Coal in the News

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Virginia Coal Communities Saved from Costly Plan

Via The Roanoke Times:

Childress is the president of the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance based in Lebanon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trump administration has thankfully restored some common sense to our energy policy.

Instead of viewing the coal industry as a problem in need of fixing, the country again can embrace an all-American resource that provides one-third of our electricity and supports hundreds of thousands of good jobs.

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook near misses, damage nearly avoided. But we would be wise not to make that mistake with the War on Coal.

The president may not have ended it, but at least it will no longer be waged by our government.

See the article here.

Coal Important for Toledo and Nation

Via The Toledo Blade:

Everyone has their routine, something they do automatically, every day, without thinking twice.

For many, it’s turning on the lights, charging our phones, brewing coffee, perhaps turning on the laptop or TV, then driving to work in our cars and trucks, where we grind out most of our day until we drive home to repeat our morning activities once more before hitting the sheets.

Toledo longshoremen have been responsible for supplying coal for power generation throughout the area, yet today that is no longer the case, according to representatives of ILA-Local 1768 in Toledo.

Longshoremen have their daily routines too — and we wouldn’t be able to go about doing ours if the longshoremen didn’t go about doing theirs.

Employed at ports that operate around the clock, longshoremen move cargo on and off ships via a variety of methods, most commonly by crane. They deal with many bulk commodities — sand, gravel, cement, ore, and coal — and other objects too big to be transported a long distance via road, rail, or air.

Among their chief responsibilities is making sure containers — those enormous, metal, rectangular boxes you see on ships or stacked alongside a port — are loaded and unloaded and placed on a rail train, semi-trailer chassis, or lake freighter so that they can be hauled away to a warehouse, distribution center, or steel mill.

In many instances, they’re moving coal to a power plant.

That last scenario is how our members here at ILA-Local 1768 in Toledo have affected your ability to go about your routine in a cost-effective manner for years. Without us, in fact, it’d be much harder — and pricier — to get the energy you need to all your electric-powered products.

Historically, our Toledo longshoremen have been responsible for supplying coal for power generation throughout the area, yet today that is no longer the case. Escalating resistance to coal and an unwillingness to keep it as a must-have ingredient in America’s growing mix of domestic energy resources is disrupting our ability to continue our daily routine.

In due time, it’ll disrupt yours.

Per reports, some 227,000 jobs throughout the Great Lakes region depend on shipping and mining. By itself, shipping is one of the world’s largest economic drivers and a critical component for importing and exporting affordable products.

Our members, for instance, load about 25,000 tons of coal to each ship. Should coal take an additional downturn, it would be economically devastating, adversely affecting two-thirds of the aforementioned jobs and driving up utility costs.

That’s because the price of coal is continuously steady, resilient to the economic seesaws that regularly engulf other forms of energy. Coal is also an important part of the power-generation mix that helps keep the U.S. from being too dependent on just one form of energy. That’s good, not just for jobs and pricing motives, but security too.

In winters past, local utilities reported trouble keeping output strong amid extremely cold temperatures and peak usage periods. All forms of energy were required, they said, especially coal. Imagine how much more stressed the electric grid would have become without coal and how much more strained it could become in winters ahead.

Also, if we’re locked into just one common form of energy, the problems that later plague that resource — varying costs, for instance, or a severe shortage — affect us all. When that occurs, how long will it take to get coal production restarted? How long would it take to refill lost jobs?

And what’s the impact on U.S. steel production, which remains dependent on coal as a core ingredient? Will we have enough steel to continue manufacturing American-made products, buildings, bridges, ships, cars, and homes without looking overseas for coal?

See, turning off the lights on coal jump-starts a domino effect that turns off the lights on a variety of other everyday industries and necessities, which is why it’s important we work to back legislation that keeps coal as part of America’s changing energy equation, before we all end up with higher bills, fewer jobs, and no alternate resources.

See the article here.

Poll Shows Mining’s Environmental Accomplishments Unknown to American Voters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The vast majority of American voters are unaware of the environmental and technological advancements of today’s mining industry according to new polling, suggesting mining’s legacy skews perceptions.

A new poll by Morning Consult for the National Mining Association (NMA) shows less than 10 percent of voters could assess the scale of emissions reductions that have been achieved in coal-powered plants, the acreage reclaimed and restored from mined lands, and other benchmarks of mining’s progress. Just one in five voters correctly identified clean coal technologies that have dramatically reduced power plant emissions since the first Earth Day in 1970.

“This poll appears to underscore the stubborn impressions that remain from turn-of-the-century mining before the advent of the environmental era,” said Hal Quinn, NMA President and CEO. “The message here is that we need to do a better job of educating the public about the accomplishments of our industry—which like all basic industries is vastly different today than it was before the first Earth Day.”

Quinn said that media coverage of recent regulatory reforms also suggests that perceptions are not aligned with realities.

“If the public fails to appreciate the advances we have made in reclaiming mined land, in producing minerals with less natural disturbance, and in deploying ever cleaner and safer technologies, then the benefits of more regulation will be simply assumed and their costs more easily dismissed or belittled,” said Quinn.

“An honest debate about regulation must start with a broader understanding of how today’s mining industry differs from mining in the past,” Quinn said.

Coal Powered Electricity

Even though coal is widely discussed in the news today, particularly in relation to the environment, voters are uninformed or misinformed about advancements made in coal technologies to date, and the technologies that will make the use of coal increasingly clean in the future.

Coal-fueled power plants have reduced emissions by more than 90 percent since the 1970s. Just 9 percent of voters are aware that today’s coal plants have reduced emissions by more than 90 percent. These reductions have occurred while low-cost reliable coal generation has more than doubled.

There are a variety of advanced coal technologies available today and in development for the future that are making the use of coal more efficient and cleaner. Advanced coal technologies include Flue Gas Desulfurization; Fluidized-Bed Combustion; High Efficiency, Low Emissions (HELE) technologies; and Carbon Capture Use and Storage (CCUS). Despite this wide range of technologies, just 22 percent of voters answered that these technologies are contributing to make the use of coal cleaner and more efficient.

Hardrock and Coal Mining

Today’s mining projects begin with extensive environmental studies and end with land reclamation for recreation, wildlife habitat and community needs.

The U.S. mining industry has paid more than $10 billion to restore mines that were abandoned prior to laws requiring their restoration. Only 7 percent of Americans recognize that the industry has paid more than $10 billion to restore mined lands, returning them to their pre-mining state, an improved condition for wildlife habitat, or transforming them for community use, such as hospitals or schools.

U.S. mining companies have restored more than 2.9 million acres of mined land. A full 75 percent of voters did not know how much land had been restored by U.S. mining companies, with just 10 percent correctly noting that 2.9 million acres had been restored.

The poll was conducted April 13-15, 2017, of 1,992 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-2 percent.

See the release here.

Pruitt: EPA No Longer About Killing Off Coal

Via The Washington Examiner:

The Environmental Protection Agency is no longer about “regulating an entire industry out of business,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday, visiting a large coal-fired power plant in Missouri that likely would have been forced to close under the Obama EPA’s climate plan.

The visit was part of a tour of coal country by Pruitt and other senior officials that began last week to show the Trump administration’s support for the industry, after years of neglect that critics commonly refer to as former President Barack Obama’s “War on Coal.”

Pruitt also discussed Trump’s recent executive order that repeals a number of Obama’s climate change executive actions, including a review of climate rules on the utility industry that ultimately will seek to rescind the regulations.

“Coal is, and will continue to be, a critical part of America’s energy mix,” Pruitt said while visiting the Thomas Hill Energy Center in Clifton Hill. “Last week I went underground in a Pennsylvania coal mine, and today I got a first-hand look at a Missouri coal-fired power plant,” he said.

Pruitt reiterated what he told coal miners in Pennsylvania a week ago. “I’m committed to working in coordination with states to create a healthy environment where jobs and businesses can grow,” he said. “That’s the purpose of my Back-to-Basics agenda,” which is the name of the campaign he announced last week.

“I saw today just how important this fuel source is to affordable electricity and economic development in the region, especially in the agriculture community,” Pruitt said.

The power plant he visited Thursday is considered one of the coal facilities most compliant with EPA pollution regulations. But under Obama’s Clean Power Plan, it probably would have been closed, according to officials who met with Pruitt. The Clean Power Plan is the centerpiece of Obama’s climate change agenda, which would require states to cut greenhouse gas emissions a third by 2030.

Many scientists blame the emissions, from burning fossil fuels, for climate change, resulting in more severe weather, drought and flooding.

“When EPA asked for comments from the public on its Clean Power Plan in 2013, Missouri electric cooperative members responded with more than 300,000 comments, all with a common theme: ‘Don’t raise our rates, and we want an all-of-the-above energy strategy that keeps electricity affordable and creates jobs,'” said Barry Hart, executive vice president and CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. But those comments “fell on deaf ears.”

Rural cooperative utilities are not-for-profit utilities focused on providing electricity to their members. Electric cooperatives make up a large swath of the nation’s utility sector and have been heavily involved in a major lawsuit fighting the Clean Power Plan.

“We are encouraged to see that the Trump administration understands the concerns of people in rural America and is committed to bringing the change they want,” Hart said.

See the article here.

EPA Administrator Brings Back-to-Basics Agenda to Missouri Power Plant

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt visited the Thomas Hill Energy Center in Clifton Hill, Mo. today to discuss EPA’s Back-to-Basics agenda, which aims to refocus the agency on its core mission of protecting the environment through sensible regulations developed in cooperation with state, local and tribal partners. Administrator Pruitt spoke with more than 300 power plant workers, electric cooperative members and agriculture leaders about balancing environmental protection with affordable energy and jobs.

“Rather than regulating an entire industry out of business, I’m committed to working in coordination with states to create a healthy environment where jobs and businesses can grow. That’s the purpose of my Back-to-Basics agenda,” said Administrator Pruitt. “Last week I went underground in a Pennsylvania coal mine, and today I got a firsthand look at a Missouri coal-fired power plant. Coal is, and will continue to be, a critical part of America’s energy mix. I saw today just how important this fuel source is to affordable electricity and economic development in the region, especially in the agriculture community.”

Administrator Pruitt also spoke with workers and co-op members about the President’s recent Energy Independence Executive Order and his Executive Order directing EPA to review the 2015 Waters of the United States rule, known as WOTUS.

“When EPA asked for comments from the public on its Clean Power Plan in 2013, Missouri electric cooperative members responded with more than 300,000 comments, all with a common theme: ‘Don’t raise our rates, and we want an all-of-the-above energy strategy that keeps electricity affordable and creates jobs.’ Those comments fell on deaf ears. We are encouraged to see that the Trump Administration understands the concerns of people in rural America and is committed to bringing the change they want. We look forward to working with Administrator Pruitt and other administration officials as they work to ensure Washington regulations don’t harm the people who can least afford it — our members — and help rural communities create jobs,” said Barry Hart, Executive VP and CEO of Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

“Responsible coal generation plays a key role in making sure rural America has access to affordable power it can count on. While natural gas prices and other variables may periodically affect the operation of generating units like those here at Thomas Hill Energy Center, coal is still the foundation fuel that delivers reliability at competitive prices for our cooperative system.  Based on his visit today and our conversation, it’s clear to me Administrator Pruitt’s vision and priorities for the EPA align with the values of Associated Electric and our members,” said David Tudor, CEO & General Manager, Associated Electric Cooperative Inc.

“Missouri is proud to host U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on his Back-to-Basics tour. We are encouraged that it is a new day at the agency, one in which all sides are heard and common sense will be considered in decisions that affect people’s lives and economic livelihood. The last time an EPA Administrator traveled to our state she was in the midst of a lobbying campaign for the onerous Waters of the United States rule that would make 99 percent of Missouri land subject to federal regulation. President Trump’s decision to conduct a thorough review of the WOTUS rule is a good step, and we look forward to the day when government overreach is no longer standard operating procedure. Missouri farmers and ranchers work hard every day to produce an abundance of high quality and affordable food and don’t need to be targeted for unnecessary and costly government regulations,” said Blake Hurst, President of the Missouri Farm Bureau.

See the press release here.

EPA May Rewrite Obama-Era Regulation That Shut Down Coal Plants

Via The Daily Caller: 

The Trump administration asked a federal court to delay oral arguments so it can review a costly Obama-era regulation limiting mercury and other pollutants from power plants.

The Department of Justice notified all parties involved in the lawsuit over the mercury, or MATS, rule Tuesday they would ask the court to delay oral arguments set for May 18 so the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could review the regulation.

“This continuance is appropriate because recently-appointed EPA officials in the new Administration will be closely scrutinizing the Supplemental Finding to determine whether it should be maintained, modified, or otherwise reconsidered,” reads the Trump administration’s legal filing.

The Supreme Court struck down the MATS regulation in 2015, ruling the EPA “acted” “unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants,” but a lower court allowed EPA to keep MATS in place since the agency is close to issuing a similar rule.

EPA, however, still had to complete an updated cost-benefit study for MATS, which was challenged by 15 states and several energy companies. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt joined the lawsuit against EPA while attorney general of Oklahoma.

“As reflected in the parties’ briefs, the Supplemental Finding also implicates significant legal and policy issues about a CAA rule of national importance—issues that new EPA officials will need time to carefully review,” the administration argued.

States and energy companies will no doubt celebrate the EPA’s reviewing of MATS, seeing it as the next step in the Trump administration’s plan to cut most federal regulations imposed during the Obama administration.

Environmentalists were angry with the Trump administration, saying it was pointless to reconsider a rule U.S. coal-fired power plants have largely complied with or shut down.

 

When EPA issued MATS in 2012, the agency estimated the rule would cost $9.6 billion and generate between $37 billion and $90 billion in health benefits.

EPA also said MATS would prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year, but critics have challenged these claims.

In fact, EPA only estimated about $6 million in benefits directly from reducing mercury emissions. Virtually all of the regulation’s benefits come from reducing other pollutants, called “co-benefits.” That means the costs of reducing mercury outweigh the benefits by a 1,600 to one ratio.

“According to the EPA, the MATS rule is necessary in order to protect a supposed population of pregnant subsistence fisherwomen, who during their pregnancies eat hundreds of pounds of self-caught fish from America’s most polluted bodies of fresh inland water,” William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute, said after the 2015 appeals court ruling.

“EPA’s has produced no evidence these voracious pregnant anglers actually exist; rather, they are modeled to exist,” Yeatman said. “I suggest these ‘victims’ don’t exist, and that the putative mercury benefits are much closer to zero.”

MATS has probably had the biggest impact on coal-fired power plants of any EPA regulation. A record nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power was shut down in 2015 — the first year MATS went into effect.

Some power plants were given extensions until 2016 and 2017. Another 12 gigawatts of coal-fired power is expected to shut down through 2020.

Coal has also come under pressure from natural gas, which has become price competitive in recent years due to hydraulic fracturing. Utilities are using more natural gas to avoid installing expensive emissions control technology and in anticipation of global warming regulations.

See the article here.

Coal’s Colossal Comeback

Via Townhall:

Buried in an otherwise-humdrum jobs report was the jaw-dropping pronouncement by the Department of Labor that mining jobs in America were up by 11,000 in March. Since the low point in October 2016, and following years of painful layoffs in the mining industry, the mining sector has added 35,000 jobs.

What a turnaround. Liberals have been saying that Donald Trump was lying to the American people when he said that he could bring coal jobs back. Well, so far, he has delivered on his promise.

There’s more good news for the coal industry. Earlier this month, Peabody Energy — America’s largest coal producer — moved out of bankruptcy, and its stock is actively trading again. Its market cap had sunk by almost 90 percent during Barack Obama’s years in office. Arch Coal is also out of bankruptcy.

It turns out that, after all, elections do have consequences. The Obama administration and its allies, such as the Sierra Club, tried to kill coal because of their obsession with global warming. Regime change in Washington has brought King Coal back to life.

Donald Trump pledged to coal miners in small towns across America that he would be a friend to American coal and fossil fuels. As promised, Trump has lifted the so-called Clean Power Plan regulations and several other EPA rules that were intentionally designed to shutter coal plants, which it accomplished with ruthless precision. Hillary Clinton had promised her green allies that she would finish off every last coal-mining job in America.

The coal miners weren’t too happy about this, and her arrogant disregard for a leading American industry that hires tens of thousands of union workers contributed to her losing almost all the coal states — many of which were once reliably Democratic.

