Coal in the News

Coal Related News from Around the Nation

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

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump Preparing New Executive Actions for Coal Mining

Via The Toldeo Blade:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Week Ahead: Anticipation Builds for Trump Climate Order

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via Townhall:

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via Brietbart:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Waiting Game Continues for Clean Power Plan Order

Via E&E Publishing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Washington Post:

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

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

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

Pruitt is no longer a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Coal Industry Urges Trump to Protect Fossil Fuel Research

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via E&E Publishing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting for the ‘right time’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fresh lawsuits await

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via Fox News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump to Scrap Obama Climate Plan, Costly Coal Rules

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lifting the coal moratorium may be a little more straightforward.

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

See the article here.

Week Ahead: White House Readies Climate Orders

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A ruling in that case is still pending.

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here. 

Trump’s Coal Council to Drill Down on Advanced Technology

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

 

Trump and Big Coal

Via The New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAL QUINN, WASHINGTON

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

See the article here.

4 Major Issues Zinke Will Face on Day One

Via E&E Publishing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will he kill the coal reform review?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will he manage a sharply reduced budget?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will he support climate science research?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will he handle Congress?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

President Hits the Mark in Speech to Congress

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

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

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

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

See the release here. 

How Trump Maintains Anti-Regulatory Momentum

Via LifeZette:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

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

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

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

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

See the release here.

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

Via The Washington Examiner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Trump Should End Obama Coal Lease Moratorium

Via LifeZette:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Reviving W.Va. Coal Mines

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Stream Rule Provided No Discernible Environmental Benefits

Via The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 

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

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

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

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

Hal Quinn  •  Washington, D.C.

President and CEO, National Mining Association

See the article here.

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

Via The Independent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

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

Via The Daily Caller:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here.

Gov’t Data Says Coal Is Staging A Comeback

Via The Daily Caller:

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

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

(Graphic from U.S. Energy Information Administration)

(Graphic from U.S. Energy Information Administration)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the article here. 

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

Via The Hill:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notably, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show fossil energy jobs of this kind paid an average of $111,300 in 2015 — the type of wages that typically help to support a strong middle class.

 

Voters across the country often ask one another, “Where have all the good jobs gone? Why can’t we create the kinds of jobs that once supported a family?”

It isn’t necessarily China, automation, or a lack of qualified applicants that is slowly eroding living standards for the once great American middle class.

In part, it’s the rising influence of well-funded advocacy groups pursuing trivial environmental improvements at the expense of economic growth and job creation.

For example, the stream rule that Congress overturned last week would not have delivered any meaningful environmental improvement.

The regulation simply duplicates existing oversight responsibilities already conducted by state and federal regulators. Such redundancy would have imposed heavy costs on coal producers.

There’s also the Clean Power Plan — President Obama’s contribution to the Paris Climate accords — that is now hamstrung in litigation.

It’s estimated that the plan would destroy tens of thousands of additional jobs in the fossil energy sector just to deliver a global warming reduction so trivial that the EPA didn’t even estimate it.

The Obama administration’s single-minded devotion to the environmental left has meant a blunt clubbing of blue collar jobs.

It proved costly for the president’s legacy in November. What industrial America saw was a focus on reduced carbon emissions and lower coal production that hurt tens of thousands of workers.

Small wonder that on Election Day they turned on their tormentors and the candidates who had turned against them first.

To woo voters back, the governing class must end its romance with the green lobby.

Their evangelical zeal for punitive energy regulations — from stopping pipelines to shuttering power plants — and indifference to the welfare of working Americans are incompatible with the economic growth and high-wage jobs that voters want.

The Sierra Club can’t read election results, but Congress’ actions this week demonstrate that Washington can.

See the article here. 

Guest Opinion: Daines Votes to Protect Montana Coal Jobs

Via The Billings Gazette:

What a great day it will be when Montana is represented in the Interior Department by Rep. Ryan Zinke. Secretary-nominee Zinke knows well the issues important to the West and Indian Country, and I hope for better days ahead for all rural and Native peoples under his leadership at the Interior Department.

Unfortunately, at times in the recent past, the concerns of rural communities, tribes, and those of us in fly-over country seem to have been less than important to our government in D.C., and particularly those at the Interior Department. They handed down rules not written for the West and remained unconcerned by the needs and lifestyles of Montanans.

Recently “Dear Tribal Leaders” letters have become the norm for how the federal government communicates with Tribes on critical issues including the trust relationship the government shares with tribes on natural resource management. Rural communities shared the neglect.

Late last year I and others from southeastern Montana spent considerable effort defending our coal production jobs and economy from misguided regulations enacted in the waning hours of the Obama administration. The worst of which was the so called “Stream Protection Rule” or SPR written within the Department of Interior.

The SPR said, among many, many other things: that Montana mines had to provide 12 months of water quality samples, even on seasonal streams that don’t exist most of the year or might be frozen solid all winter. These rules didn’t fit Montana, where we already have an A-rated stream protection system in place that was written specifically for our local concerns, not somewhere back East.

Our group from southeastern Montana met with enthusiastic support from Zinke and Sen. Steve Daines’ offices when we visited D.C. to show our opposition to the SPR. When we went to the White House the response was quite the opposite. In fact, the Obama White House seemed less than interested in Montana’s concerns.

Officials we spoke with admitted they were not aware of all the negative potential impacts on Montana and particularly the Crow Tribe that the SPR would bring. Still, our pleas fell on deaf ears as a national one-size-fits-all “Stream Protection Rule” was drafted without appropriate consultation and then written and published without changes requested by Montanans.

Last week, Congress voted to rescind the SPR through a seldom used Congressional Review Authority of Obama’s slew of last-minute environmental regulations. Montana’s tribes, communities, and jobs were at risk, and Daines again showed his commitment to Montana jobs by supporting repeal of the Stream Protection Rule.

Senator Daines, thank you for standing with Montana’s jobs and voting to repeal the Stream Protection Rule.

See the article here.

Coal’s Reprieve: Congress Undoing Obama’s Attempt to Bury Mining

Via The West Virginia MetroNews:

The new Congress has made quick work of former President Obama’s last-minute attempt to finish off the coal industry. Both the House and Senate used the Congressional Review Act to roll back the previous administration’s Stream Protection Rule, and President Trump is expected to give his approval.

West Virginia’s Congressional delegation stood united in supporting the act.

“Fortunately with President Trump, we now have a partner in the White House who understands how irresponsible and harmful these bureaucratic overreaches can be,” said Congressman David McKinley (R-1st).

The Obama administration spent six years working on standards that would make it increasingly difficult to get a permit to operate a surface or underground coal mine. Along the way, the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement shut out state agencies that have jurisdiction and handed over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service veto power of permits.

A study by the National Mining Association estimated that the new regulations would have reduced the amount of recoverable coal between 51 percent and 88 percent in underground mines and 38 percent to 67 percent in surface mines, as well as put one-third of all coal jobs at risk.

These rules, along with the Clean Power Plan, which is currently on hold by order of the U.S. Supreme Court, would have put coal out of business, which is exactly what the anti-carbon crowd has been pushing.

The Obama administration’s EPA hurt West Virginia’s economy badly. The state is benefiting from the enormous reserves of gas now accessible through hydraulic fracturing, but drilling doesn’t create as many jobs as coal mining and increased severance tax collections on gas are not enough to offset the loss in coal severance tax.

For Fiscal Year 2012, coal companies paid $531 million in severance taxes, with $421 million going into the state treasury. (Tthe rest went to local governments and for debt service on the Workers Compensation Fund.)  Just four years later, those collections and distributions had been reduced by half. Imagine how much easier it would be to solve the state’s budget problems with another $200 million from coal severance and the additional revenue from higher consumer sales and income tax collections.

Coal will never be the dominant energy source it once was, but it is still an integral part of the global energy portfolio. The new administration is Washington is at least going to give coal a fighting chance.

Coal still must hold its own against cheap and clean natural gas, as well as alternative fuels, but coal companies won’t have to worry about fighting a Washington-imposed death spiral.

See the article here.

Coal Miners Rejoice After Senate Votes to Repeal Stream Protection Rule

Via Fortune.com:

The battered U.S. coal industry rejoiced after the Senate voted on Thursday to repeal a rule that limited companies from dumping mining waste in streams, saying the move could halt the sector’s decline.

The Senate, approving a resolution passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, overturned the Stream Protection Rule as part of a broader move by Republicans to reverse what they see as overregulation by former President Barack Obama’s administration on energy development.

The demise of the rule had been expected. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress, controlled by Republicans, to undo rules finalized at the end of a previous administration.

“This is one very, very important step to get coal back on its feet and stop the hemorrhaging of jobs that we’ve seen,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

The coal industry hopes the move is the first step toward a recovery under President Donald Trump, who has vowed to clear away regulation to support more mining. Coal advocates are hoping his administration will overturn a moratorium the Obama administration placed on new coal leases on federal lands, and scrap regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.

The coal waste rule was intended to protect 6,000 miles (9,700 km) of streams and large areas of forests over the next two decades, the Interior Department said when it issued the rule in December. It argued the rule would protect drinking water without undermining the economy or energy supply.

The coal industry countered that the rule could have reduced the number of direct mining jobs by 30 percent and made 60 percent of its existing reservoirs uneconomic to produce.

Coal companies such as Arch Coal and Peabody Energy – two of the nation’s biggest miners – experienced recent bankruptcies because of a surge in production of natural gas and new regulations curbing carbon dioxide emissions.

Stephanie Weiler, a spokeswoman at Peabody Energy said the company was “pleased” by the elimination of the rule and supported “any actions aimed at reining in unnecessary regulations that don’t improve the environment yet harm the economic and jobs landscape.”

Arch did not immediately comment.

Gary Broadbent, a spokesman for private company Murray Energy, said the rule was an attempt to “destroy our nation’s underground coal mines” and put coal miners out of work.

Democratic Senator Edward Markey said the coal industry’s request that Republicans kill the rule amounted to saying: “Please protect us from having to protect the public.”

See the article here.

‘Overturning Anti-Coal Agenda’

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

The U.S. Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a measure scrapping an Obama-era regulation that Republicans warned would eliminate thousands of coal mining jobs if allowed to be implemented.

The Senate’s 54-45 vote sends the measure to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

Republicans and some Democrats say the rule ignores dozens of federal, state and local regulations already in place.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., supported the measure.

“Today’s vote is step one in overturning the anti-coal agenda that has devastated West Virginia for the last eight years,” Capito said Thursday. “The misguided Stream Protection Rule could have put one-third of the remaining coal jobs at risk nationally, a threat coal-producing states simply cannot afford,” said Senator Capito. “I was proud to introduce this measure with Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and I am glad this harmful anti-coal regulation will soon be overturned.”

“I have led the fight against this rule since my first days in the Senate because it simply isn’t commonsense and kills jobs in our state,” Manchin added. “With passage of this resolution of disapproval, we can now focus on helping the many West Virginia families and businesses that were crippled by this rule and the flawed rule-making process that led to it. Not only did the Department of the Interior and OSMRE fail to consult with stakeholders and consider the economic impacts, including the possible elimination of thousands of jobs, but they also refused to acknowledge that the rule overlapped with existing regulations already on the books from other environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act. I am glad we were able to come together to pass this commonsense reversal of these harmful Obama-era regulations.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey praised the U.S. House and Senate Thursday for taking action to strip implementation of former President Obama’s stream buffer rule.

“I applaud the House and Senate for this week’s swift action to halt this unconstitutional and damaging rule,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “I’m confident President Trump will sign this legislation in short order to protect jobs and overturn this terrible rule once and for all.”

The Interior Department said in announcing the rule in December that it would protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests, preventing coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby waters.

The vote was the first in a series of actions Republicans are expected to take in coming weeks to reverse years of what they call excessive regulation during President Barack Obama’s presidency. Rules on fracking, guns and federal contracting also are in the cross-hairs as the GOP moves to void a host of regulations finalized during Obama’s last months in office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the stream rule “an attack against coal miners and their families” and said it would have threatened coal jobs and caused major damage to communities in Kentucky and other coal-producing states.

“The legislation we passed today will help stop this disastrous rule and bring relief to coal miners and their families,” McConnell said.

Democrats called the vote an attack on clean water and a clear win for big coal-mining companies and other polluters.

The Senate vote came as the House took its first steps toward strengthening gun ownership under Trump.

At issue was an Obama rule extending background checks for disabled Social Security recipients mentally incapable of managing their own affairs.

Under the rule, the Social Security Administration would provide information to the gun-buying background check system on recipients with a mental disorder so severe they cannot work and need someone to handle their benefits. The rule, finalized in December, affects an estimated 75,000 beneficiaries.

Republican lawmakers criticized the regulation for reinforcing a negative stereotype that people with a mental disorder are dangerous.

“There are people who need help and seek help, but that is not a criteria for taking away one’s constitutional right” to own a gun, said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.

