Monthly Archives: May 2017

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Energy Department Right to Study Impact of Regulations on U.S. Power Grid

Via The Colorado Statesman:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry hit a raw nerve in Washington recently when he announced his department will undertake a study of the possible impact that federal regulations have had on U.S. electric grid reliability. Essentially, the Department of Energy will look at “critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid.” The review will consider whether “regulatory burdens” and “mandates and tax and subsidy policies” for renewable energy are forcing coal units into retirement.

This is sensible policy. After all, the toll that recent regulations have taken on affordable power production is well documented. In 2012 the MATS rule alone forced almost 20 percent of the U.S. coal fleet into retirement, and saddled the power industry with almost $10 billion in annual costs — and all for a mere $6 million in public benefit. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated that the more recent Clean Power Plan would cut coal production by 240 million tons annually. And Duke University’s Nicholas School reported that government regulations threatened the viability of more than half of U.S. coal plants while low natural gas prices threatened the viability of less than 10 percent.

Evidently, though, an examination of these impacts on electricity production crossed a red line by possibly raising awkward questions about the massive subsidization of renewable energy. In an April 28 letter to Secretary Perry, the nation’s wind and solar trade groups expressed alarm. With their taxpayer-funded subsidies potentially under attack, they all but questioned what business Secretary Perry’s energy department has in studying energy.

Their letter suggested that the strong, recent growth of wind and solar — turbo-charged as it has been by growing federal largesse — hasn’t hurt coal. Neither, they imply, have Obama-era regulations. Instead, they blame coal’s woes on cheaper alternatives like natural gas. Even some in Congress weighed in against the secretary, accusing him of a “thinly disguised attempt” to harm renewables in favor of “less economic electric generation technologies” like coal.

This is nonsense. For much of the past eight years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has enjoyed unprecedented authority over the U.S. power grid and has given renewable fuels a free ride. But now that the EPA is going “back to basics” under Administrator Scott Pruitt, energy supply issues are suddenly being handed back to the Energy Department, thus the palpitations aplenty among fledgling renewable projects.

Since 2007, federal portfolio requirements, “net metering,” and annual subsidies have sheltered the renewable energy sector from market competition. And what amounted to roughly $1 billion in assistance 10 years ago has swelled to more than $11.6 billion today. Without these subsidies, wind and solar would have to compete in the same Game of Thrones-style energy market as “less economic” sources of electricity.

Apparently, it’s OK for coal to struggle against cheap natural gas. But renewable fuels would rather not, thank you very much.

The problem isn’t the undeniably impressive growth of wind and solar power. It’s how this growth has come about and the resulting impact on competing fuels. When a friendly government lowers your operating costs through tax breaks, raises your competitors’ costs with regulations, and mandates a market for your product — all while shielding your customers from paying for the grid they use — it’s disingenuous to announce this growth as real, much less revolutionary. That’s because it’s easy to get pricing power if you have enough political power. Hefty subsidies for renewables, like steroids for Olympic medalists, tarnish the achievement.

Subsidies are never free, especially not for the half of all Americans who now describe themselves as “lower class.” Even measured by the jobs required to generate electricity, renewable fuels are costly. Wind creates 2,200 jobs per MWHr, and solar 98 jobs — while coal creates 7,800.

Still, some senators critical of Perry’s report view green subsidies as necessary sacrifices that taxpayers must make to help wind and solar companies win the race for power market domination — and help affluent consumers indulge their green vanity in the bargain. But U.S. taxpayers left paying more for energy — and a smaller supply of it — may soon disagree.

See the article here.

Leave Energy Studies to the Energy Department

Via The Hill:

Despite all the attention paid to the convulsive political change President Trump has brought to Washington, relatively little attention has been focused on a very significant policy shift. For the first time in almost a decade, the Department of Energy (DOE) will once again manage energy issues instead of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Imagine that.

Most Americans probably can. It would likely strike them as sensible to move the EPA back to basics so that it can once again focus on its core mission of clean air and water under Administrator Scott Pruitt — and leave the stewardship of the nation’s electricity grid to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

But as so often happens, what middle America views as sensible strikes Washington as deeply concerning. Take the recent announcement that the DOE will study the impacts of federal regulations on America’s electrical grid. Perry said he will examine “critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid,” including whether “regulatory burdens” and “mandates and tax and subsidy policies” for renewable energy are forcing coal units into retirement.

This fundamental consideration was completely ignored by the Obama-era EPA while it busily cobbled together the Clean Power Plan. And the Federal Energy Reliability Commission (FERC) also declined to assess the plan’s impact despite the wholesale “transformation” of the power grid promised by an agency heavily staffed with air quality statisticians and wetlands hydrologists.

The results of these regulations are now painfully evident. In 2012, the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rule — which limits emissions from power plants — alone forced almost 20 percent of coal plants into retirement, and saddled the power industry with almost $10 billion in annual costs — and all for a mere $6 million in public benefit. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that the Clean Power Plan would cut coal production by 240 million tons annually.

And contrary to the self-serving argument that natural gas, not EPA regulations, caused coal’s decline, researchers at the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment reported that government regulations threatened the viability of more than half of the country’s coal plants while low natural gas prices threatened less than 10 percent.

All of these findings suggest the need for just the kind of impact study the administration is now proposing.

Evidently, though, Perry crossed a red line. In an April 28 letter to the secretary, the nation’s wind and solar trade groups expressed shock at the audacity of the Energy Department to study energy.

Why? Because his findings could raise awkward questions about the massive impact of regulations and renewable energy subsidies on grid reliability and energy diversity. Even some in Congress weighed in against the secretary, accusing him of a “thinly disguised attempt” to harm renewables in favor of “less economic electric generation technologies” like coal.

This is nonsense. Since 2008, the EPA has enjoyed an unprecedented authority over the U.S. energy grid, giving renewable fuels a free ride. Federal portfolio requirements, net metering — which gives consumers credits for returning unused energy to the power grid — and annual subsidies have sheltered the renewable energy sector from market competition. And what amounted to roughly $1 billion in assistance 10 years ago has swelled to more than $11.6 billion today.

