Coal in the News

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Coal Rallied in 2017, and Began to Confront the Challenges that Remain Ahead

Via The Casper Star-Tribune:

The Energy Journal newsletter is on hiatus this week to allow the energy reporter a holiday vacation.

As Wyoming enters a new year, here’s a round up of some of the most interesting coal stories of 2017. The newsletter will be back next week, with a podcast about the oil and gas fields around Douglas that people are watching with hope and trepidation in the coming year.

A year in Wyoming coal

Early last year, the Energy Information Administration reported that without the Clean Power Plan, and dependent on some other factors, Wyoming coal could return to pre-bust norms by 2030.

Coal certainly rallied in 2017, particularly for the post-bankruptcy companies like Peabody who were operating without the debt load of the previous years.

A fraction of the lost mining jobs returned and reports of renewed industry discipline improved confidence in the sectors ability to weather the continuing risk to Wyoming coal. A year after layoffs, the Campbell County region was showing signs of relief and optimism.

Good news for coal came from federal decision after the election of President Donald Trump.

The EPA began its dismantling of the controversial Clean Power Plan.

Meanwhile the Trump Administration repealed the coal moratorium that many had fought in Wyoming, despite the market declines that have depressed new leasing attempts from Powder River Basin coal firms.

But coal’s other concerns have been dragged front and center despite the rally. With the federal walk back on regulations that were often referred to as a war on coal, challenges like retiring coal plants became more pressing concerns.

Companies say the plant closures, and the continual competition offered by cheap natural gas, are real troubles, but are accounted for in their business plans. Coal can still compete, they argue, in the new normal of coal that settled over the PRB in 2017.

See the article here.

US Energy Official Says ‘War on Coal’ Has Put Nation at Risk

Via The Atlantic Council:

US Deputy Secretary of Energy, Dan Brouillette, on January 13 lashed out at what he described as the “war on coal” in the United States which, he said, had thwarted the construction of clean power plants, discouraged investments in new mining operations, and, as a result, put the nation at risk.

Noting that coal and nuclear account for more than half of the total grid energy in the United States, Brouillette said: “When a crisis strikes our grid these two fuels are some of the most reliable that we have. They are available 24×7 to keep the lights on and disaster away.”

“So, clearly, fewer coal and nuclear plants mean that the lights will go out and stay out when we face our next emergency. From the functioning of our hospitals to the maintenance of our military assets, the results could be catastrophic,” he warned.

Brouillette spoke on the second and final day of the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi. He was introduced by retired Gen. James L. Jones, Jr., interim chairman of the Atlantic Council.

Brouillette said that the “regulatory war” on coal and nuclear fuels “has been long and tough and it has distorted the marketplace for both coal and nuclear in the United States.”

Past US leaders and policymakers, he said, had imposed price controls on oil and gas that led to production declines and artificial shortages. Furthermore, he said, “in the name of protecting the environment, they played energy favorites—subsidizing some sources while burying coal and nuclear under an avalanche of regulation.”

“They chose to regulate rather than innovate their way out of America’s energy dilemmas,” he said. US President Donald J. Trump’s determination to include coal and nuclear in his “all-of-the-above strategy” will help reduce the risk posed by past policies, he added.

Trump, Brouillette pointed out, has signed off on the construction of several new energy pipelines, halted “draconian” oil and gas regulations, signed legislation repealing the rule that hindered coal development, and is working to reinvigorate the nuclear energy sector.

Early in January, the Republican-controlled Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dealt a setback to Trump’s plans to boost the coal industry when it rejected the administration’s goal of bolstering coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

FERC also noted in its decision that despite claims by the Trump administration to the contrary, there is no evidence that any past or planned shutdowns of coal-fired power plants posed a threat to the nation’s electric grid.

While Brouillette did not address FERC’s decision in his remarks on January 13, in a panel discussion at the Global Energy Forum on January 12 he said he did not view the decision as a setback. As a matter of fact, he said, FERC had pledged to conduct its own review of grid resiliency.

Brouillette, meanwhile, cited a report produced last year by the Department of Energy on America’s grid and its power supplies that he said found “coal and nuclear power plants were being retired at a disturbing rate.”

The US energy revolution

The United States has become a leading global energy exporter as a result of an energy revolution in the country. This has turned the domestic energy paradigm on its head and caused ripple effects in international oil and gas markets as well as in the security paradigms of this century, said Jones.

Brouillette recalled the Unites States’ remarkable journey to becoming a global energy player and said it was now on its way to achieving what Trump describes as energy dominance.

“Why is America suddenly emerging as an energy player beyond its borders? The reason is this: after a long drawn out battle between innovation and regulation in my country, innovation is finally winning,” he said.

Innovation has spurred a technology revolution which has led to an “astonishing renaissance” in American energy, he added.

Brouillette rejected the notion that a nation can only benefit at another nation’s expense. “So, when you do business with America on energy know that we will use our energy resources to advance our shared aspirations and goals,” he told the audience that included global energy policymakers.

The most important lesson to be learned from the United States’ experience is: “for any nation that seeks to produce energy cleaner, more abundantly, more affordably, more efficiently, and in more diverse forms, it must allow innovation to work its magic,” he said.

There is one critical piece of the energy puzzle necessary for any nation to achieve energy security, he added. “That final piece is reliability.”

See the article here.

NMA President and CEO Responding to FERC Grid Resilience Announcement

“Today’s disappointing lack of action from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) follows a week in which the value of coal to Americans could not have been more clearly illustrated.”

“With a surge in demand, coal was the leading electricity supplier in many of the markets subjected to the deep freeze, providing a critical measure of reliability and resiliency to the nation’s grid operators. That coal-powered electricity came from many plants that will no longer be available if retirements continue at the pace expected.”

“While FERC has agreed to conduct further examinations of the grid vulnerability to such events, vital coal and nuclear powerplant retirements continue. It is now incumbent upon grid overseers to adopt significant measures to safeguard the American people and economy from serious disruptions in future power supply.”

See the release here.

National View: Energy Favoritism is Clear in all the Hype for Renewables

Via The Duluth News Tribune:

Energy favoritism now has become a bonafide topic of conversation in Washington, D.C. Where else but in our nation’s capital could energy subsidies and government intervention become a heated topic at New Year’s parties?

But it has, energized by two potentially significant events breaking simultaneously. First are the federal tax bills that may or may not reduce subsidies to some energy producers. And second is that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has roughly a week to weigh the merits of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal for a new way to capture the value of coal and nuclear plants in making America’s electricity supply more reliable.

There is a case to be made for public support of every fuel source — and advocates feverishly make the case to Congress and the administration based on the varied contributions their energy sector contributes to the public good. As such, environmental benefits stem from carbon-free wind and solar; conversely, reliable and affordable power comes from coal. Nothing un-American about any of this. We subsidize everything from homeownership and business gatherings to the cost of living and raising kids in high-tax states.

The problem arises when those who condemn subsidies as a sin are themselves sinners. A recent example: the unusual barrage of protests from wind and solar advocates indignant over what they claimed was Secretary Perry’s crass meddling to revalue the reliability of some power plants. Given the production tax credits and mandated market shares larded on renewable-energy producers, this protest rang a trifle hollow.

Greentech Media recently revealed that production and investment tax credits now account for at least half the cost of an average wind farm and up to half the cost for a typical solar project.

Ignoring these subsidies creates a deeper, more obstinate problem, a sort of Potemkin Village effect that magnifies public enthusiasm for the green revolution. This leads advocates to overstate the public’s desire for green living, in some cases creating an aura of religious fervor around consumer demand for electric vehicles, rooftop solar panels, and wind turbines.

But the impressive growth of renewable power requires an asterisk — that subsidies are largely responsible for it. A billion-dollar net worth is less impressive if the first $900 million is inherited. And even with such lavish subsidies, wind and solar power still account for only 7 percent of total U.S. electricity generation.

That’s why a candid quote this month from General Motors CEO Mary Barra, a renewable-energy advocate, offered a welcome reminder of the real world. Barra criticized congressional attempts to reduce tax subsidies for electric vehicles by underscoring their importance as a selling point to consumers: “Repealing that (tax) credit will have an impact because it changes the equation that determines whether people want an electric vehicle,” Barra said.

What a revelation: Subsidies not only influence but may determine consumer demand for green products and services. Of course that won’t be news to businesses that manufacture wind turbines and solar panels. They know the score. But the fact that subsidies are what juices demand for green energy will come as a shock to many activists.

As Warren Buffett famously said, “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them.”

An emissions-free lifestyle is costly. Unless it comes with a deep discount, debt-laden consumers are unwilling to pay for it. Let’s stop pretending otherwise. As we learn in economics 101, whatever you incentivize, you get more of. The reverse can also be true: the absence of incentives kills demand.

It’s one thing to assert the need for green products; it’s quite another to hype their demand.

See the article here.

Can America’s Power Grid Withstand a Brutal Winter?

Via The Washington Examiner:

Maybe you have to live in the Northeast — or even Southeast United States — to get the full effect. But right now, much of the country is struggling through brutally cold weather. It’s not uncommon to see temperatures down in the teens across much of the South. And record sub-zero temperatures in the North have many recalling the “polar vortex” of 2014.

Home heating bills will surely be climbing this month as the mercury plunges. But there’s a more troubling problem emerging. As Bloomberg News is reporting, the nation’s electric grid has begun to show signs of “fatigue” as power plants churn in overdrive to meet heavy demand. Oil burning power plants in New England are running short on fuel. And some of these plants may reach end-use limits due to emissions restrictions.

New England faces the added challenge of lacking sufficient natural gas pipeline capacity to cover increased electricity usage during the latest cold snap. In contrast, however, some areas of the country have been able to ramp up more successfully — thanks to robust coal capacity. PJM Markets reports that coal cranked out 47,000 megawatts of electricity this past weekend, compared to only 21,000 MW for natural gas. And nuclear power also exceeded gas-fired power generation, delivering roughly 35,000 MW. Notably, wind turbines offered only a paltry 3,000 MW.

Coal and nuclear plants have long anchored baseload power generation in the United States. And clearly, during the current chill they are proving their mettle — with all of America’s 99 nuclear power stations in operation right now to help keep the grid intact.

There’s an important lesson here — akin to the old adage “You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry.” The renewable energy crowd that haughtily lobbies for a wide-eyed transition to wind and solar believes the nation can simply close down coal plants and make a bold leap into “green energy.” But as the latest round of frigid weather demonstrates, it’s a very good thing to have sturdy, baseload power on hand when it’s suddenly needed.

All of this doubly matters because America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years. Since 2010, more than 60 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared — enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And by 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

Thankfully, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has identified this pressing concern for the nation’s power sector. And in response, he has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission give added weight to baseload coal and nuclear plants that maintain on-site fuel supplies — and thus can run independently and long-term to shoulder the weight of a heavily taxed power grid.

In a week, FERC is slated to make a decision on Perry’s proposal. But as the current, harsh winter demonstrates, Americans need to appreciate the importance of baseload power plants that are keeping them warm and safe right now. Coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity, and they are indeed working overtime right now to keep the grid afloat. Thus, Secretary Perry is wise to take a real-world approach to future energy use.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power. And so, coal and nuclear power must continue to serve as sturdy twin pillars of a reliable, national electric grid. And with the population of the United States continually growing, it makes sense to upgrade existing baseload plants over the long term — to ensure that the nation can continue to keep its lights on and its homes, schools, and hospitals warm.

See the article here.

Cold Snap Arrives at Key Moment for Coal, Nuclear Power

Via The Hill:

The coal and nuclear industries are pointing to the cold snap sweeping the eastern United States as Exhibit A for why the federal government should help their power plants.

Those industries and their allies hope that the record-setting winter weather will give a boost to a proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perrythat would require electric grid operators to pay higher prices to coal and nuclear plants.

Prior to the cold snap, Perry and other supporters of the idea had cited the 2014 polar vortex as a key argument for propping up unprofitable plants that are under pressure to close. At that time, power grids in the Northeast were strained due to plants unexpectedly closing and natural gas prices spiking, lead to some power outages.

Despite that freeze four years ago, Perry’s proposal is facing considerable opposition.

Natural gas and renewable energy companies, conservative think tanks, environmentalists and others argue that Perry’s proposal is a solution in search of a problem aimed only at boosting the fortunes of coal and nuclear power.

But with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) due to make a decision on Perry’s plan next week, the chill is coming over the eastern part of the country at just the right time.

The nation’s nuclear plants have mostly been running reliably, and many utilities are running coal plants that they usually keep offline. The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station went offline Thursday due to a transmission line that stopped working, which owner Entergy Corp. emphasized was not a problem with the plant itself.

“As the last expert tut-tutted the secretary, an historic deep freeze grips the Eastern half of the country from Nebraska to New England, giving new credence to Perry’s cautious assessment of the grid’s ability to withstand disruptive events,” the National Mining Association wrote in a post on its Count on Coal blog, referring disparagingly to experts who said Perry’s proposal is unnecessary.

“Attention FERC commissioners: coal shines when temperatures plunge,” the group said, dubbing the cold snap “Polar Vortex 2.0.”

“The grid’s experience is that pipelines max out, coal piles can freeze, other forms of generation are much more weather-vulnerable than nuclear. Nuclear does not shut down because of cold,” Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman Matt Wald told The Hill.

“In cold weather you really want to have a good amount of nuclear on the grid.”

Perry labels his plan a Grid Resiliency proposal. Supporters of the initiative say that with coal and nuclear plants closing due to cheap competitors and regulations, the electric grid is threatened, particularly when demand peaks at times like extreme weather.

Under the plan proposed in September, some independent organizations that operate electric grids would have to pay coal and nuclear plants for their costs plus a reasonable profit, even if competing sources like wind or gas would be cheaper.

The beneficiaries of that plan say the current cold snap vindicates them.

“The extreme cold illustrates the importance of having a diverse generation portfolio, and the vulnerabilities that could come if we relied on any one type of fuel source too heavily,” said Jennifer Young, spokeswoman for FirstEnergy Corp. The company operates power plants, including many coal and nuclear plants, in the mid-Atlantic, and stands to be a key beneficiary of the Perry proposal if it is enacted.

“This is exactly why we need a rule to ensure that these units stay in operation,” she said. “Absent these plants that have secure fuel supplies and can operate in all weather, we could be looking at a condition where there was a shortage of fuel for one reason or another.”

See the article here.

Winter Storm to Test Northeast Grid as FERC Tees Up Decision on DOE Grid Rule

Via Utility Dive:

Frigid conditions in the Northeast U.S. are stepping up demands on the power grid as federal regulators prepare to act on a controversial coal and nuclear subsidy rule from the Trump administration.

Meteorologists expect Winter Storm Grayson to bring heavy snow, winds and coastal flooding to New England and the Eastern seaboard Thursday into Friday, followed by bitter cold air that could set record low temperatures.

The storm could recreate conditions similar to 2014’s Polar Vortex — an extended cold snap that pushed the PJM grid to the limit, disrupting gas flow to generators and freezing coal supplies at plants.

That episode is frequently used as justification by the Department of Energy for its proposed grid resilience rule, which would provide cost recovery to plants that keep 90 days of fuel supplies onsite. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is set to act on the controversial proposal on Jan. 10, and supporters of the rule say it would help ensure the grid can endure or bounce back from outages in extreme scenarios.

Critics, however, say the rule would do little to enhance the reliability or resilience of the power grid, particularly in the Northeast, where the coldest weather is forecasted this week. Grid operators have put major reliability reforms in place since the 2014 Vortex, and the cold weather is likely to reveal more about those policies’ effectiveness than the validity of the DOE’s proposal.

The Polar Vortex argument

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and some of his key deputies have used the 2014 Polar Vortex to justify their controversial grid rule.

In October, Perry repeatedly referenced the Vortex at a House committee meeting on the DOE proposal, telling lawmakers the cost of his plan should be “secondary” to keeping the lights on in emergencies.

“We’re probably going to have another one,” Perry said of the Vortex. “And if we are, shouldn’t it be our responsibility to make sure that when your constituents turn the lights on that they’re not having to make the decision between staying warm and having light?”

Central to that argument is the assumption that coal and nuclear plants — which would be the chief beneficiaries of the DOE proposal — performed better during the Vortex than gas generators and other resources. Sean Cunningham, a former coal lobbyist who now heads DOE’s Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis, made that point in a speech before state utility regulators this fall.

“What if they weren’t there?” Cunningham said of the baseload plants. “The loss of generation could have been catastrophic.”

Coal and nuclear interests took up that line of argument this week, saying their generators will help ensure reliable service during this cold snap. “Attention FERC Commissioners: Coal shines when the temperature drops,” the National Mining Association wrote in a blog post.

Critics say the DOE argument overstates the contribution of coal generators, which also saw service interruptions due to frozen fuel supplies and mechanical difficulties. A review of the event from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) found that 55% of forced outages during the Vortex affected gas generators and 26% involved coal plants.

Critics point out that a number of other resources performed better in that episode. Nuclear outages were low during the Vortex, and other resources stepped in to fill the gap left by other outages.

“When coal piles froze and extreme cold temperatures caused unexpected mechanical failures in power plants, it was wind power and demand response that kept the lights on,” Arvin Ganesan, a former Obama EPA official now at trade group Advanced Energy Economy, wrote in Utility Divethis fall.

Analysts also point out that generator outages of any type are rarely the cause of power interruptions to customers — and those that are typically don’t involve the fuel supply issue targeted by the DOE proposal. An Oct. 3 analysis from the Rhodium Group found 0.00007% of the total customer outage hours between 2012 and 2016 were due to fuel supply issues — and most of those stemmed from a coal generator. Coal plants also saw problems during last year’s hurricane season, with two generators in Texas switching to gas when their coal piles were flooded.

The posturing over coal generation is unlikely to have much credence for the current cold snap, however. While coal burn was up this week in PJM’s Mid-Atlantic electricity market, the resource has all but disappeared from the regions expected to be hit hardest by the storm. In New York and New England, a different set of resources will be put to the test — with different implications for the DOE proposal.

Read the full article here.

Coal, Oil Get a Boost from Northern Cold Snap

Via Utility Dive:

Brutal cold weather across portions of the country is altering the power mix for some electric grids, with oil leading over gas in ISO New England and coal doing the same in PJM. Despite the cold, there have not been any difficulties in continuing to supply fuel to power plants or electricity to customers.

In ISO New England, a third of generation is coming from fuel oil today. According to Commonwealth Magazine, typically it’s closer to 1% but spiking gas costs have forced dual-fuel facilities to switch. Bloomberg reports coal is once again the lead fuel in PJM.

Today, PJM expects a morning peak of 134,500 MW and an evening peak of 132,000 MW. The operator’s highest winter peak load was 143,129 MW, which occurred in February 2015.

“Currently sufficient power supplies and reserves are available, and PJM does not expect issues,” the operator said in a statement.

The weather pattern is similar to the polar vortex, which in 2014 brought frigid temperatures that forced generators offline and caused PJM to put in place more stringent reliability standards.

A U.S. Department of Energy proposed rulemaking would reward power plants that have 90 days of fuel supply onsite. Primarily aimed at struggling coal and nuclear plants, support for the rule could see a boost if the nation’s power grid is tested.

See the article here.

Barry Butterfield: Energy Diversity Still Needed

Via The Omaha World-Herald:

The Nebraska Public Service Commission’s recent approval of a Keystone XL pipeline route across Nebraska has revived concerns about energy production and its environmental impact.

Nevertheless, nuclear and coal still matter. In 2015, these two sources accounted for 87 percent of the energy generated in Nebraska. Nationally, they supply over half of our electricity.

As ever, there are important caveats. Because of fracking, there is an abundance of cheap natural gas. Consequently, many nuclear and coal plants can’t compete with natural gas and are financially distressed. Some nuclear reactors, such as the Omaha Public Power District’s Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station north of Omaha, have been shut down, and scores of coal plants are no longer operating.

If this trend continues, we could have an overreliance on natural gas and renewables and a possible loss of electrical grid reliability and resiliency.

Simply put, the United States cannot remain at the mercy of the electricity market for base-load power. What if the cost of natural gas were to jump suddenly? We would be stuck with high electricity prices and a possible loss of power that would jeopardize our energy security. Something must be done to save struggling base-load nuclear and coal plants, for several reasons.

First, the U.S. electricity sector is quickly losing one of its major strengths — fuel and technology diversity. A diverse mix of generating options is an essential characteristic of a robust and resilient system. If the current trend of shuttering nuclear and coal plants continues, that diversity is at serious risk.

Second, just as natural gas consumption in the electricity sector is increasing, so is demand for natural gas in the industrial sector, for home heating and cooking and for exports of liquefied natural gas. An overdependence on natural gas for electricity production could expose consumers to price volatility and loss of reliability leading to blackouts and brownouts, especially if efforts to abolish fracking lead to a reduction in gas supplies.

Third, the merchant markets serving large parts of the United States in deregulated states are not functioning as they should. In a number of cases, they are not providing the price signals necessary to stimulate investment in new generating capacity, nor are they providing the prices necessary to support continued operation of existing power plants.

The United States has approximately one million megawatts of generating capacity. Some 400,000 megawatts of that is coal and nuclear, but a substantial share of the base-load generating capacity is nearing retirement. Yet less than 10,000 megawatts of new coal and nuclear power is under construction. Since 1995, natural gas has accounted for about 90 percent of supply additions. Moreover, natural gas plants running at base load consume prodigious volumes of natural gas.

There is a solution to these escalating supply concerns, one that would boost both America’s security outlook and the economy: Compensate coal and nuclear plants for the reliability and resiliency they offer the electrical grid, at least as an interim step, until the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission completes its assessment of grid vulnerabilities. That’s the plan FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee has proposed, and it’s a logical and responsible step for FERC to take.

There should be policy discussions now about how we intend to replace 100 gigawatts of nuclear power that will be retired by about 2040. As Thomas Farrell, chief executive officer of Virginia-based Dominion Resources, has pointed out, “100 gigawatts can power 25 million typical households. Can we realistically expect natural gas and renewables to fill that void? As a practical matter, the answer is no.”

Clearly, the United States needs base-load power. But unless steps are taken to keep large power plants operating, we will become increasingly reliant on one fuel for electricity production: natural gas. What lies ahead for Nebraska and our nation will depend on what action FERC takes to save struggling nuclear and coal plants.

See the article here.

Coal Mining Remains Significant Source of Revenue for Montana

Via The Independent Record:

Although coal mining and the production from coal-fired power plants has declined in Montana, taxes on coal still remain a significant source of revenue for the state, bringing in $81 million to state and local governments in 2016.

A report produced for the Environmental Quality Council, which is made up of lawmakers and members of the public, examined the fiscal impacts of coal in Montana. The report calls coal a “significant source of revenue,” despite decreases from historical highs in years past.

The council is studying the economic and ecological impacts of the reduction or elimination of the mining and burning of coal, as called for by a Senate Joint Resolution passed during the last regular legislative session.

Several Montana lawmakers have also called for examining the state’s tax structure and reliance on natural resources, in light of a state budget crisis this fall. Despite revenues still being up over last year, they did not increase as much as expected in a projection adopted by lawmakers and used to craft the state’s $10.8 billion biennial budget.

Of the natural resource taxes, the coal severance tax has been one of the most steady for the Department of Revenue, according to a 2016 report.

The state brought in $60.4 million from the severance tax in fiscal year 2016, and it has hovered between $52.7 million and $60.4 million since 2011.

During the same time, the oil and gas production tax peaked at $135.7 million in 2014 and dropped to $45.5 million in 2016. Total state general fund revenues for fiscal year 2016 were $2.12 billion, with 56 percent coming from individual income taxes, 12 percent from property taxes and 3 percent from natural resource taxes.

Coal mines that produce more than 50,000 tons of coal a year pay the quarterly state severance tax on all production in excess of 20,000 tons. Smaller mines are exempt from the tax.

The state severance tax rates depend on the heat content of the coal and how the coal is extracted. The value of the coal on which the tax is applied is based on the contract sales price, minus what the mine is required to pay in other taxes.

The tax payment is divided among several different accounts, such as the coal trust fund, the long-rang building program, an account that provides for basic library services, a coal natural resources account and other places.

The federal government also collects royalties on every ton of coal mined on federal lands. About half of the royalty revenues are forwarded to the state of Montana. That money goes into the state’s general fund, with 25 percent going to a minimal impact account dedicated to local governments. In fiscal year 2016, Montana mines paid $20.9 million in federal royalties.

There’s also a gross proceeds tax, which is a 5 percent yearly flat tax imposed on coal gross proceeds. This tax is collected by the local county treasurer and distributed proportionally to the taxing jurisdictions where production occurred. In fiscal year 2016 this tax generated $20.8 million.

Coal-fired power plants pay an electrical energy producer’s license tax, which generated an estimated $2.62 million in fiscal year 2016, as well as a wholesale energy generation tax that generated $1.8 million.

The report notes it does not take into account corporate income tax paid by mine operators and individual income taxes paid by employees.

The report also does not specifically calculate property tax paid by coal mines and power plants because it does not break down data that specifically. Northwestern Energy, which owns 30 percent of a unit in Colstrip, pays $136 million in property taxes annually.

Coal production in Montana has dropped from 45 million tons in 2008 to 32 million tons in 2016, according to a report from the Legislative Services Division’s Legislative Environmental Policy Office.

The drop is blamed on weak economic markets for coal in the U.S. and internationally, as well as a decline in electricity coming from from coal-fired plants as cheaper natural gas and other renewable options come on the market, according to the report. The report also cites air quality regulations as a reason for the decline of coal.

Three-quarters of the coal mined in Montana is shipped by rail to out-of-state utilities and, according to the report, increasingly to foreign nations. The rest is consumed in Montana.

Montana has about 2,289 megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity, or about 37 percent of the state’s generating capacity, which is down 55 percent from 2015.

The J.E. Corette coal-fired power plant in Billings closed in 2015. In November the owner of the coal-fired power plant in Hardin announced it will close the facility if it can’t find a seller by early 2018. Two of the four units at the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip will close by July 2022.

The state has six coal mines in Big Horn, Musselshell, Richland and Rosebud counties. Three mines are owned by Westmoreland.

Montana has four coal-fired power plants, including Colstrip, the Hardin Generating station, the Lewis and Clark station on the Montana-North Dakota border and the Rosebud power plant.

The report will be discussed at the Jan. 17 meeting of the Environmental Quality Council in Helena.

See the article here.

They Said Trump Couldn’t Reinvigorate Coal Industry – Did He?

Via Conservative Daily News:

Experts said that President Donald Trump could not reinvigorate the coal industry with his deregulatory agenda – they were wrong.

The Economist tweeted that “There is no reason to expect that Donald Trump’s decision will invigorate coal mining, as he claims it will”

“Hogwash. These actions won’t save coal or help business,” Diane Regas wrote. “On the contrary, they represent a war on all Americans, threatening both the environment and the economy.”

The outcries were primarily levied at President Trump’s decision to end the war on coal. On Oct. 10, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed an order to rescind President Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, which was designed to fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. “The war on coal is over,” Pruitt said.

A Reuters commentary in October said that the repeal of burdensome regulations “won’t get Trump what he wants.”

“Republicans say that deregulating carbon pollution will revive the coal industry, but it won’t,” Ben Adler wrote in the article.

So now, just a few short months after Pruitt took the actions ordered by Trump, how are things going for the coal industry?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced that coal production for the most recent period is up 3.2% year-over-year and that coal production for 2017 was up 6.4% when compared to 2016. Even more important is the coal region most positively impacted was Appalachia – the area hardest hit by former President Obama’s attacks on the industry.

As the United States experiences its coldest winter in recent memory, coal plants have had to take up the slack as renewable power generation and gas plants are unable to keep pace with America’s energy needs.

Coal-fired power plants are king again as sub-zero temperatures sent demand for heating and electricity soaring on the East Coast Friday in the largest energy market in the nation.

Coal outpaced both natural gas and nuclear power plants in the PJM market, which extends from the Midwest to Washington, according to real-time updates provided by the grid operator PJM Interconnection.

The coal industry Obama fought a war against is on the rebound and a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry could put coal back on a level playing field with gas and renewables – who are predictably fighting it.

The proposal is being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which intends to vote on the proposal in January. The proposal was supposed to be approved this month, but the commission’s newly appointed chairman, Kevin McIntyre, said he required an additional 30 days. The plan is being adamantly opposed by scores of industry groups from the oil sector to renewables.

The haters keep on hating, but the coal industry is seeing a continuing uptrend in hiring for the first time since Obama began his war on coal in earnest in 2012.

Through October 2017, the most recent period with non-preliminary numbers, the coal industry has added 1,700 jobs. The new numbers are in sharp contrast to 2012 when 10,000 industry jobs were lost and 2016 where another 5,800 coal industry workers ended up in the unemployment line. The reversal is a welcome comfort to those that Obama forgot.

Exports tell an even more promising story. The U.S. exported 9.16 million short tons of coal in October 2017 up from 6.55 million in November 2016. With a chart this positive, 2018 is set to be amazing for those working coal and a not so great for those betting against it.

See the article here.

