Coal in the News

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Coal Industry Says It’s Back, Lauds ‘Unshackling’ Of Obama-Era Regulations

Via The Daily Caller:

The coal industry is making a comeback, the National Mining Association says, in part because the Trump administration is “unshackling” the industry of “myriad regulations” from the Obama presidency.

“Attribute part of the nascent coal revival to the unshackling of myriad regulations that drove coal plants into retirement and production down sharply,” reads an NMA blog post published Wednesday.

The Trump administration has rolled back Obama-era environmental regulations. Coal exports abroad are up 60 percent over last year, and analysts expect the U.S. will burn more coal to generate electricity than natural gas.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board also says the industry is on its way back. “Not long ago liberals hailed the demise of coal as inevitable while the Obama Administration strangled the industry with regulation,” the board wrote in a Wednesday editorial. “But don’t look now, Tom Steyer, because coal is showing signs of a revival and breathing economic life into West Virginia.”

The Trump administration moved relatively quickly to rescind Obama administration regulations critics said hampered the coal industry. That includes rescinding the several major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations targeting coal power, including mercury rules and the Clean Power Plan.

But NMA says the coal industry itself has become leaner in the past few years. Major coal producers have emerged from bankruptcy in the past year after losing money hand over fist to low-cost natural gas.

“But it’s Darwinian logic that explains most of the revival,” reads the NMA blog post. “Producers that survived the brutal stress test from both shale gas and federal regulation squeezed costs out of their operations, positioning the U.S. to become more than a swing supplier to offshore markets.”

While repealing regulations helped, larger market shifts played a larger role, according to NMA.

“In fact, the U.S. is exporting more coal to every major region, including the EU, where shipments are up by more than a third over 2016,” reads NMA’s blog post. “Nuclear plants are struggling in the UK and in France, creating surprisingly strong demand for U.S. coal. Steam coal exports to Asia, where grids are still growing, have doubled.”

Earlier this year, Cloud Peak Energy CEO Colin Marshall predicted a record year for coal exports.

“There is already a revival in exports compared to this time last year, but that wasn’t due to Trump,” Marshall told Axios in April, attributing export growth to increasing demand in China and South Korea.

However, Trump may deserve some credit for rising exports to China, which has been relying more on U.S. coal for steel production after the country banned imports of North Korean coal.

China had been lax on enforcing the North Korean coal sanctions, but customs officials ordered North Korean cargo ships loaded with coal to turn around the day after Trump launched a missile strike against Syria’s Assad regime.

The coal export boon may be short-lived, according to analysts. The Energy Information Administration projects total coal exports this year will be 17 percent above 2016 levels, but projects exports to only grow one percent in 2018.

See the article here.

Coal Makes a Comeback

Via The Wall Street Journal:

Not long ago liberals hailed the demise of coal as inevitable while the Obama Administration strangled the industry with regulation. But don’t look now, Tom Steyer, because coal is showing signs of a revival and breathing economic life into West Virginia and other coal states.

Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy proclaimed in 2015 that coal “is no longer marketable.” She planned to be the lead undertaker. The Obama Administration worked tirelessly to fulfill her mission and may have succeeded had Hillary Clinton become President. “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of work,” the 2016 Democratic nominee famously promised.

Yet the Trump Presidency seems to have lifted animal spirits and coal. Weekly coal production has increased by 14.5% nationwide over last year with even bigger bumps in West Virginia (19%), Pennsylvania (19.7%) and Wyoming (19.8%). Exports were up 58% during the first quarter from last year. Apparently coal can be marketable if regulators let it be.

The Obama Administration first targeted coal consumption with rules on mercury emissions and ash disposal that would have made it next to impossible to build a new coal-burning power plant. Then came the 2015 Clean Power Plan that would have forced the existing fleet of coal plants into early retirement.

Finally, the Obama anti-coal warriors sought to shut down coal’s export potential. Thick-seamed coal on federal land in the Powder River Basin overlying Wyoming and Montana is relatively clean-burning and inexpensive to mine. The Obama Interior Department suspended new coal leases on federal land last winter and then reassessed royalty payments—thereby reducing investment and profitability. In December came the coup de grâce: Interior’s stream rule usurping state authority over permitting.

President Trump has called a cease fire to his predecessor’s “war on coal.” In February he signed a resolution repealing the stream rule under the Congressional Review Act. The Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan in February 2016, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is dismantling the power rule as well as the ash and mercury rules. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has re-opened leases and rescinded the royalty revaluation.

Meanwhile, coal is becoming more competitive as a fuel source relative to natural gas, whose price has risen 63% since March 2016 amid an expanding market. The Energy Information Administration says the U.S. will be a net exporter of natural gas this yearGrowing pipeline networks have boosted gas exports to Mexico and are providing new domestic outlets for gas trapped in the Marcellus and Utica Shales. Pipeline export capacity to Mexico is expected to nearly double by 2019. Several interstate pipelines are under review to deliver gas to the Midwest, eastern Canada and Gulf Coast for export. Liquefied natural gas exports have increased six-fold in the last year, and five new terminal projects are expected to be completed within three years. While coal and natural gas compete as electric power fuels, they can both prosper if energy markets expand.

This is all horrifying to the climate-change lobby, but they might note that U.S. coal exports are rising to countries that claim climate-change virtue. Exports to France increased 214% during the first quarter of this year amid a nuclear power plant outage. Other European countries like Germany and the U.K. are utilizing U.S. coal to stabilize unreliable renewable sources and make up for electric capacity lost from the shutdown of nuclear plants. First-quarter coal exports were up 94% to Germany and 282% to the U.K. Et tu, Angela Merkel ?

Coking coal used to make steel is also currently a hot commodity, and its price can soar whenever a storm hits Australia and shuts down mines as one did this spring. Metallurgical exports to China rose 357% during the first quarter. As much as Mr. Trump denounces China’s overproduction of steel, U.S. coal miners are benefitting.

The bigger story is that there’s still demand for U.S. coal if regulators allow energy markets to work. The Energy Information Administration in June projected that U.S. coal power generation will increase by 13% by 2025 “as the existing fleet of coal-fired generators can be more fully utilized and fewer coal-fired generators are retired.” With the Obama Clean Power Plan, the EIA had forecast a 2% to 16% decline.

Coal production will likely never return to its heyday of decades ago. Recent bankruptcies that have made coal companies leaner and more competitive also mean that fewer workers are needed to produce the same output. But even the current modest rebound is helping coal states.

During the first quarter, West Virginia (3%) ranked second in the nation in GDP growth after Texas (3.9%), according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. New Mexico, another heavy mining state, came in third (2.8%). Mining resurgences began in West Virginia, Kentucky and New Mexico last summer after the Clean Power Plan was stayed. After plummeting last year, Wyoming and Montana’s mining industries grew during the first quarter.

Two or three quarters of economic data don’t make a long-term trend, but all of this is still good news for coal states that have experienced two years of little or negative growth and years of political assault.

See the article here.

Coal, the Comeback Kid

Coal, the Comeback Kid

August 16, 2017

Neither the dead nor the living read their obituaries. Coal isn’t reading them because it isn’t dead.From the 2nd quarter of 2016 to the same period this year, coal production rose almost 17 percent. The number of new met mines in Central Appalachia rose from 155 to 212 in the year ending in June, said Argus Coal.

Offshore demand for U.S. met coal has soared by 60 percent this year. In fact, the U.S. is exporting more coal to every major region, including the EU, where shipments are up by more than a third over 2016. Nuclear plants are struggling in the UK and in France, creating surprisingly strong demand for U.S. coal. Steam coal exports to Asia, where grids are still growing, have doubled.

Here at home, coal at least for now is holding its own. EIA’s recent short-term forecast has coal narrowly edging out national gas for power generation this year, as it has most every year before 2016. That year, an anomaly, gas grabbed 34 percent of the market, pushing down coal’s share to 30 percent.

But the gas inventory glut that dampened gas prices last year is waning, leading EIA to project coal to continue its recovery next year when it narrowly wins the market share rivalry with gas. With each energy source claiming about a third of the market, nuclear power’s growth stagnant and renewables sans hydropower at not yet 10 percent of the market, baseload power still relies heavily on fossil energy.

(more…)

New FERC Chairman to Focus on Coal, Nuclear Plants

Via The Washington Examiner:

Coal and nuclear plants must be compensated properly for the reliability they bring to the electric grid, the newly appointed head of the nation’s grid watchdog said Monday.

“I believe that generation, including our existing coal and nuclear fleet, need to be properly compensated to recognize the value they provide to the system,” said Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee on the agency’s podcast.

Chatterjee was appointed to be the federal agency’s chairman last week after being confirmed by the Senate. The appointments of Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, another Republican commissioner, restored the quorum that the agency had lacked to be able to function for the last six months. He said the backlog of work at the commission has created a lot of “consternation” among lawmakers and others, and he means to tackle that as his first priority.

The backlog includes pipeline approvals and other oversight that the commission conducts for the nation’s energy infrastructure.

Grid reliability will be a top focus during his chairmanship, which will last until President Trump’s nominee to head the commission, Kevin McIntyre, is confirmed by the Senate in the fall.

“I’m also committed to the resilience and reliability of our electric system,” Chatterjee said. “These are essential to national security. And to that end, I believe baseload power [plants] should be recognized as an essential part of the fuel mix.” Baseload plants such as coal and nuclear provide electricity around the clock to meet demand.

The coal and nuclear industries want the commission and the regional grid operators that it oversees to enact rules that provide market-based incentives based on the attributes that their power plants provide to the grid. For coal plants, that would be a stable source of reliable electricity. For nuclear plants, it would be both their zero-emission attributes and reliability.

The coal and nuclear sectors have faced increased competition from natural gas power plants in recent years, making them less able to compete in the electric markets. Low natural gas prices have put pressure on a number of more expensive energy resources because the markets that FERC oversees promote the lowest cost resource.

“You know, I’m a Kentucky native. I’ve seen firsthand throughout my life how important the contribution coal makes to an affordable and reliable electric system,” said Chatterjee, who served as chief energy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before joining FERC.

“Last year, coal provided over 80 percent, 80 percent, of the electricity in Kentucky,” he said. “As a nation we need to ensure that coal, along with gas and renewables, continues to be part of our diverse fuel mix. I’m also looking forward to following the president’s charge to create jobs and stimulate economic growth through infrastructure.”

Chatterjee said he believes FERC will play a major role in Trump’s infrastructure plan. “I believe working through the backlog, especially evaluating the infrastructure projects before the commission, really could help spur economic development,” he said.

See the article here.

Trump’s EPA Will Rewrite Another Obama-Era Rule That Could Shutter Coal Plants

Via The Daily Caller:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt notified challengers the agency would begin the process of revising a regulation critics say could force more coal-fired power plants to shut down.

Pruitt sent a letter to the Utility Water Act Group and Small Business Administration on Friday notifying them of the decision. That letter was filed in federal court on Monday. EPA also asked the court to delay the case.

“After carefully considering your petitions, I have decided that it is appropriate and in the public interest to conduct a rulemaking to potentially revise (the regulations),” Pruitt wrote, according to The Associated Press.

Pruitt told utilities in April EPA would consider rescinding “Effluent Limitations Guidelines” for coal-fired power plants in response to a petition from Utility Water Act Group. The rule forces utilities to install more equipment to treat wastewater for mercury and other toxic metals.

Environmentalists opposed EPA’s move to undo the regulation, saying it would imperil water quality.The Obama administration finalized the rule in 2015 and it went into effect in January 2016. Utilities have challenged the rule’s legality in court.

“Power plants are by far the largest offenders when it comes to dumping deadly toxics into our lakes and rivers,” Thomas Cmar, a lawyer with Earthjustice, told TheAP.

“It’s hard to believe that our government officials right now are so beholden to big business that they are willing to let power plants continue to dump lead, mercury, chromium and other dangerous chemicals into our water supply,” Cmar said.

Utilities, on the other hand, say the rule is too costly and would end up forcing more coal plants to prematurely retire.

UWAG argued in its petition the rule would “cause negative impacts on jobs due to the excessive costs of compliance – which were grossly underestimated by EPA – and regulatory burdens forcing plant closures.”

EPA estimated the rule would cost utilities $480 million to install new wastewater treatment equipment, but would yield $500 million in public health benefits.

However, UWAG argued EPA underestimated the rule’s costs and withheld records about the rulemaking from utilities who would have to comply with the rule. UWAG estimates the rule could cost up to $2.5 billion a year.

See the article here.

Coal Looks to Make a Comeback in State

Via The Daily Sentinel:

Coal production is swinging back up in Colorado and 2017 could end up being a year with 1 million more tons produced in the state than in 2016, Colorado Mining Association President Stan Dempsey said Wednesday.

The improvement in the outlook for coal coincides with a change of administrations in Washington, D.C., Dempsey said, noting that while President Donald J. Trump has been criticized for legislative failures, he has taken strides to reduce regulatory burdens on coal and other industries.

Trump has “done a tremendous amount of work and Congress has done a tremendous amount of work to improve the prospects” of coal and other industries, Dempsey said during the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s energy briefing at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Reversal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan was particularly helpful, Dempsey said.

“The Clean Power Plan was designed to put the coal industry out of business,” he said.

Dempsey declined to draw a direct connection between the change of administrations and increased Colorado coal production, but said, “The boot is off our throats from the Obama administration.”

Colorado produced more than 12.5 million tons of coal in 2016 and miners in Colorado had produced nearly 4.9 million tons of coal by the end of April so far this year, according to the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

Efforts by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to establish Coal Community Zones in locales suffering from coal mine closures, such as Delta and Moffat counties, are appreciated, Dempsey said.

“Perhaps this could have been avoided,” though, he said, had the Obama administration not moved against the coal industry with the Clean Power Plan, a moratorium on coal leasing, requirements that projects account for a “social cost of carbon,” and other mineral-valuation and stream protection rules.

“We aren’t blowing the tops off any mountains in Colorado,” Dempsey said.

See the article here.

Coal to Dominate US Electricity Market Over Next Two Years

Via The Washington Examiner:

U.S. coal production will see a sustained boost over the next two years due to increased use at power plants and a rise in exports, according to the federal government’s latest energy projections.

“U.S. coal production is getting a boost in 2017 from higher coal exports and more coal-fired electricity generation,” said Howard Gruenspecht, the Energy Information Administration acting administrator, as he released the agency’s latest short-term energy outlook for the month of August on Tuesday.

“Coal-fired power plants are expected to be the leading source of U.S. electricity for the next two years, as the cost of coal is expected to rise by less than the cost of natural gas and renewable generation continues to grow,” he added.

The latest outlook showed coal’s power plant output will rise from comprising 30 percent of the nation’s electricity output last year to nearly 32 percent in the second half of 2017.

That could put coal ahead of natural gas power plants that have dominated the market over coal in the last few years.

The only problem is that electricity demand is expected to drop going for the third year in a row, according to the report. But for now, it looks like natural gas power plants will take the biggest hit from waning demand, mainly because natural gas prices are rising and milder temperatures will reduce the need for electric cooling in the fall compared to a year ago.

“U.S. electricity generation is expected to decline in 2017 for the third year in row, as forecast milder temperatures in the third quarter compared to the same period a year earlier reduces electric cooling demand,” said Gruenspecht.

Nevertheless, Gruenspecht is confident that coal production will continue to remain high even with electricity demand dropping. Strong demand for U.S. coal exports overseas has a lot to do with that. Coal exports rose 60 percent in the first five months of 2017.

The rate of exports is supposed to “slow in the coming months,” the agency said. But it will still be 17 percent higher than it was in 2016.

“The increase in coal exports contributes to an expected 58 [million short tons (MMst)] (8%) increase in coal production in 2017,” according to the EIA short-term outlook. “In 2018, coal production is forecast to increase by 10 MMst,” or 1 percent.

Natural gas will also benefit from increased demand for exports over the next two years, the report showed.

“U.S. natural gas production growth is expected to accelerate over the next two years with growth rates over 2% in 2017 and over 5.5% in 2018,” said Gruenspecht. “Forecast record natural gas production in 2018 coincides with an expected rise in electricity generation from natural-gas fired power plants and a 23% increase in U.S. natural gas exports.”

Meanwhile, renewable energy is also expected to see significant gains. “U.S. wind power, which provided 6% of total U.S. electricity in 2016, is expected to have a 9% generating capacity increase this year and another 16% in 2018,” said Gruenspecht.

See the article here.

West Virginians Get the Last Laugh

Via The West Virginia Record:

President Obama and his bureaucrats laughed at the citizens of West Virginia and our representatives for eight years as they waged their wicked war on coal (on behalf of other energy interests, foreign and domestic), but who’s laughing now?

We are, and so is U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins.

“Make no mistake: The Obama administration and his EPA have declared a war on West Virginia coal and West Virginia coal jobs, and Logan County’s Spruce No. 1 mine is just one target,” Jenkins said two years ago when he cosponsored Rep. David McKinley’s thrice-introduced bill to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from retroactively vetoing valid permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“This week we will join together with the House to send President Obama and the EPA a strong message: No more attacks on coal. No more attacks on domestic energy. No more attacks on the people who produce energy.”

That’s what Jenkins proclaimed later that year on the eve of two bipartisan votes to repeal the EPA’s limits on emissions from existing plants and block its rules on emissions from new plants.

“Coal jobs provide a true, living wage that support a family,” Jenkins told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy last year at a House Subcommittee hearing on the EPA budget. “Coal jobs also come with really good benefits. . . . But not anymore. The bankruptcies of our country’s largest coal companies have left pensioners and widows desperate for help. And because of your actions, West Virginia now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the entire country.”

That was then, and this is now.

“This budget supports the EPA’s core functions without furthering the radical environmental agenda we saw under the Obama administration,” Jenkins said just recently about the bill he helped write on the Interior Subcommittee, a bill that cuts EPA’s 2018 funding by more than half a billion dollars.

He who laughs last, laughs best.

See the article here.

Trump Administration Hails Deal to Export Coal to Ukraine

Via The Washington Post:

The Trump administration on Monday hailed a Pennsylvania-based company’s deal to supply coal to Ukraine in preparation for winter heating needs, saying it would bolster a key U.S. ally often threatened by Russia.

The deal, potentially worth about $79 million, calls for Xcoal Energy and Resources to ship 700,000 tons of thermal coal to Ukraine to heat homes and businesses. The first shipment is expected to leave the Port of Baltimore next month at a cost of $113 per metric ton.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said U.S. coal “will be a secure and reliable energy source” for Ukraine, which he said has been “reliant on and beholden to Russia to keep the heat on. That changes now.”

The U.S. “can offer Ukraine an alternative, and today we are pleased to announce that we will,” Perry said, calling such deals “crucial to the path forward to achieve energy dominance” for the U.S.

President Donald Trump has vowed to revive the struggling coal industry and has cited increases in U.S. coal exports as evidence the strategy is working. The Energy Department said in July that coal exports have risen sharply in 2017 amid increased demand in Asia and Europe, but are still below capacity.

 The deal comes amid increased tensions in U.S.-Russia relations. Russian President Vladimir Putin says the U.S. will have to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia in response to new sanctions against Russia. Congress approved those because of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the coal deal will allow Ukraine to diversify its energy sources ahead of the coming winter, noting that Russia has restricted some natural gas deliveries to Ukraine and other neighbors in a bid to “choke off opposition to its ambitions.”

Perry was recently fooled by a pair of Russian pranksters impersonating the prime minister of Ukraine. Topics on the mid-July call included coal exports. Perry met with Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, in June.

See the article here.

A Much-Needed Study of Our Electrical Grid is Coming Soon

Via The Washington Examiner:

The dependability of our energy supply is essential to our way of life. Many, especially those who lived through the energy crisis of the 1970s, understand this well when it comes to vehicle fuels like gasoline.

But the public often doesn’t think about the reliability of our nation’s electrical supply, even though that reliability is just as critical to our nation’s economy.

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Fortunately, there are those who are focused on keeping the American electric supply reliable. As a former commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a key part of my job was to regulate our nation’s wholesale electricity markets and protect the reliability of our interstate electric grid.

Recently, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for a report on the reliability of our power grid. In doing so, he indicated he wanted to ensure the nation’s electric grid continues to provide the reliable power Americans have come to expect. It’s a timely topic, and like many people, I’m looking forward to the final report. Our nation’s electric grid is undergoing some of the most profound changes since its inception, so it’s natural that the secretary would ask for an assessment of the electric system and recommendations to head-off any potential problems.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift in how the nation generates its electricity. Thanks to America’s shale gas revolution, a plentiful supply of affordable natural gas has changed the economics of electricity generation. Generation from natural gas fired plants has displaced other plants like coal and nuclear units. Intermittent resources like wind and solar power, supported by tax incentives, have become a more significant part of the electric system as well. In sum, we are asking our grid to be more flexible and resilient during a time when the generation mix is changing rapidly.

The Polar Vortex of 2014 is a good example of why Perry’s requested report is important. For many Americans, the polar vortex was a nuisance; a blast of artic air that reminded us how cold North American winters can be. For those of us who were involved with the operation and regulation of the nation’s electric utilities, it was more noteworthy.

My former agency, FERC, along with the nation’s grid operators, conducted a hindsight analysis of the Polar Vortex, and what we found was concerning. Generators that the system expected to be available when electricity demand was highest too often were not available. Much of the generation fleet that saved the day during periods of high demand were the traditional “dispatchable” generation units, like coal and nuclear. These resources have made up the backbone of the electric grid for decades, but are being marginalized in the evolving resource mix.

We were fortunate not to have had major reliability problems during the Polar Vortex. The grid and consumers dodged a bullet, but it was a red flag reminder to not take electricity for granted. And while we have not had a repeat of the Polar Vortex, merely hoping for mild winters is not a realistic long-term strategy for securing the grid.

More light will be shed on these issues when the DOE releases its report. However, some truths are already known, such as the fact that a fair number of the traditional units that were critical resources during the Polar Vortex may not be around for the next harsh weather event. While new resources have come into the mix in the interim, every resource brings with it its own unique operating characteristics, and we cannot simply assume the grid will work as it always has when we encounter our next “stress test.”

The only way to gain the necessary knowledge about our emerging grid’s resiliency is to ask questions. I am glad Perry is exercising leadership so that we can thoughtfully address potential problems before we have a blackout, rather than waiting to ask those questions after it is too late.

Tony Clark is a Senior Advisor at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP. From 2012 to 2016, he served as a Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

See the article here.

Why Coal is Number One

Via The Washington Times:

Quick: what was the number one source of electricity production in the U.S. during the first half of 2017? If you answered renewable energy, you are wrong by a mile. If you answered natural gas, you were wrong by a tiny amount.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which tracks energy use in production on a monthly basis, the single largest source of electric power for the first half of 2017 was coal. See chart.

That’s an amazing finding because liberals and especially environmental groups keep telling us that coal is a dead industry. They have ridiculed Donald Trump, and called him a liar, when he has said that he will revive the coal industry and the related jobs. “Coal Isn’t Coming Back,” a New York Times piece assured us a few weeks after the election. “Saving coal is one promise he (Trump) won’t be able to keep,” the author predicted. The Financial Times was even more blunt in its headline last month: “Coal Is Dead; Long Live the Sun.”

Let’s see if the left issues a retraction. Don’t hold your breath.

According to the EIA’s July report, “EIA estimates that the share of total U.S. generation fueled by natural gas during the first half of this year averaged 29 percent. In contrast, coal’s share of generation rose from 28 percent in the first half of 2016 to 30 percent in first half of 2017.” For the full year 2017, EIA estimates that coal will generate 3.453 million kilowatts per day, while natural gas, because of a rise in its retail price this year, will generate a hair less, or 3.432 million kilowatts. Wind and solar remain niche sources of energy providing about one-seventh as much power as coal and gas.

That’s not all. The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released July 21, 2017, reports that “mining increased 21.6 percent. The first quarter growth primarily reflected increases in oil and gas extraction, as well as support activities for mining. This was the largest increase since the fourth quarter of 2014.”No other major American industry had such gains and across all industries output was up less than 2 percent.

As for the drilling and mining industries, they have gained more than 50,000 jobs since President Trump’s election with 8,000 added in June alone. Many of these were in the oil and gas industry, but some were in coal, whose output has increased 12 percent this year.

Liberals complain that coal activity isn’t a major producer of jobs because the industry is producing a lot more coal with a lot fewer workers. That is absolutely true. Ladies and gentlemen, that is called productivity. A new study by the Institute for Energy Research points out that it takes wind and solar at least 30 times more man hours to produce a kilowatt of electricity than are required to produce that same energy from coal or oil. If you don’t think this productivity advantage of fossil fuels is a good thing, then you probably think we should bring farm jobs back by abolishing tractors and modern farm equipment.

But coal jobs are not just tied to the actual mining of coal. Coal is tied to steel jobs, trucking jobs, and manufacturing jobs. Using cheap and efficient energy makes every other American industry more productive, and thus makes American employers far more competitive in global markets. Productivity creates higher paying jobs in America, it doesn’t destroy them.

We are not the only country that is using a lot more coal. Of all places, The New York Times reports that “Chinese companies are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that burn little or no coal.” India is building hundreds more.

Does any of this sound like the last gasps of an industry that is “dead?” The reason these nations are turning to coal and natural gas is very simple: price and reliability. On both measures fossil fuels are much more efficient than wind and solar generation. Here and abroad solar and wind only survive due to massive government subsidies that mask the real cost. For all the talk of the “booming” solar energy field, it accounts for one percent of American power production.

Amazing that even with the tens of billions of dollars of subsidies to tilt the playing field away from fossil fuels and regulations meant to kill them, they are still flourishing as never before.

See the article here.

These States Couldn’t Dig the Mining Industry More Right Now

Via The Wall Street Journal:

The three fastest-growing states are reaping rewards from the recently revitalized mining sector.

Mining was the driving force behind growth in Texas, West Virginia and New Mexico, which grew 3.9%, 3% and 2.8%, respectively — the fastest rates of any states — in the first quarter. Just a year earlier, Texas was growing at a 2.7% pace, while West Virginia and New Mexico were contracting at 1.9% and 0.7%, respectively, according to the Commerce Department.

The mining industry has benefited from a recovery in commodity prices after an oversupply of commodities like oil, zinc and copper sent prices plunging a couple of years ago. The industry, which grew 21.6% nationally in the first quarter, contributed to growth in 48 states.

Overall growth in real gross domestic product slowed in the first quarter, with sectors including finance, retail and agriculture leading the deceleration.

Meanwhile, mining has proven to be a bright spot in the economy. Industrial production in the second quarter was boosted by robust gains in mining production, a reflection of the continued recovery of drilling activity.

The revitalization in the sector has benefited companies as well as state economies. Caterpillar Inc., a maker of bulldozers and mining trucks, on Tuesday highlighted a rebound in the mining industry in its upbeat second-quarter earnings.

One signal of concern for states like Texas, West Virginia and New Mexico: While mining investment has made leaps and bounds so far this year, “the more recent weakness of crude oil prices suggests that mining activity could drop back in the second half of the year,” said Andrew Hunter of Capital Economics in a note earlier this month.

