Coal in the News

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

Trump has Returned Hope to Coal Industry, Communities

Via The Lexington Herald-Leader:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Coal Jobs Rise, Media Blames Trump

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

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

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

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

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

But facts are stubborn things.

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

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

The Trump administration deserves some credit for this revival.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via Brietbart:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in and heading back into the mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Coal’s Decline Spreads Far Beyond Appalachia

Via The Wall Street Journal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Former Dem Congressman: End the War on Coal

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The New York Post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

 

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

Via The Washington Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Hope is Important for the Deep South Coalfield Counties

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh how wrong we were.

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

A Few Positive Signs for the State’s Economy

Via The West Virginia MetroNews:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

PA Coal Mine, Praised as Lifeline for Local Economy

Via Fox News: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Winning: Trump Touts Opening of New Coal Mine in Pennsylvania

Via Brietbart:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Another Promise Kept — First Coal Mine Opens Under Trump Administration

Via The Daily Caller:

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

Prominent political pundits deemed this pledge as just another empty promise made to further his campaign redirect of “Being the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” The Institute For Energy Economics And Financial Analysis (IEEFA) went so far as to say that “Promises to create more coal jobs will not be kept – indeed the industry will continue to cut payrolls”.

The mine is expected to operate in a coal producing capacity for a minimum of 15 years. Corsa executives forecast the creation of 70-100 jobs in the new mine.

The mining industry has been experiencing significant headwinds, having lost over 191,000 jobs since 2014.

Coal miners in Pennsylvania clapped and cheered as President Trump made his announcement. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be speaking with you on this great, great day,” Trump exclaimed. “The miners of Pennsylvania — we’re digging coal again.”

Trump’s kind words sit in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton’s sentiment voiced on the campaign trail. At a West Virginia town hall in March, Hillary Clinton pledged to “Put a lot of coal miners & coal companies out of business” in pursuit of transitioning America to clean renewable energy.

See the article here. 

First New Coal Mine of Trump Era Opens in Pennsylvania

Via Fox News Insider: 

President Trump lauded the opening of the nation’s first new coal mine in recent memory.

Corsa Coal Company will operate the mine in Somerset County, Pa. – outside of Pittsburgh.

Corsa CEO George Dethlefsen said the mine will be a boon to the struggling local economy.

He praised Trump’s easing of regulations and encouragement for fossil fuel exploration.

Dethlefsen told Leland Vittert that for the 70 positions available in the mine, 400 people applied.

“It’s a hard day’s work every day, but it’s worth it,” one miner said.

Vittert said the news contrasts with Hillary Clinton’s message that she would “put a lot of coal miners out of work.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), who endorsed Clinton, joined the mine company in watching a video message from Trump commemorating the occasion.

R.J. Harris, a longtime host on Harrisburg’s 580-WHP, said the mine opening is a “shot in the arm” for the Keystone economy.

See the article here.

New Coal Mine Touted by Trump Opens in Pennsylvania

Via The Washington Post:

FRIEDENS, Pa. — President Donald Trump hailed the opening Thursday of a new coal mine as proof deregulation is helping bring jobs to the industry, even though plans for the mine’s opening were made well before Trump’s election.

Corsa Coal Corp. will supply coal used in making steel and is expected to generate up to 100 fulltime jobs. The company said it decided in August to open the Acosta mine 60 miles south of Pittsburgh after a steel industry boom drove up prices for metallurgical coal.

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

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said the mine was part of an effort to bring back jobs and industry to the state. Pennsylvania awarded a $3 million grant for the project.

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

Trump has made reversing the decades-long decline in coal mining the central tenet of his environmental policy, blaming federal regulations aimed at curbing planet-warming carbon emissions for job losses in the industry. Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have targeted laws that protected waterways from coal waste and required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants. About a dozen protesters chanted in opposition to the mine at the opening.

Trump noted the impending opening of the mine last week during his speech announcing the nation’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. He said then he had hoped to attend the event; he participated via recorded video message, taking partial credit for the opening.