After the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama directed the Justice Department to provide guidance to agencies regarding information they are obligated to report to the background check system.

In Newtown, 20 children and six educators were shot to death when a gunman entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. The gunman had earlier killed his mother inside their home, and he used a gun and ammunition that she had purchased.

Democrats said Republicans were doing the bidding of the National Rifle Association, which opposed the Social Security Administration’s rule. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said his constituents have a right not to be victims of gun violence.

“They have a right to protect their loved ones who may use a weapon against themselves or their family members,” McGovern said.

While gun rights groups opposed the regulation, some advocates for the disabled have also said it is discriminatory. The agency that advises the president and Congress on government policy, the National Council on Disability, said there is no connection between the inability to manage money and the ability to safely possess and use a firearm.

The Social Security Administration regulation also established a process for people to appeal having their names submitted to background check database. But attorneys general from a dozen states wrote to congressional leaders and said such appeals can take months or years to resolve. They said the regulation violates basic notions of due process by permitting an agency to revoke someone’s Second Amendment rights without a hearing.

Republicans are employing a rarely used tool to roll back some of the rules issued in the final months of Obama’s tenure. The Congressional Review Act provides a temporary window for a simple majority of both chambers to invalidate the rule. Trump would also have to sign the resolution of disapproval for the regulation to be deemed invalid. What’s more, the law prevents the executive branch from imposing substantially similar regulations in the future.

See the article here.

House Votes to Repeal Two Obama Energy Regs

Via The Washington Examiner:

The House on Wednesday passed two Republican-backed resolutions to repeal Obama-era energy regulations blamed for unnecessarily curtailing coal mining and burdening the oil industry by directing companies to disclose dealings with foreign countries.

The first resolution of disapproval passed along a strict party-line vote, 228-194, repealing the Stream Protection Rule, which the Republican leadership called a rushed regulation that blindsided states with unnecessary and burdensome rules for coal mining.

The House resolution calls for the regulation to be rescinded once a similar resolution is approved in the Senate and signed by President Trump.

“With companion Senate action expected later this week, this resolution hopefully signals the beginning of the end of a regulatory onslaught that has triggered steep job losses in the nation’s mining communities and deprived our country of affordable energy,” said Hal Quinn, the president and CEO of the National Mining Association, representing the coal industry.

The resolutions give Congress the ability to check regulatory overreach, especially those such as the Stream Protection Rule that was enacted in the waning days of the Obama administration. The resolutions of disapproval are sanctioned under the Clinton-era Congressional Review Act.

The second resolution of disapproval would repeal regulations requiring oil producers to report their dealings with foreign governments to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That resolution, which passed 235-187, would rescind the so-called “foreign-corrupt rule” or its technical name, “Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers.”

The rule was vacated by a federal appeals court in 2013 but was re-proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2016.

The rule is part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act that was passed into law after the 2008 economic crisis. A number of industries have fought many of the reporting requirements under the law.

The American Petroleum Institute, which fought the rule and won in court, said the regulation would cost the industry $96 million to $591 million annually. That breaks down to between $225,000 and $1.4 million annually per company, according to the oil industry group.

The oil group and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed suit against the rule in 2012.

See the article here.

Tell EPA ‘No’ On Stream Rule

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

It has been suggested that President Barack Obama’s motivation during his final months in office was to solidify his legacy. He certainly did that, in a variety of truly upsetting ways ranging from releasing a traitor from prison early to accelerating unnecessary environmental initiatives.

Some of Obama’s legacy has been solidified. His presidential commutations of criminals’ sentences cannot be reversed.

But some of the damage the former president attempted to do can be prevented. U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.; U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are at the forefront of a move to kill one of the most potentially harmful actions.

It is the so-called Stream Protection Rule, which Obama declared ready to go during the last few weeks of his stay in the White House.

Environmental Protection Agency officials see the SPR as part of their suite of initiatives aimed at destroying the coal industry and depriving millions of families of affordable electricity generated from that fuel.

As critics of the SPR have pointed out, it is not needed to safeguard water quality. Its draconian stipulations would make it impossible to mine as much as 85 percent of the nation’s coal reserves.

That would force layoffs of thousands of coal miners  — in addition to the thousands who already have lost their jobs because of Obama’s war on coal.

McKinley, R-W.Va., is leading a campaign to force the EPA to drop the SPR. That would be accomplished through passage by the House of Representatives and Senate of resolutions of disapproval. Under the Congressional Review Act, such action forces federal agencies to abandon implementation of certain rules.

So objectionable is the SPR that McKinley assembled a coalition to fight it quickly, with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, co-sponsoring the proposed resolution. In the Senate, both Capito and Manchin have introduced resolutions on the issue.

Lawmakers have much on their plates, in part because we have a new president, Donald Trump. But stopping the EPA should be a priority for action. Saying no to the Stream Protection Rule would be a good start.

See the article here.

Winning the Fight on Stream Protection

Via The Morning Consult:

For close to a decade, Republicans have been leading the charge against the regulatory onslaught on coal communities. But now, with an ally in the White House, we can finally begin to roll back some of the punishing regulations of the last eight years. This starts with repealing the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) Stream Protection Rule under the Congressional Review Act.

The final SPR, forced on the American people in the waning days of the Obama administration, is a blatant attack on working families in coal country that could shut more coal mines and send thousands of miners to the unemployment line. The final rule jeopardizes at least one-third of this nation’s good paying coal jobs and removes half or more of total U.S. coal reserves from future extraction. Let’s put that in perspective for a moment: The rule’s associated job loss comes on top of the loss of 68,000 good paying coal jobs over the past few years.

Despite the rule’s devastating impact on jobs and local communities, OSM insisted on finalizing the 1,640-page rule that rewrites more than 400 regulations with little benefit for the environment. Based on the Department of the Interior’s own investigative report, virtually all coal mines have no off-site impacts, and the vast majority of coal mines are being operated safely to the very end – through the final reclamation and restoration process. In other words, success has already been achieved under existing federal and state regulations.

Our main issue with this rule is the way in which OSM went about a costly, seven-year rulemaking process. Rather than defer to the states tasked with regulating 97 percent of all coal mines in the U.S., OSM opted to shut them out completely.

Eleven states, from Alabama to Kentucky and West Virginia to Wyoming, signed on to be cooperating agencies, but their calls went unanswered and their concerns intentionally ignored by unelected OSM bureaucrats in Washington. Many were so fed up with the lack of transparency that they backed out of the process because their input continued to fall on deaf ears.

This statutorily-questionable and duplicative rule imposes harm upon communities and state regulatory bodies with little environmental or economic benefit. It was written without state input, stretches grossly beyond congressional intent and was issued in the waning days of the outgoing Obama administration. This is precisely why Congress created the Congressional Review Act, and this is the reason it will be used to overturn SPR.

Congress taking action on a joint resolution disapproving of this rule sends a strong message to the American people. Its passage will provide certainty to state regulatory bodies tasked with enforcing federal mining regulations under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. It protects coal jobs by preventing the issuance of any future, substantially similar rule that could have a devastating impact on middle-class families in our states.

Coal is not a commodity of the past; it’s an important part of our communities today and far into our future. It keeps the lights on throughout the year, powering 95 percent of electricity needs in West Virginia, 78 percent in Missouri, 77 percent in Indiana, 75 percent in North Dakota and 59 percent in Ohio. It heats homes during the cold Midwestern winters. And it’s an industry that employs more than 66,000 miners throughout Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Current regulations already ensure the protection of streams while also protecting the jobs and economic development that are tied to responsible coal production. Alternatively, this one-size-fits-all rule – as finalized – will crush communities that rely upon these jobs and states that remain heavily dependent on this reliable and affordable source of energy.

Over the past three Congresses, we held numerous hearings on the development and finalization of the SPR, including 13 in the Natural Resources Committee. State regulators testified that they yearned for meaningful participation in this rulemaking. We have heard from communities from Appalachia to the rust belt to the West who have so much to lose if this rule is implemented. In the House, we’ve repeatedly advanced legislation to prevent the finalization of this rule and to guarantee states and communities have a voice. These concerns, among others, were completely ignored by the previous administration.

We have an opportunity to protect thousands of American jobs, and encourage responsible development while ensuring environmental safeguards. With a new administration that understands the balance between energy development from coal extraction and protecting our environment, we have an opportunity to block this harmful regulation and protect the communities forsaken by the outgoing administration.

Now it’s time to win this fight.

Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.) sponsored H.J. Res 38, a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s Stream Protection Rule. McKinley is the chairman of the House Coal Caucus which has 70 members, including Johnson and Jenkins.

See the article here.

GOP Moves To Undo President Obama’s EPA Coal Stream Rule

Via The Wheeling Intelligencer: 

Congressional Republicans are moving swiftly to repeal Obama administration regulations aimed at better protecting streams from coal mining debris.

Coal country lawmakers unveiled legislation Monday to block the rules, which they say would kill jobs in the coal industry, which is reeling from competition from cleaner-burning natural gas.

The legislation unveiled Monday would overturn December regulations through a process that permits Congress to revoke recently-issued rules in a manner that is immune to filibusters by Senate Democrats.

The repeal measure is set for a House vote Wednesday and a Senate vote shortly thereafter.

“The Stream Protection Rule is the latest in a series of overreaching and misguided Obama-era regulations that have targeted America’s coal industry,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. “If this rule were allowed to stay in place, it would add to the economic devastation for people in coal communities.”

The stream protection rules would be the first of several recent Obama administration regulations to be targeted by using the fast-track procedures. Former President Barack Obama easily repelled such moves with vetoes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the “‘stream buffer’ rule is a harmful regulation that unfairly targets coal jobs.”

The regulations would have tightened exceptions to a rule that requires a 100-foot buffer between coal mining and streams. It also would require coal companies to restore streams and return mined areas to conditions similar to those before mining took place.

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club support the rules, saying they would protect people in coal country from health risks from pollutants like mercury.

Pro-industry senators among the measure’s numerous sponsors include Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

On the House side, Republican Reps. David McKinley of West Virginia and Bill Johnson of Ohio were among those sponsoring a resolution of disapproval concerning the Stream Protection Rule.

“This rule implemented by President Obama at the end of his term is an outrageous attack on working families in the coal industry,” McKinley said. “As chairman of the Coal Caucus, we’ve made stopping the (Stream Protection Rule) our No. 1 priority because if implemented, it could shut down more coal mines and disrupt the livelihoods of over 80,000 miners and their families.

“Fortunately with President Trump, we now have a partner in the White House who understands how irresponsible and harmful these bureaucratic overreaches can be,” McKinley added.

Johnson, meanwhile, said voters in November “sent a clear message to Washington, D.C. that more regulation is not the answer.”

“We will both protect America’s coal jobs by stopping this rule from taking effect, and prevent the issuance of any similar rule in the future,” Johnson said.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., also was among the resolution’s sponsors.

The action comes less than two weeks after a group of 14 state attorneys general, including Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia and Mike DeWine of Ohio, sent a letter to McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., urging congressional action.

The letter states the Congressional Review Act “provides Congress the authority to take action immediately after President-elect Trump takes office to avoid the harm imposed by the (Stream Protection Rule) and protect both the states and the federal government from having to engage in potentially lengthy litigation on this subject.”

Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming also signed the Jan. 17 letter.

See the article here.

McConnell Pushes for Action on ‘Harmful’ Coal-Mining Rule

Via The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged Monday to undo a coal-mining rule issued in the closing days of the Obama administration.

McConnell introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution blocking the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, days before the House is set to vote on a similar measure.

In a floor speech, he urged the House to move quickly on its resolution “so we can pass [it] here in the Senate and provide relief to our coal communities, our national economy, and our constituents.”

Obama officials and environmentalists have hailed the rule — which protects waterways from the impacts of mountaintop removal mining — as good for water quality and public health. But the coal industry has said it would kill mining jobs.

The rule has been a key target for McConnell and resolution co-sponsor Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), whose states’ coal sectors have been hit hard by the commodity’s downturn.

“It will cause real harm to real people who support real families in real communities,” McConnell said of the rule. “This regulation is an attack on coal families. It jeopardizes jobs and transfers power away from states and local governments.”

The House is set to vote on three CRA resolutions this week undoing energy-sector regulations finalized late in the Obama administration. The resolutions target the Stream Protection Rule, a methane leak regulation, and a directive seeking more financial information from drilling and mining firms.

President Trump has said he wants to cut regulations on the fossil fuel sector, so he’s likely to support the resolutions if they reach his desk.

See the article here.

Coal to the Rescue

Via The Washington Examiner:

A fundamental shift in how America generates electricity is raising serious doubts about its ability to keep the lights on.

Switching from coal to more natural gas and renewables is straining the country’s power grid.

The biggest change in the past two years is what the utility industry calls the big “fuel switch” to natural gas — that is, gas took over as the leading producer of the nation’s electricity supply.