Now that Pruitt is getting the EPA out of the energy business, energy supply issues are sensibly being handed back to the DOE. Thus there are palpitations aplenty among fledgling renewable projects, fearing a less generous benefactor may force them to struggle in the Hobbesian “war of all against all” energy market ruled by natural gas.

Apparently, it’s okay for coal to struggle against cheap natural gas. But renewable fuels would rather not, thank you very much.

The problem isn’t the undeniably impressive growth of wind and solar power. It’s how this growth has come about. Consider the largesse extended to renewables in recent years: When a friendly government lowers your operating costs with tax breaks, raises your competitors’ costs through regulations and mandates a market for your product — all while shielding your customers from paying for the grid they use — that growth isn’t real, much less revolutionary. It’s easy to get pricing power if you have enough political power.

Subsidies are never free, though, especially not for the millions of Americans who now describe themselves as “lower class.” Even measured by the jobs required to generate electricity, renewable fuels are costly. Wind creates 2,200 jobs per megawatt hour, while solar creates 98 jobs. But coal creates a whopping 7,800 jobs per megawatt hour.

To some, green subsidies are necessary sacrifices that taxpayers must make to help wind and solar win the race for power market domination and potentially help affluent consumers indulge their green vanity. But U.S. taxpayers left paying more for energy — and for a smaller supply of it — may soon disagree.

See the article here.

EPA’s Pruitt Reaches Out to House Coal Supporters

Via The Washington Examiner:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday met with coal state lawmakers on Capitol Hill at a meeting of the House Coal Caucus, pledging to balance environmental regulations with economic growth.

Pruitt carried the message that the “war on coal is over,” according to the EPA. “This administration says we can and we will achieve both a healthy environment and a growing economy,” Pruitt said after the meeting.

The trip to Capitol Hill was meant to recap the administration’s efforts to rein in former President Barack Obama’s regulatory efforts blamed by critics for shuttering coal plants and raising energy costs.

Pruitt’s visit comes as the administration prepares to release its budget proposal to Congress Tuesday, which will need lawmakers’ support to pass into law. Massive cuts to EPA’s regulatory machine of at least 30 percent are anticipated under the forthcoming budget.

“Administrator Pruitt’s eagerness to engage with lawmakers has been a breath of fresh air here on Capitol Hill,” said John Shimkus, R-Ill., after the meeting. He is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s environmental panel with oversight over the EPA.

See the article here.

On Mission to Save Coal, Perry Bucks Status Quo

Via The Houston Chronicle:

WASHINGTON – In his first public appearance as energy secretary at an NRG Energy coal plant outside Houston, Rick Perry said he was witnessing the future of fossil fuels, proclaiming, “The solution to many of the challenges we have in the world today are displayed behind me.”

NRG’s Petra Nova facility, which began operations in January, represents the first commercial-scale system to remove carbon dioxide from emissions of a coal-fired power plant, a major milestone for a coal industry fighting to survive in a low-carbon world. The carbon capture system, however, was also hugely expensive, costing $1 billion and relying on almost $200 million in clean energy grants from the Obama administration.

As governments worldwide begin to set limits on greenhouse gases, the coal industry is looking to carbon capture to reduce carbon emissions that are far higher than other fossil fuels. But even as Perry and other officials trumpet “clean coal” as the way of the future, the Trump administration has signalled it plans to slash funding for commercializing the technology, preferring to roll back environmental and power market rules they say put coal-fired power plants at a disadvantage to wind, solar and other fuels

But some within the coal industry argue the strategy is short-sighted. In a letter to the White House last month, Colin Marshall, CEO of Cloud Peak Energy, one of the country’s largest coal companies, said that power utilities remained reluctant to invest in new coal plants despite the administration’s efforts to reduce regulation. He urged Trump to support carbon capture technology, including “robust funding” for the Energy Department’s projects.

“If Trump is going to unlock our domestic energy resources, I don’t know how he’s going to do it without this kind of policy support.” said Jeff Erikson, general manager for North America at the Global CCS Institute, a trade group whose membership includes Peabody Energy, Occidental Petroleum and Exxon Mobil.

Almost all of the coal consumed in this country goes to power generation. The share of American electricity from coal plants, however, has fallen from more than 50 percent in 2001 to 33 percent in 2015, according to the Energy Department.

Trump has taken steps strategy to repeal environmental protections like Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have required states to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent on average, shuttering many coal plants. Last month, Perry wrote a memo ordering the Energy Department to undertake a two-month study into “the extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement” of coal and nuclear plants.

Trump has “already come back and changed the direction of the Obama administration,” said Frank Maisano, a partner with the lobbying firm Bracewell. “Coal plants that would certainly have been closed will likely not be pressured to be closed.”

At the Department of Energy, officials in the Office of Fossil Energy said they are being advised to focus on researching new technologies, leaving the task of commercial development to the energy industry itself. That is a shift from the how the department operated under both presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who used federal funding to speed new energy technologies like wind turbines and hydrogen cells to market faster than the private sector could deliver on its own.

The shift is part of a Trump proposal to slash more than $3 billion from the Energy Department’s budget – an 18 percent cut that does not include its nuclear weapons program. But without government funding, many carbon capture projects under consideration in the United States are likely not to get built, said Chris Smith, a former assistant secretary for fossil energy at the Energy Department during the Obama administration.

See the article here.

Ryan: Obama’s Regulatory Tailspin Has Been Repealed

Via The Washington Examiner:

President Barack Obama’s last few months in office were pretty hard on America. On a mission to cement his legacy, he set out on a final regulatory onslaught to expand the size of government dramatically. His agencies rushed through rule after rule, targeting sectors of the economy that did not sit well with his ideology.