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

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

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

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

The price of metallurgical coal tripled to over $300 a ton over the past year after China slashed its coal production and the steel industry bounced back from a global downturn. Cyclones disrupted supplies in Australia, the world’s biggest exporter of metallurgical coal, pushing prices higher. Though prices have sagged since then, Dethlefsen said he is confident that the mine will be profitable for a while to come.

“The supply chain for metallurgical coal is extremely fragile. Whether it’s cyclones in Australia, government policy in China . there’s always something that could disrupt the supply chain and prices to shoot up.” Dethlefsen said. “If we can keep our costs low, we can compete with any country in the world.”

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

Power-generating coal mines continue to struggle, facing fierce competition from cheap natural gas and renewable energy. Over a dozen coal-fired plants from Nevada to Massachusetts are projected to shut their doors this year, according to a report by the nonprofit Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

“If Trump brings back the coal, it’s not going to bring back the jobs,” said Jay Apt, an energy policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “Those jobs are gone, automation has seen to that.”

Still, for the workers here, the grand opening is allowing them a sigh of relief. Though most are longtime Corsa employees brought in from other facilities, many were jittery after a mine closing in 2014 left hundreds collecting unemployment benefits.

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

See the article here.

NMA Urges Reform of Broken Program for Abandoned Coal Mines

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The chief executive of the national trade association representing the U.S. coal industry today told a congressional panel that the federal program funded by the coal industry to help clean up old abandoned coal mines has been plagued by an inefficient structure and lax management leading to billions of dollars spent for other purposes.

“Of the almost $11 billion that the coal industry has paid into the Abandoned Mine Lands fund since its inception in 1977, only $2.8 billion of the $8.5 billion spent to date from the Fund has resulted in the reclamation of priority coal abandoned mine sites,” said National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn. Testifying this morning before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Quinn said the $5.7 billion gap between expenditures and actual reclamation reveals that only one of every three dollars has been spent on the priority coal AML lands.

From the information available from the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement, Quinn said “it is difficult if not impossible to account for this $5.7 billion gap. This is not only a financial gap but a credibility gap for the program.”

Quinn cited findings from the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in summarizing serious and persistent shortcomings in a program failing to deliver better results on its core mission. Quinn noted that the program structure has been divided into too many competing buckets of money leading to the diversion of substantial sums to non-core purposes. “We need fewer buckets scooping up and diverting money and more focus on the top priority coal AML projects,” Quinn stated. Lax oversight has further enabled the sub-optimal results, according to Quinn.

With the 45-year old AML tax on the coal industry expiring in 2021, Quinn recommended that planning begin now for an orderly distribution of the remaining funds to non-certified states with assurances they are spent wisely on priority coal abandoned mined lands.

Link to Quinn’s June 7 testimony to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

See the press release here.

Coal Plays Crucial Role in Strong Energy Mix

Via The Knoxville News Sentinel:

The Trump administration is letting the coal industry compete again, and that’s a big win for consumers. Under President Barack Obama, the nation’s de facto energy policy was designed to make it more difficult and costly to produce coal and use its energy. The result was just as Obama promised: Over 400 mines shut down and more than 80,000 U.S. miners lost their jobs.

While bottom-floor natural gas prices, along with taxpayer subsidies for wind and solar power, have contributed to the coal industry’s struggles, the role played by federal regulatory policy should not be overlooked. If not for the timely and unexpected emergence of the U.S. shale revolution, those policies could have been devastating for consumers.

Despite the Obama administration’s success in putting the thumbscrews to the nation’s most affordable source of power, electricity prices — for the most part — did not spike. The former president’s allies have pointed to this absence of rising electricity prices as vindication for their agenda. But the absence of soaring electricity prices was by chance, not carefully constructed policy. America’s shale revolution, and our newly abundant supply of natural gas, took up the slack from the chokehold on coal.

Today, many in the energy industry assume natural gas will stay cheap. They may well be right, but we shouldn’t bet affordable energy on it. A shift to over-reliance on natural gas carries real risks to affordable energy.

In a diverse economy of more than 300 million people, the last thing we need is to push all our energy chips to one square on the table. A balanced energy mix from multiple sources provides stability to electricity rates and shields consumers from potential price spikes from one fuel source.