The market is awash with natural gas from fracking, which has made it cheaper and more attractive than other energy sources. A unit of gas has cost $2-$3 for the past few years compared to $14-$17 a decade ago.

On top of that, tighter environmental regulations imposed by former President Barack Obama have forced many older coal plants to shut down, which in turn has created an opening for more power plants run on natural gas and other renewable energy sources.

But depending so heavily on a gaseous fuel instead of piles of rocky coal brings risks, especially because environmentalists fight to prevent pipelines being built, so gas-fired plants have a tough time getting the support infrastructure they need.

All this points toward coal making a comeback as a necessary part of the energy mix to avoid blackouts. Washington forecasts higher natural gas prices and a resulting resurgence of demand for coal-fired electricity in the coming year. Washington oversees wholesale power markets, where price is king. Repealing the Obama administration’s climate rules, as President Trump has touted, also would help coal compete on equal footing with natural gas.

Reliability is electric

Former federal energy commissioners say all of this poses serious challenges if reliable electricity service is to be maintained and brownouts and blackouts are to be avoided.

The federal government is going to have to relearn the nuts and bolts of keeping the lights on, according to Republican luminaries.

“The whole issue of reliability is one that will take a renewed focus here in Washington,” says Tony Clark, a former Republican commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who left the agency last year when his term expired.

Clark recently joined the law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP to serve as senior adviser on electricity and energy policy. He will share his time between the firm’s offices in Washington and its Colorado and other state offices.

Clark expects FERC, the electricity watchdog, to be the focus of more attention this year as reliability becomes a bigger issue for the administration and Congress.

“Both at the agency and on Capitol Hill, you’re going to have probably renewed focus on some of these nuts-and-bolts kind of reliability issues, especially as it relates to baseload power and the impact of environmental regulations on reliability of the grid,” Clark says.

“There are some real issues with the retirement of baseload, the integration of more natural gas-fired units, and the increasing penetration of variable energy resources, and how all those things tie together,” says Clark.

A debate is emerging over the value of baseload plants, which are those that can provide power nonstop, such as any that burn fossil fuels. Wind and solar plants cannot do this, and Clark refers to them as “variable resources.”

Markets in California and the Southwest are “right on the leading edge” of this debate, he says. They are trying to figure out how to deal with the unreliability of electricity supplies that is the hallmark of “green” sources. Fossil fuel plants have to be kept going to keep grid supply stable, Clark says.

The energy markets that FERC oversees are struggling with the challenge of “pricing into the market some kind of assurance that you are going to have the resources to back up and compensate for that intermittency,” Clark adds.

“It’s a really, really big thing, barring some kind of technological revolution on the energy storage side of things, you have to accommodate for the intermittency in some way.”

There are two ways to deal with it, Clark says. Either you must build more transmission to account for times when the grid is over-supplied or under-supplied with electricity, or have fast-ramping power plants that can come online quickly, which means more natural gas.

Added to that is the effect renewable energy is having on nuclear and natural gas power plants.

Federal subsidies are pushing wind power prices so low in some states that baseload plants cannot compete and are being forced out of the market.

Cheap natural gas prices are also making it tougher for nuclear power.

The move toward more natural gas and renewables is expected to continue to grow, even with a new president in the White House who is focused on bringing back the coal industry.

A system built for coal

Coal will come back on its own without President Trump‘s help this year and next as a result of natural gas prices rising in 2017 and 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department’s independent statistics arm.

The challenges posed by the changing fuel mix will grow worse if ignored, experts say, not least because the system was built for coal.

“The system was designed mostly around central station and coal-fired generation,” says John Moura, head of reliability assessment at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or NERC, the congressionally sanctioned reliability watchdog and cop on the beat when it comes to anything that could turn out the lights.

“There is a lot of reliability you get when you have three months of backed-up supply in your backyard coal inventory,” Moura says.

Natural gas is different because it relies on pipelines to deliver fuel on a just-in-time basis, agreed to in contracts not written with reliability in mind.

Moura says “a lot of reliability” is gained by having big heaps of coal stacked near a power plant so it can make up for unexpected outages or increasing demand during a sudden cold snap or heat wave.

“You don’t get that same level of reliability with the natural gas-fired generator. You can make that generator appear to be just as reliable as a coal unit and have storage,” but there is always going to be a risk, Moura says.

Some natural gas plants have built large storage derricks of the sort one sees at an oil refinery, but that adds costs that get passed on to ratepayers. That is his challenge in advising lawmakers and state regulators who need to understand the facts, he says.

“One of my major goals is to make regulators know what risk they are taking,” Moura says. “You can’t have a complete 100 percent reliable system. We are always going to be taking some risk.”

Moura’s group was chartered by Congress after the 2003 East Coast blackout to work with the federal government to develop mandatory enforceable standards for utilities overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s latest long-term reliability assessment, out last month, looks at reliability over the next decade. Many regions of the country are becoming too dependent on one fuel source, it says.

Even those without reliability problems will face increasing demand for natural gas to backstop renewables and at the same time provide baseload electricity and supply heat.

“NERC has identified that reliance on a single fuel increases vulnerabilities, particularly during extreme weather conditions,” the report says. It also explains how more rooftop solar panels and other small power generators are creating problems because “many utilities currently lack sufficient visibility and operational control of these resources, increasing the risk to [the bulk power system’s] reliability.”

No one knows how much generation capacity is out there on people’s roofs, or when and where such sources will produce electricity. Sometimes, there might be more electricity supply than demand.

“It used to be that the big ramp for demand was in late afternoon and evening and hot summer days when you had huge air-conditioning load,” Clark says. “What happens now, if you got a really solar-dependent region of the country, you could actually have over-supply in those very hours in the afternoon because you have so much solar power that is coming online” all at once.

“But as soon as the sun goes down in late afternoon-evening you still have very high air-conditioning load needs, but the solar power isn’t there anymore,” Clark says. That’s why natural gas is becoming an increasingly important issue, because it’s the only resource that can ramp up quickly enough to meet the drop in electricity from solar.

The California case

California is the best example of how the problem is playing out in markets increasingly dependent on the sun for electricity, but also increasingly reliant on natural gas.

The closure of the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility near Los Angeles made national news in 2015 when a major leak forced families to flee their homes. The cause of the leak is still being investigated, but the effect of the lost supply on the electric grid has been profound.

The closure and the state’s renewable energy and climate policies have set up the likelihood of a major blackout in one of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas.

Increasing reliance on solar power flowing into the California grid means gas generators near Los Angeles must ramp up supply quickly once the sun sets. But where will the fuel come from with Aliso Canyon only partially operational?

Norman Bay, then FERC’s chairman, warned of blackouts last year and worked with California grid operators to stave off problems last summer. Blackouts were avoided, but the situation may have gone from stable to dire in the past week.

Regulators say that if or when Aliso Canyon reopens, its storage capacity will be only one-third of what it used to be. California utility regulators and the site’s owner, Southern California Gas, issued a warning Jan. 23 that customers should cut their gas use or face a blackout.

Thermostats should be lowered to 68 degrees, clothes washed in cold water, and gas stoves and appliances left unused. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

“By conserving natural gas during this critical period, SoCalGas customers can help lower the risk of possible natural gas and electricity shortages” — ie, blackouts and brownouts.

All but 5 percent of Southern Californian residents use natural gas for home heating, and 60 percent of the electricity used in California comes from natural gas power plants.

Moura says any further loss of natural gas supply would be a serious problem. Policy decisions the state made a decade ago banned fuel oil and other fossil fuels that could produce electricity if natural gas supplies were disrupted.

Increasing use of renewables is also making it harder for large baseload gas-fired power plants to remain profitable in the California electricity market that is valuing one resource over another.

Renewables vs. natural gas

Last year, the large La Paloma gas plant in California announced it was being forced out of business because of market forces created by the Golden State’s climate change and renewable energy mandates.

Philip Moeller, a former FERC commissioner, says that will be a problem FERC addresses in 2017, and that there is talk about tweaking market rules so baseload plants such as La Paloma are no longer undervalued.

He now is senior vice president of energy delivery and chief customer solutions officer at the Edison Electric Institute, which represents the utility industry. He served with Clark as the other Republican on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the Obama administration. The five-member commission has two Democrats and two Republicans, and the chairman typically belongs to the same party as the president. Trump last week, however, named Democratic commissioner Cheryl LaFleur to be acting chairwoman of the commission.

Moeller thinks gas plants under financial strain have a strong argument for compensation from states since they provide a vital service.

“If they are providing something to the grid that is essential for reliability, they should be compensated for it,” Moeller says.

John Hughes, president and CEO of the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, disagrees.

“The simple answer is no,” says Hughes, who represents large industrial users of electricity, which are typically allergic to anything that drives up cost. The problem is the “flawed market design” of the regional transmission operators that FERC oversees, he says. “A single clearing price for all resource types is incapable of efficiently compensating long-term investments inherent in baseloaded generators.”

A scheme of ad hoc payments to reward baseload plants doesn’t solve problems, Hughes says, adding that previous arrangements not overseen by the feds “did a better job compensating different resource types.”

Nuclear experiment

Some states are enacting programs outside federal processes to boost baseload nuclear power plants by giving them clean energy credits, essentially paying them to stay online.

New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo did that last year by including nuclear power in the state’s renewable energy mandate. Moeller expects New York to be sued sometime this year over the plan.

Merchant utilities, including a number of natural gas plant operators in the Northeast, are challenging New York’s zero emission credit scheme at FERC. The utilities argue that Cuomo’s clean energy program upsets basic market principles that should encourage competition and drive generation costs down.

Moeller says it’s probably better to address power plant closures through the commission process rather than through the states. “It’s a little bit more focused on actual markets and the compensation that can come out of a market-based product that pertains to reliability services,” he said.

The line between state and federal jurisdiction over incentives for power plants in federally overseen electricity markets has been blurred in recent years. The Supreme Court gave the commission the upper hand last year, asserting the federal government’s jurisdiction in setting gound rules for paying big power plants.

Clark and others expect Northeastern states eventually removing themselves from FERC’s oversight to pursue aggressive climate policies.

Many say this would be a mistake. “The Northeastern states are notorious for policies that de-industrialize their economies. They are nothing if not consistent,” Hughes says.

R Street Institute, a free-market think tank, wants Trump to support FERC’s competitive markets to keep energy prices low, foster new technologies and drive out market-distorting incentives.

“Low natural gas prices are transforming the electricity sector, clean-energy technologies are increasingly competitive and innovators are at work identifying the next generation of solutions,” R Street said in recommendations to Trump. “It’s time for all forms of commercialized energy, fossil and renewable alike, to compete in the open market by prioritizing a phase-out pathway for all energy subsidies and other distortionary policies.”

See the article here.

Policies Aim at Increasing Economy, Energy Independence

Via The Times Record News:

Anyone who had a connection to the oil and gas industry felt the power of federal bureaucracy during the eight years President Barack Obama governed the nation from the White House.

The industry, however, did not know magnitude of all of the new federal regulations until last week when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California wrote in the Washington Post that the Federal Register, where all new regulations are published, hit 97,110 pages in 2016 alone.

“Washington’s many agencies, bureaus, and departments propagate rules that weigh down businesses, destroy jobs, and limit American freedoms,” McCarthy wrote. “Career bureaucrats who never face the voters wield punishing authority with little to no accountability. If there’s a swamp in Washington, this is it.”

McCarthy said federal regulations cost the American people about $1.89 trillion every year, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “That’s more than 10 percent of GDP, or roughly $15,000 per American household.”

He said the House of Representatives has a plan “to strip power from the bureaucracy and give it back to the people.”

The House already has passed the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, which would require congressional approval before new regulations that cost at least $100 million can become law, and the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would require agencies to choose the least-costly option available to accomplish their goals. That bill would also prohibit large rules from going into effect while they are being challenged in court. Further, it would end the “Chevron deference,” a doctrine that stacks the legal system in favor of the bureaucracy by directing judges to defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own rules.

Also, the House next week will begin repealing specific regulations using the Congressional Review Act, which allows a majority in the House and Senate to overturn any rules finalized in the past 60 legislative days, McCarthy wrote.

“Perhaps no aspect of America’s economy has been as overregulated as energy,” he noted in the column. “So the House will repeal the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, which could destroy tens of thousands of mining jobs and put up to 64 percent of the country’s coal reserves off limits, according to the National Mining Association.

“Likewise, the Obama administration moved at the 11th hour to limit the oil-and-gas industry through a new methane regulation. It could cost up to $1 billion by 2025, the American Petroleum Institute estimates, even though the industry is already subject to the Clean Air Act and has leveraged technological advances to dramatically reduce methane emissions. The additional regulation would force small and struggling operations — in the West in particular — to close up shop, which is why it will be one of the first to go.”