America was built on cheap and abundant coal. Fossil fuels powered the U.S. into the industrial age and replaced windmills and wood burning, which were inefficient, as the primary sources of electricity. America currently has access to 500 years’ worth of coal — far more than any other nation. Despite the last decade’s war on coal, the U.S. still derives about one-third of our power from coal, making it second only to natural gas.

Liberals have argued that coal could never make a comeback, because of cheap natural gas. Clearly, the shale gas revolution — with prices falling from $10 to $3 per million cubic feet — has hurt coal producers.

But economic necessity is the mother of invention, and coal companies, including Peabody, have figured out how to become far more efficient in production. What’s more, clean coal is here. Emissions of lead, sulfur, carbon monoxide and other air pollutants from coal plants have fallen by more than half, and in some cases 90 percent, in recent decades.

The climate-change industrial complex pontificates that the U.S. has to stop using coal to save the planet. But even if the U.S. cut our own coal production to zero, China and India are building hundreds of coal plants. By suspending American coal production we are merely transferring jobs out of the U.S.

Renewable energy is decades away from being a major energy source for the world. Until that happens, coal and natural gas will compete as low-priced, super-abundant, domestically produced energy sources for 21st-century America. Nuclear power will, I hope, continue to play an important role, too. Meanwhile, for all the talk of the growth in wind and solar industries, they still account for less than 10 percent of our energy. Almost 70 percent comes from natural gas and coal.

Coal isn’t dead in America. It is unleashed. As a Washington Times editorial put it very well recently, “The left gave up on the 100,000 coal workers in America more than a decade ago. Donald Trump has not.” Remember this the next time Elizabeth Warren or Nancy Pelosi lectures us about how much they care about the working class in America.

See the article here.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt: ‘War On Coal Is Done’

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

To the delight of dozens of miners at the CNX Coal Resources Harvey Mine, Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt declared an end to the “regulatory assault” on their industry.

Pruitt, appointed by President Donald Trump to head the EPA in the post-Obama administration era, spoke briefly at the Pennsylvania mine. The Harvey Mine is now officially part of a master limited partnership, which is sponsored by the facility’s long-time owner, Consol Energy.

Pruitt’s visit came just two weeks after Trump signed an executive order intended to overturn the Clean Power Plan, which former President Barack Obama and other Democrats had hoped would sharply cut CO2 emissions from power plants. The easiest way for power producers to meet the CPP goal would be to reduce coal burning because of the mineral’s high carbon content.

“The war on coal is done,” according to Pruitt.

“It’s really sad over the last several years that a regulatory body of the federal government of the U.S. would declare a war on a vital part of our economy,” he said.

Pruitt said what he has witnessed across the country is that in states in where oil, natural gas and coal are produced, leaders in those states are committed to being both “pro-environment, and pro-growth.”

“The days in which we had to choose between those two are over,” he said. “The past administration said we had to choose between the environment and job growth. This administration says the opposite.

“We can achieve both. We will.”

Pruitt said he came to Western Pennsylvania not just to celebrate the executive order signed by Trump, but to partner with and work together with the coal industry “to achieve positive outcomes.”

He responded to those who think the EPA is now “compromising outcomes” with respect to the environment as it relaxes regulations on coal-fired power plants.

“Lets look at what the past (Obama) administration achieved,” Pruitt said. “Almost 140 million live in areas non-compliant with respect to air quality.”

Pruitt said there are 1,322 Superfund sites across the country, and still problems with the water in Flint, Mich.

“We’re going to improve the environment in this country, protect our water, protect our air, but at the same time do it the American way — grow jobs, and show the world we can achieve it,” he said.

Pruitt thanked the miners and coal executives present “for persevering.”

“The regulatory assault is over,” he said. “We’re going to partner together….”

Pruitt spoke to the miners for a few minutes before joining coal executives upstairs at the Harvey Mine for a private roundtable discussion. He was also expected to take a tour of the mine.

The Harvey Mine, and the nearby Bailey and Enlow Fork mines make up the Pennsylvania complex of CNX Coal Resources. Together, they constitute the largest underground mine in the U.S. — encompassing an area that larger than Manhattan, according to CEO Jimmy Brock

The mines collectively employ 1,500, and produce 26 million to 28 million tons of coal per year.

Brock said while everyone in the coal industry has “felt a lot of pain” over the past eight years, they always believed there would still be a need for coal.

“It’s easy to be optimistic today,” he said. “As long as we work safely and protect the environment, the future is going to be great.”

Todd McNair, assistant superintendent at the Harvey Mine, said he also sees a brighter future for the coal industry.

“The new administration is at last willing to look at us, rather than not,” he said. “That in itself is positive.”

Lee Farrell, assistant superintendent at the Bailey Mine, said he has worked in the coal industry for 42 years.

“I’ve seen the struggles,” he said. “But, I have confidence that we have the right political people in place.”

See the article here.

Trump’s Coal Push Grinds into High Gear

Via The Washington Examiner:

The Trump administration could call Thursday “National Coal Day.”

Several Cabinet officials are spreading out to push clean coal, coal power plants and coal mining.

The activities got started Wednesday afternoon when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with Native American leaders to brainstorm ways the Trump administration can help prevent one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the country from shutting down in Arizona.

The owners of the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal plant in the West, said they would close the plant in 2019 due to increased competition from natural gas, but might have to shutdown earlier if they can’t get a better lease agreement with the Navajo Nation, where the plant is located. The plant provides electricity to a number of states and is a major source of income and employment for the Navajo.

David Palumbo, deputy commissioner for operations at Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, said the administration is hopeful they can reach an agreement to extend operations beyond 2019, but are planning for the worst if the plant is forced to close. “We maintain our commitment to support these productive and constructive talks and have proposed to participate in the coming weeks,” Palumbo said. “At the same time, we recognize this is a difficult task among the stakeholders and therefore are exploring ways to minimize negative impacts should the plant close.”

On Thursday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry will travel to his home state of Texas to celebrate the opening of an advanced clean coal power plant that has been under construction for years. The power plant generates electricity while stripping out the carbon dioxide from the waste stream. The CO2 is then used by oil drillers to get to hard-to-reach petroleum deposits deep underground in a process known as enhanced oil recovery.

The Petra Nova plant “is the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture project,” the Energy Department said in a notice about Perry’s visit. The project is a joint venture between U.S. utility firm NRG Energy and the Tokyo-based JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. The project also received support from the Department of Energy.

Perry will be delivering remarks as part of a ribbon cutting ceremony, officially opening the plant.

Finally on Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will be traveling to coal country in Pennsylvania to kick off what the agency is calling its “Back to Basics” agenda.

See the article here.

Good Riddance to Obama’s Job-killing ‘Clean Power Plan’

Via The Delco Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

EPA Launches New Agenda in Coal Country

Via The Washington Examiner:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt joined the coal industry in Pennsylvania Thursday to launch what he called the agency’s “Back-to-Basics” agenda, in which Washington gets out of the way of states’ natural resources development.

“What better way to launch EPA’s Back-to-Basics agenda than visiting the hard-working coal miners who help power America,” said Pruitt, speaking at the Harvey Mine in Sycamore. “The coal industry was nearly devastated by years of regulatory overreach, but with new direction from President Trump, we are helping to turn things around for these miners and for many other hard-working Americans.”

The “Back-to-Basics” agenda means returning EPA to its core mission: protecting the environment by engaging with state, local and tribal partners to create sensible regulations that enhance economic growth.”

The agenda involves a number of actions to roll back regulations affecting coal and other industries.

The agenda includes repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s climate change agenda, and the Waters of the U.S. rule, another EPA rule that the GOP has targeted as an egregious example of federal overreach. It also is canceling data collection requirements for methane emissions for the oil and gas industry, while establishing the EPA Regulatory Reform Task Force to conduct extensive reviews of “misaligned regulatory actions.”

In a joint statement with the EPA, the leaders of coal industry groups praised the agenda as a new beginning after the Obama administration.

 Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, said Pruitt’s appearance should assure coal communities that “the days when our government stands in opposition to them are over and that the appreciation they deserve for securing the nation’s energy supply for our manufacturing industries and families is finally at hand.”
See the article here.

NMA Hails Pruitt’s Support for Coal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Mining Association (NMA) president and CEO Hal Quinn issued the following statement regarding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s visit today at the Harvey Mine and training complex in Pennsylvania:

“It’s encouraging to hear a senior government official recognize the contribution that America’s coal resources, the world’s largest, make to our nation’s economy and energy security. His comments are a welcome contrast to policies of the recent past that treated America’s largest energy resource as a political liability best left in the ground instead of as an invaluable asset to secure and project the nation’s energy dominance.

“The Harvey Mine is part of one of the largest underground coal mine complexes in the country and the home to an underground mining training academy. Featuring an array of the latest mining technologies, it showcases modern mining and the skills of our nation’s coal miners.

“His appearance should give confidence to coal communities across the country that the days when our government stands in opposition to them are over and that the appreciation they deserve for securing the nation’s energy supply for our manufacturing industries and families is finally at hand.”

See the press release here.

Big Coal Starts Hiring, Opening Plants, ‘Through the Roof’

Via The Washington Examiner:

West Virginia coal industry executive Mike Grose knows fake news when he sees it. And the headlines claiming that President Trump’s new executive order to dismantle clean power rules won’t revive mining employment were Exhibit A.

“It’s growing, a lot better than it ever was,” said Grose, owner of Superior and Elite Coal Services, a mining employment firm. “Once Trump was elected, I have increased staff 20-fold. Once he was elected, it went through the roof.”

From his office in central West Virginia, where he connects miners to several East Coast companies, Grose said that in anticipation of a Trump victory many mine operators readied for a hiring blitz. Smaller companies have begun to grab those that went bankrupt when former President Barack Obama targeted them with his Clean Power Plan.

“The industry knew what it was going to do, and it ramped up. They basically put the cart before the horse,” he said, adding that Trump’s promise to help the U.S. steel industry will mean even more coal mining jobs.

Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association said that Trump’s move at the very least will keep the coal industry open for business and slow the job drain.

Trump’s executive order and new coal leases approved by the Interior Department will “prevent further job losses,” he said. Better yet, “at least our government is not against us.”

The National Mining Association noted that Obama’s policies cost 64,000 mining jobs and Trump’s action killing the Clean Power Plan would “save 27,700 high-wage coal mining jobs along with another 99,700 in the coal supply chain including railroad workers, machinists, mechanics, truckers and other occupations that depend on coal mining.”

Mining country lawmakers also dismissed suggestions that Trump’s action wouldn’t lead to new jobs. Montana Sen. Steve Daines told the Washington Examiner, “The Obama regulations created uncertainty — whether it’s halting federal coal leasing or wiping out Colstrip Power Plant with the EPA Power Plan. These actions will stop the hemorrhaging from the industry and move toward putting coal back on the starting block — and let the market dictate.”

He also said that with global energy demand expected to spike 84 percent between now and 2050, “America either leads and powers the world or lets more dangerous nations strengthen their hold.”

See the article here.

Coal Should Be Part Of Energy Mix Given National Clean Power Plan Rollback

Via WIBW News:

A pro-coal attorney and former member of the Missouri Public Service Commission sees the rollback of the Clean Power Plan by President Donald Trump as a positive.

“Coal plants that were slated to close within the next three to four years will remain open,” said Terry Jarrett. “Coal will now be able to compete on a level playing field with all the other sources of fuel like natural gas and renewables. It takes that heavy-handed regulatory burden off the coal industry.”

It is important that the coal industry does its best to keep emissions clean while keeping price competitive.

“We need to use coal responsibly, there’s no doubt,” said Jarrett. “We need to make sure that if we’re going to burn it, that we’re not shooting a lot of pollutants up in the air, like they do in China and in other parts of the third world where they don’t have the environmental controls that we have in this country. We need to use it responsibly, but we do need to use it.”

This doesn’t mean stopping innovation, either.

“We need coal to be a part of our energy mix,” said Jarrett. “Along with natural gas, along with nuclear, along with hydroelectric, along with wind and solar. All of those are necessary for us to maintain reliable and affordable electricity in this country.”

The state of Kansas put its portion of the Clean Power Plan on hold last year due to legal issues at the Federal level.

See the article here.

The Climate Yawns

Via The Wall Street Journal:

The oddest criticism of Donald Trump’s climate action this week was the claim, mentioned almost triumphantly by every news source, that it would save few coal jobs. The economic and technological forces, especially the flood of low-carbon natural gas from fracking, are just too powerful.

Then why, if you’re a Democrat, put yourself in that position in the first place to take blame for killing coal jobs? Why enact a costly regulation to do what the market was doing for free? When everybody else wanted to blame the Florida recount for his 2000 defeat, Al Gore was smart enough privately to blame gun control. When you lose your home state as presidential candidate, something is wrong. The same blundering ineptitude explains how the Obama alliance with the greens threw away first Congress and then a presidency.

Of course the news reports are right: “The regulatory changes are entirely outweighed by these technological changes, not to mention the price of natural gas or renewables,” Mark Muro of the Brookings Institution was quoted telling the New York Times .

So potent and large are these global forces that repealing the Obama rules, costly as they are, not only won’t affect coal jobs, it won’t affect climate.

Gina McCarthy, Mr. Obama’s EPA administrator, admitted as much when confronted, during a 2015 House hearing, with the fact that, by the agency’s own climate models, the effect would be only 1/100th of a degree Celsius. Instead, she said success should be measured in terms of “positioning the U.S. for leadership in an international discussion.”

Even so, many climate activists felt the need to walk back Ms. McCarthy’s concession by insisting Obama policies would have a measurable effect—on the amount of CO 2 released. Yes, the relative decrease would be tiny but measurable, though the climate effect would be zip. This is akin to medical researchers claiming a drug a success because it’s detectable in the bloodstream, not because it improves health.

And don’t get us started on the “social cost of carbon,” a mechanism of policy justification created by the Obama EPA to assign a dollar-value benefit to carbon abatement rules that, in total, will produce zero impact on climate.

Pile up all the government policies enacted or seriously on the table, and their net effect is zilch. A new McKinsey study, that would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad, points out that Germany’s switch to renewables has been a success by almost every metric except CO 2 output—which is up instead of down.

Rising energy prices to support this energy transition have had one measurable effect—more than 330,000 German households have had their electricity shut off in the past year from nonpayment of bills almost three times as high as those paid by U.S. households.

Germany, needless to add, is many greens’ idea of a country “positioned for leadership in international discussions.”

No rational consideration, however, will abate the torrent of priestly imprecations hurled by green activists this week at Mr. Trump. The New York Times insists that Trumpian action “risks the planet”—plainly false since nothing either Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama did will make a difference to the planet.

Literally no amount of money dissipated on climate policy is excessive to such people, because their shamanistic status is directly proportional to the social waste they can conjure. In the realm of religion are we called upon to perform symbolic actions whose purpose (and cost) is aimed at testifying to our membership in the elect.

The most poignant question, however, is what happened to Democrats? They were once a party whose members cared whether policy was efficient and produced benefits for the American people.

Democrats deserve a large share of the credit for the rescue of the failing U.S. economy of the 1970s by throwing out a host of perverse regulatory policies, not that they embrace or even acknowledge this legacy today—which is the problem.

Airline deregulation was born in Ted Kennedy’s administrative practice subcommittee. His aide, Stephen Breyer, now a Supreme Court justice, recalled a working-class Boston constituent asking why the senator was focused on airline issues when this voter could never afford to fly. “That is why,” said Kennedy.

The Democratic Party once had a brain where regulation was concerned, understanding that the ultimate purpose was a net public good, not an in-gathering of power to Washington for the benefit of lobbyists and influence peddlers.

It was not yet today’s Democratic Party of Chuck Schumer, who isn’t stupid and yet is associated with no body of policy thought or analysis. If he even has anybody on his staff deputized to think about the results of policy, it probably is the lowliest intern.

A wrecking ball of a president was the Trump electorate’s answer to this problem. It’s hard even now to say they were wrong. If he delivers nothing in the next four years, it is alarming to suspect that this likely would still be a better result than we would have gotten under Hillary Clinton.

See the article here.

Trump’s Rollback of Coal Rules Electrifies Wyoming Workers

Via The Observer-Reporter:

This hardscrabble Wyoming city of about 30,000 people proclaims itself the “Energy Capital of the Nation” on the mayor’s blue blazer and even the parking ticket payment boxes.

Nearby are some of the world’s largest open-pit mines, where dump trucks the size of houses haul out more than 40 percent of the coal produced in the United States. The windy, wide-open landscape around Gillette also has substantial reserves of natural gas, oil and uranium.

