding federal incentives for carbon capture technologies was an idea supported by both parties last year. And a lobbying push by unlikely bedfellows, major coal companies and environmentalists, is gaining steam to move a similar bill in this Congress.

“When utilities, coal companies and environmental groups come together to support your bill, you know you’re onto something that could work,” Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota said last year in introducing her bill to expand the coal incentives. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was a co-sponsor of the legislation.

See the article here.

 

Trump and Big Coal

Via The New York Times:

Re “Letting Polluters Run Free” (editorial, Feb. 23):

The “fresh hyperbole” you attribute to the president better describes your editorial against the sensible action he took.

Contrary to your suggestion, coal companies require a multitude of federal and state permits intended to minimize or avoid impacts to water bodies, and they must comply with water-quality standards policed by the states and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Because the stream rule duplicated and confused these responsibilities, nullifying this costly rule will not diminish environmental protections.

You say the stream rule would have cost just 260 jobs a year. But the source for this figure is a Congressional Research Service report that merely summarized the self-serving analysis from the Interior Department championing the rule.

An analysis of actual mines shows that the rule would cost at least a third of coal-mining jobs paying wages and benefits that alone support the mining communities you defend.

Federal land management planning does require closer scrutiny when political appointees arbitrarily withdraw tens of millions of acres from mining activity in the absence of any evidence to justify such a draconian action.

If we cannot develop our domestic resources on federal land, where do you expect to obtain the minerals this country needs for everything from infrastructure to electric vehicles and cellphones?

HAL QUINN, WASHINGTON

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

See the article here.

4 Major Issues Zinke Will Face on Day One

Via E&E Publishing:

Ryan Zinke, a second-term Republican congressman, is expected to be confirmed this morning as the 52nd secretary of the Interior.

When he enters the marbled halls of Interior’s headquarters in Washington later today, the former Navy SEAL will be the first Montanan to head the sprawling bureaucracy that manages more than 500 million acres of America’s public lands.

Zinke will inherit more than 70,000 federal employees working in bureaus that set policy across a wide breadth of areas, from managing U.S. national parks to overseeing fossil fuel and renewable energy production on federal lands both onshore and offshore to working with the 567 federally recognized Native American tribes.

It’s a huge job, noted Zinke’s predecessor Sally Jewell, who served as Interior secretary under former President Obama from April 2013 through the end of his administration.

“You realize very quickly the gravity of the decisions you make, the importance of them, the number of people that are impacted, and not just people today, but again future generations,” Jewell told a Georgetown University audience in November (Climatewire, Nov. 30, 2016).

“Anybody that sits in these chairs is going to find that out very quickly that if they surround themselves with people that only give them part of the story, they’re quickly going to learn that there are checks and balances in our system that have a way of correcting that,” she said.

E&E News surveyed former Interior officials on the issues Zinke will face in the first weeks on the job. Here are four to watch:

Will he kill the coal reform review?

In January of 2015, Jewell launched a three-year comprehensive review of the federal coal leasing program administered by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. Federal coal accounts for a little more than 40 percent of all coal mined in the United States and is mostly located in the Powder River Basin region of Montana and Wyoming.

At the same time, Jewell’s secretarial order called for a pause in the issuance of new federal coal leases, except in emergency circumstances. The agency noted that coal companies could continue to mine the large amount of coal reserves already held under lease, enough to sustain current levels of production from federal lands for approximately 20 years (Greenwire, Jan. 15, 2016).

President Trump, who vowed both on the campaign trail and now in the White House to revitalize the coal industry, has pledged to ax the three-year moratorium component of the review. The president is widely expected to soon issue an executive action that would do away with the pause.

What is less clear is if the president will disband the top-to-bottom review of the program itself or if that decision will be left to the incoming Interior secretary. Zinke would only have to amend the existing secretarial order or issue a new one.