The House will also take the axe to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure rule for resource extraction, which adds an unreasonable compliance burden on American energy companies that isn’t applied to their foreign competitors, he said. This rule, which closely mimics a regulation already struck down by the courts, would put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

President Trump delivered on a campaign promise in his first full day in the White House on Jan. 23 by directing the State Department to begin a re-examination of approving the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will transport crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. He also implemented action to get the Dakota Access pipeline completed in North Dakota, where protesters have blocked further construction.

The actions of the president and the House are clear signals that the energy and economic policies of the nation are headed in a new, pro-growth era designed to increase employment and bolster energy independence.

See the article here.

Killing Obama’s Last-Minute Coal Regulation

Via LifeZette:

As congressional Republicans headed to Philadelphia earlier this week to set goals for the new year, President Trump announced one of his own: erasing 75 percent of government regulations affecting businesses.

This is either hyperbole, intended to grab attention, or it’s aspirational — anticipation that the new administration can achieve a lot in four years. In any event, 75 percent of anything is a big chunk. Especially if it’s three-quarters of the roughly 3,300 new regulations that are promulgated each year, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers.

But even though the president has set an ambitious plan, the Obama administration left behind a target-rich environment in which to pursue it. And it’s a goal that job-hungry voters will approve. They understand that whatever the presumed benefits, regulations do not create jobs. In truth, jobs only come from investment and economic growth.

The new president’s deregulation goal is ideal for a GOP eager to deliver the goods to restive voters — and a smart effort for Democrats who’ll face them in two years. But an administration and Congress bent on deregulation face an ironic quandary. With a plethora of bad regulations to choose from, where to begin?

There’s no better starting point than the “stream rule,” a massive regulation finalized in the waning days of the Obama administration by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM).

The stream rule is a pure expression of all that ordinary Americans loathe about rule by bureaucracy. The full regulatory framework runs to more than 2,600 pages, and was drafted without the input of key mining states — despite the OSM’s legal obligation to consult with them.

The Obama administration clearly wanted to impose a grievous burden on coal producers, though, and it did so by transferring to federal bureaucrats the traditional authority held by state agencies. But it also duplicated regulatory responsibilities already held by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s a redundant effort, however, since OSM’s own reports from mining states already show virtually no off-site impacts from U.S. coal mine reclamation activity.

The result is a regulatory shell game that adds no environmental improvements to those already in place. More troubling, however, is the finding of an independent analysis suggesting the new rule could jeopardize 42,000 direct jobs and cost tens of thousands of additional jobs supported by coal mining.

Fortunately, Congress has provided a way to oppose last-minute regulations developed behind closed doors. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) provides that, with a simple majority vote in both houses, Congress can send the president a gift-wrapped pledge of allegiance to the larger goal of creating good jobs while voiding a serious threat to America’s industrial economy.

This amazing card not only offers double miles on every purchase, but also lets you earn an amazing 40,000 mile intro bonus. Get it while it lasts.

With President Trump’s signature, the resolution can spare thousands of livelihoods and show that Washington is finally listening to voters — not just to environmental activists.

See the article here. 

A GOP Regulatory Game Changer

Via The Wall Street Journal: 

Todd Gaziano on Wednesday stepped into a meeting of free-market attorneys, think tankers and Republican congressional staff to unveil a big idea. By the time he stepped out, he had reset Washington’s regulatory battle lines.

These days Mr. Gaziano is a senior fellow in constitutional law at the Pacific Legal Foundation. But in 1996 he was counsel to then-Republican Rep. David McIntosh. He was intimately involved in drafting and passing a bill Mr. McIntosh sponsored: the Congressional Review Act. No one knows the law better.

Everyone right now is talking about the CRA, which gives Congress the ability, with simple majorities, to overrule regulations from the executive branch. Republicans are eager to use the law, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week unveiled the first five Obama rules that his chamber intends to nix.

The accepted wisdom in Washington is that the CRA can be used only against new regulations, those finalized in the past 60 legislative days. That gets Republicans back to June, teeing up 180 rules or so for override. Included are biggies like the Interior Department’s “streams” rule, the Labor Department’s overtime-pay rule, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s methane rule.

But what Mr. Gaziano told Republicans on Wednesday was that the CRA grants them far greater powers, including the extraordinary ability to overrule regulations even back to the start of the Obama administration. The CRA also would allow the GOP to dismantle these regulations quickly, and to ensure those rules can’t come back, even under a future Democratic president. No kidding.

Here’s how it works: It turns out that the first line of the CRA requires any federal agency promulgating a rule to submit a “report” on it to the House and Senate. The 60-day clock starts either when the rule is published or when Congress receives the report—whichever comes later.

“There was always intended to be consequences if agencies didn’t deliver these reports,” Mr. Gaziano tells me. “And while some Obama agencies may have been better at sending reports, others, through incompetence or spite, likely didn’t.” Bottom line: There are rules for which there are no reports. And if the Trump administration were now to submit those reports—for rules implemented long ago—Congress would be free to vote the regulations down.

There’s more. It turns out the CRA has a expansive definition of what counts as a “rule”—and it isn’t limited to those published in the Federal Register. The CRA also applies to “guidance” that agencies issue. Think the Obama administration’s controversial guidance on transgender bathrooms in schools or on Title IX and campus sexual assault. It is highly unlikely agencies submitted reports to lawmakers on these actions.

“If they haven’t reported it to Congress, it can now be challenged,” says Paul Larkin, a senior legal research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Larkin, also at Wednesday’s meeting, told me challenges could be leveled against any rule or guidance back to 1996, when the CRA was passed.

The best part? Once Congress overrides a rule, agencies cannot reissue it in “substantially the same form” unless specifically authorized by future legislation. The CRA can keep bad regs and guidance off the books even in future Democratic administrations—a far safer approach than if the Mr. Trump simply rescinded them.

Republicans in both chambers—particularly in the Senate—worry that a great use of the CRA could eat up valuable floor time, as Democrats drag out the review process. But Mr. Gaziano points out another hidden gem: The law allows a simple majority to limit debate time. Republicans could easily whip through a regulation an hour.

Imagine this scenario: The Trump administration orders its agencies to make a list of any regulations or guidance issued without a report. Those agencies coordinate with Congress about when to finally submit reports and start the clock. The GOP puts aside one day a month to hold CRA votes. Mr. Obama’s regulatory legacy is systematically dismantled—for good.

This is aggressive, sure, and would take intestinal fortitude. Some Republicans briefed on the plan are already fretting that Democrats will howl. They will. But the law is the law, and failing to use its full power would be utterly irresponsible. Democrats certainly would show no such restraint were the situation reversed. Witness their treatment of Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees.

The entire point of the CRA was to help legislators rein in administrations that ignored statutes and the will of Congress. Few White House occupants ever showed more contempt for the law and lawmakers than Mr. Obama. Republicans if anything should take pride in using a duly passed statue to dispose of his wayward regulatory regime. It’d be a fitting and just end to Mr. Obama’s abuse of authority—and one of the better investments of time this Congress could ever make.

See the article here. 

Healy: Coal Should Be Part of our Energy Future

Via The Journal Sentinel:

The United States has been a global economic leader since the end of World War II. Our skills, innovation and research and development capabilities have kept America at the forefront of new technologies for decades. This has allowed us to outpace our economic rivals and dominate valuable markets.

The renewable energy sector provides a good case in point. The development of geothermal, wind, solar and water energy sources have broadened the domestic energy supply and positioned the U.S. as a world leader in this arena. Why are we not putting that same focus on new clean coal technologies?  It is one of our most important homegrown sources of energy, and, despite popular perception, still abundant.

Unfortunately, despite its low cost and capability to produce jobs, coal has been recast in the American mindset as old-fashioned and damaging to the environment. Those who speak favorably of clean coal technology are typically branded as behind the times or dismissive of long-term planetary health. Shaming has become a potent weapon for those who want to shut down intellectual discourse on the positive role of fossil fuels in America’s energy future.

Many may not realize that America is a leader in clean coal technology. We have developed carbon reduction and storage (CCS) practices that, once fully developed, could be exported around the world to reduce carbon emissions. This technology can capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes. CCS actually prevents carbon dioxide from entering the air.

Another state of the art coal technology is High Efficiency, Low Emission (HELE) power plants. These plants use “ultra-supercritical” technology to reduce carbon emissions produced by coal-fired power generation and produce more energy while using less coal. The U.S. has one HELE plant, based in Arkansas. It burns 180,000 fewer tons of coal and produces 320,000 fewer tons of carbon dioxide each year. This makes it 15% more efficient than any other plant in the country. Despite this success, the federal Environmental Protection Agency does not support HELE technology. The agency argues it will lead to greater coal emissions worldwide.

Ironically, both China and India have adopted HELE technology and have reduced drastically their carbon dioxide emissions. India has reduced its carbon emissions by 6 million tons and has commissioned 51 HELE plants in the past five years. When the first and only supercritical technology plant was built in the U.S. in 2012, China already had 46 in operation. Clearly, America is lagging behind in the arena of energy innovation.

Donald Trump has touted clean coal as the solution to long-term energy policy. With his first 100 days now in motion, the president has an important opportunity to enact policies in support of clean coal technology and the reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions. After nearly a decade of overregulation and punitive policy-making, Americans can finally bring fossil fuels back into the national dialogue and strive to make this nation number one in clean coal technology.

Brett Healy is the president of the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy

See the article here.

How the House Will Roll Back Washington’s Rule by Bureaucrat

Via The Wall Street Journal:

When President Trump delivered his inaugural address last week, he declared that “we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” Note that he said we are transferring power, in the present tense. The House has already begun turning the president’s words into reality by targeting the part of Washington that poses the greatest threat to America’s people, economy and Constitution: the federal bureaucracy.

Washington’s many agencies, bureaus and departments propagate rules that weigh down businesses, destroy jobs, and limit American freedoms. Career bureaucrats who never face the voters wield punishing authority with little to no accountability. If there’s a swamp in Washington, this is it.

In President Obama’s final year the Federal Register hit 97,110 pages—longer by nearly 18,000 pages, or 15 King James Bibles, than in 2008. Federal regulations cost the American people about $1.89 trillion every year, according to an estimate by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. That’s more than 10% of GDP, or roughly $15,000 per American household. The Obama administration has also burdened the public with nearly 583 million hours of compliance over the past eight years, according to the American Action Forum. That’s averages to nearly five hours of paperwork for every full-time employee in the country.

Faced with a metastasizing bureaucracy, the House is undertaking structural and specific reform to offer the nation a shot at reviving the economy, restoring the Constitution, and improving government accountability, all at once. The plan to strip power from the bureaucracy and give it back to the people has two steps.

First, we began structural reform by passing the REINS Act, an acronym for Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny. If the bill becomes law, new regulations that cost $100 million or more will require congressional approval before they take effect. The House also passed the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would require agencies to choose the least-costly option available to accomplish their goals. That bill would also prohibit large rules from going into effect while they are being challenged in court. Further, it would end “ Chevron deference,” a doctrine that stacks the legal system in favor of the bureaucracy by directing judges to defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own rules.

Second, the House next week will begin repealing specific regulations using the Congressional Review Act, which allows a majority in the House and Senate to overturn any rules finalized in the past 60 legislative days.

Perhaps no aspect of America’s economy has been as overregulated as energy. So the House will repeal the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, which could destroy tens of thousands of mining jobs and put up to 64% of the country’s coal reserves off limits, according to the National Mining Association.

Likewise, the Obama administration moved at the 11th hour to limit the oil-and-gas industry through a new methane regulation. It could cost up to $1 billion by 2025, the American Petroleum Institute estimates, even though the industry is already subject to the Clean Air Act and has leveraged technological advances to dramatically reduce methane emissions. The additional regulation would force small and struggling operations—in the West in particular—to close up shop, which is why it will be one of the first to go.

The House will also take the ax to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosure rule for resource extraction, which adds an unreasonable compliance burden on American energy companies that isn’t applied to their foreign competitors. This rule, which closely mimics a regulation already struck down by the courts, would put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

The bureaucracy under President Obama has also threatened America’s constitutional rights. A new rule from the Social Security Administration would increase scrutiny on up to 4.2 million disabled Americans if they attempt to purchase firearms. This would elevate the Social Security Administration to the position of an illegitimate arbiter of the Second Amendment. And in an affront to basic due process, the bureaucracy has attempted to blacklist from federal contracts any business accused of violating labor laws—before the company even has a chance to defend itself in court.

With President Trump’s signature, every one of these regulations will be overturned. In the weeks to come, the House and Senate will use the Congressional Review Act to repeal as many job-killing and ill-conceived regulations as possible. That’s how to protect American workers and businesses, defend the Constitution, and turn words into actions.

See the article here.

North Dakota Does Not Need the Stream Rule, Nor Does the Nation

Via RealClearEnergy:

As I joined my congressional colleagues for the opening session of the new 115th Congress, one frequent topic was how we could quickly restore good jobs and stronger economic growth.