See the article here.

U.S. Coal Exports Soar, in Boost to Trump Energy Agenda, Data Show

Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

U.S. coal exports have jumped more than 60 percent this year due to soaring demand from Europe and Asia, according to a Reuters review of government data, allowing President Donald Trump’s administration to claim that efforts to revive the battered industry are working.

The increased shipments came as the European Union and other U.S. allies heaped criticism on the Trump administration for its rejection of the Paris Climate Accord, a deal agreed by nearly 200 countries to cut carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels like coal.

The previously unpublished figures provided to Reuters by the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed exports of the fuel from January through May totaled 36.79 million tons, up 60.3 percent from 22.94 million tons in the same period in 2016. While reflecting a bounce from 2016, the shipments remained well-below volumes recorded in equivalent periods the previous five years.

They included a surge to several European countries during the 2017 period, including a 175 percent increase in shipments to the United Kingdom, and a doubling to France — which had suffered a series of nuclear power plant outages that required it and regional neighbors to rely more heavily on coal.

“If Europe wants to lecture Trump on climate then EU member states need transition plans to phase out polluting coal,” said Laurence Watson, a data scientist working on coal at independent think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative in London.

Nicole Bockstaller, a spokeswoman at the EU Commission’s Energy and Climate Action department, said that the EU’s coal imports have generally been on a downward trend since 2006, albeit with seasonable variations like high demand during cold snaps in the winter.

Overall exports to European nations totaled 16 million tons in the first five months of this year, up from 10.5 million in the same period last year, according to the figures. Exports to Asia meanwhile, totaled 12.3 million tons, compared to 6.2 million tons in the year-earlier period.

Trump had campaigned on a promise to “cancel” the Paris deal and sweep away Obama-era environmental regulations to help coal miners, whose output last year sank to the lowest level since 1978. The industry has been battered for years by surging supplies of cheaper natural gas, brought on by better drilling technologies, and increased use of natural gas to fuel power plants.

His administration has since sought to kill scores of pending regulations he said threatened industries like coal mining, and reversed a ban on new coal leasing on federal lands.

Both the coal industry and the Trump administration said the rising exports of both steam coal, used to generate electricity, and metallurgical coal, used in heavy industry, were evidence that Trump’s agenda was having a positive impact.

“Simply to know that coal no longer has to fight the government — that has to have some effect on investment decisions and in the outlook by companies, producers and utilities that use coal,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Energy Department, said: “These numbers clearly show that the Trump Administration’s policies are helping to revive an industry that was the target of costly and job killing overregulation from Washington for far too long.”

Efforts to obtain comment from exporters Arch Coal and privately held Murray Energy Corp. were unsuccessful. Contura Energy, which emerged as part of Alpha Natural Resource’s bankruptcy and restructuring, and filed for public offering in May, declined to comment.

A spokesman for Peabody Energy, the largest coal producer, though without a major export profile, said the United States was generally a “swing supplier of seaborne coal.”

U.S. Energy Information Administration analyst Elias Johnson said the U.S. coal industry may now be better positioned to meet foreign demand because U.S. miners have learned to produce at lower cost, after coming through a series of recent bankruptcies.

“There’s the possibility that the U.S. will become more of a primary player in the global coal trade market,” he said.

But he added there are also plenty of reasons the spike in demand could be temporary. For one thing, U.S. coal production and transportation costs are much higher than for other producers such as Indonesia and Australia.

Because coal can often be transhipped from European ports before it is consumed, it is also hard to determine where shipments ultimately end up.

Johnson pointed out that some of the fuel shipped into Western Europe, for example, could be making its way to other places like Ukraine, which is having trouble securing coal from its separatist-held regions.

Trump said last month that his administration is offering more coal to Ukraine, but it was unclear how, given deals are typically worked out between companies.

See the article here.

Coal’s Benefits: Seen Only When Gone

Coal’s Benefits: Seen Only When Gone

July 26, 2017

The front-page story in Sunday’s Washington Post was a despairing look at the human cost of “the collapse of the coal industry.”  “Disabled and Disdained” is an example of a growing interest by both broadcast and print media in the social destruction left in the wake of a vanishing industry and the jobs it supported.  Monday’s New York Times followed
with a similar story from Wise, Va.

Finally, if belatedly, we are invited to confront the anguish – poverty, drug addiction, family break up – the symptoms of a community unravelling when the threads holding it together are removed.

For too long, renewables-enthralled media ignored the struggles of these communities, blinded by the exciting potential glare of communities repaved with solar panels. It took President Trump’s election to awaken interest in their plight. Who are these people anyway?  Where is Grundy, Virginia?

What was missed in all this indifference wasn’t just the “cost” of coal’s decline. Setting aside coal’s energy producing value when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, equally significant and overlooked were the irreplaceable benefits that are only now recognized when coal is gone. From the dignity of work – the livelihoods that could support a spouse and kids – to the revenue that flowed like blood through the community – to the shops, hospitals, schools and cafes that make any place worth living.

(more…)

Reliable, Affordable Electricity Is Vital to America

Via The Morning Consult:

Remember the last time you lost power at home. Even if you went without electricity for only for a few minutes, it was an inconvenience, right? Now, imagine it is the coldest stretch in years. What happens if the electricity goes out for days at a time during this brutal cold? Think about the impact that could have, especially on the most vulnerable living amongst us.

Most Americans take reliable electricity for granted. We turn on the switch and it’s there. But as a result of policies and technologies that have transformed the way we generate and transmit electricity, we are sacrificing reliability and putting our electric grid at risk. The good news is this problem has finally caught the eye of decision-makers in Washington.

For generations, coal has been the backbone of America’s economy, producing electricity to power our homes, schools, offices and factories. There’s a reason our country has been powered by coal for over a century — it is the cheapest, most reliable source of energy on the planet.

Our power grid was designed on resilient baseload power, which requires reliability on both ends of the supply chain — both at the source as well as delivery. There are two main sources of baseload power — coal and nuclear energy.

Yet over the past decade, our baseload capacity has eroded. The policies and regulations imposed by President Barack Obama forced more than 250 coal-fired plants to close. As a result, coal has declined from around 50 percent of electricity generation in 2008 to 30 percent today. Obama’s mission to move America away from coal has come at the expense of both American workers and our energy security.

Renewable resources such as wind and solar should be part of an all-of-the-above energy plan. But even when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining they fail to come close to meeting our country’s energy needs.

By their nature, they are intermittent source of energy. Until there are advancements in energy storage, that will be a downside to renewables.

Thanks to the shale revolution, natural gas is abundant and cheap. As a result, it has been growing as a share of electric generation. However, natural gas is vulnerable to wild fluctuations in price, especially during a disaster or severe weather.

In 2014, natural gas was unable to meet the spike in demand from the record polar vortex that brought frigid weather to the east coast. The extreme cold shut down schools across the region and caused 21 people to die. Natural gas was in short supply, forcing power plants to scale back or shut down operations. The price of natural gas spiked to what would be the equivalent of paying $85 for a gallon of gasoline.

While building out the natural gas pipeline infrastructure across the country will help alleviate some of those problems, bottlenecks will remain a challenge. At the same time, other important uses for natural gas — exports of LNG, manufacturing, and petrochemicals and plastics — will increase in demand and drive prices up.  Natural gas will play an important role in electric generation, but it can’t replace the dependability of coal or nuclear — which is always available when you need it.

The situation before us is not merely a challenge or an inconvenience. It is a crisis waiting to happen. If we wait until a natural disaster wipes out our capabilities, or fail to respond until a terrorist attack strikes the power grid, it will already be too late. We will be crippled by our dependence on unreliable energy and the price will be steep. Lives are at stake. Yet many in Washington have failed to take this problem seriously.

Thankfully the Trump administration and Energy Secretary Rick Perry understand the value of reliable, dependable, resilient energy sources. The Department of Energy is currently undertaking a study on the state of our electric grid and energy security. I expect the study will reveal to Washington what we in West Virginia already know — the war on coal and reliable energy needs to be reversed immediately.

It will be up to President Donald Trump and his administration to work together with Congress to address this problem. We must find a way to ensure our energy portfolio values reliability and affordability, not just a political agenda.

Rep. David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) represents West Virginia’s First Congressional District. He serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and is chairman of the Congressional Coal Caucus. He is one of two licensed engineers in Congress.

See the article here.

Good News: Workers Being Called Back

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

In another sign of life for the coal industry, Komatsu Mining Corp. (formerly Joy Global) has called back 65 workers and will hire 15 more due to a “uptick in work in the mining industry.”

The workers were called back on the job last week. The new workers that will be hired will fill positions ranging from certified welders to general laborers, said Caley Clinton, global public relations manager with Komatsu Mining based in Milwaukee, Wis.

“Most of the new positions are going to be for certified welders and a couple of general laborers,” Clinton said, adding that an “uptick in work in the mining industry” created the need for the workers. “We are seeing customers ordering new equipment again or parts. During the downturn in the mining industry they used what they had.”

Clinton said the increase in demand is not necessarily from the coal industry, but the mining industry in general, and around the world.

“We provide equipment and services in a wide variety of mining operations,” she said, adding that mineral mining has seen an increase but “it’s not any one of them, just a general uptick in the mining industry. Overall, our customers are starting to move again in placing orders.”

The Trump administration’s welcomed support for coal, and fossil fuels in general, is fueling renewed confidence within the industry.

Anytime unemployed workers are called back on the job, it is good news for our region.

We realize that coal production in the area may never reach the same levels as years ago, during the peak of the coal industry here in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. And no one is claiming that the mining industry will be resurrected overnight.

But here is the point that is all too often overlooked in the national conversation about coal. Every coal mine that reopens, and every coal miner who is called back to work, is helpful to our local economy. The same goes for related service industry positions similar to those provided by Komatsu Mining Corp. These are unemployed workers who are returning to the workforce, and new positions that are being created.

You won’t see us complain when an unemployed coal miner or industry professional is called back. And we won’t gripe when workers are hired for new positions within the industry. Every coal miner and industry professional who returns to the workforce will help our regional economy.

See the article here.

Let’s Take the Lead in Clean Coal

Via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord has drawn criticism, but if there’s a silver lining, it may be that his renewed focus on coal could spur technological advances leading to both a cleaner environment and safer power generation for millions of people around the world.

Roughly 3 billion people in the developing world have virtually no access to energy. And while countries like India and China are rapidly industrializing their power sectors, much of the world remains largely in the dark. In fact, the burning of dung still serves as the chief source of energy for cooking and heating in many places. The adverse impacts of such a fuel source — including indoor air pollution and black carbon — threaten both lives and environmental safety. So it’s imperative to find a safer means to deliver reliable energy to the people who need it most.

In contrast to the developing world, America enjoys world-leading access to power generation for schools, hospitals, public transportation, water treatment, sewage facilities and food storage. A third of this power comes from coal-fired plants that run 24/7.

Technology is helping to significantly cut emissions from these plants. New coal stations are 90 percent cleaner than the 1970s fleet they’re replacing. And while coal use has tripled over the past 40 years, regulated emissions from coal-based electricity generation have decreased by nearly 40 percent, thanks to scrubbing technologies that trap 98 percent of sulfur-dioxide emissions, 90 percent of nitrogen-oxide emissions and 90 percent of mercury emissions.

More impressive technologies are on the horizon. A Clean Coal Technology partnership administered by the U.S Department of Energy is working to develop systems that could ultimately enter large-scale commercial deployment. The CCT program has already resulted in more than 20 new, lower cost, more efficient and environmentally compatible technologies for electric utilities, steel mills, cement plants and other industries.

In the wake of the Paris accord, it’s important to consider that “carbon capture” technologies are already being brought online to trap CO2 emissions. The technological advances are impressive, including the use of CO2 to enhance oil recovery through fracking — with the CO2 subsequently stored underground.

NRG Energy in Texas, for example, captures 1.6 million tons of CO2 each year, an environmental impact equal to taking 350,000 cars off the road. The plant uses carbon dioxide from a coal-burning power plant to extract more oil and natural gas from old wells. And a company in Alberta, Canada, is injecting power plant carbon dioxide emissions into concrete to make it stronger.

Even without carbon capture, modern coal plants are reducing CO2 emissions. New “supercritical” and “ultra-supercritical” boilers increase the heat rate of coal-based power plants by as much as 49 percent, which makes for more efficient burning and less pollution.

Improvements in solar and wind systems suggest they’ll play a greater part in America’s energy portfolio, but coal and other fossil fuels will likely serve as the backbone of domestic energy production for the foreseeable future. It makes sense then to pursue advanced technologies to improve their efficiency and environmental performance.

The benefits go beyond our shores. What the United States can do is not only bring such technologies into use — to modernize and improve existing coal plants — but also share them with countries struggling to meet basic power needs. If China and India, for example, are committed to coal usage, shouldn’t the United States help them design systems that emit as little CO2 as possible and otherwise reduce environmental impacts?

America is on the cusp of great achievements in clean coal research and development. Moving forward will help to meet increasingly stringent environmental challenges and expectations, especially regarding emissions control and carbon capture. As advanced coal plants are constructed to meet the world’s growing energy needs, America will have even greater opportunities to be a leader in clean coal.

See the article here.

Trump Delivering: Coal Industry Alive and Well

Via OneNewsNow:

Luke Popovich, vice president of communications for the National Mining Association, says the death of coal has been greatly exaggerated.

“I think a lot of the major media on the coasts – and I’m talking about the most influential, big dailies – don’t like Donald Trump,” says Popovich. “Donald Trump likes coal, so they don’t like coal even more than they did before Donald Trump was elected.”

As a result, Popovich says news outlets and critics of coal have been exaggerating coal’s decline in order to exaggerate the president’s failure to deliver on his promise.

“The fact is the president did say he was going to revive the coal industry, and to great extent he has succeeded,” he continues. “He’s taken it out of a death spiral for one thing.”

How so?

“We’re seeing jobs coming back,” answers the NMA spokesman. “We’re seeing mines open in states from West Virginia, Kentucky, all the way to Pennsylvania. We’ve seen coal production coming back about 20 percent year over year, coal prices have increased since last fall when the president was elected.”

Popovich says the coal industry isn’t nearly as depressed as people would think from reading major media reports.

Still, natural gas provides more of the nation’s electricity than coal. While many utilities began making the switch to comply with the Obama administration’s regulations regarding coal, natural gas is cheap, abundant, and burns cleaner than coal. It was not that long ago that coal was providing 40 to 50 percent of the nation’s electricity.

“There’s no question that natural gas has been a formidable competitor of coal and has surpassed coal for the first time in the share of power generation in for the United States,” Popovich acknowledges. “It’s going to be a struggle for coal to get much above a third.”

But he sees hope since the government has gotten “the punitive regulations off the back of coal producers so they are freer to do what they have to do to compete against natural gas and subsidized wind and solar, which are also in this power generation market.”

Popovich adds that coal can be used for things other than energy generation.

“You can’t make steel without coal,” he explains. “Coal was booming ten years ago partly because of the industrial revolution that was going on in Asia, mostly in China. They were building cities from nothing, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty with steel. That created a huge demand for metallurgical coal, which is our highest grade coal.”

That market has cooled because China’s economy is not growing as fast as it was, but Popovich says coal still remains an essential ingredient for industrialization around the world – and most of that is occurring offshore.

“Now, if the president goes through with his plan and Coness collaborates with him to build a big infrastructure program into the budget and we see bridges and roads and buildings and dams being reconstructed here in the United States, then clearly the demand for steel and presumably metallurgical coal will also increase,” Popovich says.

See the article here.

Increased U.S. Reliance on Natural Gas Poses Grave Security Risk

Via Lifezette: 

Without coal as backup, attack on key pipelines or hubs could threaten power for millions of Americans

Energy enthusiasts have been rallying around natural gas in recent years as a replacement for coal in generating electricity. And undoubtedly, the fracking revolution has unleashed more natural gas for power generation. But the resulting push toward a greater reliance on natural gas for electricity production at the expense of coal-fired generation could invite troubling, unintended consequences.

In recent years, Americans have rightly become more concerned about threats to the internet posed by cyberhacking, as well as physical attacks on critical infrastructure. From a security standpoint, there are reasons to be particularly worried about the vulnerability of America’s power grid. This concern is one reason why Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry has commissioned a study on the reliability of the U.S. power grid.

Right now, there are more than 30 natural gas hubs located throughout the United States, each supplied with processed natural gas from an interstate network of pipelines. It is from these centralized hubs that gas is then distributed to regions of the country demanding large amounts of natural gas — for both power generation and residential use.

What’s of particular concern is the centralized nature of this spidery pipeline network. Each hub feeds a limited number of key pipelines across major population centers. A successful attack on one of these pipelines could potentially halt power generation across a series of metropolitan areas.

A good way to envision this is that, while there are plenty of electricity transmission lines strung throughout the country, there are comparatively few pipelines. And while a downed transmission line can be repaired — with electricity re-routed in the interim — the loss of a major pipeline could mean the complete stoppage of gas delivery to multiple power plants.

The vulnerability of these hub pipelines points to a key drawback of gas-fired power. Natural gas plants do not store reserves, and are thus perpetually reliant on the secure delivery of a steady, inflow of fuel.

Such limitations are all the more striking when one considers that much of the nation’s coal fleet maintains a 30-day supply of coal, rendering them essentially independent of day-to-day constraints. If a supply train is late, for example, or a snowstorm delays a coal shipment, the coal plant remains unaffected— and able to keep generating 24/7 electricity for millions of customers.

Both coal and natural gas, though, generate prodigious amounts of power. And such robust delivery shouldn’t be underestimated. A typical 500-megawatt coal plant can provide enough electricity to power 350,000 homes. A 1.5-megawatt wind turbine, in contrast, can power roughly 332 homes. Unfortunately, wind turbines only generate this full “rated capacity” about 40 percent of the time — since the wind doesn’t always blow as needed.

In order to meet the growing power needs of a continually growing population, the United States needs to keep generating ever greater amounts of electricity. As such, the heavy lifting undertaken by coal and natural gas appears more and more crucial. Coal itself still supplies roughly 30 percent of America’s electricity, and the nation’s sturdy coal fleet proved particularly important during the “polar vortex” chill of 2014.

During the coldest parts of that winter, major utility company American Electric Power reported that 90 percent of its coal plants slated for retirement were running at full speed just to meet that peak demand. And even more troubling is that PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization in 13 states, has determined that in the event of another polar vortex-type winter, coal plants will be indispensable for meeting peak demand.

All of this begs the question of whether America can simply entrust its future power grid to a greater reliance on natural gas. The possibility of a disruption on a major natural gas hub is a disturbing scenario that must be contemplated and addressed. And so, if the nation wants to move toward increased natural gas power generation, it seems prudent to fully and adequately take steps now to secure the pipeline network currently underpinning much of the country’s power production.

See the article here.

Rick Perry Says ‘Clean’ Coal Will Shape America’s Energy Future

Via The Daily Caller:

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry emphasized in a recent interview that clean coal will highlight his energy agenda, utilizing American innovation to pursue cleaner, cheaper coal while creating jobs in the process.

The Washington Examiner sat down with Perry this week at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in a suburb of Pittsburgh.

Perry toured the lab the day prior, and lauded its initiatives of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in shale. The NETL lab is one of 17 laboratories nationwide that receive government funding. The Pittsburgh location is the only lab that is managed completely by the federal government.

The former Republican presidential contender weighed in on upcoming projects to create jobs while simultaneously making energy cheaper, cleaner and more accessible. Perry was asked about innovative “cracker plants,” or energy plants that crack molecules in natural gas to make byproducts such as ethane and ethylene.

“If you just took that gas and burned it at a power plant, it’s sort of like cooking your breakfast using $100 bills. It will cook your breakfast, but it’s a pretty expensive way to do it,” the secretary said. “But if you take that gas, process it, crack it, send different streams different ways to be used in a lot of valued-added processing, that can happen right here in this region. So, one job becomes 10 jobs. And those are high-value jobs.”

Perry also defended the Trump administration’s endorsement of coal initiatives, despite concerns over climate change. He believes that clean coal is not only pragmatic, but will become commonplace.

He recently toured West Virginia’s Longview Power Plant, which says it is one of the most efficient coal-fired power plants in the U.S.

“Walking through the plant in Longview — it’s a highly efficient, low-emission plant — and is using tons of coal to create electrical power. It’s pulverizing that coal into like talcum powder. I literally wiped my hand across the first floor of this plant, and it looks like my hand looks right now wiping it across this tabletop. Totally clean. That is the innovation that we’ve come to expect in America,” Perry said.

Finally, Secretary Perry addressed the bombshell decision by President Donald Trump several weeks ago to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. He responded to the tremendous opposition from Democrats, and talked about some of the benefits of withdrawal.

“I’m not sure this is ever going to be an absolute black and/or white issue. … I hope we can have an open, thoughtful conversation with people on both sides of this as we go forward and agree that we’re making great progress. America has reduced its emissions more than any country out there from the standpoint of a percentage,” answered Perry.

The secretary of energy was optimistic about the future of American energy, and excited about technological innovations that will help the United States lead the world in addressing the challenge of creating clean energy jobs and mitigating carbon emissions.

He closed out the interview saying, “I happen to think that Donald Trump is about shaking up, if you will, going outside the norms of what we’ve historically seen. I think he’s going to be very successful.”

See the article here.

Coal Exports Exceeded Expectations at Start of Year

Via The Casper Star-Tribune:

U.S. coal exports rose sharply in early 2017 amid increased demand in Asia and Europe.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Tuesday that exports are up by 8 million tons to 22.3 million tons through March.

That’s a 58 percent jump over the 14.1 million tons exported during the same period in 2016. The increase comes after five years of declines.

Exporting Wyoming coal has long been an idea on the backburner for state leaders eager to find more places to sell the Powder River Basin rock. But the economics simply haven’t lined up. Only Cloud Peak Energy, the Gillette-based company with mines in northern Wyoming and across the border in Montana, has plans to export to Asia this year. The company has 3.3 million tons of exports under contract for the year. It sent .5 million tons across seas in the first three months of the year.

Other companies operating in Wyoming have shown interest in developments like the Millennium Bulk export terminal in Longview, Washington, which if completed would open up another conduit to send U.S. coal to Asia. The terminal was first proposed in 2012 and has experienced repeated delays in permitting and pushback from environmental opponents. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is set to release a final environmental review of the project later this year.

Export volumes in the first quarter of the year were up most significantly through ports in Norfolk, Virginia and New Orleans. Top destinations for U.S. coal were the Netherlands, South Korea and India.

 Despite the increase, volumes remain well below industry expectations when plans were announced over the past decade to build or expand coal ports in Oregon, Louisiana, Washington state and California.

Most of those projects have stalled or been cancelled. Federal officials say there’s still more export capacity than needed.

See the article here.

Coal Projected to be Top Power Source

Via The Williamson Daily News:

By a thin margin, coal will be the top source for U.S. power generation in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s monthly Short Term Energy Outlook released Tuesday.

The EIA report projects coal will fuel 31.3 percent of electricity in the U.S. in 2017, compared with 31.1 percent for natural gas. In 2016, natural gas surpassed coal as the nation’s top fuel for the first time, totaling 33.8 percent of generation compared with 30.4 percent for coal.

“This report is a very positive sign for coal, and that it is moving in the right direction,” said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. “It shows that coal is still a very viable and most dependable energy source in the country.”

 The agency has projected natural gas to be the top fuel in 2017 in most of its reports so far this year, including June’s edition, but increasing gas prices as well as higher hydro generation have pushed it below coal in the latest forecast.

Coal supply and production

EIA estimates that coal production declined by 169 million short tons, or 19 percent in 2016 to 728 million, the lowest level of coal production since 1978.

In 2017, growth in coal-fired electricity generation and exports is expected to lead to an increase of 57 million short tons, or 8 percent, in total U.S. coal production.

“Production of coal is up in the first six months of 2017 in West Virginia by approximately 18 to 19 percent,” Raney said. “After eight years of an administration that was attacking coal, now we are seeing the beginning of what can happen when there is support for coal on the federal level. We need to continue this positive momentum.”

Increases in production from the Appalachian region and the Interior region are expected to be 16 million and 15 million short tons, respectively, according to the EIA report. Production in the Western region is forecast to increase by 26 million.

In 2018, total coal production is expected to remain relatively unchanged, with declines in Appalachian region production offset by increases in Interior region and Western region production, the report showed.

“Coal production has been increasing recently because of the huge drop due to the great recession of 2008, together with employment,” said Dr. Tony Szwilski, a professor and director at Marshall University’s College of Engineering. “Coal production in Appalachian states was about 391 million short tons in 2008 compared to 222 million in 2015, a drop of 23 percent.”

According to the EIA report, electric power sector coal stockpiles were 166 million tons in April 2017, the last actual data point, up 1 percent from the previous month, according to the report. This increase in total coal stockpiles is normal during the spring when the power sector builds coal stockpiles for use during the summer months when demand for electricity is greater, the report stated.

Coal Consumption

Electric power sector coal consumption is forecast to increase by 9 million short tons (1 percent) in 2017, mostly because of rising natural gas prices.

“I think the bigger story is the fall of natural gas and growth with renewable energy sources,” said Richard Bajura, director of the National Resource Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University. “It is good to see that coal is holding steady while it faces stiff competition with cheaper natural gas and renewables.

“I expect to continue to see increases in natural gas prices, but coal will continue to face increased competition with cheaper gas prices and cheaper renewable prices,” Bajura said. “There is really no data of big distinction with this short-term outlook report.”

In 2018, demand for coal in the power sector is expected to increase by 2 million short tons.

“There is no long-term forecast to be made based on this data,” Bajura said. “This is a very complex market, and I believe cheaper natural gas and renewables will continue to gain to make gains in the future, while coal will continue to hold steady.”

Coal trade

The EIA reported coal exports for the first quarter of 2017 were 58 percent higher than in the same quarter last year, with steam coal exports increasing by 6 million short tons. The trend continued in April, with exports 58 percent higher than in April 2016.

“The coal industry is still trying to get its feet under it after eight years of a war on coal,” Raney said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but this forecast shows positive reports and that’s great news for everyone in the coal industry.”

EIA expects growth in coal exports to slow in the coming months, with exports for all of 2017 forecast at 72 million short tons, or 12 million (19 percent) above the 2016 level. Coal exports are expected to be 63 million short tons in 2018.

Atlantic and Gulf Coast electric power generators are forecast to generally maintain their current levels of coal imports, which are primarily from Latin America.

Total U.S. imports are estimated to have been 10 million short tons in 2016 and are forecast to remain between 9 million and 10 million in 2017 and 2018, according to the EIA report.

Coal Prices

EIA estimates the delivered coal price averaged $2.11 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2016, which is 5 percent lower than the 2015 price.

 Coal prices are forecast to increase in 2017 and in 2018 to $2.15/MMBtu and $2.21/MMBtu, respectively, the report showed.

Henry Hub spot prices are projected to average $3.22/MMBtu in 2017 and $3.52/MMBtu in 2018. They averaged $2.60/MMBtu in 2016, it reported.