Under Trump, Things Looking up for Coal Industry

Via The Free-Lance Star:

THERE IS no question that the future is brighter for our nation’s coal industry.

Changes in policy, regulations and markets are contributing to a stronger domestic coal industry. The U.S. economy is growing again. Global economic activity is increasing. The business prospects of other countries that use our coal for electricity, steel-making, and other industrial purposes are better. U.S. coal exports were up a whopping 70 percent year-to-date through September 2017.

Some new U.S. coal mines have opened and others are expanding, adding good jobs and tax revenue for states and localities. According to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, year-to-date 2017 U.S. coal production has increased by about 8 percent over 2016. Coal-mining employment is trending similarly. It has risen every quarter of 2017, and was up 7 percent for the most recent period, per analysis by S&P Global Coal Market Intelligence.

The path for coal’s comeback is driven by President Trump’s dramatically different vision for the development and use of our nation’s energy resources. These riches are seen as a strength, not something to be kept in the ground. They are viewed as a means to achieve energy independence and provide energy security. The energy policy differences between the current administration and the prior one are most striking when it comes to coal, which the United States has more of than any other country.

The Trump administration started early this year to restore balance and fairness to the federal regulatory process, support job creation and strengthen energy independence. Actions by Congress and the president in February and March initiated the process of eliminating, rescinding or changing many federal regulations affecting coal production and use.

Having been pushed through under the various guises of environmental benefits, regulatory streamlining and business planning certainty, they were simply sweeping bureaucratic maneuvers to increase the cost of coal and make it less competitive in the marketplace. Thus, the foundation has begun to be laid to rebuild and sustain our nation’s vital coal industry.

One regulation currently proposed for repeal by Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt is the EPA’s rule for carbon-dioxide emissions reductions from the power sector, dubbed the Clean Power Plan by the prior administration.

EIA’s “Annual Energy Outlook 2017” analysis shows that 240 million tons of annual coal production will be maintained without the Clean Power Plan. The National Mining Association estimated that nearly 28,000 high-wage mining jobs and about 100,000 jobs throughout the supply chain will be saved without the Clean Power Plan.

Both Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have been vocal about the need for fuel diversity in the power sector. Perry’s recently proposed rule to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urges appropriately valuing our nation’s important baseload generating resources, including coal, in wholesale electricity markets.

Many years of policy incentives for building wind and solar generation have increased the number of these less efficient, intermittent electricity sources in our nation. FERC must act to counter this trend, which is likely to expose consumers to diminished electricity system reliability and resilience and higher electricity prices in the absence of its action. Coal is a key fuel resource with proven reliability and resilience attributes. The price level and price stability of coal over time have been integral to affordable electricity in America.

In addition to these policy and regulatory changes on the domestic front, facilitating U.S. coal exports to the global marketplace is important to coal’s continuing recovery. International use of coal is growing as global electrification and urbanization increase.

Preserving traditional export markets and finding ways to increase U.S. competitiveness to expanding markets has important corollary benefits, including enhancing our nation’s balance of trade and sustaining jobs in coal mining, transportation, and shipping. A good example would be adding new port/terminal capacity on the West Coast, which can ensure long-term U.S. participation in the Asian markets.

Our coal is mined, shipped and consumed under the most stringent environmental and safety standards in the world. With the appropriate and overdue leveling of the playing field for coal in the federal policy and regulatory arenas, the rebound our industry is experiencing will continue. That will benefit both Americans and those beyond our borders.

See the article here.

Trump’s Energy Success

Via The American Thinker:

Just six months ago, the Trump administration was attacked for its “slow start.”  It was said to be “in disarray,” in “chaos,” “at war” with itself, and incapable of governing.  Now the list of successes has piled up, making it clear that, if the trend continues, President Trump will become one of our more important presidents.  Far from being a do-nothing administration, the Trump team is a White House on steroids.

One of the president’s major successes is in the area of energy policy.  Along with energy secretary Rick Perry, the president is overseeing the recovery of the American energy sector from the low point it hit under the Obama administration.  By a combination of executive orders totally restrictiong drilling on federal lands and EPA assaults on fracking and coal-mining, including a total ban on mountaintop-mining, Obama prosecuted a “war” not just on coal, but on fossil fuels generally.

Now America has become the largest producer of oil and gas and a major exporter of natural gas.  The U.S. now produces significantly more hydrocarbons than second-place Russia and twice as much as Saudi Arabia.  As coal-mining is restored, pipelines are laid, and new wells are drilled, hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created across the economy, not just in drilling and mining, but in support services.

The effect on the economy is already being felt.  According to Monster.com, a leading employment recruitment site, oil jobs are making a “huge comeback,” with “100,000 new jobs by 2018.”  And these are high paying jobs: “the average pay of the oil and gas industry is 85% higher than the national average.”  Each new job in the energy field creates others in areas like steel production, rig technology, transportation, and general services.  And the money earned in these high paying fields circulates through the economy.

With the passage of a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allowing oil exploration in ANWR, the president has another success.  The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contains vast reserves of recoverable oil currently estimated at 10.4 billion barrels.  Development has been blocked by misguided and ill informed opposition from environmental groups.  Now, with great care for the environment, oil companies will have the opportunity to produce vast amounts of energy while drilling only 3% of ANWR.

According to a report from the House Committee on Natural Resources, “total governmental revenue” from ANWR drilling will run $440 billion.  ANWR alone will create between 55,000 and 130,000 new high paying jobs.

It is not just ANWR.  By removing unnecessary restrictions on fracking and by opening other federal lands to drilling, President Trump is promoting energy independence rather than standing in its way.  He has opened federal lands for drilling, including land in two national monuments in southern Utah.  Vast federal lands in the Western U.S. offer other opportunities.

In April, the president signed an executive order reversing Obama’s ban on new offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic.  Current estimates show that almost 90 billion barrels of oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie under the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.  Those estimates have a way of being revised upward, especially for regions such as these that have not been explored with modern technology due to past restrictions.  Offshore drilling has the potential to produce ten times the number of jobs and government revenue projected for ANWR.  At the high end, that would be 1,300,000 high paying jobs and $4.4 trillion in state and federal revenue.

Under President Obama, American coal-mining suffered a near-death experience.  Now, under EPA director Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration is taking steps to restore coal to its rightful place in America’s energy supply mix.  Though it will take years to complete, the reversal of Obama’s Clean Power Plan that began back in October will take government out of the frame of “picking winners and losers.”  Coal will still have to compete with natural gas, but at least it will be allowed to compete.

The president’s accomplishments in the field of energy policy are not limited to fossil fuels.  His Energy Department recently committed $100 million to promoting Transformative Energy Projects intended to spur early-stage innovators.  The department continues to promote alternative energy sources and energy conservation, important contributors to energy independence.  Energy conservation in particular can go a long way toward making America energy-independent.

With the opening of new lands to fracking and conventional drilling and the restoration of mining in the Appalachian region, the energy sector has gone from moribund to robust practically overnight.  One of the president’s first actions was the elimination of the Steam Protection Rule, which imposed crippling burdens of regulation on the industry.  As a result, production has begun to increase.

As the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s annual “Outlook” makes clear, the future for American energy production is bright.  The Outlook models future production across a wide range of different scenarios, and it concludes that the U.S. “is projected to become a net energy exporter by 2026” in its Reference Case projections but that it may do so earlier under three side cases.  After 2026, the scale of exports expands rapidly in all cases.

Perhaps the most consequential of the president’s actions in the field of energy is his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.  While withdrawal from the accord does not have significant immediate consequences, its long-term effect is great.  Its most important effect will be to reduce the possibility of a deluge of environmental lawsuits based largely on the agreement signed by President Obama.  These lawsuits would have blocked American energy production to gratify a self-appointed global environmental elite – at the expense of the American people.

The president’s accomplishments are many, but energy stands out.  America is now the world’s premiere producer of fossil fuels.  In just one year, we have gone from a dismal future, in which the government planned to shut down fossil fuels almost entirely by mid-century, to a nation on the cusp of total energy independence.  “Make America Great Again” was not just a clever campaign slogan; it is a reality in the field of energy production, as in so many other areas under President Trump.

See the article here.

 

Planning America’s Energy Future Requires Caution, Common Sense

Via The Spectrum:

The captain of the HMS Titanic, Edward John Smith, famously said, “I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that.” His confidence at the time was understandable, given that the general public had yet to experience a large-scale maritime catastrophe.

Curiously, the more enthusiastic proponents of wind and solar power may be demonstrating a similar fearlessness regarding the future of renewable energy. Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) revalue the baseload power generation of coal and nuclear power plants due to their on-site fuel supplies. In response, the renewable and natural gas industries submitted a joint letter to FERC saying, “There is substantial evidence showing that …. outages caused by disruptions of fuel supply to generators appear to be virtually nonexistent.”
These critics of Secretary Perry’s proposed cost-valuation rule certainly sound confident, almost defiant. They say the current electric power grid is resilient, reliable, and effectively beyond systemic failure. What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s see.

A few days ago, a power outage shut down Atlanta’s Hartsfield International airport, by some measures the world’s busiest, cancelling more than a thousand flights and stranding thousands of passengers. Georgia Power reported that even its back-up systems were disabled. Passengers were grounded for 11 hours or more. A Georgia Power spokesman told The Washington Post, “Fires almost never happen in our underground facilities.”

Overzealous provincial officials in China’s frigid north have been shutting coal power plants, plunging almost a third of households, hospitals, and schools in 28 cities into freezing darkness. Officials in Hebei admitted that the massive switch from coal to natural gas was “way too much.” An Environmental Ministry spokesman told The South China Morning Post that “some local governments want to push ahead with the program while there are still subsidies.”

An explosion at a natural gas hub in Austria panicked power markets that were already reeling from a closed gas pipeline in the North Sea. A Swedish utility spokesman said the fire occurred “at the worst possible time for a big gas hub to burn.” In addition to leaving one dead and at least 18 injured, the blast at the Baumgarten station sent prices soaring across the continent, from Great Britain to Italy — which announced a state of emergency.

The Austria blast was followed by days of an “unplanned outage” stemming from a crack in an undersea gas line in the North Sea at Troll, Europe’s largest offshore gas field. Because output was affected in Norway, the UK’s largest supplier, Britain must wait two weeks for LNG shipments from Qatar to ensure sufficient supplies following closure of its largest storage site that supplied up to 10 percent of peak winter demand.

Elsewhere, gas supplies are growing but pipelines are stalling. In Richmond, Va., environmental obstructionists sued to block a pipeline connecting gas fields in West Virginia to consumers in North Carolina. The Mountain Valley Pipeline faced “the most rigorous regulatory process” for a comparable project in state history, said the state water board.

“So what?” said the Sierra Club and its allies in Appalachian Mountain Advocates. Natural gas, once wooed by the Club as a bridge fuel, is now dismissed as a carbon plague carrier.

Finally, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) this week projected plunging reserve margins after Luminant announced the end of 4,000 megawatts of coal-based power in early 2018. “Reserve margins are expected to fluctuate in the current market design,” said ERCOT, but “a variety of tools” can maintain reliability even as the level next summer is expected to be less than half of the level projected in May. The size of the drop reportedly surprised state energy experts.

All these incidents — doubtless just the most publicized — occurred this month. They reveal troubling problems for power grids and infrastructure in both the U.S. and overseas. If past is prologue, it appears that caution and pragmatism is needed in planing America’s energy future—to anticipate power shortages and emergencies before they happen.

See the article here.

Coal Plant Shutdowns to Lower Power Reserves

Via The Houston Chronicle:

The shutdown of three coal-fired and a natural gas plant will knock Texas’ summer power reserves below the recommended level, according to a report released Monday by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees 90 percent of the state’s power grid.

ERCOT is charged with ensuring  that Texas has enough power to meet demand on the hottest summer days, when electricity consumption peaks. In 2010, ERCOT in 2010 adopted guidelines calling for the grid’s generating capacity to exceed demand by at least 13.75 percent.

 The difference between generating capacity and demand is called the reserve margin.

ERCOT’s forecasts for the summer of 2018 show that the reserve margin will fall to of 9.3 percent, down from earlier forecasts of more than 18 percent and well below ERCOT’s recommended level.  ERCOT said that fluctuations in reserve margins are not uncommon, and ERCOT’s report noted that more power is expected to come online by 2019.

Texas reached an all-time high for power demand in August 2016 and demand is expected to grow by nearly 2 percent every year for the next decade.

In a report released Monday, ERCOT attributed the drop in reserves to the eventual loss of more than 4,300 megawatts from three coal-fired power plants owned by Vistra Energy, Monticello, Sandow and Big Brown, and one natural gas plant. A loss of 1,143 megawatts in power from plants expected to have planned extended outages also contributed to the dip in reserve margins.

 A megawatt is enough to power about 200 Texas homes on the hottest summer days.

See the article here.

EPA Takes First Step Toward Replacing Obama’s Climate Rules for Coal Plants

Via The Washington Examiner:

President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency took the first step Monday toward proposing its own version of climate change regulations for coal-fired power plants.

The Trump climate rule would replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan with a much more limited version of the greenhouse gas rules for existing power plants.

Eliminating the Obama-era climate plan is a key part of President Trump’s deregulation agenda. The EPA proposed repealing the plan in October, saying that the plan “exceeds the agency’s statutory authority.”

Monday’s action is the second step in the repeal process by finding a replacement for the climate change rule that satisfies the EPA’s legal requirements. The Trump climate rule would be scaled back from former President Barack Obama’s regulation.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt emphasized that any replacement for the Clean Power Plan would be confined within the law, whereas Obama’s critics say his administration sought to overreach in its interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

“Today’s move ensures adequate and early opportunity for public comment from all stakeholders about next steps the agency might take to limit greenhouse gases from stationary sources, in a way that properly stays within the law, and the bounds of the authority provided to EPA by Congress,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt’s action on Monday is what is known as an “advanced notice” of a proposal, which means the EPA is in the information-gathering stage of developing a regulation.

The EPA will take comment from the energy industry and other groups on what they think should be included in the replacement plan. After the comment period ends, Pruitt and the agency with determine whether it should move ahead.

Based on the advanced notice, EPA will be looking at ways to improve efficiency at coal plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while increasing the performance of the plants.

Environmentalists criticized the administration’s attempt at rewriting climate rules as stalling tactics toward a “do-nothing substitute.”

“Even as EPA actively works towards finalizing its misguided October proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, EPA today indicates it may not put anything at all in the Plan’s place — or may delay for years and issue a do-nothing substitute that won’t make meaningful cuts in the carbon pollution that’s driving dangerous climate change,” said Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen.

“EPA’s misguided strategy not only fails to tackle the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, but also would produce 4,500 premature deaths each year from other pollutants the Clean Power Plan would cut,” Van Noppen said.

Meanwhile, business groups welcomed the process that they hope will lead to a “better way” of regulating greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

“Today starts the process of developing a better way to approach greenhouse gas regulations than the Clean Power Plan,” said Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the Chamber’s Global Energy Institute.

“Our hope is that today’s request for input will begin a true collaboration between the federal government, states and all stakeholders to develop a more durable and achievable approach to addressing carbon emissions,” Harbert said. The new approach should lower emissions, preserve America’s energy advantage, and respect the boundaries of the Clean Air Act. We look forward to participating in the process.”

See the article here.

Sorry Wind and Solar, America’s Insatiable Energy Demands Require Reliable Power Sources

Via The Hill:

The United States urgently needs to settle on a roadmap for the next 30 years of domestic power generation. And that’s because recent attempts to strengthen the nation’s electric grid are running headlong into opposition from an industry that prefers the status quo.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that America’s electricity needs will grow 12.5 percent through 2040. That may be a conservative prediction — given prospects for greater economic expansion ahead. But even such modest growth in electricity demand poses real challenges. Although America’s power grid has lost significant baseload generating capacity over the past decade, it must still meet the hefty demands of a population now growing past 320 million people.

This is where things start to get interesting. When I served on the Missouri Public Service Commission, our guiding principle was always keeping the lights on. In Missouri, that meant a heavy reliance on both coal and nuclear power, along with a smaller segment of natural gas generation. We also drew roughly 3.4 percent of our electricity from “renewable” sources, mostly hydroelectric power.

Right now, Energy Secretary Rick Perry appears to be making a similar calculus as he assesses the nation’s overall electricity demands. Earlier this year, his staff found an unsettling decline in America’s “baseload” power generation — the coal and nuclear plants that together provide the great bulk of America’s electricity. Perry responded with a proposal to secure the nation’s power grid by stopping the further dismantling of these workhorse power plants.

Essentially, Perry is urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to revalue power stations that maintain long-term fuel supplies. That approach necessarily favors coal and nuclear — because they are the only two generating sectors capable of storing fuel on site and operating autonomously for weeks and months at a time without resupply. This makes them far less susceptible to weather disruptions or to the pipeline vulnerabilities that confront natural gas plants.

A reasonable solution: stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, this plan doesn’t sit well with competing energy sources — the wind and solar producers who claim Perry’s proposal is unjustified “market intervention,” if not outright favoritism. But that opposition, stoked by environmentalists betting the house on a bold leap into renewable power, is dangerous as well as hypocritical.

Both wind and solar power remain troublingly intermittent — and require backup generation from gas and coal for every moment when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. As such, they remain expensive and cumbersome forms of power generation. And while their market share has grown impressively, they still only contribute 7 percent to America’s total electricity needs. In short, they are by themselves unreliable for an economy that needs power in all conditions, and at all times of day.

More to the point, the renewable fuel industry can’t credibly complain about government intervention in a free market. A recent Greentech Media article revealed that tax credits now account for 50 to 60 percent of the funding for an average wind farm, and 40 to 50 percent for the average solar project.

Greg Wetstone, CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, described these tax credits as the “principal financing mechanism that has fostered growth of the renewable energy sector since the 1990s.”

There’s a bit of a shell game here, too. Thanks to both the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC), outside companies invest in wind and solar projects just to claim the associated tax breaks — even when the projects themselves make little economic sense on their own.

Warren Buffett famously said, “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

So here we are at a crossroads. Washington can continue to throw good money after bad, and keep subsidizing wind and solar projects. Or it can make a prudent appraisal of America’s continuing demand for electricity — and prevent further destruction of the coal and nuclear plants that keep the lights on night and day, good weather and bad.

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.

Energy Commissioner Undaunted by Delay in Perry Coal Rule Consideration

Via The Hill: 

The former head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said he isn’t discouraged by a 30-day delay in the agency’s consideration of a proposal to boost coal and nuclear power plants.

Neil Chatterjee, who was FERC’s chairman on an interim basis from August through last week, said he’s still pushing for the commission to take action on Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to require that grid operators pay more to coal and nuclear plants.

Though he was replaced as chairman by Kevin McIntyre, Chatterjee is still a commissioner, along with three others.

Hours after he was sworn in, McIntyre asked Perry for a 30-day extension of the deadline, originally Monday, to take action on the proposal. Perry granted the request, though he warned that more delays could be harmful to the electric grid.

“I think it’s prudent that my colleagues want a little bit more time to carefully evaluate the docket,” Chatterjee said Monday at an event hosted by Axios, noting that McIntyre and Commissioner Richard Glick were both sworn in in recent weeks.

“And they intend to do that, and I presume that they will thoughtfully and carefully evaluate the fact-based, data-driven process that we have … at the commission, and we’ll look to see what potential actions can taken,” he said.

Chatterjee has been an outspoken advocate for an “interim” FERC rule to require higher payments while the agency takes a deeper dive into whether the electric grid is at risk due to closing nuclear plants.

He said Monday that he’s still pursuing the interim plan, intended for plants that are at imminent risk of closing, but it’s not his highest priority.

“My first priority is to look at this long-term question of resilience and security, understanding what these changes to our grid will mean,” he said.

“My concern is that in the amount of time it would take to do the analysis, to find out whether in fact these resources are needed, if short-term market pressures lead to some of these plants being prematurely retired, there could be consequences to that.”

Chatterjee said that he has faced some difficulties in crafting a plan to help coal and nuclear plants, while not distorting electricity markets, in a way that would stand up in court.

“The difficulty came from the parameters I put on myself going into the process, that whatever we did would not distort markets, because I’m a strong believer in markets. And I wanted to, and continue to, try to look for ways that we can answer the questions that Secretary Perry has asked, without having that impact on markets.”

Perry’s proposal has been welcomed by the coal and nuclear industries and their allies.

But nearly everyone else in the energy field opposes it, including natural gas interests, wind, solar, environmentalists, free-market advocates and many electric grid experts.

See the article here.

Trump’s Crucial Step to Ensure Electric Grid Reliability

Via The Washington Examiner:

Do you wait until you’re sick to purchase health insurance? Do you wait until after you’ve had an accident to insure your car? If you did, it would be too late.

Now, imagine it’s the middle of winter and your electricity goes out. How would you power your home? How about family members who depend on life support machines to breath?

Do you wait until you’re sick to purchase health insurance? Do you wait until after you’ve had an accident to insure your car? If you did, it would be too late.

Now, imagine it’s the middle of winter and your electricity goes out. How would you power your home? How about family members who depend on life support machines to breath?

In September, the Trump Administration reaffirmed the need for an “all of the above” energy approach that uses all resources, but emphasized the need to support resilient energy sources that can withstand major disruptions to the supply chain.

To address this issue, the DOE has asked FERC to find a way to compensate coal and nuclear in the marketplace for their reliability and resiliency. This will act as the insurance policy to protect us from extreme weather events or other disruptions to our electric grid.

Having reliable energy is critical because of the flurry of natural disasters that we have witnessed over the past few years. From the Polar Vortex to Superstorm Sandy to Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma, we have faced extreme situations that could cause major disruptions to our electric grid.

Experts recommend that we have power generation resources that can be stored in a 90-day supply in case of a disruption. There are currently only two energy sources that can meet this demand: coal and nuclear. While nuclear works continuously once operational, coal also fills this need by storing fuel on site.

Power generation from natural gas relies on an “on time delivery” model that can be affected by anything from weather events, pipeline problems, or potential terrorist attacks. For example, during the Polar Vortex, natural gas understandably was diverted to heat homes, and thus could not be used in the same volumes to create electricity.

Gas, wind, and solar have increasingly been injected into the marketplace, and under normal circumstances, they work well. But under extreme conditions, coal and nuclear are the dependable sources on which we can rely to create electricity.

Securing our electric grid is matter of national and economic security. An unreliable grid is an easy target for those who would seek to do us harm. When we protect our electric grid, we give our job creators and businesses the security they need to expand and grow, which creates more economic prosperity for all Americans.

This issue boils down to how to ensure families and businesses have peace of mind. When you flip the light switch, the lights need to come on. When you turn on the heat in the middle of a cold winter, you need to be sure your family stays warm and safe. Unfortunately, the current way coal is priced in the marketplace is forcing our power plants out of business, and is discouraging investments in modern, efficient coal-fired power plants. And as noted earlier, the other fuel sources aren’t able to make up the difference. If we allow these coal-fired plants to continue to close, America will be in a dangerous predicament.

Consequently, I agree with the Trump Administration and the energy experts: America needs an updated and responsive energy policy to tackle these challenges. In short, America needs an insurance policy for our electric grid.

See the article here.

Gillette to Host Clean Power Plan Powwow

Via Gillette News-Record:

The Energy Capital of the Nation will have a chance to put some real faces and personal stories to the nation’s coal-fired energy debate when the EPA comes to town.

The agency announced Wednesday that Gillette is one of three cities that will host public hearings to gather input on the Trump administration’s plans to nullify the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

Making Gillette one of the meeting locations — along with San Francisco and Kansas City, Missouri — sends a message that the EPA values input from the nation’s largest coal-producing area, said Travis Deti, executive director for the Wyoming Mining Association.

“Obviously, one of the regions that would be severely impacted by the Clean Power Plan is Campbell County, Wyoming,” Deti said. “I think it’s very appropriate you have these hearings in a place that’s very, very affected, and I think we should have a say.”

Deti said the overall vibe leading up to these public hearings, for which dates, times and venues haven’t been set, is 180 degrees different from August 2015, when the Obama administration was in Gillette to gather input on its plan to change the federal coal leasing program. Trump has since rolled back that initiative.

Most in Wyoming feel that hearing, which drew hundreds of people to the Campbell County Public Library for hours of testimony, was just for show and that local concerns weren’t listened to, Deti said.

“It’s a very fair statement to say that (meeting) was just Kabuki theater,” he said. “Now the shoe is certainly on the other foot with Trump (as president), and what a difference a year makes.”

The upcoming meetings in Gillette, San Francisco and Kansas City follows a recent two-day hearing in Charleston, West Virginia, where coal boosters and environmentalists squared off. Because of the strong response at that hearing, EPA officials said there’s a need for more input.

That Gillette has been chosen to host one of those meetings is exciting and appropriate, said Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King.

“I’m excited about it,” she said Thursday morning after learning of the decision, adding that the city has a chance to debunk a lot of myths about coal and mining the mineral.

“Now people can see for themselves what clean air looks like right here in the midst of the Energy Capital of the Nation,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll stay long enough to tour the Integrated Test Center. They can tour one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the nation and world (at Dry Fork Station).”

Like Deti, she also said she feels that this time around with a new administration in power that the EPA is genuinely interested in what Campbell County residents have to say on the issue of coal mining and carbon dioxide regulations.

“That’s why I’m excited about this one,” Carter-King said. “I’m optimistic they’ll actually listen to us. I want people to show everyone the true picture of coal miners and how healthy and happy they are and their families.

“What a wonderful community we have built from the energy industry. We are not that image of a soot-covered town. … We’re at the center of the discussion, which is where we should be. I think the last administration tried to show everything (relating to coal) as negative.”

She also said many environmentalists would be surprised to learn that most here in the heart of the nation’s richest coal mines are as passionate about CO2 capture, research and reduction as anybody.

“We all want our world to be cleaner and better for our next generations,” the mayor said. “That’s another myth about us. We want to work with (environmental concerns), not against them.”

Deti said that although details of the upcoming meetings haven’t been set, he expects the focus to be the same as the first gathering in West Virginia. That’s to gather input on what people feel the future is for the Clean Power Plan, whether it’s modified or scrapped outright.

What Gillette has to offer to the discussion is to put real human faces and stories into the discussion, Deti said.

“The coal industry is the heart of Gillette,” he said. “It’s mined efficiently, it’s mined safely, it’s mined cleanly. We reclaim and have won national awards for our reclamation. The message we have is to continue the fight to make sure coal remains in the energy mix, especially Wyoming coal.”

See the article here.

EPA to Hold More Hearings on Planned Clean Power Plan Repeal

Via Gillette News Record:

The Trump administration says it will hold three additional public hearings on its intention to nullify an Obama-era plan to ratchet down planet-warming carbon emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it will take comments on its proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan at upcoming hearings in San Francisco, Gillette, Wyoming, and Kansas City, Missouri.

The dates, times and venues have not yet been announced.

Coal boosters and environmentalists squared off last month at a two-day hearing in Charleston, West Virginia. EPA officials said the strong response there prompted the need for more hearings.

The Clean Power Plan sought to ratchet down emissions from coal-fired power plants. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt questions the consensus of climate scientists that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming.

See the article here. 

Miner’s Day Becomes Miner’s Year

Miner’s Day Becomes Miner’s Year

December 6, 2017

Seventeen years ago, Congress set Dec. 6 as National Miner’s Day, little knowing the renewed significance this date would have in 2017.

A day that was born in recognition of a tragedy – the loss of 362 men in a coal mine accident in West Virginia in 1907 — has today become an occasion to celebrate an industry that has new life.America’s coal miners have just emerged — fewer but more resilient — from one of the most challenging decades in their eventful history. Since 2011 63,000 coal miners lost their jobs. When Nietzsche famously said, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he wasn’t referring to the plight of miners surviving a hostile government, well-funded activists and brutal market competition. Yet his dark analogy perfectly fits the resilience and determination of coal miners today.

From southern Appalachia to the Carlin Range, miners have regained one precious thing taken from them – a future. Today about 1,289 coal mines employ 82,000 coal miners earning an annual average of $83,000. That’s good news for another 450,000 Americans whose jobs depend on coal miners.

“We’ve gone from reducing and cutting back to expanding and growing again,” said Gregory Hinshaw, CEO of mining equipment manufacturer J.H. Fletcher & Co. “It’s like shifting from reverse into forward and suddenly you’re looking at the direction you want to go in.”

Coal miners use other colorful analogies to describe the dramatic change that the 2016 election surprisingly brought to their employees and their communities. More than one described a light switch effect that turned darkness into light. As important as the on-going regulatory reset is what many call the end of official government hostilities against coal miners. From this modus vivendi, a renewed sense of confidence has emerged. It’s encouraged the industry to reorganize itself, to see a future with a new generation of technologies that can further reduce emissions and continue advances that made 2016 the safest in the industry’s history and reduced fatal injuries by 80 percent in the past decade.

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U.S. Still Needs Electricity from Coal and Nuclear Plants

Via The Philadelphia Inquirer: 

The boom in natural gas production from shale has led to a widespread belief that the United States no longer needs nuclear and coal plants to meet the demand for electricity. That belief is wrong.