A great start would be to lift the regulatory burden off American industries. If President Obama succeeded at little else, he was the undisputed champion of overregulation. In a little over two months since the Presidential election on November 8, his administration issued 145 regulations, with 31 of those having an economic impact of $100 million or more, totaling $16.4 billion in final rules.

One of those economically significant regulations was the stream rule, a 1,600-page behemoth from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM). Unfortunately, the stream rule will impose duplicative and wholly unnecessary restrictions on coal mining that will be especially costly for North Dakota. The western half of our state has an 800-year supply of lignite coal, an abundant energy source generating reliable and affordable electricity. Our lignite industry supports 4,000 direct and 11,500 indirect well-paying jobs, the kind of jobs that rated a top priority among voters in the November election.

Somehow OSM was not paying attention to the election results. Independent studies of the stream rule’s impact on 36 mining operations showed this regulation alone could cost at least 42,000 direct coal jobs and up to 75,000 additional jobs in coal’s supply chain – from the power plants and railroads to the ports. For example, BNI Coal Co. estimated the stream rule would strand half of the company’s coal at its Center Mine, northwest of Bismarck.

Mining isn’t the only victim of this overreach. Because miners will be forbidden from operating in much of the Prairie Pothole region of our state, where seasonable streams are intermittent, they won’t be able to provide saline-free topsoil to farmers and wildlife. The rule impairs mining operators from working with farmers to improve land by prohibiting mining operators from removing toxic saline seeps.

North Dakotans will accept responsible regulations that create significant environmental improvements at reasonable costs. But OSM offers no environmental benefits beyond those already in place. That’s because the stream rule is a grab bag of costly but unnecessary restrictions that duplicates coal mining oversight already conducted by state agencies and other federal agencies.

Once again we see the familiar sign of a federal agency trying to muscle in on an effective state program. Our state mining agency performs coal reclamation extremely well. In a recent report OSM itself acknowledged that “North Dakota has an effective program with no issues.” In fact, OSM found strong compliance with coal reclamation requirements in states that manage 97 percent of the nation’s coal. Maybe that explains why OSM failed to consult with state agencies in the development of a rule it knew would be opposed as unnecessary.

Fortunately, we have the means to stop this rule. With a simple majority vote in each House, Congress can pass a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) with the president-elect’s support. That would void the stream rule and begin to reassert congressional authority over rogue regulators that under the past administration have formed a virtual fourth branch of government.

Prompt congressional action would also show we hear the concerns of voters. They would rather we defend 100,000 jobs than more job-killing regulations.

See the article here.

Clock Ticking on Trump’s Promise to Kill Environmental Regs

Via The Washington Examiner:

The countdown has begun on Capitol Hill to dig out from under the Obama administration’s environmental regulations, now that President Trump, who has vowed to repeal a number of regulations in his first 100 days, has moved into the Oval Office.

The Republican-controlled Congress needs to move quickly to head off two regulations that the GOP leadership has targeted for repeal: a rule imposing big restrictions on coal mining and another for regulating oil drillers’ methane emissions.

The Republican leadership plans to employ special powers under the Congressional Review Act in its first major effort to quash the rules before the 60-day deadline for doing so is up.

Analysts say the Trump administration likely will make the Congressional Review Act a household word because of how key it is to fulfilling the goals of the new president’s deregulation agenda, which targets a number of Obama-era energy rules for repeal.

“One unique feature of this transition is that President-elect Trump will have an opportunity to reverse a number of the Obama administration’s regulatory rules through a rarely used law, the Congressional Review Act,” said Douglas Dziak, environmental and energy principal with consulting firm Nixon Peabody, in a post published last year after Trump won the election.

“The CRA may prove to be a surprisingly rapid change agent for rules the Obama administration promulgated since spring 2016,” Dziak said. “How many rules does this include? Estimates range from dozens to hundreds of regulations.”

But time is of the essence to introduce and pass the resolutions and get them to Trump’s desk within the next 60 days — not normal days, but legislative calendar days that correspond with Congress being in session.

Under the Congressional Review Act, many of the rules that were enacted from the early summer until the end of last year can be repealed by passing the resolution of disapproval, aides said.

The resolutions can be passed using a simple majority, which could help in the Senate, where most bills require 60 votes to even be considered on the floor.

Democrats are likely to put up high hurdles in the run-up to votes in both chambers. The House’s top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., is trying to form a bloc of opposition to undermine the effort, according to a letter he sent ahead of the inauguration to his fellow party members.

“These two regulations contain critical health, environmental and fiscal protections for the American people, and repealing them … would be a colossal waste of taxpayer money for the sole benefit of the oil, gas and coal industries,” Grijalva wrote in the letter. “This is an especially egregious gift to the mining industry, and the committee majority knows full well that any public debate will only embarrass them,” he said. “Democrats need to stand together to make sure they don’t get away with it.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in a floor speech in the first week of the 115th Congress vowed “swift action” on both the rules, which he said impose “limits to our energy production.”

McCarthy warned former President Obama soon after Trump was elected not to push out eleventh-hour regulations. “Should you ignore this counsel, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions and, if appropriate, overturns them pursuant to the Congressional Review Act,” McCarthy wrote just weeks after Trump won.

In Obama’s final year in office, Republicans had tried to use CRA resolutions to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate regulations for existing power plants, known as the Clean Power plan, but the effort was doomed to failure with Obama, and his veto power, still in the White House.

Now with Trump, whose stated goal is to dismantle job-killing regulations, the resolution almost certainly will move ahead.

Movement on the resolutions will begin quickly, likely beginning with the Stream Protection Rule, which was rushed out by the Interior Department at the end of last year.

The regulation would make it more difficult for coal mining companies to operate, with strict new protections for runoff into waterways.

The mining industry’s lead trade group, the National Mining Association, said in a brief that the rule provides “no discernible environmental benefits while duplicating extensive existing environmental protections — something that is expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.”

The industry group said the rule would place 78,000 jobs at risk. “When coal-supported jobs in manufacturing, power plants and freight rail are included, the toll on employment rises to between 113,000 and 280,000.”

McCarthy said the regulation will be one of two of Obama’s midnight rules to be targeted using the CRA resolutions. The second will be the Interior Department’s venting and flaring regulations for controlling methane emissions from oil and gas fracking wells. The methane regulations are part of President Obama‘s broad Climate Action Plan, with the goal of cutting methane by 40 to 45 percent by 2025.

Methane is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that is blamed by many scientists for warming the temperature of the Earth and hastening the phenomenon known as global warming or climate change.

But the clock is winding down to beat back the Obama methane regulations, with lawmakers missing an opportunity to strike down one layer of methane rules from the EPA. The Interior Department rules and EPA regulations cover different types of methane emissions. The EPA rules are focused more on leaks from the well head and distribution infrastructure. The Interior Department’s regulations cover intentional practices like flaring that burn off excess gas during production.

House lawmakers working on a resolution in recent weeks only just realized that the 60-day window had passed on the EPA methane rules, but they are still within the limits of repealing Interior’s Bureau of Land Management regulations.

They missed the EPA deadline, said Christopher Guith, vice president of federal affairs for the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, who is tracking the effort. “But not too late for BLM’s methane venting and flaring rule, which will likely get CRA’d,” he said in an email.

The Stream Protection Rule may rank higher on the Republican repeal agenda, especially given that Trump responded to the rule being finalized as one of his first statements on energy after he was elected.

The regulation was published in the Federal Register Dec. 20, which started the 60-day clock. The coal regulation went into effect one day before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

The Senate leadership plans to introduce its resolution opposing the regulations at the end of a 15-day reset period between congressional sessions, aides say. A spokeswoman for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the senator plans to join with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, in introducing the resolution of disapproval. A spokesman would not give a specific date on when the resolution would be issued.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., vowed to do the same. Ryan said the rule was implemented without “any real input from the states,” with the power to “wipe out literally thousands upon thousands of jobs in coal country.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, plans to introduce the resolution of disapproval to abolish Interior’s venting and flaring rules, he told Trump’s pick to lead the agency, Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., at a confirmation hearing last week.

House Natural Resource Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is confident the methane rule will be stricken down by Congress even after a federal judge refused to grant the energy industry an injunction last week, according to a spokeswoman.

“This is one of the Obama administration’s most egregious abuses of power,” said spokeswoman Molly Block. “Although the Wyoming judge didn’t grant a preliminary injunction, it will be overturned with a CRA.”

See the article here.

Attorneys General Work To Reverse Stream Protection Act

Via The Wheeling Intelligencer:

WHEELING — As a new administration takes office, several state attorneys general say they’re trying to save the coal mining industry by filing a lawsuit they hope will revoke the outgoing Obama Administration’s Stream Protection Rule.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine were among the attorneys general from 13 states who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed this week. They say the rule is illegal because it oversteps states’ regulatory powers over coal mines. If it’s not stopped, the rule could “drastically reduce — if not eliminate — coal mining across large portions of West Virginia,” according to a news release from Morrisey’s office.

The rule, according to the release, prohibits any change to land and environment around coal mines, subjecting longwall mining to unrealistic standards and interfering with states’ ability to regulate many mining activities.

Morrisey said the rule “tramples on states’ authority, and we believe that the (Obama) administration has failed to address the states’ concerns about how these areas are regulated.”

Congress’ Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act gives states the primary, regulatory powers over coal mining, Morrisey said.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asks the court to “vacate the rule, prohibit the defendants from enforcing the rule and remand the case so the Department of Interior and Office of Surface Mining can issue a new rule that complies with the Surface Mining Act and the U.S. Constitution.”

The rule was issued Dec. 20, and took effect Thursday, the eve of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The timing “we believe is just wrong,” as it begins during one administration and continues through the next administration’s transition, Morrisey said.

Besides West Virginia and Ohio, the other plaintiffs are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

The lawsuit marks the first time in recent memory that attorneys general have sued the Department of the Interior, Morrisey said, noting usually they file lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Since the rule was issued, the group of attorneys general has been researching and putting together a case that could be resolved three ways: in court; administratively after the plaintiffs have urged the Trump transition team to “signal that this rule is illegal”; or through Congress.

“We’re going to keep pushing as hard as we can” to get the rule reversed, Morrisey said.

See the article here.

Kentucky, 12 Other States Sue to Block Obama Coal Mining Rule

Via The Lexington Herald-Leader:

Kentucky and 12 other states have sued in an effort to block a federal rule aimed at reducing the impact of coal mining on streams.

The states filed the challenge Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Kentucky and the other states argue the rule, known as the stream protection rule, runs afoul of their rights, violates federal surface-mining law, and exceeds the authority of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The rule will hurt the already-suffering coal industry, making mining “impossible in vast areas of the country” by barring mining within 100 feet of streams, the complaint said.

“This rule, adopted by the federal government at the eleventh-hour, is not environmentally needed, conflicts with existing protections, and will do great harm to not only the state’s coal industry but to Kentuckians across the commonwealth,” Charles Snavely, secretary of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, said in a news release.

The lawsuit argues that President Barack Obama’s administration adopted the rule without allowing adequate participation by states, and that it would significantly expand the requirements of federal law but provide no additional environmental benefits.

Attorneys representing the cabinet and Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office signed the complaint.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to block enforcement of the rule and an order killing it.

The other states involved are Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a separate lawsuit challenging the rule, according to the Associated Press.

OSM worked on the stream protection rule for years before putting it in place in late December with a month left in the Obama Administration.

The requirements include more monitoring aimed at protecting water quality; greater efforts to protect the watershed outside the area covered by the mining permit; new reclamation standards; and language making it tougher for companies to mine through certain streams or bury them with waste rock blasted out during surface mining.

OSM said when it unveiled the proposed rule that it would result in improved quality in more than 6,100 miles of streams.

When the agency held a comment session on the rule in Lexington in September 2015, it estimated the rule would push down coal production by less than 1 percent in Appalachia.

The agency estimated that in Appalachia, the rule would cause the loss of an average of 210 coal jobs a year from 2020 to 2040, but would create 120 jobs a year in work needed to comply with the standards.

The coal industry said the job losses would be far greater.

Environmentalists have long argued that state and federal regulators have not done enough to keep streams from being destroyed by mining. Many saw the new stream protection rule rule as a step in the right direction, though some said it should have been even tougher

Teri Blanton, a former president of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said it was wrong for the state to try to scuttle the rule.

“I think the state could better spend their money protecting the streams than joining this lawsuit,” Blanton said. “Everybody deserves clean water.”

The lawsuit may not be necessary to kill the rule. Republicans have pledged to get rid of it under President-elect Donald Trump.

See the article here.

Morrisey Puts Stream Protection Rule in Crosshairs

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is wasting no time attacking a last-minute environmental regulation pushed by the Obama Administration.

It’s called the Stream Protection Rule, and Morrisey says it can hurt coal mining jobs around the state.

 “We, Ohio and West Virginia, just filed a lawsuit against the illegal Stream Protection Rule,” he said Wednesday. “It would limit coal mining in disregard to the current statute.”