So, when President Donald Trump lifted a federal coal leasing moratorium and ordered a review of greenhouse gas regulations, the announcement electrified many workers here who depend on fossil fuels for their livelihood. After years of layoffs and corporate bankruptcies, they are optimistic jobs and a better economy will soon return.

“It’s not all rosy right now. But anytime you can see the future and know that the United States, you know, is working with you rather than against you, that alone is nice,” Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King said. She predicts the community will “come out of this bigger and better than ever” thanks to clean-coal technology and overseas exports.

But the skepticism expressed by many economists and energy experts throughout the campaign has not eased. They say the global coal market has little room for additional coal from Wyoming and especially from Appalachia, where mines are not just scaling back but closing altogether.

Nationwide, the coal industry has shed some 60,000 jobs, or more than 40 percent of its nonoffice workforce, since 2011.

“Utilities are just staying away from coal. So that hasn’t changed. That didn’t change after the election, and it hasn’t changed since the executive order,” said Rob Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming. “The problem is that with the stroke of a pen, the president can’t change market conditions very easily.”

Academics with doctorates aren’t dampening Gillette’s newfound optimism for Trump’s order.

“I think it’s freaking great,” said Scott Baysinger, operations manager of Baysinger Trucking, which supplies dump trucks and other heavy machinery to the coal industry. “Last year was a horrible year for us. This year already is better. We’ve been better all year long.”

Last year, in fact, was the worst for U.S. coal production since 1978. Utilities continued to switch to cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas to generate electricity, and the cost of wind and solar energy continued to decline.

Around here, President Barack Obama’s regulations got much of the blame. Trump reaped the benefit, winning Wyoming and another coal state, West Virginia, by his widest margins in the nation. Within Wyoming, Trump won biggest in Campbell County, which includes Gillette.

On Tuesday, he repaid the favor by announcing he would review Obama’s Clean Power Plan and lift the 14-month-old coal leasing moratorium.

Stacey Moeller, a shovel operator at Peabody Energy’s Caballo Mine, said the changes will put coal back on a level playing field after Obama tipped it in favor of renewable energy for eight years.

“That’s all I ever thought was fair, was that we would be allowed to compete in the market,” she said. “And that’s what I felt was being taken away from us.”

The federal government owns nearly all of the coal reserves in the Powder River Basin and leases them to companies to mine. Even before the Obama moratorium, market forces had all but halted new leasing. To many, the measure seemed like insult on top of injury.

Last year, around 500 miners were laid off as several large mining companies went through bankruptcy.

Whether Arch Coal, Peabody or Contura Energy rehire all those workers or resume significant leasing remains to be seen. The companies have not announced any major new projects yet.

But business is already brightening at some of the heavy machinery dealerships that line a Gillette road where they sell excavators, bulldozers, forklifts and other equipment to the mines.

The perk-up began the day after the election, when a couple of customers placed orders to complete projects they would have abandoned if Democrat Hillary Clinton had won, said Richard Chafee, general manager of Jack’s Truck & Equipment.

“You talk about consumer confidence,” Chafee said with a chuckle. “We’ve had very good consumer confidence here last three months.”

Still, the coal critics aren’t limited to scientists and scholars. On the Turner Crest Ranch, greyish-orange clouds from mine blasting appear on the horizon like clockwork. Ranchers Karen and L.J. Turner have little good to say about Black Thunder and the other huge mines near their place, which they blame for their creeks and wells running dry.

“I think all these people that are hanging on for dear life to their coal mining jobs ought to, you know, see the writing on the wall and say, ‘OK, what can I do?’ Something else,” said Karen Turner, who like her husband is a lifelong Democrat.

Economists tend to agree, pointing out that the cost of renewables will continue to decline and their appeal will continue to grow along with global interest in reducing greenhouse gases. The prospect of low-carbon coal, meanwhile, remains far off, even as Wyoming and other states team up on a carbon-capture lab under construction at a power plant near Gillette.

Exporting coal to the Far East does not much promise either, Godby said, in part because Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on imports from China, South Korea, Japan and other countries that might want to use Powder River Basin coal.

“If he does that, I think it’s pretty fair to expect that they would do a tit-for-tat tariff strategy,” he said. And coal could be among the commodities that get “hit directly.”

For now, the election continues to send good vibes through the community.

After Trump’s victory, the mood of the town was “just electric,” the mayor recalled. “You went into the restaurants, they were busy, bustling. People were happy. There’s a lot to be said for hope.

See the article here.

How President Trump Avoided a Catastrophe in the Coalfields.

Via The Williamson Daily News: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here. 

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

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here. 

U.S. Can Have a Viable Coal Industry

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Colorado Coal Communities Saved from Costly Power Plan

Via The Craig Daily Press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Roanoke Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via Brietbart:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump’s Energy Progress

Via The Wall Street Journal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Clean Power Plan’s Cancellation Means Trump is Saving Jobs

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

President Trump Ends ‘War on Coal’

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BACKGROUND ON OBAMA ERA RULES

Clean Power Plan

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

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

All Pain and No Gain

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

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

The Federal Coal Leasing Moratorium

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

See the press release here.

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

Via Townhall:

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Pruitt: Trump to Sign Order on Power Plant Regulations Tuesday

Via CNN Politics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the press release here.

Hope For the Future

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Washington Braces for Trump Climate Order

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump Lays Plans to Reverse Obama’s Climate Change Legacy

Via The New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump Preparing New Executive Actions for Coal Mining

Via The Toldeo Blade:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Week Ahead: Anticipation Builds for Trump Climate Order

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via Townhall:

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via Brietbart:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Waiting Game Continues for Clean Power Plan Order

Via E&E Publishing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Washington Post:

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

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

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

Pruitt is no longer a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Coal Industry Urges Trump to Protect Fossil Fuel Research

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via E&E Publishing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting for the ‘right time’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fresh lawsuits await

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via Fox News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump to Scrap Obama Climate Plan, Costly Coal Rules

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lifting the coal moratorium may be a little more straightforward.

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

See the article here.

Week Ahead: White House Readies Climate Orders

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A ruling in that case is still pending.

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here. 

Trump’s Coal Council to Drill Down on Advanced Technology

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

 

Trump and Big Coal

Via The New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAL QUINN, WASHINGTON

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

See the article here.

4 Major Issues Zinke Will Face on Day One

Via E&E Publishing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will he kill the coal reform review?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will he manage a sharply reduced budget?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will he support climate science research?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will he handle Congress?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

President Hits the Mark in Speech to Congress

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

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

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

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

See the release here. 

How Trump Maintains Anti-Regulatory Momentum

Via LifeZette:

One of the themes emerging from the new Trump administration is a focus on overturning onerous regulations currently smothering American industries. It’s a laudable goal, since government rules bear so heavily on middle-class job creation.

On Feb. 24, the president signed an executive order tasking officials with peeling back excess regulation. The president still faces a fairly big problem, however, since behind each regulatory door he opens, there are two more doors.

Essentially, the Obama administration spent its second term cooking up a wide array of environmental measures that were both ideologically conceived and bureaucratically cumbersome. And nowhere was such red tape stretched more aggressively than in the quest to keep coal and minerals in the ground.

Already, President Trump has followed through on some of his campaign pledges. For example, he signed a congressional resolution overturning the Obama-era “stream rule.” This massive rule simply duplicated existing measures to monitor coal mining and land reclamation. Thus, canceling the rule will not meaningfully impact environmental standards already in place. But it will lift the hefty costs intended to punish mining firms simply for extracting a carbon-based source of energy.

That’s merely step one for the Trump administration, though. There’s more to do.

First off, there’s the leasing moratorium imposed on coal reserves on federal lands. Even though federal coal accounts for 42 percent of total U.S. coal production — while being responsible for 40 percent of total coal-generated electricity in 2014 — the Interior Department decided last year to shut down new coal leases for three years.

This smacks of political payoffs to activists since taxpayers receive 39 cents from every dollar earned from federal lease sales while the net global “carbon contribution” from federal coal is negligible. The moratorium solved a problem no one had.

The good news is that this moratorium can be lifted by the new Interior Department secretary as easily as it was imposed by his predecessor. Thus, after Ryan Zinke is confirmed for his post at the Interior Department, he could move quickly to end the moratorium.

Also in the administration’s purview is the Obama administration’s “Clean Power Plan” (CPP), the carbon reduction rule currently tied up in the D.C. Circuit Court. In essence, the CPP represents the zenith of regulatory ambition — a total transformation of the nation’s energy grid, engineered by an environmental agency hoping to impose the very cap-and-trade regime that Congress repeatedly rejected.

The CPP is still breathing, but barely; it isn’t legally binding until the D.C. Circuit decides its dubious legality. But Enviromental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has reiterated his intention to scrap the plan — an encouraging prospect for the millions of Americans living in states that depend heavily on electricity from reliable and affordable coal-based power.

And finally, there’s the blundering excess of the financial assurance requirement that Obama’s EPA hoped to impose on hard-rock mining companies. It is already standard practice for mining firms in the United States to post financial assurances for the reclamation, closure, and post-closure costs of any mining site. But the EPA simply decided to duplicate these requirements, even though the process is already being managed successfully by state regulators as well as by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

Why would the EPA want to increase the financial burden on mining companies by requiring them to lay out additional capital for the same costs they’ve already covered? Because green activists have waged an ideological campaign opposed to mining, and the EPA simply acquiesced to their agenda. Ignored by these same environmentalists is their reliance on the very metals and minerals they would keep in the ground.

Smartphones, for example, contain more than 40 metals and minerals extracted from state-of-the-art mining operations. And solar panels and wind turbines require copious amounts of bauxite, boron, cadmium, copper, cobalt, iron, molybdenum, etc. The new financial assurance requirement is another example of an environmental agenda lacking any real-world practicality.

Mining matters greatly to the future security of the United States, however. And it’s not just the reliable, affordable energy that coal provides. Or the critical minerals needed for 21st century technologies. There’s also the thousands upon thousands of good-paying, middle-class jobs on the line, and the economic impacts for industry and manufacturing.

This is why the Trump administration must continue to root out regulations that were conceived in an ideological vacuum — with little to justify their massive impact. Dismantling an anti-coal regulatory edifice, and ending the blanket hostility to mining, will do much to secure affordable energy and a stronger industrial base for America.

See the article here.

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

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

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

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

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

See the release here.

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

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump Should End Obama Coal Lease Moratorium

Via LifeZette:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Reviving W.Va. Coal Mines

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Stream Rule Provided No Discernible Environmental Benefits

Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 

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

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

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

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

Hal Quinn  •  Washington, D.C.

President and CEO, National Mining Association

See the article here.

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

Via The Independent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Daily Caller:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Gov’t Data Says Coal Is Staging A Comeback

Via The Daily Caller:

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

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

(Graphic from U.S. Energy Information Administration)

(Graphic from U.S. Energy Information Administration)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here. 

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

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here. 

Guest Opinion: Daines Votes to Protect Montana Coal Jobs

Via The Billings Gazette:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The West Virginia MetroNews:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Coal Miners Rejoice After Senate Votes to Repeal Stream Protection Rule

Via Fortune.com:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arch did not immediately comment.

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

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

See the article here.

‘Overturning Anti-Coal Agenda’

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

House Votes to Repeal Two Obama Energy Regs

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Tell EPA ‘No’ On Stream Rule

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Winning the Fight on Stream Protection

Via The Morning Consult:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now it’s time to win this fight.

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

See the article here.

GOP Moves To Undo President Obama’s EPA Coal Stream Rule

Via The Wheeling Intelligencer: 

Congressional Republicans are moving swiftly to repeal Obama administration regulations aimed at better protecting streams from coal mining debris.

Coal country lawmakers unveiled legislation Monday to block the rules, which they say would kill jobs in the coal industry, which is reeling from competition from cleaner-burning natural gas.

The legislation unveiled Monday would overturn December regulations through a process that permits Congress to revoke recently-issued rules in a manner that is immune to filibusters by Senate Democrats.

The repeal measure is set for a House vote Wednesday and a Senate vote shortly thereafter.

“The Stream Protection Rule is the latest in a series of overreaching and misguided Obama-era regulations that have targeted America’s coal industry,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. “If this rule were allowed to stay in place, it would add to the economic devastation for people in coal communities.”

The stream protection rules would be the first of several recent Obama administration regulations to be targeted by using the fast-track procedures. Former President Barack Obama easily repelled such moves with vetoes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the “‘stream buffer’ rule is a harmful regulation that unfairly targets coal jobs.”

The regulations would have tightened exceptions to a rule that requires a 100-foot buffer between coal mining and streams. It also would require coal companies to restore streams and return mined areas to conditions similar to those before mining took place.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club support the rules, saying they would protect people in coal country from health risks from pollutants like mercury.

Pro-industry senators among the measure’s numerous sponsors include Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

On the House side, Republican Reps. David McKinley of West Virginia and Bill Johnson of Ohio were among those sponsoring a resolution of disapproval concerning the Stream Protection Rule.

“This rule implemented by President Obama at the end of his term is an outrageous attack on working families in the coal industry,” McKinley said. “As chairman of the Coal Caucus, we’ve made stopping the (Stream Protection Rule) our No. 1 priority because if implemented, it could shut down more coal mines and disrupt the livelihoods of over 80,000 miners and their families.

“Fortunately with President Trump, we now have a partner in the White House who understands how irresponsible and harmful these bureaucratic overreaches can be,” McKinley added.

Johnson, meanwhile, said voters in November “sent a clear message to Washington, D.C. that more regulation is not the answer.”

“We will both protect America’s coal jobs by stopping this rule from taking effect, and prevent the issuance of any similar rule in the future,” Johnson said.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., also was among the resolution’s sponsors.

The action comes less than two weeks after a group of 14 state attorneys general, including Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia and Mike DeWine of Ohio, sent a letter to McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., urging congressional action.

The letter states the Congressional Review Act “provides Congress the authority to take action immediately after President-elect Trump takes office to avoid the harm imposed by the (Stream Protection Rule) and protect both the states and the federal government from having to engage in potentially lengthy litigation on this subject.”

Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming also signed the Jan. 17 letter.

See the article here.

McConnell Pushes for Action on ‘Harmful’ Coal-Mining Rule

Via The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged Monday to undo a coal-mining rule issued in the closing days of the Obama administration.

McConnell introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution blocking the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, days before the House is set to vote on a similar measure.

In a floor speech, he urged the House to move quickly on its resolution “so we can pass [it] here in the Senate and provide relief to our coal communities, our national economy, and our constituents.”

Obama officials and environmentalists have hailed the rule — which protects waterways from the impacts of mountaintop removal mining — as good for water quality and public health. But the coal industry has said it would kill mining jobs.

The rule has been a key target for McConnell and resolution co-sponsor Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), whose states’ coal sectors have been hit hard by the commodity’s downturn.

“It will cause real harm to real people who support real families in real communities,” McConnell said of the rule. “This regulation is an attack on coal families. It jeopardizes jobs and transfers power away from states and local governments.”

The House is set to vote on three CRA resolutions this week undoing energy-sector regulations finalized late in the Obama administration. The resolutions target the Stream Protection Rule, a methane leak regulation, and a directive seeking more financial information from drilling and mining firms.

President Trump has said he wants to cut regulations on the fossil fuel sector, so he’s likely to support the resolutions if they reach his desk.

See the article here.

Coal to the Rescue

Via The Washington Examiner:

A fundamental shift in how America generates electricity is raising serious doubts about its ability to keep the lights on.

Switching from coal to more natural gas and renewables is straining the country’s power grid.

The biggest change in the past two years is what the utility industry calls the big “fuel switch” to natural gas — that is, gas took over as the leading producer of the nation’s electricity supply.

The market is awash with natural gas from fracking, which has made it cheaper and more attractive than other energy sources. A unit of gas has cost $2-$3 for the past few years compared to $14-$17 a decade ago.

On top of that, tighter environmental regulations imposed by former President Barack Obama have forced many older coal plants to shut down, which in turn has created an opening for more power plants run on natural gas and other renewable energy sources.

But depending so heavily on a gaseous fuel instead of piles of rocky coal brings risks, especially because environmentalists fight to prevent pipelines being built, so gas-fired plants have a tough time getting the support infrastructure they need.

All this points toward coal making a comeback as a necessary part of the energy mix to avoid blackouts. Washington forecasts higher natural gas prices and a resulting resurgence of demand for coal-fired electricity in the coming year. Washington oversees wholesale power markets, where price is king. Repealing the Obama administration’s climate rules, as President Trump has touted, also would help coal compete on equal footing with natural gas.