Many former officials noted that there are good arguments for keeping the review going. President Reagan was in office the last time a programmatic review was conducted. In recent years, the federal coal program has come under fire from both environmental groups and consumer protection groups, which questioned if the program is a good deal for taxpayers and protective enough of the environment.

Both a Government Accountability Office report released in 2014 and a 2013 Interior Department inspector general’s report raised questions about how the Bureau of Land Management assesses the fair market value of minerals, awards leases and sets royalty rates.

“Presumably the federal coal review is one of the first things the new secretary would review and then assess whether to continue with reforms,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, a former Obama Interior official who is now at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Even after Trump’s widely expected executive action to kill the leasing pause comes down, Lee-Ashley said, Zinke could proceed with the comprehensive review to “chart a middle path.”

In the final days of the Obama administration, the agency released its “road map” for reforms it believes are necessary to the federal program that leases public coal to mining companies. They included recommendations to raise royalty rates and incorporating compensation to offset climate and resource impacts.

How will he manage a sharply reduced budget?

“One of the very first things on his desk will be the budget,” said David Hayes, former deputy assistant secretary in Obama’s Interior Department.

Reports have surfaced that the Trump administration is looking to slash 10 percent from the Interior budget in fiscal 2018 (Greenwire, Feb. 28).

The White House’s budget blueprint for Interior would cut nearly $1.3 billion from the department’s current annual budget of about $13.3 billion.

The move is part of a bigger budget shift envisioned by the new administration. In order to boost defense spending by $53 billion, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said, the White House intends to cut non-defense spending by the same amount.

Interior’s possible cuts are not as deep as the 24 percent cut rumored for U.S. EPA, but if certain programs are zeroed out, that could affect Zinke’s ability to carry out the goals he outlined during his confirmation hearing.

Those include restoring trust in the agency by working more closely with local communities, reducing the $12.5 billion National Park Service maintenance backlog, and giving park rangers and managers in the field increased flexibility.

It’s not clear what is on the chopping block. A request for comment to OMB was not answered in time for publication.

Budget wish lists circulated by prominent conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation note that one Interior program that could be under siege is the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The popular federal program provides money for the purchase and protection of lands. Zinke has repeatedly called for full and complete funding for the program.

“I’ll be curious to see if Zinke acts on the support he’s given the Land and Water Conservation Fund and backs it during the budget process,” Hayes said.

If major cuts are ahead, Zinke will also need to assure his newly inherited 70,000 federal employees that the mission of their sprawling agency will be carried out and should be a priority, he said.

“It will be important for him to provide some assurance on day one to the career staff that he embraces the mission of the department and will work with the career staff on that mission,” Hayes said.

Will he support climate science research?

Interior employs thousands of scientists and researchers located all over the country and even boasts its own scientific agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, which collects data on everything from earthquakes to how climate change is affecting public lands. In recent years — through secretarial orders, executive actions and rulemakings — the value of science as a foundation to policy has taken root across much of the agency.

In responses to questions for the record submitted by Senate committee members, Zinke repeatedly said, “I value sound science.” He deflected questions about how USGS should approach climate change. At his confirmation hearing, Zinke said it is “indisputable” that the climate is changing and humans are having an influence, although he was less firm about the extent to which the science is settled.

Climate science, although part of Interior scientists’ portfolio, is not front and center in the department as much as it is in agencies like EPA. Still, just hours after Trump was sworn into office, Interior suspended all its Twitter activity for about 12 hours in response to the National Park Service sharing tweets about the inauguration turnout and the White House website (Greenwire, Jan. 23).

The Twitter brouhaha grew after a former employee sent out a series of climate-related tweets from Badlands National Park. After the tweets were removed, rogue park rangers using the handle @AltNatParkSer took to the social media site to make sure climate facts didn’t disappear from Interior’s social media (Greenwire, Jan. 25).

“Ignoring the science and their [USGS’s] research is literally detrimental,” said Brandi Colander, Interior’s deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management under Obama.