Delivered utility coal prices are projected to average $2.15/MMBtu in 2017 and $2.21/MMBtu in 2018, up from $2.12/MMBtu in 2016.

Coal future

Coal is not going away and will always be part of the energy mix for at least 20 to 30 years, according to Szwilski.

Power sector generation from coal in 2008 was 49.9 percent, in 2016 it was 31.4 percent, and a peak generation was 56.8 percent in 1985, he said.

“There are basically two coal markets: power generation and coking coal for steel production,” he explained. “Both markets have dropped significantly since 2008 in line with the overall domestic and world economy.

Coking coal price is about double that of thermal coal, so as steel production rises coking coal will rise, especially exports which holds significant promise.”

Szwilski says thermal coal production has been hit significantly by the boom and future promise of an expected secure supply of lower price shale gas.

“The coal consumption market is being diminished by power plants replacing the coal fuel base with shale gas while many coal power plants have been decommissioned,” he said. “The cost of extracting coal from the ground will also steadily increase. Big picture … world coal production is projected to peak in about 2035.”

Although the positive data for the coal industry from the EIA appears to be short term, coal officials still welcome the good news.

“All of this news is very encouraging for the coal industry,” Raney said. “Some may think these are just small movements in the right direction, but at least we are moving in a positive direction for the first time in eight years.”

See the article here.

Prospects for Change

Via Mining News:

After eight years of battling anti-mining policies being promulgated by the Obama Administration, the National Mining Association is cautiously optimistic about the positive change in the tone and substance of U.S. resource development policies since Donald Trump has moved into the White House.

“The November election ushered in a surprisingly swift and dramatic change, particularly in the way people in Washington D.C. view natural resources,” NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn said during a June 28 keynote speech at the Resource Development Council for Alaska annual membership luncheon in Anchorage.

The leader of the United States’ top mining advocacy group said the about face in the tone and substance emanating from the White House when it comes to mining policies extends to the nation’s resource sectors at large.

“For all resource industries things are changing and with the new administration there is a return of government that encourages responsible development and the use of all our natural resources,” Quinn told the Alaska resource community at the sold-out luncheon.

Unmistakable change

Quinn said there is no clearer sign of the dramatic change in this tone than seeing miners flank President Trump as he signs a resolution that overturns a midnight hour Obama administration rule that threatened U.S. coal miners with added regulatory burden.

This so-called Stream Protection Rule was touted by the Obama administration as a necessary clarification of the regulations surrounding valley fill, a mining technique used in Appalachia that involves depositing overburden removed from hilltops in an adjacent valley and then re-contouring the landscape after mining is complete.

Usibelli Coal Mine Inc., Alaska’s sole coal producers, had argued that this “one-size-fits-all” regulation attempts to address concerns in the eastern U.S. and apply them across the country, an approach that does not work for an area as unique as Alaska.

Less than a month after being sworn into office, Trump signed H.J. Resolution 38, which overturns what he called “another terrible job-killing rule.”

“Compliance costs for this rule would be over $50 million a year for the coal industry alone, and it’s unnecessary,” the President told the legislators and coal miners gathered to witness the signing.

“Do you recall something close to this happening in the last eight years?” Quinn asked the Alaska resource development community gathered in Anchorage, referring to the miners in attendance.

The NMA President said American miners have also been invited as guests of honor to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters;.

While Quinn anticipated that the Trump Administration would bring positive change for mining in the U.S., he said he never though he would witness a U.S. Labor Secretary stroll through the front doors of the NMA office in Washington D.C. and introduce himself.

Not only did Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta make a courtesy visit, but took the time to sit down with mining safety leaders meeting that day at the NMA office.

Trump’s signing of the energy independence executive order; and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s trip to Alaska as part of his department’s “focus on energy independence and energy dominance,” are other indicators of a new direction for resource development under Trump.

“So, the change is unmistakable,” Quinn said.

See the full article here.

Rising Demand for Coal Lifts Job Confidence

Via The Daily Item:

Over the decade from 2006 to 2016, coal mining and its support jobs were down 37.6 percent, a drop of more than 3,100 jobs, according to data from the state Department of Labor and Industry provided by Deputy Communications Director Lindsay Bracale.

In the past five years, from 2011 and 2016, coal mining and support jobs were down by 43.6 percent, a drop of more than 4,000 jobs, according to the data.

“The most precipitous decline in the last ten years happened between 2015 and 2016, in which nearly 2,000 jobs were lost,” Bracale said.

President Trump on the campaign trail and during the first six months of his presidency expressed support for the coal industry, promising that out-of-work miners and struggling companies will soon be back on the job and finding relief. Trump has also rolled back regulations from the previous administration.

Although coal jobs are down, the demand is up for both anthracite coal, at 18 percent, and bituminous coal, at 21 percent, according to Duane Feagley, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Anthracite Counsel, based in Pottsville.

“There’s more confidence with the industry in general, but there’s also caution,” Feagley said. “Some of it has to do with coal mining operators having more certainty. That’s a direct result of the leadership in DC and regulations being rolled back. That creates less anxiety and more certainty in the market. Overall, the economy is picking up as well, creating more of a demand.”

In the first quarter of 2017, the industry produced 500,000 tons of anthracite coal and 12.074 million tons of bituminous. Comparatively, in the first quarter of 2016, the industry produced 424,000 tons of anthracite coal and 9.901 million tons of bituminous coal, according to the Energy Information Administration.

As far as jobs go, Feagley said the anthracite industry is “holding steady” with approximately 1,000 coal jobs and approximately 3,000 support jobs in Pennsylvania right now.

In June, Gov. Tom Wolf attended the opening of Corsa Coal’s Acosta mine in Jenner Township, Somerset County, that will produce fuel for manufacturing and lead to hundreds of new jobs headed to the region, directly and indirectly.

“By helping to fund this project, Pennsylvania is investing in this community and the project shows how the diversity of Pennsylvania’s economy makes it a great place to build and grow a business,” said Wolf in statement. “This mine will help to support this community and its workforce, by providing jobs and opportunity to an area that needs both and I want to thank Corsa for its commitment to Western Pennsylvania.”

The Acosta mine, located in Jenner Township Somerset County, is expected to bring nearly 100 direct full-time jobs and an estimated 500 indirect jobs to western Pennsylvania. The mine is projected to produce 400,000 tons of metallurgical coal per year that will be sold to steel companies in the United States, Asia, Europe, and South America. The project has been funded in part through a $3 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant to support the development of a new deep mine facility.

“We at Corsa Coal are grateful for the Governor’s support as we open the Acosta Deep mine,” Corsa Coal CEO George Dethlefsen said. “Coal miners and the state government are partners in business, as we have a shared commitment to jobs, safety and environmental protection. This mine will provide a much-needed economic boost to the region for years to come.”

In order to look at more current information, Bracale said a different data set that does not have as much detail – Current Employment Statistics – must be consulted. This data set does not have data for support activities for coal mining, but it does have coal mining itself, which in May 2017 was essentially unchanged from May 2016. The additions of 100 jobs may be due to rounding, Bracale said.

The definition for support activities is as follows: “This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing support activities for coal mining (except site preparation and related construction activities) on a contract or fee basis. Exploration for coal is included in this industry. Exploration includes traditional prospecting methods, such as taking core samples and making geological observations at prospective sites.”

“Some examples of companies that this are ones that provide contract blasting services, drilling services, tunneling services, training, draining or pumping of coal mines, and exploration for coal,” Bracale said. “This isn’t all-inclusive, but it covers a good bit of what is included.”

Stacie Snyder, the site administrator for the Northumberland/Snyder/Union counties PA CareerLink in Sunbury, said no coal companies are currently partnered with the job-seeking organization. More than a year ago, some companies were hiring truck drivers and blasters, but there’s no demand now.

“We haven’t had much activity within the past year,” Snyder said. “One employer kept a position open for blasters, but there’s not too much movement. Nothing for related jobs either. It’s been pretty slow.”

Snyder said the CareerLink did work with one company for job training for a blaster position.

Bob Garrett, president/CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, said a handful of coal company owners have expressed the need for employees. Last year, the GSV Chamber absorbed the Brush Valley Chamber of Commerce, which served what is commonly known as the Coal Region in eastern Northumberland County.

Don Alexander, the planning and economic director for Northumberland County, said he is frequently in touch with coal and coal-related industries in the county, but hasn’t heard much of a demand for jobs.

“At least in the foreseeable future, there’s a stabilization of coal companies, those that found other uses besides burning coal,” Alexander said. “I’m not seeing signs the downward trend will continue. There seems to be stabilization.”

See the article here.

America’s Next Energy Crisis

Via Forbes.com

Some disasters arise unexpectedly, like an earthquake or massive storm. Others seem inevitable. Who didn’t see the 2008 financial crisis coming?

In hindsight, most of us.

In reality, most crises that seem inevitable after the fact often catch nearly all of us by surprise when they occur. The factors were obvious enough, but few people saw them coming together.

There’s a potential crisis that will seem predictable, after the fact. It’s better to take thoughtful consideration and positive action now and not say “I told you so” later.

Our electrical grid is being stretched to the brink. The U.S. is making itself less resilient against catastrophic failure from a major weather event or terror attack every day. Our infrastructure increasingly depends on much less secure, resilient and reliable sources of energy, like wind, solar or even natural gas. These sources do not provide the dependable availability of nuclear or coal.

During the polar vortex in 2014, coal and nuclear power plants in the Midwest and Northeast had to run at full capacity to ensure tens of millions of Americans didn’t lose power or heat. The output was a testament to a system that included the resilience of those power plants.

What’s worrying is that many of those coal and nuclear plants are no longer operating. Many more will be phased out soon. These closures are the result in part of a regulatory framework that imposes much higher burdens on these pillars of our electrical-power grid than the less secure sources to which we’re now calling “our future.” We anticipate growing by subtracting resilient energy sources, and the math doesn’t work.

Most Americans don’t think much about electricity. It charges our phones and turns the lights on when we flick a switch. When it works, there isn’t much reason to think about it. We have been lucky to avoid a major catastrophe, but we’re mixing in more and more ingredients for an outage that could disrupt life for millions, particularly in the Northeast or Midwest.

Not thinking about it creates a dangerous blind spot. Because most of us take electricity for granted, very few Americans understand our electricity supply is steaming toward this crisis. And, like most crises, we will be wishing we had done something earlier to prevent it.

Thankfully, the Department of Energy under Secretary Rick Perry is examining the problem. The department is expected to release a report later this month that details these concerns with the existing power grid and the value of so-called “baseload power” – coal, nuclear and hydro-electricity.

As a former assistant secretary of energy for fossil energy during Barack Obama’s presidency, I am encouraged by the department’s review, particularly its focus on the reliability and resilience of the electricity grid and the benefits of coal and nuclear power.

Coal and nuclear plants are unmatched in their ability to generate reliable energy under all circumstances, but these plants are being retired at an alarming rate because of a combination of punitive regulations, low natural gas prices, and government subsidies and mandates for renewables.

Perhaps the bigger concern is the “magical thinking” behind some analysis trying to wish our electricity system into resiliency and reliability without these traditional base-load power plants. It can be uncomfortable to face facts honestly.

There is no reliable way to store meaningful amounts of electricity today. It must be produced when it is needed. That is a big problem for renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, that only produce power under the right circumstances – when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. Even natural gas is less secure than coal and nuclear power because it relies on pipeline supply of fuel on demand.

See the article here.

Support for Coal

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

During a tour of the Mountain State last week, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said coal, and particularly coal-fired plants, will continue to play an important role in our nation’s future. The welcomed proclamation was the latest showing of support for coal by the Trump administration.

Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas, says the days of Washington pushing an anti-coal agenda at the expense of hard-working families in West Virginia are over.

“Having a diverse portfolio of all energy sources, including renewables, is important to this country,” Perry said. “Picking and choosing the few that fit your political philosophy is not good for America. The last eight years, we have seen an administration that was sometimes — I think they used their whole hand, not just their thumb — to affect the power portfolio of America. Those days are over. The people of West Virginia who are making their living in coal mines, running plants like these, they need to understand something. They have a friend in the White House.”

And while the Obama administration waged a crippling war on coal over the last eight years, other countries, including China and Germany, moved forward on clean-coal technology, Perry said.

“One of the challenges we have because of the last eight years of a clear anti-coal administration in place is that other countries have moved forward with this technology,” Perry said. “Other countries are making advances in clean coal technology that we historically led the world in. We need to get that edge back.”

We agree. And we need more investments in clean-coal technology right here in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. One thing that is already helping is the Trump administration’s welcomed roll-back of Obama-era anti-coal rules.

One of the questions reporters asked Perry last week was how the administration could control market forces such as lower prices for shale gas. It is worth noting that a recent study from West Virginia University predicted that coal production in the Mountain State would continue to decline in the long-term.

“Here’s an economics lesson,” Perry answered. “Supply and demand. You put the supply out there and demand will follow that. The market decides which of these. They pick and choose. It’s really simple. All too often, in the last eight years, we’ve put our thumb on the economics scale.”

One thing is certain. The war on coal is over. And we do have an administration in Washington that is supporting a common-sense energy portfolio that includes both coal, clean-coal technology and natural gas. And this can only help West Virginia and Virginia.
See the article here.

Trump Has Returned Hope to Coal Industry

Via Cincinnati.com:  

For the Kentucky Coal Association, the election of President Donald Trump gave us hope. Instead of vilifying coal like President Barack Obama did, the Trump administration recognizes that coal is a reliable and affordable source of energy.

Coal powers our homes and businesses, and the low energy costs it provides gives the commonwealth a competitive advantage when attracting new employers and jobs. Most members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation have been fighting against the “war on coal” for many years, and Trump has been a fierce ally in getting meaningful regulatory relief across the finish line.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our elected officials who’ve been working to undo some of the damage from the last eight years.

When Trump entered office, Congress and this administration came together to overturn the Obama-era stream buffer rule that attempted to make coal too expensive to mine or use. Even worse, the rule could have put as many as one-third of coal-related jobs at risk.

Sen. Mitch McConnell used his role as majority leader to prioritize the repeal of this regulation by introducing a resolution to overturn this anti-coal rule, the first regulation overturned by the Senate this year. I was proud to stand with McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul as Trump signed the resolution into law, signaling a new era for federal treatment of Kentucky coal.

Next, Trump used a pair of executive orders to dismantle other devastating anti-coal regulations. First, he stopped a rule that tried to extend the federal bureaucracy into nearly every pothole, ditch and puddle – often referred to as the waters of the U.S. rule. Then, his Energy Independence Executive Order initiated the repeal of a pair of regulations seeking to close existing coal-fired plants across the nation and prevent new ones from being built.

KCA also thanks Trump for his recent decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. McConnell and Paul joined a letter in the Senate and representatives Andy Barr and James Comer signed onto a similar letter in the House urging the president to protect Kentucky coal communities and withdraw the U.S. from this unattainable agreement.

In addition to helping deliver regulatory relief to struggling coal communities, Kentucky senators and representatives have also secured new research funding to support technological advancements for coal. The most recent government-funding legislation included over $660 million to support a Department of Energy program focused on developing new coal technology, which is important to keeping coal competitive.

The industry simply wants to get Washington bureaucracy out of the way so that coal can compete on the open market. Those who blame coal’s downturn on cheap natural gas prices are missing the full picture and are too quick to forget natural gas’ characteristic price volatility. When the Obama administration put coal at a disadvantage, the marketplace followed that direction.

Although it will take some time to recover from the Obama administration’s regulatory damage, I am encouraged that we have recently seen slight increases in coal production in some places and some federal projections estimate increased production over the next few years. It’s too early to say whether a trend in increased coal production will come to fruition, but the regulatory relief has restored some hope.

Trump and leaders in Congress like McConnell have created an optimism about coal by offering their support to struggling communities. As a result, we have seen idle mines start back production and new companies begin operations in some of the most devastated regions of our state. We know that there is still much work to do for Kentucky’s coal country but together we are making strides in a positive direction.

See the article here.

North Dakota Coal Industry is Alive and Well

Via The Star Tribune:

The chimneys of Coal Creek Station, North Dakota’s largest power plant, tower 60 stories over the prairie. Nearby, an excavator that looks like a giant crane looms over a big coal mine.

The mine feeds the plant owned by Maple Grove-based Great River Energy, which churns out electricity for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans. Four other coal mines dot the North Dakota countryside, mostly supplying neighboring power plants.

This “mine-to-mouth” model produces some of the cheapest power in the country and has enabled coal to remain an economic anchor in North Dakota, even as the industry crumbles in other parts of the United States.

Mines have actually been hiring in North Dakota in recent years, a sharp contrast to other coal regions. Utilities have been investing significant money in coal-powered plants.

“The coal industry has rolled back considerably from what it was 10 to 20 years ago, but we haven’t seen that in North Dakota,” said Dean Bangsund, an economist at North Dakota State University.

Still, the forces causing electricity producers to forsake coal nationally are creeping into the landscape. Wind power is surging, and it can be even cheaper than electricity produced from North Dakota’s coal-fired plants.

Great River has responded by retooling its Coal Creek plant so production can be more easily reduced when it’s windy. Other plants are doing the same, or looking at it. But the more they reduce production, the less coal they need — what could be a troubling prospect for the coal mines in the long-term future.

 The state’s coal industry “isn’t immune to what’s occurring in the rest of the U.S., but it may be the last place where it hits,” Bangsund said.
Cheap coal

While oil and its market gyrations are often in the headlines, coal has been a stable bedrock of North Dakota’s energy industry for decades.

Beneath North Dakota lies North America’s largest deposit of lignite. It’s a soft coal with less thermal energy and more water than higher-quality coal mined elsewhere in the United States. Shipping lignite by train or barge to far-flung power plants makes little economic sense.

But place a power plant amid a lignite deposit and the economics change drastically. From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, five big power plants were built in North Dakota, all near mines.

 Coal fuels about 70 percent of the electricity generated in North Dakota, well above the national norm and Minnesota’s 39 percent rate. Yet Minnesota benefits from North Dakota’s supply.

“We’re exporting half of the power we produce, and Minnesota is by far our biggest market,” said Jason Bohrer, head of the Lignite Energy Council in Bismarck, a trade group for both coal mines and power plants.

Otter Tail Power and Minnkota Power — which serve more than 100,000 Minnesota residents — have ownership stakes in N.D. lignite-fired coal plants. Duluth-based Allete Corp. owns a lignite mine that supplies a nearby power plant, which in turn has an electricity supply agreement with Minnesota Power, Allete’s main subsidiary.

Great River has an even larger stake in North Dakota. A wholesale co-op, Great River sells electricity to 28 retail co-ops that span Minnesota and serve 685,000 customers. Coal Creek, with a 1,145 megawatt capacity, is by far Great River’s largest electricity generator; it has enough to power up to 700,000 homes. (A megawatt is a million watts).

The company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars at Coal Creek over the past decade, reducing emissions and increasing the plant’s ­efficiency.

 Coal Creek’s fuel arrives by 36 conveyor belts stretching a little over a mile from the Falkirk mine, which is owned by Texas-based North American Coal Corp. The mine and plant have a symbiotic relationship. Managers from each even get together for weekly planning meetings.

The power plant employs 265, the mine 462; and both offer some of the state’s best-paying hourly jobs. Utility workers and coal miners in North Dakota make over $95,000 a year on average, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And in North Dakota, coal-mining employment actually rose from 943 in 2001 to 1,203 in 2015, before dipping by about 30 jobs last year, federal data show. Nationally, coal-mining jobs fell nearly 15 percent from 2001 through 2015, and they nose-dived further in 2016.

“Up here, everybody feels pretty safe, and it’s mainly because of the power plant,” said Perry Meske, who has worked at the Falkirk mine for 31 years.

Meske runs a 6,500-ton dragline, which looks like a giant crane but actually excavates dirt and rocks, exposing coal seams below. Bulldozers rip the coal, which is carried away in massive trucks as tall as a house. (The pit is reclaimed when the digging is done.)

Meske and his co-workers at Falkirk are well aware of the coal industry’s precariousness outside of North Dakota. Federal mining inspectors at Falkirk — some of whom have relocated from dying coal regions — offer reminders.

“They’ve told me stories about how many places have closed up,” Meske said.

See the full article here.

Sturdiness of America’s Power Grid is a Key Issue

Via The Newark Advocate:

Americans have been exceptionally fortunate in recent decades to enjoy robust power generation to heat their homes, refrigerate their food, and deliver clean drinking water. Unlike many countries, the United States maintains affordable, non-stop, 24/7 electricity. It’s an impressive feat in a nation of 325 million that continues to add more than 2 million people annually.

As America increases its use of intermittent wind and solar power, it’s important to examine whether the nation can continue to meet its overall energy needs. Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a review of the stability of the nation’s power grid—and just as the nation faces conflicting energy problems. Nuclear power, which generates about a fifth of America’s electricity, appears to be winding down, thanks to prohibitive construction costs. And while natural gas generates a third of the nation’s power, export controls are being lifted—which could lead to price increases as both domestic and overseas demand is rising.

Secretary Perry has his work cut out for him, since the task of securing America’s energy grid could stumble into a perfect storm of higher prices. And much-touted renewable power faces its own troubling drawbacks—since the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. If Washington bets the farm on natural gas and renewables, it’s unclear whether the nation will still be able to meet base load power needs while also maintaining affordable pricing.

These are important issues for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to consider. But news of Secretary Perry’s study has stirred up controversy nevertheless. The nation’s wind and solar groups have expressed concern over Perry’s intent to conduct a thorough review of the cost-benefit ratios involved in power grid reliability. And with taxpayer-funded subsidies for renewable projects under scrutiny, these groups very much want to justify their position.

Notably, coal still undergirds America’s overall power generation. And with the DOE looking to keep the lights on, coal may play a surprisingly strong role in the coming years.

Right now, coal provides roughly one-third of total U.S. power generation. And 13 states depend on coal for more than half of their overall power supply. Unfortunately, this workhorse effort appears under-appreciated. For example, less than 10 percent of voters in a recent study correctly assessed the scale of emissions reductions attained by coal-powered plants over the past 40 years.

Evidently though, any discussion of coal’s strengths, or the subsidies parceled out to wind and solar projects, disturbs the renewable energy industry. In a recent letter to Secretary Perry, these groups argued that they shouldn’t share the blame for coal’s woes which, they insist, merely stem from low natural gas prices.

But Obama Administration regulations posed real consequences. As Duke University’s Nicholas School has reported, recent government regulations threatened the viability of 56 percent of U.S. coal plants, while competition from much-touted low natural gas prices threatened only 9 percent. Conversely, mounting federal subsidies for renewable energy have shielded the wind and solar industry from competition at the expense of competing sources like coal.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, government policies have meant solar power being subsidized by over 345 times more than coal, and wind being subsidized over 52 times more. And this subsidization is costly. DOE data reveals that each energy sector requires vastly different labor inputs: one coal worker equals two natural gas workers, or 12 wind industry employees, or 79 solar workers. And while coal creates 7,800 jobs per Megawatt-hour, wind yields only 2,200, and solar 98. Without subsidies, wind and solar would fare poorly in the free market against coal and natural gas.

States need to protect their base load power, and Secretary Perry is taking a prudent approach in examining such considerations. The heavily subsidized growth of renewables is indeed impacting other power sources, leaving U.S. taxpayers paying more for a less diverse supply of energy. Thus, Perry is right to consider whether America is still on track to meet future power needs, and at a price that consumers can afford.

See the article here.

Perry: Coal-fired Power Plants Important in U.S. Future

Via The Herald & Review:

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday that coal-fired power plants are important for the country’s future, and he suggested that energy supply will spark demand.

After touring a coal-fired power plant, Perry was asked about the economics of coal when natural gas is far cheaper. West Virginia currently has a boom in gas production but needs more shipping capacity. Several pipeline projects are under way.

“Here’s a little economics lesson, supply and demand: You put the supply out there and the demand will follow that,” Perry said. “The market will decide which of these they’re going to pick and choose.”

That’s not typically how economists would describe the way supply and demand works. In general, higher demand for any good or service — such as coal — drives the supply. That’s because more customer demand typically drives up the price, which then encourages businesses to provide more of the good or service to make more money. The rise in supply then acts to bring down the price.

After touring one of the few recently built coal-fired power plants in the U.S., Perry said the plant’s technology provides “the ability to deliver a secure, economical and environmentally good source of energy.” He said the nation needs a stable baseload of electricity.

The Longview Power 700-megawatt plant in northern West Virginia first produced electricity in 2011. It reports higher efficiency burning coal and lower emissions than other U.S. coal-fired plants, with about 70 percent less nitrogen oxide, 78 percent less sulfur dioxide and at least 90 percent fewer particulates.

It reports carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent lower because it burns 20 percent less coal.

Coal belongs in a diverse U.S. energy portfolio that includes renewable solar, wind and hydro power, he said.

President Donald Trump “intuitively understood” that coal can be used in an economically powerful and responsible way that makes America more secure, Perry said. “If you lose your electrical power, you have chaos,” he said.

“Having a diverse portfolio of all the energy sources, including renewables, is important to this country,” he said. “Picking and choosing a few that fit your political agenda is not good for America.”

The Longview Power project cost about $2 billion, according to company officials. It gets coal directly from an affiliated Mepco LLC mine in southern Pennsylvania along a 4.5-mile conveyor belt. It emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization in 2015 and is owned by private investors. It operates at full capacity almost constantly.

It claims efficiencies from that low-cost fuel source, an advanced boiler, pollution controls in its initial design instead of a retrofit, and other advanced techniques and equipment. Other countries, including China and Japan, have built new similar coal-fired power plants, Longview CEO Jeffrey Keffer said.

West Virginia’s U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin and Rep. David McKinley joined Perry on the tour.

Keffer said natural gas-burning power plants are being built, and once those start consuming that price is going to go back up.

Capito said there are other uses for natural gas, including jet fuel, chemicals and fertilizer. “We don’t want to, I don’t think, put all our eggs into the natural gas basket for power production,” she said.

Manchin said reliable uninterruptible power is needed, citing the coal piled outside Longview. He said gas flow can be interrupted by cyber attacks or pipeline sabotage. “The country has to decide: How much uninterruptible power do you want to energize the grid?”

See the article here.

Energy Secretary Promises Coal Miners, Coal Plants Have a Friend in the White House

Via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

In a push to keep coal part of the national energy mix, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry spent Thursday touring one of the newest and most efficient coal-fired power plants in the country and promising more federal energy research into clean coal projects.

On Friday, he is scheduled to head to the Pittsburgh area to meet with researchers at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in South Park.

Mr. Perry’s two-day visit to northern Appalachia comes as the U.S. Department of Energy prepares to release a much-anticipated review of the country’s electric grid later this month.

The goal of the review, announced earlier this year, is to determine if a wave of coal plant shutdowns in recent years has threatened reliability of the U.S. grid to meet demand.

The answer on Thursday — though Mr. Perry said he couldn’t directly comment on the study — seemed to be a resounding yes. And he emphasized President Donald Trump’s goal to roll back regulations on coal as the way to lift up the industry.