Republicans campaigned on a promise to deliver relief and scale back the size of government. We pledged that we would repeal regulations to create jobs and get the economy moving again. Now, we are delivering on that promise.

 Enter the Congressional Review Act. It’s a law on the books that gives Congress 60 legislative days to repeal regulations with a simple voting majority. Furthermore, it dictates that no similar regulation can be issued in the future. Enacted in the 1990s, the Congressional Review Act had only been used to successfully overturn one regulation before 2017.

But in just four months, Congress overturned not one regulation, not two regulations, but 14 harmful Obama-era regulations — those rushed through in the 11th hour of his presidency.

These dictates were poorly crafted, complicated and created massive uncertainty. They made it difficult for businesses to grow and threatened tens of thousands of jobs. They unilaterally grabbed power from the states and gave it to bureaucrats in Washington. They were bad for our economy and our culture.

On the economic front, look at the Interior Department’s stream protection rule, finalized in December. Packaged as an effort to protect the environment, the regulation was really a frontal attack on coal country, projected to wipe out up to one-third of American coal mining jobs. The Obama administration always had an antipathy to coal, and the stream protection rule was its last attempt to try and dismantle the coal industry once and for all.

But Congress stopped that attack. Using the Congressional Review Act, the House and Senate passed H.J. Res. 38 in February, repealing the stream protection rule. President Trump signed the joint resolution into law shortly thereafter.

And take the Department of Health and Human Services’ Title X rule, which overrides state laws. Billed as an effort to protect women’s health, it was really just an effort to keep Planned Parenthood flush with taxpayer cash. Finalized in the last weeks of the Obama administration, the rule banned state governments from moving Title X money away from abortion giants like Planned Parenthood and toward community health centers that help women.

Using the Congressional Review Act once again, Congress stopped that assault on life. Under no circumstances should taxpayers have to pay for abortions. Passed by the House and Senate and signed into law in February, H.J. Res 43 repeals regulations overriding state laws that prohibit federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers in their states.

These are just two of the 14 Congressional Review Act bills from the past few months that are now law. Others limit the power of Washington bureaucrats to unilaterally deny government contracts and give state governments back the ability to make land and education decisions in their communities.

Throughout the past eight years, the American people have lived under an administration that pitted the federal government against the American economy and way of life. With Trump in the White House and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, that era is over. We in Congress had an important tool at our disposal in the Congressional Review Act and we didn’t hesitate to use it.

See the article here.

Coal and Affordable Energy

Via The Craig Daily Press:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry hit a raw nerve in Washington recently when he announced his department will undertake a study of the possible impact that federal regulations have had on U.S. electric grid reliability. Essentially, the Department of Energy will look at “critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid.” The review will consider whether “regulatory burdens” and “mandates and tax and subsidy policies” for renewable energy are forcing coal units into retirement.

This is sensible policy. After all, the toll that recent regulations have taken on affordable power production is well documented. In 2012 the MATS rule alone forced almost 20 percent of the U.S. coal fleet into retirement, and saddled the power industry with almost $10 billion in annual costs—and all for a mere $6 million in public benefit. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated that the more recent Clean Power Plan would cut coal production by 240 million tons annually. And Duke University’s Nicholas School reported that government regulations threatened the viability of more than half of U.S. coal plants; low natural gas prices threatened the viability of less than 10 percent.

Evidently, though, an examination of these impacts on electricity production crossed a red line by possibly raising awkward questions about the massive subsidization of renewable energy. In an April 28 letter to Secretary Perry, the nation’s wind and solar trade groups expressed alarm. With their taxpayer-funded subsidies potentially under attack, they all but questioned what business Secretary Perry’s energy department has in studying energy.

Their letter suggested that the strong, recent growth of wind and solar—turbo-charged as it has been by growing federal largesse—hasn’t hurt coal. Neither, they imply, have Obama-era regulations. Instead, they blame coal’s woes on cheaper alternatives like natural gas. Even some in Congress weighed in against the secretary, accusing him of a “thinly disguised attempt” to harm renewables in favor of “less economic electric generation technologies” like coal.

This is nonsense. For much of the past eight years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has enjoyed unprecedented authority over the U.S. power grid—and has given renewable fuels a free ride. But now that the EPA is going “back to basics” under Administrator Scott Pruitt, energy supply issues are suddenly being handed back to the Energy Department. Thus the palpitations aplenty among fledgling renewable projects.

Since 2007, federal portfolio requirements, “net metering,” and annual subsidies have sheltered the renewable energy sector from market competition. And what amounted to roughly $1 billion in assistance 10 years ago has swelled to more than $11.6 billion today. Without these subsidies, wind and solar would have to compete in the same Game of Thrones-style energy market as “less economic” sources of electricity.

Apparently, it’s okay for coal to struggle against cheap natural gas. But renewable fuels would rather not, thank you very much.

The problem isn’t the undeniably impressive growth of wind and solar power. It’s how this growth has come about and the resulting impact on competing fuels. When a friendly government lowers your operating costs through tax breaks, raises your competitors’ costs with regulations, and mandates a market for your product—all while shielding your customers from paying for the grid they use—it’s disingenuous to announce this growth as real, much less revolutionary. That’s because it’s easy to get pricing power if you have enough political power. Hefty subsidies for renewables, like steroids for Olympic medalists, tarnish the achievement.

Subsidies are never free, especially not for the half of all Americans who now describe themselves as “lower class.” Even measured by the jobs required to generate electricity, renewable fuels are costly. Wind creates 2,200 jobs per MWHr, and solar 98 jobs—while coal creates 7,800.

Still, some Senators critical of Perry’s report view green subsidies as necessary sacrifices that taxpayers must make to help wind and solar companies win the race for power market domination—and help affluent consumers indulge their green vanity in the bargain. But U.S. taxpayers left paying more for energy—and a smaller supply of it—may soon disagree.

See the article here.

VP Mike Pence says ‘War on Coal’ is Over During Visit to Crow Coal Mine

Via The Billings Gazette:

United States Vice President Mike Pence declared “the war on coal” over Friday after touring a Crow Indian coal mine on horseback and meeting with stakeholders.