Colander, who is now with the National Wildlife Federation, said Zinke has an opportunity to strengthen the portfolio of public lands under Interior’s guise if science and the scientists who carry out research are acknowledged as invaluable resources.

“As more extreme weather trends become the norm, that has huge impacts from a health perspective, from a real estate perspective, from municipal resource perspective, and ultimately, from a federal resource perspective,” she said. “There are things we can and should be doing now to protect ourselves.”

How will he handle Congress?

Already, Congress and Trump have rolled back, or are attempting to peel back, multiple Interior regulations.

Last month, Trump signed a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval striking down an Obama-era coal mining regulation. Interior’s Stream Protection Rule imposed new water quality and monitoring standards for coal mines and was vehemently opposed by the industry and conservative lawmakers (E&E News PM, Feb. 16).

In a blog post, Interior praised the move and described killing the Stream Protection Rule as “the first action by the new president to fulfill promises made to American workers to harness the power of American energy, restore their jobs and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

With the death of the Stream Protection Rule, the regulation doesn’t go away. Interior must now go back to enforcing a 1983 version of the regulation.

Mark Squillace, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School and Clinton-era Interior official, said the old rule complicates other existing statues Interior carries out, including how the Endangered Species Act applies in the coal permitting process.

“One of the problems Zinke is going to face, now that they’ve dumped it, is they go back to the old rule, which led to a lot of litigation and stopped a lot of mining from going on,” he said. “A dead rule doesn’t solve the problem.”

Under the CRA, Interior cannot issue a rule “substantially similar” to the one struck down under the law, the definition of which is likely to be litigated.

The same problem could arise if the Senate takes up a CRA on BLM’s “Planning 2.0” rule, a land planning rule finalized in the last few weeks of the Obama administration. Planning 2.0 establishes what the agency calls a more efficient process to update and revise the roughly 160 resource management plans for millions of acres of federal lands.

Lee-Ashley with CAP said rolling back Planning 2.0 would definitely make the new Interior secretary’s job more difficult.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who says the 1980s land planning rule is working well,” he said. “If it is CRA-ed, that ties the hands of this secretary and others.”

The Endangered Species Act, a bedrock conservation statue, has long garnered ire from some Republican lawmakers who would like to see it changed or scrapped and have more traction with their party in power in both chambers.

Last month, the Trump administration suspended a rule to place a bumblebee on the federal endangered species list, prompting environmental groups to sue. How Zinke handles that case could be a window into his thinking on the Endangered Species Act, said Squillace (E&E News PM, Feb. 14).

Steven Williams, a former FWS director during the George W. Bush administration and now president of the Wildlife Management Institute, said everyone who works with the law recognizes that there are places it could be improved. Success is better achieved with more resources, which would fall on Zinke to lobby for in Congress.

“It’s a question of priorities and a question of what’s in the budget and what resources you can put forth,” he said. “I’m optimistic the secretary will come in with the intellectual discipline to look at the facts, look at the evidence that is there and make decisions on how to allocate resources.”

On the job in general, he added: “It’s like drinking out of a proverbial firehose. It’s a tough job.”

See the article here.

President Hits the Mark in Speech to Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Mining Association (NMA) president and CEO Hal Quinn issued this statement applauding President Trump’s speech last night to a joint session of Congress:

“America’s miners applaud the president for his steadfast support for policies that stimulate economic opportunity, job creation and robust economic growth. Voters have stated a clear preference for actions that will get the country moving again and the president has heard them.

“We share his belief that ‘a renewal of American spirit’ will not be created for millions of underemployed and unemployed Americans so long as federal agencies constrain opportunity with needless regulations. Regulations will not make Americans prosperous nor will they make America great.

“The mining industry welcomes the opportunity he offers to provide the minerals and metals essential for infrastructure improvements and the coal and uranium needed to power the growing economy Americans deserve.”

See the release here.