Morrisey said the rule will prohibit any changes to the land and environment around the coal mine and make it difficult, if not impossible, to mine.

The rule should not displace or change state regulations protecting streams already place, he said.

“This is a last-ditch attempt by the Obama Administration to stifle coal,” he said. “We are not going to let that happen. That’s why we filed and we will aggressively challenge it.”

Morrisey said 13 states are part of the suit, with Ohio and West Virginia leading the way.

A move is also under way in Congress, he said, to quickly nip the rule in the bud before it goes into effect.

Called the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining (STREAM) Act, the proposed bill gives Congress the right to review proposals like the Stream Protection Rule before implementation.

“They (legislators) can step in and override these last-minute initiatives,” he said, adding that he hopes Congress can “quickly set aside this regulation” but the two-pronged attack should see results.

The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) finalized the Stream Protection Rule last December.

Morrisey has already successfully challenged the Environmental Protection Agency emission standards changes that would, he said, add another blow to the coal industry.

All of these regulations have hurt coal jobs, he said, and he hopes the Trump Administration will bring a new direction in environmental regulations.

 “We are excited about working with the Trump Administration,” he said. “I’m cautiously optimistic in receiving help in finishing our work.”

Morrisey is also optimistic Trump’s pick to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is now undergoing the confirmation process.

“He would do a terrific job at the EPA and be a lot more receptive to West Virginians than the current administration,” he said.

Morrisey said he is also ready to work with newly inaugurated Gov. Jim Justice.

“We are rolling up our sleeves and we want him to be a successful governor,” he said. “We will hear his ideas and we obviously want to work with him. We need to work to remove the barriers for job creation in our state. We want to work with the new governor on any issue to move the state forward and create jobs.”

See the article here.

US Mining and Voters in Sync Regarding Job Creation, Economy

Via Mining.com:

The National Mining Association asserted Wednesday that a Morning Consult national poll commissioned by the National Mining Association shows voters and the US mining industry share the same top priority — job creation and a strong economy.

“Fortunately, there are actions the Trump Administration and the New Congress can take on day one to save jobs in our industry and address voter concerns,” NMA CEO Hal Quinn declared in a Jan. 18, 2017, news release.

The polling of 1,991 registered US voters was conducted during January 12-13 of this year. Of those surveyed 33% said they see job creation and the economy as the top priority for the incoming Trump Administration and the New Congress. Other priorities identified by voters were healthcare (26%), national security (24%), infrastructure (6%) and energy policy (4%).

“Over the last several years, the mining industry has been beleaguered by a regulatory onslaught and bureaucratic labyrinth that has cost jobs throughout the supply chain that rely on mining,” Quinn said. “Fortunately many of these regulatory and administrative hurdles can be addressed with actions by the new administration and Congress, backed by strong public support, to save current jobs that are at risk and create the potential for new jobs by clearing obstacles to future employment.”

Among the hurdles cited by NMA are the EPA proposal to add new hardrock mining financial assurance requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The proposed new requirements, which were published in the Federal Register on January 11, 2017, “…puts much of the hardrock mining industry at risk by placing on an already comprehensively regulated industry an exorbitant and unnecessary financial burden that EPA estimates at $7.1 billion,” the NMA observed. “This sum is in addition to billions of dollars of financial obligations already committed through existing state and federal programs.”

“The (Trump) administration should take a fresh look at this rule with an eye towards eliminating obvious duplication and minimizing excessive burdens on the industry,” the association recommended.

In the news release, the NMA urged Congress to enact the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2017, which has been introduced by Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, both Nevada Republicans. Previous versions of the legislation–aimed at streamlining the mining permitting process to boost the economy and job creation–have won the approval of the U.S. House, but died in the U.S. Senate.

“The U.S. is blessed with abundant mineral wealth essential for our basic infrastructure needs, our national defense systems and the consumer products we use every day,” said Quinn in a news release issued on January 17th.

The legislation addressed what NMA called a “painfully slow mine permitting process that can take seven to 10 years, putting into place a path for efficient, timely and thorough permit reviews and incorporating best practices for coordination between state and federal agencies.”

“If adopted, this legislation will support our ability to fully utilize abundant domestic mineral resources that are essential for basic infrastructure needs, national defense systems and consumer products.”

NMA Coal Sector Concerns

The NMA also urged the Trump Administration to rescind EPA’s Clean Power Plan—stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court and now under review by the D.C. Court of Appeals—which aims to close 53,000 megawatts of coal power capacity. “By rescinding the CPP, the administration can save 27,700 high-wage coal mining jobs, along with another 99,700 in the coal supply chain, including railroad workers, machinists, mechanics, truckers and other occupations that depend on coal mining,” the association suggested.

NMA Vice President-External Communications Luke Popovich observed, “Quicker yet would be a decision by the White House to simply ignore the Obama Administration’s moratorium on federal court leases…”

The new Congress and the Trump Administration could act to pass and sign into effect “a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval nullifying the Interior Department’s reckless stream rule,” the NMA asserted. “A technical analysis of the impact of the proposed rule shows that at least a third of coal-related jobs are now at risk owing to the massive volumes of coal that would be uneconomic to mine.”

Popovich contends that the “job-killing regulations” advocated by environmental organizations and “enthusiastically accepted by a grateful [Obama] Administration,” helped sweep President-Elect Donald Trump into the White House.

See the article here.

West Virginia Needs Coal Jobs and a Better EPA Under Pruitt

Via The West Virginia Record:

Dear Editor:

 Retaining a coal job over the past few years has not been easy, but I’ve been blessed to keep my job at Mepco. Still, like so many others in my community, I’ve been worried about the of future of my career over the past eight years as the “War on Coal” has seemed to have no end in sight. However, we now have the opportunity to really embrace clean coal moving forward in this country.

Mepco supplies most of the coal used at the Longview Power plant. Longview proves every single day that you can use coal efficiently and in a clean, environmentally sound way. To continue benefiting from clean coal in the future, we need to have an EPA that is balanced and without political agenda. I was encouraged to see President-elect Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA for this reason. I’m also very proud of Senator Capito for her bold leadership to quickly call for his confirmation to help fight for our coal jobs. Senator Manchin has also been encouraging in his statements supporting Mr. Pruitt, and for that I am very grateful.

Let’s hope that our West Virginia senators can lead their colleagues in the U.S. Senate and bring this EPA back to the real world. We need our coal jobs, and we can and should use clean coal.

Sincerely,

Steven Golden

Morgantown

See the article here.

Kentucky Joins Fight Against Stream Protection

Via The Courier-Journal:

The rule requires companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities and to plant trees or other vegetation.

Kentucky’s environmental protection cabinet on Wednesday announced that it had joined other states in suing to overturn an Obama administration rule aimed at protecting streams from mining activities.

When it finalized the regulations known as the “Stream Protection Rule” in December, the U.S. Interior Department said that would establish “clear requirements for responsible surface coal mining that will protect 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests over the next two decades, preserving community health and economic opportunities while meeting the nation’s energy needs.”

The rule requires companies to restore streams and return mined areas to the uses they were capable of supporting prior to mining activities, and replant these areas with native trees and vegetation.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has called it a continuation of a war on coal and told the Associated Press last month he intended to seek to overturn it in Congress.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet published a blog on Wednesday that objected to what it called a “one size fits all” approach.

“The … cabinet maintains that the rule illegally interferes with states’ rights to govern without undue interference from the federal government,” the cabinet wrote. “If allowed to stand, the rule would also have a devastating impact on Kentucky’s coal industry and the thousands of miners employed in that industry.”

Twelve other states joined in the lawsuit, the cabinet wrote.

See the article here.

Excessive EPA Regulations Harming Coal Industry

Speaking as a CEO of a major coal-fired power plant and a coal mining company, I am compelled to start with the devastation of the coal industry, particularly in West Virginia but throughout all coal country. This devastation has been caused by excessive and politicized Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Years of EPA regulatory interference stalled the normal replacement of our aging power plants. The clean coal Longview Power plant was built during a brief window of opportunity before the Clean Power Plan created a regulatory environment that has made construction of new coal-fired power plants impossible.

As a result of this regulatory stranglehold, good-paying, middle class jobs have disappeared from Appalachia. And, if we continue to rely on our aging coal fleet, the region will soon face even more drastic job losses. We have six counties in the state of West Virginia that are in a depression as a result of these regulatory burdens, and we need common-sense leadership at the EPA to stop this interference.

The first and most important measure of the new Trump Administration’s success should be the preservation and creation of good paying middle class jobs. Replacing the nation’s aging coal-powered generation fleet with modern, efficient clean coal plants, such as the Longview Power plant that I oversee, would add thousands of manufacturing, engineering and construction jobs. As an example, the construction of Longview helped to insulate Morgantown, W.Va., from the 2009 recession. This approach will maintain and sustain the coal industry for years to come.

Clean coal plants such as Longview Power operate efficiently and at a low cost while effectively removing substantially all of the harmful pollutants (SOx, NOx, PM and Mercury) that truly define dirty coal. In addition, because of its advanced modern design and seamless operations, Longview is 20 percent more efficient and also emits significantly less CO2 than the 40- to 50-year- old coal plants that currently operate in West Virginia.

In short, we can — and should — use coal in this country, and at Longview Power, we are doing so in a smart, environmentally sound way. For far too long, the EPA has simply failed to balance environmental protection and economic impact. It is remarkable that a modern, clean and low CO2 producing coal plant like Longview Power cannot be built in the United States, while Germany, Japan, China and other countries are building them. This must change if we wish to meet the energy needs of a resurgent manufacturing economy.

Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, will take a fresh look at bringing clean coal back into the discussion with science-based decision making. We must find thoughtful and appropriate ways to take a balanced approach to environmental regulations that conserve and protect our environment while utilizing clean coal.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mr. Pruitt was a leading national figure to rightly question the federal overreach of the Clean Power Plan and other overstepping federal bureaucracies. Under his leadership at the EPA, West Virginia could partner with the federal government to site and build “highly efficient, low emissions” coal plants like Longview Power to replace our aging coal fleet and sustain our coal industry.

Furthermore, the EPA could admit that additional research is necessary before carbon capture and sequestration will be commercially feasible. The federal government also could focus on tax credits to induce building highly efficient, modern clean coal-fired plants like Longview Power that substantially eliminate harmful pollutants through efficiency and updated technology.

Updating our energy infrastructure, including taking action to replace our aging coal generation power facilities, should be a priority in the first 100 days to address these issues.

The country needs to embrace an “all-of-the above” energy policy in order to meet its energy needs. Clean coal should play an important role because of its abundance, dependability and low cost. In fact, Longview Power is producing power reliably and at low cost from clean coal in West Virginia right now, and we are excited to continue to discuss the future of clean coal with policymakers using our story as an example.

I believe Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation to lead the EPA will bring balance back to the discussion around environmental policy, economic realities, and the intersection of addressing both in a reasonable way.

I encourage the Senate to act expeditiously to confirm Mr. Pruitt, who will ensure that our environmental policies do not block our implementation of a diverse and comprehensive energy policy. As a nation, we can achieve our environmental goals while still using clean coal if we do it wisely, which we clearly demonstrate every day at Longview Power.

See the article here.

Judge Thwarts Obama EPA’s Lawless War on Coal

Via PJ Media:

Here’s a radical concept: federal agencies created and empowered by congressional statutes have to comply with those statutes — i.e., they have to obey federal law — in exercising their power.

It is a rudimentary concept, of course, but one with which the Obama administration has appeared only vaguely acquainted throughout its eight years. Now, a federal judge in West Virginia is providing remedial instruction for the Environmental Protection Agency, and in the process, is derailing the administration’s war on the coal industry.

As Powerline’s John Hinderaker explains, Judge Preston Bailey has directed the EPA to comply with a straightforward statute that unambiguously requires the agency to evaluate the effects on employment of its plans to enforce the Clean Air Act.

The case arises out of the EPA’s issuance of draconian regulations of air pollutants from coal and oil power plants. The libertarian Cato Institute recounts that the regs “provide far less than a penny in benefits for each of the nearly $10 billion in costs it imposes on the U.S. economy.” The Supreme Court, in Michigan v. EPA (2015), has already slapped the agency down due to the irrationality of this enormous-cost/negligible-benefit formula that is clearly designed to annihilate these industries. But, Cato explains, EPA is doubling down by trying to justify its $10 billion price tag with benefits outside those the statute permits it to count (which it euphemistically calls “co-benefits”).

The West Virginia case, Murray Energy Corporation v. EPA, is a successive instance of the defiant agency’s effort to ram through its regulations heedless of judicial rulings.

Murray Energy sued the EPA for, among other things, failing to comply with the statutory scheme it so oppressively enforces. In particular, the agency ignores the section of the Clean Air Act (section 7621 of Title 42, U.S. Code) that directs:

The Administrator [of EPA] shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provision of this chapter and applicable implementation plans, including where appropriate, investigating threatened plant closures or reductions in employment allegedly resulting from such administration or enforcement.