“I just want to assure you that this administration is absolutely determined to continue to expand the opportunities to develop American energy in an environmentally responsible way,” Pence said.

The vice president gathered with Crow tribal leaders and coal supporters at Absaloka Mine’s headquarters on the Crow Reservation.

The mine is operated by Westmoreland Coal under lease with the Crow. Pence spent the afternoon at the mine before returning to Billings for an evening rally at MetraPark to support Republican U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte, who was not part of the mine visit.

The visit was all cowboys and coal with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Montana’s U.S. representative before joining President Donald Trump’s cabinet in March, leading Pence and a dozen riders through a grassy mine reclamation area.

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., was in the posse. The horsemen trotted to a hilltop to overlook a rolling, spring green landscape, then clustered around Pence and Carlson “Duke” Goes Ahead, Crow vice chairman.

Goes Ahead told Pence that coal was crucial to more than the Crow economy.

“Our coal has impacted all the surrounding areas, Billings, Hardin; it impacts their economies, too,” Goes Ahead said.

The vice chairman said federal coal policy, particularly the Indian Coal Production Tax Credit, which is at perpetual risk of expiring, needed better support. After staying on the books for several years the tax credit expired in 2013. Since then, Congress has retroactively renewed the credit at the end of the year, but the uncertainly of the tax credit’s status has been discouraging for Westmoreland.

On the Crow Indian Reservation — where state labor statistics suggest unemployment is 25 percent — households with coal mining income can earn more than $70,000 a year. The coal income tax credit gave Westmoreland Coal Co. $2.26 for every ton of coal it mined.

“The expiration of that tax credit made it a lot more difficult for us to invest in this mine,” said Kevin Paprzycki, Westmoreland’s CEO.

Daines told Pence there was a bill in the Senate to make the tax credit permanent. He introduced the bill with Montana’s Democratic senator, Jon Tester, in April.

The tax credit lowers the production price of Absaloka Mine coal, which keeps the mine viable.

Pence’s visit to Montana was the first by a current vice president since Dick Cheney visited Billings in 2006 to campaign for former U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg. It wasn’t lost on Daines that the visit started in Crow country.

“The plane landed today in Billings and the very first stop of the vice president to Montana was to Crow country and to coal country and this says a lot,” Daines said. “The administration is thinking about the future. Montana has more recoverable coal than any state in the United States. There’s tremendous potential here and it’s a lifeblood right now for the Crow Tribe. They say coal keeps the lights on, I tell you it’s lights out for the Crow Tribe if we lose these coal jobs.”

As Interior secretary, Zinke oversees natural resource leasing on federal lands, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, national parks and conservation.

Friday, from the moment he arrived on the tarmac at Billings Logan International Airport, Zinke emphasized the importance of energy development, to national parks and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

LWCF dollars are federal funds available to states for improvements that benefit outdoor recreation. The funds received by Montana are typically split between improvements at state park sites and a grant program to benefit outdoor recreation facilities in Montana communities. The money comes from federal offshore oil and gas drilling revenue.

“If you go back to 2008, we made $18 billion in offshore,” Zinke said of federal oil revenue. “Last year, we were $2.6 billion. We’ve lost per year, about $15.5 billion in revenue.

“So the next time someone talks about the Park Service being $12 billion behind in infrastructure and maintenance, I can tell you $15.5 billion in revenue pays for a lot of maintenance. And the LWCF program, which everyone loves in Montana, that’s where it gets the funds.”

Zinke said the United States needs to develop all of its energy options.

Earlier this year, at Trump’s directive, the Interior secretary lifted the moratorium on coal leasing. The moratorium was initiated by the Obama administration so it could study whether the public was getting a fair price for its coal through royalty payments. Coal’s environmental impacts were also to be studied.

Coal has been in an economic slump for more than two years, as U.S. power plants switch to cheap natural gas and a global market glut makes shipping U.S. coal abroad unprofitable. One planned Montana coal mine failed after Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy. Other Montana coal companies ceased coal exports after market prices fell too low to cover shipping costs.

Last August, the Crow Legislature agreed to cut the tribe’s share of profits from tribal coal mined by Westmoreland, a move the coal company said was needed to keep the mine running.

Westmoreland had informed the tribe that the mining company was prepared to terminate its lease by last Oct. 17 unless the Crow agreed to a coal pay cut. The letter cited a plan “to reduce tribal payments in order to maintain the economic viability of the Absaloka Mine.”

Worried the mine would close, the Crow Legislature agreed to lower Westmoreland’s payment of the Tribal Severance Tax by 85 cents a ton. It then agreed to cut the amount Westmoreland paid in the Tribal Gross Proceeds Tax by 40 cents a ton.

Declining coal revenue has cut Crow government funding significantly. There have been layoffs as the tribe deals with the coal economy downturn.

See the article here.

Energy Department is Right to Study Impact of U.S. Power Grid Regulations

Via The Spectrum:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry hit a raw nerve in Washington recently when he announced his department will undertake a study of the possible impact that federal regulations have had on U.S. electric grid reliability.

Essentially, the Department of Energy will look at “critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid.” The review will consider whether “regulatory burdens” and “mandates and tax and subsidy policies” for renewable energy are forcing coal units into retirement.

This is sensible policy. After all, the toll that recent regulations have taken on affordable power production is well documented. In 2012 the MATS rule alone forced almost 20 percent of the U.S. coal fleet into retirement, and saddled the power industry with almost $10 billion in annual costs — and all for a mere $6 million in public benefit. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated that the more recent Clean Power Plan would cut coal production by 240 million tons annually. And Duke University’s Nicholas School reported that government regulations threatened the viability of more than half of U.S. coal plants; low natural gas prices threatened the viability of less than 10 percent.