 For starters, consider the continued increase in the nation’s need for electricity, which the Energy Information Administration expects to grow about 20 percent by 2040. Producing enough electricity to meet this demand will be difficult if there is a further loss of nuclear and coal plants, leading to a decline in base-load electricity that’s essential for grid stability, reliability, and resiliency. Reliability is dependent on plant diversity, with a substantial portion being base-loaded plants.

In Pennsylvania, a number of coal plants have closed and others are expected to be shuttered soon, replaced by low-cost natural gas and subsidized wind power. Also in jeopardy are several nuclear plants, including Three Mile Island, Beaver Valley, and Susquehanna. The same is true nationally, though at a much larger scale, with dozens of coal and nuclear plants at risk of being retired prematurely by 2020. If that happens, there could be a serious loss of electricity reliability, which could result in blackouts and brownouts, posing a threat to America’s industries and millions of jobs.

But what I find most ominous is the wrongheaded belief that natural gas can replace coal and nuclear plants in the production of base-load electricity.

Since the mid-1990s, more than 80 percent of new electricity-generating capacity has relied on natural gas, despite its history of price volatility. This is no time to let coal and nuclear plants close, since natural gas supplies could be stretched thin, as the use of gas for electricity and industrial production grows and exports of liquefied natural gas increase.

Demands that the government take action to head off a crisis have been proliferating. Indeed, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is considering subsidies similar to wind and solar plants to keep financially distressed nuclear and coal plants in operation. FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee proposed that the commission make such subsidies immediately, while the commission conducts a thorough study of electricity reliability. Chatterjee has rightly pointed out that the country can’t afford to let safe and efficient plants close while FERC conducts its study, which could take years.

Something else: Nuclear power is emission-free, a critically important source of clean energy that reduces air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. Yes, renewables are also emission-free, but solar and wind combined supply only 7 percent of the nation’s electricity, whereas nuclear power accounts for 19 percent of the electricity in the United States and 35.5 percent in Pennsylvania. Further, wind and solar plants must be backed up with coal, nuclear, and gas plants for the substantial times that wind and solar are not available.

As is so often the case, there are those who oppose the idea of government action to save certain power plants, contending that interference in the marketplace is wrong, as if it had never been done before. The government, however, subsidizes solar and wind power, and many states, including Pennsylvania, mandate the purchase of electricity from renewables whether needed or not.

What’s particularly remarkable about criticism of the plan to help nuclear and coal plants is that it seems disconnected not only from the real needs of the economy, but also fails to recognize the severe job and tax losses that would result from closing down a large share of the nuclear and coal fleet.  But the failure of some to do so is no reason for inaction.

FERC now has an opportunity to act in the nation’s best interest. The reliability of our electricity supply and the well-being of many families is at stake. Now is the time to prevent the loss of nuclear and coal plants.

See the article here.

The EPA Comes to West Virginia – to Listen

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

It’s taken a while — several years in fact — but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally come to West Virginia to hear testimony about the Clean Power Plan.

There was plenty of pent-up demand to be heard. As many as 200 people testified Tuesday and Wednesday at the state Capitol.

The EPA under the Obama administration created the Clean Power Plan as a broad stroke against global warming. The rules set impossibly low carbon emission standards for power plants to force the coal industry out of business, while driving up electricity costs.

The EPA’s hostility toward coal through the Clean Power Plan and other enforcement measures severely damaged the coal industry. Miners lost their jobs and coal companies went bankrupt. Hundreds of mine supply companies lost business. Good jobs and tax revenue disappeared.

Coal was also hit hard by market forces, such as plentiful and low-cost natural gas and an increasing desire by the public to use more renewables. However, it’s undeniable that having a government agency target an industry for elimination is pretty bad for business.

The EPA under the Trump administration is reversing course, and the hearings in Charleston this week are evidence of that. The EPA is now rolling back the Clean Power Plan, but there is a process for that which includes field hearings.

EPA Region III Administrator Cosmo Servidio told reporters Tuesday President Barack Obama’s EPA went beyond its authority when it tried to impose the draconian carbon standards.

“Clearly the Clean Power Plan was an overreach by the previous administration, and this is an opportunity for us to get some feedback as we move forward,” he told reporters. “It’s important that we’re here in West Virginia, coal country. Obviously the coal industry was going to feel the biggest effects of the Clean Power Plan.”

And that’s why the previous administration’s EPA never bothered to come here. The agency knew its argument in support of a rule that would have no discernible impact on global temperatures would not wash with coal miners worried about losing their livelihood.

Obama’s EPA also knew it was on shaky legal footing. Its exploitation of a few words of the Clean Air Act to remake the nation’s energy economy was a clear abuse of its power.

Notably, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the Clean Power Plan, a legal decision normally made when the challenging side has a reasonable chance of success when the merits of the case are argued.

The previous administration’s EPA shut out West Virginia. Even veteran lawmakers like former Congressman Nick Rahall, who always had a working relationship with the agency, was stiff-armed. The anguished voices from suffering coal communities fell on deaf ears.

But this week those voices were finally heard.

See the article here.

Science Dies in the Dark

Science Dies in the Dark

November 30, 2017

During the last administration, serving in the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy was akin to tending bar during Prohibition.  There was often demand for a stiff drink, but teetotalers made sure that “alcoholic beverages” weren’t on offer.

So it was with the fossil energy office at a time when coal was used to generate up to half the nation’s electricity but the president’s political minders were coal phobic.  In those days, much good news about coal’s value to the economy and the potential of advanced coal technologies to reduce emissions was stifled from the top. Staff at the fossil energy office complained bitterly of political interference that blocked public release of favorable reports about coal from the National Energy Technology Labs (NETL) and other scientific sources.

Fresh evidence of this meddling came to light last week when the DOE released five NETL reports it received courtesy of “an anonymous source” that appear to have been deliberately suppressed. Three of the five were up on the DOE’s website briefly before they were abruptly pulled down in July 2015. The other two never saw the light of day.

And not because anyone quarreled with the factual findings; they were just the wrong findings. Or, put another way, the right findings but appearing at the wrong time.

One report, from February 2015, is especially relevant today. It examined the impact of announced plant retirements from the Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule on the Eastern Interconnection. NETL estimated almost 42 GW would be gone by 2025, about 7 percent of the region’s total – of which more than 30 GW were coal units.

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Officials Voice Support of Repealing Clean Power Plan in West Virginia Coal Association Rally

Via The Register-Herald:

Some state officials and industry supporters spoke in favor of repealing the Clean Power Plan at a Tuesday rally outside the Capitol where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting it two-day public comment hearings on the proposed repeal.

The West Virginia Coal Association hosted the rally with speakers, including Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead voicing their support of repealing the Clean Power Plan. Some even called Tuesday a day of celebration.

“I think we ought to forever celebrate today,” Chris Hamilton, vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, told those who gathered outside the Capitol. “Today shows officially the end of the war on coal from the Trump administration. I think we should always celebrate Nov. 28 going forward.”

Hamilton went on to say he felt the state should celebrate the day President Donald Trump was elected. He reiterated comments he made earlier that day when he spoke in the EPA public hearing applauding Trump and his administration.

“I made remarks earlier that I was not sure Russians had any intervention or anything to do with last year’s election. I think it was divine intervention,” Hamilton said. “And I thank God for President Trump. I thank God for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and I thank God for DOE Energy Secretary Rick Perry.”

The U.S. EPA held the public hearings in three separate meeting rooms in the Capitol Tuesday on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The hearings will continue Wednesday. The hearings in Charleston were the only ones scheduled so far by the EPA on the proposed repeal.

“It’s significant to have the EPA hearing here,” West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said Tuesday. “The only one is right here in coal country. The EPA has never been here to listen to people most affected by policies over the years. It’s a big day for West Virginia.”

State officials who spoke at Tuesday’s rally voiced their support of repealing the plan. Gov. Jim Justice, who supports repeal, was scheduled to speak, but the governor had a family emergency and was unable to attend, according to Justice’s communications director, Butch Antolini.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called the Clean Power Plan “unlawful on every level.” Morrisey along with 27 other state attorneys general have challenged the plan. Morrisey, who is running for U.S. Senate, said his goal is to put an end to the Clean Power Plan.

“My goal over the next few years in whatever capacity I serve in is to go after this,” he said.

Carmichael and Armstead also spoke in favor of repeal and welcomed EPA officials to the Capitol.

“It’s exciting to have the EPA here today,” Armstead said. “Time and time again, we’ve said to the EPA to come to West Virginia, to come to the area affected with regulations. Listen to the people affected. Listen to the people who have jobs in this state … Finally, thanks to President Trump, this has happened.”

See the article here.

Coal Country Pressures EPA to Repeal Clean Power Plan ‘In Its Entirety’ During Hearing

Via The Washington Examiner:

Coal country ripped into former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan in Charleston, W.Va., on Tuesday, during the only hearing the Environmental Protection Agency has scheduled on its plans to repeal the restrictions on power plant emissions.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey kicked off the first of two days of hearings by criticizing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan as “disastrous and unlawful.” The plan requires states to reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

West Virginia led a coalition of 27 Republican attorneys general who sued Obama’s EPA over the power plan, which led to the Supreme Court staying the rule while the case works its way through the courts.

“The Clean Power Plan is one of most far reaching regulations in EPA history,” Morrisey said. “It would impose a top-down reordering of state energy economies. The power plan is unlawful and would be disastrous for West Virginia and the country as a whole.”

Bob Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, America’s largest privately owned coal company, urged the Trump administration to repeal the power plan “in its entirety.”

“The illegal Clean Power Plan, better known as the no power plan, is a linchpin of Mr. Obama and Democrats’ War on Coal,” Murray said at the hearing Tuesday morning. “The Clean Power Plan would devastate coal-fired electricity generation in America and U.S. coal industry. It would impose massive costs on the power sector and American consumers.”

Murray, whose company is based in West Virginia, ended his testimony by saying, “I love you coal miners,” to his 30 or so employees in the audience. His emotional appeal shows the pressure the Trump administration faces from the farthest corners of his base to repeal the Clean Power Plan, without issuing a replacement.

But even the fiercest critics of the plan say EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may have no choice but to issue a more modest version of the Clean Power Plan because his agency is bound to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas under a 2009 rule known as the endangerment finding. Murray and other Trump allies want Pruitt to challenge the endangerment finding in court, but the administrator has not moved to do so. Legal and energy experts say Pruitt could be sued if he does nothing to replace the Clean Power Plan.

“The Supreme Court has legally required the EPA to regulate pollution,” said Liz Perera, the Sierra Club’s climate policy director, at Tuesday’s hearing. “The Clean Power Plan imposed reasonable requirements based on measures that states and industry are already using. Pruitt’s proposal ignores the clean energy economy is booming and will continue regardless of this administration’s strategy to favor preferred industries.”

Many energy industry representatives want Pruitt to take action in some form.

They recognize that companies and states are moving away from coal even without the Clean Power Plan, opting for cheaper natural gas or renewable power because it makes economic sense to do so.

Scott Segal, director of Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which represents major power utilities such as Southern, Duke, and Ameren, testified that he supports a more limited regulation that would focus requiring efficiency improvements inside power plants, an approach known as “inside the fenceline.”

“While ERCC believes that absent specific guidance in legislation from the U.S. Congress, market principles are the most sound basis upon which to proceed, we nevertheless support the process advanced by EPA,” Segal said Tuesday. “Federal guidance of sufficient flexibility, and limited to actions within the fenceline, can provide regulatory certainty, diminish frivolous litigation, and can aide in planning.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, argued for “durable and achievable standards,” during Tuesday’s public hearing.

The EPA proposed to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan on Oct. 10, with Pruitt saying that Obama based the plan on an expansive and illegal interpretation of the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Power Plan was the main U.S. pledge as part of the international Paris climate change agreement, which the Trump administration intends to leave.

Pruitt is expected to soon issue a notice seeking comment on how to proceed. EPA will accept comments on its proposed repeal through Jan. 16.

But Democrats and environmentalists say the EPA is not carrying out a transparent public review process.

Under the Obama administration, EPA held multi-day public hearings in four states before issuing the Clean Power Plan in 2015.

Democratic attorneys general in a half-dozen states say the EPA has not responded to their requests to hold more public hearings on the repeal and are threatening to sue if the Trump administration moves forward.

“EPA is shutting out the voices of citizens, business owners and other critical stakeholders who have legitimate concerns about repealing the Clean Power Plan,” David J. Hayes, executive director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law, which is representing the state attorneys general, said Tuesday morning.

“It behooves EPA to hold more than a single hearing in friendly territory before taking such potentially drastic action.”

See the article here.

U.S. EPA Takes Repeal of Clean Power Plan to Coal Country

Via Reuters:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency heard testimony from coal miners, lobbyists, environmentalists and others on Tuesday at a public meeting in West Virginia on the agency’s proposal to dismantle an Obama-era plan to slash carbon emissions from power plants

The two-day hearing in Charleston on the proposal to axe the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s strategy on climate change, is the only one scheduled so far on the rules, which President Donald Trump has said would be devastating for the coal industry.

The EPA in 2015 finalized the CPP, which sought to reduce emissions from power plants to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. But the plan never took effect. The Supreme Court stalled it after energy-producing states sued the EPA, saying it had exceeded its legal reach.

Environmentalists and local citizens in favor of the CPP told the hearing it would save billions of dollars on hospital bills because it also would slash emissions from coal plants.

Stanley Sturgill, a 72-year-old retired coal miner from Kentucky who has black lung disease, urged the EPA to “stop listening to the corrupting power” of the fossil fuel industry and to start doing everything possible to protect human health and the climate.

Coal interests said that the plan would cost utilities, which would likely result in cuts in mining jobs.

Robert Murray, the CEO of private coal mining company Murray Energy who was the first party to file a lawsuit against the CPP, referred to the rules as the “no power plan.” If it is not repealed, power utilities and American consumers would face massive costs, he said.

Scott Segal, the head of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, said the CPP is expensive and illegal because it requires some utilities to reduce emissions “beyond the fence line” or far away from the power plants themselves.

Comments were also heard on the EPA’s October declaration to propose a new rule on carbon emissions in the “near future,” which would likely go easier on coal-fired plants than Obama’s CPP would have.

Former Obama EPA staffers complained that the agency has scheduled only one hearing on the plan to ditch the CPP.

Liz Purchia Gannon, a former spokeswoman, said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is “just checking a box … and making it more difficult for Americans across the country to weigh in.”

Under Obama, the EPA held 11 public listening sessions before it proposed the CPP and four hearings during its public comment period.

The EPA criticized the Obama administration for never holding a hearing in West Virginia, saying it denied coal workers a chance to comment in person. It is encouraging stakeholders to submit online comments about the proposal and any requests for additional public meetings.

The agency will receive written comments on the CPP until Jan. 16, and a spokesman added: “We will do our best to respond to requests for additional meetings.”

See the article here.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito: Trump EPA Bringing Positive Change

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

This Tuesday and Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency is holding a listening session in Charleston on its proposal to withdraw from the Obama administration’s so-called Clean Power Plan.

The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from this plan, and the decision to hear directly from West Virginians, demonstrate a positive change from the job-killing policies of the previous administration.

West Virginians expect federal agencies to follow the law. We want leaders to consider the impact of regulations on jobs and the economy. And, importantly, officials must listen to those Americans who will be most impacted by their decisions. It’s clear that this administration and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt are changing course.

The Clean Power Plan was an effort by the Obama administration to force states to turn away from coal-powered electricity. Congress never gave EPA the authority to implement such a sweeping regulatory change — and that is why the U.S. Supreme Court took the rare step of blocking implementation of the rule before it could take effect.

Legislation I introduced to overturn the rule was passed by both the Senate and the House, but was vetoed by President Barack Obama.

West Virginia is the nation’s second-largest coal producing state. Because coal accounts for over 94 percent of electricity generation in our state, West Virginians would have been disproportionately impacted by the Clean Power Plan.

Our state lost thousands of good-paying jobs due in large part to other EPA overreaches. And government budgets at the state and local levels were decimated by the loss of tax revenue that coal has long provided in our state.

But Obama’s EPA refused to hold a listening session on the Clean Power Plan in West Virginia. Instead, the previous administration chose to listen in places like San Francisco, Boston and New York City.

It was clear that Obama’s EPA had no desire to hear from the miners, truck drivers, railroad workers, small businesses and many others across coal country whose livelihoods would be most impacted by the rule.

At a Senate hearing, I asked former EPA Air Chief Janet McCabe why the Obama administration chose not to visit West Virginia. She responded that EPA held its public events where it was “comfortable.”

After a difficult eight years, it is refreshing to see that the Trump administration is comfortable listening to the needs of working families here in West Virginia.

President Donald Trump and our Republican congressional majority are rolling back some of the worst regulatory abuses of the previous administration. In February, Congress passed, and Trump signed, legislation to block a last-minute rule proposed by Obama’s Interior Department that could have cost thousands of jobs.

Everyone agrees that we need clean air and clean water; still, West Virginians should not be forced to choose between economic prosperity and a clean environment. We expect both.

That is why federal environmental laws like the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act provide for cooperation between federal authorities and state officials. This structure allows states to make decisions that are best for local communities’ economic and environmental needs.

The last administration upset that balance in favor of heavy-handed control from Washington. That led more than half the states to follow West Virginia’s lead in filing suit against the Clean Power Plan.

Congress and the Trump administration are working to restore the proper balance that enforces our environmental laws while protecting our jobs. And we are already seeing positive results. West Virginia coal production was up 23 percent in the first half of 2017 as compared with the first half of 2016.

The Trump administration is bringing the change to regulatory policy that West Virginians voted for. I welcome the new EPA to Charleston and will continue working with President Trump to keep West Virginia a leading energy producer for generations to come.

See the article here.

U.S. EPA to Host Public Hearing on Proposed Clean Power Plan Repeal Today

Via The Register-Herald:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will host a public hearing today and Wednesday in Charleston on the proposed Clean Power Plan repeal.

The public hearing will take place at the Capitol Complex from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. According to The Associated Press, this is the only hearing scheduled by the EPA so far.

A news release from the EPA said the agency may continue the public hearing Thursday if it receives a high volume of requests.

Written comments will be received until Jan. 16.

“The EPA is headed to the heart of coal country to hear from those most impacted by the (Clean Power Plan) to get their comments on the proposed repeal rule,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a news release. “The agency looks forward to hearing from all interested stakeholders.”

The Clean Power Plan was issued in 2015 and set new greenhouse gas regulations by imposing stricter carbon dioxide limits on states, according to previous reports. This represented a 32 percent cut by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Under the plan, states had until 2022 to comply.

However, shortly after the plan was issued, 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops and three labor unions challenged the plan.

West Virginia was among the states that challenged the plan, led by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

“I strongly support the EPA’s decision to repeal this devastating and job-killing rule,” Morrisey said in a news release issued earlier this month when the EPA announced the hearings. “Our office has been a leader in fighting against the Obama-era Power Plan. I’m glad the EPA selected Charleston as the setting for this crucial hearing, where its leaders will be able to hear from those directly impacted by this unlawful regulation.”

The U.S. Supreme Court later stayed the Clean Power Plan and halted its implementation. Pruitt signed a notice indicating the EPA’s intent to review the Clean Power Plan after President Donald Trump’s executive order. Last month, the EPA proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

The West Virginia Coal Association announced Monday that it along with other industry supporters will host a rally supporting the proposed repeal. The rally is scheduled to take place at noon Tuesday outside the Capitol.

According to a news release from the West Virginia Coal Association, those who are scheduled to speak at the rally are Gov. Jim Justice, Morrisey, Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead.

The Sierra Club also has organized an event for Tuesday. Bill Price, senior organizing representative based in Charleston, said the event, Hearing for Healthy Communities will take place at the University of Charleston to collect comments to share with the EPA.

That event starts at noon and will run throughout the day. Price said speakers will range from those in the medical profession, former coal miners and professionals from the scientific community who will discuss the benefits of the Clean Power Plan.

The event will also have a public comment period where people can give their own comments, which will be transcribed and submitted to the EPA.

“When the EPA announced its one and only hearing across the country would be in Charleston, West Virginia, I think it’s pretty evident that the only evidence they will be hearing is one side of the story,” Price said. “By coming to Charleston, they will only hear one narrative of those against the Clean Power Plan and we want to highlight that there are people in West Virginia and across the region and country who support the Clean Power Plan and see pro-environment and pro-worker benefits.”

See the article here.

Hal Quinn, Bill Raney: EPA is Coming to WV, this Time to Listen

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

The Environmental Protection Agency is finally coming to West Virginia.

On Tuesday, the agency will perform a valuable public service in Charleston by hosting a two-day public hearing on its proposal to repeal the controversial Clean Power Plan. We have always referred to this regulation as the “Costly Power Plan,” because the American public would never be able to afford reliable, dependable coal-based electricity if this Obama-era rule ever went into effect.

It’s significant that a new administration’s EPA is coming here. The previous administration would never come to West Virginia and rejected our congressional delegation’s request to hold a hearing in coal country.

The Clean Power Plan was intended to commandeer every state’s electricity grid under the suspicious auspices of addressing climate change. The EPA assigned each state, including West Virginia, a target for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide — for which reasonably available technology did not exist.

Had the plan gone into effect, more coal-fired power plants would have been closed — another jarring blow after the agency’s Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rules had already shut down scores of power plants.

The U.S. Department of Energy has found that repealing the Clean Power Plan would likely save 240 million tons of annual coal production, which means about 27,000 coal mining jobs, plus another 99,000 related jobs in the supply chain.

Since West Virginia is the second leading coal producing state in the nation, this repeal is very significant.

Aside from its huge costs, the rule’s benefits were insignificant. By some estimates, the plan would have added $214 billion to the cost of the nation’s wholesale electricity by 2030. That doesn’t count the manufacturing jobs also at risk, or the $64 billion needed to replace lost power plant capacity. And it doesn’t consider the risks posed by a less diverse, less reliable electric grid.

Add all this up, and you begin to understand the real cost of regulating reductions in coal-fired electricity generation, and why the new EPA has good reason for taking a fresh look at the old Clean Power Plan.

While it claimed to address global warming, the CPP would have had no meaningful impact on global greenhouse gas concentrations. The carbon dioxide reductions were so insignificant that the agency didn’t bother to quantify them. It was simply another symbolic gesture from Washington that would have brought actual devastation to our coal communities.

These were among the reasons our associations requested that the Supreme Court stay the CPP until lower courts sorted through its many serious problems.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and 28 states made a similar request — hoping to protect against this unprecedented federal intrusion on states’ authority over their power supplies and energy policies.

The Supreme Court agreed. It stayed the rule, and now the Trump administration can consider a different approach. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has wisely proposed a repeal of the plan.

This week, he is asking West Virginians whether they agree, and if so, how to replace it. Whatever he decides, his decision will be better for having heard from the people who would be most affected.

Meanwhile, the Clean Power Plan can provide a teachable moment by showing the need for a more effective response than heavy-handed regulations.

Sometimes less is more. Reforming the New Source Review permit program is one example. Revising this regulation to remove the current disincentives that utilities face when upgrading the efficiency of their power plants would be a win-win. Updated coal plants can produce more electricity with lower emissions.

These advanced coal technologies can pay impressive economic and environmental dividends as well. Modern coal plants with advanced high-efficiency, low-emission technologies can supply reliable power to the grid while providing high-wage jobs for coal communities and revenue for states.

Earlier this month, the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook projected that most new coal plants around the world will be using these technologies within the next 25 years.

The end of the old Clean Power Plan can be the beginning of something better. Hopefully these hearings will help show the way. Thankfully, the EPA will finally listen to the wonderful people in our coal fields.

Hal Quinn is president and chief executive officer of the National Mining Association; Bill Raney is president of the West Virginia Coal Association.
See the article here.

DOE Posts Reports Supporting Coal, Nuclear Rulemaking

Via E&E Publishing:

The Department of Energy has posted several reports online highlighting coal as baseload power and emphasizing the risks of plant retirements.

The seven studies and presentations from the National Energy Technology Laboratory were completed in 2015, but were either removed from NETL’s website after publication or not published at all, according to DOE spokeswoman Jessica Szymanski.

“During a periodic review of Department reports, officials found a series of DOE-funded studies that were conducted by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL),” she said. “In the interest of transparency, the Department felt the need to make them available to the public.”

It was not immediately clear whether DOE would also repost reports on other topics. A DOE official said “these are the reports we are aware of that were funded and published, then subsequently redacted or not posted at all.”

The analyses largely fit into the Trump administration’s narrative for propping up imperiled coal plants. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan, currently being reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, would allow coal and nuclear units to fully recover their costs (Greenwire, Nov. 17).

The notice of proposed rulemaking makes the case that coal and nuclear power are necessary to maintain the integrity of the grid, earning a full-throated endorsement from those industries.

But oil, gas and renewable advocates have scorned DOE for “picking winners and losers” instead of allowing the market to determine the sources of American electricity.

The posted reports include:

“This expansion in natural gas’s role in power generation represents a transition which will require additional infrastructure and may present unanticipated challenges or costs,” says the report on PJM and natural gas.

Szymanski said two reports have never been released. They are:

See the article here.

Coal’s Rebound is Good for West Virginia

Via The Exponent-Telegram:

As the effects of the Obama administration’s “War on Coal” have been pared back by President Trump, the coalfields of West Virginia are seeing a rebound in demand and production.

The numbers show that coal is rebounding in West Virginia, especially in the southern counties where the decline has been devastating to the region’s and state’s economy.

The northern counties’ coal production did not suffer as great a hit due to two factors: The demand for metallurgical coal used to make steel that is being exported and steam coal used to power the Harrison and Longview power stations.

Sadly, while FirstEnergy continues to use primarily West Virginia coal to generate power at its West Virginia facilities, American Electric Power, which serves much of Southern West Virginia, has transitioned to importing much of its steam coal from Illinois.

According to the federal Energy Information Administration, West Virginia mines produced about 23 percent more coal in the first half of this year when compared to last year. Production at mines in the northern part of the state was up 18.6 percent, while production in the southern counties increased by 29 percent.

In its third-quarter earnings report, Arch Coal, which operates the Leer mine near Grafton, said demand and pricing for seaborne coking coal remains healthy, even with the ongoing recovery of Australian exports following Cyclone Debbie and modest supply growth elsewhere. The cyclone in Australia knocked out some production there, allowing U.S. coal to move into markets that Australian producers had dominated.

Arch said it believes the outlook for global metallurgical markets is attractive, “given buoyant steel markets, strong Chinese manufacturing activity, an improving economic outlook in other key countries and the high cost structure of much of the recently added coking coal supply.”

Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said the production increase in West Virginia is spread throughout the state.

“Everybody’s attitude’s a lot better. When you have a guy in the White House who appreciates what you do, it’s better than having a guy that fights you every step of the way,” Raney said.

The use of coal in electricity generation is down nationwide as older coal-burning plants are retired and low-cost natural gas takes market share from coal. In West Virginia, coal still dominates electric power generation.

According to preliminary data compiled by the EIA, in the 12 months that ended in August, coal accounted for about 94 percent of electricity generated in West Virginia. Wind was 2.2 percent; hydropower was 2 percent; and natural gas was 1.8 percent.

The rebound in coal has also helped West Virginia’s severance tax collections.

For the first four months of this fiscal year, the state collected $80.2 million in severance taxes, up 68 percent from $47.9 million in the same period last year, according to the state Budget Office.

October collections alone were up 153 percent over October 2016, from $9.6 million last year to $24.3 million this year.

In 2016, West Virginia was the largest coal producer east of the Mississippi River and the second largest in the nation after Wyoming; the state accounted for 11 percent of total U.S. coal production that year. Almost half of the 96 million short tons of coal mined in West Virginia was shipped to other states, and one-fourth was exported to foreign countries.

Coal-fired electric power plants accounted for 94 percent of West Virginia’s net electricity generation in 2016; natural gas contributed 1.6 percent; and renewable energy resources — primarily hydroelectric power and wind energy — contributed about 3.8 percent.

Coal will remain critical to America’s energy mix for several more decades. West Virginia is blessed as an energy state to have an abundance of coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and wind-powered generating resources that will continue to create jobs and economic growth for years to come.

See the article here.

Keep Coal, Nukes Online

Via The Times-Tribune:

Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a decline in America’s “base-load” power, and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

The administration advocates an “all of the above” mix for the power sector. But Perry faces criticism because he has chosen to prioritize reliable generation over political expediency.

America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. However, since 2010, 66 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared, enough to power 40 million homes. By 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

Rising gas production and crippling regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. Bankruptcies and cost overruns have hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for transmission. But Perry urges a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

Coal and nuclear plants would benefit, since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies and can operate despite weather challenges. Natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service. And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.

Coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant but declining share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources.

The administration can support a more reliable grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

See the article here.

Nuclear and Coal are Essential for Reliable Energy

Via The Hill:

When a big storm is coming, people run out to the grocery store to stock up on essentials, in case they can’t get back to the store for a few days. Critical industries typically build the same thing into their planning, because they need to be able to keep operating if there’s a big storm or other emergency.

Consider electricity. The two main kinds of power plants that have powered the country through the past several decades — coal and nuclear — have fuel on site. Nuclear plants can run for about 18 months before refueling. Coal plants keep a 30 to 90 day coal supply on hand in case of supply disruption.