High-efficiency, low-emission coal technology — which is already commercially proven and available — could help us maintain low-cost energy while improving the environmental performance of the nation’s coal fleet. Pulverized coal combustion systems, integrated gasification systems and other new technologies allow coal plants to operate at higher temperatures and operate more efficiently. The average efficiency of the current fleet is 33 percent. Some new coal plants in Europe and Japan using advanced technology are achieving efficiencies in the 42-46 percent range. That jump in efficiency can reduce emissions by 20 percent or more.

With many of our nation’s coal power plants getting long in the tooth, the timing couldn’t be better to welcome investment in the new, cleaner, far more efficient coal technologies that will protect our energy mix and serve our nation for generations.

Coal power plants still provide a third of U.S. electricity, and we desperately need that reliable, low-cost power. Dialing back regulatory overreach that did such damage to the coal industry was an important first step. Maintaining coal’s contribution to our energy mix and ensuring our energy diversity should be next. A balanced energy mix that ensures affordable and reliable energy must be the focus of the nation’s energy policy once again.

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

See the article here.

Guest Opinion: America Deserves Clean Coal Tech

Via The Billings Gazette:

At the start of his term, President Donald Trump halted new regulations on coal-fired power plants in the United States. His decision provoked plenty of criticism, with some arguing that the president had chosen to prop up a “dying industry.” Realistically, though, he has simply given coal the chance to compete in the free market — and to demonstrate whether it has the pricing and environmental profile to survive. It now appears, however, that with some smart investment, coal could actually thrive as a plentiful source of low-carbon energy.

For starters, coal may be more competitive than predicted. According to spot energy prices in April, coal per million BTU cost a full dollar less than natural gas.

This relative affordability for coal may surprise some, given the recent natural gas boom. But natural gas prices have been rising —recalling the price volatility occasionally seen over the past 20 years. This bodes well for coal’s continued use, but its growth will depend on the development of advanced technologies to rein in emissions. Because we are a nation of innovators, though, this is a promising path for coal, since advanced technologies suggest game-changing breakthroughs may be on the horizon.

New coal plants are 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago. The modern U.S. coal fleet employs at least 15 different high-tech systems to trap sulfur, mercury, and particulate emissions. But the challenge is still to reduce or capture carbon dioxide emissions that presumably cause climate change.

This is where advanced research enters the picture, thanks to technologies like “carbon capture,” i.e., CO2 emissions are captured before they are released into the atmosphere. Some of these processes involve using CO2 to enhance oil recovery with the CO2 subsequently sequestered underground. For example, NRG Energy in Texas is using carbon dioxide from a coal-burning power plant to extract more oil and natural gas from old wells.

There are also carbon capture systems being used for industrial processes. A company in Alberta, Canada, is injecting power plant carbon dioxide emissions into concrete, a process that reduces the need for composite materials while also yielding stronger concrete.

These advanced technologies that offer both economic and environmental benefits. And they could matter greatly over the next 10 to 20 years, as advanced coal plants, including some retrofitted with carbon capture, are constructed to meet the world’s growing energy needs.

 The same efforts to stimulate innovation for wind and solar power should be extended to coal. Municipalities depend on an energy infrastructure that can truly “carry the load” by also supplying clean drinking water, waste treatment, high-tech medical care, and other vital needs.

Unfortunately, solar and wind still remain frustratingly low-yield and intermittent as sources of power generation; the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Coal remains well positioned to support affordable baseline power in the United States thanks to our world-leading coal reserves. Coal has already become the energy source of choice for developing nations like China and India. Even Japan is now expanding its coal fleet, utilizing high-efficiency, low emissions technology.

While renewables like solar and wind offer great promise as part of an industrialized nation’s energy portfolio, coal and other fossil fuels will likely remain the backbone of the global energy system for years to come. It’s more important than ever to invest in advanced technologies to improve their efficiency and environmental performance.

See the article here.