Evidently, though, an examination of these impacts on electricity production crossed a red line by possibly raising awkward questions about the massive subsidization of renewable energy. In an April 28 letter to Secretary Perry, the nation’s wind and solar trade groups expressed alarm. With their taxpayer-funded subsidies potentially under attack, they all but questioned what business Secretary Perry’s energy department has in studying energy.

Their letter suggested that the strong, recent growth of wind and solar — turbo-charged as it has been by growing federal largesse — hasn’t hurt coal. Neither, they imply, have Obama-era regulations. Instead, they blame coal’s woes on cheaper alternatives like natural gas. Even some in Congress weighed in against the secretary, accusing him of a “thinly disguised attempt” to harm renewables in favor of “less economic electric generation technologies” like coal.”

This is nonsense. For much of the past eight years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has enjoyed unprecedented authority over the U.S. power grid — and has given renewable fuels a free ride. But now that the EPA is going “back to basics” under Administrator Scott Pruitt, energy supply issues are suddenly being handed back to the Energy Department. Thus the palpitations aplenty among fledgling renewable projects.

Since 2007, federal portfolio requirements, “net metering,” and annual subsidies have sheltered the renewable energy sector from market competition. And what amounted to roughly $1 billion in assistance 10 years ago has swelled to more than $11.6 billion today. Without these subsidies, wind and solar would have to compete in the same Game of Thrones-style energy market as “less economic” sources of electricity.

Apparently, it’s OK for coal to struggle against cheap natural gas. But renewable fuels would rather not, thank you very much.

The problem isn’t the undeniably impressive growth of wind and solar power. It’s how this growth has come about and the resulting impact on competing fuels. When a friendly government lowers your operating costs through tax breaks, raises your competitors’ costs with regulations, and mandates a market for your product — all while shielding your customers from paying for the grid they use — it’s disingenuous to announce this growth as real, much less revolutionary. That’s because it’s easy to get pricing power if you have enough political power. Hefty subsidies for renewables, like steroids for Olympic medalists, tarnish the achievement.

Subsidies are never free, especially not for the half of all Americans who now describe themselves as “lower class.” Even measured by the jobs required to generate electricity, renewable fuels are costly. Wind creates 2,200 jobs per MWHr, and solar 98 jobs — while coal creates 7,800.

Still, some senators critical of Perry’s report view green subsidies as necessary sacrifices that taxpayers must make to help wind and solar companies win the race for power market domination—and help affluent consumers indulge their green vanity in the bargain. But U.S. taxpayers left paying more for energy — and a smaller supply of it — may soon disagree.

See the article here.

Another Victory: Court Ruling Provides Hope for Coalfields

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

A federal appeals court delayed action last week on the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, giving the Trump administration time to revise and potentially repeal the job-killing anti-coal policy. The decision is another victory for the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

West Virginia, and a coalition of other states, filed a lawsuit in 2015, arguing the Clean Power Plan exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s congressional authority and violated the U.S. Constitution by attempting to commandeer and coerce the states into carrying out then President Barack Obama’s radical anti-coal energy policy.

But those days are over. The Trump administration is actively fighting for coal and other fossil fuels that were unfairly targeted by Obama. Trump has taken a series of steps in recent weeks to help coal and other fossil fuels, including scrapping the so-called stream-protection rule, lifting the ban on federal leasing for coal production, rescinding Obama’s controversial Climate Action Plan, ending job-killing restrictions on oil, and promising to review, and potentially repeal, the Clean Power Plan.

The appeals court agreed last week to postpone a ruling on the Clean Power Plan case for 60 days and asked the parties for guidance on whether the rule should be sent back to the EPA to potentially be revised or repealed.

Area lawmakers are praising the court’s decision, and Trump’s continued support of coal country.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who led the fight against the Clean Power Plan on the state level, called the ruling a “positive step toward protecting West Virginia coal miners and those who depend upon their success.”

“After eight years of radical environmental policies from the White House, we now have a president focused on bringing coal jobs back,” U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said. “The so-called Clean Power Plan is one of the Obama administration’s key anti-coal policies, and the court made the right decision in giving the administration more time to roll back this job-killing rule.”

“I applaud the D.C. Court of Appeals for recognizing that these regulations are simply unlawful,” U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., added. “This ruling against the Clean Power Plan is an important step to prevent further job losses, increases in consumers’ utility rates, and more damage to our economy.”

We agree. If anything, last week’s court ruling is another sign of the changing political landscape in Washington. Voters, who were rightfully angered by the Obama administration’s war on coal, demanded change, and the Trump administration is delivering it.

By embracing a common sense energy policy, we now have hope, and a more even level playing field here in the coalfield counties of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

No longer is the federal government going out of its way to kill good paying jobs in the greater Appalachia region. And that’s a victory for everyone.

See the article here.

Mr. Bloomberg’s Coal Con

Via The Washington Post:

Michael Bloomberg urged the Trump administration to “quit conning coal communities” in his May 3 Washington Forum commentary [“Quit conning coal communities”] , but he failed to follow his own advice. He cited market competition for the decline in coal industry jobs but conveniently omitted the regulatory onslaught that has forced 20 percent of coal power generation capacity to close since 2011. Academic studies and federal data both testify to the severe economic impact from the anti-coal regulations he has supported. Setting aside the Clean Power Plan alone would preserve 242 million tons of annual coal production and save 27,700 high-wage jobs required to mine it. If coal’s falling fortunes were the inevitable result of competition from natural gas, why did his Bloomberg Foundation need to lavish $100 million on surrogates to advance coal-killing regulations and litigation that have contributed to the loss of 62,000 mining jobs since 2011? He distracted readers from all this by blaming the decline in mining employment on productivity improvements since 1980. What industry still competitive today has not improved its productivity? The facts show that coal employment was increasing for almost a decade until anti-coal regulations took hold in 2011. Mr. Bloomberg’s faux concern for coal miners is a bit rich in view of his job-destroying investments and his patronizing retort to Mark Zuckerberg: “You’re not going to teach a coal miner to code.”