Reliability is electric

Former federal energy commissioners say all of this poses serious challenges if reliable electricity service is to be maintained and brownouts and blackouts are to be avoided.

The federal government is going to have to relearn the nuts and bolts of keeping the lights on, according to Republican luminaries.

“The whole issue of reliability is one that will take a renewed focus here in Washington,” says Tony Clark, a former Republican commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who left the agency last year when his term expired.

Clark recently joined the law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP to serve as senior adviser on electricity and energy policy. He will share his time between the firm’s offices in Washington and its Colorado and other state offices.

Clark expects FERC, the electricity watchdog, to be the focus of more attention this year as reliability becomes a bigger issue for the administration and Congress.

“Both at the agency and on Capitol Hill, you’re going to have probably renewed focus on some of these nuts-and-bolts kind of reliability issues, especially as it relates to baseload power and the impact of environmental regulations on reliability of the grid,” Clark says.

“There are some real issues with the retirement of baseload, the integration of more natural gas-fired units, and the increasing penetration of variable energy resources, and how all those things tie together,” says Clark.

A debate is emerging over the value of baseload plants, which are those that can provide power nonstop, such as any that burn fossil fuels. Wind and solar plants cannot do this, and Clark refers to them as “variable resources.”

Markets in California and the Southwest are “right on the leading edge” of this debate, he says. They are trying to figure out how to deal with the unreliability of electricity supplies that is the hallmark of “green” sources. Fossil fuel plants have to be kept going to keep grid supply stable, Clark says.

The energy markets that FERC oversees are struggling with the challenge of “pricing into the market some kind of assurance that you are going to have the resources to back up and compensate for that intermittency,” Clark adds.

“It’s a really, really big thing, barring some kind of technological revolution on the energy storage side of things, you have to accommodate for the intermittency in some way.”

There are two ways to deal with it, Clark says. Either you must build more transmission to account for times when the grid is over-supplied or under-supplied with electricity, or have fast-ramping power plants that can come online quickly, which means more natural gas.

Added to that is the effect renewable energy is having on nuclear and natural gas power plants.

Federal subsidies are pushing wind power prices so low in some states that baseload plants cannot compete and are being forced out of the market.

Cheap natural gas prices are also making it tougher for nuclear power.

The move toward more natural gas and renewables is expected to continue to grow, even with a new president in the White House who is focused on bringing back the coal industry.

A system built for coal

Coal will come back on its own without President Trump‘s help this year and next as a result of natural gas prices rising in 2017 and 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s independent statistics arm.

The challenges posed by the changing fuel mix will grow worse if ignored, experts say, not least because the system was built for coal.

“The system was designed mostly around central station and coal-fired generation,” says John Moura, head of reliability assessment at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or NERC, the congressionally sanctioned reliability watchdog and cop on the beat when it comes to anything that could turn out the lights.

“There is a lot of reliability you get when you have three months of backed-up supply in your backyard coal inventory,” Moura says.

Natural gas is different because it relies on pipelines to deliver fuel on a just-in-time basis, agreed to in contracts not written with reliability in mind.

Moura says “a lot of reliability” is gained by having big heaps of coal stacked near a power plant so it can make up for unexpected outages or increasing demand during a sudden cold snap or heat wave.

“You don’t get that same level of reliability with the natural gas-fired generator. You can make that generator appear to be just as reliable as a coal unit and have storage,” but there is always going to be a risk, Moura says.

Some natural gas plants have built large storage derricks of the sort one sees at an oil refinery, but that adds costs that get passed on to ratepayers. That is his challenge in advising lawmakers and state regulators who need to understand the facts, he says.

“One of my major goals is to make regulators know what risk they are taking,” Moura says. “You can’t have a complete 100 percent reliable system. We are always going to be taking some risk.”

Moura’s group was chartered by Congress after the 2003 East Coast blackout to work with the federal government to develop mandatory enforceable standards for utilities overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s latest long-term reliability assessment, out last month, looks at reliability over the next decade. Many regions of the country are becoming too dependent on one fuel source, it says.

Even those without reliability problems will face increasing demand for natural gas to backstop renewables and at the same time provide baseload electricity and supply heat.

“NERC has identified that reliance on a single fuel increases vulnerabilities, particularly during extreme weather conditions,” the report says. It also explains how more rooftop solar panels and other small power generators are creating problems because “many utilities currently lack sufficient visibility and operational control of these resources, increasing the risk to [the bulk power system’s] reliability.”

No one knows how much generation capacity is out there on people’s roofs, or when and where such sources will produce electricity. Sometimes, there might be more electricity supply than demand.

“It used to be that the big ramp for demand was in late afternoon and evening and hot summer days when you had huge air-conditioning load,” Clark says. “What happens now, if you got a really solar-dependent region of the country, you could actually have over-supply in those very hours in the afternoon because you have so much solar power that is coming online” all at once.

“But as soon as the sun goes down in late afternoon-evening you still have very high air-conditioning load needs, but the solar power isn’t there anymore,” Clark says. That’s why natural gas is becoming an increasingly important issue, because it’s the only resource that can ramp up quickly enough to meet the drop in electricity from solar.

The California case

California is the best example of how the problem is playing out in markets increasingly dependent on the sun for electricity, but also increasingly reliant on natural gas.

The closure of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility near Los Angeles made national news in 2015 when a major leak forced families to flee their homes. The cause of the leak is still being investigated, but the effect of the lost supply on the electric grid has been profound.

The closure and the state’s renewable energy and climate policies have set up the likelihood of a major blackout in one of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas.

Increasing reliance on solar power flowing into the California grid means gas generators near Los Angeles must ramp up supply quickly once the sun sets. But where will the fuel come from with Aliso Canyon only partially operational?

Norman Bay, then FERC’s chairman, warned of blackouts last year and worked with California grid operators to stave off problems last summer. Blackouts were avoided, but the situation may have gone from stable to dire in the past week.

Regulators say that if or when Aliso Canyon reopens, its storage capacity will be only one-third of what it used to be. California utility regulators and the site’s owner, Southern California Gas, issued a warning Jan. 23 that customers should cut their gas use or face a blackout.

Thermostats should be lowered to 68 degrees, clothes washed in cold water, and gas stoves and appliances left unused. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

“By conserving natural gas during this critical period, SoCalGas customers can help lower the risk of possible natural gas and electricity shortages” — ie, blackouts and brownouts.

All but 5 percent of Southern Californian residents use natural gas for home heating, and 60 percent of the electricity used in California comes from natural gas power plants.

Moura says any further loss of natural gas supply would be a serious problem. Policy decisions the state made a decade ago banned fuel oil and other fossil fuels that could produce electricity if natural gas supplies were disrupted.

Increasing use of renewables is also making it harder for large baseload gas-fired power plants to remain profitable in the California electricity market that is valuing one resource over another.

Renewables vs. natural gas

Last year, the large La Paloma gas plant in California announced it was being forced out of business because of market forces created by the Golden State’s climate change and renewable energy mandates.

Philip Moeller, a former FERC commissioner, says that will be a problem FERC addresses in 2017, and that there is talk about tweaking market rules so baseload plants such as La Paloma are no longer undervalued.

He now is senior vice president of energy delivery and chief customer solutions officer at the Edison Electric Institute, which represents the utility industry. He served with Clark as the other Republican on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the Obama administration. The five-member commission has two Democrats and two Republicans, and the chairman typically belongs to the same party as the president. Trump last week, however, named Democratic commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to be acting chairwoman of the commission.

Moeller thinks gas plants under financial strain have a strong argument for compensation from states since they provide a vital service.

“If they are providing something to the grid that is essential for reliability, they should be compensated for it,” Moeller says.

John Hughes, president and CEO of the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, disagrees.

“The simple answer is no,” says Hughes, who represents large industrial users of electricity, which are typically allergic to anything that drives up cost. The problem is the “flawed market design” of the regional transmission operators that FERC oversees, he says. “A single clearing price for all resource types is incapable of efficiently compensating long-term investments inherent in baseloaded generators.”

A scheme of ad hoc payments to reward baseload plants doesn’t solve problems, Hughes says, adding that previous arrangements not overseen by the feds “did a better job compensating different resource types.”

Nuclear experiment

Some states are enacting programs outside federal processes to boost baseload nuclear power plants by giving them clean energy credits, essentially paying them to stay online.

New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo did that last year by including nuclear power in the state’s renewable energy mandate. Moeller expects New York to be sued sometime this year over the plan.

Merchant utilities, including a number of natural gas plant operators in the Northeast, are challenging New York’s zero emission credit scheme at FERC. The utilities argue that Cuomo’s clean energy program upsets basic market principles that should encourage competition and drive generation costs down.

Moeller says it’s probably better to address power plant closures through the commission process rather than through the states. “It’s a little bit more focused on actual markets and the compensation that can come out of a market-based product that pertains to reliability services,” he said.

The line between state and federal jurisdiction over incentives for power plants in federally overseen electricity markets has been blurred in recent years. The Supreme Court gave the commission the upper hand last year, asserting the federal government’s jurisdiction in setting gound rules for paying big power plants.

Clark and others expect Northeastern states eventually removing themselves from FERC’s oversight to pursue aggressive climate policies.

Many say this would be a mistake. “The Northeastern states are notorious for policies that de-industrialize their economies. They are nothing if not consistent,” Hughes says.

R Street Institute, a free-market think tank, wants Trump to support FERC’s competitive markets to keep energy prices low, foster new technologies and drive out market-distorting incentives.

“Low natural gas prices are transforming the electricity sector, clean-energy technologies are increasingly competitive and innovators are at work identifying the next generation of solutions,” R Street said in recommendations to Trump. “It’s time for all forms of commercialized energy, fossil and renewable alike, to compete in the open market by prioritizing a phase-out pathway for all energy subsidies and other distortionary policies.”

See the article here.

Policies Aim at Increasing Economy, Energy Independence

Via The Times Record News:

Anyone who had a connection to the oil and gas industry felt the power of federal bureaucracy during the eight years President Barack Obama governed the nation from the White House.

The industry, however, did not know magnitude of all of the new federal regulations until last week when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California wrote in the Washington Post that the Federal Register, where all new regulations are published, hit 97,110 pages in 2016 alone.

“Washington’s many agencies, bureaus, and departments propagate rules that weigh down businesses, destroy jobs, and limit American freedoms,” McCarthy wrote. “Career bureaucrats who never face the voters wield punishing authority with little to no accountability. If there’s a swamp in Washington, this is it.”

McCarthy said federal regulations cost the American people about $1.89 trillion every year, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “That’s more than 10 percent of GDP, or roughly $15,000 per American household.”

He said the House of Representatives has a plan “to strip power from the bureaucracy and give it back to the people.”

The House already has passed the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, which would require congressional approval before new regulations that cost at least $100 million can become law, and the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would require agencies to choose the least-costly option available to accomplish their goals. That bill would also prohibit large rules from going into effect while they are being challenged in court. Further, it would end the “Chevron deference,” a doctrine that stacks the legal system in favor of the bureaucracy by directing judges to defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own rules.

Also, the House next week will begin repealing specific regulations using the Congressional Review Act, which allows a majority in the House and Senate to overturn any rules finalized in the past 60 legislative days, McCarthy wrote.

“Perhaps no aspect of America’s economy has been as overregulated as energy,” he noted in the column. “So the House will repeal the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, which could destroy tens of thousands of mining jobs and put up to 64 percent of the country’s coal reserves off limits, according to the National Mining Association.

“Likewise, the Obama administration moved at the 11th hour to limit the oil-and-gas industry through a new methane regulation. It could cost up to $1 billion by 2025, the American Petroleum Institute estimates, even though the industry is already subject to the Clean Air Act and has leveraged technological advances to dramatically reduce methane emissions. The additional regulation would force small and struggling operations — in the West in particular — to close up shop, which is why it will be one of the first to go.”

The House will also take the axe to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure rule for resource extraction, which adds an unreasonable compliance burden on American energy companies that isn’t applied to their foreign competitors, he said. This rule, which closely mimics a regulation already struck down by the courts, would put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

President Trump delivered on a campaign promise in his first full day in the White House on Jan. 23 by directing the State Department to begin a re-examination of approving the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will transport crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. He also implemented action to get the Dakota Access pipeline completed in North Dakota, where protesters have blocked further construction.

The actions of the president and the House are clear signals that the energy and economic policies of the nation are headed in a new, pro-growth era designed to increase employment and bolster energy independence.

See the article here.

Killing Obama’s Last-Minute Coal Regulation

Via LifeZette:

As congressional Republicans headed to Philadelphia earlier this week to set goals for the new year, President Trump announced one of his own: erasing 75 percent of government regulations affecting businesses.

This is either hyperbole, intended to grab attention, or it’s aspirational — anticipation that the new administration can achieve a lot in four years. In any event, 75 percent of anything is a big chunk. Especially if it’s three-quarters of the roughly 3,300 new regulations that are promulgated each year, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers.

But even though the president has set an ambitious plan, the Obama administration left behind a target-rich environment in which to pursue it. And it’s a goal that job-hungry voters will approve. They understand that whatever the presumed benefits, regulations do not create jobs. In truth, jobs only come from investment and economic growth.

The new president’s deregulation goal is ideal for a GOP eager to deliver the goods to restive voters — and a smart effort for Democrats who’ll face them in two years. But an administration and Congress bent on deregulation face an ironic quandary. With a plethora of bad regulations to choose from, where to begin?

There’s no better starting point than the “stream rule,” a massive regulation finalized in the waning days of the Obama administration by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

The stream rule is a pure expression of all that ordinary Americans loathe about rule by bureaucracy. The full regulatory framework runs to more than 2,600 pages, and was drafted without the input of key mining states — despite the OSM’s legal obligation to consult with them.

The Obama administration clearly wanted to impose a grievous burden on coal producers, though, and it did so by transferring to federal bureaucrats the traditional authority held by state agencies. But it also duplicated regulatory responsibilities already held by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s a redundant effort, however, since OSM’s own reports from mining states already show virtually no off-site impacts from U.S. coal mine reclamation activity.

The result is a regulatory shell game that adds no environmental improvements to those already in place. More troubling, however, is the finding of an independent analysis suggesting the new rule could jeopardize 42,000 direct jobs and cost tens of thousands of additional jobs supported by coal mining.

Fortunately, Congress has provided a way to oppose last-minute regulations developed behind closed doors. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) provides that, with a simple majority vote in both houses, Congress can send the president a gift-wrapped pledge of allegiance to the larger goal of creating good jobs while voiding a serious threat to America’s industrial economy.

This amazing card not only offers double miles on every purchase, but also lets you earn an amazing 40,000 mile intro bonus. Get it while it lasts.

With President Trump’s signature, the resolution can spare thousands of livelihoods and show that Washington is finally listening to voters — not just to environmental activists.

See the article here. 

A GOP Regulatory Game Changer

Via The Wall Street Journal: 

Todd Gaziano on Wednesday stepped into a meeting of free-market attorneys, think tankers and Republican congressional staff to unveil a big idea. By the time he stepped out, he had reset Washington’s regulatory battle lines.

These days Mr. Gaziano is a senior fellow in constitutional law at the Pacific Legal Foundation. But in 1996 he was counsel to then-Republican Rep. David McIntosh. He was intimately involved in drafting and passing a bill Mr. McIntosh sponsored: the Congressional Review Act. No one knows the law better.

Everyone right now is talking about the CRA, which gives Congress the ability, with simple majorities, to overrule regulations from the executive branch. Republicans are eager to use the law, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week unveiled the first five Obama rules that his chamber intends to nix.

The accepted wisdom in Washington is that the CRA can be used only against new regulations, those finalized in the past 60 legislative days. That gets Republicans back to June, teeing up 180 rules or so for override. Included are biggies like the Interior Department’s “streams” rule, the Labor Department’s overtime-pay rule, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s methane rule.

But what Mr. Gaziano told Republicans on Wednesday was that the CRA grants them far greater powers, including the extraordinary ability to overrule regulations even back to the start of the Obama administration. The CRA also would allow the GOP to dismantle these regulations quickly, and to ensure those rules can’t come back, even under a future Democratic president. No kidding.

Here’s how it works: It turns out that the first line of the CRA requires any federal agency promulgating a rule to submit a “report” on it to the House and Senate. The 60-day clock starts either when the rule is published or when Congress receives the report—whichever comes later.

“There was always intended to be consequences if agencies didn’t deliver these reports,” Mr. Gaziano tells me. “And while some Obama agencies may have been better at sending reports, others, through incompetence or spite, likely didn’t.” Bottom line: There are rules for which there are no reports. And if the Trump administration were now to submit those reports—for rules implemented long ago—Congress would be free to vote the regulations down.