“The last eight years we’ve seen an administration that was using their thumb to affect the power portfolio in America,” Mr. Perry said. “Those days are over.”

He added, “People in West Virginia who make their living in the coal mines and running plants like this, they need to understand something: They have a friend and proponent in the White House.”

Mr. Perry found an ideal backdrop for his comments.

Longview Power Plant, about seven miles north of Morgantown near the Monongahela River, is touted as what a modern coal-fired power plant can look like. The 700-megawatt plant cost $2.2 billion to build — the largest private investment in the history of West Virginia — and came online in 2011 after about a decade of planning.

Plant operator Longview Power said it had achieved a high energy conversion rate, which means the plant needs less fuel to generate the same amount of electricity. More sophisticated air pollution control systems keep emissions lower than older coal plants, company officials said.

To lower costs, Longview also arranged a nearby source of fuel: a coal mine operated by affiliated company Mepco LLC, just across the border in Greene County, Pa., which transports the coal to the plant on a 4.5-mile conveyor belt.

Just two years after the plant opened, however, both Longview and Mepco filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing competition from cheaper natural gas and operational defects that the companies blamed on a group of construction contractors.

In 2015, the plant emerged from bankruptcy with a $275 million loan from Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, KKR Corporate Funding and Third Avenue Trust.

Together, Longview and Mepco currently employ more than 600 workers with an annual payroll of $72 million, according to the company.

Mr. Perry’s visit follows the White House’s “Energy Week,” during which President Donald Trump gave a speech pledging to mine more “clean, beautiful coal” and burn it cleanly.

Putting a damper on that promise, Atlanta-based electric utility Southern Co. last week suspended work at a Mississippi coal plant intended to showcase clean coal technology. The utility did not want to accept any more ratepayer money, it said, after work on carbon capture and storage systems at the Kemper coal plant ran $4 billion over budget and three years behind schedule.

Mississippi regulators recommended it continue running fueled by natural gas.

Longview Power officials were quick to acknowledge the Kemper plant’s failure and draw distinctions. Longview has no equipment to capture carbon emissions and gasify coal — common clean coal technologies that have been slow to commercialize.

During the two-year bankruptcy restructuring, company officials said, Longview overcame some construction setbacks with a number of improvements.

“We’re so compliant from an environmental standpoint, it’s inconceivable that they would have additional restrictions that would cause us not be able to produce that power going forward,” said Jeffery Keffer, chief executive officer of Longview Power.

Mr. Keffer added that Longview is also counting on higher natural gas prices once more pipelines are built to take it from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to places it can be consumed. Last month, the first-ever U.S. exports of liquified natural gas arrived in Poland, a shipment Mr. Trump promoted on Thursday during a visit to that country.

“The world is clamoring for our natural gas,” Mr. Keffer said. “Once they start consuming that gas, your supply is going to start matching that demand. So the price is going to go back up.”

Mr. Perry was joined Thursday by three lawmakers from West Virginia — Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Republican Rep. David McKinley — who presented a bipartisan front.

“We want a balance between the economy and environment,” said Mr. Manchin, who said he worked frequently with Mr. Perry when they were both governors. “We can do that, and this plant shows it can be done and done well.”

It remains to be seen how Longview’s technology could be replicated with natural gas prices still low and the costs of renewable energy falling. Federal energy research into clean coal — though projects have faltered in recent years amid a lack of funding and interest — could get a boost under Mr. Perry.

“There are other countries that are making advances in clean coal technology that we historically have led the world in,” he told reporters at the Longview plant. “We need to get that edge back.”

The tone could not have been more different in September 2016, when former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz visited Longview with Mr. Manchin and Mr. McKinley. While Mr. Moniz reportedly praised Longview’s technology, he backed a renewable energy tax incentives and the Obama administration’s $39 million in funding for laid-off coal miners to explore other careers.

See the article here.

Perry Says Coal-Fired Power Plants Important in US Future

Via U.S. News & World Report: 

After touring one of the few recently built coal-fired power plants in the U.S., Energy Secretary Rick Perry says they’re important for the country’s future.

Perry says a stable baseload of electricity is important and this technology provides “the ability to deliver a secure, economical and environmentally good source of energy.”

He says coal belongs in a diverse U.S. energy portfolio that includes renewable solar and wind power.

The Longview Power 700-megawatt plant in northern West Virginia first produced electricity in 2011. It reports higher efficiency burning coal and lower emissions than other U.S. coal-fired plants, with about 70 percent less nitrogen oxide, 78 percent less sulfur dioxide and at least 90 percent fewer particulates.

It reports carbon dioxide emissions 20 percent lower because it burns 20 percent less coal.
See the article here.

National View: Perry Right to Find out if U.S. on Track to Meet Future Power Needs

Via The Duluth News Tribune:

Americans have been exceptionally fortunate in recent decades to enjoy robust power generation to heat their homes, refrigerate their food, and deliver clean drinking water. Unlike many countries, the United States maintains affordable, nonstop, 24/7 electricity. It’s an impressive feat in a nation of 325 million that continues to add more than 2 million people annually.

As America increases its use of intermittent wind and solar power, it’s important to examine whether the nation can continue to meet its overall energy needs.

Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a review of the stability of the nation’s power grid. He did so just as the nation faces conflicting energy problems. Nuclear power, which generates about a fifth of America’s electricity, appears to be winding down due to prohibitive construction costs. And while natural gas generates a third of the nation’s power, export controls are being lifted, which could lead to price increases as both domestic and overseas demand is rising.

Secretary Perry has his work cut out for him, since the task of securing America’s energy grid could stumble into a perfect storm of higher prices.

Much-touted renewable power faces its own troubling drawbacks — since the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. If Washington bets the farm on natural gas and renewables, it’s unclear whether the nation will be able to meet the base load power that’s needed while also maintaining affordable pricing.

These are important issues for the U.S. Department of Energy to consider.

But news of Secretary Perry’s study has stirred up controversy. The nation’s wind and solar groups have expressed concern over Perry’s intent to conduct a thorough review of the cost-benefit ratios involved in power-grid reliability. And with taxpayer-funded subsidies for renewable projects under scrutiny, these groups very much want to justify their position.

Notably, coal still undergirds America’s overall power generation. And with the Department of Energy looking to keep the lights on, coal may play a surprisingly strong role in the coming years. Right now, coal provides roughly one-third of total U.S. power generation; 13 states depend on coal for more than half of their overall power supply.

Unfortunately, this workhorse effort appears underappreciated. For example, less than 10 percent of voters in a recent study correctly assessed the scale of emissions reductions attained by coal-powered plants over the past 40 years.

Evidently, though, any discussion of coal’s strengths, or the subsidies parceled out to wind and solar projects, disturbs the renewable-energy industry. In a recent letter to Secretary Perry, these groups argued that they shouldn’t share the blame for coal’s woes which, they insist, merely stem from low natural gas prices.

But regulations passed by the administration of President Barack Obama posed real consequences. As Duke University’s Nicholas School has reported, recent government regulations threaten the viability of 56 percent of U.S. coal plants while competition from much-touted low natural-gas prices threatens only 9 percent. Conversely, mounting federal subsidies for renewable energy have shielded the wind and solar industry from competition at the expense of competing sources like coal.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, government policies have meant that solar power is subsidized roughly 345 times more than coal, and wind is subsidized roughly 52 times more than coal. This subsidization is costly. Department of Energy data reveal that each energy sector requires vastly different labor inputs: one coal worker equals two natural gas workers, or 12 wind-industry employees, or 79 solar workers. And while coal creates 7,800 jobs per megawatt hour, wind yields only 2,200 and solar 98. Without subsidies, wind and solar would fare poorly in the free market against coal and natural gas.

States need to protect their base-load power, and Secretary Perry is taking a prudent approach in examining such considerations. The heavily subsidized growth of renewables indeed is impacting other power sources, leaving U.S. taxpayers paying more for a less diverse supply of energy.

Thus, Perry is right to consider whether America is still on track to meet future power needs, and at a price that consumers can afford.

See the article here.

Don’t Count Out Coal Yet

Via U.S. News & World Report: 

The coal industry has faced headwinds for the past decade. Burdensome regulations and competition from cheap natural gas have taken their toll. Conventional wisdom now suggests the sun is setting on the U.S. coal industry, but the assumptions driving that thinking are far from certainties.

Energy experts point to falling costs for renewables and the nation’s vast and low-cost supply of natural gas as signs that coal’s market share will continue to erode. But why should we assume renewable energy technology improves faster and more disruptively than fossil fuel technology? There are also good reasons that natural gas might not remain cheap.

Natural gas has a well-documented history of price volatility. As demand for natural gas continues to grow – from electricity generation, from heavy industry and now from exports – and as public opposition to drilling and new pipeline projects seemingly grows as well, demand might well overtake supply. We are left with far more questions than satisfactory answers.

Conversely, even if renewable technologies do continue to improve and natural gas prices stay low, don’t count out advanced coal technology. Breakthroughs and cost reductions with advanced coal technology – such as supercritical coal combustion and carbon capture; utilization; and storage – could upend perceptions about coal’s environmental impact. If that seems improbable, look no further than our recently discovered abundance of natural gas from the shale revolution as evidence that the improbable happens regularly when it comes to energy.

The energy industry has a long and distinguished history of having the strongest assumptions and most carefully constructed and conservative projections turned on their head. The arrival of the shale revolution is a perfect example of unexpected energy serendipity

Less than a decade ago, domestic demand for natural gas was far outpacing production. Experts were confident that the U.S. was poised to rival Japan as the world’s largest liquefied natural gas importer. Liquefied natural gas import terminals, with price tags in the billions, were built in anticipation of our inevitable dependence on gas from overseas. But that inevitability never arrived. Instead, the revolutionary twin technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling unlocked supplies of natural gas and oil long thought inaccessible and uneconomical. And now the U.S. is the world’s largest natural gas producer, and no one saw it coming.

This change did not come overnight. Experimental fracking on shale deposits had been taking place since the 1970s. One new technology after another – everything from 3-D seismic imaging to horizontal drilling and new mixtures of sand and fracturing fluids – finally came together for a breakthrough 20 years later.

The shale revolution, and its origin, offer two powerful reminders. First, experimentation with technologies that may seem like a dead end can wind up being game-changers when private industry gets support from our national labs and the Department of Energy. While it was petropreneurs and private companies that finally cracked the shale code, they did it with assistance from government researchers, grants and tax credits.

Second, despite our best analysis, projections about our energy future remain nothing more than guesses. There are always technologies in the pipeline, some nothing more than ideas on a piece of paper at first, but some are destined to upend how we produce and consume energy.

In that tradition of continual advances in technology, don’t count out coal just yet. For all the well-publicized work happening on advanced solar panels or battery technology, the same kind of innovation is happening with advanced coal technologies. And these technologies could possibly be far more important to meeting global environmental goals than anything happening with renewables.

While coal is in retreat here in America, it remains the world’s mainstay for electricity generation. The need for advanced coal technologies is greater than ever. The very technologies we should be investing in to help reduce emissions in China and India could well be the technologies that ensure affordable energy and energy security right here at home in the decades ahead.

See the article here.

Column: Death of Coal Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Via The Columbus Dispatch:

The decline of basic industries that provide good jobs for the middle class rightfully disturbs most Americans. Bad enough that they’re disappearing, but worse when these industries are being buried alive.

You wouldn’t know it from much of what you read these days, but the U.S. coal industry isn’t dead and its vital signs are even improving. And despite strong competition from energy sources like natural gas, wind, and solar power, coal still generates almost a third of America’s electricity.

This is especially remarkable after former President Obama spent eight years trying to shut down coal production and retire coal power plants through massive regulations, and all at the same time shale gas emerged as a powerful new competitor.

But after a brush with serious illness, coal has emerged from intensive care to slowly regain its strength. The industry added about 2,000 direct jobs in the last year, with 1,700 added just since December 2016. Mines are expanding and new ones are opening in Alabama, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Year-to-date production is up about 50 million tons, rail loadings are climbing despite a relatively mild winter, and power sector coal consumption climbed almost 23 percent in March YTD. Both prices and exports are now expected to tick upwards this year.

Why aren’t we reading about this story of industrial resilience in the face of market competition and federal opposition? And why is the media reporting a funeral when no one has died?

It could be because the coal industry is a favorite of a new president who is deeply unpopular with much of the news media. And to his critics, whatever the president likes must be bad, and whatever he aids must fail.

Clearly the president likes coal. His rollback of costly federal regulations from the Obama-era is gradually helping put some coal communities back on their feet. The Environmental Protection Agency has voided or put on hold costly regulations that would have achieved little or no environmental benefit. The Department of the Interior has lifted a moratorium arbitrarily placed on federal coal production. And the Energy Department has launched a study to see how regulatory interference—resulting in coal plants retirements—has damaged the reliability of the nation’s power grid.

For the president’s critics, this is reason enough to write coal off rather than write of its endurance. For some pundits, coal has become a convenient surrogate for a president they don’t like. By denying or diminishing any signs of industry revival they can deny the president any credit for helping it.

Examples abound. A prominent Washington newspaper recently belittled the revival of the industry by contrasting the slow growth of coal jobs with the rising number of fast food workers. That’s an unhelpful comparison; coal jobs pay an annual average of $84,000, plus good benefits. Fast food jobs offer little more than minimum wage.

The same article also claimed that coal employment has declined since the mid-1980s, a point intended to diminish the impact of Obama-era regulations and write the industry’s obituary. But this premise is wrong. Coal employment climbed by 32 percent from 2000 until 2011,reaching 143,000 jobs before a massive Obama Administration rule—and not natural gas production—began forcing almost 20 percent of America’s coal plants out of business.

Some reporters minimize recent coal job creation by only citing federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—a data set that excludes contract workers also working in the mines. Adding contract workers to the recent jobs tally shows that coal has in fact grown by about 2,000 high-wage jobs in the past year. Coal could echo Mark Twain’s crack about his death being greatly exaggerated.

Others attack a straw man, claiming the president will never restore the industry to its dominant position. But most miners already know the difference between campaign rhetoric and reality. They don’t expect “King Coal” to regain the market share it held before the shale gas revolution.

All that coal miners could reasonably expect from the new administration was to get the government off their back and out of the business of picking winners and losers. That’s essentially what this administration is doing—and why lifting the regulations has helped coal mining and the jobs it supports.

Coal’s critics shouldn’t bury the industry just because President Trump promised to revive it. The question now is whether fake news of coal’s demise will be replaced by real news of coal’s survival. Or will coal continue to bear the brunt of media ire against the president.

See the article here.

Coal Still Provides Opportunities for American Job Creation and Consumer Choice

Via RealClearEnergy:

President Trump’s executive order scaling back Obama-era initiatives such as the Clean Power Plan, along with other environmental regulations, was received with the expected pomp from liberals and conservatives alike. But it doesn’t take a bleeding heart to see the writing on the wall: while the coal industry may have been given new life, Trump’s executive order in reality may be only an incremental stay in extending that life. Even with the President’s blessing, coal still faces numerous obstacles in the marketplace quickened by the previous Administration.

Another reality is that increased energy demand from the global marketplace, along with the expanded cost competitiveness from sustainable energy sources, reinforces the necessity that America has the chance to seize upon the tremendous opportunity to export our advanced clean coal power technology to consumers worldwide. Both to the world’s benefit, and to ours.

The future of American coal isn’t found underground; it’s in American technological superiority in making the planet’s most abundant source of energy cleaner and more efficient. As the United States pursues our own energy independence, we should seize on the opportunity to support developing countries as they seek to maximize and benefit from their own energy resources.

In 2017, 1.2 billion people worldwide still lack basic household access to electricity. This impacts children who need clean water to drink, vaccines that need refridgeration to work, and farms that need power to feed the hungry. Without reliable and affordable energy, developing countries have little hope of lifting their citizens out of poverty. This remains a humanitarian crisis that makes the world less safe and less hospitable, contributing to state failure and destabilizing mass-migration.

Accordingly, it is downright irresponsible for institutions like the World Bank/IMF to dictate what energy sources the poorest countries in the world can leverage to support their development. While many take issue with the World Bank’s role in general, so long as it exists and exerts its influence, pressure should be applied to move it away from oppressive policies. As they convene on Washington this month for annual meetings, the fact will remain that over a billion people don’t have the power necessary to turn on the lights. If it is injecting itself into the world’s  development initiatives, the World Bank/IMF should ease restrictions limiting funding for clean coal power production projects in developing countries.

Coal use and responsible environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive ideas. Clean coal technologies can significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions while producing more energy with less coal. The United States is leading the way in carbon capture technology development. High-Efficiency Low-Emission (HELE) power stations built by American companies in developing countries are the most effective way of making power generation cleaner while ensuring our electricity remains affordable. American consumers support expanding areas for safe exploration and extraction of our energy assets which will ultimately provide people with the power to choose the energy options that are right for them.

Rather than supporting colonial policies that prevent development where it’s needed most, the United States should support sovereign nations like India, which is actively seeking to revitalize its power sector through the use of clean coal as part of its energy mix. U.S. leaders should leverage the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM), which empowers U.S. exporters to increase their sales abroad to make our technology more competitive abroad. Increasing global sales will directly and immediately benefit the bottom-line of American companies by expanding job growth at home, building our trade balance, and supporting the research and development of critical future technologies.

This is the kind of energy policy the American people have been waiting for; one that supports U.S. businesses, creates new American jobs through manufacturing of clean coal technologies, ensures energy consumers access to affordable and reliable energy options, and produces cleaner energy in the U.S. and around the world.

See the article here. 

Coal Industry Says Stability is Good News

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

A new report foresees stabilization of West Virginia’s coal industry over the next 15 or so years, but then a period of production decline to below 80 million tons after 2030.

That’s actually not such bad news, say leaders of the West Virginia Coal Association.

That kind of prediction means coal remains a vital and competitive component of West Virginia’s economy years into the future, Coal Association vice president Chris Hamilton said at a forum Thursday at the state Culture Center.

“When the future of coal predicts less than a hundred million tons, there are those who see that as a further decline or erosion,” Hamilton said.

“While that may be factually correct, I think when you’re looking at an industry that’s a $20 billion industry, even in a smaller capacity as we are today, it’s still a very significant part of our state’s industrial base, our economy, our job base. We’ve lost half of our coal mining jobs, but they still stand strong at 12,000. I think we’d be very excited to welcome a business or industry that would bring 12,000 direct jobs to our state.”

Hamilton was speaking during a session of the West Virginia Coal Forum, an organization representing business and labor in the coal industry. Thursday’s session at the coal industry was one of several such events around West Virginia, including in Wheeling and Morgantown.

 

Some of the remarks, including Hamilton’s, brushed on the report released Wednesday by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The researchers estimate that coal production will reach about 89 million tons this year and remain in the upper 80 million ton range into the early 2020s. Production will fall below 80 million tons by 2030, the report forecast.

Hamilton continued to say that kind of stability is not necessarily bad news.

“Is the glass half full or empty?” Hamilton asked. “Well, it’s half empty when you’re going through the transition that we have over the past few years. But when you step back and look at it, and when you look at it 10 years from now, it may not be what it once was but it’s still going to be a major piece of the economy here in our state and our industrial job base.”

Another big theme of the Coal Forum was the decreased pressure of federal regulation under the Trump administration — particularly relating to the Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate accord.

Forum presenters from the coal industry said there’s been some relief from their perspective, but they said the result has been a steady market rather than a miracle rebound. They said their aim is to sustain.

“We’ve been on defense and fighting regulatory provisions or new legislation over the past five or six years,” Hamilton said.

“Today everything has changed. It’s changed dramatically, gone from night to day. We have an opportunity here to implement some infrastructure and perhaps put some things in place to grow and develop this resource.”

Utilities plan their investments to last years into the future, but coal will remain a major part of the energy mix, said another forum presenter, Jeri Matheny, spokeswoman for Appalachian Power.

Matheny noted that her own company has made headlines over statements that it won’t be building any new coal-burning power plants. But she said the reasons are multifaceted.

“People see that as shocking because we’re right in the middle of coal country, but the reality is that shouldn’t be a surprise, and it’s not bad news because we are heavily invested in coal in West Virginia, and that’s not going to change,” Matheny said.

But changing demand for power is affecting decisions by companies like Appalachian Power too, Matheny said.

“Demand is not going up. For decades, demand for electricity is not going up. It’s not any more. A lot of that is energy efficiency. People’s usage is changing,” she said.

She added that the mix of the utility’s energy sources is likely to expand.

“We do plan to introduce small amounts of wind power. We do hope to introduce solar some day, maybe even some battery technology, but we’ll still be a coal-fired utility in many ways; we’ll depend on coal for a long time.”

Appalachian Power’s decisions will often depend on price.

“Usually coal wins in that argument, but sometimes nowadays natural gas can win because natural gas prices are so low. And, wind can win in that argument as well,” Matheny said.

See the article here.

EPA To Consider Impact On Jobs

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is not required to estimate the number of mining job losses that may be caused by air pollution regulations, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

Despite the decision, the agency said that under President Donald Trump it would consider the impact of its policies on jobs.

“President Trump’s EPA will take the economic and job impacts of its proposed regulations into account … regardless of the outcome of this particular case,” EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham said in a statement.

Trump has repeatedly called for a resurgence of coal, which has been in a steep decline over the last several years. Last month, he removed the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, which seeks to deal globally with carbon emissions. He declared in a speech Thursday that his administration had “ended the war on coal.”

The ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a West Virginia judge’s decision that sided with coal companies. Ohio-based Murray Energy and other companies argued the EPA should have to report on potential job losses caused by its policies. The EPA under the Obama administration had appealed that ruling.

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray has been critical of Obama administration environmental policies, saying they led to massive job losses in the coal industry because power plants moved away from burning coal to generate electricity.

A Murray Energy spokesman says the company plans to appeal.

The appeals court ruled that the EPA “gets to decide how to collect a broad set of employment impact data, how to judge and examine this extensive data, and how to manage these tasks on an ongoing basis.” It said the courts are “ill-equipped to supervise” that process.

It also ruled that the lower court lacked jurisdiction in the case and ordered the suit dismissed.

U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey ruled in January that the EPA was required by law to analyze the economic impact on a continuing basis when enforcing the Clean Air Act. The judge ordered the EPA to identify facilities harmed by the regulations during the Obama presidency by July 1.

The EPA had argued that analyzing job loss wouldn’t change global energy trends.

See the article here.

Sturdiness of America’s Power Grid a Key Issue for Energy Study

Via News-Democrat Leader:

Americans have been exceptionally fortunate in recent decades to enjoy robust power generation to heat their homes, refrigerate their food, and deliver clean drinking water. Unlike many countries, the United States maintains affordable, non-stop, 24/7 electricity. It’s an impressive feat in a nation of 325 million that continues to add more than 2 million people annually.

As America increases its use of intermittent wind and solar power, it’s important to examine whether the nation can continue to meet its overall energy needs. Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a review of the stability of the nation’s power grid—and just as the nation faces conflicting energy problems. Nuclear power, which generates about a fifth of America’s electricity, appears to be winding down, thanks to prohibitive construction costs. And while natural gas generates a third of the nation’s power, export controls are being lifted—which could lead to price increases as both domestic and overseas demand is rising.

Secretary Perry has his work cut out for him, since the task of securing America’s energy grid could stumble into a perfect storm of higher prices. And much-touted renewable power faces its own troubling drawbacks—since the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. If Washington bets the farm on natural gas and renewables, it’s unclear whether the nation will still be able to meet base load power needs while also maintaining affordable pricing.

These are important issues for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to consider. But news of Secretary Perry’s study has stirred up controversy nevertheless. The nation’s wind and solar groups have expressed concern over Perry’s intent to conduct a thorough review of the cost-benefit ratios involved in power grid reliability. And with taxpayer-funded subsidies for renewable projects under scrutiny, these groups very much want to justify their position.

Notably, coal still undergirds America’s overall power generation. And with the DOE looking to keep the lights on, coal may play a surprisingly strong role in the coming years.

Right now, coal provides roughly one-third of total U.S. power generation. And 13 states depend on coal for more than half of their overall power supply. Unfortunately, this workhorse effort appears under-appreciated. For example, less than 10 percent of voters in a recent study correctly assessed the scale of emissions reductions attained by coal-powered plants over the past 40 years.

Evidently though, any discussion of coal’s strengths, or the subsidies parceled out to wind and solar projects, disturbs the renewable energy industry. In a recent letter to Secretary Perry, these groups argued that they shouldn’t share the blame for coal’s woes which, they insist, merely stem from low natural gas prices.

But Obama Administration regulations posed real consequences. As Duke University’s Nicholas School has reported, recent government regulations threatened the viability of 56 percent of U.S. coal plants, while competition from much-touted low natural gas prices threatened only 9 percent. Conversely, mounting federal subsidies for renewable energy have shielded the wind and solar industry from competition at the expense of competing sources like coal.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, government policies have meant solar power being subsidized by over 345 times more than coal, and wind being subsidized over 52 times more. And this subsidization is costly. DOE data reveals that each energy sector requires vastly different labor inputs: one coal worker equals two natural gas workers, or 12 wind industry employees, or 79 solar workers. And while coal creates 7,800 jobs per Megawatt-hour, wind yields only 2,200, and solar 98. Without subsidies, wind and solar would fare poorly in the free market against coal and natural gas.

States need to protect their base load power, and Secretary Perry is taking a prudent approach in examining such considerations. The heavily subsidized growth of renewables is indeed impacting other power sources, leaving U.S. taxpayers paying more for a less diverse supply of energy. Thus, Perry is right to consider whether America is still on track to meet future power needs, and at a price that consumers can afford.

Terry Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission.

See the article here.

Guest Commentary: Clean Coal Part of Broad Fuel Portfolio

Via The News-Gazette:

Our demand for electricity will continue to increase, notwithstanding improved energy efficiency. This is because we continue to find more and more uses for electricity, including our constantly increasing use of computers and other electronics and the greater number of electric vehicles on the road.

A responsible policy for generating this electricity must include diverse fuel sources. Currently, we are experiencing a big push for wind and solar, and although welcome from an environmental point of view, these are intermittent and can be relied on only to supplement more traditional and dependable sources of electricity.

We are currently heavily dependent on natural gas as a fuel, primarily because of its low price but also because it emits half the carbon when burned as does coal. As we see periodically, though, low prices are often temporary, which is why our fuel sources need to be diversified.

How does coal fit into this plan? New technology has basically eliminated particulate emissions, including harmful sulfur and mercury, from new coal plants, and since these plants are more efficient, less coal is needed for a given amount of energy. To complement this, we need to develop other new technologies to capture the carbon-dioxide emissions when coal is burned. In this way, we can have more diversified fuel sources, and, because of our huge domestic coal reserves, we will be more energy self-sufficient.

There is reason to be optimistic that new technology can result in clean coal. Consider what fracking and horizontal drilling have done for the oil and gas industry. Given the track record in the U.S. of researching and developing new technologies, if we put some resources into clean coal research, we should anticipate a substantial payoff.