Hal Quinn, Washington

See the article here.

Trump’s EPA: Coal Is A ‘Safeguard’ Against Attacks On Electric Grid

Via The Daily Caller:

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said Wednesday that removing coal production from the U.S. grid would make the country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

“What would happen if we had an attack on our infrastructure when you’ve diverted to natural gas almost exclusively and you don’t have coal there as a safeguard to preserve the grid?” Pruitt said during a Fox New interview.

His comments come after Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed the agency to undergo a 60-day review of the energy grid in April to determine if green energy subsidies are hurting more reliable forms of energy like natural gas and coal.

Perry’s review seeks to evaluate to what extent regulatory burdens, subsidies, and tax policies “are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.” Pruitt’s decision to weigh in on energy grid issues is another unique difference between the Trump administration and its Democratic predecessor.

“Utility companies across this country need fuel diversity. You need solid hydrocarbons on-site that you can store, so when peak demand rises, you’ve got solid hydrocarbons to draw on,” he added.

Pruitt’s position is not unprecedented. The 2016 Republican National Convention, for instance, proposed the idea of transitioning the EPA into a bipartisan commission akin to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an agency responsible for approving improvements and maintaining the country’s electrical grid.

DOE’s study is being conducted as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, a grid watchdog group, focuses on determining the vulnerabilities of an electric grid completely dependent on solar power, wind power, and natural gas.

The group maintains that holding a surplus of coal on power plant premises could stave off possible brownouts or possible attacks. It also reported last year that natural gas and renewable energy technology has benefits but is also problematic in maintaining a reliable source of energy.

Natural gas is a just-in-time resource, the group noted at the time of a 2016 report, that must be transported via pipeline. Pipelines cannot always keep up with demand if there is a spike in electricity consumption during a bout of extreme hot or cold weather, it noted.

Government officials’ concerns stem chiefly from evidence showing Europe and other country’s reliance on solar and wind power have caused a series of rolling blackouts in Germany and South Australia.

South Australia, for instance, has plenty of coal and natural gas reserves, but, thanks to the country’s environmental movement, many of the state’s most reliable coal-powered plants have been shuttered, which is forcing solar and wind power to make up for the deficit.

The state’s growing reliance on solar and wind power “has not only led to a series of technical challenges” but “also increased wholesale price volatility as the state rebalances its supply from dispatchable plant to intermittent generation,” Australia’s Energy Council noted last year.

Nearly 25 percent of homes in the state currently have solar panels installed, and the state gets 41 percent of its power from wind, solar and other green sources. Officials believe fluctuations in the supply of wind power have caused rolling brownouts and blackouts in South Australia.

Germany, which is almost completely reliant on solar and wind, managed to stave off a major blackout in January when German energy suppliers recommissioned its last remaining cola power plants at the last moment.

The country’s power grid was strained to the limit and was in jeopardy of going offline entirely, triggering national blackouts if just one power plant had gone offline. Germany was forced to recommission the plants to keep energy flowing.

See the article here.

EPA Chief: US Needs Coal to Protect Electric Grid

Via The Hill:

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) argued Wednesday that using coal for electricity is necessary for the reliability of the electric grid.

Speaking on Fox Business’s “Varney & Co.,” Scott Pruitt warned of the problems of relying too heavily on natural gas, which has increased in use over the last decade as coal has fallen.

Pruitt argued in part that cybersecurity concerns should inspire the country to maintain coal as a significant fuel source.

“Utility companies across this country need fuel diversity. You need solid hydrocarbons on-site that you can store, so when peak demand rises, you’ve got solid hydrocarbons to draw on,” Pruitt told host Charles Payne.

“What would happen if we had an attack on our infrastructure when you’ve diverted to natural gas almost exclusively and you don’t have coal there as a safeguard to preserve the grid?” he asked.

“I mean, it’s a smart strategy for this country to invest in technology and innovation, burn coal, burn natural gas, use renewables, make sure we advance nuclear. But it truly needs to be a part of the fuel diversity with utilities across the country.”

Earlier in his appearance, Pruitt boasted about the United States reducing its greenhouse gas emissions without regulations like the Clean Power Plan. Natural gas replacing coal over the last decade is the primary reason for that reduction.

“We’re leading the world already with our CO2 footprint,” he said. “What’s interesting about the reduction of our CO2 footprint is that it’s been accomplished without any government mandate.”

Pruitt and President Trump have worked on numerous fronts in recent months to push policies that help coal, mainly through working to repeal regulations that harmed the industry.

Trump has repeatedly promised, through his policies, to bring back the coal industry.

“You know what this says?” Trump said to a coal miner in March before signing an executive order to start repealing Obama’s climate regulations. “You’re going back to work.”

Separately, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has commissioned a study to examine whether renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power threaten grid reliability at the expense of coal and nuclear.

See the article here.

Energy Goals: Jobs, Production, Modern Infrastructure — and Good Environmental Stewardship

Via The Washington Times:

American consumers deserve safe, secure and efficient energy that’s affordable and meets the needs of the 21st century economy. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has already begun work on a pro-domestic energy policy that will improve our nation’s energy infrastructure, create jobs and reduce energy bills, but much more needs to be done.
America’s energy landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade, and it’s time for Washington’s energy policy to change with it.

Our nation’s energy abundance combined with technological developments in the energy sector are presenting new challenges and opportunities in the manner in which we as a nation produce, generate, distribute and consume energy.

For too long, the federal government has stood in the way of the United States reaching its full energy potential. While energy production is at record levels, the nation’s aging energy infrastructure needs to be improved to ensure consumers around the country continue to receive energy in a safe, secure and efficient manner.

Additionally, many of the nation’s environmental laws are outdated, which impedes economic activity and growth. Onerous, red-tape regulations and permitting and siting delays had become commonplace under the previous administration.