I italicize “shall” because, in the law, shall (as opposed to, say, “may” or “should”) denotes something that must be done — it is not a suggestion.

Yet, the EPA does not even deign to take notice of it. In Murray Energy, there appears to be no question that the agency ignored the statute. In ruling for the company back in October, Judge Bailey ordered the EPA, within two weeks, to file a plan and schedule for how it would comply with the provision mandating Administrator Gina McCarthy to evaluate losses or shifts of employment that would occur if the EPA’s suffocating proposal went into effect.

See the article here.

Reminding EPA Of Limits to Power

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials enjoy enormous power, granted by Congress. They can decide unilaterally that individuals, families and businesses must do certain things to comply with the EPA’s definitions of clean air, water and soil.

But there are some limits. The agency does have to explain the justification for its mandates, as well as their impact on Americans.

During the past eight years, the agency’s explanation for new rules has amounted to this: Because we said so.

It just won’t do, as U.S. District Court Judge John Preston Bailey recognizes.

Ruling in a lawsuit against the agency, filed by Murray Energy Corp., Bailey has ordered the EPA to identify specific impacts of its Clean Air Act mandates on the coal industry. EPA officials have until July 1 to comply.

During President Barack Obama’s tenure, he has made no secret of his plan to wreck the coal industry and shut down coal-fired power plants. At the same time, he and EPA officials insist their orders are not to blame for the decline of mining. Competition from natural gas is the culprit, they claim.

That is nonsense amounting to a bald-faced lie.

The EPA is required to provide reports on the impact of its initiatives. It has not done so.

That explains Bailey’s annoyance with the agency. As he wrote in his order, “It is time for the EPA to recognize that Congress makes the law, and EPA must not only enforce the law, it must obey it.”

For many years, under not just Obama but other presidents, the EPA has been moving toward environmental dictatorship. Bailey, whose jurisdiction includes the Northern District of West Virginia, is far from the only federal judge to have recognized that.

Bailey’s order, then, is about more than coal miners and families paying higher electric bills. In a very real sense, it also is about reminding many in the executive branch of government that Americans did not revolt against imperial rule once, only to tolerate an attempt to revive it.

See the article here.

Dominion: Lack of Transmission, Coal Shutdowns Bring Blackouts to Virginia Peninsula

Via UtilityDIVE:

  • Dominion Resources will shutter its Yorktown coal plant in April, and afterwards may need to use rotating blackouts on the Virginia Peninsula in order to maintain grid reliability and avoid voltage collapse.
  • The Yorktown’s two units do not run often, and violate environmental emissions standards. They are required to close by law, RTO Insider reports, and once they are offline, the grid will become unstable.
  • The Army Corps of Engineer is considering a transmission line could replace the lost power but it will need to cross the James River, and that proposal has many opponents. The design calls for more than a dozen transmission towers.

It will take at least a year to construct the Surry to Skiffes Creek 500 kV Line, but the Yorktown power plant must close in April and the transmission project is still under review. So until the line can be built or another solution found, Dominion has developed a plan that keeps the broader grid stable—though it could require dropping service to 150,000 customers.

Dominion presented its plan to PJM this week. Absent the two coal units, the generator said there is a “long list of N-1-1 contingencies that result in voltage collapse and thermal overloads.”

PJM’s board approved the Surry-Skiffes line in 2012, and the Virginia State Corporation Commission signed off the following year. But the plan has faced opposition from many who say the transmission line is not appropriate for the scenic river and historic area.

Dominion’s proposal calls for building a 7.76-mile 500 KV overhead transmission line, running from the Surry nuclear power plant switching station in Surry County to the proposed Skiffs Creek switching station. Last April, however, the Virginia Supreme Court handed opponents of the project a win, ruling aspects of the line were subject to local siting rules.

Dominion previously warned that the new transmission line is essential to the region’s power supply, but still faced opposition.  It told the grid operator that its New Remedial Action Scheme, as it calls the plan, is “only a stopgap measure.”

See the article here.

Donald Trump’s Administration Must Keep the Promises Made on Clean Coal

Via The Hill: 

A number of new coal-powered energy plants equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology are due to come online across the U.S. over the coming weeks, much to the ire of green activists. CCS technology captures up to 90% of carbon dioxide emissions created when fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity. Campaigners argue this type of technology could prolong global reliance on fossil fuels at a time when governments should be investing in clean, renewable sources of energy.

In fact, environmentalists railing against climate change mitigation technology appear to be oblivious to the fact that fossil fuels will make up a significant proportion of America’s energy mix for the foreseeable future. The hard reality is that while renewables are growing and becoming more cost-effective, their reliance upon capricious natural phenomena to generate energy (such as the wind blowing or the sun shining) makes them an unreliable safeguard for America’s energy security.

Research published last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) highlighted the unreliability of renewable sources of energy, recommending a mix between renewables and “fast-reacting fossil technologies” as the best way governments can move forward. The study found that installing 1MW of renewable capacity leads to a further 1.12 MW of fossil fuel technology coming online.

No matter how quickly environmentally-progressive politicians would like to see renewables take over from fossil fuels, the fact remains that coal plants are still responsible for a third of global energy production, making it vital that CCS is properly explored.

The opening of new clean coal plants built by Petra Nova in Texas and Southern Co. in Mississippi over the next few weeks could be pivotal in convincing Donald Trump’s incoming administration of the benefits of CCS, and play a key role in persuading his Cabinet to honor promises he made on the campaign trail to back this type of technology. Trump vowed to put an end to restrictions limiting jobs in the coal and shale gas industries during his first 100 days in office, hinting that “clean coal” could play a role in enabling him to do so.

And despite what some claim, America’s current energy mix is not a result of market forces or of natural selection – it has been created by market distortions brought about by the introduction of often politically-motivated subsidies. Outgoing President Barack Obama stuck to his 2008 promise of bankrupting anyone wanting to build coal plants and championed instead natural gas and renewables through a complex web of subsidies and favorable regulations.

Others, who recognize that CCS is a valuable technology but criticize it on cost grounds suffer from a myopic view of just how important federal and state subsidies have been to boosting the renewable sector. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), 72% of the Department of Energy’s subsidy budget goes to renewables – amounting to $11.6 billion in 2013 alone. In 2015, Bloomberg New Energy Finance revealed that federal subsidies provided wind and solar developers with as much as $24 billion between 2008 and 2014, leading to a 12-fold increase in installed capacity over the past decade, helping to lower costs by at least 10% each year.

Similarly, Elon Musk’s renewable empire has benefited from $4.9 billion in governmental support, with New York state giving SolarCity $750 million for its factory and Nevada incentivizing Tesla with $1.3 billion to build its famed battery factory there. With the right political will, CCS technologies can very well create new high tech jobs while also providing job security to the 182,700 people working in the mining industry.

The argument that carbon capture technology is too expensive is also a complete red herring, which roundly neglects to acknowledge how quickly production costs would fall thanks to economies of scale. For example, since the 1970s, solar energy prices have fallen from $76/watt to $0.57/watt since the 1970s.

If a similar feat could be achieved by the Trump administration with CCS, climate change mitigation technology could greatly reduce carbon emissions around the world.

And it’s not just the U.S. that’s having a change of heart when it comes to CCS. A recent Anglo-Indian project is already developing CCS technology, promising to capture carbon emissions produced during the electricity production process for just $30 per ton, without any government subsidies. This is much lower than the $120-140 typically achieved in the global power sector. With 300 million people lacking access to electricity, Indian demand for coal is expected to rise by over 50% by 2027. Unlike the Obama administration, India is looking to upgrade its coal plants by converting them into modern super critical plants, which produce more power from less coal and with fewer CO2 emissions.

The use of new technologies such as CCS and fast-reacting fossil fuels has the potential to drastically cut emissions in countries that are years away from developing renewable energy sources. The case for investing in CCS and similar climate change mitigation technology is clear. Far from prolonging the world’s dependence on fossil fuels as some maintain, emboldening CCS could be the main tool in Trump’s toolkit to appease coal miners in Virginia while also honoring America’s climate change commitments.

See the article here.

Obama’s Interior Dept. Calls for Major Changes to ‘Modernize’ Federal Coal Program

Via The Washington Post:

With just days until President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Department of the Interior finalized a report Wednesday calling for major changes to the federal coal program by which the U.S. manages the leasing of land to companies for exploration and production across 570 million publicly owned acres.

A year ago, new leases were placed on hold pending this report. Trump, who campaigned as an ally of the coal industry, has pledged to reverse that controversial moratorium.

Interior Department lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, are estimated to contain 7.4 billion tons of coal that could be mined and sold. Environmental groups have charged that if these fossil fuel resources are actually dug up and burned the consequences could be severe for the planet’s climate, and continual domestic coal leasing had also come into increasing tension with President Obama’s ambitious climate change policies.

At the same time, domestic coal production has declined dramaticallyin recent years because of major changes in U.S. electricity generation. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the decline has been from nearly 1.2 billion short tons in 2008 to 743 million in 2015.

“It appears that modernization of the Federal coal program is warranted,” stated the report, a so-called scoping document that sets the stage for a broader environmental impact assessment of the coal program. “While energy markets, communities, environmental conditions, and national priorities have changed dramatically, the program has remained fairly static in its administration over the last thirty years.”

The new report sketches out a series of potentially ambitious changes to the current federal coal leasing program, which has not been updated since the 1980s. Those reforms would include charging a higher royalty rate to companies, factoring in the climate impact of the coal being burned through an additional charge to firms and setting an overall carbon budget for the nation’s coal leasing permits.

But the document said more analysis would be required to assess how the federal coal program contributes to climate change, whether taxpayers are getting a good return on the program and other matters.

Trump has vowed to increase coal extraction in the United States rather than impose tighter restrictions, making it unlikely the incoming administration will heed any of the new recommendations.

The federal coal leasing program — which in 2015 accounted for 42 percent of all coal produced in the U.S. — has come under sharp criticism for not providing a fair rate of return for taxpayers.

Mining companies currently pay a 12.5 percent royalty rate for coal taken from surface mines, compared to an 18.75 percent royalty for oil and gas from offshore drilling, and many federal auctions often involve just one bidder.

Coal companies, however, say the actual rates paid to the government are much higher because of bonuses and other fees paid through lease agreements.

The vast majority of federal coal leasing takes place in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River basin, and the report notes that between 80 and 90 percent of the coal produced in the nation is used for electricity generation. Some is sold overseas, to countries such as China.

Over the last decade, BLM-administered leases have generated more than 4 billion tons of coal and $10 billion in federal revenue, which is shared with the state from which it was mined.

Coal mined from federal land in the Powder River basin accounts for roughly 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2014 study by the Center for American Progress and the Wilderness Society.

Both the Government Accountability Office and independent groups have issued findings suggesting federal taxpayers deserve higher payments from companies extracting coal from federal land. The practice of auctioning coal mining rights to a single bidder may have cost taxpayers as much as $28.9 billion over the past 30 years, according to a 2012 analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a Cleveland, Ohio-based think tank.

The National Mining Association denounced the department’s move Wednesday, but also looked for a quick reprieve from Trump.

“Today’s report represents the outgoing administration’s last step to delegate its energy and land management responsibilities to the ‘keep-it-in-the-ground’ crowd,” said its CEO Hal Quinn. “It’s a compilation of the same politically-contrived reasoning that has driven the disruptive coal leasing moratorium but can be terminated on day one of the new administration.”

“I look forward to President-elect Trump and Secretary Zinke reversing the moratorium on coal leasing, unleashing American energy and innovation and expanding high-paying energy jobs,” added Montana Senator Steve Daines, in a press release that termed the new Interior report “laughable.”

But others were more favorable. “It is our sincere hope that the next Secretary of the Interior will follow through with a review of the federal coal program,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, in a statement. “It is a disservice to taxpayers, and to the states and towns that depend on revenue from coal mining, to ignore the well-documented problems with virtually every aspect of the process. … If the next Administration or Congress want to bail out the coal industry, then they should do it in a transparent and accountable way, instead of undercutting an attempt to fix this broken system.”

See the article here.

A Steep Price for Ignoring Working Americans

Via TribLIVE:

Congress returned last week, just in time to digest a prescient election post-mortem from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. In a New Year’s Day dissection of his party’s November collapse, Bourdain blamed “privileged Eastern liberals for showing utter contempt” for working-class America.

As Bourdain sees it, when media and pop culture figures “mock them at every turn and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good.”

Bourdain could well have been describing coal country when he recounted his various travels in what he calls “God-fearing America.” There he found “nice” people doing what everyone else in the world is doing: “the best they can to get by and take care of themselves and the people they love.”

There’s a belated message here for an administration that has been arguably tougher on coal states than on some of our foreign enemies.