It is difficult for any one coal company to undertake the necessary research because they will be unable to capture most of the benefits of this research as it will spill over into the rest of the industry. Consequently, in situations like this, government research is necessary, perhaps in partnership with the industry. This should be a priority both for the government and for the industry.

There may well be additional benefits from this research. If the carbon dioxide can be captured, there may be uses for it for, among other things, petrochemicals and plastics, as well as uses we cannot anticipate today. More research is needed here, too. This would turn a negative into something valuable and would help to offset the cost of carbon capture technology. Such new technology could also benefit other fossil fuels, including natural gas and oil, when they are burned to generate electricity.

We have relied heavily on coal to generate electricity in the past, and by supporting more research, we can rely on clean coal in the future. This protects us with diverse fuel sources to generate electricity, not overly relying on one fuel source, and it helps us gain energy independence and security by relying more on our huge domestic reserves of coal.

Stanford L. Levin is professor emeritus of economics at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He has previously served on the Illinois Commerce Commission and consults in the U.S. and abroad on energy issues.

See the article here.

Trump Vows ‘Energy Dominance’

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

The Trump administration said Thursday it is taking steps to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans as President Donald Trump continues to push for U.S. “energy dominance” in the global market.

The Interior Department is rewriting a five-year drilling plan established by the Obama administration, with an eye toward opening areas in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans that now are off-limits to drilling.

It’s one of six initiatives that the president unveiled Thursday in hopes of generating more energy exports and jobs.

“The golden era of American energy is now underway,” Trump said in a Thursday speech at the Energy Department.

“And I’ll go a step further: The golden era of America is now underway, believe me. And you’re all going to be a part of it in creating this exciting new future.”

U.S. oil production has boomed in recent years, and exports of oil and natural gas are surging, primarily because of improved drilling techniques such as fracking that have opened up production in previously out-of-reach areas. Trump has pledged to ramp up production further, withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement because of the limitations that it could have placed on the burning of fossil fuels.

While Trump has promised that the initiative will create millions of jobs, the energy sector employs fewer workers than it did a decade ago despite the recent boom. The Labor Department said there are 655,300 jobs in mining coal and extracting oil and natural gas, down from a peak of 1.18 million jobs in 1981.

As the administration celebrated a self-proclaimed “energy week,” Trump said more steps are needed to “unleash” domestic reserves and remove government regulations that could prevent the U.S. from achieving global dominance in energy.

Trump and other officials say they are confident the country can pave the path toward energy dominance by exporting oil, gas and coal to markets around the world, and promoting nuclear energy and even renewables such as wind and solar power.

The president said Thursday that his administration has also approved construction of a new petroleum pipeline to Mexico. The State Department said it had issued a permit to NuStar Logistics for the construction and operation of the New Burgos Pipeline, which would have the capacity to deliver 108,000 barrels a day and would cross the U.S.-Mexico border near Peoitas, Texas.

Trump suggested the pipeline would run beneath the wall he intends to build along the U.S. southern border to limit illegal immigration, human trafficking and drug smuggling.

“And that will go right under the wall, right?” Trump said.

He said that Sempra Energy signed an agreement to negotiate the sale of natural gas to South Korea and that the Energy Department is approving two applications to export natural gas from a Louisiana terminal. His administration will also perform a complete review of nuclear energy policy and seek to address barriers to financing coal plants overseas, as well as opening up offshore drilling.

Trump signed an executive order in April to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, reversing restrictions imposed by President Barack Obama. Trump has also pushed to revive U.S. coal production after years of decline. Coal mining rose by 19 percent in the first five months of the year as the price of natural gas edged up, according to Energy Department data.

A report released in January by the Energy Information Administration said the country is on track to become a net energy exporter by 2026, although the White House said Tuesday that net exports could top imports as soon as 2020.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said increased offshore drilling could provide more than enough revenue to offset an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog in national parks.

“There’s a consequence when you put 94 percent of our offshore off limits,” Zinke said in a speech this week. “There’s a consequence of not harvesting trees. There’s a consequence of not using some of our public lands for creation of wealth and jobs.”

See the article here.

How Strong is America’s Power Grid?

Via The Montgomery Advertiser:

Americans have been exceptionally fortunate in recent decades to enjoy robust power generation to heat their homes, refrigerate their food, and deliver clean drinking water. Unlike many countries, the United States maintains affordable, non-stop, 24/7 electricity. It’s an impressive feat in a nation of 325 million that continues to add more than 2 million people annually.

As America increases its use of intermittent wind and solar power, it’s important to examine whether the nation can continue to meet its overall energy needs. Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a review of the stability of the nation’s power grid – and just as the nation faces conflicting energy problems. Nuclear power, which generates about a fifth of America’s electricity, appears to be winding down, thanks to prohibitive construction costs. And while natural gas generates a third of the nation’s power, export controls are being lifted – which could lead to price increases as both domestic and overseas demand is rising.

Secretary Perry has his work cut out for him, since the task of securing America’s energy grid could stumble into a perfect storm of higher prices. And much-touted renewable power faces its own troubling drawbacks – since the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. If Washington bets the farm on natural gas and renewables, it’s unclear whether the nation will still be able to meet base load power needs while also maintaining affordable pricing.

These are important issues for the U.S. Department of Energy to consider. But news of Secretary Perry’s study has stirred up controversy nevertheless. The nation’s wind and solar groups have expressed concern over Perry’s intent to conduct a thorough review of the cost-benefit ratios involved in power grid reliability. And with taxpayer-funded subsidies for renewable projects under scrutiny, these groups very much want to justify their position.

Notably, coal still undergirds America’s overall power generation. And with the DOE looking to keep the lights on, coal may play a surprisingly strong role in the coming years.

Right now, coal provides roughly one-third of total U.S. power generation. And 13 states depend on coal for more than half of their overall power supply. Unfortunately, this workhorse effort appears under-appreciated. For example, less than 10 percent of voters in a recent study correctly assessed the scale of emissions reductions attained by coal-powered plants over the past 40 years.

Evidently though, any discussion of coal’s strengths, or the subsidies parceled out to wind and solar projects, disturbs the renewable energy industry. In a recent letter to Secretary Perry, these groups argued that they shouldn’t share the blame for coal’s woes which, they insist, merely stem from low natural gas prices.

But Obama Administration regulations posed real consequences. As Duke University’s Nicholas School has reported, recent government regulations threatened the viability of 56 percent of U.S. coal plants, while competition from much-touted low natural gas prices threatened only 9 percent. Conversely, mounting federal subsidies for renewable energy have shielded the wind and solar industry from competition at the expense of competing sources like coal.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, government policies have meant solar power being subsidized by over 345 times more than coal, and wind being subsidized over 52 times more. And this subsidization is costly. DOE data reveals that each energy sector requires vastly different labor inputs: one coal worker equals two natural gas workers, or 12 wind industry employees, or 79 solar workers. And while coal creates 7,800 jobs per Megawatt-hour, wind yields only 2,200, and solar 98. Without subsidies, wind and solar would fare poorly in the free market against coal and natural gas.

States need to protect their base load power, and Secretary Perry is taking a prudent approach in examining such considerations. The heavily subsidized growth of renewables is indeed impacting other power sources, leaving U.S. taxpayers paying more for a less diverse supply of energy. Thus, Perry is right to consider whether America is still on track to meet future power needs, and at a price that consumers can afford.

Terry Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission.

See the article here.

NMA Applauds President’s Energy Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. The U.S. mining industry applauded the administration’s bold emphasis on creating a robust market for all sources of domestic energy that the president highlighted in his energy speech today.

“A strong energy industry is a goal that will benefit all Americans and is achievable without diminishing the significant environmental protections that Americans rightfully expect,” said National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn.

As an example, Quinn cited the repeal of needless and costly regulation on coal that will allow U.S. consumers to benefit from the world’s largest coal supply. The Clean Power Plan (CPP), recently proposed for rescission by the administration, illustrates the impact of regulations on energy production.

Under the Energy Information Administration’s latest reference case, U.S. coal production will climb “significantly higher” without the constraints of the CPP, rising from 740 million short tons last year to almost 900 mst by 2025. The resulting 280-million-ton annual increase throughout this period could support the addition of 25,000 high-wage miners and ensure households and businesses have a more reliable supply of affordable electricity. Meanwhile, advanced technology is driving emissions reductions, with new coal plants today emitting up to 90 percent fewer emissions than those they replace.

U.S. coal exports, projected to rise this year to more than 71 mst, also serve the needs of the estimated 1.1 billion people in emerging economies who today lack access to affordable electricity. Every million tons of coal exported supports 1,320 jobs throughout the U.S. economy paying an annual average of more than $90,000. For further information on U.S. coal exports, click here.

The nation’s basic industries will benefit from a supply-side energy policy that promotes all energy sources. “U.S. mineral and metal mining is one example of an energy-intensive industry operating in a high-cost environment that is better able to compete in global markets with lower and less volatile energy costs,” Quinn said.

Quinn expects additional priorities for energy de-regulation may be identified next month from Energy Secretary Perry’s assessment of the impact of regulatory policies on baseload power.

See the press release here.

OPINION: Trump’s Energy Plan will Make America the New Saudi Arabia

Via The Hill:

This past week, President Trump renewed his promise of an era of American global energy dominance. It’s an achievable goal and a quintessential “America first” theme that Trump should keep playing.

Trump recognizes what almost all his critics choose to ignore: we are entering an age of American energy renaissance that will last not just years, but many decades. While the left keeps placing bad bets on expensive and unreliable green energy, Trump has a more robust and realistic strategy to make the United States the 21st century Saudi Arabia. We are well on our way getting to that goal given the continuing story of the shale oil and gas explosion.

Here are some facts to think about. Since 2007 America has increased its oil and gas output by 75 percent with most of it coming from North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Since 2015, when Republicans and Congress passed a law ending the oil and gas export ban, the U.S. has exported more than 150 million barrels of crude.

At the moment, natural gas is the disruptive energy source that is blowing away the competition. This is good news for America because we have far more natural gas than anyone, with perhaps the exception of Saudi Arabia. This has the looks of something big. The U.S. has by far the cheapest natural gas and are very capable of replacing the Middle East and Russia as primary suppliers to Europe and Asia.

Thanks in part to Trump’s energy vision, we are now building liquefied gas terminals that will lead to sharp increases in exports of our abundant natural gas. Bloomberg reports that ‎”since starting up last year, Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana — the first major facility sending shale gas overseas — has shipped more than 100 cargoes of [liquefied natural gas] overseas.”

Pipelines are necessary to make this energy future possible, and Trump is already greenlighting these projects that were delayed or killed by President Obama, who hated fossil fuels.

If we are to sprint ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to energy production, we will need to allow drilling on federal lands. We are talking about unlocking some $50 trillion of energy assets lying underneath us. Just the royalties, leases and income taxes generated from all of this energy treasure would raise about $2 trillion in federal revenue.

The liberals left coal for dead, but the remarkable comeback in coal production has proven Trump’s critics wrong. Coal production in the U.S. has risen 19 percent this year, and mining jobs are back as well. That’s a testament to Trump’s reversal of Obama-era regulations meant to bankrupt coal.

We need cheap coal to produce steel and other manufactured good in America, so coal production is basic to keeping blue collar and hard hat jobs here at home in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia.

American production of oil, gas, and coal could easily rise by $100 billion a year and by two to three times that level over time. That’s about 0.5 percent points added to U.S. growth right there. With tax reform, that brings us above 3 percent, and even close to 4 percent fairly easily.

Instead of importing $200 billion of energy every year, the US and Canada could soon easily be exporting that amount. Of course, the current low global price of oil — below $50 a barrel — has all producers struggling mightily as the world absorbs a wonderful glut of cheap energy. But the amazing American frackers are discovering new ways of producing more and more energy at lower and lower costs.

The industry that has gotten most financially flattened by low natural gas prices is green energy. ‎As long as natural gas prices stay below $3 per million cubic feet, wind and solar are as viable as cold fusion for years to come.

It is very simple: without billions upon billions of government mandates, tax credits, production subsidies, and ‎other tax giveaways, there would be virtually no wind and solar industry today in the United States.

As my Heritage Foundation colleague Jack Spencer, an expert on energy policy, puts it, “the only was solar and wind create jobs is by spending taxpayer dollars. Those aren’t real net new jobs because the government has to take a dollar from someone else to handout a dollar.”‎

What industry couldn’t create jobs if the government kept showering it with billions of dollars of free money? We’ve been stupidly doing this since the 1970s. Perhaps there will be breakthroughs that make green energy viable, but we’ve heard those unfulfilled promises now for 40 years.

No one knows where the future will take us with energy technology. Can nuclear power, for example, make a comeback? For now at least, no nation is better poised to exploit the new global age of shale energy.

Better still, this is a fortuitous outcome that won’t cost the government money — as opposed to the green energy racket — but will raise trillions of new tax dollars to fund public programs.

‎It’s a tribute to Trump’s vision and gut instincts that a real estate developer from the northeast gets that when so many so-called energy experts, including Obama, don’t.

See the article here.

The Western US’s Largest Coal Plant Has A ‘Fighting Chance’ Of Survival

Via The Daily Caller:

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke hailed the Navajo Nation’s ratification of a new lease with operators of the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S., staving off its immediate decommissioning.

Zinke said the action gave Navajo and Hopi workers a “fighting chance” to keep their jobs at the coal plant and the mine that supplies it.

Navajo Nation ratified a lease agreement with operators of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) Tuesday to extend power plant and mining operations through 2019. This gives the Department of the Interior, which co-owns the plant, and other stakeholders time to find ways to keep the NGS viable.

“Since the first weeks of the Trump Administration, one of Interior’s top priorities has been to roll up our sleeves with diverse stakeholders in search of an economic path forward to extend NGS and Kayenta Mine operations after 2019,” Zinke said in a statement.

“This Navajo Nation Council’s endorsement of a new lease gives NGS and Kayenta Mine workers a fighting chance and gives Navajo and Hopi economies a moment to regroup for the work ahead,” Zinke said.

NGS and the Kayenta mine that supplies it with coal are important sources of jobs for hundreds of Navajo and Hopi workers. The aging coal plant has struggled to compete with low-priced natural gas and mounting environmental regulations.

NGS is jointly owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Salt River Project, the Arizona Public Service Commission, Tucson Electric Power Company and NV Energy.

Utilities that own NGS voted in mid-February to divest from the plant, opting to build natural gas plants. The new Navajo Nation lease gives the Trump administration another two years to find other owners for the plant.

The Trump administration, however, could also end up buying out other NGS shareholders, or it could work to keep utilities on board. If no new agreement is reached, the plant will be de-commissioned after 2019.

Either way, it’s a hard sell given the costly environmental compliance NGS faces going forward.

NGS operators agreed with Environmental Protection Agency to shut down one of its coal generators after 2019 and add costly emissions control equipment by 2030. The plant already added $1 billion worth of environmental controls in the last two decades.

The Interior Department held talks in March to discuss a plan for NGS going forward. The agency is supposed to act in the best interest of the tribes, and officials don’t want the plant to close and put more than 800 tribal members out of work.

“Now, NGS operations can continue while stakeholders examine opportunities for a new operating partner to extend the life of the plant beyond its original 50-year lease,” Zinke said.

See the article here.

Trump has Returned Hope to Coal Industry, Communities

Via The Lexington Herald-Leader:

For the Kentucky Coal Association, the election of President Donald Trump gave us hope. Instead of vilifying coal like President Barack Obama did, the Trump administration recognizes that coal is a reliable and affordable source of energy.

Coal powers our homes and businesses, and the low energy costs it provides gives the commonwealth a competitive advantage when attracting new employers and jobs. Most members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation have been fighting against the “war on coal” for many years, and Trump has been a fierce ally in getting meaningful regulatory relief across the finish line.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our elected officials who’ve been working to undo some of the damage from the last eight years.

When Trump entered office, Congress and this administration came together to overturn the Obama-era stream buffer rule that attempted to make coal too expensive to mine or use. Even worse, the rule could have put as many as one-third of coal-related jobs at risk.

Sen. Mitch McConnell used his role as majority leader to prioritize the repeal of this regulation by introducing a resolution to overturn this anti-coal rule, the first regulation overturned by the Senate this year. I was proud to stand with McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul as Trump signed the resolution into law, signaling a new era for federal treatment of Kentucky coal.

Next, Trump used a pair of executive orders to dismantle other devastating anti-coal regulations. First, he stopped a rule that tried to extend the federal bureaucracy into nearly every pothole, ditch and puddle — often referred to as the waters of the U.S. rule. Then, his Energy Independence Executive Order initiated the repeal of a pair of regulations seeking to close existing coal-fired plants across the nation and prevent new ones from being built.

KCA also thanks Trump for his recent decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. McConnell and Paul joined a letter in the Senate and representatives Andy Barr and James Comer signed onto a similar letter in the House urging the president to protect Kentucky coal communities and withdraw the U.S. from this unattainable agreement.

In addition to helping deliver regulatory relief to struggling coal communities, Kentucky senators and representatives have also secured new research funding to support technological advancements for coal. The most recent government-funding legislation included over $660 million to support a Department of Energy program focused on developing new coal technology, which is important to keeping coal competitive.

The industry simply wants to get Washington bureaucracy out of the way so that coal can compete on the open market. Those who blame coal’s downturn on cheap natural gas prices are missing the full picture and are too quick to forget natural gas’ characteristic price volatility. When the Obama administration put coal at a disadvantage, the marketplace followed that direction.

Although it will take some time to recover from the Obama administration’s regulatory damage, I am encouraged that we have recently seen slight increases in coal production in some places and some federal projections estimate increased production over the next few years. It’s too early to say whether a trend in increased coal production will come to fruition, but the regulatory relief has restored some hope.

Trump and leaders in Congress like McConnell have created an optimism about coal by offering their support to struggling communities. As a result, we have seen idle mines start back production and new companies begin operations in some of the most devastated regions of our state. We know that there is still much work to do for Kentucky’s coal country but together we are making strides in a positive direction.

See the article here.

Coal Jobs Rise, Media Blames Trump

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Here’s one irony emerging from the tumultuous early months of the Trump administration.

The president’s support for the coal industry, and his rollback of costly federal regulations, is gradually helping put coal communities back on their feet.

But the president isn’t getting any credit for it. In fact, instead of recognizing coal’s revival, the media more often describes it as “impossible.”

It’s as if the coal industry has become a surrogate for a presidency that is deeply unpopular with many who think that whatever the president likes must be bad and whatever he aids must fail. It’s the same “government-can’t-bring-them-back” narrative familiar to anyone who recalls the General Motors bailout.

But facts are stubborn things.

Coal has added about 2,000 direct jobs in the last year, with 1,700 just since December 2016. Mines are expanding and new ones are opening in Alabama, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia and here in West Virginia.

Year-to-date production is up about 50 million tons, rail loadings are climbing despite a relatively mild winter, and power sector coal consumption climbed almost 23 percent in March, year to date. Both prices and exports are now expected to tick upward this year.

The Trump administration deserves some credit for this revival.

The Environmental Protection Agency has voided or put on hold costly regulations that would have achieved little or no environmental benefit.

The Department of the Interior has lifted a moratorium arbitrarily placed on federal coal production. And the Energy Department has launched a study to see how regulatory interference — including the retirement of coal plants — has damaged the reliability of the nation’s power grid.

None of this impresses the naysayers, however. They’re simply pushing back the goal posts — and denying the administration any credit — by arguing that coal will never return to its dominant position.

But most miners already know the difference between campaign rhetoric and reality. And few in the industry actually expect “King Coal” to regain the market share it held before the shale gas revolution flooded the energy market with cheap natural gas.

All that coal miners could reasonably expect from the new administration was to get the government off their back and out of the business of picking winners and losers.

Instead of Washington regulators making the decisions on which energy sources the nation could use, let consumers decide what fuel they’ll use for electricity, manufacturing and transportation.

That’s essentially what this administration is doing — removing the regulatory burden from coal and letting it compete against other energy sources in the open market. That’s why lifting the regulations has helped coal mining and the jobs it supports.

Yet even this modest recovery is ignored because it’s President Donald Trump helping coal.

Examples abound. The Washington Post recently belittled the revival of the industry by contrasting the slow growth of coal jobs with the rising number of fast-food workers. That’s an unhelpful comparison though, since coal jobs pay an annual average of $84,000, plus good benefits. Fast-food jobs offer little more than minimum wage.

The article also noted that coal employment has declined since the mid-1980s, a point intended to diminish the impact of Obama-era regulations and lessen credit Trump deserves for removing them.

But coal employment actually climbed by 32 percent from 2000 until 2011, reaching 143,000 before a massive Obama administration rule — and not natural gas production — began forcing almost 20 percent of America’s coal plants out of business.

Some reporters even minimize recent coal job creation by only citing federal data that excludes the contract workers who also work in the mines

Adding these contract workers to the recent jobs tally from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that coal has actually grown by about 2,000 high-wage jobs in the past year — an encouraging uptick for an industry that was hit hard by costly regulations for much of the past decade.

Coal’s critics shouldn’t bury the industry just because Trump promised to revive it.

The question now is whether coal will continue to bear the brunt of media ire against the president, or whether it will be recognized as a sustainable source of good jobs and reliable electricity.

See the article here.

Meet the Face of President Trump’s End to Obama’s War on Coal: Third Generation Pennsylvania Miner

Via Brietbart:

The sun finally came out after a drenching rain storm in Pennsylvania’s Alleghany Mountain country on the first day of the work week. It marked a symbolic development for the coal miners whose future is brighter thanks to President Donald Trump’s efforts to revive an industry that the Obama administration had promised to all but abolish.

For Joey Kostya, that means he can continue a family tradition.

“My father and my grandfather before me were miners,” Kostya said after emerging from a shaft of the mine that broke ground just recently and was celebrated by Trump with Corsa Coal Corporation officials and other dignitaries overlooking the pit that reveals the rich vein of coal that runs beneath the rolling hills.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be speaking with you on this great, great day,” Trump said via video. “The miners of Pennsylvania are mining coal again.

“Washington may be 180 miles down the road, but I want you to know each and every day, I’m fighting for you and all the forgotten men and women of America,” Trump said.

Kostya told Breitbart News that he thinks there’s a future in coal now and he’s glad to keep his job working in the mines.

“I like everything about it,” Kostya said. “It’s a fun job.”

“Something different every day so it keeps it interesting”  Kostya continued before donning his working gloves a

in and heading back into the mine.

“Under a tent perched hundreds of feet above a freshly dug coal pit, about 200 miners, business leaders, and politicians celebrated amid the surge of enthusiasm for the industry,” the Associated Press reported on “opening day.”

“Mining headgear lay atop red, white, and blue table cloths labeled ‘Make Coal Great Again,’” AP reported.

Coal miners gather outside of the mine shaft at the Acosta Deep Mine in Somerset County, Penn.

Indeed, the Acosta Deep Mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania promises up to 100 jobs and an operation that will create countless tons of metallurgical coal, the ingredient used to make coke, the building block to produce steel — a commodity that’s builds much of what America and the world uses, from buildings and bridges to technological devices.

The mining will take place at this site over at least the next 15 years, revitalizing an area that was hard hit by the Obama energy policies.

The miners will earn between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, according to the New York Post — a boon to an area where the median income is around $29,000 a year.

The underground mine will eventually stretch out for miles without so much as a blade of grass being disturbed on the lush farmland that dominates the region.   view from above the mine shows the surrounding farmland ad a stage decorated with an American flag that was used for the mine’s opening ceremony earlier this month.

“Everyone’s excited about having a mine this big going in,” Ben Gardner, mining engineer with Corsa Coal  the company that owns it, told Breitbart News.

And the mine will not only benefit the miners and the local economy, but will have much broader economic impact felt far beyond the Keystone State, from the millions of dollars worth of high-tech equipment used in the operation, to the transportation industry necessary to deliver the coal to its domestic and global destinations.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who endorsed Hillary Clinton, said the state awarded a $3 million grant for the project.

“We have not always capitalized on our standing as one of the world’s leaders in these resources, but we’re changing that,” Wolf said at the mine’s opening.

There’s no official signage on the winding roads and picturesque farmland in this part of America, but there’s no doubt this is Trump country.

“The war on coal is over,” Corsa CEO George Dethlefsen said. “Easing the regulatory burden, lowering taxes, stimulating infrastructure spending, balancing out the interest of economic growth versus environmental policy – it’s very good for coal.”

Corsa hopes to open another metallurgical coal mine next year, and another mine in 2019.

Ieed, the Acosta Deep Mine in Somerset County, Pennsylvania promises up to 100 jobs and an operation that will create countless tons of metallurgical coal, the ingredient used to make coke, the building block to produce steel — a commodity that’s builds much of what America and the world uses, from buildings and bridges to technological devices.

The mining will take place at this site over at least the next 15 years, revitalizing an area that was hard hit by the Obama energy policies.

The miners will earn between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, according to the New York Post — a boon to an area where the median income is around $29,000 a year.

The underground mine will eventually stretch out for miles without so much as a blade of grass being disturbed on the lush farmland that dominates the region.

“Everyone’s excited about having a mine this big going in,” Ben Gardner, mining engineer with Corsa Coal  the company that owns it, told Breitbart News.

And the mine will not only benefit the miners and the local economy, but will have much broader economic impact felt far beyond the Keystone State, from the millions of dollars worth of high-tech equipment used in the operation, to the transportation industry necessary to deliver the coal to its domestic and global destinations.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who endorsed Hillary Clinton, said the state awarded a $3 million grant for the project.

“We have not always capitalized on our standing as one of the world’s leaders in these resources, but we’re changing that,” Wolf said at the mine’s opening.

There’s no official signage on the winding roads and picturesque farmland in this part of America, but there’s no doubt this is Trump country.

“The war on coal is over,” Corsa CEO George Dethlefsen said. “Easing the regulatory burden, lowering taxes, stimulating infrastructure spending, balancing out the interest of economic growth versus environmental policy – it’s very good for coal.”

Corsa hopes to open another metallurgical coal mine next year, and another mine in 2019.

See the article here.

Rick Perry to Issue Major Electric Grid Study by Month’s End

Via The Washington Examiner:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Tuesday that he expects to release a major study on the reliability of the electric grid by the end of June.

Perry told a House Appropriations Committee budget panel that the study will show the state of the nation’s “baseload” power plants, which typically include plants that provide electricity around the clock, like coal and nuclear, but excludes resources like solar and wind.

The wind industry has been lobbying Perry to ensure that the benefits of wind energy are fairly recognized as an important resource for maintaining the reliability of the electric grid along with fossil fuels. But it has been unclear in the months since the study was first announced what it will conclude about the state of the grid.

Perry told lawmakers that the study will seek to answer the question, “Do we have the baseload?”

The study will examine the role of nuclear energy in providing reliable baseload electricity, as well as “where does our renewables play [a role], what role does carbon capture, utilization, sequestration of coal plants have to play in the baseload,” Perry said. Carbon capture technology is part of President Trump’s strategy to build “clean coal” power plants.