Now we’ve started to usher in a new era — one that capitalizes on our energy abundance. The days of Washington knows best are over. It’s time the federal government stopped picking winners and losers. It’s time we enact reforms that build on our nation’s energy abundance, modernize our energy infrastructure, and promote domestic manufacturing and job growth.

Thankfully, the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Energy and Environment subcommittees have already been hard at work examining ways in which we can take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to enact meaningful reforms.

The Energy Subcommittee has explored opportunities to improve the nation’s economic competitiveness by examining the state of America’s evolving energy infrastructure. For too long, pipeline permitting and hydropower approvals were mired in bureaucratic red tape that stymied economic growth, innovation and jobs. Multiyear federal permitting delays have become the norm for pipelines, transmission lines, and projects needed to keep up with our growing production of domestic oil and natural gas.

Thankfully, President Trump and his administration have already started to roll back the red tape. Earlier this year, President Trump issued an executive order to speed up the regulatory review process for infrastructure projects, which finally green-lighted important job-creating projects like the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Looking forward, the subcommittee will look at ways to legislatively encourage infrastructure improvement and expansion. This includes considering potential Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process reforms to bring greater transparency and accountability to the approval process for natural gas pipelines, permits and other approvals needed for hydropower projects.

The Federal Power Act was enacted when Franklin Roosevelt was president and most of the country lacked access to electricity. It’s way past time for a review to this law. Electricity in the United States is experiencing an unprecedented set of changes driven by technological innovation, environmental regulations and mandates, and subsidies at the federal and state levels. The Energy Subcommittee has already started its long-term review of the nation’s electricity system and power markets.

The Environment Subcommittee has already taken a look at the challenges and opportunities for modernizing our environmental laws to expand infrastructure and promote manufacturing. The subcommittee has reviewed important legislation to provide states flexibility when it comes to implementing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for ground-level ozone. H.R. 806, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, would make commonsense, targeted reforms to the Clean Air Act to provide states and local authorities the time and flexibility to implement new air quality standards in an orderly and effective manner.

This allows states to focus on public health rather than wasting resources keeping pace with waves of new and ineffective planning requirements. This simple piece of legislation would boost manufacturing and ensure job growth in many areas across the country.

Additionally, the subcommittee has examined legislation related to Brownfields reauthorization. Brownfields are often abandoned, closed or underutilized industrial or commercial facilities that have the potential to encourage economic development through the EPA’s Brownfields Program. This program is vital to states and local communities across the country and will be an issue of great importance to the subcommittee moving forward.

While these are just some of the many issues that fall under the committee’s broad jurisdiction, much work remains to be done.

This Congress will be a busy one as we work to modernize our dated energy infrastructure and environmental laws. We will continue to strive and fight for consumers across the country to ensure they continue to have access to affordable and reliable energy.

We’re for an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to energy policy. We want jobs, infrastructure improvements and energy production, but we also want to ensure we remain good stewards of the environment. These issues don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We stand ready to roll up our sleeves and work to capitalize on our energy abundance.

See the article here.

EPA is Putting American Workers First

Via The Washington Times:

When President Trump came to EPA to sign an executive order ending the “war on coal,” he was flanked by Pennsylvania coal miners. Hosting coal miners at EPA headquarters in Washington served as a stark contrast to the past administration, to be sure.

President Trump’s action was a moment in which a promise became an economic reality. As EPA Administrator, I immediately ordered my Agency to comply with the March 28 executive order, and signed four new rules, which included a review of the Clean Power Plan. Relief — and prosperity — is on the way.

The “war on coal” stemmed from the previous administration’s regulations aimed at removing coal from our nation’s energy mix. This approach, sanctioned by EPA and other agencies, divided Americans and strengthened Washington’s grip on our economy. Thankfully, President Trump has made clear: The regulatory assault on American workers is over. We should not have to choose between supporting jobs and supporting the environment.

Now, opponents of President Trump’s new executive order claim that this action means that our federal government is turning its back on a clean environment and regulation altogether. This argument is wrong.

First, the Clean Power Plan was never implemented, and was unable to do a single thing for our environment. Twenty-seven states sued, recognizing the threat this regulation posed to their economies and the rule of law. The Supreme Court granted a stay to halt implementation of the Clean Power Plan.

Rather than take its lumps, the Obama administration still demanded compliance from the states, claiming that the stay was only temporary (a technique that was frequently used by the Agency to extract compliance during litigation). The result was lost jobs and an uncertain regulatory environment, without any environmental gain to show for it.

Second, the Clean Power Plan was expected to yield very little for what it cost the American taxpayer. For the price of American jobs, EPA had promised a reduction of sea level rise by the thickness of two sheets of paper and reduction of atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 0.2 percent by 2100, according to an analysis by the National Economic Research Associates. Emissions growth in China and India, of course, would continue unchecked. This plan put America last.

Third, congressional testimony by my predecessor, former Administrator Gina McCarthy, made it clear that the goal of the Clean Power Plan was far less about achieving a measurable result than it was about providing leadership in the world. The federal government sought to kneecap American workers, while countries like India and China were not held to the same rules.

Americans who want a healthy and clean environment expect lawful, effective and economically sound regulation — the Clean Power Plan failed on all three counts. EPA can and should now focus on getting real results in the fight for clean air, land and water.

President Trump made it clear that we should put America first. We are not going to allow EPA to pick winners and losers through regulation. EPA should work within the framework that Congress has established. And we should provide regulatory certainty and write rules that make sense for the states and the businesses they affect.

The “war on coal” is over. Now EPA can focus on its mission and deliver real results.

See the article here.

Time to Achieve Balance

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Friday he is pleased a court decision related to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Power Plan will delay any ruling on the initiative until the Trump Administration can review the plan.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered that any final decision regarding the case be held in abeyance for at least 60 days, while the court and the parties involved determine the next steps.

“Today’s decision by the court is a positive step toward protecting West Virginia coal miners and those who depend upon their success,” Morrisey said. “The court recognized the landscape has changed and that a decision on the merits is not appropriate at this time.”