But things are changing in the electricity industry. Coal and nuclear power plants are shutting down, many being driven out of business in markets distorted by heavily subsidized renewables like wind and solar. Renewables and natural gas, which is cheap right now because of the shale gas revolution, are taking the place of coal and nuclear in our power supply.

The problem is that you can’t stock up on wind and sun. When the wind doesn’t blow, the turbines don’t make any power. This has caused problems for operators of the electric grid. A famous episode was in 2008, when wind power in Texas suddenly dropped from 1,700 megawatts (enough to power about 1.2 million homes) down to 300 megawatts in 10 minutes.

The Texas grid operator shut off customers to avoid wider blackouts. In May, the California grid operator had to cut demand (i.e., turn off power to consumers) when out-of-state energy didn’t arrive and solar power dropped in the evening. South Australia had a massive blackout last year when wind turbines suddenly stopped producing energy.

Natural gas presents different concerns. Gas-fired power plants can run when called on, just like coal and nuclear plants. However, they don’t keep fuel on site. Gas is fed by pipeline into the power plants. Some of these lines stretch thousands of miles.

This raises several concerns. First, power plants usually don’t have full rights to demand gas when they need it.

Second, pipelines can get disrupted, by weather, mechanical failure, problems with gas processing that keep gas from getting to the pipes, or criminal acts, as we have seen from anti-fossil fuels activists.

Finally, gas emergencies can have long-lasting impacts. When the polar vortex gripped much of the country in 2014, the country was in a situation of exceptional insecurity and risk for more than a year afterward, as gas producers not only had to keep meeting regular demand, but also had to replenish gas storage facilities that were dangerously depleted after record usage during the extreme cold.

The polar vortex brought the entire U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains close to a system-wide shortage event. When gas storage draws down, so do operating pressures. If pressure gets too low, less gas is retrieved. Worse, it can permanently damage the storage system, and the system could shut down. Some gas storage company leaders believe we were dangerously close to that in 2014. Since then, gas demand has grown. So has the dependence of electric reliability on gas.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the organization that sets standards to keep the U.S. power supply reliable, has voiced concern about over-reliance on gas and renewables for electricity. “Non-synchronous (renewable) generation and natural gas-fired facilities do not currently replace the secure capacity provided by coal and nuclear generation,” NERC wrote recently. NERC said its assessments demonstrate that the ongoing trend toward more reliance on renewables and gas, and retirements of coal and nuclear, “reduces system flexibility to respond to events and may affect reliability, increasing risk” to the grid.

Concerned about the risks, in September, Secretary of Energy Rick Perryproposed a to pay existing coal and nuclear plants enough to keep them operating. It is a good proposal. It would not pay more than a fair amount — payments would be limited to their cost plus a regulated reasonable return.

Some have said this would cost too much, but the alternative is heightened risk of a catastrophic energy disruption, which we definitely cannot afford.

See the article here.

Have a Voice – Input Needed on Clean Power Plan Repeal

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

Washington’s war on coal may be over, but it is still imperative for residents of the Mountain State to support the ongoing efforts of the Trump administration to repeal the harmful Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

One way area residents can do this is by attending a public hearing planned for later this month in Charleston on the proposed repeal of the emission plan. The two-day session will be held on Nov. 28 and 29 at the West Virginia Capitol Complex in Charleston.

If the Clean Power Plan were to be implemented, more jobs would be lost in the coal industry and more harm would be done to coal-producing states across Appalachia. Thankfully, new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is seeking to repeal the Clean Power Plan, a move celebrated as a major victory in West Virginia’s fight against the controversial Obama-era regulation.

“After years of being ignored by the Obama administration, West Virginians are finally going to be heard,” U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said last week. “Later this month, the EPA will visit West Virginia, where so many have been directly impacted by the harmful and burdensome Clean Power Plan. Our coal miners, their families and entire communities will soon have a chance to share how they have been affected by these far-reaching regulations.”

Here in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, we have seen firsthand the great harm caused by the anti-coal rules of the Obama era. It is imperative that we share our story with federal regulators.

Area residents and business leaders who understand the great harm the Clean Power Plan would cause to our area if allowed to be implemented are urged to attend the two-day forum.

See the article here.

Big Wind and Tax Reform

Via The Wall Street Journal:

Conservatives make fun of indulgent liberal parents whose offspring remain dependents well into their 20s. But Republicans rewriting the tax code in Washington are coddling a millennial of their own: the wind lobby.

In the 1980s wind power was dubbed an “infant industry” that needed federal help to grow. More than three decades and tens of billions of dollars in subsidies later, the business of making electricity from spinning turbines remains inefficient and heavily dependent on federal aid—i.e., the American taxpayer. Tax reform is a chance to tell the wind racket to get off the dole but it isn’t clear Republicans are up to the task.

Since 1992 the wind industry has lived off a “production tax credit” that begins with construction of a turbine and lasts 10 years. The original value of the credit was 1.5 cents a kilowatt hour but the law included an annual inflation adjustment. As Warren Buffett explained in 2014: We “get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” This also explains why producers are known to sell their output below cost merely to cash in on the subsidy.

By 2015 the credit was up to 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour at a cost to the feds of $2.6 billion. That’s when Congress passed legislation to reduce the production tax credit 20% a year, starting in 2017, with a goal of ending the subsidy after 2020—though a turbine that qualifies up to that last year would continue to receive credits for 10 years.

Enter Republicans with their pledge to cut corporate taxes in exchange for closing loopholes. Well, some Republicans and some loopholes. In its draft tax reform the House proposes to cut the value of the wind subsidy to its 1992 level of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour and to stick with the phase out schedule agreed to in 2015. To stop companies from gaming a system in which the handout shrinks every year, the bill also clarifies the terms for a new turbine to be eligible for a credit.

The wind lobby is crying foul on grounds that it has made commitments to projects that rely on the subsidy but may not qualify as “under construction” in 2017 under the new rules. It ought to be thankful the House is offering to let the scam wind down gradually rather than kill it. Even if the House proposal survives, the subsidy will take billions more out of the pockets of working Americans and transfer the money to rich investors.

It’s common knowledge that current wind-power technology cannot compete in the electricity market and propping it up drains federal coffers. It also removes the incentive to innovate. But wind blows in red states and the subsidy has created an interest group. Iowa’s Chuck Grassley has released a statement rejecting the House proposal, and the Senate’s draft tax bill sticks with the current production credit.

This goes to show that as long as a subsidy has life, it has lobbyists. No one should be surprised if the wind-power production tax credit survives.

See the article here.

Blackouts from Phoenix to Los Angeles if Coal Plant Shuts Down, Study from Coal Company Says

Via The Washington Examiner:

A study being released Thursday will warn of brownouts and blackouts if the largest coal plant in the West is shut down in favor of natural gas-fired electricity.

The study by consultants Quanta Technology and funded by coal giant Peabody was submitted to Arizona’s state utility commission. It supports keeping the Navajo Generating Station open or risk significant dangers from brownouts and blackouts in the region. Peabody supplies the station with coal.

The study shows that Arizona’s dependence on a few natural gas pipelines to supply the entire state would pose a key vulnerability to grid reliability if Arizona were to become overly reliant on natural gas power plants to provide the bulk of its electricity. It also looked at what the reliability hurdles would be if the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona unexpectedly closed.

The results would be bad on many levels, the study found.

“All three of the unique Arizona scenarios analyzed as separate events including loss of the Palo Verde Nuclear Station, the El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline and the Trans-Western Gas Pipeline were found to stress the Arizona electric grid with unacceptable overloads,” according to the study’s findings. “Unacceptable overloads are indicative of potential violations to operating criteria that serve as guidelines for reliable grid operation.”

The “material impacts” to the grid could lead to “damage to equipment, extended hours of power outage in the region and obstacles to daily activities,” the study said.

The biggest disruptions in electricity service would occur in the densely populated areas of Phoenix, Flagstaff, Scottsdale, Vail in Pima County, Tucson, and Raso. California also would feel the impact in the cities of Lugo in Los Angeles County and Shandon in San Luis Obispo County.

The bottom line is: “Without [the Navajo Generation Station] in operation, these conditions led to power deficiencies which could evolve into potential voltage collapse and outages, load shedding triggers, potential rotating brownouts, failing transformers or transmission lines and equipment damage.”

The Trump Interior Department is overseeing the plant’s retirement, which originally was slated for the end of this year. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke managed to keep the plant operating through the end of 2019. The Interior Department is the second-largest owner of the plant.

Peabody is in charge of finding new owners of the plant. It said last month that it got the interest of an unnamed party that is looking to own the plant after the original owners close the station. But the fate of the plant is uncertain.

See the article here. 

Pennsylvania’s Electric Grid Relies on Sturdy Baseload Power

Via The Bradford Era:

America’s energy sector has reached an interesting crossroads. After eight years of the Obama administration working to dismantle the nation’s coal fleet, the Trump administration has swept into office and upended the apple cart.
Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a sizable decline in America’s “baseload” power — and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

Overall, Perry is advocating an “all of the above” mix for the nation’s power sector. And this is an eminently sensible position. But in attempting to shore up America’s power grid, Perry is facing criticism because he’s chosen to prioritize reliable, practical power generation. However, his proposal could help to preserve 11,500 megawatts of Pennsylvania’s coal capacity — a significant step for a state that generates 31 percent of its electricity from coal.

What’s relevant here is that America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power to continuously meet the daily operational needs of the entire nation. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. But America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years. Since 2010, more than 60 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared — enough electricity to power 40 million homes.

And by 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

No doubt, rising natural gas production and a decade of crippling federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have simultaneously hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

But in response to such a stark problem, Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. Typically, America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for power transmission. But Perry is urging a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

Coal and nuclear plants would benefit from such a revision — since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies, and can typically remain in operation despite weather challenges. In contrast, natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service. And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts — and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.

The bottom line is that coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant — but declining — share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach to a burgeoning problem.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would likely spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants that already employ stringent emissions controls while providing 24/7 electricity.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power. So rather than simply take coal and nuclear power plants offline, the Trump administration can support a more reliable electric grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. These are important considerations for the coming decades, when an ever-growing nation will look to keep powering its schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

 (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 Right to Plan for Hearing in WV

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

You may remember that when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was holding hearings on its Clean Power Plan, the agency was at pains to avoid giving people in coal states opportunities to comment. The 2015 hearings were held in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

Now, the EPA is planning to rescind the Clean Power Plan, and hearings are scheduled on that.

One of them will be in Charleston on Nov. 28-29.

Good for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for insisting that people affected by his agency’s plans will have opportunities to comment on them

It’s about time.

See the article here.

EPA Plans Coal-country Hearing on Obama Climate Rule Repeal

Via The Hill:

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold a public hearing this month in West Virginia on its plan to repeal the Obama administration’s climate change rule for power plants.

The hearing will be in Charleston and stretch over two days, Nov. 28 and 29.

By comparison, the Obama administration held four hearings in 2014 when it proposed the Clean Power Plan, in Pittsburgh, Denver, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said picking West Virginia, a major coal-producing state, as the location for the hearing shows that the agency cares about the impact of the Clean Power Plan on coal-heavy areas.

“The EPA is headed to the heart of coal country to hear from those most impacted by the CPP and get their comments on the proposed Repeal Rule,” he said in a Thursday statement. “The agency looks forward to hearing from all interested stakeholders.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), a leading opponent of the climate rule, welcomed the hearing.

“I strongly support the EPA’s decision to repeal this devastating and job-killing rule,” he said in a statement. “I’m glad the EPA selected Charleston as the setting for this crucial hearing, where its leaders will be able to hear from those directly impacted by this unlawful regulation.”

Morrisey is running in next year’s Senate race and has touted his opposition to the rule as a key qualification.

The Obama rule envisioned a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon emissions and was expected to hit coal harder than any other power source.

In Thursday’s notice, the EPA also said it is extending the period to submit comments on the proposed repeal by one month, to Jan. 18.

At a 2015 congressional hearing on the Obama rule, Janet McCabe, the EPA’s top air pollution official, said the agency planned hearings in places “where people were comfortable coming.”

She later explained that the EPA planned hearings based primarily on how easily people could access areas, among other considerations.

Since then, the GOP and other opponents of the Clean Power Plan have cited the remark to argue that the Obama administration does not care about coal country.

The EPA is required under the Clean Air Act to hold at least one hearing if people submit comments asking for it.

A collection of environmental groups asked Pruitt to schedule multiple hearings in different areas of the country on the rule repeal.

See the article here.

Pennsylvania’s Electric Grid Relies on Sturdy Baseload Power

Via The Meadville Tribune:

America’s energy sector has reached an interesting crossroads. After eight years of the Obama Administration working to dismantle the nation’s coal fleet, the Trump Administration has swept into office and upended the apple cart.

Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a sizable decline in America’s “baseload” power — and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

Overall, Perry is advocating an “all of the above” mix for the nation’s power sector. And this is an eminently sensible position. But in attempting to shore up America’s power grid, Perry is facing criticism because he’s chosen to prioritize reliable, practical power generation. However, his proposal could help to preserve 11,500 megawatts of Pennsylvania’s coal capacity — a significant step for a state that generates 31 percent of its electricity from coal.

What’s relevant here is that America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power to continuously meet the daily operational needs of the entire nation. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. But America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years. Since 2010, more than 60 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared — enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And by 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

No doubt, rising natural gas production and a decade of crippling federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have simultaneously hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

But in response to such a stark problem, Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. Typically, America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for power transmission. But Perry is urging a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

Coal and nuclear plants would benefit from such a revision — since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies, and can typically remain in operation despite weather challenges. In contrast, natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service. And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts — and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.

The bottom line is that coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant — but declining — share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach to a burgeoning problem.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would likely spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants that already employ stringent emissions controls while providing 24/7 electricity.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power. So rather than simply take coal and nuclear power plants offline, the Trump Administration can support a more reliable electric grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. These are important considerations for the coming decades, when an ever-growing nation will look to keep powering its schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

See the article here.

EPA to Hold Public Hearing in Charleston on Clean Power Plan

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

CHARLESTON — State residents will have a chance to tell federal regulators their views on an emissions restriction plan that the Trump Administration is trying to repeal because of its impact on the coal industry.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) announced Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) will hold a public hearing in Charleston later this month on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

“After years of being ignored by the Obama administration, West Virginians are finally going to be heard,” she said. “Later this month, the EPA will visit West Virginia, where so many have been directly impacted by the harmful and burdensome Clean Power Plan. Our coal miners, their families and entire communities will soon have a chance to share how they have been affected by these far-reaching regulations.”

Capito said regulations in the plan, proposed by the Obama Administration, would prevent construction of new coal plants and require most existing plants to close in the coming years.

In 2015, she introduced a resolution of disapproval under to block the plan. While the Senate and the House of Representative passed the resolution, Obama vetoed it, she said.

In March of this year, Capito joined President Donald Trump for the Energy Independence Executive Order signing at the EPA. That order started the process of reviewing the plan.

“I appreciate the Trump Administration’s commitment to creating and preserving energy jobs,” Capito said.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also applauded the EPA’s decision to hold the hearing.

“I strongly support the EPA’s decision to repeal this devastating and job-killing rule,” Morrisey said. “Our office has been a leader in fighting against the Obama-era Power Plan. I’m glad the EPA selected Charleston as the setting for this crucial hearing, where its leaders will be able to hear from those directly impacted by this unlawful regulation.”

The EPA proposed repealing the Power Plan last month, a move celebrated as a major victory in West Virginia’s fight against the Obama-era regulation that would have devastated coal communities across the state and nation, he said.

Morrisey has long argued the Obama EPA 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.

The two-day hearing will take place Nov. 28 and 29 in Charleston. The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. each day. Those wishing to speak are encouraged to register in advance.

The EPA announced pre-registration for those wishing to make an oral presentation will begin once notice of the hearing is published in the Federal Register and will close on Nov. 16, Morrisey said.

See the article here.

A Majority of Americans Support Safeguarding Base Load Energy

Via World Coal:

As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) this week closed its comment period on a proposal from the Department of Energy (DOE) that FERC take swift action to address threats to baseload power provided by coal and nuclear, the majority of Americans showed support for the proposal.

According to Morning Consult for the National Mining Association (NMA), polling conducted by 51% of Americans agree with the premise of the proposal – and just 18% oppose it. 31% were unsure or did not answer.

Hal Quinn, NMA President and CEO said: “Completely missing from the debate over grid reliability has been the most important perspective of all: that of the American family”.

“Americans expect the lights to come on when they flip a switch, not bear the risk of future blackouts or electricity rationing. Today’s poll shows that Americans believe the government should be doing more to ensure a reliable, resilient and affordable power grid,” Quinn comtinued.

American households and businesses have long relied on dependable electricity provided by a combination of coal and nuclear plants that allow for fuel storage onsite, natural gas plants that rely on pipeline delivery of fuel, and renewables such as solar and wind supplying power when possible.

However, in the past seven years,108,000 MW of coal-fired generating capacity has retired or has announced plans to retire – enough to power more than 65 million American homes. Power generated from fuels that can be stored on-site is rapidly being replaced by natural gas and renewables.

Consistent with the DOE proposal, the poll shows that Americans believe that the government should take steps to retain coal and nuclear power plants that can provide power through high-impact events such as extreme weather and cyber-attacks, which might interrupt operations at sites that are unable to store fuel onsite.

See the article here.

U.S. Becoming Too Dependent on Natural Gas for Energy

Via the Las Cruces Sun-News:

There is no overstating the extent to which the United States is quickly becoming over-dependent on one fuel for production of electricity – natural gas. This growing reliance exposes consumers of natural gas and electricity to the risk of sudden spikes in prices – and a loss of reliability.

Parts of the country that depend on natural gas for more than 50 percent of their electricity (New England, Florida and California) have already had warnings of potential power shortages. The underlying cause has been all but ignored: across the country, dozens of “base-load” coal and nuclear plants have shut down.

And, over-estimating the contribution from renewable resources is also having an impact on capacity. Nationally, solar and wind power combined account for barely 7 percent of the electricity supply. Since 1995, about 80 percent of all generating capacity built in the U.S. – some 350,000 megawatts — has been gas-fired. Many are now being used instead of coal and nuclear to provide base-load electricity around the clock. As much as 100,000 megawatts of additional gas-fired capacity is expected to be added in the next decade. By contrast, less than 10,000 megawatts of new coal and nuclear capacity is expected by 2020. A diverse mix of generating options is essential for a resilient system. If current trends continue, that diversity will be at serious risk.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has proposed a way to deal with this looming problem. He has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to use its authority to keep coal and nuclear plants open. The effect of power shortages can easily be limited or even eliminated, he says, if utilities with coal and nuclear plants are paid for contributing to the resilience and reliability of the electric grid.

Here in the Southwest, coal plants contribute to the fuel diversity that is one of the bedrock characteristics of a reliable and resilient electric sector. This is one of the unrecognized values of coal power. It is not monetized by markets. It does not show up in value calculations. But it exists nonetheless.

 The long-term fundamentals support continued reliance on, and expansion of, coal and nuclear power. The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts a 28 percent increase in demand for electricity through 2040 – and that assumes average annual growth in electricity demand of less than 1 percent a year. Even at that modest growth, the United States would need 339,000 megawatts of new capacity to meet new demand and to replace generating capacity that is long past its prime.

Can the U.S. natural gas resource base support this level of production? Probably, but that’s not the issue. The resource base, due to the shale revolution, is huge. The question is whether the necessary infrastructure – pipelines, gas processing facilities, gas storage tanks and so forth – will be built at the right time and in the right places to match growing demand.

Action is needed to bring our electric grid into the 21st century. That begins with production of large quantities of electricity around the clock, safely and reliably. As the risky bet on low-cost natural gas has demonstrated, electricity is too important to our quality of life to do nothing.

See the article here.

US Electric Grid is Too Vulnerable to Not Have a Backup Plan

Via The Hill:

If there is one undisputed role for the federal government, it is to protect its people as best it can. From national defense to public health, governments of every party can agree on this much. Today, a debate is simmering over a new but little-known threat — the weakened reliability of the nation’s electric power grid.

Americans are almost uniquely fortunate to have at our fingertips electricity so assured at any time day or night that even temporary disruptions cause us distress. It’s often said our electricity is so taken for granted that we believe it comes from the light switch.

But experts are beginning to say this breezy confidence is misplaced. Recent years have seen the number of power plants that have been the most reliable sources of round-the-clock electricity rapidly decline. Thanks to unanticipated market forces and shortsighted government policy, 101,000 MW of coal fired generating capacity — one fourth of the entire U.S. coal fleet — will be forced into premature retirement by 2020. Nuclear power is also on the wane.

With fuel stored on site, these plants have been the backbone of the nation’s electricity grid, able to provide power reliably, even during major disruptions. Although such incidents are infrequent, they are high impact with the risk of massive power outages.

When Houston struggled to restore power after Hurricane Harvey, nuclear power plants kept the electricity flowing for much of the storm-wracked city. Storms aren’t the only potential risk. In the frigid winter of 2014, the Polar Vortex sent temperatures in much of the Eastern United States plummeting, bringing the grid dangerously close to collapse. Baseload coal plants saved the day. “We did not just dodge a bullet,” said Nick Akins, CEO of American Electric Power. “We dodged a cannon ball.”

Experts are becoming concerned that we won’t be so lucky next time. That’s because the dwindling number of baseload plants has left the grid increasingly reliant on natural gas and intermittent fuels like wind and solar to generate on-time electricity.

While these fuel sources are valuable supplements to the grid, they cannot be relied upon to provide the secure electricity Americans expect. Neither natural gas plants nor renewable generators store fuel on site. Natural gas is delivered to power plants from long distances by pipelines that are vulnerable to disruptive events. In frigid winters, natural gas supplies are diverted from electricity generation to home heating. Wind turbines and solar panels are easily damaged by powerful storms and of course function only when the wind blows and the sun shines.

As these fuels displace baseload coal and nuclear, doubts are beginning to displace confidence in the electric grid. The U.S. Department of Energy reported this summer that while the grid is adequate today, rapid changes in the fuel mix that supports our bulk power system could present challenges in the future. The increasing reliance on natural gas and intermittent renewable fuels — a trend that is expected to accelerate — has created a far less diverse supply of fuels needed for electricity generation.

The National Electric Reliability Corporation that monitors the grid warned in May that “premature retirements of fuel secure baseload generating stations reduces resilience to fuel supply disruptions.”

Energy Secretary Perry recently proposed a modest solution. He asked the federal commission that oversees the grid to recognize the reliability value of baseload plants. Today, it does not. Utility companies operating a portion of the grid encompassing more than half of the U.S. cannot recover any costs for the always-on reliability their baseload plants provide.

For example, the “reliability cushion” is vanishing in the nation’s largest regional power authority. Shrinking baseload power capacity in the PJM energy market has left 13 states overly reliant on natural gas. Energy Ventures Analysis, a private energy consultancy, warned that over the past seven years a “dramatic shift” in the PJM away from baseload power has led to “uncertainty about grid reliability as fuel diversity is on the decline.

Status quo defenders aren’t pleased with Perry’s proposal for cost recovery. By allowing utility companies to capture the full value for coal and nuclear plants, they claim the government is interfering in the electricity market. But the power market has never been free of government intervention. Federal subsidies for renewable fuels allow wind and solar developers to undercut market prices. Most state governments even guarantee renewable fuels a fixed market share.

If government assistance for the renewable energy industry was justified to improve the grid’s environmental performance, by the same token, modest intervention to strengthen the grid’s weakened resilience is a responsible precaution to safeguard a vital national asset.

Matthew Kandrach is president of CASE – Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.

See the article here.

North Carolina Could Benefit from Changes to Electric Grid

Via The Herald-Sun:

America’s energy sector has reached an interesting crossroads. After eight years of the Obama Administration working to dismantle the nation’s coal fleet, the Trump Administration has upended the apple cart. Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study that noted a sizable decline in America’s “baseload” power, and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

Overall, Perry is advocating an “all of the above” mix for the nation’s power sector. And this is eminently sensible. But in attempting to shore up America’s power grid, Perry is facing criticism because he’s chosen to prioritize reliable, practical power generation. Significantly, his proposal could help to preserve 100 megawatts of North Carolina’s coal capacity – a significant step for a state that generates 32 percent of its electricity from coal, and enjoys utility prices below the national average.

America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power to continuously meet the nation’s daily operational needs. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. However, America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years. Since 2010, more than 60 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared – enough electricity to power 40 million homes.

No doubt, rising natural gas production and a decade of crippling federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have simultaneously hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

But in response, Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. Typically, America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for power transmission. But Perry is urging a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

Coal and nuclear plants would benefit from such a revision – since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies, and can typically remain in operation despite weather challenges. In contrast, natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service. And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts – and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.

The bottom line is that coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant – but declining – share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach to a burgeoning problem.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would likely spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants that already employ stringent emissions controls while providing 24/7 electricity.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power. So rather than simply take coal and nuclear power plants offline, the Trump Administration can support a more reliable electric grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. These are important considerations for the coming decades, when an ever-growing nation will look to keep powering its schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

See the article here.

Pruitt Is Right To Withdraw Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Via The Daily Caller:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is fully justified to withdraw the Obama administration’s expensive and useless Clean Power Plan (CPP). After all, it only controls emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is simply plant food. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Changecites over 1,000 peer-reviewed studies showing that rising atmospheric CO2enhances productivity of forests and grasslands. Commercial greenhouses run at up to about four times the outside level of CO2 to boost plant growth.

Increasing CO2 poses no direct hazard to human health either. Concentrations in submarines can reach 25 times normal atmospheric levels with no harmful effects on the crew.

Yet the CPP refers to CO2 as “carbon pollution.” It is the exact opposite of pollution.

Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy admitted that, by itself, the CPP would have an insignificant impact on climate. Its main purpose was to lead the world in the ‘fight to stop climate change’, she said.

That makes no sense. Even if one accepts the dubious notion that humanity’s CO2 emissions threaten the climate, developing countries have indicated that they will not follow our lead. For example, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said in

Duterte can say this with a clear conscience since all UN climate treaties, including Paris, are based on the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) which states:

This stipulation does not apply to developed nations.

Actions to significantly reduce CO2 emissions would require curbing the use of coal, the cheapest power source in most of the world. But that would obviously interfere with development priorities. So, developing countries won’t do it, citing the FCCC as their excuse.

Activists say that there will be important pollution reduction co-benefits to CO2emission control. Yet the EPA’s own data show that total emissions of six major air pollutants dropped 62% between 1980 and 2013 even though CO2 emissions increased by 14% between 1980 and 2012.

Dr. Marlo Lewis, a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, concluded in his Cooler Heads Coalition article in 2014, “Air pollution emissions are increasingly decoupled …from CO2 emissions.”

Using climate regulations to reduce pollution would therefore be an expensive mistake.

Trump’s promotion of coal and his concentration on clean air and water is a relief. Thousands of people lost their jobs and saw prices soar as a result of President Obama’s focus on climate mitigation. The Congressional Research Service reported that the Obama administration spent $120 billion on climate change issues.

So what can be done to ensure that the climate scare is not resurrected by future presidents or Congress?

The key is to sway public opinion so solidly against the global warming alarm that no sensible politician ever dare promote it again. According to Dr. Jay Lehr, science director at The Heartland Institute, the war will be won when at least 90% of Americans tell pollsters that they oppose the government spending any money at all on ‘climate control.’

Lehr told the 12th International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC-12) meeting in Washington, D.C. last March, “We have won the science. [But] the battle is going to go on. The challenge I make to you is to turn the minds of five people in a year. Reasonably neutral, sensible people. But we have still not won the attitude of the whole public and that is what we want to do.”

ICCC-12 provided a blueprint for how to do this. By itself, it’s not enough to show that the science underlying the scare is flawed. It’s not enough to reveal how $1 billion a day is wasted trying to control climate. Or that we should welcome rising CO2 levels to help grow the food billions more humans will eventually need. Or how millions of birds and bats are killed by industrial wind turbines erected to supposedly stop climate change. Or the ruined lives of hundreds of thousands of people who live near wind turbines.

All these arguments, and more, must be used to bring practical people, regardless of their political orientations, to understand that the climate scare is one of the greatest deceptions in history.

See the article here.

Coal and Nuclear Plants Needed to Meet Missouri’s Energy Demands

Via The Kansas City Star:

When I served on the Missouri Public Service Commission, I spent time studying the different utilities that supply electricity throughout our state. And along the way, I learned some surprising facts about our power grid.

For starters, we still depend on a lot of coal-fired power. In 2014, coal generated 83 percent of our electricity. That number declined slightly last year, to 77 percent—but it’s still our top source of electricity. And our one nuclear power plant, Callaway Nuclear Generating Station, contributes a sizable 12 percent, too.

We also maintain a renewable energy component, though it’s admittedly rather small. Renewable resources like hydroelectric, solar, and wind, accounted for 3.4 percent of Missouri electricity generation last year. And we derive additional electricity from natural gas plants.