The study will also examine ways to protect the grid from the threat of nation states, or bad actors, attempting to hack into the grid, as seen most recently in Ukraine, he explained.

See the article here.

Coal’s Decline Spreads Far Beyond Appalachia

Via The Wall Street Journal:

SOMERSET, Mass.—Far from the mines of Appalachia, the decline of coal is hitting communities that relied on coal-fired power plants for jobs and income.

During the past five years, roughly 350 coal-fired generating units shut down across the U.S., ranging from small units at factories to huge power plants, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. A single power plant could have one or several units.

Many of these plants were built near the source in Appalachia and western states. But generators built in far-away places like New England have also turned off.

The shutdowns can cost communities both high-paying jobs and important sources of tax revenue. Natural-gas-fired plants have quickly mushroomed up across the U.S. to replace the retiring coal generators, but those plants need far fewer workers—one for every five that worked at a coal plant, by some estimates.

A 54-year-old coal-fired plant here stopped operating three weeks ago, and local officials started raising property taxes several years back to compensate for lower revenue from the town’s largest taxpayer as production slowed.

In Adams County, Ohio, where Dayton Power & Light has said it will shut two coal-fired plants, county auditor David Gifford sees a host of knock-on effects including layoffs for public employees, program cuts for seniors, libraries and schools, as well as a steep hike in property taxes. The plants contributed more than 30% of the county’s $27 million in total tax revenue.

“If the power company shuts their doors, then John Doe on the street is going to have to pay for it,” Mr. Gifford said.

A DP&L spokeswoman said the company decided the plants wouldn’t be economically viable beyond mid-2018, and “we faced an important and difficult outcome.”

It is a scenario being played out elsewhere as more coal-fired power plants retire, squeezed out in part by new, cheaper-to-run natural gas-fired plants.

Two entire plants in New Jersey also closed in June, and more coal units are scheduled to close in places like Tennessee and Michigan. Carbon County, Utah, is still smarting from the loss of a small coal-fired plant two years ago, said Seth Oveson, the county clerk and auditor.

Cassville, Wis., lost 55% of its tax revenue when two former coal plants on either side of town, including one that was converted to burning biomass, shut within four months of each other in 2015, said Keevin Williams, president of the village of 950 people.

Mr. Williams himself worked at one plant for 31 years before retiring. Others moved away to find work. The village on the Mississippi River has cut staff and put off projects, he said.

“We’re a small community. When you lose 90 jobs, that’s 10% of your population,” Mr. Williams said. “That’s made things very tough.”

Last year, natural gas surpassed coal for the first time in U.S. electricity generation, providing 34% of the nation’s power, versus 30% for coal, according to the EIA. As recently as 2011, coal provided roughly 43% of generation.

The reduction in coal-fired power underscores the challenge for President Donald Trump in fulfilling his promise to aid a flagging coal-mining industry because power plants are by far the main consumers of American coal.

Mr. Trump’s moves to undo environmental regulations, and the recent withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, are unlikely to reverse the closure of coal-fired plants, according to Adele Morris, policy director for the Climate and Energy Economics Project at the Brookings Institution. Ms. Morris said their closure is driven mainly by cheap gas and a federal rule limiting mercury and other pollutants.

“There’s an increasing awareness that coal will not return to its former glory,” said Charles Patton, head of external affairs at American Electric Power Co. , a Columbus, Ohio, utility that has shut nine coal-fired power plants since 2011.

Neither the EIA nor the Bureau of Labor Statistics track how this shift has affected coal-fired-plant workers. Coal-fired plants require more staff than typically newer and simpler gas-fired units, according to workers and utilities. A spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which has also been retiring coal units, said a coal plant could employ roughly 150 to 250 while a new gas plant might need 35 workers.

In Ohio’s Adams County, where 25% of the 28,000 residents live below the poverty line, the prospect of losing the two plants is devastating.

Mr. Gifford, the auditor for the county, said that if the power plants close, the county could be forced to raise the property-tax rate at least 500% in order to maintain school-district debt payments.

Joel Hanson, a veteran at one plant, said he had thought he would be able to work through to retirement at the power plant. Now he may uproot his wife and two young children from the nearby town of Manchester. “It’s like having the rug pulled out from under you,” Mr. Hanson, 43, said. The Utility Workers Union of America, which represents workers at the plants, is trying to find investors to buy them, according to the union.

In Somerset, Brayton Point was the last coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts, and one of just four left in New England. Prior plant owner Energy Capital Partners decided in 2014 to shut the plant due to competition from cheap gas, and current owner Dynegy Inc. followed through.

The plant paid more than $13 million in taxes as recently as five years ago, but payments have declined alongside power production since then, and the town of about 18,000 people has had to shift the burden to other taxpayers, town Finance Director Joe Bolton said. Somerset already lost a smaller coal-fired plant in 2010.

Electrician David Kutz, a 32-year Brayton Point veteran and area homeowner, will receive severance, but said he plans to find new work to help cover medical insurance.

“This plant put so many kids through college, bought so many houses, paid so many taxes,” said Mr. Kutz, who is 59 years old. “It’s hard now seeing people go.”

See the article here.

Former Dem Congressman: End the War on Coal

Via The Hill:

Very few members of Congress have actually shoveled tons upon tons of coal. I have.

I started working in a coal yard at the age of 13 and I know what coal has meant to the development of this great country and the comfort of its people.

I later had the honor of serving in Congress for four terms. As a Democrat from western Pennsylvania, I spent my time in Congress and the years since I left as an advocate for clean American coal.

For Pennsylvania, the reasons to support coal are obvious, regardless of your political affiliation. Until recent years, the coal industry was a cornerstone of our regional economy. An industry that once employed almost 863,000 American workers now employs just over 50,000. According to the most recent statistics, only about 6,600 of those jobs are in Pennsylvania — down more than 16 percent from the previous year.

As the rest of the world relies more and more on coal, Washington has told us to use less. — it wasn’t a suggestion. A single rule passed in 2011 wiped out half of the coal industry’s entire output. Plants shuttered overnight and the jobs that supported them were gone as well. And that’s thanks to just one regulation that is part of a much larger war on coal that has gone on for at least a generation. The casualties are thousands of lost jobs, entire communities shuttered as their sole source of prosperity disappeared thanks to overtly political mandates from Washington.

The damaged caused by the war on coal doesn’t end in Pennsylvania, or even the coal mining regions of Appalachia. Until recently, resilient resources like coal and nuclear energy provided what’s known as “baseload power” to our country’s energy grid. By definition, baseload power is able to withstand sudden and drastic fluctuations in both supply and demand. Coal and nuclear facilities maintain weeks — and up to a year — worth of fuel on-site and have reliable supply chains that can deliver power to customers even under crisis conditions. These fuels are the only energy sources capable of delivering baseload power. But Washington has nearly regulated them out of existence.

This is not an inconvenience. It’s a crisis. Other energy sources have already proven themselves unworthy in the event of a catastrophe. Our reliance on natural gas nearly cost lives during the 2014 polar vortex, when supply disruptions forced power plants to cut production or shut down altogether and prices skyrocketed overnight. And for all of the government subsidies directed toward so-called renewable energy like solar and wind, those sources aren’t anywhere close to being able to meet the country’s energy needs even under ideal circumstances.

If we wait for the next severe weather event or a terrorist attack on our power grid, it will already be too late. We have to act now. The process of changing rules and rolling back regulations in Washington can take years. If we don’t get ahead of the next catastrophe, it could cost lives and lead to massive price volatility.

There is a sliver of hope. Right now, the Department of Energy is conducting a study on baseload power and our nation’s energy supply chain. That study will likely reveal what we already know — that we are in a crisis situation. At that point, it will be up to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and President Trump to act swiftly to roll back regulations, end the war on coal and right the ship so our energy grid is once again fueled by baseload power.

For years, Washington has waged a war on reliable energy under the auspices of environmental protection. This is a false choice. Clean American coal is both responsible and reliable — if only we unshackle it from wild overregulation and political stigma. We can restore energy stability and security in the United States and make this country a world leader when it comes to clean and sustainable energy. That’s no small feat considering that coal consumption is booming in countries like China and India.

In a much more immediate sense, we will find ourselves on stable footing here at home for the first time in years. We need the ability to fuel our grid with reliable, resilient baseload power. It’s good for our workers, it’s good for our national security and it’s good for our country. Washington needs to act immediately.

Former Rep. Ron Klink (D-PA) served four terms in Congress, representing Western Pennsylvania from 1993-2001.

See the article here.

Don’t be So Quick to Dismiss Trump’s Coal Mining Initiative

Via The New York Post:

ACOSTA, PA. — On a warm June morning, a large crowd gathered in the lush, gentle folds of the Allegheny Mountains to hear President Donald Trump live on video.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be speaking with you on this great, great day,” he said. “The miners of Pennsylvania are mining coal again.”

On a stage, five men unfurled a gold banner that blared, in large black letters: “Trump Digs Coal,” as the audience went wild.

For the first time in nearly a decade, a new coal mine has opened here, and a US president has rallied alongside an industry deemed by many as obsolete.

The Acosta Deep Mine in Somerset County marks a dramatic upturn for the area. And while President Trump cannot claim that he brought the industry back here personally (this new mine was already being developed before the election), he is an effective cheerleader for folks who’ve been discounted by the political elite.

“We will begin by employing 70 to 100 miners and we hope to open a total of three new mines in the next 18 months — and that will mean additional hiring,” said George Dethlefsen, CEO of Corsa Coal, which owns the mine.

More than 400 people applied for the first wave of jobs that will pay from $50,000 to $100,000, Dethlefsen said.

In a region where the median household income is $29,050, and nearly 12 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the economic injection is huge.

It also creates a ripple effect: For every new job generated by the mine, even more jobs like waitresses, hotel workers, barbers or grocery workers are needed to support the community.

“The money essentially stays here in our hometown,” said Greg Griffith, owner of Griffith Excavating, who was working the mine last week with his crew. He has hired new people to take on the workload and will employ even more as the other mines open.

“I don’t think people outside of our small town understand how life-changing this development is.”

He’s right about that. Just days after the event, progressives on Twitter slammed the mine, comparing the opening of an energy-supplying coal pit to the launching a VCR factory in the digital age. In their minds, it’s a waste of time.

And the response from the people of Acosta? Stop treating other Americans like the enemy.

They also point out that the criticism is wildly misinformed. The coal from this mine is not going to be used for energy — instead, it will be used for the production of steel for the next 15 years. (According to the World Steel Association, coal is used to make 70 percent of the steel today.)

Every single one of us relies on steel in our daily lives. It’s found in our cars, bikes and public transportation. Those wind turbines so loved by environmentalists? Made of steel. The utensils we use to eat? Steel. Medical devices used to save lives? Steel.

Roads, bridges, appliances and even iPhones and computers all contain steel.

Meanwhile, digital business publication Quartz also knocked the mine, pointing out that 70 new hires is a significantly smaller number than the 92 jobs one supermarket opening would create.

But most folks in a grocery store don’t earn $50,000 to $100,000, and making an apples-to-oranges comparison (retail vs. mining) demonstrates a lack of understanding about coal country and its work force.

It also encourages the delusion that hiring just 70 people won’t create an economic engine for a community.

“That could not be more wrong-headed,” said Sean Isgan, president of CME Engineering, located right across the street from the Somerset County courthouse.

Because of the new mine, Isgan’s business will also expand. “We will hire geologists, surveyors, engineers, computer draftsmen, biologists, wetland people . . . you know, different kinds of sciences,” he said. “So they’re all good-paying jobs, full benefits.”

The life of a coal miner has changed dramatically in the past 100 years. Even in the last decade, the work has become safer, the processes better regulated.

“There is a tremendous amount of regulation that’s involved in coal mining, whether it’s environmental or safety, both of which are extremely critical and valued parts of our business,” Dethlefsen said.

His company has 20 staffers dedicated to environmental issues — clean water, clean air and reclaiming mine sites.

“We are committed to environmental protection, we are committed to safety, we are committed to restoring land to its original contours,” he said. “We do all those things every day, and we spend millions of dollars doing it. It’s a 24/7, 365-day-a-year effort. That is a big change versus the past.”

But many Americans aren’t aware of this modernization. So having a president who believes in this industry, and rallies publicly for it, means a lot. Trump has “created an optimism in the business community that has trickled down from big companies to small, and for all of their workers,” Dethlefsen said.

It’s this support that compelled the people of Somerset County to give Trump their vote. His loyalty won them over months ago, and it won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

See the article here.

 

Fate of Arizona Coal Mine, Power Station and Tribal Economies Rests with Trump Administration

Via The Washington Times:

An aging power plant in remote Arizona could offer the Trump administration a unique opportunity: the chance to back up its rhetoric about saving the U.S. coal industry with concrete action.

The federal government could be the last, best hope to save the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired facility on Navajo Nation land near the Arizona-Utah border that is key to providing water for much of the region, directly supports hundreds of jobs and is the sole customer for a nearby Peabody Energy coal mine.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which owns a 24 percent stake in the project, is desperately seeking a path forward as other owners of the facility head for the exits. Those other owners — four Western utility companies — argue that the generating station is no longer economically viable and, as structured, would run at a $100 million annual loss each year after 2019.

The Navajo Nation is negotiating with the bureau and other owners to keep the plant running through 2019, when its lease expires, and then begin decommissioning. If an agreement can’t be reached, then the Navajo Generating Station could shut down this year.

Even if the plant survives and closes in 2019, the consequences will be devastating and far-reaching. The mine that feeds the plant sits on Hopi Tribe land, and the tribe depends on coal royalties for about 85 percent of its annual budget.

“That’s our lifeline. I don’t sleep very well at night. We’ve got to do something,” Hopi Chairman Herman G. Honanie told The Washington Times last week.

In addition to the job losses and financial peril for the Hopi, Peabody says the future of its Kayenta Mine is bleak without the generating plant as a customer.

Enter the Trump administration. Coal proponents say the Bureau of Reclamation, as a key part of the plant’s ownership group, can and must ensure that the plant doesn’t close and that a long-term solution would serve the interests of Western energy consumers, the Navajo and Hopi tribes, and the American coal industry.

“The consequences to the coal industry are enormous. In this instance, the federal government is an owner. If they refuse to keep a coal-fired plant open that they own, how can they encourage anyone else to do the same?” said Michael McKenna, a Republican Party strategist who worked on the Trump transition team. “If they allow this lease to be signed, this plant to close, then the rhetoric about coal from the president has been a lie. The administration has an opportunity to do something meaningful here. Words are good. Actions are better.”

The Navajo Nation says a vote could be held as early as next week on extending the generating station’s operations through 2019. They also have expressed interest in the Bureau of Reclamation taking over full ownership of the entire facility by the start of next decade — though government officials say such an arrangement would be unprecedented.

“Interior hopes that the NGS stakeholders can find a way to extend the life of the plant and the Kayenta Mine past 2019 with financially viable operations,” said Dan DuBray, a spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation, a division of the Interior Department. “The administration has described this NGS activity as part of its commitment to the coal industry; it is one example of the many links to our economy and jobs that American mining and coal-generated energy provide. If any federal ownership of this operation were to be proposed, it would likely require new or expanded authorities that do not currently exist.”

The government’s partial ownership of the project is in and of itself a unique situation. The 2,250-megawatt plant came online in 1974, and the federal interest grew out of the need for a major power source to pump water through the region. Initial construction costs topped $650 million, not counting millions of dollars in upgrades over the years.

Interior has a 24 percent stake in the project, with various Western utilities owning the rest. Salt River Project controls 42.9 percent of the Navajo Generating StationArizona Public Service owns 14 percent, and NV Energy and Tucson Electric Power own 11.3 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.

The utilities announced in February that they would pull out of the project post-2019, arguing that the rise of U.S. natural gas has left coal-fired facilities such as the Navajo Generating Station at a massive disadvantage in the marketplace.

“The major issue surrounding this plant — and it’s industrywide — is economics,” said Scott Harelson, a spokesman for Salt River Project. “To be quite frank, we were probably working a little bit against reality trying to figure out how can we still make Navajo work. Those are our employees. We’ve operated that plant for a long time. It’s important to that area, and we realize that.

“Ultimately, it became clear it just was not going to be economical,” he said. “It was too expensive to operate.”

Mr. Harelson said the ideal outcome for the utilities is to run the plant through 2019 and then maintain access to the site for decommissioning and cleanup. The Navajo Nation, meanwhile, has expressed interest in possibly building solar panels or other renewable energy projects in the same area and taking advantage of the electricity infrastructure already there.

But such a scenario, if it comes to pass, would be a high-profile defeat for the coal industry. Peabody says it has already offered a long-term fixed price for the coal that feeds the plant, and it has released economic studies that it says prove the plant can, in fact, compete with any other power generation source on the market today.

Peabody has come to the table with a fixed coal price proposal representing a competitive fuel cost versus alternate generation sources,” said Peabody spokeswoman Beth Sutton. “Study findings confirm our belief that NGS is economically viable and provide momentum for stakeholders to continue working toward solutions that will allow NGS operations for many years.”

Supporters of the facility say that despite the legal and logistical challenges, the administration, if it’s serious about aiding the coal industry, should consider stepping in as full owner once utilities officially pull out and could cut more regulations that would allow the Navajo Generating Station to operate more economically.

“If the United States [government] really wants to put their money where their mouth is, they’ll say we’ll stay in as owner and start removing these red tape regulations,” said Mark Lewis, a board member of the Central Arizona Project, which depends on the generating station for the vast majority of power needed to pump water through its 336-mile water delivery system.

See the article here.

Hope is Important for the Deep South Coalfield Counties

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph: 

As I scanned through our internal online archives, I found the headlines to be both alarming and depressing. I was looking for story ideas, and subsequently found myself perusing through several years of older articles.

These older articles told the story of a region fighting for survival against an administration in Washington that was causing great harm to the greater Appalachia region.

Headline after headline documented this frustrating struggle, and the outrage associated with the onslaught that was more commonly known as Washington’s War on Coal.

These articles also told a story that was largely absent from the national news media during the eight long years of the Obama administration.

To the rest of the nation, those of us living in coal country were viewed as outcasts. Folks who were stubbornly reluctant to follow the national narrative, and to openly embrace wind and solar energy at the expense of thousands of good-paying jobs here in the greater Appalachia region.

At the time many of these articles were written, hope was in short supply. It appeared at the time that Republicans across the nation had made a huge mistake in nominating a billionaire reality television star for the all-important White House race.

It seemed almost certain during those challenging days that a continuation of the Obama administration, and the anti-coal, anti-fossil fuel policies, would continue for at least another four years under yet another Democratic president.

Oh how wrong we were.

Looking back now it is almost easy to forget how difficult and frustrating things were here in the coalfields during those past eight years.

Say what you may about President Donald Trump, but his election — and his support of coal — has helped the region. We now have hope in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. But we won’t bounce back overnight. It will take time. And a lot of patience.

Yes, we are mining coal again. Yes, more coal cars are moving through Bluefield. No — under no circumstances — can we pin all of our hope on coal again. We must instead continue to diversify our regional economy.

Projects like the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, Spearhead Trail and the Back of the Dragon are great starting points when it comes to economic diversification. But additional projects and efforts will be needed. The region’s elected leaders must be proactive.

Still at the same time, any and all new coal mining jobs that are created in the region will help our economy. It all comes down to hope. Hope is something that was in short supply during that long eight-year period of upheaval here in the coalfields. Now we do, and a positive attitude can go a long ways in helping our region.

It is worth noting that the headlines are now more encouraging. Suddenly the future looks a little brighter. The dark days chronicled in those earlier articles are over. With hope, new economic development and growth will continue in the region.

See the article here.

A Few Positive Signs for the State’s Economy

Via The West Virginia MetroNews:

The biggest reason Governor Justice and lawmakers are sweating out the budget for next fiscal year is that coal and natural gas severance tax collections have plummeted. According to the state budget office In fiscal year 2014, those industries paid $489 million into the state’s General Revenue Fund.  Two years later, the amount collected had fallen to almost half ($276 million).

The Governor and lawmakers would have a much easier time coming to agreement on a budget if those industries bounced back (or the state had substantial growth in other areas). Now we’re seeing some positive signs in the state’s economy.

The Monthly Mountain State Business Index (MSBI) issued by WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) reports the state’s economy is recovering after a long and painful downturn and moderate growth is expected over the next several months.

Brian Lego, BBER research assistant professor, says the coal numbers were off slightly in May, but “coal production activity has improved measurably since late last year.” Southern West Virginia coal production is up ten percent from this time a year ago.

Just last week, Alpha Natural Resources announced it is openinga metallurgical coal mine in Raleigh County.  “Recent improvement in the market has created more demand for our coal,” said Alpha Vice President of Operations Charlie Bearse.   This week, Corsa Coal announced a coal mine opening near Pittsburgh. There’s no economic benefit to West Virginia, but it is still a positive sign for the industry.

Natural gas production is also trending upward. “The state’s natural gas industry has emerged from a sustained period of weakness,” said Lego, “and though its performance is not anywhere close to what was observed in 2014, several firms have increased drilling activity and four activity rigs have been added since the beginning of the year.”

The improvements in coal and gas are bringing in more tax dollars to the state.  Severance tax collections have reached $274 million dollars through May.  That’s 17 percent higher than projections with still one month left in the fiscal year.  Additionally, new hires will increase payroll tax collections and employed workers have money to spend, helping the local economy.

National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn now sounds more optimistic about the future of his industry.  “A change in the fortunes of U.S. coal is on the horizon with recent changes in politics, policy and markets,” Quinn wrote.  “For U.S. coal, some of the headwinds blowing against us in the past few years now appear to be filling our sails.”

West Virginia is badly in need of those favorable breezes. Right now it just feels like a puff, but even that is enough to get the ship moving in these becalmed waters.  If the trend continues, the economic growth will make the state’s budget problems much more manageable.

See the article here.

PA Coal Mine, Praised as Lifeline for Local Economy

Via Fox News: 

Around 200 miners, business leaders and local politicians stood around tables covered in mining headgear and tablecloths labeled “Make Coal Great Again” as they overlooked a freshly dug coal pit located around 60 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.

The group was assembled for the opening of Corsa Coal Corp’s Acosta mine – the country’s newest mining operation – which will dig up metallurgical coal for use in a booming steel industry and is expected to generate up to 100 full-time jobs. Hundreds of job applications already have poured in.

Although many analysts have predicted a decline in coal extraction, the mine has been praised locally as an economic lifeline for a region hard hit by the decline in coal-fired power plants and – despite Corsa starting work on the mine last August – it’s been hailed by President Trump as proof that environmental deregulation will bring jobs to the struggling industry.

“When I campaigned for president I said that we would end the war on coal and put our incredible miners-that’s what you are you are incredible – back to work,” Trump said in a video played for the crowd gathered in Somerset County.

Trump has made reversing the decades-long decline in coal mining the central tenet of his environmental policy – blaming federal regulations aimed at curbing planet-warming carbon emissions for job losses in the industry. The revival of the industry was one of Trump’s main talking points while on the stump last year and helped him win over working class voters in Pennsylvania’s coal country.

“The tone of government has completely changed,” Corsa CEO George Dethlefsen told Fox News. “Coal is no longer a four letter word.”

Since taking office, Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have targeted laws that protected waterways from coal waste and required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants. About a dozen protesters chanted in opposition to the mine at the opening, but the mine seems to be overwhelmingly popular in Somerset County.

“It will put guys back to work and out money in their pockets,” James Yoder, a Somerset County Commissioner, told Fox News. “It’s going to be a boom for everyone.”

Somerset County – which is best known for being the site of the United Airlines Flight 93 crash on September 11, 2001 – has an unemployment rate of around 6.8 percent, almost 2 points more than Pennsylvania as a whole, and Yoder said that any new jobs in the region are “not going to hurt.”

“The coal industry here is like a rollercoaster,” he said. “We’ve been going downhill for a number of years, but now it looks like we’re starting to go back up.”

The mine will produce approximately 400,000 tons of metallurgical coal annually during its 15 year lifespan and will employ between 70 and 100 people, while the mine’s trickledown effect could create another 300 to 400 jobs.

While Trump’s pro-coal agenda has put him at odds with many Democratic lawmakers, the Acosta Mine enjoys bipartisan support in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf – a Democrat who is a sharp critic of Trump’s plan to leave the Paris Climate Accord – was on hand for the mine opening. The state doled out a $3 million grant for the mine, which helped offset the $15 million or so initial investment, and Wolf called the mine an effort to bring back jobs and industry to an economically-beleaguered part of Pennsylvania.

“We have not always capitalized on our standing as one of the world’s leaders in these resources, but we’re changing that,” Wolf said.

Part of Wolf’s support for the mine may be the mine will be used for metallurgical coal, which has less impurities and is generally seen as cleaner than the coal used to fire power plants.

The metallurgical coal being pulled from the new mine, however, is part of a niche market that makes up only between 5 percent and 10 percent of coal production and operates independently of the market for power-generating coal plants.

Analysts emphasize that the new mine doesn’t reflect a long-term revival in the coal industry as a whole, which continues to struggle amid mechanization and cheaper, cleaner energy alternatives such as natural gas and renewables.

“There may be an uptick in the industry from time to time, but overall the outlook for the future of coal is pretty bleak,” Tom Sanzillo, the director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told Fox News. Over the next 35 years, Sanzillo said, the market for metallurgical coal is expected to remain stagnant, while steaming coal will continue its downward trend.

“That means there will not be much of a robust job market,” he added.

See the article here.

Winning: Trump Touts Opening of New Coal Mine in Pennsylvania

Via Brietbart:

President Donald Trump spoke via video Thursday for the opening of a new coal mine outside of Pittsburgh, saying it’s proof that he is keeping his campaign promise to create jobs for miners and create industries to benefit the U.S. economy.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be speaking with you on this great, great day. The miners of Pennsylvania are mining coal again,” Trump said in the video shown at the event with miners, executives and dignitaries, according to the Tribune-Review.

“Washington may be 180 miles down the road, but I want you to know each and every day, I’m fighting for you and all the forgotten men and women of America,” Trump said.

Corsa Coal Corporation is expected to create 100 jobs for the operation that will supply coal for the manufacture of steel.

“Under a tent perched hundreds of feet above a freshly dug coal pit, about 200 miners, business leaders, and politicians celebrated amid the surge of enthusiasm for the industry,” the Associated Press reported. “Mining headgear lay atop red, white, and blue table cloths labeled ‘Make Coal Great Again.’”

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat who endorsed Hillary Clinton, said the state awarded a $3 million grant for the project.

“We have not always capitalized on our standing as one of the world’s leaders in these resources, but we’re changing that,” Wolf said.

Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have targeted federal regulations that make production of coal subject to harsh water protection policies and other restrictions.

“One by one, we’re eliminating the regulations that threaten your jobs, and that’s one of the big reasons you’re opening today: Less regulation,” Trump said at the recent Rose Garden ceremony where he announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord. “We have withdrawn the United States from the horrendous Paris climate accord, something that would have put our country back decades and decades, we would have never allowed ourselves to be great again.”