Dependability of U.S. Electrical Grid Deserves Greater Scrutiny

Via RealClear Energy:

There are almost 320 million people in the United States. And they all depend on one thing in common every day—reliable, affordable electricity. Not only do Americans count on robust power generation to heat their homes, refrigerate their food, and supply clean drinking water, but the pricing for this electricity also affects costs for groceries, transit, and even household items like clothing and toothpaste.

Essentially, the health of the U.S. economy is intricately intertwined with the ongoing security and reliability of the nation’s power grid. While serving on the Missouri Public Service Commission, I considered it of paramount importance to protect this base load power—to “keep the lights on” for consumers, and at reasonable prices.

Recently, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a review of the stability of the nation’s power grid. And undoubtedly, he has these kinds of pricing concerns in mind for a planned study on whether “regulatory burdens” and “mandates and tax and subsidy policies” favoring renewable energy are now impacting overall energy costs.

This is a responsible step for the U.S. Department of Energy to take. But Secretary Perry’s announcement has stirred up controversy nevertheless. The nation’s wind and solar groups have expressed concern over Perry’s intent to conduct a thorough review of the cost-benefit ratios involved in power grid reliability. And with taxpayer-funded subsidies for renewable projects potentially under scrutiny, these groups very much want to rebut the notion that “renewable generation is responsible for the retirement of coal.”

Safeguarding the security of America’s power grid shouldn’t be held captive to partisan wrangling, though. Especially when the impact of recent regulations have been undeniably damaging to base load power plants that are the mainstay of the nation’s power grid.

Unfortunately, most Americans are likely unaware of the impact that recent federal regulations have posed for both power grid reliability and overall energy costs. For example, less than 10 percent of voters could assess the scale of emissions reductions that have already been attained by coal-powered plants over the past 40 years. And President Obama’s plan to reduce power plant CO2 emissions would have prematurely forced 25 percent of the nation’s coal generation capacity off the electric grid—enough to power 24 million homes. This would have significantly impacted electricity prices throughout the nation.

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Colorado Statesman:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Leave Energy Studies to the Energy Department

Via The Hill:

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

Imagine that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

EPA’s Pruitt Reaches Out to House Coal Supporters

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

On Mission to Save Coal, Perry Bucks Status Quo

Via The Houston Chronicle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Ryan: Obama’s Regulatory Tailspin Has Been Repealed

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Coal and Affordable Energy

Via The Craig Daily Press:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Billings Gazette:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Spectrum:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Another Victory: Court Ruling Provides Hope for Coalfields

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Mr. Bloomberg’s Coal Con

Via The Washington Post:

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

Hal Quinn, Washington

See the article here.

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

Via The Daily Caller:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

EPA Chief: US Needs Coal to Protect Electric Grid

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Washington Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

EPA is Putting American Workers First

Via The Washington Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Time to Achieve Balance

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Environmentalists, Coal Companies Rally Around Technology To Clean Up Coal

Via NPR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Virginia Coal Communities Saved from Costly Plan

Via The Roanoke Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Coal Important for Toledo and Nation

Via The Toledo Blade:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In due time, it’ll disrupt yours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Poll Shows Mining’s Environmental Accomplishments Unknown to American Voters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coal Powered Electricity

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

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

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

Hardrock and Coal Mining

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

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

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

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

See the release here.

Pruitt: EPA No Longer About Killing Off Coal

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the press release here.

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

Via The Daily Caller: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Coal’s Colossal Comeback

Via Townhall:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We can achieve both. We will.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump’s Coal Push Grinds into High Gear

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Delco Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

EPA Launches New Agenda in Coal Country

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NMA Hails Pruitt’s Support for Coal

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

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

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

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

See the press release here.

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

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via WIBW News:

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

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

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

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

This doesn’t mean stopping innovation, either.

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

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

See the article here.

The Climate Yawns

Via The Wall Street Journal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump’s Rollback of Coal Rules Electrifies Wyoming Workers

Via The Observer-Reporter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

How President Trump Avoided a Catastrophe in the Coalfields.

Via The Williamson Daily News: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here. 

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

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here. 

U.S. Can Have a Viable Coal Industry

Via The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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.