I’m in favor of our state gathering electricity from all of these sources — in what’s often referred to as an “all of the above” mix. For example, I support modern coal-fired power plants, like KCP&L’s latan 2, that trap emissions of sulfur, mercury, and particulate matter. I also favor expanded natural gas production to help lower electricity costs. And I hope that technological breakthroughs can keep improving the electricity storage capacity for wind turbines and solar panels.

Overall, my focus is: How can we keep reliably and responsibly generating sufficient power to meet our state’s growing electricity needs? Ironically, it’s a question that seems to be percolating through Washington right now, too. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been in the news of late, urging that America act now to ensure each state’s future “baseload” power needs.

It’s not something we think about often, but America has huge energy demands. We simply trust that electricity will always be there when we need it. However, the baseload power that undergirds the nation’s daily operational electricity needs has actually shrunk significantly in recent years. Since 2010, more than 60 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared—enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And at the same time, the nuclear industry has had its own troubles, with heavy costs making it difficult to replace retiring nuclear plants.

Perry is proposing that the U.S. adopt a new pricing mechanism that would recognize the value of coal and nuclear plants in serving as the bulwark of the nation’s electric grid. Essentially, coal and nuclear are the only two power sources capable of maintaining lengthy on-site fuel supplies while also generating large, non-stop amounts of electricity for weeks and months at a time.

It’s a controversial notion, of course — keeping coal and nuclear plants in the mix. But it’s also a very realistic assessment of what’s working right now. Environmentalists are no doubt excited about the prospects for wind and solar. But the output of these renewables remains limited, and is also constrained by the need for steady wind and clear skies. Equally challenging is the dependence of natural gas plants on continuous fuel supplies from an intricate spiderweb of lengthy, nationwide pipelines.

Even as technology is yielding new advances in renewable energy — or even higher efficiencies for coal and gas plants — we need to remain focused on what can guarantee sufficient electricity right here, right now. And so, while the bridge to a more diverse energy future is slowly emerging, Perry is wise to take a thoughtful approach to keeping the lights on. It may not seem like a pressing issue, but it’s important to plan for the unexpected times when winter storms or hurricanes lead to unforeseen spikes in electricity demand and even power outages.

Overall, I’m optimistic about Missouri’s energy future. But we should continue to secure the baseload power that supports our current, daily needs.

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.

Wisconsin Could Benefit from Revisions to Electric Grid

Via The La Crosse Tribune:

America’s energy sector has reached an interesting crossroads.

After eight years of the Obama administration working to dismantle the nation’s coal fleet, the Trump administration has swept into office and upended the apple cart. Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a sizable decline in America’s “baseload” power, and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

Overall, Perry is advocating an “all of the above” mix for the nation’s power sector. And this is an eminently sensible position. But in attempting to shore up America’s power grid, Secretary Perry is facing criticism because he’s chosen to prioritize reliable, practical power generation. Significantly, his proposal could help to preserve 100 megawatts of Wisconsin’s coal capacity — a significant step for a state that generates 56 percent of its electricity from coal.

What’s relevant here is that America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power to continuously meet the daily operational needs of the entire nation. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. However, America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years. Since 2010, more than 60 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared — enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And by 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

No doubt, rising natural gas production and a decade of crippling federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have simultaneously hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

But in response to such a stark problem, Secretary Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. Typically, America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for power transmission. But Perry is urging a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

The bottom line is that coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant — but declining — share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Secretary Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach to a burgeoning problem.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would likely spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants that already employ stringent emissions controls while providing 24/7 electricity.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power. So rather than simply take coal and nuclear power plants offline, the Trump administration can support a more reliable electric grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. These are important considerations for the coming decades, when an ever-growing nation will look to keep powering its schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

Secretary Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

See the article here.

The Clean Power Plan Is Irrelevant

Via Forbes:

Signed under the Obama administration but still not enacted, The Clean Power Plan (CPP) called for a 32% reduction in power sector CO2 emissions by 2030 (compared with 2005 levels) but is now in the process of being repealed under the Trump administration. This decision is consistent with American norms because it leaves the future of our power system to the free market, stopping the government from picking energy winners and losers with policy.

In fact, many believe that the CPP wasn’t even legal, justifying the nearly 30 states attorneys general that were suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block the plan. In fact, one Harvard Law expert tabbed the CPP “unconstitutional,” a violation of the 10th amendment and states’ rights, here. The repeal proposal reports that the removal of the CPP would save the country $33 billion, here.

We are seeking emission reductions via more natural gas, more wind and solar, and more clean coal, but the rules must be fair and based on extant technologies: the use of coal under the CPP, for instance, would have required carbon capture systems that aren’t yet commercially viable. Unmentioned, the CPP would strand massive clean energy investments already made: it unfairly disregards the $135 billion spend by the coal industry deploying clean coal technologies since 1990. That matters.

The CPP would have increased electricity prices unnecessarily, most dangerous for our most vulnerable because higher energy costs take away from other critical spending, such as on one’s health. The Pacific Research Institute, for instance, has concluded that the CPP would have raised electricity bills for an African-American family in Ohio by around $410 annually.

Thanks to our free market system, we enjoy some of the lowest electricity prices in the world. For example, heavy handed environmental regulation forcing renewables in the European wind power capitals of Denmark and Germany have left them with home power rates in the 40-45 cents per kWh range, compared to just 12-13 cents here in the U.S. And ironically, all the while, our emissions are declining much faster, here!

Indeed, it’s extremely telling that the two states most vigorously defending the CPP, New York and California, have the two highest electricity rates in the country (besides Hawaii), at 45-55% above the national average. Moreover, New York and California have consistently been ranked as the two worst states for business, no doubt hurt by much higher energy costs that strain the budgets of both families and businesses, here.

The CPP can’t be a climate “climate game changer” because models continues to conclude that other nations will be fully responsible for all incremental CO2 emissions, not us. From 2015-2040, the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Model reports that global CO2 emissions will rise 12-15% to 36-37 billion tonnes, while U.S. CO2 emissions will actually drop 17-20% below 5 billion tonnes.

Additionally, I’d argue that it’s not possible to prove the reduction in climate change that would result from individual U.S. regulations on emissions because climate change by definition is a global phenomenon, based on world emissions in aggregate. This really means that policies to decrease extreme weather events in the U.S. have to take into account decisions made in other countries, decisions made outside of our own control – like coal usage in China and India. These are undeniably unknowable.

Don’t be duped: The New York Times reports that “Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world.” And Politic0 headlines “Why China is no global leader.” This is why the CPP is based a theoretical reduction of 0.03 [degrees Celsius] in warming by 2100, here.  

Continuing, as for reducing U.S. emissions, the free market is  obviously already working quite awesomely. Our power sector emissions continue to uniquely decline, in contrast to other sectors (see Figure). In fact, we have the fastest declining CO2 emissions of all nations. Thanks largely to natural gas surging its share of power from less than 20% to 33% over the past 12 years, we are already 70-80% on the way to meeting the CPP goals anyways. Let our electric power system continue on its journey!

The purposed health benefits of the CPP – and how those benefits were derived at – are highly problematic. As I have shown, for instance, a simple scatterplot questions the link between coal and its CO2 emissions and asthma, here. And there seems to be some serious “double counting” going on under the promoted CPP benefits, here. That’s mostly because the emissions of criteria pollutants NOx, SO2, and PM have been regulated for decades, but they are erroneously counted in the claimed benefits of the CPP.

But, let me conclude with the most important thing to remember, one that is unsurprisingly ignored. Wealth (i.e., having more money) is the basis of our health, not our drastically improved air quality, here. Horrifically, we still have 50 million Americans living in poverty, and globally some 6 in every 7 humans live in undeveloped nations. Tragically, these people have now become  a complete afterthought. And that’s no wonder: it’s far more difficult to find real solutions to worsening poverty today than it is to formulate regulations based on predicted benefits far down the road.

I guess that’s my biggest problem with our environment-energy discussion continuing to be led by tenured academics, privileged lives in the cozy Ivory Towers of Harvard, Cal Berkeley, Stanford, and even the Climate Institute of…you fill in the blank. Their jobs are never on the line. Unless they do something really, really dumb, these researchers will never actually lose their jobs when the policies their careers are based on promoting are enacted and costs increase for their respective employer.

In very stark contrast…you might.

See the article here.

Don’t Overlook Coal’s Continued Importance

Via RealClearEnergy:

Contrary to popular opinion, coal is still critically important to meeting our nation’s energy needs. Coal is America’s number one source of electricity, accounting for 32 percent of electricity production, and it generates more than half of the power in states with heavy industries like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Colorado and Utah.

Coal is also the leading supplier of electricity globally. Nothing else can match it for abundance, reliability and cost. From Germany to China, it remains the electricity sector’s workhorse. What’s more, coal is essential to maintaining America’s grid security – to provide reliable energy in times of outages or natural disasters. This point was echoed last month by Energy Secretary Rick Perry in his proposed rule to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ensure coal is recognized for its resiliency and reliability in how the wholesale energy markets are priced.

Here in the U.S., government regulations – implemented before President Donald Trump took office – hamper the use of coal, while solar and wind power are heavily subsidized and get most of the media attention. To be sure, our energy future depends on having an affordable supply of low-carbon energy. But renewable energy, despite its growth in recent years, is still decades away from becoming a primary source of power. Solar and wind combined, even with help from federal tax credits and state mandates for renewables, supply only seven percent of the nation’s electricity. This illustrates how difficult it will be to meet environmental goals of policymakers and why we must find a way to make better use of the resources and infrastructure already at hand.

This is one of the key energy issues that Congress needs to address as it considers new legislation to fund research and demonstration projects on carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS). The goal of CCUS is to develop an economically competitive way to capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal or natural gas plants in order to meet emissions regulations as well as use the carbon to make useful products like petrochemicals and plastics and then sequester unused carbon safely underground.

CCUS technology is a key piece of the energy puzzle. A technological breakthrough in the U.S. could be shared with other countries that have large coal resources and growing demand for coal power. Some pilot CCUS systems are being demonstrated in the U.S. and Canada. But developing affordable technology will take time. For now, there are other coal technologies available for commercial use that, if deployed globally, can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from the entire global coal fleet by around 20 percent.

Consider advanced ultra-supercritical coal technology. Coal plants with this technology operate at an efficiency rate of 45 to 50 percent, whereas conventional coal plants have efficiency rates of up to 38 percent. With supercritical coal technology, less fuel is used to produce the same amount of energy. Environmentally, a one percent improvement in the efficiency of a coal plant results in a two to three percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. And its deployment also reduces other greenhouse-gas emissions as well as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.

Think about it: If the global coal fleet can reach a level of just 40 percent efficiency from its current 33 percent, annual carbon emissions could fall by 2 billion tons. That reduction would be equivalent to all of India’s annual emissions – a not insignificant way that coal can meet the challenges of today’s more rigorous emissions standards.

What’s important to recognize is that this improvement in carbon mitigation could be achieved with coal technology that’s already commercially available. In other words, both environmental progress and economic growth can be achieved with the use of advanced coal technology.

The reason for coal’s continued importance is clear. Electricity is the most efficient energy source. Concerns about carbon emissions should not be permitted to muddle what remains the essential point: We need to recognize the critical contribution of coal to energy supply now and in the future. An affordable, reliable supply of energy must remain the focus of our energy policy.

Matthew Kandrach is President of CASE – Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.

See the article here. 

Trump is Taking the Right Steps to Ensure our Energy Future

Via Penn Live:

America’s energy sector has reached an interesting crossroads. After eight years of the Obama Administration working to dismantle the nation’s coal fleet, the Trump Administration has swept into office and upended the apple cart.

Earlier this year, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a sizable decline in America’s “baseload” power, and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

Overall, the Trump administration is advocating an “all of the above” mix for the nation’s power sector. And this is an eminently sensible position. But in attempting to secure the nation’s power grid,Perry is now facing criticism because he’s chosen to prioritize reliable, practical power generation over political expediency.

Significantly, America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power to continuously meet the daily operational needs of the entire nation. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants.

However, America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years.

Since 2010, 66 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared–enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And by 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

No doubt, rising natural gas production and a decade of crippling federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet.

And bankruptcies and cost overruns have simultaneously hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

But in response to such a stark problem, Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather.

Typically, America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for power transmission.

Perry is urging a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

Coal and nuclear plants would benefit from such a revision–since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies, and can typically remain in operation despite weather challenges.

In contrast, natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service.

And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts–and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.

The bottom line is that coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity.

It’s a significant–but declining–share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach to a burgeoning problem.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would likely spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants that already employ stringent emissions controls while providing 24/7 electricity.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power.

So rather than simply take coal and nuclear power plants offline, the Trump administration can support a more reliable electric grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities.

These are important considerations for the coming decades, when an ever-growing nation will look to keep powering its schools, hospitals, and infrastructure.

Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

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.

Perry’s Angry Critics

Perry’s Angry Critics

October 25, 2017

It was the 17th century English playwright William Congreve who claimed “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Congreve never met the renewable fuels industry.

Wind and solar proponents, feeling scorned by Energy Secretary Perry, reacted with righteous anger to his request that the Federal Energy Regulatory Corporation (FERC) allow utilities to recover the reliability value of competing baseload plants. The Secretary, they said, was meddling in the energy market and showing raw favoritism. And the renewable industry will have none of government meddling and favoritism.

If there are persuasive, credible criticisms of the Secretary’s proposal, these aren’t among them. And if anyone could make them credible, it isn’t the renewable industry.

The government has frequently intervened in the power generation market and has often shown favoritism. More recently, it has moved to euthanize older coal plants with regulations, and shower renewable fuels with production and investment tax credits. When state governments meddled in the market by guaranteeing renewables market share with portfolio standards, where were the indignant complaints?

Considering the source of these criticisms, they are more likely to bring smiles than agreement. Government largess is to renewable fuels what water is to fish.

(more…)

EPA Rides to the Rescue of Sustained Electricity in Florida

Via The Orlando Sentinel: 

Floridians, like all Americans, are accustomed to powering their lives with electricity that is abundantly available, reliable and affordable. The impact of recent hurricanes has reminded us how much our lives revolve around that all-important supply of power. Life without electricity means no air conditioning, no cellphones, no computers and no ability to pump gasoline — just to name a few. The absence of available, reliable and affordable electricity means inconvenience for all and economic hardship for many of Florida’s most vulnerable.

For these reasons, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration should be applauded for their decision to roll back the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration mandate for electricity producing power plants to reduce CO2 emission by 30 percent by 2030. This unsustainable plan was nothing more than a regulatory way to get around Congress’ refusal to adopt a “cap and trade” scheme in 2010. In effect, it was a takeover of our nation’s electrical power grid via federal regulation, something that has always been under the authority of the states.

With this action, Pruitt is saving the country from implementation of the CPP, which would be devastating for consumers and our nation. The plan would have forced Florida and 46 other states to systematically limit the kind of power plants we rely on for our power and force us to shift to other energy sources — ones that as yet remain as untested as they are unreliable.

While the EPA’s estimates have been repeatedly shown to underestimate the cost of the CPP and exaggerate the benefits, an independent study has found that Florida’s electricity prices face an 11 percent average annual increase, with a peak year increase of 15 percent.

An annual update to the Energy Cost Impacts on American Families study indicates that, indeed, Americans spend a significant amount of their incomes on energy. Data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, and U.S. Energy Information Administration show that 40 percent of American families (51 million households) take home an average of $1,643 each month and spend 17 percent of that on energy bills.

The news is even grimmer for the most vulnerable Americans. According to the same study, the poorest 25 million families spend a whopping 22 percent of their monthly income on electricity and gas. American families should not have to balance their ability to keep the lights on against cutting back on other basic necessities. For many families, though, CPP would have made that stark choice ever closer to becoming a reality.

This disturbing news clashes with the fact that the United States is home to some of the most abundant energy resources in the world. Our country is quickly becoming a major producer of oil and natural gas. Coal, long a staple in the national energy mix, has seen substantial investments, totaling upwards of $122 billion by the end of the year, to make its use cleaner. Since the 1970s, coal has become 92 percent cleaner to use.

And yet, despite the good news, national average electricity prices have continued to creep up, consuming more and more of family budgets. Since 2005, prices have climbed by 33 percent when adjusted for inflation.

What drives these prices ever upward? There are many factors, but some of the blame can rightly be placed on the shoulders of the politicians and bureaucrats in our nation’s capital. Unelected bureaucrats at the EPA have been incredibly busy in recent years churning out regulations that have cost the economy and consumers billions of dollars. CPP is perhaps the most visible and devastating.

In the battle to protect America’s energy resources, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, along with other states’ attorneys general, pushed back against federal overreach by suing the EPA over the CPP. Very much to their credit, they secured an unprecedented delay from the Supreme Court while they work for a total overturn. Now, that day is here thanks to the leadership of Pruitt and the Trump administration.

Ensuring available, reliable and affordable electricity should be of utmost concern to policymakers, both in Washington and in Tallahassee. The decision to roll back CPP makes providing such electricity sustainable, and that helps us all. Today, when you flip on your light switches or adjust the thermostat on your air conditioning, remember to say, “Thank you.”

See the article here.

Coal Industry Tells FERC the Last 7 Years Was a Catastrophe it Must Now Fix

Via The Washington Examiner:

The coal industry claims the last seven years was a catastrophe federal grid regulators under the Trump administration are now bound by the law to fix by supporting Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s grid plan.

“In the last seven years, 101,000 megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity has retired or has announced plans to retire,” read joint comments by the National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity representing the coal industry.

One megawatt equals the electricity demand from between 750 to 1,000 homes.

“This catastrophic pace of retirements has caused cascading effects throughout the coal industry and industries that support coal, like railway and barge transportation, not to mention coal producing communities.”

The comments were submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday night as the deadline for groups to make their case for or against Perry’s grid plan approached at midnight.

“The country is at a crossroads, and urgent Commission action is required before the value provided by critical baseload generation capacity is lost forever,” the groups wrote.

Perry’s proposed rule would change the rules of the FERC-overseen electricity markets to ensure coal and nuclear power plants receive payments for being able to keep the grid stable during severe weather incidents like hurricanes.

“Our members are substantially interested in preserving baseload electric generation that has the systemic and economic resiliency attributes that coal can provide, such as the ability to host fuel on-site,” the joint comments read.

Any “large-scale blackout could result in billions of dollars in economic impact, and risk injury or death,” the coal groups noted.

Perry’s proposed changes to the FERC-overseen markets would provide payments to power plants based on their ability to keep a 90-day supply of fuel on site. Perry argued this attribute makes coal and nuclear plants resilient to major power outages and therefore must be compensated.

The groups argue the coal plants have been harmed by unfair market subsidies being provided to the wind and solar industry. These unfair advantages make FERC legally bound to give them the market relief they seek, they argue under the commission’s cost oversight authority.

“Baseload coal-fired generation facilities are essential to reliability and resilience, but have not been able to recover their costs of operation through the existing restructured administrative markets,” the groups argued, referring to coal as a baseload plant because it provides electricity 24 hours a day.

“These issues have been compounded by the fact that much new generation, particularly renewable generation, receives significant extra-market subsidies at both the federal and state level – an advantage that has worsened the economic plight of traditional baseload coal-fired generators.”

“As a result, the past several years have seen an unprecedented wave of retirements of coal-fired and nuclear generation capacity, and many more facilities are at risk of closure in the coming years, unless the Commission takes immediate action,” the coal groups wrote.

The coal groups argued FERC must use its authority under the Federal Power Act, which gives it the ability to intervene in the markets if it can show that electricity rates have increased unreasonably or have unfairly favored one group over another.

“[I]t is critical that the Commission make such a finding, and direct [regional transmission operators it oversees] to modify their tariffs to ensure that existing coal-fired generators are able to fully recover their operating costs,” the groups wrote.

Such action “will ensure that the essential reliability, resiliency, and long-term price stability benefits of existing coal-fired generating facilities can be saved,” they explained.

“Without action by the Commission to remedy these tariffs and market structures, the electric system will devolve to lose the value of fuel diversity and end up overwhelmingly dependent on intermittent renewable and natural gas generation,” the comments read.

“If that happens, essential reliability, resiliency, and long-term price stability benefits of coal-fired generating facilities, and other generation with fuel on-site, will be lost for good. For the sake of the nation’s consumers and suppliers, the Commission cannot let that happen.”

The Nuclear Energy Insitute’s comments, also submitted ahead of the midnight deadline, voiced similar concerns as the coal industry.

NEI is the lead trade group for the nuclear power industry, which faces premature retirements of its power plants due to market factors such as low natural gas prices. The low price of natural gas has made it attractive for utilities to switch from using coal to using natural gas to produce electricity. This switch has also made it hard for nuclear power plants to compete in the FERC markets, which favor the lowest cost generation resource in order to keep electricity prices low.

But the nuclear industry argues it has been the failure of the market, not its success, that has undervalued its power plants.

“The current failure to value important attributes of nuclear generation, including those that significantly contribute to grid resiliency, has prompted retirements of well-functioning, highly-efficient, and environmentally-valuable nuclear plants,” said Maria Korsnick, the nuclear group’s president and CEO, in sending NEI’s comments to FERC.

“While we may not see the impact of a less resilient grid until another emergency challenges the delivery of electricity to this nation’s citizens, neglecting to address this problem today could lay the groundwork for serious breakdowns in electricity service tomorrow.”

Both the coal and nuclear industry appear to be aligned in their support for the Perry grid plan. Meanwhile, a broad coalition of natural gas, oil industry, and renewable energy groups submitted joint comments rejecting the Perry plan as unnecessary and an affront to the free, functioning markets that FERC oversees.

They argued “there is substantial evidence showing that electric systems that lack, or are transitioning to lesser reliance on, coal and nuclear resources are nonetheless operated in a manner that is both reliable and resilient,” according to coalition’s comments. Furthermore, any “outages caused by disruptions of fuel supply to generators appear to be virtually nonexistent.”

Therefore, FERC’s proposed rule would “prop up uneconomic generation that is unable to compete … and that is not otherwise needed for reliability,” the coalition argued.

Finally, the proposed rule “has not been shown to be just and reasonable and cannot be adopted by the Commission.”

The coalition included renewable energy groups that included Advanced Energy Economy, American Biogas Council, American Council on Renewable Energy, the Energy Storage Association, the Solar Energy Industries Association, and the American Wind Energy Association.

It also included oil and natural gas industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, and the Natural Gas Supply Association. Power utilities were represented by the Electric Power Supply Association and large manufacturers were represented by the Electricity Consumers Resource Council.

 See the article here.

Why Coal and Nuclear Aren’t Going Anywhere

Via The Washington Examiner:

Americans have a strong pragmatic streak. And they undoubtedly took notice recently when two devastating hurricanes knocked out power in much of the Southern United States. News channels focused on the harsh conditions that followed after families were left without power for days on end. It’s understandable, then, that a subsequent poll found 85 percent of voters saying the U.S. should act to protect the diversity of its electric grid against such disruptive events.

Storms aren’t the only cause of power grid disruptions. But they help to illustrate why the time is right for Washington to rethink the overall viability of the nation’s power sector. Thankfully, the Trump administration seems to be taking the challenge seriously as it looks to ensure sufficient, reliable electricity for the next generation of Americans.

What’s really at issue is “baseload” power — the electricity generation required to meet the nation’s daily needs, particularly during peak periods. And there’s an emerging problem, since baseload power has been declining in recent years.

For decades, coal and nuclear power plants anchored America’s baseload capacity. But rising natural gas production and a decade of successive federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. At the same time, bankruptcies and cost overruns have burdened potential replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

The numbers are actually somewhat worrying. Coal still produces almost a third of America’s total electricity generation and nuclear adds another 20 percent. But many now look to natural gas, along with renewable platforms like wind and solar, to drive future power generation. The simple fact, though, is that coal and nuclear still account for a very sturdy 50 percent of America’s energy mix.

The Trump administration seems to grasp the ramifications of this point — and what the loss of more coal and nuclear power could mean for a stable grid. Just weeks ago, Energy Secretary Rick Perry issued a fairly comprehensive report on the state of America’s power sector. What he concluded is that the nation must necessarily continue to draw electricity from a diverse mix of sources.

This is a smart notion, since wind turbines and solar panels remain frustratingly intermittent — because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. But despite lavish subsidies and mandates, wind and solar only generate a very negligible 6 percent of total U.S. electricity. There’s also the boom in natural gas to consider, however. But even this expansion of natural gas now poses complications. That’s because the United States is not only transitioning to a greater reliance on natural gas for power generation, but also simultaneously gearing up for large-scale exportation of liquified natural gas, or LNG.

Ramping up natural gas exports could mean a real shift in market dynamics. Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm predicts that the U.S. may start sending roughly 40 percent of its natural gas production offshore in the next three years. When that happens, U.S. consumers could see a real spike in gas prices as they begin to compete with gas-hungry consumers in Europe.

There are also logistical considerations. Gas-fired power plants depend on continuous pipeline service for their fuel supplies. But as the recent hurricanes demonstrated, pipeline chains are vulnerable to weather disruptions. When one factors in the dual challenge of potentially volatile gas prices — along with the slow growth of wind and solar — coal and nuclear emerge as logical options. Not only can they provide dependable baseline power, but they can also help to balance inevitable price fluctuations caused by greater LNG exports.

Perry is right to conclude that America should follow an “all of the above” energy strategy when it comes to the nation’s power sector. Meeting the ongoing demands of baseload power is an evolving challenge. It would be shortsighted, then, to overlook the contributions of coal and nuclear power in addressing America’s evolving electricity needs. Anything less would mean a failure to plan for the ongoing complexities of future power needs.

See the article here.

Commentary: America’s Electrical Power System is Under Stress

Via The Salt Lake Tribune:

Serious stresses are building within the U.S. electrical power industry. The further loss of nuclear and coal generating capacity that may occur in the near future depends on whether the federal government and regional electric grids recognize and correct chronic defects in the electricity market. These issues have now resulted in over-reliance on natural gas and renewables.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry recognizes the problem and has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to keep the nation’s struggling nuclear and threatened coal plants open. Perry proposed supporting these plants for contributing to the resilience and reliability of the electric grid as is done through solar and wind subsidies.

All fuels carry some level of risk, but a diverse mix of energy options – coal, nuclear, natural gas, renewables, availability, demand management and energy efficiency improvements – is the core strength the U.S. electric supply. This fuel and technological diversity serves as insurance against sudden spikes in electricity prices or supply disruptions in the system. As with a financial portfolio, risks are always reduced with a diversified mix of electrical energy assets.

Serious stresses are building within the U.S. electrical power industry. The further loss of nuclear and coal generating capacity that may occur in the near future depends on whether the federal government and regional electric grids recognize and correct chronic defects in the electricity market. These issues have now resulted in over-reliance on natural gas and renewables.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry recognizes the problem and has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to keep the nation’s struggling nuclear and threatened coal plants open. Perry proposed supporting these plants for contributing to the resilience and reliability of the electric grid as is done through solar and wind subsidies.

All fuels carry some level of risk, but a diverse mix of energy options – coal, nuclear, natural gas, renewables, availability, demand management and energy efficiency improvements – is the core strength the U.S. electric supply. This fuel and technological diversity serves as insurance against sudden spikes in electricity prices or supply disruptions in the system. As with a financial portfolio, risks are always reduced with a diversified mix of electrical energy assets.

In the U.S. electric power supply sector this diversity is now at risk. Since 1995, 80 percent of all new generating capacity built in the U.S. has been gas-fired. Coal and nuclear power, the only other two electric sources that provide “base-load” power, represented only 6 percent of that total. As a result, large parts of the U.S., from California and New England to Florida and Texas, are over-dependent on natural gas.

Federal regulators need to address this problem and should direct utilities to support coal and nuclear plants for their costs and the power they produce. These fuel-secure power plants are indispensable for the reliability of the electric grid, especially in severe meteorological conditions (e.g., hurricanes) and are needed economic and national security. In Utah, coal accounts for 76 percent of the state’s electricity generating capacity. Fortunately, Utah is now examining the role that small, state-of-the-art, modular nuclear plants could provide.

For some time there has been something seriously wrong with the markets in which coal and nuclear plants operate. These electric markets, mainly in deregulated states, don’t value the base-load capacity that can be dispatched when needed. Nor do they provide value for fuel diversity or recognize the clean air value of nuclear plants.

The Energy Information Administration forecasts a need for 339,000 Megawatts of new generating capacity by 2040. Natural gas plants will account for most of this additional generating capacity. U.S. reliance on gas will increase even further if more coal and nuclear plants are shuttered.

A combination of no-growth in electricity demand, excess generating capacity, low natural gas prices and interruptible supplies could endanger integrity of the U.S. power grid. Changing the system to recognize the value of nuclear and even coal power will take time, but electricity is a commodity too essential to ignore. If ever there were a time for an honest reassessment of the nation’s electrical energy security, it is now.

See the article here.