There’s more. It turns out the CRA has a expansive definition of what counts as a “rule”—and it isn’t limited to those published in the Federal Register. The CRA also applies to “guidance” that agencies issue. Think the Obama administration’s controversial guidance on transgender bathrooms in schools or on Title IX and campus sexual assault. It is highly unlikely agencies submitted reports to lawmakers on these actions.

“If they haven’t reported it to Congress, it can now be challenged,” says Paul Larkin, a senior legal research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Larkin, also at Wednesday’s meeting, told me challenges could be leveled against any rule or guidance back to 1996, when the CRA was passed.

The best part? Once Congress overrides a rule, agencies cannot reissue it in “substantially the same form” unless specifically authorized by future legislation. The CRA can keep bad regs and guidance off the books even in future Democratic administrations—a far safer approach than if the Mr. Trump simply rescinded them.

Republicans in both chambers—particularly in the Senate—worry that a great use of the CRA could eat up valuable floor time, as Democrats drag out the review process. But Mr. Gaziano points out another hidden gem: The law allows a simple majority to limit debate time. Republicans could easily whip through a regulation an hour.

Imagine this scenario: The Trump administration orders its agencies to make a list of any regulations or guidance issued without a report. Those agencies coordinate with Congress about when to finally submit reports and start the clock. The GOP puts aside one day a month to hold CRA votes. Mr. Obama’s regulatory legacy is systematically dismantled—for good.

This is aggressive, sure, and would take intestinal fortitude. Some Republicans briefed on the plan are already fretting that Democrats will howl. They will. But the law is the law, and failing to use its full power would be utterly irresponsible. Democrats certainly would show no such restraint were the situation reversed. Witness their treatment of Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees.

The entire point of the CRA was to help legislators rein in administrations that ignored statutes and the will of Congress. Few White House occupants ever showed more contempt for the law and lawmakers than Mr. Obama. Republicans if anything should take pride in using a duly passed statue to dispose of his wayward regulatory regime. It’d be a fitting and just end to Mr. Obama’s abuse of authority—and one of the better investments of time this Congress could ever make.

See the article here. 

Healy: Coal Should Be Part of our Energy Future

Via The Journal Sentinel:

The United States has been a global economic leader since the end of World War II. Our skills, innovation and research and development capabilities have kept America at the forefront of new technologies for decades. This has allowed us to outpace our economic rivals and dominate valuable markets.

The renewable energy sector provides a good case in point. The development of geothermal, wind, solar and water energy sources have broadened the domestic energy supply and positioned the U.S. as a world leader in this arena. Why are we not putting that same focus on new clean coal technologies?  It is one of our most important homegrown sources of energy, and, despite popular perception, still abundant.

Unfortunately, despite its low cost and capability to produce jobs, coal has been recast in the American mindset as old-fashioned and damaging to the environment. Those who speak favorably of clean coal technology are typically branded as behind the times or dismissive of long-term planetary health. Shaming has become a potent weapon for those who want to shut down intellectual discourse on the positive role of fossil fuels in America’s energy future.

Many may not realize that America is a leader in clean coal technology. We have developed carbon reduction and storage (CCS) practices that, once fully developed, could be exported around the world to reduce carbon emissions. This technology can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes. CCS actually prevents carbon dioxide from entering the air.

Another state of the art coal technology is High Efficiency, Low Emission (HELE) power plants. These plants use “ultra-supercritical” technology to reduce carbon emissions produced by coal-fired power generation and produce more energy while using less coal. The U.S. has one HELE plant, based in Arkansas. It burns 180,000 fewer tons of coal and produces 320,000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide each year. This makes it 15% more efficient than any other plant in the country. Despite this success, the federal Environmental Protection Agency does not support HELE technology. The agency argues it will lead to greater coal emissions worldwide.

Ironically, both China and India have adopted HELE technology and have reduced drastically their carbon dioxide emissions. India has reduced its carbon emissions by 6 million tons and has commissioned 51 HELE plants in the past five years. When the first and only supercritical technology plant was built in the U.S. in 2012, China already had 46 in operation. Clearly, America is lagging behind in the arena of energy innovation.

Donald Trump has touted clean coal as the solution to long-term energy policy. With his first 100 days now in motion, the president has an important opportunity to enact policies in support of clean coal technology and the reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions. After nearly a decade of overregulation and punitive policy-making, Americans can finally bring fossil fuels back into the national dialogue and strive to make this nation number one in clean coal technology.

Brett Healy is the president of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy

See the article here.

How the House Will Roll Back Washington’s Rule by Bureaucrat

Via The Wall Street Journal:

When President Trump delivered his inaugural address last week, he declared that “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” Note that he said we are transferring power, in the present tense. The House has already begun turning the president’s words into reality by targeting the part of Washington that poses the greatest threat to America’s people, economy and Constitution: the federal bureaucracy.

Washington’s many agencies, bureaus and departments propagate rules that weigh down businesses, destroy jobs, and limit American freedoms. Career bureaucrats who never face the voters wield punishing authority with little to no accountability. If there’s a swamp in Washington, this is it.

In President Obama’s final year the Federal Register hit 97,110 pages—longer by nearly 18,000 pages, or 15 King James Bibles, than in 2008. Federal regulations cost the American people about $1.89 trillion every year, according to an estimate by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. That’s more than 10% of GDP, or roughly $15,000 per American household. The Obama administration has also burdened the public with nearly 583 million hours of compliance over the past eight years, according to the American Action Forum. That’s averages to nearly five hours of paperwork for every full-time employee in the country.

Faced with a metastasizing bureaucracy, the House is undertaking structural and specific reform to offer the nation a shot at reviving the economy, restoring the Constitution, and improving government accountability, all at once. The plan to strip power from the bureaucracy and give it back to the people has two steps.

First, we began structural reform by passing the REINS Act, an acronym for Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny. If the bill becomes law, new regulations that cost $100 million or more will require congressional approval before they take effect. The House also passed the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would require agencies to choose the least-costly option available to accomplish their goals. That bill would also prohibit large rules from going into effect while they are being challenged in court. Further, it would end “ Chevron deference,” a doctrine that stacks the legal system in favor of the bureaucracy by directing judges to defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own rules.

Second, the House next week will begin repealing specific regulations using the Congressional Review Act, which allows a majority in the House and Senate to overturn any rules finalized in the past 60 legislative days.

Perhaps no aspect of America’s economy has been as overregulated as energy. So the House will repeal the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, which could destroy tens of thousands of mining jobs and put up to 64% of the country’s coal reserves off limits, according to the National Mining Association.

Likewise, the Obama administration moved at the 11th hour to limit the oil-and-gas industry through a new methane regulation. It could cost up to $1 billion by 2025, the American Petroleum Institute estimates, even though the industry is already subject to the Clean Air Act and has leveraged technological advances to dramatically reduce methane emissions. The additional regulation would force small and struggling operations—in the West in particular—to close up shop, which is why it will be one of the first to go.

The House will also take the ax to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure rule for resource extraction, which adds an unreasonable compliance burden on American energy companies that isn’t applied to their foreign competitors. This rule, which closely mimics a regulation already struck down by the courts, would put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

The bureaucracy under President Obama has also threatened America’s constitutional rights. A new rule from the Social Security Administration would increase scrutiny on up to 4.2 million disabled Americans if they attempt to purchase firearms. This would elevate the Social Security Administration to the position of an illegitimate arbiter of the Second Amendment. And in an affront to basic due process, the bureaucracy has attempted to blacklist from federal contracts any business accused of violating labor laws—before the company even has a chance to defend itself in court.

With President Trump’s signature, every one of these regulations will be overturned. In the weeks to come, the House and Senate will use the Congressional Review Act to repeal as many job-killing and ill-conceived regulations as possible. That’s how to protect American workers and businesses, defend the Constitution, and turn words into actions.

See the article here.

North Dakota Does Not Need the Stream Rule, Nor Does the Nation

Via RealClearEnergy:

As I joined my congressional colleagues for the opening session of the new 115th Congress, one frequent topic was how we could quickly restore good jobs and stronger economic growth.

A great start would be to lift the regulatory burden off American industries. If President Obama succeeded at little else, he was the undisputed champion of overregulation. In a little over two months since the Presidential election on November 8, his administration issued 145 regulations, with 31 of those having an economic impact of $100 million or more, totaling $16.4 billion in final rules.

One of those economically significant regulations was the stream rule, a 1,600-page behemoth from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). Unfortunately, the stream rule will impose duplicative and wholly unnecessary restrictions on coal mining that will be especially costly for North Dakota. The western half of our state has an 800-year supply of lignite coal, an abundant energy source generating reliable and affordable electricity. Our lignite industry supports 4,000 direct and 11,500 indirect well-paying jobs, the kind of jobs that rated a top priority among voters in the November election.

Somehow OSM was not paying attention to the election results. Independent studies of the stream rule’s impact on 36 mining operations showed this regulation alone could cost at least 42,000 direct coal jobs and up to 75,000 additional jobs in coal’s supply chain – from the power plants and railroads to the ports. For example, BNI Coal Co. estimated the stream rule would strand half of the company’s coal at its Center Mine, northwest of Bismarck.

Mining isn’t the only victim of this overreach. Because miners will be forbidden from operating in much of the Prairie Pothole region of our state, where seasonable streams are intermittent, they won’t be able to provide saline-free topsoil to farmers and wildlife. The rule impairs mining operators from working with farmers to improve land by prohibiting mining operators from removing toxic saline seeps.

North Dakotans will accept responsible regulations that create significant environmental improvements at reasonable costs. But OSM offers no environmental benefits beyond those already in place. That’s because the stream rule is a grab bag of costly but unnecessary restrictions that duplicates coal mining oversight already conducted by state agencies and other federal agencies.

Once again we see the familiar sign of a federal agency trying to muscle in on an effective state program. Our state mining agency performs coal reclamation extremely well. In a recent report OSM itself acknowledged that “North Dakota has an effective program with no issues.” In fact, OSM found strong compliance with coal reclamation requirements in states that manage 97 percent of the nation’s coal. Maybe that explains why OSM failed to consult with state agencies in the development of a rule it knew would be opposed as unnecessary.

Fortunately, we have the means to stop this rule. With a simple majority vote in each House, Congress can pass a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) with the president-elect’s support. That would void the stream rule and begin to reassert congressional authority over rogue regulators that under the past administration have formed a virtual fourth branch of government.

Prompt congressional action would also show we hear the concerns of voters. They would rather we defend 100,000 jobs than more job-killing regulations.

See the article here.

Clock Ticking on Trump’s Promise to Kill Environmental Regs

Via The Washington Examiner:

The countdown has begun on Capitol Hill to dig out from under the Obama administration’s environmental regulations, now that President Trump, who has vowed to repeal a number of regulations in his first 100 days, has moved into the Oval Office.

The Republican-controlled Congress needs to move quickly to head off two regulations that the GOP leadership has targeted for repeal: a rule imposing big restrictions on coal mining and another for regulating oil drillers’ methane emissions.

The Republican leadership plans to employ special powers under the Congressional Review Act in its first major effort to quash the rules before the 60-day deadline for doing so is up.

Analysts say the Trump administration likely will make the Congressional Review Act a household word because of how key it is to fulfilling the goals of the new president’s deregulation agenda, which targets a number of Obama-era energy rules for repeal.

“One unique feature of this transition is that President-elect Trump will have an opportunity to reverse a number of the Obama administration’s regulatory rules through a rarely used law, the Congressional Review Act,” said Douglas Dziak, environmental and energy principal with consulting firm Nixon Peabody, in a post published last year after Trump won the election.

“The CRA may prove to be a surprisingly rapid change agent for rules the Obama administration promulgated since spring 2016,” Dziak said. “How many rules does this include? Estimates range from dozens to hundreds of regulations.”

But time is of the essence to introduce and pass the resolutions and get them to Trump’s desk within the next 60 days — not normal days, but legislative calendar days that correspond with Congress being in session.

Under the Congressional Review Act, many of the rules that were enacted from the early summer until the end of last year can be repealed by passing the resolution of disapproval, aides said.

The resolutions can be passed using a simple majority, which could help in the Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to even be considered on the floor.

Democrats are likely to put up high hurdles in the run-up to votes in both chambers. The House’s top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., is trying to form a bloc of opposition to undermine the effort, according to a letter he sent ahead of the inauguration to his fellow party members.

“These two regulations contain critical health, environmental and fiscal protections for the American people, and repealing them … would be a colossal waste of taxpayer money for the sole benefit of the oil, gas and coal industries,” Grijalva wrote in the letter. “This is an especially egregious gift to the mining industry, and the committee majority knows full well that any public debate will only embarrass them,” he said. “Democrats need to stand together to make sure they don’t get away with it.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in a floor speech in the first week of the 115th Congress vowed “swift action” on both the rules, which he said impose “limits to our energy production.”

McCarthy warned former President Obama soon after Trump was elected not to push out eleventh-hour regulations. “Should you ignore this counsel, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions and, if appropriate, overturns them pursuant to the Congressional Review Act,” McCarthy wrote just weeks after Trump won.

In Obama’s final year in office, Republicans had tried to use CRA resolutions to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate regulations for existing power plants, known as the Clean Power plan, but the effort was doomed to failure with Obama, and his veto power, still in the White House.

Now with Trump, whose stated goal is to dismantle job-killing regulations, the resolution almost certainly will move ahead.

Movement on the resolutions will begin quickly, likely beginning with the Stream Protection Rule, which was rushed out by the Interior Department at the end of last year.

The regulation would make it more difficult for coal mining companies to operate, with strict new protections for runoff into waterways.

The mining industry’s lead trade group, the National Mining Association, said in a brief that the rule provides “no discernible environmental benefits while duplicating extensive existing environmental protections — something that is expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.”

The industry group said the rule would place 78,000 jobs at risk. “When coal-supported jobs in manufacturing, power plants and freight rail are included, the toll on employment rises to between 113,000 and 280,000.”

McCarthy said the regulation will be one of two of Obama’s midnight rules to be targeted using the CRA resolutions. The second will be the Interior Department’s venting and flaring regulations for controlling methane emissions from oil and gas fracking wells. The methane regulations are part of President Obama‘s broad Climate Action Plan, with the goal of cutting methane by 40 to 45 percent by 2025.

Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that is blamed by many scientists for warming the temperature of the Earth and hastening the phenomenon known as global warming or climate change.

But the clock is winding down to beat back the Obama methane regulations, with lawmakers missing an opportunity to strike down one layer of methane rules from the EPA. The Interior Department rules and EPA regulations cover different types of methane emissions. The EPA rules are focused more on leaks from the well head and distribution infrastructure. The Interior Department’s regulations cover intentional practices like flaring that burn off excess gas during production.

House lawmakers working on a resolution in recent weeks only just realized that the 60-day window had passed on the EPA methane rules, but they are still within the limits of repealing Interior’s Bureau of Land Management regulations.

They missed the EPA deadline, said Christopher Guith, vice president of federal affairs for the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, who is tracking the effort. “But not too late for BLM’s methane venting and flaring rule, which will likely get CRA’d,” he said in an email.

The Stream Protection Rule may rank higher on the Republican repeal agenda, especially given that Trump responded to the rule being finalized as one of his first statements on energy after he was elected.

The regulation was published in the Federal Register Dec. 20, which started the 60-day clock. The coal regulation went into effect one day before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

The Senate leadership plans to introduce its resolution opposing the regulations at the end of a 15-day reset period between congressional sessions, aides say. A spokeswoman for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the senator plans to join with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, in introducing the resolution of disapproval. A spokesman would not give a specific date on when the resolution would be issued.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., vowed to do the same. Ryan said the rule was implemented without “any real input from the states,” with the power to “wipe out literally thousands upon thousands of jobs in coal country.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, plans to introduce the resolution of disapproval to abolish Interior’s venting and flaring rules, he told Trump’s pick to lead the agency, Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., at a confirmation hearing last week.

House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is confident the methane rule will be stricken down by Congress even after a federal judge refused to grant the energy industry an injunction last week, according to a spokeswoman.

“This is one of the Obama administration’s most egregious abuses of power,” said spokeswoman Molly Block. “Although the Wyoming judge didn’t grant a preliminary injunction, it will be overturned with a CRA.”

See the article here.