“The metallurgical coal being pulled from the new mine is a niche market that makes up only between 5 percent and 10 percent of coal production and operates independently of the market for power-generating coal,” AP reported. “Analysts emphasize that the new mine doesn’t reflect a long-term revival in the coal industry as a whole, which continues to struggle.”

But Corsa’s chief executive, George Dethlefsen, said Trump has made the entire mining industry feel more optimistic about the future.

“The war on coal is over,” Dethlefsen said. “Easing the regulatory burden, lowering taxes, stimulating infrastructure spending, balancing out the interest of economic growth versus environmental policy – it’s very good for coal.”

Corsa hopes to open another metallurgical coal mine next year, and another mine in 2019.

“I won’t lie, we doubted if we were going to have jobs, if the company was going to make it,” said Matt Owens, a mine safety coordinator who got into coal after his factory employer shut down a decade ago. “But they did.”

R.J. Harris of Harrisburg’s 580-WHP, said the mine opening is a “shot in the arm” for the Keystone economy, Fox Insider reported.

See the article here.

Another Promise Kept — First Coal Mine Opens Under Trump Administration

Via The Daily Caller:

President Trump during his campaign promised to “put our miners back to work.” That promise was at least partially fulfilled since the Corsa Coal Company opened, making it the first American corporation to open a new coal mine in six years.

Prominent political pundits deemed this pledge as just another empty promise made to further his campaign redirect of “Being the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” The Institute For Energy Economics And Financial Analysis (IEEFA) went so far as to say that “Promises to create more coal jobs will not be kept – indeed the industry will continue to cut payrolls”.

The mine is expected to operate in a coal producing capacity for a minimum of 15 years. Corsa executives forecast the creation of 70-100 jobs in the new mine.

The mining industry has been experiencing significant headwinds, having lost over 191,000 jobs since 2014.

Coal miners in Pennsylvania clapped and cheered as President Trump made his announcement. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be speaking with you on this great, great day,” Trump exclaimed. “The miners of Pennsylvania — we’re digging coal again.”

Trump’s kind words sit in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton’s sentiment voiced on the campaign trail. At a West Virginia town hall in March, Hillary Clinton pledged to “Put a lot of coal miners & coal companies out of business” in pursuit of transitioning America to clean renewable energy.

See the article here. 

First New Coal Mine of Trump Era Opens in Pennsylvania

Via Fox News Insider: 

President Trump lauded the opening of the nation’s first new coal mine in recent memory.

Corsa Coal Company will operate the mine in Somerset County, Pa. – outside of Pittsburgh.

Corsa CEO George Dethlefsen said the mine will be a boon to the struggling local economy.

He praised Trump’s easing of regulations and encouragement for fossil fuel exploration.

Dethlefsen told Leland Vittert that for the 70 positions available in the mine, 400 people applied.

“It’s a hard day’s work every day, but it’s worth it,” one miner said.

Vittert said the news contrasts with Hillary Clinton’s message that she would “put a lot of coal miners out of work.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), who endorsed Clinton, joined the mine company in watching a video message from Trump commemorating the occasion.

R.J. Harris, a longtime host on Harrisburg’s 580-WHP, said the mine opening is a “shot in the arm” for the Keystone economy.

See the article here.

New Coal Mine Touted by Trump Opens in Pennsylvania

Via The Washington Post:

FRIEDENS, Pa. — President Donald Trump hailed the opening Thursday of a new coal mine as proof deregulation is helping bring jobs to the industry, even though plans for the mine’s opening were made well before Trump’s election.

Corsa Coal Corp. will supply coal used in making steel and is expected to generate up to 100 fulltime jobs. The company said it decided in August to open the Acosta mine 60 miles south of Pittsburgh after a steel industry boom drove up prices for metallurgical coal.

Under a tent perched hundreds of feet above a freshly dug coal pit, about 200 miners, business leaders, and politicians celebrated amid the surge of enthusiasm for the industry. Mining headgear lay atop red, white, and blue table cloths labeled “Make Coal Great Again.”

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said the mine was part of an effort to bring back jobs and industry to the state. Pennsylvania awarded a $3 million grant for the project.

“We have not always capitalized on our standing as one of the world’s leaders in these resources, but we’re changing that,” Wolf said.

Trump has made reversing the decades-long decline in coal mining the central tenet of his environmental policy, blaming federal regulations aimed at curbing planet-warming carbon emissions for job losses in the industry. Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have targeted laws that protected waterways from coal waste and required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants. About a dozen protesters chanted in opposition to the mine at the opening.

Trump noted the impending opening of the mine last week during his speech announcing the nation’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. He said then he had hoped to attend the event; he participated via recorded video message, taking partial credit for the opening.

“One by one, we’re eliminating the regulations that threaten your jobs, and that’s one of the big reasons you’re opening today: Less regulation,” Trump said. “We have withdrawn the United States from the horrendous Paris climate accord, something that would have put our country back decades and decades, we would have never allowed ourselves to be great again.”

The metallurgical coal being pulled from the new mine is a niche market that makes up only between 5 percent and 10 percent of coal production and operates independently of the market for power-generating coal. Analysts emphasize that the new mine doesn’t reflect a long-term revival in the coal industry as a whole, which continues to struggle.

Corsa’s chief executive, George Dethlefsen, said Trump has made the entire mining industry more optimistic.

“The war on coal is over,” he said. “Easing the regulatory burden, lowering taxes, stimulating infrastructure spending, balancing out the interest of economic growth versus environmental policy — it’s very good for coal.”

The price of metallurgical coal tripled to over $300 a ton over the past year after China slashed its coal production and the steel industry bounced back from a global downturn. Cyclones disrupted supplies in Australia, the world’s biggest exporter of metallurgical coal, pushing prices higher. Though prices have sagged since then, Dethlefsen said he is confident that the mine will be profitable for a while to come.

“The supply chain for metallurgical coal is extremely fragile. Whether it’s cyclones in Australia, government policy in China . there’s always something that could disrupt the supply chain and prices to shoot up.” Dethlefsen said. “If we can keep our costs low, we can compete with any country in the world.”

Corsa hopes to open another metallurgical coal mine next year, and a second in 2019.

Power-generating coal mines continue to struggle, facing fierce competition from cheap natural gas and renewable energy. Over a dozen coal-fired plants from Nevada to Massachusetts are projected to shut their doors this year, according to a report by the nonprofit Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

“If Trump brings back the coal, it’s not going to bring back the jobs,” said Jay Apt, an energy policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “Those jobs are gone, automation has seen to that.”

Still, for the workers here, the grand opening is allowing them a sigh of relief. Though most are longtime Corsa employees brought in from other facilities, many were jittery after a mine closing in 2014 left hundreds collecting unemployment benefits.

“I won’t lie, we doubted if we were going to have jobs, if the company was going to make it,” said Matt Owens, a mine safety coordinator who got into coal after his factory employer shut down a decade ago. “But they did.”

See the article here.

NMA Urges Reform of Broken Program for Abandoned Coal Mines

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The chief executive of the national trade association representing the U.S. coal industry today told a congressional panel that the federal program funded by the coal industry to help clean up old abandoned coal mines has been plagued by an inefficient structure and lax management leading to billions of dollars spent for other purposes.

“Of the almost $11 billion that the coal industry has paid into the Abandoned Mine Lands fund since its inception in 1977, only $2.8 billion of the $8.5 billion spent to date from the Fund has resulted in the reclamation of priority coal abandoned mine sites,” said National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn. Testifying this morning before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Quinn said the $5.7 billion gap between expenditures and actual reclamation reveals that only one of every three dollars has been spent on the priority coal AML lands.

From the information available from the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement, Quinn said “it is difficult if not impossible to account for this $5.7 billion gap. This is not only a financial gap but a credibility gap for the program.”

Quinn cited findings from the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in summarizing serious and persistent shortcomings in a program failing to deliver better results on its core mission. Quinn noted that the program structure has been divided into too many competing buckets of money leading to the diversion of substantial sums to non-core purposes. “We need fewer buckets scooping up and diverting money and more focus on the top priority coal AML projects,” Quinn stated. Lax oversight has further enabled the sub-optimal results, according to Quinn.

With the 45-year old AML tax on the coal industry expiring in 2021, Quinn recommended that planning begin now for an orderly distribution of the remaining funds to non-certified states with assurances they are spent wisely on priority coal abandoned mined lands.

Link to Quinn’s June 7 testimony to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

See the press release here.

Coal Plays Crucial Role in Strong Energy Mix

Via The Knoxville News Sentinel:

The Trump administration is letting the coal industry compete again, and that’s a big win for consumers. Under President Barack Obama, the nation’s de facto energy policy was designed to make it more difficult and costly to produce coal and use its energy. The result was just as Obama promised: Over 400 mines shut down and more than 80,000 U.S. miners lost their jobs.

While bottom-floor natural gas prices, along with taxpayer subsidies for wind and solar power, have contributed to the coal industry’s struggles, the role played by federal regulatory policy should not be overlooked. If not for the timely and unexpected emergence of the U.S. shale revolution, those policies could have been devastating for consumers.

Despite the Obama administration’s success in putting the thumbscrews to the nation’s most affordable source of power, electricity prices — for the most part — did not spike. The former president’s allies have pointed to this absence of rising electricity prices as vindication for their agenda. But the absence of soaring electricity prices was by chance, not carefully constructed policy. America’s shale revolution, and our newly abundant supply of natural gas, took up the slack from the chokehold on coal.

Today, many in the energy industry assume natural gas will stay cheap. They may well be right, but we shouldn’t bet affordable energy on it. A shift to over-reliance on natural gas carries real risks to affordable energy.

In a diverse economy of more than 300 million people, the last thing we need is to push all our energy chips to one square on the table. A balanced energy mix from multiple sources provides stability to electricity rates and shields consumers from potential price spikes from one fuel source.

High-efficiency, low-emission coal technology — which is already commercially proven and available — could help us maintain low-cost energy while improving the environmental performance of the nation’s coal fleet. Pulverized coal combustion systems, integrated gasification systems and other new technologies allow coal plants to operate at higher temperatures and operate more efficiently. The average efficiency of the current fleet is 33 percent. Some new coal plants in Europe and Japan using advanced technology are achieving efficiencies in the 42-46 percent range. That jump in efficiency can reduce emissions by 20 percent or more.

With many of our nation’s coal power plants getting long in the tooth, the timing couldn’t be better to welcome investment in the new, cleaner, far more efficient coal technologies that will protect our energy mix and serve our nation for generations.

Coal power plants still provide a third of U.S. electricity, and we desperately need that reliable, low-cost power. Dialing back regulatory overreach that did such damage to the coal industry was an important first step. Maintaining coal’s contribution to our energy mix and ensuring our energy diversity should be next. A balanced energy mix that ensures affordable and reliable energy must be the focus of the nation’s energy policy once again.

Matthew Kandrach is president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a nonpartisan, free-market consumer advocacy organization. 

See the article here.

Guest Opinion: America Deserves Clean Coal Tech

Via The Billings Gazette:

At the start of his term, President Donald Trump halted new regulations on coal-fired power plants in the United States. His decision provoked plenty of criticism, with some arguing that the president had chosen to prop up a “dying industry.” Realistically, though, he has simply given coal the chance to compete in the free market — and to demonstrate whether it has the pricing and environmental profile to survive. It now appears, however, that with some smart investment, coal could actually thrive as a plentiful source of low-carbon energy.

For starters, coal may be more competitive than predicted. According to spot energy prices in April, coal per million BTU cost a full dollar less than natural gas.

This relative affordability for coal may surprise some, given the recent natural gas boom. But natural gas prices have been rising —recalling the price volatility occasionally seen over the past 20 years. This bodes well for coal’s continued use, but its growth will depend on the development of advanced technologies to rein in emissions. Because we are a nation of innovators, though, this is a promising path for coal, since advanced technologies suggest game-changing breakthroughs may be on the horizon.

New coal plants are 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago. The modern U.S. coal fleet employs at least 15 different high-tech systems to trap sulfur, mercury, and particulate emissions. But the challenge is still to reduce or capture carbon dioxide emissions that presumably cause climate change.

This is where advanced research enters the picture, thanks to technologies like “carbon capture,” i.e., CO2 emissions are captured before they are released into the atmosphere. Some of these processes involve using CO2 to enhance oil recovery with the CO2 subsequently sequestered underground. For example, NRG Energy in Texas is using carbon dioxide from a coal-burning power plant to extract more oil and natural gas from old wells.

There are also carbon capture systems being used for industrial processes. A company in Alberta, Canada, is injecting power plant carbon dioxide emissions into concrete, a process that reduces the need for composite materials while also yielding stronger concrete.

These advanced technologies that offer both economic and environmental benefits. And they could matter greatly over the next 10 to 20 years, as advanced coal plants, including some retrofitted with carbon capture, are constructed to meet the world’s growing energy needs.

 The same efforts to stimulate innovation for wind and solar power should be extended to coal. Municipalities depend on an energy infrastructure that can truly “carry the load” by also supplying clean drinking water, waste treatment, high-tech medical care, and other vital needs.

Unfortunately, solar and wind still remain frustratingly low-yield and intermittent as sources of power generation; the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Coal remains well positioned to support affordable baseline power in the United States thanks to our world-leading coal reserves. Coal has already become the energy source of choice for developing nations like China and India. Even Japan is now expanding its coal fleet, utilizing high-efficiency, low emissions technology.

While renewables like solar and wind offer great promise as part of an industrialized nation’s energy portfolio, coal and other fossil fuels will likely remain the backbone of the global energy system for years to come. It’s more important than ever to invest in advanced technologies to improve their efficiency and environmental performance.

See the article here.

Dependability of U.S. Electrical Grid Deserves Greater Scrutiny

Via RealClear Energy:

There are almost 320 million people in the United States. And they all depend on one thing in common every day—reliable, affordable electricity. Not only do Americans count on robust power generation to heat their homes, refrigerate their food, and supply clean drinking water, but the pricing for this electricity also affects costs for groceries, transit, and even household items like clothing and toothpaste.

Essentially, the health of the U.S. economy is intricately intertwined with the ongoing security and reliability of the nation’s power grid. While serving on the Missouri Public Service Commission, I considered it of paramount importance to protect this base load power—to “keep the lights on” for consumers, and at reasonable prices.

Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a review of the stability of the nation’s power grid. And undoubtedly, he has these kinds of pricing concerns in mind for a planned study on whether “regulatory burdens” and “mandates and tax and subsidy policies” favoring renewable energy are now impacting overall energy costs.

This is a responsible step for the U.S. Department of Energy to take. But Secretary Perry’s announcement has stirred up controversy nevertheless. The nation’s wind and solar groups have expressed concern over Perry’s intent to conduct a thorough review of the cost-benefit ratios involved in power grid reliability. And with taxpayer-funded subsidies for renewable projects potentially under scrutiny, these groups very much want to rebut the notion that “renewable generation is responsible for the retirement of coal.”

Safeguarding the security of America’s power grid shouldn’t be held captive to partisan wrangling, though. Especially when the impact of recent regulations have been undeniably damaging to base load power plants that are the mainstay of the nation’s power grid.

Unfortunately, most Americans are likely unaware of the impact that recent federal regulations have posed for both power grid reliability and overall energy costs. For example, less than 10 percent of voters could assess the scale of emissions reductions that have already been attained by coal-powered plants over the past 40 years. And President Obama’s plan to reduce power plant CO2 emissions would have prematurely forced 25 percent of the nation’s coal generation capacity off the electric grid—enough to power 24 million homes. This would have significantly impacted electricity prices throughout the nation.

Evidently though, any examination that underscores the impact of regulations on coal plants—and the subsidies parceled out to wind and solar projects—disturbs the renewable energy industry. In a recent letter to Secretary Perry, these wind and solar groups argued that they shouldn’t share the blame for coal’s woes which, they insist, merely stem from low natural gas prices.

But regulations have consequences. As Duke University’s Nicholas School has reported, recent government regulations have threatened the viability of 56 percent of U.S. coal plants, while competition from much-touted low natural gas prices threatened only 9 percent of coal plants. Conversely, mounting federal subsidies for renewable energy have shielded the wind and solar industry from competition at the expense of competing sources like coal and nuclear power.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, government policies have led to solar power being subsidized by over 345 times more than coal, and wind being subsidized over 52 times more. And this subsidization is costly for consumers. Data from the Department of Energy reveals that each energy sector requires vastly different labor inputs to produce the same amount of electricity: one coal worker equals two natural gas workers, or 12 wind industry employees, or 79 solar workers. And while coal creates 7,800 jobs per Megawatt-hour, wind yields only 2,200, and solar 98. Without subsidies, wind and solar would fare poorly when competing in the free market against coal and natural gas.

States need to protect their base load power, and Secretary Perry is taking a prudent approach in examining such considerations. The heavily subsidized growth of renewables is indeed impacting other power sources, leaving U.S. taxpayers paying more for a less diverse supply of energy. Thus, Perry is right to consider whether America is still on track to meet future power needs, and at a price that consumers can still afford.

See the article here.

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.

Virginia Coal Communities Saved from Costly Plan

Via The Roanoke Times:

Childress is the president of the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance based in Lebanon.

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.

Virginia’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 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 making 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, affecting 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 again can 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.

Coal Important for Toledo and Nation

Via The Toledo Blade:

Everyone has their routine, something they do automatically, every day, without thinking twice.

For many, it’s turning on the lights, charging our phones, brewing coffee, perhaps turning on the laptop or TV, then driving to work in our cars and trucks, where we grind out most of our day until we drive home to repeat our morning activities once more before hitting the sheets.

Toledo longshoremen have been responsible for supplying coal for power generation throughout the area, yet today that is no longer the case, according to representatives of ILA-Local 1768 in Toledo.

Longshoremen have their daily routines too — and we wouldn’t be able to go about doing ours if the longshoremen didn’t go about doing theirs.

Employed at ports that operate around the clock, longshoremen move cargo on and off ships via a variety of methods, most commonly by crane. They deal with many bulk commodities — sand, gravel, cement, ore, and coal — and other objects too big to be transported a long distance via road, rail, or air.

Among their chief responsibilities is making sure containers — those enormous, metal, rectangular boxes you see on ships or stacked alongside a port — are loaded and unloaded and placed on a rail train, semi-trailer chassis, or lake freighter so that they can be hauled away to a warehouse, distribution center, or steel mill.

In many instances, they’re moving coal to a power plant.

That last scenario is how our members here at ILA-Local 1768 in Toledo have affected your ability to go about your routine in a cost-effective manner for years. Without us, in fact, it’d be much harder — and pricier — to get the energy you need to all your electric-powered products.

Historically, our Toledo longshoremen have been responsible for supplying coal for power generation throughout the area, yet today that is no longer the case. Escalating resistance to coal and an unwillingness to keep it as a must-have ingredient in America’s growing mix of domestic energy resources is disrupting our ability to continue our daily routine.

In due time, it’ll disrupt yours.

Per reports, some 227,000 jobs throughout the Great Lakes region depend on shipping and mining. By itself, shipping is one of the world’s largest economic drivers and a critical component for importing and exporting affordable products.

Our members, for instance, load about 25,000 tons of coal to each ship. Should coal take an additional downturn, it would be economically devastating, adversely affecting two-thirds of the aforementioned jobs and driving up utility costs.

That’s because the price of coal is continuously steady, resilient to the economic seesaws that regularly engulf other forms of energy. Coal is also an important part of the power-generation mix that helps keep the U.S. from being too dependent on just one form of energy. That’s good, not just for jobs and pricing motives, but security too.

In winters past, local utilities reported trouble keeping output strong amid extremely cold temperatures and peak usage periods. All forms of energy were required, they said, especially coal. Imagine how much more stressed the electric grid would have become without coal and how much more strained it could become in winters ahead.

Also, if we’re locked into just one common form of energy, the problems that later plague that resource — varying costs, for instance, or a severe shortage — affect us all. When that occurs, how long will it take to get coal production restarted? How long would it take to refill lost jobs?

And what’s the impact on U.S. steel production, which remains dependent on coal as a core ingredient? Will we have enough steel to continue manufacturing American-made products, buildings, bridges, ships, cars, and homes without looking overseas for coal?

See, turning off the lights on coal jump-starts a domino effect that turns off the lights on a variety of other everyday industries and necessities, which is why it’s important we work to back legislation that keeps coal as part of America’s changing energy equation, before we all end up with higher bills, fewer jobs, and no alternate resources.

See the article here.

Poll Shows Mining’s Environmental Accomplishments Unknown to American Voters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The vast majority of American voters are unaware of the environmental and technological advancements of today’s mining industry according to new polling, suggesting mining’s legacy skews perceptions.

A new poll by Morning Consult for the National Mining Association (NMA) shows less than 10 percent of voters could assess the scale of emissions reductions that have been achieved in coal-powered plants, the acreage reclaimed and restored from mined lands, and other benchmarks of mining’s progress. Just one in five voters correctly identified clean coal technologies that have dramatically reduced power plant emissions since the first Earth Day in 1970.

“This poll appears to underscore the stubborn impressions that remain from turn-of-the-century mining before the advent of the environmental era,” said Hal Quinn, NMA President and CEO. “The message here is that we need to do a better job of educating the public about the accomplishments of our industry—which like all basic industries is vastly different today than it was before the first Earth Day.”

Quinn said that media coverage of recent regulatory reforms also suggests that perceptions are not aligned with realities.

“If the public fails to appreciate the advances we have made in reclaiming mined land, in producing minerals with less natural disturbance, and in deploying ever cleaner and safer technologies, then the benefits of more regulation will be simply assumed and their costs more easily dismissed or belittled,” said Quinn.

“An honest debate about regulation must start with a broader understanding of how today’s mining industry differs from mining in the past,” Quinn said.

Coal Powered Electricity

Even though coal is widely discussed in the news today, particularly in relation to the environment, voters are uninformed or misinformed about advancements made in coal technologies to date, and the technologies that will make the use of coal increasingly clean in the future.

Coal-fueled power plants have reduced emissions by more than 90 percent since the 1970s. Just 9 percent of voters are aware that today’s coal plants have reduced emissions by more than 90 percent. These reductions have occurred while low-cost reliable coal generation has more than doubled.

There are a variety of advanced coal technologies available today and in development for the future that are making the use of coal more efficient and cleaner. Advanced coal technologies include Flue Gas Desulfurization; Fluidized-Bed Combustion; High Efficiency, Low Emissions (HELE) technologies; and Carbon Capture Use and Storage (CCUS). Despite this wide range of technologies, just 22 percent of voters answered that these technologies are contributing to make the use of coal cleaner and more efficient.

Hardrock and Coal Mining

Today’s mining projects begin with extensive environmental studies and end with land reclamation for recreation, wildlife habitat and community needs.

The U.S. mining industry has paid more than $10 billion to restore mines that were abandoned prior to laws requiring their restoration. Only 7 percent of Americans recognize that the industry has paid more than $10 billion to restore mined lands, returning them to their pre-mining state, an improved condition for wildlife habitat, or transforming them for community use, such as hospitals or schools.

U.S. mining companies have restored more than 2.9 million acres of mined land. A full 75 percent of voters did not know how much land had been restored by U.S. mining companies, with just 10 percent correctly noting that 2.9 million acres had been restored.

The poll was conducted April 13-15, 2017, of 1,992 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-2 percent.

See the release here.

Pruitt: EPA No Longer About Killing Off Coal

Via The Washington Examiner:

The Environmental Protection Agency is no longer about “regulating an entire industry out of business,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday, visiting a large coal-fired power plant in Missouri that likely would have been forced to close under the Obama EPA’s climate plan.

The visit was part of a tour of coal country by Pruitt and other senior officials that began last week to show the Trump administration’s support for the industry, after years of neglect that critics commonly refer to as former President Barack Obama’s “War on Coal.”

Pruitt also discussed Trump’s recent executive order that repeals a number of Obama’s climate change executive actions, including a review of climate rules on the utility industry that ultimately will seek to rescind the regulations.

“Coal is, and will continue to be, a critical part of America’s energy mix,” Pruitt said while visiting the Thomas Hill Energy Center in Clifton Hill. “Last week I went underground in a Pennsylvania coal mine, and today I got a first-hand look at a Missouri coal-fired power plant,” he said.

Pruitt reiterated what he told coal miners in Pennsylvania a week ago. “I’m committed to working in coordination with states to create a healthy environment where jobs and businesses can grow,” he said. “That’s the purpose of my Back-to-Basics agenda,” which is the name of the campaign he announced last week.

“I saw today just how important this fuel source is to affordable electricity and economic development in the region, especially in the agriculture community,” Pruitt said.

The power plant he visited Thursday is considered one of the coal facilities most compliant with EPA pollution regulations. But under Obama’s Clean Power Plan, it probably would have been closed, according to officials who met with Pruitt. The Clean Power Plan is the centerpiece of Obama’s climate change agenda, which would require states to cut greenhouse gas emissions a third by 2030.

Many scientists blame the emissions, from burning fossil fuels, for climate change, resulting in more severe weather, drought and flooding.

“When EPA asked for comments from the public on its Clean Power Plan in 2013, Missouri electric cooperative members responded with more than 300,000 comments, all with a common theme: ‘Don’t raise our rates, and we want an all-of-the-above energy strategy that keeps electricity affordable and creates jobs,'” said Barry Hart, executive vice president and CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. But those comments “fell on deaf ears.”

Rural cooperative utilities are not-for-profit utilities focused on providing electricity to their members. Electric cooperatives make up a large swath of the nation’s utility sector and have been heavily involved in a major lawsuit fighting the Clean Power Plan.

“We are encouraged to see that the Trump administration understands the concerns of people in rural America and is committed to bringing the change they want,” Hart said.

See the article here.

EPA Administrator Brings Back-to-Basics Agenda to Missouri Power Plant

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt visited the Thomas Hill Energy Center in Clifton Hill, Mo. today to discuss EPA’s Back-to-Basics agenda, which aims to refocus the agency on its core mission of protecting the environment through sensible regulations developed in cooperation with state, local and tribal partners. Administrator Pruitt spoke with more than 300 power plant workers, electric cooperative members and agriculture leaders about balancing environmental protection with affordable energy and jobs.

“Rather than regulating an entire industry out of business, I’m committed to working in coordination with states to create a healthy environment where jobs and businesses can grow. That’s the purpose of my Back-to-Basics agenda,” said Administrator Pruitt. “Last week I went underground in a Pennsylvania coal mine, and today I got a firsthand look at a Missouri coal-fired power plant. Coal is, and will continue to be, a critical part of America’s energy mix. I saw today just how important this fuel source is to affordable electricity and economic development in the region, especially in the agriculture community.”

Administrator Pruitt also spoke with workers and co-op members about the President’s recent Energy Independence Executive Order and his Executive Order directing EPA to review the 2015 Waters of the United States rule, known as WOTUS.