Baseload Power the Right Focus

Via The Columbus Dispatch

America’s energy sector has reached an interesting crossroads. After eight years of the Obama Administration working to dismantle the nation’s coal fleet, the Trump Administration has swept into office and upended the apple cart. Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a sizable decline in America’s “baseload” power, and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

Overall, the Trump Administration is advocating an “all of the above” mix for the nation’s power sector. And this is an eminently sensible position. But in attempting to secure the nation’s power grid, Secretary Perry is now facing criticism because he’s chosen to prioritize reliable, practical power generation over political expediency.

Significantly, America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power to continuously meet the daily operational needs of the entire nation. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. However, America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years. Since 2010, 66 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared—enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And by 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

No doubt, rising natural gas production and a decade of crippling federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have simultaneously hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

But in response to such a stark problem, Secretary Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. Typically, America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for power transmission. But Perry is urging a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

Coal and nuclear plants would benefit from such a revision—since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies, and can typically remain in operation despite weather challenges. In contrast, natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service. And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts—and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.

The bottom line is that coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant—but declining—share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Secretary Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach to a burgeoning problem.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would likely spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants that already employ stringent emissions controls while providing 24/7 electricity.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power. So rather than simply take coal and nuclear power plants offline, the Trump Administration can support a more reliable electric grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. These are important considerations for the coming decades, when an ever-growing nation will look to keep powering its schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Secretary Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

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.

Trump Administration Right to Focus on Baseload Power

Via The Troy Daily News:

America’s energy sector has reached an interesting crossroads. After eight years of the Obama Administration working to dismantle the nation’s coal fleet, the Trump Administration has swept into office and upended the apple cart. Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a sizable decline in America’s “baseload” power, and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

Overall, the Trump Administration is advocating an “all of the above” mix for the nation’s power sector. And this is an eminently sensible position. But in attempting to secure the nation’s power grid, Secretary Perry is now facing criticism because he’s chosen to prioritize reliable, practical power generation over political expediency.

Significantly, America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power to continuously meet the daily operational needs of the entire nation. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. However, America has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in recent years. Since 2010, 66 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared—enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And by 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.

ubt, rising natural gas production and a decade of crippling federal regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have simultaneously hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.

But in response to such a stark problem, Secretary Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. Typically, America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for power transmission. But Perry is urging a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.

Coal and nuclear plants would benefit from such a revision—since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies, and can typically remain in operation despite weather challenges. In contrast, natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service. And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts—and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.

The bottom line is that coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant—but declining—share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Secretary Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach to a burgeoning problem.

Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would likely spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants that already employ stringent emissions controls while providing 24/7 electricity.

Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources to maintain grid reliability and affordable power. So rather than simply take coal and nuclear power plants offline, the Trump Administration can support a more reliable electric grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. These are important considerations for the coming decades, when an ever-growing nation will look to keep powering its schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. Secretary Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.

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.

Terry M. Jarrett is an attorney with Healy Law Offices, LLC in Jefferson City, Mo., and a former commissioner of the Missouri Public Service Commission. Jarrett has served on both the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the Missouri Public Service Commission.

See the article here.

EPA Chief Pruitt: Obama ‘Increased Burden’ on Coal Mining Industry

Via Fox Business:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt lashed out at the Obama administration on Tuesday for waging a war on the coal mining industry and defended the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

“I think the better discussion is not to put artificial targets, like we did in the Paris [Agreement], that the past administration, with their own regulations, failed miserably to achieve, but to focus on what we’ve already done to reduce our CO2 footprint, and then export that technology to places like China and India”, Pruitt told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto on “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.”

The Paris Climate Accord, signed by President Obama and 194 other nations in 2016, limits nations’ emissions of greenhouse gasses in an attempt to mitigate the effects of global warming. The earliest that the U.S. can leave the agreement is Nov. 4, 2020, which is the day after the next presidential election.

Pruitt also lauded the decision to repeal Clean Power Plan, a signature regulatory program to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants passed by Obama, which he called a “war on coal.”

“It was a real war,” he said. “And the president said the war is over. And that’s what I was there to announce to those folks there. As a regulator you shouldn’t engage in any war in any sector of the economy.”

Last year, U.S. coal production reached a record low since 1978, but 2017 has signaled a turnaround for the industry. The nation’s coal output fell about 10% in 2015 and 17% in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration. But during the first eight months of 2017, production levels rose by 14%.

The Trump administration’s’ decision to roll back the Obama-era policy could save 240 million tons of annual coal production, in addition to protect more than 27,000 mining jobs and the nearly 100,000 indirect jobs that rely on coal.

Restrictions put in place by President Obama’s administration not only hurt an already depressed coal industry, but failed to improve the environmental outcome that it purported to save, Pruitt said.

“From a mining sector perspective,” he said, “They would say to you it’s not just competition in the marketplace, it was the availed purpose by the previous administration to place burdens and restrictions on them that did not improve environmental outcome, but increased burden.”

See the article here.

Montana PSC Praise EPA Actions to Repeal Clean Power Plan

Via Daily Energy Insider:

Members of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) recently issued statements applauding U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s actions to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

“The EPA’s Clean Power Plan was all pain no gain for Montana,” Commissioner Tony O’Donnell said. “The draconian emission’s reductions specified in the plan would have created substantial hardship for Montana families in the form of higher electricity rates and lost jobs without achieving any meaningful reduction in global C02 levels. I applaud Administrator Pruitt for putting an end to this misguided and failed experiment.”

Commissioner Roger Koopman additionally praised the rollbacks and questioned the climate science the Clean Power Plan was based on.

“Pulling back the Clean Power Plan is exactly what we need right now, while we lower the emotions and decibel levels of this discussion,” Koopman said. “In final analysis, we may discover that the altar upon which the previous administration was prepared to sacrifice our security and quality of life was grounded on fundamentally false assumptions about the sources and net effects of CO2.”

Commissioner Bob Lake said that while the decision by Pruitt would be beneficial for coal plants, their future was still uncertain.

“It’s too early to tell what effect this decision will have on the market for coal power, but the Clean Power Plan was a major factor driving the accelerated closure of coal plants in the West,” Lake said. “There are many challenges ahead for the coal industry, but this decision will ensure that generators of all fuel types have the opportunity to compete to serve customers without the thumb of the federal government on the scale.”

See the article here.

Trump Cuts Clean Power Plan, Boosts America’s Prospects

Via Brietbart.com:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a notice in the Federal Register that it is rescinding former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). This action serves as further evidence the gridlock in the Washington, DC swamp has not slowed President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back ineffective and extremely costly climate programs and regulations.

The EPA’s decision was not unexpected. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said the United States faces numerous problems more important than climate change, and he pledged to eliminate environmental policies hampering economic growth and domestic energy development, targeting the CPP by name. As part of Trump’s March 28 “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” executive order, Trump directed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to review CPP and rescind or revise it, if necessary, to promote the wise development of natural resources, unencumber energy production, and increase jobs.

The EPA based the decision to rescind CPP on three main principles: CPP is inconsistent with the 1970 Clean Air Act; CPP violated states’ authority to decide the best mix of power generation within their borders and eroded longstanding federal/state partnerships necessary to achieve environmental improvement; and enforcement of CPP would have had a devastating effect on jobs and raised energy costs for consumers—all while having virtually no effect on climate change.

CPP was the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s effort to move the United States away from the use of fossil fuels, beginning with coal, to fight climate change. CPP would require states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, on average.

To comply with the plan, states would have to force utilities to shutter dozens of coal-fired power plants prematurely. The Energy Information Administration projected CPP would result in $1.23 trillion in lost gross domestic product (GDP), in 2014 dollars, from 2020 to 2030, with an average annual GDP loss of $112 billion. Estimates indicate CPP would boost people’s electric bills 11–14 percent per year and cost more than 100,000 jobs in manufacturing and other sectors annually.

Despite these substantial harms, the Obama administration acknowledged in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on July 9, 2015, that if the United States met CPP’s emission reductions targets, it would prevent, at best, one one-hundredth of one-degree Celsius of temperature rise by 2100. Talk about all pain and no gain!

Twenty-seven states, led by West Virginia, and several industry groups and trade associations challenged CPP’s legality in federal court. In February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of ordering a nationwide stay on implementation of CPP before it went into effect, pending the outcome of the legal challenges.

CPP would have dramatically raised energy costs in United States, harming the poorest among us more than the rest and putting U.S. industries at a competitive disadvantage in the global economy. By rescinding it, Trump is doing what he promised to do and what any president should do: putting America first. Bravo!

Having said this, unless Trump wants these gains to unravel, he has at least one more step to take. Environmental groups and some state government officials have already announced that if the CPP rescission is finalized, they will sue to block the Trump administration’s action to keep CPP on the books. In truth, this presents a problem for Trump.

CPP and the other climate regulations imposed by the Obama administration were justified based on the EPA’s determination carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and the environment, a concept known as the “endangerment finding.” Relying on unsubstantiated projections produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the EPA determined carbon dioxide emissions from cars and industry threaten human welfare.

To solidify his CPP action and other climate deregulatory efforts, Trump must direct the EPA to reconsider the endangerment finding by forcing the agency to demonstrate—through independent, validated research—carbon dioxide emissions are toxic (they aren’t at any foreseeable levels) or that global warming is causing measurable amounts of sea level rise, increased hurricane numbers or intensity, the spread of disease, or other harms attributable directly to carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. If the EPA can’t directly link such problems to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions (it can’t) or can’t show that such problems can be dramatically reduced by cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions (they won’t), the EPA should withdraw the endangerment finding.

Withdrawing the endangerment finding would eliminate the legal justification that has been used to impose a wide range of climate regulations. In the process, it would also end radical environmental activists’ ability to use the courts to impose policies on an unwilling public—one whose elected representatives have repeatedly rejected climate alarmism.

See the article here.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan will benefit all Americans

Via The Washington Examiner:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposal to repealthe so-called Clean Power Plan is the most notable step President Trump and his team have taken to date to end the Obama administration’s unlawful and economically destructive war on affordable energy.

Although there is no shortage of policy reasons to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which promises lots of economic pain for no discernible environmental gain, Pruitt is proposing repeal chiefly because the plan exceeds the legal authority delegated to the agency by Congress.

The EPA issued the Clean Power Plan under the Clean Air Act’s Section 111(d). The EPA’s consistent regulatory practice over the previous 45 years, the statutory text, and the legislative history all compel the conclusion that the EPA’s power is limited to setting emission standards that facilities can affordably meet through technological or operational modifications.

The Obama administration refused to accept that limitation. It wanted big reductions in power plant emissions of carbon dioxide like those in the cap-and-trade schemes that Congress had previously rejected. But CO2-capture technology cannot be retrofitted at a reasonable cost onto current fossil fuel power plants. So the Obama administration reimagined Section 111(d) to authorize the EPA to set emission standards too stringent for any existing coal or natural gas power plant to achieve, while allowing the owners to comply by reducing output and investing in new renewable generation instead.

This obvious government favoritism punishes owners and operators of coal and natural gas power plants. In addition, the EPA interfered with states’ authority to manage their respective power sectors. This is why the Clean Power Plan is really a clear power grab. Congress never gave the EPA the authority to transfer wealth from politically disfavored power generators to special interests or to restructure state electric power sectors.

Three bizarre consequences further highlight the Clean Power Plan’s illegality. First, although Section 111(d) deals solely with “existing” facilities in specified industrial source categories (in this instance, fossil fuel power plants), compliance would supposedly be achieved by investing in “new” wind and solar facilities outside the source category.

Second, the plan’s “performance standards” are actually nonperformance mandates, compelling owners of fossil fuel power plants to produce less power or simply shut down. Third, the plan imposes tougher emission standards on existing sources than the corresponding and prerequisite new source ruleimposes on new sources, which flouts common sense. As the repeal proposal explains, “the costs of controlling emissions from existing facilities will ordinarily be greater than those for control of new sources.”

Although most people don’t like bureaucratic power grabs, they typically like job-killing regulations even less. The Obama EPA projected relatively small job losses and electricity rate increases from the Clean Power Plan, but outside experts disagree. The Heritage Foundation estimated the plan would reduce annual employment by 479,000 jobs in 2027, reduce cumulative GDP by hundreds of billions of dollars between 2020 and 2030, and reduce cumulative household income by more than $10,000. NERA Economic Consulting estimated rate increases of 11 to 14 percent from 2022 to 2033.

However, the economic impacts of the first plan compliance period are almost beside the point. The plan is a framework empowering the EPA to continually tighten the regulatory screws for decades to come. So, it’s not the first compliance period targets, but the prospect of increasingly draconian curbs on coal and gas power plants that makes the plan toxic to the domestic energy renaissance on which U.S. industrial competitiveness depends.

The Obama EPA claimed the Clean Power Plan would deliver up to $95 billion in climate change mitigation benefits by 2030, but that’s flimflam. The EPA’s own climate model estimated the plan would avert less than 0.02 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2100 — too small an amount to have any discernible impact on weather patterns, polar bear populations, or anything else people care about. The climatic effects in 2030 would be even smaller.

The Clean Power Plan is an unlawful power grab that forces American consumers to endure higher electric rates, fewer jobs, and a less competitive economy — and all for no detectable climate benefit. In pursuing repeal, the administration has clearly made the right call.

Marlo Lewis Jr. is a senior fellow in energy and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

See the article here.

Costly Power Plan No Longer Threatens State’s Economy

Via The West Virginia Gazette-Mail:

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, just did a big — though little-known — favor for states like ours that use coal to generate electricity.

His decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan lifted a massive regulation from our state’s economy, sparing our industries and households from the effects of a weakened power grid, higher power prices and lost jobs.

The Clean Power Plan is a prime example of good intentions gone awry. The idea, hatched in the Obama administration, was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. But the solution was to force into retirement many of the power plants that supply more than 95 percent of our state’s electricity — and without delivering any significant environmental benefits.

 This is one early retirement plan that wouldn’t work for West Virginia. That’s because fewer coal plants mean less reliable electricity. Together with the struggles of nuclear power, the result would have made our electric grid precariously dependent on natural gas-fired plants and intermittent energy sources (like wind and solar) to provide affordable, round-the-clock electricity.

Earlier regulations have already shut down enough power plants nationwide to supply electricity to 40 million homes. The Clean Power Plan would have shuttered many more. Altogether, about one-fourth of the entire coal fleet would have closed by 2020, with the great majority of these plants forced off the grid by regulations. That would leave coal state power grids close to threadbare and more vulnerable to storms and outages.

Granted, these are low-probability events, but they are high-impact events too. Ships seldom sink and planes rarely crash. But when they do, our concern is with the impact, not the probability.

The Clean Power Plan was based on wishful thinking about the ability of renewable power to fill the gap left by coal plant closings. Despite the growth in wind and solar energy, they still supply only 7 percent of the power Americans use. And even when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, it’s not always possible to carry renewable power from sunny and windy regions to parts of the country where it’s needed.

Worse, the Clean Power Plan would have raised electricity costs. The Supreme Court stayed the regulation, faulting Obama’s regulators for ignoring cost impacts. Estimates vary, but some economists concluded that constructing new infrastructure to replace the retired coal plants would cost $64 billion — that’s 64,000,000,000 dollars.

And that would have come on top of rising wholesale electricity costs that utilities would eventually pass on to consumers. The decline of coal-based power plants would lead to further declines in coal production, contributing to as many as 225,000 lost jobs — from the mines and plants to the railroads, barges and ports. The loss of these high-wage jobs would have been especially damaging in coal-dependent states like ours, where roughly 43,000 jobs rely on coal.

Environmental activists are hammering Administrator Pruitt for his decision. But the most surprising fact about the Clean Power Plan is how trivial its environmental benefit would have been: a reduction of 0.018 degrees Celsius. The plan would have had a much bigger impact on the economy than it ever would have had on climate change.

The Department of Energy is trying to forestall further weakening of the nation’s power grid. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has asked federal regulators to assign higher values to coal and nuclear power plants in recognition of their resilience and reliability. That should help to reduce further closures of power plants that can quickly and constantly generate power when needed.

Activists now claim the recent hurricanes that wracked our shores show the effect of climate change. But these storms also dramatize the vulnerability of our power grid.

Improving the environment is a worthy goal, but let’s do it without making grid reliability worse and sacrificing peoples’ jobs.

See the article here.

A Costly Power Plan No Longer Threatens Colorado’s Economy

Via Colorado Politics:

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), just did a big — though little-known — favor for states like ours that use coal to generate electricity. His decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP) lifted a massive regulation from our state’s economy, sparing our industries and households from the effects of a weakened power grid, higher power prices, and lost jobs.

The Clean Power Plan is a prime example of good intentions gone awry. The idea, hatched in the Obama administration, was to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. But the solution was to force into retirement many of the power plants that supply more than 55 percent of our state’s electricity — and without delivering any significant environment benefits.

This is one early retirement plan that wouldn’t work for Colorado. That’s because fewer coal plants mean less reliable electricity. Together with the struggles of nuclear power, the result would have made our electric grid precariously dependent on natural gas-fired plants and intermittent energy sources (like wind and solar) to provide affordable, round-the-clock electricity.

Earlier regulations have already shut down enough power plants nationwide to supply electricity to 40 million homes. The CPP would have shuttered many more. Altogether, about one-fourth of the entire coal fleet would have closed by 2020, with the great majority of these plants forced off the grid by regulations. That would leave coal-state power grids close to threadbare and more vulnerable to storms and outages. Granted, these are low-probability events, but they are high-impact events too. Ships seldom sink and planes rarely crash. But when they do, our concern is with the impact, not the probability.

The CPP was based on wishful thinking about the ability of renewable power to fill the gap left by coal plant closings. Despite the growth in wind and solar energy, they still supply only 18 percent of Colorado’s electricity. And even when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, it’s not always possible to carry renewable power from sunny and windy regions to parts of the country where it’s needed.

Worse, the CPP would have raised electricity costs. The Supreme Court stayed the regulation, faulting Obama’s regulators for ignoring cost impacts. Estimates vary, but some economists concluded that constructing new infrastructure to replace the retired coal plants would cost $64 billion. And that would have come on top of rising wholesale electricity costs that utilities would eventually pass on to consumers. The decline of coal-based power plants would lead to further declines in coal production, contributing to as many as 225,000 lost jobs — from the mines and plants to the railroads, barges, and ports. The loss of these high-wage jobs would have been especially damaging in coal-dependent states like ours, where almost 13,000 jobs rely on coal.

Environmental activists will hammer Pruitt for rolling back climate change action. But the most surprising fact about the CPP is how trivial its environmental benefit would be: a reduction of 0.018° Celsius. The CPP would have had a much bigger impact on the economy than it ever would have on climate change.

The Department of Energy is trying to forestall further weakening of the nation’s power grid. Energy Secretary Perry has asked federal regulators to assign higher values to coal and nuclear power plants in recognition of their reliability. That should help to reduce further closures of power plants that can quickly and constantly generate power when needed.

Activists now claim the recent hurricanes that wracked our shores show the effect of climate change. But these storms also dramatize the vulnerability of our power grids. Improving the environment is a worthy goal, let’s do it without making grid reliability worse.

See the article here.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry Moves to Preserve the U.S. Electrical Grid

Via Polizette.com:

Over the past decade, scores of coal-fired and nuclear power plants have closed, leaving the country at risk

Americans often take their daily electricity for granted. And it’s only when storms knock down power lines that we realize how much we rely on it.

Unfortunately, there are real, growing concerns about the long-term sturdiness of America’s electricity grid. That’s because a decade of heavy-handed federal regulations, along with a wave of competition from natural gas, have combined to dismantle a sizable number of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

The numbers are actually somewhat disturbing. More than 60 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity has disappeared since 2010. That’s enough electricity to power 40 million homes. And overall, this loss is slated to rise to as much as 80 gigawatts by 2020.

Coal remains underappreciated, even though it still provides more than 30 percent of total U.S. power generation. In fact, coal and nuclear plants combine to supply a steady 50 percent of overall U.S. electricity demand. Essentially, they buttress the “baseload” power generation of the United States — the power needed to continuously meet the nation’s daily operational needs.

The problem now is that, with many of America’s coal-fired power plants being dismantled and nuclear plants being retired, the country has lost an unprecedented amount of baseload capacity in a relatively short span of time. This poses a significant, long-term problem for a nation that has rapidly surpassed 325 million in population.

Thankfully, the Trump administration is taking action. Earlier this year Energy Secretary Rick Perry undertook a study of the overall viability of the nation’s power grid. And his conclusion was that the United States must maintain an “all of the above” energy strategy in order to meet its growing needs.

This is smart policy, since natural gas prices have historically been volatile. And gas-fired power plants also remain tied to lengthy pipeline delivery chains. Coal and nuclear, by contrast, maintain plentiful on-site fuel supplies — leaving them less vulnerable to weather disruptions.

Committed environmentalists are vehemently opposed to coal and nuclear, of course. But their wholehearted embrace of wind turbines and solar panels overlooks the troubling intermittency of both forms of power generation. Not only are wind and solar reliant on windy and sunny days, but they are particularly vulnerable to weather extremes.

Secretary Perry has done his due diligence, and found that coal and nuclear provide a very sturdy foundation for continued baseload generation. And in response, he’s now calling for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to assess a “reliability” value on power plants. Doing so would reward coal and nuclear for their long-term sturdiness — and thus help to ensure ample, ongoing supplies of robust power to secure the nation’s grid.

This doesn’t suit the wider interests of the American people, though. So Secretary Perry should be commended for taking a realistic approach to a potentially troubling situation.

It’s worth considering, too, that today’s coal plants are 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago, thanks to advances in high-tech systems that trap emissions of sulfur, mercury, and particulate matter. And these coal plants can become even more efficient if utilities are given the chance to invest in newer technologies that achieve greater thermal efficiencies and burn less fuel per kilowatt-hour.

Secretary Perry should be congratulated for tackling the unglamorous, technical task of attempting to secure the nation’s future power generation. Since Americans assume that the lights will always switch on at their fingertips, they should appreciate the complex logistics needed to ensure that this continues.

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.

All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy Needed to Fuel Reliable Electric Grid

Via The Philadelphia Inquirer: 

The spate of recent hurricanes that pummeled Florida, Louisiana, and Texas highlights the fragility of America’s electricity infrastructure. Millions of residents lost power for days, sometimes weeks. In tandem with this lost service came troubling disruptions to gas production and key pipelines, driving up energy costs nationwide.

Americans have long been blessed with some of the most affordable and reliable electricity in the world. But these natural disasters serve as a reminder not to take the nation’s power grid for granted. Indeed, a post-hurricane poll found 85 percent of voters saying the United States should act to protect the diversity of its energy grid to minimize such storm impacts.

It’s a sensible strategy, but it comes just as America’s power sector is reaching a crossroads.

Much of the baseload power generation that has long buttressed the nation has been shrinking. Federal regulations and rising natural gas production have reduced America’s coal fleet to a third of total U.S. electricity generation. And the nuclear industry that supplies a fifth of America’s power is struggling to replace aging plants, with bankruptcies and cost overruns impeding new construction.

Coal in particular has long provided inexpensive, robust electricity. And this reliability is one of the reasons Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced a repeal of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Environmental activists remain opposed to both coal and nuclear plants, touting wind and solar power to supplant this sturdy baseload generation. It’s a tall order, though, since wind and solar remain troublingly intermittent —and currently generate less than 7 percent of America’s total electricity. Thus, replacing the 50 percent of electricity now supplied by coal and nuclear energy may be harder than expected.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently unveiled a study highlighting exactly these concerns. Although America’s power grid is secure for now, the study suggests that the nation’s power supply will require contributions from all energy sources. So while it’s helpful that wind and solar are slowly increasing their share, a diverse power mix remains crucial.

The dismantling of both coal and nuclear has many turning to natural gas as the next best option. America undoubtedly possesses enormous supplies of natural gas, with the fracking revolution positioning the United States to become a net energy exporter.

But a shift toward large-scale exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) to the European Union could have surprising repercussions. Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm has predicted that U.S. natural gas exports could triple within three years, sending 42 percent of America’s production offshore. Since U.S. consumers rely heavily on natural gas for home heating and electricity, this tighter market for gas supplies could drive up domestic prices. The Department of Energy predicted as much in 2015 when it estimated that increased LNG exports could “raise domestic prices and lower prices internationally.”

While natural gas has seemed like such a boon for electricity generation, the prospect of heavier reliance on a less diverse fuel mix could hit consumers hard. And higher utility bills could become problematic without a sufficient coal and nuclear fleet to help balance price fluctuations.

Ironically, the move away from coal and nuclear energy could complicate matters further, if many automotive experts are right in predicting a boom in electric cars. In the next decade, the electric-vehicle fleet may jump from 2 million to a whopping 150 million. In that case, the ensuing electricity demand would place huge burdens on the nation’s power grid. The need to ramp up baseload power in such circumstances could help to justify investments now being considered for advanced coal technologies that would increase efficiency while reducing emissions.

The Department of Energy was right to conclude that the nation should follow an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. With natural gas supplies poised for export, wind and solar expanding at a slow pace, nuclear plants retiring, and coal plants being shut down, the country needs a forward-looking strategy for continued reliable electricity. Otherwise, the recent spectacle of power outages and higher energy prices may provide an unfortunate preview of an avoidable problem.

See the article here.

Quinn: Coal Reset

Via The Miami Herald:

The Oct. 11 editorial, “EPA rollbacks are bad for our planet,” is an extreme misrepresentation of a much-needed regulatory reset.

With unprecedented enthusiasm for regulation, the prior administration issued broad, sweeping rules that overstepped the bounds of what the federal government can and should do — duplicating existing regulations, creating jurisdictional confusion among agencies, steamrolling states’ authority, and picking winners and losers in the energy market. Well-intended or not, it was an inappropriate use of authority that the current administration is working to address.

Coal’s critics should have nothing to fear — the market will determine the coal industry’s fate. That’s all we have been asking for: a chance to compete. But, if the industry succeeds, the U.S. can drive real and positive change. Coal will remain one of the world’s leading sources of energy in developed and developing countries for the foreseeable future, and is key to addressing energy poverty.

For those who care about the environment, instead of trying to obstruct the coal industry at home, a more appropriate path would be as a global leader driving the adoption of advanced coal technologies that will continue to reduce emissions everywhere.

See the article here.

Promise Kept: Trump to Roll Back Clean Power Plan

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

“The war on coal is over.” That’s the welcomed verdict from new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who confirmed Monday what we already know — President Donald Trump is a friend of coal. And once again the Trump administration is making good on its pledge to help those coal-producing states that were unfairly targeted by former President Barack Obama.

Pruitt said Monday that he will sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, the controversial, job-killing Obama-era rule that set emissions standards that coal-fired power plants could not reasonably meet.

“The war on coal is over,”  Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky. “The EPA and no federal agency should ever use its authority to say to you we are going to declare war on any sector of our economy.”

 Amen. Lawmakers representing southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia have long argued that the Obama-era rules were unrealistic and unfairly targeted coal-producing states like West Virginia and Virginia.

Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay last year that prevented the Clean Power Plan from taking effect following a legal challenge from coal-producing states, including West Virginia.

Ever since the election of Trump last November, the coal industry has seen an uptick in production. A full rollback of the job-killing Clean Power Plan will help in further boosting the industry.

Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, estimates that the new Trump plan will save an estimated 240 million tons of annual coal production and safeguard more than 27,000 mining jobs and almost 100,000 additional jobs throughout the supply chain.

Excellent. Every industry job that is saved, and every new job that is created, helps our regional economy.

See the article here.

Governor Mead Applauds EPA Clean Power Plan Repeal Decision

Via KGAB AM650: 

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is speaking out in support of a decision by EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to begin the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan [CPP].

The CPP was first issued in 2014 and would have required states to make big reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, including a 44 percent reduction for Wyoming.

The CPP was the Obama administration’s signature effort at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Many scientists say the emissions are a primary factory in global climate change.
But the plan was also considered extremely hostile to the coal industry because coal-fired power plants are a primary cause of carbon dioxide emissions. Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal-producing state, had long objected to the CPP.

Governor Mead said on Tuesday that the EPA overstepped its authority in creating the rule. Wyoming’s congressional delegation has joined the governor in applauding the repeal of the power plan.

Pruit’s decision is only the first step in repealing the CPP. Once the rule repealing the plan is published in the federal register, a 60 day comment period will begin to allow public input on the repeal.

See the article here.

Pruitt’s Clean Power Break

Via The Wall Street Journal:

The Trump Administration is giving the economy a boost with its deregulatory agenda, and the latest example comes Tuesday when Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt will propose to repeal the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Ending this power grab will uphold the letter of the law and restore cooperative federalism with the states.

The Obama EPA imposed the rule in 2015 to regulate carbon emissions nationwide and force the retirement of coal-fired electric power plants. Former EPA chief Gina McCarthy took creative license by reinterpreting Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, which directs the agency to implement the “best system of emission reduction” for pollutants.

EPA had previously applied this provision narrowly to single sources of emissions (e.g., individual power plants), but Ms. McCarthy broke with decades of precedent to dictate a systemic shift in power generation. The Clean Power Plan initially requires new efficiency at coal-fired plants, but over time it impels states to substitute coal with natural gas and ultimately solar and wind.