Attorneys General Work To Reverse Stream Protection Act

Via The Wheeling Intelligencer:

WHEELING — As a new administration takes office, several state attorneys general say they’re trying to save the coal mining industry by filing a lawsuit they hope will revoke the outgoing Obama Administration’s Stream Protection Rule.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine were among the attorneys general from 13 states who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed this week. They say the rule is illegal because it oversteps states’ regulatory powers over coal mines. If it’s not stopped, the rule could “drastically reduce — if not eliminate — coal mining across large portions of West Virginia,” according to a news release from Morrisey’s office.

The rule, according to the release, prohibits any change to land and environment around coal mines, subjecting longwall mining to unrealistic standards and interfering with states’ ability to regulate many mining activities.

Morrisey said the rule “tramples on states’ authority, and we believe that the (Obama) administration has failed to address the states’ concerns about how these areas are regulated.”

Congress’ Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act gives states the primary, regulatory powers over coal mining, Morrisey said.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asks the court to “vacate the rule, prohibit the defendants from enforcing the rule and remand the case so the Department of Interior and Office of Surface Mining can issue a new rule that complies with the Surface Mining Act and the U.S. Constitution.”

The rule was issued Dec. 20, and took effect Thursday, the eve of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The timing “we believe is just wrong,” as it begins during one administration and continues through the next administration’s transition, Morrisey said.

Besides West Virginia and Ohio, the other plaintiffs are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

The lawsuit marks the first time in recent memory that attorneys general have sued the Department of the Interior, Morrisey said, noting usually they file lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Since the rule was issued, the group of attorneys general has been researching and putting together a case that could be resolved three ways: in court; administratively after the plaintiffs have urged the Trump transition team to “signal that this rule is illegal”; or through Congress.

“We’re going to keep pushing as hard as we can” to get the rule reversed, Morrisey said.

See the article here.

Kentucky, 12 Other States Sue to Block Obama Coal Mining Rule

Via The Lexington Herald-Leader:

Kentucky and 12 other states have sued in an effort to block a federal rule aimed at reducing the impact of coal mining on streams.

The states filed the challenge Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Kentucky and the other states argue the rule, known as the stream protection rule, runs afoul of their rights, violates federal surface-mining law, and exceeds the authority of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The rule will hurt the already-suffering coal industry, making mining “impossible in vast areas of the country” by barring mining within 100 feet of streams, the complaint said.

“This rule, adopted by the federal government at the eleventh-hour, is not environmentally needed, conflicts with existing protections, and will do great harm to not only the state’s coal industry but to Kentuckians across the commonwealth,” Charles Snavely, secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, said in a news release.

The lawsuit argues that President Barack Obama’s administration adopted the rule without allowing adequate participation by states, and that it would significantly expand the requirements of federal law but provide no additional environmental benefits.

Attorneys representing the cabinet and Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office signed the complaint.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to block enforcement of the rule and an order killing it.

The other states involved are Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a separate lawsuit challenging the rule, according to the Associated Press.

OSM worked on the stream protection rule for years before putting it in place in late December with a month left in the Obama Administration.

The requirements include more monitoring aimed at protecting water quality; greater efforts to protect the watershed outside the area covered by the mining permit; new reclamation standards; and language making it tougher for companies to mine through certain streams or bury them with waste rock blasted out during surface mining.

OSM said when it unveiled the proposed rule that it would result in improved quality in more than 6,100 miles of streams.

When the agency held a comment session on the rule in Lexington in September 2015, it estimated the rule would push down coal production by less than 1 percent in Appalachia.

The agency estimated that in Appalachia, the rule would cause the loss of an average of 210 coal jobs a year from 2020 to 2040, but would create 120 jobs a year in work needed to comply with the standards.

The coal industry said the job losses would be far greater.

Environmentalists have long argued that state and federal regulators have not done enough to keep streams from being destroyed by mining. Many saw the new stream protection rule rule as a step in the right direction, though some said it should have been even tougher

Teri Blanton, a former president of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said it was wrong for the state to try to scuttle the rule.

“I think the state could better spend their money protecting the streams than joining this lawsuit,” Blanton said. “Everybody deserves clean water.”

The lawsuit may not be necessary to kill the rule. Republicans have pledged to get rid of it under President-elect Donald Trump.

See the article here.

Morrisey Puts Stream Protection Rule in Crosshairs

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is wasting no time attacking a last-minute environmental regulation pushed by the Obama Administration.

It’s called the Stream Protection Rule, and Morrisey says it can hurt coal mining jobs around the state.

 “We, Ohio and West Virginia, just filed a lawsuit against the illegal Stream Protection Rule,” he said Wednesday. “It would limit coal mining in disregard to the current statute.”

Morrisey said the rule will prohibit any changes to the land and environment around the coal mine and make it difficult, if not impossible, to mine.

The rule should not displace or change state regulations protecting streams already place, he said.

“This is a last-ditch attempt by the Obama Administration to stifle coal,” he said. “We are not going to let that happen. That’s why we filed and we will aggressively challenge it.”

Morrisey said 13 states are part of the suit, with Ohio and West Virginia leading the way.

A move is also under way in Congress, he said, to quickly nip the rule in the bud before it goes into effect.

Called the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining (STREAM) Act, the proposed bill gives Congress the right to review proposals like the Stream Protection Rule before implementation.

“They (legislators) can step in and override these last-minute initiatives,” he said, adding that he hopes Congress can “quickly set aside this regulation” but the two-pronged attack should see results.

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) finalized the Stream Protection Rule last December.

Morrisey has already successfully challenged the Environmental Protection Agency emission standards changes that would, he said, add another blow to the coal industry.

All of these regulations have hurt coal jobs, he said, and he hopes the Trump Administration will bring a new direction in environmental regulations.

 “We are excited about working with the Trump Administration,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic in receiving help in finishing our work.”

Morrisey is also optimistic Trump’s pick to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is now undergoing the confirmation process.

“He would do a terrific job at the EPA and be a lot more receptive to West Virginians than the current administration,” he said.

Morrisey said he is also ready to work with newly inaugurated Gov. Jim Justice.

“We are rolling up our sleeves and we want him to be a successful governor,” he said. “We will hear his ideas and we obviously want to work with him. We need to work to remove the barriers for job creation in our state. We want to work with the new governor on any issue to move the state forward and create jobs.”

See the article here.

US Mining and Voters in Sync Regarding Job Creation, Economy

Via Mining.com:

The National Mining Association asserted Wednesday that a Morning Consult national poll commissioned by the National Mining Association shows voters and the US mining industry share the same top priority — job creation and a strong economy.

“Fortunately, there are actions the Trump Administration and the New Congress can take on day one to save jobs in our industry and address voter concerns,” NMA CEO Hal Quinn declared in a Jan. 18, 2017, news release.

The polling of 1,991 registered US voters was conducted during January 12-13 of this year. Of those surveyed 33% said they see job creation and the economy as the top priority for the incoming Trump Administration and the New Congress. Other priorities identified by voters were healthcare (26%), national security (24%), infrastructure (6%) and energy policy (4%).

“Over the last several years, the mining industry has been beleaguered by a regulatory onslaught and bureaucratic labyrinth that has cost jobs throughout the supply chain that rely on mining,” Quinn said. “Fortunately many of these regulatory and administrative hurdles can be addressed with actions by the new administration and Congress, backed by strong public support, to save current jobs that are at risk and create the potential for new jobs by clearing obstacles to future employment.”

Among the hurdles cited by NMA are the EPA proposal to add new hardrock mining financial assurance requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The proposed new requirements, which were published in the Federal Register on January 11, 2017, “…puts much of the hardrock mining industry at risk by placing on an already comprehensively regulated industry an exorbitant and unnecessary financial burden that EPA estimates at $7.1 billion,” the NMA observed. “This sum is in addition to billions of dollars of financial obligations already committed through existing state and federal programs.”

“The (Trump) administration should take a fresh look at this rule with an eye towards eliminating obvious duplication and minimizing excessive burdens on the industry,” the association recommended.

In the news release, the NMA urged Congress to enact the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2017, which has been introduced by Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, both Nevada Republicans. Previous versions of the legislation–aimed at streamlining the mining permitting process to boost the economy and job creation–have won the approval of the U.S. House, but died in the U.S. Senate.

“The U.S. is blessed with abundant mineral wealth essential for our basic infrastructure needs, our national defense systems and the consumer products we use every day,” said Quinn in a news release issued on January 17th.

The legislation addressed what NMA called a “painfully slow mine permitting process that can take seven to 10 years, putting into place a path for efficient, timely and thorough permit reviews and incorporating best practices for coordination between state and federal agencies.”

“If adopted, this legislation will support our ability to fully utilize abundant domestic mineral resources that are essential for basic infrastructure needs, national defense systems and consumer products.”

NMA Coal Sector Concerns

The NMA also urged the Trump Administration to rescind EPA’s Clean Power Plan—stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court and now under review by the D.C. Court of Appeals—which aims to close 53,000 megawatts of coal power capacity. “By rescinding the CPP, the administration can save 27,700 high-wage coal mining jobs, along with another 99,700 in the coal supply chain, including railroad workers, machinists, mechanics, truckers and other occupations that depend on coal mining,” the association suggested.

NMA Vice President-External Communications Luke Popovich observed, “Quicker yet would be a decision by the White House to simply ignore the Obama Administration’s moratorium on federal court leases…”

The new Congress and the Trump Administration could act to pass and sign into effect “a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval nullifying the Interior Department’s reckless stream rule,” the NMA asserted. “A technical analysis of the impact of the proposed rule shows that at least a third of coal-related jobs are now at risk owing to the massive volumes of coal that would be uneconomic to mine.”

Popovich contends that the “job-killing regulations” advocated by environmental organizations and “enthusiastically accepted by a grateful [Obama] Administration,” helped sweep President-Elect Donald Trump into the White House.

See the article here.

West Virginia Needs Coal Jobs and a Better EPA Under Pruitt

Via The West Virginia Record:

Dear Editor:

 Retaining a coal job over the past few years has not been easy, but I’ve been blessed to keep my job at Mepco. Still, like so many others in my community, I’ve been worried about the of future of my career over the past eight years as the “War on Coal” has seemed to have no end in sight. However, we now have the opportunity to really embrace clean coal moving forward in this country.

Mepco supplies most of the coal used at the Longview Power plant. Longview proves every single day that you can use coal efficiently and in a clean, environmentally sound way. To continue benefiting from clean coal in the future, we need to have an EPA that is balanced and without political agenda. I was encouraged to see President-elect Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA for this reason. I’m also very proud of Senator Capito for her bold leadership to quickly call for his confirmation to help fight for our coal jobs. Senator Manchin has also been encouraging in his statements supporting Mr. Pruitt, and for that I am very grateful.

Let’s hope that our West Virginia senators can lead their colleagues in the U.S. Senate and bring this EPA back to the real world. We need our coal jobs, and we can and should use clean coal.

Sincerely,

Steven Golden

Morgantown

See the article here.

Kentucky Joins Fight Against Stream Protection

Via The Courier-Journal:

The rule requires companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities and to plant trees or other vegetation.

Kentucky’s environmental protection cabinet on Wednesday announced that it had joined other states in suing to overturn an Obama administration rule aimed at protecting streams from mining activities.

When it finalized the regulations known as the “Stream Protection Rule” in December, the U.S. Interior Department said that would establish “clear requirements for responsible surface coal mining that will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests over the next two decades, preserving community health and economic opportunities while meeting the nation’s energy needs.”

The rule requires companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities, and replant these areas with native trees and vegetation.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has called it a continuation of a war on coal and told the Associated Press last month he intended to seek to overturn it in Congress.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet published a blog on Wednesday that objected to what it called a “one size fits all” approach.

“The … cabinet maintains that the rule illegally interferes with states’ rights to govern without undue interference from the federal government,” the cabinet wrote. “If allowed to stand, the rule would also have a devastating impact on Kentucky’s coal industry and the thousands of miners employed in that industry.”

Twelve other states joined in the lawsuit, the cabinet wrote.

See the article here.

Excessive EPA Regulations Harming Coal Industry

Speaking as a CEO of a major coal-fired power plant and a coal mining company, I am compelled to start with the devastation of the coal industry, particularly in West Virginia but throughout all coal country. This devastation has been caused by excessive and politicized Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Years of EPA regulatory interference stalled the normal replacement of our aging power plants. The clean coal Longview Power plant was built during a brief window of opportunity before the Clean Power Plan created a regulatory environment that has made construction of new coal-fired power plants impossible.

As a result of this regulatory stranglehold, good-paying, middle class jobs have disappeared from Appalachia. And, if we continue to rely on our aging coal fleet, the region will soon face even more drastic job losses. We have six counties in the state of West Virginia that are in a depression as a result of these regulatory burdens, and we need common-sense leadership at the EPA to stop this interference.

The first and most important measure of the new Trump Administration’s success should be the preservation and creation of good paying middle class jobs. Replacing the nation’s aging coal-powered generation fleet with modern, efficient clean coal plants, such as the Longview Power plant that I oversee, would add thousands of manufacturing, engineering and construction jobs. As an example, the construction of Longview helped to insulate Morgantown, W.Va., from the 2009 recession. This approach will maintain and sustain the coal industry for years to come.

Clean coal plants such as Longview Power operate efficiently and at a low cost while effectively removing substantially all of the harmful pollutants (SOx, NOx, PM and Mercury) that truly define dirty coal. In addition, because of its advanced modern design and seamless operations, Longview is 20 percent more efficient and also emits significantly less CO2 than the 40- to 50-year- old coal plants that currently operate in West Virginia.

In short, we can — and should — use coal in this country, and at Longview Power, we are doing so in a smart, environmentally sound way. For far too long, the EPA has simply failed to balance environmental protection and economic impact. It is remarkable that a modern, clean and low CO2 producing coal plant like Longview Power cannot be built in the United States, while Germany, Japan, China and other countries are building them. This must change if we wish to meet the energy needs of a resurgent manufacturing economy.

Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, will take a fresh look at bringing clean coal back into the discussion with science-based decision making. We must find thoughtful and appropriate ways to take a balanced approach to environmental regulations that conserve and protect our environment while utilizing clean coal.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mr. Pruitt was a leading national figure to rightly question the federal overreach of the Clean Power Plan and other overstepping federal bureaucracies. Under his leadership at the EPA, West Virginia could partner with the federal government to site and build “highly efficient, low emissions” coal plants like Longview Power to replace our aging coal fleet and sustain our coal industry.

Furthermore, the EPA could admit that additional research is necessary before carbon capture and sequestration will be commercially feasible. The federal government also could focus on tax credits to induce building highly efficient, modern clean coal-fired plants like Longview Power that substantially eliminate harmful pollutants through efficiency and updated technology.

Updating our energy infrastructure, including taking action to replace our aging coal generation power facilities, should be a priority in the first 100 days to address these issues.

The country needs to embrace an “all-of-the above” energy policy in order to meet its energy needs. Clean coal should play an important role because of its abundance, dependability and low cost. In fact, Longview Power is producing power reliably and at low cost from clean coal in West Virginia right now, and we are excited to continue to discuss the future of clean coal with policymakers using our story as an example.

I believe Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation to lead the EPA will bring balance back to the discussion around environmental policy, economic realities, and the intersection of addressing both in a reasonable way.

I encourage the Senate to act expeditiously to confirm Mr. Pruitt, who will ensure that our environmental policies do not block our implementation of a diverse and comprehensive energy policy. As a nation, we can achieve our environmental goals while still using clean coal if we do it wisely, which we clearly demonstrate every day at Longview Power.

See the article here.

Judge Thwarts Obama EPA’s Lawless War on Coal

Via PJ Media:

Here’s a radical concept: federal agencies created and empowered by congressional statutes have to comply with those statutes — i.e., they have to obey federal law — in exercising their power.

It is a rudimentary concept, of course, but one with which the Obama administration has appeared only vaguely acquainted throughout its eight years. Now, a federal judge in West Virginia is providing remedial instruction for the Environmental Protection Agency, and in the process, is derailing the administration’s war on the coal industry.

As Powerline’s John Hinderaker explains, Judge Preston Bailey has directed the EPA to comply with a straightforward statute that unambiguously requires the agency to evaluate the effects on employment of its plans to enforce the Clean Air Act.

The case arises out of the EPA’s issuance of draconian regulations of air pollutants from coal and oil power plants. The libertarian Cato Institute recounts that the regs “provide far less than a penny in benefits for each of the nearly $10 billion in costs it imposes on the U.S. economy.” The Supreme Court, in Michigan v. EPA (2015), has already slapped the agency down due to the irrationality of this enormous-cost/negligible-benefit formula that is clearly designed to annihilate these industries. But, Cato explains, EPA is doubling down by trying to justify its $10 billion price tag with benefits outside those the statute permits it to count (which it euphemistically calls “co-benefits”).