“When EPA asked for comments from the public on its Clean Power Plan in 2013, Missouri electric cooperative members responded with more than 300,000 comments, all with a common theme: ‘Don’t raise our rates, and we want an all-of-the-above energy strategy that keeps electricity affordable and creates jobs.’ Those comments fell on deaf ears. We are encouraged to see that the Trump Administration understands the concerns of people in rural America and is committed to bringing the change they want. We look forward to working with Administrator Pruitt and other administration officials as they work to ensure Washington regulations don’t harm the people who can least afford it — our members — and help rural communities create jobs,” said Barry Hart, Executive VP and CEO of Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

“Responsible coal generation plays a key role in making sure rural America has access to affordable power it can count on. While natural gas prices and other variables may periodically affect the operation of generating units like those here at Thomas Hill Energy Center, coal is still the foundation fuel that delivers reliability at competitive prices for our cooperative system.  Based on his visit today and our conversation, it’s clear to me Administrator Pruitt’s vision and priorities for the EPA align with the values of Associated Electric and our members,” said David Tudor, CEO & General Manager, Associated Electric Cooperative Inc.

“Missouri is proud to host U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on his Back-to-Basics tour. We are encouraged that it is a new day at the agency, one in which all sides are heard and common sense will be considered in decisions that affect people’s lives and economic livelihood. The last time an EPA Administrator traveled to our state she was in the midst of a lobbying campaign for the onerous Waters of the United States rule that would make 99 percent of Missouri land subject to federal regulation. President Trump’s decision to conduct a thorough review of the WOTUS rule is a good step, and we look forward to the day when government overreach is no longer standard operating procedure. Missouri farmers and ranchers work hard every day to produce an abundance of high quality and affordable food and don’t need to be targeted for unnecessary and costly government regulations,” said Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri Farm Bureau.

See the press release here.

EPA May Rewrite Obama-Era Regulation That Shut Down Coal Plants

Via The Daily Caller: 

The Trump administration asked a federal court to delay oral arguments so it can review a costly Obama-era regulation limiting mercury and other pollutants from power plants.

The Department of Justice notified all parties involved in the lawsuit over the mercury, or MATS, rule Tuesday they would ask the court to delay oral arguments set for May 18 so the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could review the regulation.

“This continuance is appropriate because recently-appointed EPA officials in the new Administration will be closely scrutinizing the Supplemental Finding to determine whether it should be maintained, modified, or otherwise reconsidered,” reads the Trump administration’s legal filing.

The Supreme Court struck down the MATS regulation in 2015, ruling the EPA “acted” “unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants,” but a lower court allowed EPA to keep MATS in place since the agency is close to issuing a similar rule.

EPA, however, still had to complete an updated cost-benefit study for MATS, which was challenged by 15 states and several energy companies. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt joined the lawsuit against EPA while attorney general of Oklahoma.

“As reflected in the parties’ briefs, the Supplemental Finding also implicates significant legal and policy issues about a CAA rule of national importance—issues that new EPA officials will need time to carefully review,” the administration argued.

States and energy companies will no doubt celebrate the EPA’s reviewing of MATS, seeing it as the next step in the Trump administration’s plan to cut most federal regulations imposed during the Obama administration.

Environmentalists were angry with the Trump administration, saying it was pointless to reconsider a rule U.S. coal-fired power plants have largely complied with or shut down.

 

When EPA issued MATS in 2012, the agency estimated the rule would cost $9.6 billion and generate between $37 billion and $90 billion in health benefits.

EPA also said MATS would prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year, but critics have challenged these claims.

In fact, EPA only estimated about $6 million in benefits directly from reducing mercury emissions. Virtually all of the regulation’s benefits come from reducing other pollutants, called “co-benefits.” That means the costs of reducing mercury outweigh the benefits by a 1,600 to one ratio.

“According to the EPA, the MATS rule is necessary in order to protect a supposed population of pregnant subsistence fisherwomen, who during their pregnancies eat hundreds of pounds of self-caught fish from America’s most polluted bodies of fresh inland water,” William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute, said after the 2015 appeals court ruling.

“EPA’s has produced no evidence these voracious pregnant anglers actually exist; rather, they are modeled to exist,” Yeatman said. “I suggest these ‘victims’ don’t exist, and that the putative mercury benefits are much closer to zero.”

MATS has probably had the biggest impact on coal-fired power plants of any EPA regulation. A record nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power was shut down in 2015 — the first year MATS went into effect.

Some power plants were given extensions until 2016 and 2017. Another 12 gigawatts of coal-fired power is expected to shut down through 2020.

Coal has also come under pressure from natural gas, which has become price competitive in recent years due to hydraulic fracturing. Utilities are using more natural gas to avoid installing expensive emissions control technology and in anticipation of global warming regulations.

See the article here.

Coal’s Colossal Comeback

Via Townhall:

Buried in an otherwise-humdrum jobs report was the jaw-dropping pronouncement by the Department of Labor that mining jobs in America were up by 11,000 in March. Since the low point in October 2016, and following years of painful layoffs in the mining industry, the mining sector has added 35,000 jobs.

What a turnaround. Liberals have been saying that Donald Trump was lying to the American people when he said that he could bring coal jobs back. Well, so far, he has delivered on his promise.

There’s more good news for the coal industry. Earlier this month, Peabody Energy — America’s largest coal producer — moved out of bankruptcy, and its stock is actively trading again. Its market cap had sunk by almost 90 percent during Barack Obama’s years in office. Arch Coal is also out of bankruptcy.

It turns out that, after all, elections do have consequences. The Obama administration and its allies, such as the Sierra Club, tried to kill coal because of their obsession with global warming. Regime change in Washington has brought King Coal back to life.

Donald Trump pledged to coal miners in small towns across America that he would be a friend to American coal and fossil fuels. As promised, Trump has lifted the so-called Clean Power Plan regulations and several other EPA rules that were intentionally designed to shutter coal plants, which it accomplished with ruthless precision. Hillary Clinton had promised her green allies that she would finish off every last coal-mining job in America.

The coal miners weren’t too happy about this, and her arrogant disregard for a leading American industry that hires tens of thousands of union workers contributed to her losing almost all the coal states — many of which were once reliably Democratic.

America was built on cheap and abundant coal. Fossil fuels powered the U.S. into the industrial age and replaced windmills and wood burning, which were inefficient, as the primary sources of electricity. America currently has access to 500 years’ worth of coal — far more than any other nation. Despite the last decade’s war on coal, the U.S. still derives about one-third of our power from coal, making it second only to natural gas.

Liberals have argued that coal could never make a comeback, because of cheap natural gas. Clearly, the shale gas revolution — with prices falling from $10 to $3 per million cubic feet — has hurt coal producers.

But economic necessity is the mother of invention, and coal companies, including Peabody, have figured out how to become far more efficient in production. What’s more, clean coal is here. Emissions of lead, sulfur, carbon monoxide and other air pollutants from coal plants have fallen by more than half, and in some cases 90 percent, in recent decades.

The climate-change industrial complex pontificates that the U.S. has to stop using coal to save the planet. But even if the U.S. cut our own coal production to zero, China and India are building hundreds of coal plants. By suspending American coal production we are merely transferring jobs out of the U.S.

Renewable energy is decades away from being a major energy source for the world. Until that happens, coal and natural gas will compete as low-priced, super-abundant, domestically produced energy sources for 21st-century America. Nuclear power will, I hope, continue to play an important role, too. Meanwhile, for all the talk of the growth in wind and solar industries, they still account for less than 10 percent of our energy. Almost 70 percent comes from natural gas and coal.

Coal isn’t dead in America. It is unleashed. As a Washington Times editorial put it very well recently, “The left gave up on the 100,000 coal workers in America more than a decade ago. Donald Trump has not.” Remember this the next time Elizabeth Warren or Nancy Pelosi lectures us about how much they care about the working class in America.

See the article here.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt: ‘War On Coal Is Done’

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

To the delight of dozens of miners at the CNX Coal Resources Harvey Mine, Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt declared an end to the “regulatory assault” on their industry.

Pruitt, appointed by President Donald Trump to head the EPA in the post-Obama administration era, spoke briefly at the Pennsylvania mine. The Harvey Mine is now officially part of a master limited partnership, which is sponsored by the facility’s long-time owner, Consol Energy.

Pruitt’s visit came just two weeks after Trump signed an executive order intended to overturn the Clean Power Plan, which former President Barack Obama and other Democrats had hoped would sharply cut CO2 emissions from power plants. The easiest way for power producers to meet the CPP goal would be to reduce coal burning because of the mineral’s high carbon content.

“The war on coal is done,” according to Pruitt.

“It’s really sad over the last several years that a regulatory body of the federal government of the U.S. would declare a war on a vital part of our economy,” he said.

Pruitt said what he has witnessed across the country is that in states in where oil, natural gas and coal are produced, leaders in those states are committed to being both “pro-environment, and pro-growth.”

“The days in which we had to choose between those two are over,” he said. “The past administration said we had to choose between the environment and job growth. This administration says the opposite.

“We can achieve both. We will.”

Pruitt said he came to Western Pennsylvania not just to celebrate the executive order signed by Trump, but to partner with and work together with the coal industry “to achieve positive outcomes.”

He responded to those who think the EPA is now “compromising outcomes” with respect to the environment as it relaxes regulations on coal-fired power plants.

“Lets look at what the past (Obama) administration achieved,” Pruitt said. “Almost 140 million live in areas non-compliant with respect to air quality.”

Pruitt said there are 1,322 Superfund sites across the country, and still problems with the water in Flint, Mich.

“We’re going to improve the environment in this country, protect our water, protect our air, but at the same time do it the American way — grow jobs, and show the world we can achieve it,” he said.

Pruitt thanked the miners and coal executives present “for persevering.”

“The regulatory assault is over,” he said. “We’re going to partner together….”

Pruitt spoke to the miners for a few minutes before joining coal executives upstairs at the Harvey Mine for a private roundtable discussion. He was also expected to take a tour of the mine.

The Harvey Mine, and the nearby Bailey and Enlow Fork mines make up the Pennsylvania complex of CNX Coal Resources. Together, they constitute the largest underground mine in the U.S. — encompassing an area that larger than Manhattan, according to CEO Jimmy Brock

The mines collectively employ 1,500, and produce 26 million to 28 million tons of coal per year.

Brock said while everyone in the coal industry has “felt a lot of pain” over the past eight years, they always believed there would still be a need for coal.

“It’s easy to be optimistic today,” he said. “As long as we work safely and protect the environment, the future is going to be great.”

Todd McNair, assistant superintendent at the Harvey Mine, said he also sees a brighter future for the coal industry.

“The new administration is at last willing to look at us, rather than not,” he said. “That in itself is positive.”

Lee Farrell, assistant superintendent at the Bailey Mine, said he has worked in the coal industry for 42 years.

“I’ve seen the struggles,” he said. “But, I have confidence that we have the right political people in place.”

See the article here.

Trump’s Coal Push Grinds into High Gear

Via The Washington Examiner:

The Trump administration could call Thursday “National Coal Day.”

Several Cabinet officials are spreading out to push clean coal, coal power plants and coal mining.

The activities got started Wednesday afternoon when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with Native American leaders to brainstorm ways the Trump administration can help prevent one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the country from shutting down in Arizona.

The owners of the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal plant in the West, said they would close the plant in 2019 due to increased competition from natural gas, but might have to shutdown earlier if they can’t get a better lease agreement with the Navajo Nation, where the plant is located. The plant provides electricity to a number of states and is a major source of income and employment for the Navajo.

David Palumbo, deputy commissioner for operations at Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, said the administration is hopeful they can reach an agreement to extend operations beyond 2019, but are planning for the worst if the plant is forced to close. “We maintain our commitment to support these productive and constructive talks and have proposed to participate in the coming weeks,” Palumbo said. “At the same time, we recognize this is a difficult task among the stakeholders and therefore are exploring ways to minimize negative impacts should the plant close.”

On Thursday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry will travel to his home state of Texas to celebrate the opening of an advanced clean coal power plant that has been under construction for years. The power plant generates electricity while stripping out the carbon dioxide from the waste stream. The CO2 is then used by oil drillers to get to hard-to-reach petroleum deposits deep underground in a process known as enhanced oil recovery.

The Petra Nova plant “is the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture project,” the Energy Department said in a notice about Perry’s visit. The project is a joint venture between U.S. utility firm NRG Energy and the Tokyo-based JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. The project also received support from the Department of Energy.

Perry will be delivering remarks as part of a ribbon cutting ceremony, officially opening the plant.

Finally on Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will be traveling to coal country in Pennsylvania to kick off what the agency is calling its “Back to Basics” agenda.

See the article here.

Good Riddance to Obama’s Job-killing ‘Clean Power Plan’

Via The Delco Times:

It made for colorful news this week — President Trump announcing a halt to the Obama administration’s massive “Clean Power Plan.” Pundits immediately leapt to criticize the president, saying that canceling the plan 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 plan 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 plan’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 plan 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 plan, 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 plan 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 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 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 Clean Power Plan as an expensive gamble — and one with little practical or environmental benefit.

Terry M. Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission

See the article here.

EPA Launches New Agenda in Coal Country

Via The Washington Examiner:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt joined the coal industry in Pennsylvania Thursday to launch what he called the agency’s “Back-to-Basics” agenda, in which Washington gets out of the way of states’ natural resources development.

“What better way to launch EPA’s Back-to-Basics agenda than visiting the hard-working coal miners who help power America,” said Pruitt, speaking at the Harvey Mine in Sycamore. “The coal industry was nearly devastated by years of regulatory overreach, but with new direction from President Trump, we are helping to turn things around for these miners and for many other hard-working Americans.”

The “Back-to-Basics” agenda means returning EPA to its core mission: protecting the environment by engaging with state, local and tribal partners to create sensible regulations that enhance economic growth.”

The agenda involves a number of actions to roll back regulations affecting coal and other industries.

The agenda includes repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s climate change agenda, and the Waters of the U.S. rule, another EPA rule that the GOP has targeted as an egregious example of federal overreach. It also is canceling data collection requirements for methane emissions for the oil and gas industry, while establishing the EPA Regulatory Reform Task Force to conduct extensive reviews of “misaligned regulatory actions.”

In a joint statement with the EPA, the leaders of coal industry groups praised the agenda as a new beginning after the Obama administration.

 Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, said Pruitt’s appearance should assure coal communities that “the days when our government stands in opposition to them are over and that the appreciation they deserve for securing the nation’s energy supply for our manufacturing industries and families is finally at hand.”
See the article here.

NMA Hails Pruitt’s Support for Coal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Mining Association (NMA) president and CEO Hal Quinn issued the following statement regarding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s visit today at the Harvey Mine and training complex in Pennsylvania:

“It’s encouraging to hear a senior government official recognize the contribution that America’s coal resources, the world’s largest, make to our nation’s economy and energy security. His comments are a welcome contrast to policies of the recent past that treated America’s largest energy resource as a political liability best left in the ground instead of as an invaluable asset to secure and project the nation’s energy dominance.

“The Harvey Mine is part of one of the largest underground coal mine complexes in the country and the home to an underground mining training academy. Featuring an array of the latest mining technologies, it showcases modern mining and the skills of our nation’s coal miners.

“His appearance should give confidence to coal communities across the country that the days when our government stands in opposition to them are over and that the appreciation they deserve for securing the nation’s energy supply for our manufacturing industries and families is finally at hand.”

See the press release here.

Big Coal Starts Hiring, Opening Plants, ‘Through the Roof’

Via The Washington Examiner:

West Virginia coal industry executive Mike Grose knows fake news when he sees it. And the headlines claiming that President Trump’s new executive order to dismantle clean power rules won’t revive mining employment were Exhibit A.

“It’s growing, a lot better than it ever was,” said Grose, owner of Superior and Elite Coal Services, a mining employment firm. “Once Trump was elected, I have increased staff 20-fold. Once he was elected, it went through the roof.”

From his office in central West Virginia, where he connects miners to several East Coast companies, Grose said that in anticipation of a Trump victory many mine operators readied for a hiring blitz. Smaller companies have begun to grab those that went bankrupt when former President Barack Obama targeted them with his Clean Power Plan.

“The industry knew what it was going to do, and it ramped up. They basically put the cart before the horse,” he said, adding that Trump’s promise to help the U.S. steel industry will mean even more coal mining jobs.

Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association said that Trump’s move at the very least will keep the coal industry open for business and slow the job drain.

Trump’s executive order and new coal leases approved by the Interior Department will “prevent further job losses,” he said. Better yet, “at least our government is not against us.”

The National Mining Association noted that Obama’s policies cost 64,000 mining jobs and Trump’s action killing the Clean Power Plan would “save 27,700 high-wage coal mining jobs along with another 99,700 in the coal supply chain including railroad workers, machinists, mechanics, truckers and other occupations that depend on coal mining.”

Mining country lawmakers also dismissed suggestions that Trump’s action wouldn’t lead to new jobs. Montana Sen. Steve Daines told the Washington Examiner, “The Obama regulations created uncertainty — whether it’s halting federal coal leasing or wiping out Colstrip Power Plant with the EPA Power Plan. These actions will stop the hemorrhaging from the industry and move toward putting coal back on the starting block — and let the market dictate.”

He also said that with global energy demand expected to spike 84 percent between now and 2050, “America either leads and powers the world or lets more dangerous nations strengthen their hold.”

See the article here.

Coal Should Be Part Of Energy Mix Given National Clean Power Plan Rollback

Via WIBW News:

A pro-coal attorney and former member of the Missouri Public Service Commission sees the rollback of the Clean Power Plan by President Donald Trump as a positive.

“Coal plants that were slated to close within the next three to four years will remain open,” said Terry Jarrett. “Coal will now be able to compete on a level playing field with all the other sources of fuel like natural gas and renewables. It takes that heavy-handed regulatory burden off the coal industry.”

It is important that the coal industry does its best to keep emissions clean while keeping price competitive.

“We need to use coal responsibly, there’s no doubt,” said Jarrett. “We need to make sure that if we’re going to burn it, that we’re not shooting a lot of pollutants up in the air, like they do in China and in other parts of the third world where they don’t have the environmental controls that we have in this country. We need to use it responsibly, but we do need to use it.”

This doesn’t mean stopping innovation, either.

“We need coal to be a part of our energy mix,” said Jarrett. “Along with natural gas, along with nuclear, along with hydroelectric, along with wind and solar. All of those are necessary for us to maintain reliable and affordable electricity in this country.”

The state of Kansas put its portion of the Clean Power Plan on hold last year due to legal issues at the Federal level.

See the article here.

The Climate Yawns

Via The Wall Street Journal:

The oddest criticism of Donald Trump’s climate action this week was the claim, mentioned almost triumphantly by every news source, that it would save few coal jobs. The economic and technological forces, especially the flood of low-carbon natural gas from fracking, are just too powerful.

Then why, if you’re a Democrat, put yourself in that position in the first place to take blame for killing coal jobs? Why enact a costly regulation to do what the market was doing for free? When everybody else wanted to blame the Florida recount for his 2000 defeat, Al Gore was smart enough privately to blame gun control. When you lose your home state as presidential candidate, something is wrong. The same blundering ineptitude explains how the Obama alliance with the greens threw away first Congress and then a presidency.

Of course the news reports are right: “The regulatory changes are entirely outweighed by these technological changes, not to mention the price of natural gas or renewables,” Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution was quoted telling the New York Times .

So potent and large are these global forces that repealing the Obama rules, costly as they are, not only won’t affect coal jobs, it won’t affect climate.

Gina McCarthy, Mr. Obama’s EPA administrator, admitted as much when confronted, during a 2015 House hearing, with the fact that, by the agency’s own climate models, the effect would be only 1/100th of a degree Celsius. Instead, she said success should be measured in terms of “positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.”

Even so, many climate activists felt the need to walk back Ms. McCarthy’s concession by insisting Obama policies would have a measurable effect—on the amount of CO 2 released. Yes, the relative decrease would be tiny but measurable, though the climate effect would be zip. This is akin to medical researchers claiming a drug a success because it’s detectable in the bloodstream, not because it improves health.

And don’t get us started on the “social cost of carbon,” a mechanism of policy justification created by the Obama EPA to assign a dollar-value benefit to carbon abatement rules that, in total, will produce zero impact on climate.

Pile up all the government policies enacted or seriously on the table, and their net effect is zilch. A new McKinsey study, that would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad, points out that Germany’s switch to renewables has been a success by almost every metric except CO 2 output—which is up instead of down.

Rising energy prices to support this energy transition have had one measurable effect—more than 330,000 German households have had their electricity shut off in the past year from nonpayment of bills almost three times as high as those paid by U.S. households.

Germany, needless to add, is many greens’ idea of a country “positioned for leadership in international discussions.”

No rational consideration, however, will abate the torrent of priestly imprecations hurled by green activists this week at Mr. Trump. The New York Times insists that Trumpian action “risks the planet”—plainly false since nothing either Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama did will make a difference to the planet.

Literally no amount of money dissipated on climate policy is excessive to such people, because their shamanistic status is directly proportional to the social waste they can conjure. In the realm of religion are we called upon to perform symbolic actions whose purpose (and cost) is aimed at testifying to our membership in the elect.

The most poignant question, however, is what happened to Democrats? They were once a party whose members cared whether policy was efficient and produced benefits for the American people.

Democrats deserve a large share of the credit for the rescue of the failing U.S. economy of the 1970s by throwing out a host of perverse regulatory policies, not that they embrace or even acknowledge this legacy today—which is the problem.

Airline deregulation was born in Ted Kennedy’s administrative practice subcommittee. His aide, Stephen Breyer, now a Supreme Court justice, recalled a working-class Boston constituent asking why the senator was focused on airline issues when this voter could never afford to fly. “That is why,” said Kennedy.

The Democratic Party once had a brain where regulation was concerned, understanding that the ultimate purpose was a net public good, not an in-gathering of power to Washington for the benefit of lobbyists and influence peddlers.

It was not yet today’s Democratic Party of Chuck Schumer, who isn’t stupid and yet is associated with no body of policy thought or analysis. If he even has anybody on his staff deputized to think about the results of policy, it probably is the lowliest intern.

A wrecking ball of a president was the Trump electorate’s answer to this problem. It’s hard even now to say they were wrong. If he delivers nothing in the next four years, it is alarming to suspect that this likely would still be a better result than we would have gotten under Hillary Clinton.

See the article here.

Trump’s Rollback of Coal Rules Electrifies Wyoming Workers

Via The Observer-Reporter:

This hardscrabble Wyoming city of about 30,000 people proclaims itself the “Energy Capital of the Nation” on the mayor’s blue blazer and even the parking ticket payment boxes.

Nearby are some of the world’s largest open-pit mines, where dump trucks the size of houses haul out more than 40 percent of the coal produced in the United States. The windy, wide-open landscape around Gillette also has substantial reserves of natural gas, oil and uranium.

So, when President Donald Trump lifted a federal coal leasing moratorium and ordered a review of greenhouse gas regulations, the announcement electrified many workers here who depend on fossil fuels for their livelihood. After years of layoffs and corporate bankruptcies, they are optimistic jobs and a better economy will soon return.

“It’s not all rosy right now. But anytime you can see the future and know that the United States, you know, is working with you rather than against you, that alone is nice,” Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King said. She predicts the community will “come out of this bigger and better than ever” thanks to clean-coal technology and overseas exports.

But the skepticism expressed by many economists and energy experts throughout the campaign has not eased. They say the global coal market has little room for additional coal from Wyoming and especially from Appalachia, where mines are not just scaling back but closing altogether.

Nationwide, the coal industry has shed some 60,000 jobs, or more than 40 percent of its nonoffice workforce, since 2011.

“Utilities are just staying away from coal. So that hasn’t changed. That didn’t change after the election, and it hasn’t changed since the executive order,” said Rob Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming. “The problem is that with the stroke of a pen, the president can’t change market conditions very easily.”

Academics with doctorates aren’t dampening Gillette’s newfound optimism for Trump’s order.

“I think it’s freaking great,” said Scott Baysinger, operations manager of Baysinger Trucking, which supplies dump trucks and other heavy machinery to the coal industry. “Last year was a horrible year for us. This year already is better. We’ve been better all year long.”

Last year, in fact, was the worst for U.S. coal production since 1978. Utilities continued to switch to cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas to generate electricity, and the cost of wind and solar energy continued to decline.

Around here, President Barack Obama’s regulations got much of the blame. Trump reaped the benefit, winning Wyoming and another coal state, West Virginia, by his widest margins in the nation. Within Wyoming, Trump won biggest in Campbell County, which includes Gillette.

On Tuesday, he repaid the favor by announcing he would review Obama’s Clean Power Plan and lift the 14-month-old coal leasing moratorium.

Stacey Moeller, a shovel operator at Peabody Energy’s Caballo Mine, said the changes will put coal back on a level playing field after Obama tipped it in favor of renewable energy for eight years.

“That’s all I ever thought was fair, was that we would be allowed to compete in the market,” she said. “And that’s what I felt was being taken away from us.”

The federal government owns nearly all of the coal reserves in the Powder River Basin and leases them to companies to mine. Even before the Obama moratorium, market forces had all but halted new leasing. To many, the measure seemed like insult on top of injury.

Last year, around 500 miners were laid off as several large mining companies went through bankruptcy.

Whether Arch Coal, Peabody or Contura Energy rehire all those workers or resume significant leasing remains to be seen. The companies have not announced any major new projects yet.

But business is already brightening at some of the heavy machinery dealerships that line a Gillette road where they sell excavators, bulldozers, forklifts and other equipment to the mines.

The perk-up began the day after the election, when a couple of customers placed orders to complete projects they would have abandoned if Democrat Hillary Clinton had won, said Richard Chafee, general manager of Jack’s Truck & Equipment.

“You talk about consumer confidence,” Chafee said with a chuckle. “We’ve had very good consumer confidence here last three months.”

Still, the coal critics aren’t limited to scientists and scholars. On the Turner Crest Ranch, greyish-orange clouds from mine blasting appear on the horizon like clockwork. Ranchers Karen and L.J. Turner have little good to say about Black Thunder and the other huge mines near their place, which they blame for their creeks and wells running dry.

“I think all these people that are hanging on for dear life to their coal mining jobs ought to, you know, see the writing on the wall and say, ‘OK, what can I do?’ Something else,” said Karen Turner, who like her husband is a lifelong Democrat.

Economists tend to agree, pointing out that the cost of renewables will continue to decline and their appeal will continue to grow along with global interest in reducing greenhouse gases. The prospect of low-carbon coal, meanwhile, remains far off, even as Wyoming and other states team up on a carbon-capture lab under construction at a power plant near Gillette.

Exporting coal to the Far East does not much promise either, Godby said, in part because Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on imports from China, South Korea, Japan and other countries that might want to use Powder River Basin coal.

“If he does that, I think it’s pretty fair to expect that they would do a tit-for-tat tariff strategy,” he said. And coal could be among the commodities that get “hit directly.”

For now, the election continues to send good vibes through the community.

After Trump’s victory, the mood of the town was “just electric,” the mayor recalled. “You went into the restaurants, they were busy, bustling. People were happy. There’s a lot to be said for hope.

See the article here.

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.