This usurped the regulatory role of states and contradicted the Clean Air Act text, which says that “air pollution control at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments.” The Clean Power Plan would have forced states to scramble to alter their electric-power mix, shutting down coal plants long before the end of their useful life regardless of whether substitutes were on hand and affordable. Higher electricity costs and brownouts were likely.

The Supreme Court stayed the rule in February 2016 after 27 states and 37 electric co-ops sued. In March Mr. Pruitt launched a formal review of the rule, and a draft of the EPA’s new analysis that we’ve seen estimates that rescinding the carbon rule would save $33 billion in compliance costs by 2030.

It also finds that the Obama EPA rigged the cost-benefit calculations. For example, the McCarthy EPA claimed tangential benefits from reductions of other emissions like particulate matter that could have been achieved with less heavy-handed regulation. U.S. social costs were compared against global climate benefits.

Ms. McCarthy also assumed linear health benefits from emissions reductions notwithstanding diminishing returns. In violation of the Office and Management and Budget’s longstanding practice, energy efficiency was cited as an avoided cost rather than as a benefit. This allowed the Obama Administration to low-ball the rule’s cost estimate.

Mr. Pruitt’s proposed rule-making starts the 60-day window for public comments. EPA notes that it hasn’t decided whether it will follow its repeal of the Clean Power Plan with a new rule that regulates greenhouse gases from existing power plants and is considering “whether it is appropriate to propose such a rule.” The decision in part will depend on how well Mr. Pruitt thinks EPA can defend any new rule under the inevitable legal challenges from the environmental left.

But repealing the regulatory overreach of the Obama Administration is the first crucial step that is already paying dividends in less economic uncertainty and more confidence in the reliability of the future electric grid.

See the article here.

EPA Formally Moves to Repeal Major Obama Power Rule

Via The Hill:

The Trump administration formally proposed to scrap the Obama administration’s signature climate change rule for power plants.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signed the notice Tuesday, arguing that former President Barack Obama’s 2015 rule, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, exceeds the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

He previewed the action Monday at a coal equipment business in Kentucky, framing it as the end of the “war on coal.”

The action formally starts implementing a top campaign promise from President Trump and a request that the fossil fuel industry, business community and Republicans — including Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general — have had for years.

It also begins to tear down the main pillar of Obama’s aggressive second-term climate change agenda, which sought to use executive authority to fight climate change after Congress failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation.

“The Obama administration pushed the bounds of their authority so far with the CPP that the Supreme Court issued a historic stay of the rule, preventing its devastating effects to be imposed on the American people while the rule is being challenged in court,” Pruitt said in a statement.

“We are committed to righting the wrongs of the Obama administration by cleaning the regulatory slate. Any replacement rule will be done carefully, properly, and with humility, by listening to all those affected by the rule.”

Environmentalists and Democrats have pledged to fight the rollback, and at least two Democratic state attorneys general have promised to sue the EPA to preserve the rule.

See the article here.

‘War on Coal is Over’

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that he will sign a new rule overriding the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“The war on coal is over,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declared in the coal mining state of Kentucky. He said no federal agency “should ever use its authority” to “declare war on any sector of our economy.”

For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two-dozen attorney generals who sued to stop President Barack Obama’s push to limit carbon emissions. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also challenged the rule on behalf of the Mountain State.

Area lawmakers applauded the Trump administration announcement.

“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. “President Trump promised to fight for our miners and our way of life, and he is keeping his word. The Obama administration used this rule to pick winners and losers at the expense of West Virginia’s jobs. I will continue to work with President Trump on solutions that will move West Virginia forward, create more jobs and return the EPA to its core mission.”

“For years, the Obama administration waged a war on coal and issued heavy-handed regulations to pick winners and losers among energy industries,” U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., added. “In West Virginia, our coal miners, their families and entire communities felt the blow of that misguided approach to energy production. It’s refreshing to see how committed the Trump administration is to pursuing a true all-of-the-above energy policy, and Administrator Pruitt’s announcement is another sign that America’s energy strategy is headed in the right direction. “

“From the very beginning, I said the Obama Power Plan was blatant and unlawful federal overreach,” Morrisey said. “I was humbled to have led the state-based coalition that defeated the Power Plan in court through an unprecedented stay at the Supreme Court and am excited that the Trump administration is taking the final step to kill this terrible, job-killing regulation. I believe these actions will help lead to a rebound for coal and will make lives better for coal miners and their families.”

Pruitt rejects the belief of scientists that man-man emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change.

President Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his skepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the Clean Power Plan during the 2016 campaign as part of his broader pledge to revive the nation’s struggling coal mines.

In his order Tuesday, Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

Pruitt appeared at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at Whayne Supply, a Hazard, Kentucky, company that sells coal mining supplies. The store’s owners have been forced to lay off about 60 percent of its workers in recent years.

While cheering the demise of the Clean Power Plan as a way to stop the bleeding, McConnell conceded most of those lost jobs are never coming back.

“A lot of damage has been done,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “This doesn’t immediately bring everything back, but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here.”

Obama’s plan was designed to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions.

The Supreme Court put the plan on hold last year following legal challenges by industry and coal-friendly states.

Even so, the plan helped drive a recent wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which also are being squeezed by lower costs for natural gas and renewable power, as well as state mandates promoting energy conservation.

Trump announced earlier this year that he will pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement.

“This president has tremendous courage,” Pruitt said Monday. “He put America first and said to the rest of the world we are going to say no and exit the Paris Accord. That was the right thing to do.”

Environmental groups and public health advocates quickly derided the decision as short sighted.

“Trump is not just ignoring the deadly cost of pollution, he’s ignoring the clean energy deployment that is rapidly creating jobs across the country,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club.

See the article here.

EPA Moves to Repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan Coal Regs

Via FOX News:

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that the Trump administration is moving to scrap the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature regulatory program to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Pruitt made the announcement at an event in Hazard, Ky., casting the previous policy as unfair.

“That rule really was about picking winners and losers,” Pruitt said. “The past administration was unapologetic, they were using every bit of power, authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers on how we pick electricity in this country. That is wrong.”

He said that on Tuesday, he will sign a proposed rule to formally withdraw from the plan.

“It is right for this administration to say the war is over,” Pruitt said.

The decision comes after President Trump in late March ordered a review of the controversial program, which was put on hold more than a year ago by the Supreme Court amid legal challenges from, among others, Pruitt himself.

The Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants by having states meet certain targets. Supporters see the plan as a critical plank in efforts to curb global warming, but critics contend it would kill thousands of jobs and take direct aim at the struggling coal sector.

The move to officially nix the program was expected, following Trump’s vow to end what he calls the “war on coal.” Pruitt, however, can likely expect a new wave of litigation from the other side of the debate, as environmentalist groups and allied Democrats are sure to challenge the rollback.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune threatened such a court fight shortly after Monday’s announcement.

“Trump can’t reverse our clean energy and climate progress with the stroke of a pen, and we’ll fight him and Scott Pruitt in the courts, in the streets, and at the state and local level across America to protect the health of every community,” he said in a statement, calling the move “one of the most egregious attacks ever on public health, our climate, and the safety of every community in the United States.”

Brune said the EPA is “legally required to limit dangerous carbon pollution.”

The Clean Power Plan is hardly the only Obama policy being challenged or reversed by Trump. Just last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services rolled back much of the ObamaCare requirement that employers provide contraceptive coverage.

Bloomberg first reported that the administration would propose rescinding the Clean Power Plan, by arguing it exceeded federal law. The next step reportedly would be to ask for public comment on how and whether to curb carbon emissions from these power plants.

See the article here.

Better Late Than Never

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

It is unfortunate for the nation as a whole, not just for energy-producing states, that former President Barack Obama’s war on coal and affordable electricity is being ended after years in which it was pursued with attack-dog tenacity and yes, viciousness. Better late than never, however.

“The war on coal is over,” announced Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday. He explained he plans to sign an order overriding the Clean Power Plan, which the Obama administration had viewed as the killing blow in its offensive against coal mining and use of the fuel at power plants.

Throughout his eight years in the Oval Office, Obama and the EPA used dozens of tactics in their overall strategy. They ranged from irrational limits on mining itself to new restrictions on power plant emissions. Meanwhile, they pumped billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to so-called “alternatives” including solar and wind power.

Millions of Americans, many of whom do not live in coal states, are paying higher electric bills because of Obama’s vendetta. Entire counties in coal states such as West Virginia and Ohio have had their economies devastated.

Many utilities began shutting down coal-fired generating stations in anticipation of new EPA rules. As some in the coal industry have pointed out, mines that once supplied those power plants will never reopen.

In addition, families and businesses that once benefited from low-cost electricity generated at those stations are stuck with higher-priced power generated from other fuels.

Still, Pruitt’s order, backed by several other pro-coal actions by President Donald Trump, is important. It may save a few coal-fired power plants and a few miners’ jobs.

It also allows the nation to pursue an “all-of-the-above” energy policy instead of wiping one of our most abundant resources out of the strategy.

Our nation has made enormous strides in cleaning up the air, water and soil during the past couple of decades. There may be more we have to do.

But it was clear early in Obama’s presidency that the rationale behind his war on coal was personal preference and special interest politics, not scientific necessity. Obama had decided to wipe out what he felt was a “dirty” industry, and he was determined to make that happen.

He very nearly did, in terms of using coal to supply electricity. It is never too late to correct a mistake, and that is precisely what Pruitt is doing.

See the article here.

Pruitt, Perry Move to Boost Coal

Via The Washington Examiner:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will sign his proposed rule to repeal the Clean Power Plan on Tuesday, he said Monday morning in the coal-mining state of Kentucky.

He will lay out the financial gain of killing the Obama administration’s climate rules for the coal industry.

“Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers,” Pruitt said.

The plan, which required states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2030, has been on ice since February 2016, when the Supreme Court blocked it as it worked its way through the courts. He said the withdrawal of the plan would come on Tuesday. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from more than two dozen states and over 100 industry groups challenging the Obama-era rules in September 2016, but has not ruled on the case.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposed rule to give the industry incentives for the reliability it provides to the electric grid is working its way through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at a fevered clip.

Those two moves by the Trump administration would provide a major, two-pronged plan to boost coal-fired power plants.

See the full article here.

EPA Document Proposes to Eliminate Clean Power Plan ‘In Its Entirety’

Via Brietbart:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to repeal the agency’s Obama-era climate change program, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), “in its entirety,” according to a document obtained by Breitbart News.

The 43-page document, titled, “Repeal of Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stations Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” details how the EPA plans to repeal CPP through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). This version of the document obtained by Breitbart News remains subject to change through inter-agency review.

The agency contends that the EPA, under former Administrator Gina McCarthy, exceeded its authority to regulate carbon emissions as stipulated by the Clean Air Act. The document proposes to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, and then suggested that they might release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that will reflect a more thoughtful and modest approach to regulating air pollution given the EPA’s limited statutory authority.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in March ordering a review of the Clean Power Plan as well as other environmental regulations. Instead of Obama’s stifling energy regulations, the Trump administration will promote policies that favor American “energy dominance.”

The Obama administration designed the Clean Power Plan to lower carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030 to 32 percent below 2005 levels. Conservatives widely viewed the Clean Power Plan, along with the Paris Climate Treaty, to be part of Obama’s “war on coal.”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt criticized the Clean Power Plan earlier this year, calling the regulation, “unlawful.” Pruitt said, “This is an effort to undo the unlawful approach the previous administration engaged in,” he said of the president’s executive order, “and to do it right going forward with the mindset of being pro-growth and pro-environment.”

Myron Ebell, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) director of Energy and Environment programs and Trump administration EPA transition chair, argued that the Clean Power Plan remains illegal and would do devastating harm to the average American. Ebell said, “In particular, we applaud his action to begin withdrawing the EPA’s greenhouse gas rules, including the so-called ‘Clean Power’ Plan. These rules, which are clearly illegal, would raise electric rates for consumers significantly and do immense economic damage to the heartland states where U.S. manufacturing is now concentrated.”

The EPA document declares that they are “proposing to repeal the CPP in its entirety.”

The EPA contends in the document, under former Administrator Gina McCarthy, exceeded its statutory authority under the Clean Air Act to force states and power plants to comply with the Clean Power Plan’s regulation to lower carbon emissions.

Over 150 interested parties sued the EPA, including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops, and three labor unions sued the former EPA administration in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the CPP was unconstitutional. A bipartisan group of 34 Senators and 171 members of the House filed an amicus brief arguing that the CPP was illegal and skirted Congress’ authority to legislate on environmental issues.

In February 2016, the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the CPP pending further review. On August 8, 2017 the court issued an order holding the case in abeyance for a 60-day review and directed the EPA to file status updates at 30-day intervals.

In March, President Donald Trump issued an executive order which the document cites, which affirms the “national interest to promote clean and safe development of our Nation’s vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.”

The Executive order also directed the EPA to “immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind, those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law.” Subsequently, the EPA conducted a review of its environmental regulations, including the agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The EPA contends that their initial review of the CPP “raised substantial concerns that the CPP is not consistent with the policy articulated in Section 1 of the Executive Order.”

The EPA explained, “For example, numerous States, regulated entities and other stakeholders warned that the CPP threatened to impose massive costs on the power sector and consumers; invaded traditional areas of state regulation over the mix of energy generation within their borders, departed radically from prior regulatory practice and longstanding reading of the statute; and did not adequately ensure the national interest in affordable, reliable electricity, including from coal generation.”

The EPA contends in the proposed rulemaking that the EPA’s ability to “revisit existing regulations is well-grounded in the law.” The document cites Chevron U.S.A. v. NRDC, Inc.National Cable & Telecommunications Ass’n v. Brand X Internet Services, and the Clean Air Council v. Pruitt cases to argue that the agencies have broad discretion to reconsider agency regulations at any time.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) contains a cost-benefit analysis that examines repealing Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The EPA estimates that repealing CPP would provide up to $33 billion in avoided compliance costs in 2030.

EPA Administrator Pruitt’s Scott decision to eliminate Obama’s Clean Power Plan serves as part of President Trump’s agenda to unravel Obama’s environmental legacy and pursuean America First policy of “energy dominance.”

In May, President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. The president said, “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.” Trump cited that the Paris Climate Accord alone could cost America 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025. Similarly to the Clean Power Plan, Obama acted unilaterally without the consent of Congress and the American people to implement his climate agenda through the Paris Climate Accord.

Now EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who was one of the first Attorneys General to sue the EPA over the Clean Power Plan, can start to repeal one of Obama’s hallmark environmental programs.

EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman said in a statement to Breitbart News, “While we can’t comment on the authenticity of the document, what we can say is that the Obama Administration pushed the bounds of their authority so far that the Supreme Court issued a stay – the first in history – to prevent the so-called ‘Clean Power Plan’ from taking effect. Any replacement rule that the Trump Administration proposes will be done carefully and properly within the confines of the law.”

See the article here.

National Mining Welcomes Repeal of the Costly Power Plan

National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn today issued this statement following reports of the administration’s plans to repeal the Clean Power Plan:

“As reported, Administrator Pruitt will signal a decisive break with past policies that have used regulation of doubtful legality to circumvent the will of Congress, usurp States’ authority and raise costs on American consumers.

“Repealing this Obama-era rule would close a chapter of regulatory overreach that set standards without regard to the steep costs or availability of technology necessary to meet them. The Clean Power Plan represented an unlawful attempt to transform the nation’s power grid. It would have destroyed additional baseload power assets, leaving our economy more vulnerable to reliability concerns and higher costs with trivial environmental benefits.

“Unplugging the plan would spare further loss of high-wage employment. By saving an estimated 240 million tons of annual coal production, the administrator’s action helps to safeguard more than 27,000 mining jobs and almost 100,000 additional jobs throughout the supply chain.

“A far better approach to achieving environmental improvement will rely on sound legal rules and proven technologies that can sustain the impressive reductions in emissions achieved over the past decades. Such an approach consistent with EPA’s basic mission will restore the important balance between costs and benefits that have been missing from federal regulatory policies.”

See the release here.

Two Power Plays Show Leadership

Two Power Plays Show Leadership

October 6, 2017

After eight years of federal regulations weighing heavily on coal, we have now had eight months of reasonable federal regulatory relief. And Trump’s critics are crying foul.

In the past week, two bold attempts to bring energy policy back towards the neutral zone have been greeted with near hysteria.

First, Secretary Perry’s request that FERC issue a rule directing unregulated markets to assess a “reliability” valuation for baseload power plants drew scorn from competing fuels. A transparent sop to coal, they say. This from a renewable fuels industry kept off life support by production tax credits and mandated minimum markets.

The “Chutzpah of the Year” quote goes to the head of the wind industry association, who admonished Congress this week with this whopper: “You want to allow the markets to compete and evolve and not pick one fuel source over another.”

Some Perry critics ask: Where’s the reliability crisis to justify this request? Note the irony in this faux outrage. When climate activists get that same “where’s-the-crisis” question from skeptics of costly emission reduction regulations, they say there isn’t a crisis today but there will be one tomorrow unless we take prudent action now to prevent it.

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eport: EPA to Propose Elimination of Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Via Breitbart.com:

According to a document obtained by Reuters, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will propose to eliminate Obama’s infamous environmental Clean Power Plan (CPP) regulation.

The report, if confirmed, would signal the Trump’s administrations’ first step towards eliminating Obama’s environment rule intended to curb power plants’ carbon emissions.

The EPA document, which was distributed to members of the environmental agency’s Regulatory Steering Committee, said that the EPA “is issuing a proposal to repeal the rule.”

President Donald Trump signed an executive order in March ordering a review of the Clean Power Plan as well as other environmental regulations. Instead of Obama’s stifling energy regulations, the Trump administration will promote policies that favor American “energy dominance.”

The Obama administration designed the Clean Power Plan to lower carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030 to 32 percent below 2005 levels. Conservatives widely viewed the Clean Power Plan, along with the Paris Climate Treaty, to be part of Obama’s “war on coal.”

Twenty-six states challenged the EPA’s Clean Power Plan in court after the Obama administration launched the rule in 2015. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the rule and set a deadline for this Friday, ordering the EPA to send a status report on how it plans to proceed on the Clean Power Plan.

The report details how the EPA intends to issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which would gather input from industry officials and interested parties on how to revise or rescind the CPP.

Industry sources expect the EPA to release the proposal to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan as early as the end of this week.

Janet McCabe, a senior EPA official under Obama, said that an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking could take years. McCabe said, “It certainly will draw the process out.”

Conservative groups have urged the EPA to eliminate the CPP without replacing the climate rule, while industry groups want a replacement of the rule to give industry groups regulatory certainty and avoid potential lawsuits from environmental groups.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt criticized the Clean Power Plan earlier this year, calling the regulation, “unlawful.” Pruitt said, “This is an effort to undo the unlawful approach the previous administration engaged in,” he said of the president’s executive order, “and to do it right going forward with the mindset of being pro-growth and pro-environment.”

See the article here.

Rick Perry Urges FERC Protect Coal, Nuclear Power Plants

Via The Washington Examiner:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry prodded the nation’s grid regulator on Friday to pick up the pace on an administration proposal to ensure nuclear and coal power plants are adequately compensated for the resilience they offer the power grid.

Perry sent the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a proposed rule on that matter that he wants the commission to approve swiftly to ensure a diverse energy mix exists.

“A reliable and resilient electrical grid is critical not only to our national and economic security, but also to the everyday lives of American families,” Perry said in a letter accompanying the rule. “A diverse mix of power generation resources, including those with on-site reserves, is essential to the reliable delivery of electricity — particularly in times of supply stress such as recent natural disasters. My proposal will strengthen American energy security by ensuring adequate reserve resource supply and I look forward to the Commission acting swiftly on it.”

Typically, the energy secretary doesn’t send draft proposed rules to the FERC, and in this case, the commission already has a proceeding underway on price formation. But administration sources say FERC has been too slow and it is within Perry’s discretion to give the nation’s grid regulator a nudge even though it is an independent arm of the Energy Department.

Perry argued that Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria underscore the need for FERC to act swiftly to approve new rules that would ensure the nation has electricity that can remain functioning during disasters.

The need for FERC to propose regulatory fixes to help economically ailing coal and nuclear power plants was made last month in a major grid study that Perry issued, which explained the administration’s priorities for the electricity grid. The study showed that nuclear and coal plants are being economically challenged by the low cost of natural gas, which is making gas-fired power plants the top electricity producer in the country.

FERC oversees the wholesale electric markets that compensate power resources based on the lowest cost resource. The low-cost energy gets access to transmission first, so it can sell into the market. This is done under the Federal Power Act to preserve fair and reasonable rates for consumers.

Under the proposed rule, FERC would direct the large electricity operators it oversees to prepare pricing mechanisms that compensate power plants for the specific ways they help stabilize the grid. For example, a power plant’s ability to contribute power during a flood or extreme cold should be considered to ensure those characteristics remain part of the grid to stave off blackouts or widespread failures.

Neil Chatterjee, the current Trump-appointed chairman of the commission, told lawmakers last month that “the commission is fuel neutral” but will “evaluate the attributes of fuel sources to see what values they provide and if there is a demonstrated need for reliability whether those things can be compensated.”

The coal industry applauded the effort on Friday, and used Perry’s rule proposal to prod the commission for swift action.

“We urge FERC to act swiftly on this important proposal,” said Hal Quinn, the president of the National Mining Association. “Secretary Perry’s action today is a long-overdue and necessary step to address the vulnerability of America’s energy grid.”

Quinn explained that Perry is invoking his authority under the law to ask the commission “to take decisive steps to arrest the premature retirement of power plants capable of providing American consumers with reliable and affordable electricity.”

“By acting on the Secretary’s proposal, FERC can appropriately value the importance of reliable and resilient fuels that ensure baseload power, the mainstay of our nation’s grid, is available at all times,” he said. Baseload refers to power plants that can supply the minimum amount of electricity 24-hours a day to keep the grid up and running without disruption.

Perry announced a separate action to help move along the development of new nuclear plants with conditional commitments of up to $3.7 billion in loan guarantees to the owners of the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia. The power plant’s designer, Westinghouse, had filed for bankruptcy earlier in the year, placing the project’s future in jeopardy. It is one of just a handful of new proposed nuclear projects in the country.

“I believe the future of nuclear energy in the United States is bright and look forward to expanding American leadership in innovative nuclear technologies,” said Perry. “Advanced nuclear energy projects like Vogtle are the kind of important energy infrastructure projects that support a reliable and resilient grid, promote economic growth, and strengthen our energy and national security.”

See the article here.

Trump’s Path to Global Coal Dominance Picks up at UN

Via The Washington Examiner:

The Trump administration may gain an ally at the United Nations for its pro-fossil fuel agenda to build cleaner coal power plants globally.

President Trump often touts his support for clean coal technology, and even though he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate change agreement, his administration still wants to use the U.N. in ways that help implement its agenda to export more U.S. energy and expertise abroad.

One of the more supportive areas is the U.N. Economic Council on Europe’s Committee on Sustainable Energy, which is looking for ways to support electricity from fossil fuels through its Cleaner Electricity Production from Fossil Fuels working group.

The clean electricity group looks for ways to make coal plants more efficient and push technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is committed to keeping fossil fuels in the global energy mix, recognizing that coal and other fossil fuels make up more than half of the energy consumed in Europe alone.

Most of the U.N. group’s goals would dovetail surprisingly well with Trump’s agenda for coal. Energy Secretary Rick Perry talked up the administration’s support for carbon capture technology last week at clean energy conferences around Washington, saying the goal is to export U.S. innovation abroad and expand the market for American coal expertise.

The administration is “aware of this effort within the [United Nations],” said Barry Worthington, chairman of the U.N. Cleaner Electricity Production working group. “I would say the Department of Energy is very engaged” with the U.N. Economic Council on Europe’s sustainability committee.

Worthington is also the executive director of the U.S. Energy Association, a large umbrella group that represents the energy industry on the World Energy Council. The group serves as a bipartisan advisory organization representing 150 members across the U.S. energy sector, from large Fortune 500 companies to small energy consulting firms.

Worthington is gearing up for this month’s 13th annual meeting of the Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production from Fossil Fuels in Geneva.

“It’s a group of experts on clean power production and we’re going to make an effort in the next month, or so, to develop recommendations or criteria for consideration by financial institutions looking at financing coal and other fossil facilities,” Worthington told the Washington Examiner.

The criteria will assist in getting large financial groups such as the World Bank or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to consider coal plants in the list of power plants it will support, Worthington said. The World Bank has had a bias against coal plants at the Obama administration’s insistence, which the Trump administration has been trying to reverse.

Worthington said it’s “one thing to reverse a policy and say we’ll finance coal plants, but then you reject the first dozen that you see.” The standards will help to demonstrate how the technology is cleaner and more efficient than past coal plants.

“We would try to develop some sort of rational criteria that financial institutions can use because there is just so many different circumstances,” he said. “If you were in Europe, for example, looking at replacing an existing coal plant with a new coal plant you might be looking at one set of circumstances. If you are a developing country, and you’re going to electrify an area that hadn’t been electrified at all, there may be different performance levels that you want to use,” Worthington said.

“For example, you may have an efficiency criteria, you may want to have a certain efficiency rating, you may want to have an emissions limit, you may want to have a criteria that relates to water,” he said.

That is an area where the Department of Energy could assist. The department “has the expertise that’s needed to understand from a technical standpoint what kinds of things you want to have a criteria for,” Worthington added.

The Trump administration announced in July that it was changing the rules for financing energy projects worldwide, reversing the Obama administration’s restrictions on fossil fuel projects under the World Bank and other global investment institutions.

The Treasury Department in its guidance said the U.S. would “promote universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy, help countries access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently, and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources.”

It also called for the U.S. representatives of the World Bank and other multinational financial institutions to vote for projects that “support development of robust, efficient, competitive and integrated global markets for energy.”

The guidance eliminated the “anti-coal guidance issued under the previous administration,” according to Luke Popovich, vice president for external communications at the National Mining Association. “NMA wholeheartedly approves of this since the previous Obama-era guidance called for an end to virtually all U.S. support for overseas coal financing,” he said.

“This is a complete turnaround from the previous guidance that precluded U.S. support for overseas coal financing and implemented a key section of former President Obama’s Climate Action Plan,” Popovich said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

Worthington said the Trump administration is also making U.S. agencies that handle overseas energy investments more supportive of coal, including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and others.

“Then at the same time, the United States would use our role in the international finance institutions to cause them to also reverse their ban, or prohibition, or bias, against financing coal plants,” he said. “That would be the World Bank, the whole World Bank Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and so forth.”

The Asian Development Bank “never developed an anti-coal, anti-fossil policy. They continue to finance coal plants,” Worthington pointed out. The U.S. and China will hold a joint clean coal meeting in West Virginia in November to share notes on carbon capture and other clean coal technologies that both countries have been funding for years.

The Trump administration also wants to use its standing in the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, since the Obama administration sent $1 billion to the fund before Trump announced June 1 the U.S. would withdraw. The fund is meant to collect money from large developed nations to help fund projects in poorer nations affected by global warming.

Many scientists blame fossil fuels for changing the temperature of the Earth, resulting in potentially catastrophic consequences such as ocean acidification and more severe drought.

Environmentalists issued a report last week that said the fund’s independence to carry out its climate directive is being threatened by its closer ties with the World Bank and other large multinational financial institutions. The group said the green fund is beginning to slip from its targets to support climate adaptation strategies by relying on the big banks for moving money to projects.

See the article here.

Trump and the End of Obama’s Bitter ‘War on Coal’

Via The Hill:

What a difference presidential leadership can make, for good or ill, for an industry’s fortunes.

Before he was elected president, Barack Obama promised to bankrupt coal companies, and after eight years of his administration’s anti-energy policies, that pledge turned out to be one of the few promises he kept. Obama imposed regulations limiting coal mining near streams and on mountain tops, allowed cities to block the expansion of coal export terminals and rail lines, and enacted limits on carbon-dioxide emissions, including many that were not justified by any reasonable calculation of human health benefits. His policies contributed to massive job losses in coal country, the premature shuttering of vital coal-fired power plants, and were a factor in profitable coal companies being forced to file for bankruptcy.

As a candidate for president, Donald Trump promised he would enact policies that would end the “war on coal” launched by the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, halting or slowing the loss of jobs related to coal mining and coal-fired power plants, and he is doing just that.

Coal’s virtue is its reliability and abundance; America has a coal supply beneath U.S. soil that could last 200 to 400 years. While many coal-fired power plants have closed because they are unable to compete with low-cost gas-fired power plants, dozens of coal-fired power plants and mines were shuttered prematurely under Obama due to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, policies Trump has started to reverse.

For instance, in its first use of the Congressional Review Act under Trump, Congress halted a so-called “Stream Protection Rule” imposed by Obama that would have threatened over one-third of the nation’s coal-mining jobs. The Interior Department’s own reports show the rule was unnecessary, since coal mines have virtually no offsite impacts and lands are being restored successfully under existing federal and state regulations.

Trump also issued two “Energy Independence” executive orders affecting coal. One ended a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land and the second declared federal agencies should no longer consider speculative climate change impacts when implementing federal contracts, issuing permits, or formulating planned uses of federal lands.