The West Virginia case, Murray Energy Corporation v. EPA, is a successive instance of the defiant agency’s effort to ram through its regulations heedless of judicial rulings.

Murray Energy sued the EPA for, among other things, failing to comply with the statutory scheme it so oppressively enforces. In particular, the agency ignores the section of the Clean Air Act (section 7621 of Title 42, U.S. Code) that directs:

The Administrator [of EPA] shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of this chapter and applicable implementation plans, including where appropriate, investigating threatened plant closures or reductions in employment allegedly resulting from such administration or enforcement.

I italicize “shall” because, in the law, shall (as opposed to, say, “may” or “should”) denotes something that must be done — it is not a suggestion.

Yet, the EPA does not even deign to take notice of it. In Murray Energy, there appears to be no question that the agency ignored the statute. In ruling for the company back in October, Judge Bailey ordered the EPA, within two weeks, to file a plan and schedule for how it would comply with the provision mandating Administrator Gina McCarthy to evaluate losses or shifts of employment that would occur if the EPA’s suffocating proposal went into effect.

See the article here.

Reminding EPA Of Limits to Power

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials enjoy enormous power, granted by Congress. They can decide unilaterally that individuals, families and businesses must do certain things to comply with the EPA’s definitions of clean air, water and soil.

But there are some limits. The agency does have to explain the justification for its mandates, as well as their impact on Americans.

During the past eight years, the agency’s explanation for new rules has amounted to this: Because we said so.

It just won’t do, as U.S. District Court Judge John Preston Bailey recognizes.

Ruling in a lawsuit against the agency, filed by Murray Energy Corp., Bailey has ordered the EPA to identify specific impacts of its Clean Air Act mandates on the coal industry. EPA officials have until July 1 to comply.

During President Barack Obama’s tenure, he has made no secret of his plan to wreck the coal industry and shut down coal-fired power plants. At the same time, he and EPA officials insist their orders are not to blame for the decline of mining. Competition from natural gas is the culprit, they claim.

That is nonsense amounting to a bald-faced lie.

The EPA is required to provide reports on the impact of its initiatives. It has not done so.

That explains Bailey’s annoyance with the agency. As he wrote in his order, “It is time for the EPA to recognize that Congress makes the law, and EPA must not only enforce the law, it must obey it.”

For many years, under not just Obama but other presidents, the EPA has been moving toward environmental dictatorship. Bailey, whose jurisdiction includes the Northern District of West Virginia, is far from the only federal judge to have recognized that.

Bailey’s order, then, is about more than coal miners and families paying higher electric bills. In a very real sense, it also is about reminding many in the executive branch of government that Americans did not revolt against imperial rule once, only to tolerate an attempt to revive it.

See the article here.

Dominion: Lack of Transmission, Coal Shutdowns Bring Blackouts to Virginia Peninsula

Via UtilityDIVE:

  • Dominion Resources will shutter its Yorktown coal plant in April, and afterwards may need to use rotating blackouts on the Virginia Peninsula in order to maintain grid reliability and avoid voltage collapse.
  • The Yorktown’s two units do not run often, and violate environmental emissions standards. They are required to close by law, RTO Insider reports, and once they are offline, the grid will become unstable.
  • The Army Corps of Engineer is considering a transmission line could replace the lost power but it will need to cross the James River, and that proposal has many opponents. The design calls for more than a dozen transmission towers.

It will take at least a year to construct the Surry to Skiffes Creek 500 kV Line, but the Yorktown power plant must close in April and the transmission project is still under review. So until the line can be built or another solution found, Dominion has developed a plan that keeps the broader grid stable—though it could require dropping service to 150,000 customers.

Dominion presented its plan to PJM this week. Absent the two coal units, the generator said there is a “long list of N-1-1 contingencies that result in voltage collapse and thermal overloads.”

PJM’s board approved the Surry-Skiffes line in 2012, and the Virginia State Corporation Commission signed off the following year. But the plan has faced opposition from many who say the transmission line is not appropriate for the scenic river and historic area.

Dominion’s proposal calls for building a 7.76-mile 500 KV overhead transmission line, running from the Surry nuclear power plant switching station in Surry County to the proposed Skiffs Creek switching station. Last April, however, the Virginia Supreme Court handed opponents of the project a win, ruling aspects of the line were subject to local siting rules.

Dominion previously warned that the new transmission line is essential to the region’s power supply, but still faced opposition.  It told the grid operator that its New Remedial Action Scheme, as it calls the plan, is “only a stopgap measure.”

See the article here.

Donald Trump’s Administration Must Keep the Promises Made on Clean Coal

Via The Hill: 

A number of new coal-powered energy plants equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology are due to come online across the U.S. over the coming weeks, much to the ire of green activists. CCS technology captures up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions created when fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity. Campaigners argue this type of technology could prolong global reliance on fossil fuels at a time when governments should be investing in clean, renewable sources of energy.

In fact, environmentalists railing against climate change mitigation technology appear to be oblivious to the fact that fossil fuels will make up a significant proportion of America’s energy mix for the foreseeable future. The hard reality is that while renewables are growing and becoming more cost-effective, their reliance upon capricious natural phenomena to generate energy (such as the wind blowing or the sun shining) makes them an unreliable safeguard for America’s energy security.

Research published last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) highlighted the unreliability of renewable sources of energy, recommending a mix between renewables and “fast-reacting fossil technologies” as the best way governments can move forward. The study found that installing 1MW of renewable capacity leads to a further 1.12 MW of fossil fuel technology coming online.

No matter how quickly environmentally-progressive politicians would like to see renewables take over from fossil fuels, the fact remains that coal plants are still responsible for a third of global energy production, making it vital that CCS is properly explored.

The opening of new clean coal plants built by Petra Nova in Texas and Southern Co. in Mississippi over the next few weeks could be pivotal in convincing Donald Trump’s incoming administration of the benefits of CCS, and play a key role in persuading his Cabinet to honor promises he made on the campaign trail to back this type of technology. Trump vowed to put an end to restrictions limiting jobs in the coal and shale gas industries during his first 100 days in office, hinting that “clean coal” could play a role in enabling him to do so.

And despite what some claim, America’s current energy mix is not a result of market forces or of natural selection – it has been created by market distortions brought about by the introduction of often politically-motivated subsidies. Outgoing President Barack Obama stuck to his 2008 promise of bankrupting anyone wanting to build coal plants and championed instead natural gas and renewables through a complex web of subsidies and favorable regulations.

Others, who recognize that CCS is a valuable technology but criticize it on cost grounds suffer from a myopic view of just how important federal and state subsidies have been to boosting the renewable sector. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), 72% of the Department of Energy’s subsidy budget goes to renewables – amounting to $11.6 billion in 2013 alone. In 2015, Bloomberg New Energy Finance revealed that federal subsidies provided wind and solar developers with as much as $24 billion between 2008 and 2014, leading to a 12-fold increase in installed capacity over the past decade, helping to lower costs by at least 10% each year.

Similarly, Elon Musk’s renewable empire has benefited from $4.9 billion in governmental support, with New York state giving SolarCity $750 million for its factory and Nevada incentivizing Tesla with $1.3 billion to build its famed battery factory there. With the right political will, CCS technologies can very well create new high tech jobs while also providing job security to the 182,700 people working in the mining industry.

The argument that carbon capture technology is too expensive is also a complete red herring, which roundly neglects to acknowledge how quickly production costs would fall thanks to economies of scale. For example, since the 1970s, solar energy prices have fallen from $76/watt to $0.57/watt since the 1970s.

If a similar feat could be achieved by the Trump administration with CCS, climate change mitigation technology could greatly reduce carbon emissions around the world.

And it’s not just the U.S. that’s having a change of heart when it comes to CCS. A recent Anglo-Indian project is already developing CCS technology, promising to capture carbon emissions produced during the electricity production process for just $30 per ton, without any government subsidies. This is much lower than the $120-140 typically achieved in the global power sector. With 300 million people lacking access to electricity, Indian demand for coal is expected to rise by over 50% by 2027. Unlike the Obama administration, India is looking to upgrade its coal plants by converting them into modern super critical plants, which produce more power from less coal and with fewer CO2 emissions.

The use of new technologies such as CCS and fast-reacting fossil fuels has the potential to drastically cut emissions in countries that are years away from developing renewable energy sources. The case for investing in CCS and similar climate change mitigation technology is clear. Far from prolonging the world’s dependence on fossil fuels as some maintain, emboldening CCS could be the main tool in Trump’s toolkit to appease coal miners in Virginia while also honoring America’s climate change commitments.

See the article here.

Obama’s Interior Dept. Calls for Major Changes to ‘Modernize’ Federal Coal Program

Via The Washington Post:

With just days until President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Department of the Interior finalized a report Wednesday calling for major changes to the federal coal program by which the U.S. manages the leasing of land to companies for exploration and production across 570 million publicly owned acres.

A year ago, new leases were placed on hold pending this report. Trump, who campaigned as an ally of the coal industry, has pledged to reverse that controversial moratorium.

Interior Department lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, are estimated to contain 7.4 billion tons of coal that could be mined and sold. Environmental groups have charged that if these fossil fuel resources are actually dug up and burned the consequences could be severe for the planet’s climate, and continual domestic coal leasing had also come into increasing tension with President Obama’s ambitious climate change policies.

At the same time, domestic coal production has declined dramaticallyin recent years because of major changes in U.S. electricity generation. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the decline has been from nearly 1.2 billion short tons in 2008 to 743 million in 2015.

“It appears that modernization of the Federal coal program is warranted,” stated the report, a so-called scoping document that sets the stage for a broader environmental impact assessment of the coal program. “While energy markets, communities, environmental conditions, and national priorities have changed dramatically, the program has remained fairly static in its administration over the last thirty years.”

The new report sketches out a series of potentially ambitious changes to the current federal coal leasing program, which has not been updated since the 1980s. Those reforms would include charging a higher royalty rate to companies, factoring in the climate impact of the coal being burned through an additional charge to firms and setting an overall carbon budget for the nation’s coal leasing permits.

But the document said more analysis would be required to assess how the federal coal program contributes to climate change, whether taxpayers are getting a good return on the program and other matters.

Trump has vowed to increase coal extraction in the United States rather than impose tighter restrictions, making it unlikely the incoming administration will heed any of the new recommendations.

The federal coal leasing program — which in 2015 accounted for 42 percent of all coal produced in the U.S. — has come under sharp criticism for not providing a fair rate of return for taxpayers.

Mining companies currently pay a 12.5 percent royalty rate for coal taken from surface mines, compared to an 18.75 percent royalty for oil and gas from offshore drilling, and many federal auctions often involve just one bidder.

Coal companies, however, say the actual rates paid to the government are much higher because of bonuses and other fees paid through lease agreements.

The vast majority of federal coal leasing takes place in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River basin, and the report notes that between 80 and 90 percent of the coal produced in the nation is used for electricity generation. Some is sold overseas, to countries such as China.

Over the last decade, BLM-administered leases have generated more than 4 billion tons of coal and $10 billion in federal revenue, which is shared with the state from which it was mined.

Coal mined from federal land in the Powder River basin accounts for roughly 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2014 study by the Center for American Progress and the Wilderness Society.

Both the Government Accountability Office and independent groups have issued findings suggesting federal taxpayers deserve higher payments from companies extracting coal from federal land. The practice of auctioning coal mining rights to a single bidder may have cost taxpayers as much as $28.9 billion over the past 30 years, according to a 2012 analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a Cleveland, Ohio-based think tank.

The National Mining Association denounced the department’s move Wednesday, but also looked for a quick reprieve from Trump.

“Today’s report represents the outgoing administration’s last step to delegate its energy and land management responsibilities to the ‘keep-it-in-the-ground’ crowd,” said its CEO Hal Quinn. “It’s a compilation of the same politically-contrived reasoning that has driven the disruptive coal leasing moratorium but can be terminated on day one of the new administration.”

“I look forward to President-elect Trump and Secretary Zinke reversing the moratorium on coal leasing, unleashing American energy and innovation and expanding high-paying energy jobs,” added Montana Senator Steve Daines, in a press release that termed the new Interior report “laughable.”

But others were more favorable. “It is our sincere hope that the next Secretary of the Interior will follow through with a review of the federal coal program,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, in a statement. “It is a disservice to taxpayers, and to the states and towns that depend on revenue from coal mining, to ignore the well-documented problems with virtually every aspect of the process. … If the next Administration or Congress want to bail out the coal industry, then they should do it in a transparent and accountable way, instead of undercutting an attempt to fix this broken system.”

See the article here.

A Steep Price for Ignoring Working Americans

Via TribLIVE:

Congress returned last week, just in time to digest a prescient election post-mortem from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. In a New Year’s Day dissection of his party’s November collapse, Bourdain blamed “privileged Eastern liberals for showing utter contempt” for working-class America.

As Bourdain sees it, when media and pop culture figures “mock them at every turn and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good.”

Bourdain could well have been describing coal country when he recounted his various travels in what he calls “God-fearing America.” There he found “nice” people doing what everyone else in the world is doing: “the best they can to get by and take care of themselves and the people they love.”

There’s a belated message here for an administration that has been arguably tougher on coal states than on some of our foreign enemies.

Clearly, even state pollsters missed the impact that alienated blue-collar America would have on the election. As The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel noted recently, local pundits called it one way throughout the industrial heartland. Yet the people voted the other way. It must be time, then, to change the bait when Republicans can capture the Kentucky legislature, while the Democrat standard-bearer draws only 26 percent of West Virginia voters.

So how do Democrats bring the economically marginalized and politically disenfranchised back into the fold? It’s a pressing question, since 10 Senate Democrats are less then two years away from re-election in states carried by Donald Trump.

One way to win back blue-collar workers is to stop groveling before the Sierra Club and the “privileged Eastern liberals” who fund it, and instead propose policies that treat working Americans as real people rather than deplorable abstractions.

For example, there is scarcely an interest group whose regulatory agenda has been more systematically hostile to economic growth and blue-collar America than “keep it in the ground” activists. After losing the midterm elections across the board, President Obama decided to fulfill the Sierra Club’s fantasies via a string of executive orders and regulations. But this only accelerated the steady erosion of working-class support that had helped to bring him into office.

The result: The environmental left has managed to pit the traditional party of working men and women against working men and women, costing miners their jobs and Democrats their seats.

The election proved there will be scant penalty for elected officials who ignore the demands of the Sierra Club and the spring break Bolsheviks who swell its ranks. Elected officials can win by offering more responsible environmental solutions — ones that respect the interests of working people and their need for affordable energy.

If a celebrity chef from New York can see this, maybe the DNC intelligentsia can, too. So here’s to a reboot of the political landscape, with the interests of coal miners and factory workers featured more prominently.

See the article here.

NMA Condemns Administration’s Politically Contrived Coal Lease Policies as Damaging to Jobs, Communities and Taxpayers

Days before leaving office, the Obama administration has once again advocated policies designed solely to destroy America’s coal industry in the face of a political referendum favoring good jobs and affordable energy. Instead of the open and honest conversation promised by the administration on federal coal leasing policies, today’s report predetermines outcomes before the program review has been completed.

“The Secretary of the Interior’s purported rationales to overhaul the federal coal lease program rest on politically contrived reasoning that will result in less federal and state revenue, the loss of more high-wage jobs as well as an indispensable source of affordable electricity for millions of families,” concluded NMA president and CEO Hal Quinn.

The Secretary has outsourced the Department’s energy and land management responsibilities to “keep it in the ground” activists by blithely accepting their unsupported contentions, beginning with the long-rejected notion that the current leasing system fails to deliver a fair return. In fact, bonus bids paid for leases have outpaced the increase in coal prices. Detailed analyses by Norwest Corp. show Federal royalty rates are 30-65 percent higher than prevailing rates for private coal, where bonus bids are seldom paid as they always are on federal coal. In the major federal coal leasing region, the combination of leasing fees, royalties and taxes amounts to payments of 39 percent of revenues for federal coal producers, which are in addition to any corporate taxes paid on any final profits.

“If the administration was sincerely interested in increasing revenue, it would lift its moratorium on federal lease sales and commit to an efficient process that optimizes, rather than reduces, the benefits that flow to every American from the development of the nation’s federal coal resources,” said Quinn.  “Frankly, most of the policies suggested by the Secretary are beyond the power of the executive branch as she conceded earlier in her tenure.  Fortunately for coal miners and energy consumers, the coal leasing moratorium can be terminated on day one of the new administration,” Quinn added.