Morrisey has led the charge against the proposed plan, which was pushed by the Obama Administration.

West Virginia and a coalition of states filed suit in 2015, arguing the Power Plan exceeded the EPA’s congressional authority and violates the U.S. Constitution by attempting to commandeer and coerce the states into carrying out federal energy policy.

That policy, Morrisey has said, includes even tougher environmental regulations that will further hurt the coal industry.

Morrisey said the EPA specifically overstepped its authority by transforming the nation’s energy industry, double regulating fossil-fired power plants and forcing states to fundamentally shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fired generation.

“It’s another good decision (by the courts),” he said. “It’s always positive when you are winning. If we are winning with our litigation it means West Virginia coal miners are winning.”

The suit filed in 2015 won a stay of the regulation from the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2016, followed by oral arguments in the appeals court in September 2016.

“It’s normal for the appeals court to take this long,” Morrisey said, adding that Trump signed an executive order in March to review the plan.

“The court agreed to give them time for that review,” he said. “The courts are going to give deference to the Executive Branch.”

Morrisey said he is pleased with the Trump Administration’s willingness to review the “devastating impact of the so-called Clean Power Plan.”

“We … further appreciate the court giving due time to hear the new administration’s take on this unlawful regulation. I’m proud to lead our broad, bipartisan coalition and look forward to taking part as the court considers its next step,” he added.

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) also praised the ruling.

“After eight years of radical environmental policies from the White House, we now have a president focused on bringing coal jobs back,” he said. “The so-called Clean Power Plan is one of the Obama administration’s key anti-coal policies, and the court made the right decision in giving the administration more time to roll back this job-killing rule.”

Jenkins said if the rule were to go into effect, thousands of coal jobs would be lost and families and businesses would be facing double-digit increases in electricity costs.

“I will continue to support President Trump and his administration in stopping this rule – and Obama’s anti-coal legacy,” he said.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) also supported the court’s decision.

“I applaud the D.C. Court of Appeals for recognizing that these regulations are simply unlawful,” he said in a statement after the ruling. “This ruling against the Clean Power Plan is an important step to prevent further job losses, increases in consumers’ utility rates, and more damage to our economy.”

Manchin said the ruling will allow legislators to work with the EPA on finding solutions to achieve a balance between the environment and the economy.

“We all want clean air and clean water,” he said. “That’s why I look forward to finding answers to our energy challenges that will create jobs, utilize all energy sources, and develop clean energy technology that we can develop right here in West Virginia.”

See the article here.

Environmentalists, Coal Companies Rally Around Technology To Clean Up Coal

Via NPR:

Coal has long had a grip on American politics. That’s why politicians worry about its fate. They tout the fossil fuel’s contribution to the U.S. economy, but lately they’ve also been trying to find a way to clean up coal’s image.

President George W. Bush said in his 2008 State of the Union address, “Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions” — emissions that contribute to global warming. That same year, candidate Barack Obama visited coal country in Virginia and said this about cleaner coal: “We figured out how to put a man on the moon in 10 years. You can’t tell me we can’t figure out how to burn coal that we mine right here in the United States of America and make it work. We can do that.”

And now President Trump is on board the coal train, saying recently: “My administration is putting an end to the war on coal. We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.”

Right now, burning coal contributes more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than any other industrial process. There is technology to strip the CO2 from coal and bury it or use it elsewhere, either before the coal is burned or after. The federal government spent 20 years and billions of dollars to make it work. The result: just two commercial power plants in the U.S., both heavily subsidized. One is the Petra Nova plant in Texas that Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited last week in a show of support. The other is in Mississippi and has yet to open officially.

But two groups usually at odds with each other — environmentalists and coal companies — want “carbon capture” to succeed.

David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council says it’s just common sense. There are thousands of coal plants around the world. Many were recently built, and over a thousand more are planned. “How likely is it that governments are going to shut down a power plant that’s only 10 years old that might have cost a billion and a half dollars or more to build?” he asks.

Hawkins says it’s likely that most of them will be running for decades. “And if they put all that carbon pollution into the atmosphere,” he predicts, “it’s inevitably going to bust the budget for a safe climate.”

That’s also the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advises the United Nations. The IPCC predicts that without carbon capture, the goal of keeping the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels won’t be met. That goal was set at the Paris climate conference in December 2015.

Several other environmental groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Clean Air Task Force, agree. And last February, some of them sent a letter to Congress pushing for tax breaks to help coal plants capture carbon. Their co-signers included heavyweights in the coal industry — Peabody Energy, Cloud Peak Energy and Arch Coal.

From the industry’s perspective, pollution controls, natural gas and renewables are killing coal.

Richard Reavey of Cloud Peak Energy says “climate-friendly” is the future — like it or not. “You know, here’s the deal,” he says. “The time for discussing, debating the science of climate change is over. It is a political and social reality.”

Reavey says it’s now a matter of choosing which technology to use to cut carbon emissions from coal before more coal jobs are lost. “And I don’t think it is reasonable, appropriate, just or politically smart to say, ‘We’ll do that after we kill the coal industry,’ ” he says, along with tens of thousands of good jobs in that industry.

There are still plenty of environmental groups that want to see coal disappear. Charles Cray at Greenpeace says carbon capture is a political tool. “It’s been the technology that’s been used to justify trying to prop the industry up for a while,” he says.

Cray argues that taxpayers’ money should go for renewable energy rather than a technology to extend the life of fossil fuels

Carbon capture does add significant costs to a coal plant. Some costs can be recovered by selling CO2, which is used to pump up oil from hard-to-reach reservoirs. But large-scale use of carbon capture would require a network of pipelines to move captured CO2to geologic burial sites.

Nonetheless, this cooperative effort by environmental groups and coal companies has allies in Congress. Republicans have introduced a bill in the Senate to give carbon capture helpful tax breaks. The House of Representatives is taking up its own version. And Perry’s visit to Petra Nova shows that some people in the pro-coal Trump administration are paying attention.

See the article here.