At Trump’s direction, EPA is in the process of reviewing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, and the expectation is the Trump administration will rescind or significantly reshape its limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from existing and new power plants.

Trump’s early energy actions have paid job dividends in coal country. The Department of Labor reported mining jobs in America grew by 11,000 in March and by another 7,000 in May. In June, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the United States had since the beginning of 2017 added more than 50,000 jobs throughout the coal supply and use chain.

Additionally, under Trump’s leadership, the first and second largest coal companies in the United States, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, which had been forced into insolvency in part by Obama’s climate policies, emerged from bankruptcy. And in June, Corsa Coal Company opened the Acosta Mine, the first new coal mine to open in the past six years.

In early September, Paringa Resources announced it was building a new coal mine in Kentucky, which it expects to begin producing coal in mid-2018. Paringa is also constructing another mine, which will begin producing by early 2019. In an interview on FOX Business News, Parinaga’s CEO, Grant Quasha, credited the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back regulations on coal production and use for helping him secure the funding needed for the project.

“All we had to do was raise the money,” Quasha said. “On the back of the Trump administration coming into the Oval Office and ending the war on coal, we were able to successfully raise approximately $40 million worth of financing in the Australian equity markets to help build out this mine.”

The coal industry has also benefitted from a boom in coal exports since Trump took office. U.S. coal exports to Europe have risen by 70 percent compared to the first quarter in 2016, while exports to Asia have risen by approximately 50 percent. Driven primarily by the growth in exports, coal production in the United States has increased by 14 percent since December 2016, and revenue at publicly traded U.S. coal companies grew by 19 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period one year ago.

I have no love for coal — nor for any other particular source of energy, for that matter. I don’t think coal should be subsidized, but I also don’t think it should be discriminated against by the government, which uses harmful regulations that raise electric bills but do nothing to protect human health or the environment.

Americans should have access to reliable, relatively inexpensive energy sources that can power the conveniences that make modern life modern. Coal’s virtues are its domestic abundance, relative affordability, and reliability as a source of fuel — characteristics solar and wind power just can’t match, even though they continue to receive massive subsidies from the government.

One day — probably long after I’m dead — other ways to generate electricity will arise that, like coal and natural gas, are cheap and reliable. When that occurs, coal and natural gas will likely fade into history, as they should under those circumstances. Until then, three cheers for coal and the coal industry’s nascent recovery!

Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

See the article here.

Energy Supply for Our Citizens Must Transcend Politics

Via The Morning Consult:

The number of coal and nuclear power plants that have closed in recent years could power tens of millions of homes. In April, Energy Secretary Rick Perry asked for a report on whether continued closures pose a threat, and whether the markets are adequately compensating the resilience benefits these “baseload” or “always on” power plants provide. Energy supply is critical, especially in emergency circumstances. We need the most secure and reliable generation we can provide.

The DOE report is in, and it shows we have work to do: “Recent severe weather events have demonstrated the need to improve system resilience …  [L]ow average wholesale energy prices, while beneficial for buyers of wholesale electricity, represent a critical juncture for many existing baseload generation resources and their role in preserving reliability and resilience. . . . Markets need further study and reform to address future services essential to grid reliability and resilience.” The reference to “severe weather events” was even before Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as severe cold weather is every bit as challenging.

As soon as the study was first announced, the political lines were drawn. “Rick Perry Thinks You’re Stupid,” screamed the headline of a Sierra Club article, claiming the study was “attempting to stop the renewable revolution.” Advanced Energy Economy wrote, “Though off base from the start, we can only expect that such a study, with its apparently predetermined result, will lead to policy action that will attempt to harm” wind and solar energy.

Let’s be clear – this study was about keeping the lights on. Its analysis was long overdue, even though much of the information was gathered during my tenure as assistant secretary of fossil energy in the first term of the Obama administration. Our information raised concerns that purposely were not made public at that time because it would have exposed flaws with regulations the Environmental Protection Agency ultimately imposed on CO2 emissions. That lack of forthrightness in government should disturb us all.

Since it’s impossible to store electricity in society-sized amounts, we need power generators that can run all the time. Coal and nuclear can run on demand to serve this need. So also can other power plants – natural gas, hydropower, geothermal and others.

But over recent years we have seen a steady decrease in coal and nuclear power and a rise of less reliable sources like wind and solar thanks to government incentives and tax credits. Wind and solar do sometimes produce more power than we need, but not nearly enough at other times. Ability to produce on demand is a fundamental pillar of the power system, but the country continues move away from sources that can do so without addressing the market and economic needs of “always on” baseload generators. That is a long-term formula for disaster.

The shale revolution has made gas plentiful and inexpensive. It certainly helps, but there are limitations. Some states have banned fracking. Many do not have pipeline infrastructure to deliver gas, and have created roadblocks and barriers to building gas pipelines. And unlike coal and nuclear, gas cannot be stored on site, making it more vulnerable to supply disruption and market variability. Should anything happen to those pipelines, there must be a way to secure fuel from elsewhere.

That’s exactly why we must keep coal and nuclear in the “all of the above” energy mix. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the overseer of grid reliability, reports, “The rapid changes occurring in the generation resource mix and technologies are altering the operational characteristics of the grid and will challenge system planners and operators to maintain reliability.”

I believe CO2 plays a role in climate change, but controlling its output cannot be the exclusive definition of environmental responsibility. We have to be honest about both environmental considerations and the necessity of power sources that can produce energy on demand.

Now that DOE has studied, the government must act. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has jurisdiction to oversee wholesale electricity markets and can help ensure that we make power increasingly environmentally responsible through technology while investing in solving all of the challenges that comprise reliability.

DOE has thankfully invested in and embraced the analysis and has the opportunity to influence and direct agencies such as FERC to act. Our public good demands that action.

Charles McConnell is executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative and previously served as assistant secretary of energy under former President Barack Obama from 2011-2013.

See the article here. 

Advancing Coal Technologies

Advancing Coal Technologies

September 27, 2017

From all the news coverage it’s getting, National Clean Energy Week appears to be a carefully kept secret, trumped by NFL protests, a Senate primary and Puerto Rico’s dystopia. That’s a pity. Exciting things are happening in clean energy technologies and the global market they serve.

Renewables understandably get star billing in this discussion, but maybe the more important but surely overlooked developments are occurring in the fossil energy sector.

Start here in the U.S. Thanks to scrubbers and other combustion technologies, U.S. coal plant emissions have plummeted 91 percent since 1970. Not because we’ve used less coal; over the same period (1970-2016) coal use climbed by almost 40 percent. So, fewer emissions from an abundant, reliable and affordable source of power.

We’re on the cusp of more dramatic reductions. For example, the Prairie State Energy Plant in Marissa, Illinois bristles with advanced technologies that remove 85 percent of NOx, 98 percent of SO2, 90 percent of mercury and 99 percent of PM. All the while using less coal per generated electron thanks to much higher plant efficiency.

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Attitude Shift from US Government Gives Coal Sector Hope

Via Platts:

The US coal industry has hope for its future where a year ago there was not any, according to Bill Raney, President of the West Virginia Coal Association.

Speaking Tuesday at the S&P Global Platts Coal Marketing Days Conference in Pittsburgh, attendees highlighted the improved relationship with the federal government, rather than any major policy changes, since the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.

Raney said the Obama administration launched a “war on coal” in 2008 that crippled the West Virginia coal sector, leaving 60% of the state’s production in bankruptcy and causing production to drop to a 40-year low.

“I don’t know if we’ve totally survived it or not but we’re a hell of a lot closer than we were before November 8,” he said, noting the date of Trump’s election.

Raney said the appointment by Trump’s administration of several government officials with ties to the coal industry to prominent mining and energy policy roles should also prove helpful.

David Stetson, Chairman of Alpha Natural Resources, was more cautious in his evaluation of the new president’s impact, but agreed cooperation from the regulatory environment has improved.

“We have seen some movement back to what I would consider a normal working relationship with the authorities,” said Stetson.

Speaking on the sidelines, an Alaskan miner told Platts, “you could see the change in tone at the federal agency within two months [of Trump’s inauguration]. We had an application approved that had just been sitting there for two years to broaden our mining operation.”

Moving forward, Raney called for the government to incentivize plant upgrades and introduce a requirement for power plants to have at least 30-60 days supply of coal to ensure mine production.

He also suggested there should be more support for domestic rare earths production, as China’s dominance in the space could become a security question. The same argument has been used by US steel producers to call for a section 232 order to limit imports of steel.”

See the article here.

Warmed Again by Coal

Via The Washington Times:

Gentlemen, start your thermostats. Ladies, too. The Obama war on coal, which cost Hillary Clinton the vote in once-reliably Democratic West Virginia, is over. Maybe the war on nuclear energy, too. Americans might soon heat their homes without choosing between the warmth and food and medicine.

It’s not quite a “so long, solar” moment, but common sense on energy is clearly making a comeback, summed up in the headline in The New York Times, “Under Trump, Coal Mining Gets New Life on U.S. Lands.” The White House is looking for ways to encourage more mining, too — not less, as in the Obama years — on the nation’s federally managed land. Beyond that, the U.S. Interior Department is looking to reduce the size of some of these federally managed properties and national monuments. This would restore more private investment in mining.

The pro-coal movement is already having a good effect. About 85 percent of the nation’s coal on federal lands is extracted from the Powder River Basin, which runs through Montana and Wyoming. President Trump intends to roll back moratoriums on new coal leases on these lands.

Exports of coal has fallen steadily over the past eight years, falling from 28 million short tons in 2013 to 12 million short tons in three years later. Since the Trump inauguration, coal exports have surged to 22 million short tons, a remarkable increase in just eight months.

“For the past eight years,” said Paul Bailey, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, told Congress, “we’ve had a fair amount of environmental overreach from the Obama administration and that has contributed, we believe, to the majority of coal retirements that have happened in the past.”

Those “retirements” have led to increased electricity costs for consumers. The average American’s electric bill rose 11 percent under Mr. Obama, according to government data cited by the Daily Caller.

West Virginians suffered most. The average West Virginia homeowner watched electricity costs rise from 7.27 cents per kilowatt-hour in November 2008 to 11.72 cents in 2016 — a 62 percent increase. Customers in Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Nebraska experienced rate increases of 40 percent or more during that time. Overall, 42 states and Washington, D.C., watched electricity costs spike during the Obama years.

“We are all affected by this constant regulatory quagmire,” says Bill Cadman, vice president of Whiting Petroleum, which drills mostly on leased public lands. But maybe under the new administration, not so much. The cold months are coming, and lower power and light bills will warm everyone.

See the article here.

Coal CEO Says Trump Made New Mine Possible

Via Fox Business News:

Paringa Resources is taking the rare step of building a new coal mine in the U.S., as the Trump administration rolls back regulations on the struggling industry.

The coal company is building a coal mine in Kentucky and expects to begin producing coal in mid-2018. It will construct another mine that’s scheduled to be in action by early 2019.

In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on the FOX Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria,” CEO Grant Quasha said President Donald Trump pushed the project over the goal line.

“All we had to do was raise the money,” he said. “On the back of the Trump administration coming into the Oval Office and ending the war on coal, we were able to successfully raise approximately $40 million worth of financing in the Australian equity markets to help build out this mine.”

The Poplar Grove Mine will produce nearly 3 million tons of thermal coal for a local power utility. The Cypress Mine will provide an estimated 3.8 million tons following its construction, according to Paringa Opens a New Window.. The mines are located in the Illinois Basin, a coal-producing basin that stretches across parts of Indiana and Kentucky.

Paringa is hiring 200 people over the next 12 months to support Poplar Grove. Quasha said the company plans to hire another 300 people for its second mine.

Coal production in the U.S. has decline in recent years under pressure from new regulations imposed by the Obama administration and low prices for natural gas. Paringa is betting on a turnaround. Quasha believes natural gas, which is trading around $3 per million British thermal units, will rise to $4. He also sees international demand improving through 2030.

Quasha also expects the coal industry to continue reaping the benefits of President Trump’s regulatory reform for years to come. By rescinding coal rules through the Congressional Review Act, future administrations must go through Congress to seek a renewal of Obama-era regulations.
See the article here.

The Coal-Terminal Debate: A View From Japan

Via The Seattle Times:

It has been more than six years since Japan suffered the devastating earthquake and tsunami that triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The world is well-aware of the massive destruction caused by this unprecedented natural disaster. Perhaps less well-known is that the disaster also radically changed Japan’s energy options.

Japan lacks meaningful domestic natural energy resources and consequently imports 96 percent of such resources. Nuclear energy was seen as a viable way to be more self-sufficient in meeting our energy needs. But Fukushima changed all that with the ensuing suspension of nuclear power generation and loss of public support. Despite a concerted national effort to deploy additional renewable resources, the loss of nearly one-third of power generation capacity was difficult to replace. We were suddenly more reliant than ever on imported fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Today, we are one of the world’s top importers of coal. It is a major, indispensable source of energy in Japan for electricity. Our economy and society depend on it as a stable, reliable energy source. A stable energy supply is also a matter of national security. In a region that is becoming increasingly unfriendly and unstable, this has never been a harsher reality.

Coal has always been an important part of Japan’s energy mix, but this dependence increased dramatically after the Fukushima disaster. In fact, Japan is currently building two new advanced technology gasification-based coal plants in the Fukushima area — called “the Fukushima Revitalization Project” to ensure energy security and revival of local economy.

To stabilize and secure our supply, Japan is highly interested in importing coal from the United States, a trusted ally and reliable trading partner. We do not import any appreciable energy resources from the U. S. today. As major trade partners with Washington state, we see the proposed Millennium terminal in Longview as a solution in meeting our energy, national-security and economic-growth needs.

Japan is committed to honoring its Paris Climate Accord commitments. We all recognize that coal is a major source of greenhouse gases, but it is also one of the world’s most accessible, abundant and reliable energy sources. The 2016 International Energy Outlook concludes that coal will remain the second-largest energy source worldwide until 2030. World coal consumption is projected to increase by more than 20 percent by 2040. Knowledgeable and responsible energy planners, economists and humanitarians agree that this reliance on coal is a reality that will not change for decades.

There is a viable path forward with coal: reducing emissions through advanced coal technologies and more efficient consumption. By significantly reducing CO2 emissions from coal, we can move the needle in the right direction as we also work to bring new technologies online.

Japan is a global leader in aggressively pursuing high-efficiency/low-to-zero-emission technologies for generating electricity from coal. This includes some of the most technologically advanced coal-fired power generation plants in the world. We also want to import the highest quality coal possible to optimize our substantial investments in coal technology infrastructure.

Coal shipped through the Longview terminal is Powder River Basin coal. Due to its unique qualities, this coal is the most suitable fuel for the highly efficient gasification-based technologies we are developing at Fukushima and elsewhere. Japan needs a reliable supply of high-quality coal to support economic growth and national security while also meeting our stringent environmental requirements.

The Millennium project brings substantial benefits to Longview and the state of Washington — and it also offers Japan a sound solution to its pressing energy-security challenges.

The Japanese people are already warmly familiar with such Pacific Northwest icons as Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft — and, of course, the Seattle Mariners. Millennium represents a mutually beneficial opportunity to further extend our trade relationship and friendship with Washington state, and encourages people in Fukushima Prefecture with a brighter future.

Shozo Kaneko is a fellow of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has recently retired from the faculty of the University of Tokyo.d

See the article here.

What Happens When the Coal and Nuclear Plants Close?

Via The Houston Chronicle:

When future policy makers go back and study the U.S. energy industry in the 2010s, one of the defining trends will be the sudden decline of coal and nuclear plants.

Whether this is the beginning of a great new era of American energy or a disaster in the making is the subject of much debate.

And now add another voice to the mix, as the research firm IHS Markit warned in a report released Tuesday that the shift away from coal and nuclear is likely to leave the U.S. grid overly reliant on natural gas and renewable forms of energy and prone to more expensive and volatile electricity prices than we currently enjoy.

“Over the last three years, the problem only seems to have gotten worse,” said Lawrence Makovich, chief power strategist at IHS and the study’s lead author.

The report is funded by the trade groups U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute – groups that have a lot at stake in what the power grid becomes in the decades ahead.

What Makovich sees is a confused energy market with criss-crossing and contradictory incentives for carbon-free energy that favors wind and solar energy through tax incentives but does not do enough to incentivise carbon-free nuclear.

The study comes as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission weighs whether to take action to keep afloat a raft of nuclear plants in danger of closing in the years ahead. A report by the Department of Energy last month put the majority of the blame on the flood of cheap natural gas due to the fracking boom and recommended changes to the power market to help the coal and nuclear sectors.

“Our study is saying there is a clear economic argument behind making these additional  interventions because we’re not dealing with a clear market operating without distortion,” Makovich said. “You have favored technologies.”

See the article here.

Coal-fired Power Plants

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., has introduced a welcomed measure in the U.S. House of Representatives that could help in further boosting coal’s future.

The legislation would allow a coal-burning power plant or related facility to retrofit or upgrade without meeting new environmental emission standards. Under the proposed measure, the plant or facility would only have to show an improvement in efficiency with less pollutants.

“That would allow some of those folks who have aging coal facilities to retrofit without a big expense,” Griffith told the Daily Telegraph last week. “It would still cost money, but not nearly as much. They only have to show that it (emission standards) would be better than they were.”

 That way, rather than being forced to shut down, a plant or facility could stay open. And the plant could continue to use coal.

Griffith believes the measure will pass the Republican-controlled House and will be supported by President Donald Trump.

Under the Obama administration, a number of coal-fired power plants that provided good-paying jobs were forced to close as a result of unrealistic and overly stringent federal regulations. The Trump administration has since rolled back a number of those burdensome rules.

 Still, in many cases, the damage is already done. A good example was the coal-fired power plant in Glen Lynn, which was forced to close in 2015.

Griffith says he would also like to see a certain percentage of Appalachian thermal coal, which is used in power plants, set aside as a reserve in case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack that would impact the natural gas supply or the supply of coal from western states.

That’s a good idea.

We welcome the ongoing efforts of Griffith, and other congressional Republicans, to boost coal production. The industry is rebounding, and this helps our regional economy. Every new job that is created in the coal and related service industries strengthens our region.

See the article here.

An Argument Out of Touch with Today’s Coal Mining Industry

Via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The Sept. 10 Forum article “The War on Coal Communities: Strip Mining” is out of touch with today’s coal mining industry. Its author fails to acknowledge that the Surface Mining Reclamation and Control Act of 1977 is not a one-size-fits-all program. Each U.S. mine has detailed plans on how the mined land will be restored — which must be then approved by the government.

The piece devotes much of its time to describing techniques that “started in earnest during the 1940s” but ignores that mining has changed significantly in the 80 years since. Technological advancements, higher industry standards and increased state and federal oversight have contributed to a safer, cleaner responsible industry that cares about the communities in which its employees live and work. Further, mountaintop mining accounts for less than 0.6 percent of coal mining today and continues to be on the decline.

Coal continues to be an important source of electricity. The public deserves an accurate picture of how the industry has changed and advanced to ensure environmentally responsible, affordable and reliable energy for all.

HAL QUINN
President and CEO
National Mining Association
Washington, D.C.

See the article here.

Poll Shows Voters Want a Diverse U.S. Energy Grid

Eighty-five percent of American voters agree that the U.S. should act to protect the diversity of its energy grid to minimize potential impacts from natural disasters like the devastating hurricanes that have struck the U.S. and the Caribbean in the past several weeks, according to a new poll by Morning Consult for the National Mining Association (NMA).

On the supply side, Hurricane Harvey disrupted natural gas production and impacted operations of several pipelines. Even before Irma made landfall in the continental U.S., nuclear power plants across Florida began to shut down.

During and after the hurricanes, damages to infrastructure were catastrophic, with millions expected to be without power for weeks. The U.S. Department of Energy has already announced $50 million in grants to support research and development of next-generation tools and technologies to further improve the resilience of the nation’s critical energy infrastructure.

“With millions of Americans in the dark from Texas to Florida, the U.S. government and the American people acknowledge a need to do more to secure America’s energy grid,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “One way to address potential supply challenges is to utilize a mix of different fuels, including coal, natural gas, nuclear power and renewables. Diversity in the energy market minimizes disruptions when any one fuel source is challenged. At the same time, we need to invest in our infrastructure and support the advanced technologies that make all energy sources as efficient as possible.”

The poll was conducted September 7-11, 2017, of 1,975 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-2 percent.

See the press release here.

Pennsylvania Coal Production Up by 20 Percent from 2016

Via Trib Live:

Pennsylvania continues to mine about a fifth more coal this year than it did last year, according to the Energy Information Administration’s weekly coal production report.

For the week that ended Sept. 9, the state’s bituminous coal production for the year was up 20.4 percent from the same period last year, maintaining the gain it held throughout August.

Bituminous coal production since January was 35.1 million short tons compared to 29.2 million tons produced by Sept. 9, 2016, according to the agency’s data.

Year-to-date production in the Eastern Pennsylvania anthracite fields also held steady at a 9.1 percent gain from the 2016 totals. The region had mined 1.2 million tons as of Sept. 9 compared to 1.1 million in 2016.

National coal production for the year was 548 million short tons as of last week, a 13.5 percent increase from the same period in 2016.

See the article here. 

Quinn: ‘Coal is Rebounding’

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

BLUEFIELD — The 22nd biennial Bluefield Coal Show at the Brushfork Armory officially kicked off with optimism this morning, welcoming 195 exhibitors to the “coal show for coal people” and to a renewed growth in the market.

“We have worked to make it a good show every year of the show,” said Charlie Peters, who has been general chairman of the event since its start in 1976.

Peters spoke at the traditional Media Appreciation Breakfast, held immediately before the ribbon-cutting to open the show.

Special guest speaker Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, said the industry has been subject to “disabling” federal policies over the last eight years, but that has changed with a new administration in Washington.

“Recent federal policies under the last administration … with the regulatory burden penalized the coal industry and consumers,” he said. “Driving coal out of the market had little to do with emissions.”

All of the excessive regulations are now being reviewed and that has allowed optimism in the industry and the market place, he said.

“Coal is rebounding,” he said, citing statistics that show in an increase in the tonnage being produced and shipped overseas.

“It is providing some much needed stability that would have remained out of reach without some changes in Washington,” he said.

After the breakfast, Quinn participated in the ribbon-cutting in front of the armory to officially open the show as exhibitor after exhibitor lined the inside of the armory and the area outside the armory.

“This is a great show for the coal industry,” Quinn said.

See the article here.

EIA: Coal Production Increases Will Continue Through 2018

Via Utility Dive:

Dive Brief:

  • Coal production is up and will continue to rise through next year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest Short Term Energy Outlook.
  • Coal production for August was the first month since October 2015 where production topped 70 million short tons (MMst).

Dive Insight:

EIA’s monthly outlook is a mixed bag, showing growing gas and coal production as well as rapidly increasing renewables capacity. Coal is expected to remain the top generating source through the end of next year, in part due to rising gas prices, but after that its share may decline.

The agency expects the share of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas to fall from an average of 34% in 2016 to about 31% this year. During the same period, coal’s forecast generation share rises from 30% to 31% in 2017. Looking ahead, EIA says projected generation shares for natural gas and coal in 2018 average 31% and 32%, respectively.

It’s positive news for coal, particularly along with production data.

Coal production for August 2017 was estimated to have been 74 MMst, or about 8% higher than August 2016. Production for the first eight months of this year was 14% higher than the same period last year, EIA said, and full-year production is expected to increase by 8% in 2017 and by 2% in 2018.

See the full article here.

Forest Service Backs Expansion of Colorado Coal Mine

Via The Olympian:

The U.S. Forest Service is backing the expansion of Colorado’s largest coal mine over the objections of environmentalists.

The Daily Sentinel reports that Forest Supervisor Scott Armentrout announced Thursday that that the benefits of expanding the West Elk Mine near Somerset outweighed the potential environmental threat.

The mine got initial consent to expand under a 2012 state-federal compromise for managing roadless areas but environmentalists sued, saying officials didn’t take the full environmental impact, including climate change, into account. A federal judge threw out the consent but the Forest Service took a first step toward re-allowing the expansion last year under the Obama administration by proposing that Arch Coal be allowed to build roads to facilitate the expansion.

The Forest Service will accept comments on its latest decision for 45 days.

See the article here.

America’s Electricity Supply — Better Safe than Sorry

Via Fosters.com:

Few things are more essential to the way we live than electricity. And yet few are more often overlooked than the electricity grid that supplies it. Most of us simply assume that the power needed to keep our AC going and the lights on will always be there, and at an affordable price. That may be true for now, but it may not be in the very near future.

For one thing, market forces and government regulations have combined to shrink the number of electricity-generating power plants. Nuclear energy that supplies a fifth of our electricity is struggling. Nuclear plants are financially distressed. And bankruptcies and cost overruns have stymied new construction.

Coal power plants that just a decade ago provided more than half of the nation’s electricity now generate just a third. Government regulations and booming natural gas have decimated the coal fleet.

Meanwhile, environmental activists strongly oppose building either nuclear or coal plants, believing that wind and solar power can fill the gap. But replacing the 50 percent of electricity now supplied by coal and nuclear energy won’t be easy when wind and solar power meet less than 7 percent of our current demand.

That leaves natural gas to fill the gap. Optimists reassuringly point to our enormous supplies of natural gas. Experts who just a decade ago thought we would be helplessly reliant on imported gas now fret about a glut. Thanks to fracking technology that unlocked shale gas, the U.S. will become a net energy exporter next year if not before.

And that has some experts very concerned: won’t exporting natural gas, the fuel we’re relying on more than ever, raise its price here? It will if markets respond normally. That’s because exports offer producers a new, higher-value market. Last year, U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) found its way to more than 20 different nations and the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects U.S. LNG export capacity to grow sevenfold by 2019.

Natural gas producers see a rosy future. The CEO of oil and natural gas giant Continental Resources predicts U.S. natural gas exports could reach 30 billion cubic feet per day, equivalent to exporting 40 percent of current production.

That could potentially leave U.S. consumers, especially those who are heavily reliant on natural gas for their electricity and heat, with bigger utility bills and more volatile gas prices. A 2015 study for the Department of Energy concluded that “greater LNG exports raise domestic prices and lower prices internationally.”

Costlier electricity at home becomes even likelier if coal and nuclear power are no longer available to fill the gap. The U.S. Department of Energy is so concerned it has launched a study to examine the reliability of the nation’s power grid. Its report is expected soon.

With natural gas exports surging and the EV revolution now here, the safest course is to keep our coal and nuclear plants operating. It’s a recommendation the Energy Department would be wise to make.

We are better at preparing for the future than we are guessing what it will be. But we know we will be surprised. Let’s at least lower the risk that surprises may bring.

See the article here.

Coal Critical to Power Future in Illinois

Via The Illinois Times:

Electricity is easy to take for granted. But imagine the disruption to our lives if we could not charge our iPhones that connect us to the rest of the world or flip a light switch with the guarantee that power was at our beck and call.

Power reliability, however, has been top of mind for Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry, who recently called for a report on the reliability of America’s electric grid. Because of changes brought about by federal and state policies, Secretary Perry is concerned about the health of the electricity grid. Scheduled to be published in the coming days, this report is expected to highlight the challenges that face our electricity grid, as well as provide suggestions for policymakers like me who are working to ensure that recent changes to the grid do not jeopardize reliable power in the future.

One major challenge to grid reliability already seems clear. The U.S. coal-fired electric generating power plant fleet has gradually been eroded in recent years by new regulations and other factors. Today, a third of America’s coal fleet has either retired or has announced plans to shut down, due in large part to aggressive federal rules aimed at reducing coal’s use. In our state alone, 22 coal-fired electric generating units have already shut down or announced plans to close. Illinois isn’t alone. Other states are experiencing the same disturbing developments.

Historically, the U.S. electricity grid has relied on a diverse mix of electricity sources – coal, nuclear, natural gas and renewables. This strategy relies heavily on baseload sources, like coal-fired power plants, that are capable of producing power virtually around the clock. As a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, I recognize the value of coal to our state’s energy mix and support its continued use. Today, coal provides almost one-third of our state’s electricity, helping to keep Illinois’ electricity prices more than 10 percent below the national average.

Grid operators like PJM Interconnection, which serves the Chicago area, point out that depletions to our coal fleet make the electric grid less resilient. This means the grid we all count on is less capable of withstanding events like the Polar Vortex of 2014 and natural gas infrastructure outages. On the other hand, coal-fired power plants, with their stockpile of 85 days’ worth of fuel, have dependable supplies of fuel at the ready. This distinguishes coal from other sources of electricity, like natural gas power plants, which rely on pipelines to deliver their fuel on an as-needed basis. Having robust coal supplies onsite has proven critical to protecting the reliability of the grid in recent years. In fact, coal has been one of the few energy sources capable of delivering uninterrupted power when states like Illinois have been impacted by extreme winter weather events.

In the same way that diversifying an investment portfolio reduces risk, relying on a diverse mix of electricity sources that include coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables makes the grid more stable and dependable. As policymakers make decisions about electricity sources, it is important they keep in mind the importance of the coal fleet to Illinois and the U.S.

State Rep. John M. Cabello is a Republican from Machesney Park.

See the article here.