See the article here.

Obama’s EPA Chief Says Biggest Regret Is Not Connecting With Rural Voters

Via The Daily Caller:

Not being able to sell rural voters on the importance of switching from fossil fuels to solar and wind power is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy’s biggest regret, she said Friday.

“We tried to change the outreach and messaging in rural America in a number of ways, but … has it changed the rhetoric that people hear? It hasn’t,” McCarthy said in an interview at EPA headquarters. “We couldn’t get it, but I wish we had.”

President Barack Obama nominated McCarthy to lead the agency in 2013. Her tenure has been riddled with controversies and marred by heavy-handed regulatory maneuvers.

She implement controversial environmental regulations such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) — which are viewed as job-killers in coal country — and told reporters earlier this year that she gave up talking to “climate deniers.”

“I don’t check out flat Earth society and I’m not talking to climate deniers,” she said in October. “That’s it. Sorry, I know I’m supposed to be for everybody, but my patience has worn thin over eight years.”

Republican lawmakers even demanded she resign after the EPA-caused Gold King Mine spill in 2015, a disaster that dumped nearly 3 million gallons of toxic mine wastewater ran into a Colorado river, contaminating the drinking water for thousands of people.

McCarthy’s hard-nosed regulatory scheme eventually paved the way for then-presidential nominee Donald Trump to successfully campaign in coal states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Trump campaigned throughout the election season on resuscitating the beleaguered coal industry.

The president-elect capitalized on the coal industry’s stumbles — more than 4,800 coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky lost their jobs during the Obama administration, according to Energy Information Administration.

Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a strident EPA critic, in December to head the agency. The Sooner State Republican made no bones about his animus toward the CPP, along with the Paris agreement forged by Obama and approved by McCarthy.

McCarthy said the shift toward green energy projects would move forward despite Trump and Pruitt’s preference for fossil fuels. The new EPA chief will “come in here with policies he wants to implement and changes he wants to make,” she said.

But most of their objectives will be hampered, McCarthy added, by gains made throughout the past few years in green energy.

“These are today’s technologies not yesterday’s,” she said of solar and wind power. “These are the jobs of tomorrow, not of yesterday.”

See the article here.

Congress Can Act to Help Miners Survive a Regulatory Onslaught

Via The Roanoke Times:

Quinn is President and CEO of the National Mining Association.

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its Constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Here’s why.

First, there’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

Second, OSM’s own annual reports confirm that, under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

Finally, the economic impacts predicted by OSM are, in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce.

Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have placed the stream rule in the congressional crosshairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. President-elect Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

See the article here. 

Lawmakers Begin Process of Striking Down Stream Rule

Via E&E Publishing:

Congressional Republicans and other pro-coal lawmakers are swiftly lining up to strike down the Obama administration’s new Stream Protection Rule.

Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) each put forward resolutions this week to block the Interior Department’s new restrictions on coal mining near waterways released last month.

Both Jenkins’ H.J. Res. 11 and Lamborn’s H.J. Res. 16 would void the rule using the Congressional Review Act (Greenwire, Dec. 19, 2016). Under the law, Congress has 60 working days to quash a regulation.

Only a simple majority in each chamber needs to approve a so-called resolution of disapproval for it to succeed. The president also has to agree.

With the rule only weeks old, President-elect Donald Trump will have ample time to make good on regulation-cutting and pro-coal promises.
Jenkins’ resolution is the same as one he introduced last month. Lamborn, chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, would like to move his own language.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) yesterday put the Stream Protection Rule near the front of the line for regulations on the chopping block (Greenwire, Jan. 5). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also said his chamber is ready to use the CRA on the rule.

Jenkins said the push is about reversing the Obama administration’s “radical anti-coal agenda.” He said: “I’m here to stand up for West Virginians. For miners.”

Other bills

Last year, Jenkins was a co-sponsor of Virginia GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith’s H.R. 130 to secure expanded black lung disease benefits if Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act.

With Republicans readying to scrap Obamacare, Griffith reintroduced the legislation yesterday. It would preserve a provision championed by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) that restored original eligibility requirements for black lung benefits after Congress tightened them in 1981.

Griffith and Jenkins — alongside Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) — also introduced a resolution that would express Congress’ committment to preserving the expanded benefits.

McKinley this week reintroduced his permanent fix for the looming issue of imperiled pensions and health benefits for more than 120,000 retired union coal miners (Greenwire, Jan. 4).

In the Senate, West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R) are hammering out the latest version of that bill.

See the article here.

Job-Crushing Regulations Trump Can Gut on Day One

Via Lifezette:

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, pending confirmation, will soon hold one of the most vital posts in President-Elect Donald Trump’s administration to restoring job growth in much of the nation.

Pruitt, nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, will be the focus of intense criticism from Democrats during his confirmation hearings.

“There has to be attention to the plain language of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. [The Obama administration] imagined authority that they had, that they did not have.”

Democrats are so agitated by Republicans, and a pro-energy Republican like Pruitt, taking the helm of the EPA because the Obama administration’s entire legacy of radical environmentalist activism will be on the chopping block.

Critics contend President Obama’s overly aggressive EPA chief, Gina McCarthy, and Interior Department, shifted the entire landscape of the energy industry with excessive rule-making.

Trump has picked U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), to be the next interior secretary.

But it’s Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, who caught the attention of the Left. Pruitt is suing the federal government, on behalf of his state, over President Obama’s controversial Clean Power Plan.

The regulation was transparently designed to kill the future of coal plants, says Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow in energy and environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Pruitt was very aggressive at fighting the federal government. When he took office in 2010, he founded a “Federalism Unit” in his office to fight unwarranted or unconstitutional federal regulations.

There is a large swath of possible job-killing regulations that the EPA and Interior have passed under President Obama — regulations that Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke could possibly revoke their first day or week in office.

The Stained Glass Sector
You may be surprised to learn stained glass is a threat to the environment.

Makers of specialty glass, such as stained glass, are not subject to clean-air emission rules because the facilities tend to be too small.

But the EPA decided to change that, according to the conservative research organization America Rising Squared. The EPA began sending out burdensome information requests to glass makers.

The requests cost many glass companies countless man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars to comply. When Spectrum Glass Co. closed in May 2016, after 40 years in business, the Washington State company cited the EPA’s rules as the secondary factor, after problems caused by the Great Recession.

“The entire U.S. art glass industry is now being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency with respect to potential new regulations,” wrote Craig Barker, CEO of Spectrum. “Long-standing interpretations of air quality regulations are being re-evaluated, and if new regulations were applied to our facility, it would require substantial capital expenses.”

The Powder River Basin
Luke Popovich, the vice president for external communications for the National Mining Association, says the industry would like to see Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke address other “low-hanging fruit” soon.

One easy fix that wouldn’t need congressional approval would be the lifting of a three-year moratorium on new coal-mining leases in the Powder River Basin, in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming.

The Obama administration imposed a three-year ban on public lands in January 2016, pending further study. 90 percent of U.S. coal extracted from public lands comes from this basin.

The Stream Buffer Rule
Congress is already considering revocation of an Obama rule that was announced on Dec. 19. The rule expands the definition of what constitutes an ephemeral stream in order to subject more surface coal mines to stream protection rules.

Industry analysis has indicated the blanket expansion could essentially allow regulators to shutter almost any mine due to running water caused by rain.

Popovich said Congress may have power to review this rule under the Congressional Review Act.

Popovich said the rule is a wrongful expansion of Interior’s power.

The Clean Power Plan
The coal-killing plan was aimed at coal power plants. But it may be up to federal courts to revoke the rule before Trump is sworn in.

If it’s revoked by the courts, Trump is likely not to appeal. If it is, Trump’s attorney general will likely appeal to the Supreme Court, says Popovich. The plan is devious, as a new president cannot simply kill it. It may take an act of Congress to adjust it.

In the end, Popovich said he would like Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke to follow the text of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

“There has to be attention to the plain language of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act,” said Popovich. “And to stay within its bounds.”

The Obama administration took the laws and “imagined authority that they had, that they did not have,” Popovich said.

Energy industry leaders say there is little cause for alarmism about their deregulation plans.

On Wednesday, the American Petroleum Institute noted that the federal government reported the first six months of 2016 saw carbon emissions from electricity generation at their lowest point in 25 years, even as electricity demand continues to rise.

See the article here.

U.S. Mines Complete Safest Year Ever, Besting Last Year’s Record

2016 marks the safest year ever for American miners. Together, coal mines and metal/non-metal mines last year recorded the lowest fatality and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining – a sign of continuous improvement for an industry that saw a record low the previous year.

The official figures, issued recently by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, show 25 fatalities for all U.S. mining in 2016. U.S. minerals mining last year recorded 16 fatalities, while coal mining recorded 9 fatalities – the lowest rates ever recorded by the U.S. mining industry.

“We are proud of our industry for showing continued progress because it exemplifies our commitment to making American mines the world’s safest and our determination to return every miner home safely after every shift,” said National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn. “This safety milestone confirms the value of our voluntary safety initiatives and our determination to achieve excellence in mine safety and health year after year.”

Especially successful in driving continuous safety progress is NMA’s own CORESafety® framework. CORESafety has won international recognition among safety experts for its innovative approach that aims to eliminate fatalities and reduce injury by 50 percent in five years (0:50:5). CORESafety offers a management system approach to mine safety, offering not a “top-down-one-size-fits-all” model but a free, scalable framework for operations of all sizes.

To better understand what’s behind the transformation of mine safety, check out our video featuring industry CEOs discussing what CORESafety has meant to the success of their operations.

For more information on the CORESafety program, visit our website at www.coresafety.org. For 2016 mine safety data, visit the Mine Safety and Health Administration website at www.msha.gov.

See the press release here.

Congress Must Act Quickly to Axe Stream Rule

Via The Montana Standard:

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Here’s why:

There’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

OSM’s own annual reports confirm that, under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary, and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

The economic impacts predicted by OSM are in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have placed the stream rule in the congressional cross hairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Hal Quinn is President and CEO of the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

Congress Can Act to Help Coal Survive Regulatory Onslaught

Via The Kearney Courier:

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. As the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its Constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Canceling the stream rule matters to Missouri, though, since the state generates 78 percent of its electricity from coal, yielding some of the lowest utility prices in the nation.

It’s not just Missouri that should be concerned about the stream rule. Congress should be alarmed too.

First, there’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

Second, OSM’s own annual reports confirms under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary, and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

Finally, the economic impacts predicted by OSM are in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region— found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have placed the stream rule in the congressional crosshairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. President-elect Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Dial Back Rules Threatening North Dakota’s Coal Miners

Via The Grand Forks Herald:

WASHINGTON—On its way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at North Dakota’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states that are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Canceling the stream rule matters to North Dakota, because the state’s coal industry employs more than 1,600 workers. North Dakota also generates 75 percent of its electricity from coal, yielding some of the lowest utility prices in the nation.

But it’s not just North Dakota that should be concerned about the stream rule. Congress should be alarmed, too.

First, there’s no environmental benefit from this massive rewrite of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing.

It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

Second, OSM’s own annual reports confirm that under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

Finally, the economic impacts predicted by OSM are, in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal-mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate.

Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality; this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have placed the stream rule in the congressional crosshairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. President-elect Trump undoubtedly would sign it, given that he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal-mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Quinn is president and CEO of the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

Trump’s Day-One Chance to Turn Back ‘War on Coal’

Via Lifezette.com

During the recent election cycle, Donald J. Trump vowed to roll back the onerous environmental restrictions currently besieging America’s coal communities. It was a sensible campaign pledge, since the coal industry has shed 68,000 jobs in recent years — in large part due to overzealous targeting of industrial carbon dioxide emissions.

Who knew, however, that the president-elect would face his first regulatory challenge immediately upon taking office? That’s because President Obama has just issued a last-minute “stream rule” that could potentially render as much as two-thirds of U.S. coal reserves off-limits to mining.

It’s a rather astounding bit of nerve on the president’s part — to issue a new rule that will take effect literally one day before Trump takes office. But such is the fierce divide over energy and environmental policy, with ideological concerns taking precedence over job creation.

The stream rule that President Obama has just announced is a brazen, last-minute effort to seal the coffin on America’s coal industry. Running more than 1,640 pages, the rule simply duplicates existing environmental protections already ensured by various state and federal agencies. Currently, these authorities administer a host of oversight measures to ensure both the safe extraction of coal and the mandatory reclamation of finished mining sites. The new stream rule not only duplicates these controls but also interferes with existing procedures — a redundancy expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

It’s not entirely surprising that the rule contradicts the present oversight system, since the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) that formulated the regulation simply disregarded its legal obligation to consult with states during the development phase. As a result, 19 states have written letters to OSM urging it to comply with congressional mandates and to re-engage with state agencies in order to rectify such a troubling bureaucratic roadblock.

America’s coal communities — the tens of thousands of miners, households, and businesses that coal supports — should not have to seek protection from their own government. Now, with a new administration, they won’t have to.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass a resolution within 60 days to disapprove the stream rule. All that would be required is a simple majority vote in both the House and the Senate, with the incoming president subsequently signing the resolution.

The clock is ticking, however, and America’s coal miners will have to wait anxiously to see if Congress and President-Elect Trump can take such timely action. Overturning such a rule would be a tremendous first step for the new administration to deliver on the promise of pursuing policies that not only boost energy production but also create good-paying, middle-class jobs.

Luke Popovich is vice president for external communications at the National Mining Association (NMA).

See the article here.

Guest Opinion: Congress Must Act Quickly to Axe Stream Rule

Via The Billings Gazette:

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Here’s why:

  • There’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.
  • OSM’s own annual reports confirm that, under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary, and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.
  • The economic impacts predicted by OSM are in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.
An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have placed the stream rule in the congressional cross hairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Hal Quinn is President and CEO of the National Mining Association.
See the article here.

Capozzola: Obama Issues Last-Minute Rule, Wants to Finish Off U.S. Coal Industry

Via Breitbart.com

So President Obama has gone and done it.

In a rather vindictive move, his Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is out with a broad new “stream rule” that could potentially designate as much as two-thirds of U.S. coal reserves off-limits to mining. In fact, a study of the rule suggests that at least one-third of America’s remaining coal jobs could be put at risk due to the restrictive nature of the rule.

The president has certainly chosen one heck of a last-minute Christmas present. The rule will actually take effect exactly one day before Donald Trump’s inauguration—thereby imposing a very late obstacle to the new administration’s quest to craft a more pragmatic energy policy.

The full text of the new regulation clocks roughly 1,640 pages. And despite OSM’s legal obligation to consult with state agencies, the final rule was drafted without the input of key mining states. What’s particularly troubling is that the regulation simply duplicates the existing oversight already being conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and various states agencies.

Significantly, the actual language being proffered by OSM suggests that the minutiae of the rule is happily intended to kill off the nation’s coal industry. OSM says the rule will “result in the protection or restoration of 22 miles of intermittent and perennial streams per year.” Essentially, the rule bans mining within 100 feet of these streams, which establishes a fairly broad mandate since intermittent streams are one of the typical features of almost every wooded area in North America.

However, green activists like to vilify coal as a “dirty” fuel. But this overlooks the fact that America’s coal-fired power plants are now 90% cleaner than 30 years ago, thanks to the 15 different high-tech mechanisms that trap power plant emissions. And America’s mining companies are already legally required to reclaim the land surrounding mining sites, a task for which they’ve readily invested billions of dollars in recent years.

The supposition, though, is that coal companies simply want to make money—with no thought to the “greater good.” But America has gained much from the extraction of coal, including the affordable power that has long supported safe, first-world living, modern sanitation, and an industrial sector driven by robust electricity generation.

And so, the real question is whether such a redundant new “stream rule” is even necessary. Not when U.S. mining companies are already working diligently to eliminate offsite impacts under the watchful scrutiny of both state and federal agencies.

The U.S. coal industry has lost 68,000 good-paying, middle class jobs in recent years. The new stream rule could boost that toll by potentially tens of thousands of jobs. It could also eliminate billions of dollars in state and federal tax revenues—a troubling prospect for a country already struggling to create middle-class jobs.

If Washington decides that the new stream rule isn’t worth the economic pain, there is some recourse. Under the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority vote in both Houses of Congress could pass a resolution of disapproval. Congress has 60 days to pass such a resolution. But if the resolution succeeds, the new president could sign it, thereby eliminating the stream rule entirely.

With thousands of coal jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues at stake, it would be understandable if Congress votes to end such an unwieldy regulation.

See the article here.