Clearly, even state pollsters missed the impact that alienated blue-collar America would have on the election. As The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel noted recently, local pundits called it one way throughout the industrial heartland. Yet the people voted the other way. It must be time, then, to change the bait when Republicans can capture the Kentucky legislature, while the Democrat standard-bearer draws only 26 percent of West Virginia voters.

So how do Democrats bring the economically marginalized and politically disenfranchised back into the fold? It’s a pressing question, since 10 Senate Democrats are less then two years away from re-election in states carried by Donald Trump.

One way to win back blue-collar workers is to stop groveling before the Sierra Club and the “privileged Eastern liberals” who fund it, and instead propose policies that treat working Americans as real people rather than deplorable abstractions.

For example, there is scarcely an interest group whose regulatory agenda has been more systematically hostile to economic growth and blue-collar America than “keep it in the ground” activists. After losing the midterm elections across the board, President Obama decided to fulfill the Sierra Club’s fantasies via a string of executive orders and regulations. But this only accelerated the steady erosion of working-class support that had helped to bring him into office.

The result: The environmental left has managed to pit the traditional party of working men and women against working men and women, costing miners their jobs and Democrats their seats.

The election proved there will be scant penalty for elected officials who ignore the demands of the Sierra Club and the spring break Bolsheviks who swell its ranks. Elected officials can win by offering more responsible environmental solutions — ones that respect the interests of working people and their need for affordable energy.

If a celebrity chef from New York can see this, maybe the DNC intelligentsia can, too. So here’s to a reboot of the political landscape, with the interests of coal miners and factory workers featured more prominently.

See the article here.

NMA Condemns Administration’s Politically Contrived Coal Lease Policies as Damaging to Jobs, Communities and Taxpayers

Days before leaving office, the Obama administration has once again advocated policies designed solely to destroy America’s coal industry in the face of a political referendum favoring good jobs and affordable energy. Instead of the open and honest conversation promised by the administration on federal coal leasing policies, today’s report predetermines outcomes before the program review has been completed.

“The Secretary of the Interior’s purported rationales to overhaul the federal coal lease program rest on politically contrived reasoning that will result in less federal and state revenue, the loss of more high-wage jobs as well as an indispensable source of affordable electricity for millions of families,” concluded NMA president and CEO Hal Quinn.

The Secretary has outsourced the Department’s energy and land management responsibilities to “keep it in the ground” activists by blithely accepting their unsupported contentions, beginning with the long-rejected notion that the current leasing system fails to deliver a fair return. In fact, bonus bids paid for leases have outpaced the increase in coal prices. Detailed analyses by Norwest Corp. show Federal royalty rates are 30-65 percent higher than prevailing rates for private coal, where bonus bids are seldom paid as they always are on federal coal. In the major federal coal leasing region, the combination of leasing fees, royalties and taxes amounts to payments of 39 percent of revenues for federal coal producers, which are in addition to any corporate taxes paid on any final profits.

“If the administration was sincerely interested in increasing revenue, it would lift its moratorium on federal lease sales and commit to an efficient process that optimizes, rather than reduces, the benefits that flow to every American from the development of the nation’s federal coal resources,” said Quinn.  “Frankly, most of the policies suggested by the Secretary are beyond the power of the executive branch as she conceded earlier in her tenure.  Fortunately for coal miners and energy consumers, the coal leasing moratorium can be terminated on day one of the new administration,” Quinn added.

See the article here.

Obama’s EPA Chief Says Biggest Regret Is Not Connecting With Rural Voters

Via The Daily Caller:

Not being able to sell rural voters on the importance of switching from fossil fuels to solar and wind power is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy’s biggest regret, she said Friday.

“We tried to change the outreach and messaging in rural America in a number of ways, but … has it changed the rhetoric that people hear? It hasn’t,” McCarthy said in an interview at EPA headquarters. “We couldn’t get it, but I wish we had.”

President Barack Obama nominated McCarthy to lead the agency in 2013. Her tenure has been riddled with controversies and marred by heavy-handed regulatory maneuvers.

She implement controversial environmental regulations such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) — which are viewed as job-killers in coal country — and told reporters earlier this year that she gave up talking to “climate deniers.”

“I don’t check out flat Earth society and I’m not talking to climate deniers,” she said in October. “That’s it. Sorry, I know I’m supposed to be for everybody, but my patience has worn thin over eight years.”

Republican lawmakers even demanded she resign after the EPA-caused Gold King Mine spill in 2015, a disaster that dumped nearly 3 million gallons of toxic mine wastewater ran into a Colorado river, contaminating the drinking water for thousands of people.

McCarthy’s hard-nosed regulatory scheme eventually paved the way for then-presidential nominee Donald Trump to successfully campaign in coal states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Trump campaigned throughout the election season on resuscitating the beleaguered coal industry.

The president-elect capitalized on the coal industry’s stumbles — more than 4,800 coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky lost their jobs during the Obama administration, according to Energy Information Administration.

Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a strident EPA critic, in December to head the agency. The Sooner State Republican made no bones about his animus toward the CPP, along with the Paris agreement forged by Obama and approved by McCarthy.

McCarthy said the shift toward green energy projects would move forward despite Trump and Pruitt’s preference for fossil fuels. The new EPA chief will “come in here with policies he wants to implement and changes he wants to make,” she said.

But most of their objectives will be hampered, McCarthy added, by gains made throughout the past few years in green energy.

“These are today’s technologies not yesterday’s,” she said of solar and wind power. “These are the jobs of tomorrow, not of yesterday.”

See the article here.

Congress Can Act to Help Miners Survive a Regulatory Onslaught

Via The Roanoke Times:

Quinn is President and CEO of the National Mining Association.

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its Constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Here’s why.

First, there’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

Second, OSM’s own annual reports confirm that, under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

Finally, the economic impacts predicted by OSM are, in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce.

Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have placed the stream rule in the congressional crosshairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. President-elect Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

See the article here. 

Lawmakers Begin Process of Striking Down Stream Rule

Via E&E Publishing:

Congressional Republicans and other pro-coal lawmakers are swiftly lining up to strike down the Obama administration’s new Stream Protection Rule.

Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) each put forward resolutions this week to block the Interior Department’s new restrictions on coal mining near waterways released last month.

Both Jenkins’ H.J. Res. 11 and Lamborn’s H.J. Res. 16 would void the rule using the Congressional Review Act (Greenwire, Dec. 19, 2016). Under the law, Congress has 60 working days to quash a regulation.

Only a simple majority in each chamber needs to approve a so-called resolution of disapproval for it to succeed. The president also has to agree.

With the rule only weeks old, President-elect Donald Trump will have ample time to make good on regulation-cutting and pro-coal promises.
Jenkins’ resolution is the same as one he introduced last month. Lamborn, chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, would like to move his own language.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) yesterday put the Stream Protection Rule near the front of the line for regulations on the chopping block (Greenwire, Jan. 5). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also said his chamber is ready to use the CRA on the rule.

Jenkins said the push is about reversing the Obama administration’s “radical anti-coal agenda.” He said: “I’m here to stand up for West Virginians. For miners.”

Other bills

Last year, Jenkins was a co-sponsor of Virginia GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith’s H.R. 130 to secure expanded black lung disease benefits if Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act.

With Republicans readying to scrap Obamacare, Griffith reintroduced the legislation yesterday. It would preserve a provision championed by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) that restored original eligibility requirements for black lung benefits after Congress tightened them in 1981.

Griffith and Jenkins — alongside Reps. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) — also introduced a resolution that would express Congress’ committment to preserving the expanded benefits.

McKinley this week reintroduced his permanent fix for the looming issue of imperiled pensions and health benefits for more than 120,000 retired union coal miners (Greenwire, Jan. 4).

In the Senate, West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R) are hammering out the latest version of that bill.

See the article here.

Job-Crushing Regulations Trump Can Gut on Day One

Via Lifezette:

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, pending confirmation, will soon hold one of the most vital posts in President-Elect Donald Trump’s administration to restoring job growth in much of the nation.

Pruitt, nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, will be the focus of intense criticism from Democrats during his confirmation hearings.

“There has to be attention to the plain language of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. [The Obama administration] imagined authority that they had, that they did not have.”

Democrats are so agitated by Republicans, and a pro-energy Republican like Pruitt, taking the helm of the EPA because the Obama administration’s entire legacy of radical environmentalist activism will be on the chopping block.

Critics contend President Obama’s overly aggressive EPA chief, Gina McCarthy, and Interior Department, shifted the entire landscape of the energy industry with excessive rule-making.

Trump has picked U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), to be the next interior secretary.

But it’s Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, who caught the attention of the Left. Pruitt is suing the federal government, on behalf of his state, over President Obama’s controversial Clean Power Plan.

The regulation was transparently designed to kill the future of coal plants, says Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow in energy and environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Pruitt was very aggressive at fighting the federal government. When he took office in 2010, he founded a “Federalism Unit” in his office to fight unwarranted or unconstitutional federal regulations.

There is a large swath of possible job-killing regulations that the EPA and Interior have passed under President Obama — regulations that Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke could possibly revoke their first day or week in office.

The Stained Glass Sector
You may be surprised to learn stained glass is a threat to the environment.

Makers of specialty glass, such as stained glass, are not subject to clean-air emission rules because the facilities tend to be too small.

But the EPA decided to change that, according to the conservative research organization America Rising Squared. The EPA began sending out burdensome information requests to glass makers.

The requests cost many glass companies countless man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars to comply. When Spectrum Glass Co. closed in May 2016, after 40 years in business, the Washington State company cited the EPA’s rules as the secondary factor, after problems caused by the Great Recession.

“The entire U.S. art glass industry is now being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency with respect to potential new regulations,” wrote Craig Barker, CEO of Spectrum. “Long-standing interpretations of air quality regulations are being re-evaluated, and if new regulations were applied to our facility, it would require substantial capital expenses.”

The Powder River Basin
Luke Popovich, the vice president for external communications for the National Mining Association, says the industry would like to see Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke address other “low-hanging fruit” soon.

One easy fix that wouldn’t need congressional approval would be the lifting of a three-year moratorium on new coal-mining leases in the Powder River Basin, in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming.

The Obama administration imposed a three-year ban on public lands in January 2016, pending further study. 90 percent of U.S. coal extracted from public lands comes from this basin.

The Stream Buffer Rule
Congress is already considering revocation of an Obama rule that was announced on Dec. 19. The rule expands the definition of what constitutes an ephemeral stream in order to subject more surface coal mines to stream protection rules.

Industry analysis has indicated the blanket expansion could essentially allow regulators to shutter almost any mine due to running water caused by rain.

Popovich said Congress may have power to review this rule under the Congressional Review Act.

Popovich said the rule is a wrongful expansion of Interior’s power.

The Clean Power Plan
The coal-killing plan was aimed at coal power plants. But it may be up to federal courts to revoke the rule before Trump is sworn in.

If it’s revoked by the courts, Trump is likely not to appeal. If it is, Trump’s attorney general will likely appeal to the Supreme Court, says Popovich. The plan is devious, as a new president cannot simply kill it. It may take an act of Congress to adjust it.

In the end, Popovich said he would like Trump, Pruitt, and Zinke to follow the text of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

“There has to be attention to the plain language of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act,” said Popovich. “And to stay within its bounds.”

The Obama administration took the laws and “imagined authority that they had, that they did not have,” Popovich said.

Energy industry leaders say there is little cause for alarmism about their deregulation plans.

On Wednesday, the American Petroleum Institute noted that the federal government reported the first six months of 2016 saw carbon emissions from electricity generation at their lowest point in 25 years, even as electricity demand continues to rise.

See the article here.

U.S. Mines Complete Safest Year Ever, Besting Last Year’s Record

2016 marks the safest year ever for American miners. Together, coal mines and metal/non-metal mines last year recorded the lowest fatality and injury rates in the history of U.S. mining – a sign of continuous improvement for an industry that saw a record low the previous year.

The official figures, issued recently by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, show 25 fatalities for all U.S. mining in 2016. U.S. minerals mining last year recorded 16 fatalities, while coal mining recorded 9 fatalities – the lowest rates ever recorded by the U.S. mining industry.

“We are proud of our industry for showing continued progress because it exemplifies our commitment to making American mines the world’s safest and our determination to return every miner home safely after every shift,” said National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn. “This safety milestone confirms the value of our voluntary safety initiatives and our determination to achieve excellence in mine safety and health year after year.”

Especially successful in driving continuous safety progress is NMA’s own CORESafety® framework. CORESafety has won international recognition among safety experts for its innovative approach that aims to eliminate fatalities and reduce injury by 50 percent in five years (0:50:5). CORESafety offers a management system approach to mine safety, offering not a “top-down-one-size-fits-all” model but a free, scalable framework for operations of all sizes.

To better understand what’s behind the transformation of mine safety, check out our video featuring industry CEOs discussing what CORESafety has meant to the success of their operations.

For more information on the CORESafety program, visit our website at www.coresafety.org. For 2016 mine safety data, visit the Mine Safety and Health Administration website at www.msha.gov.

See the press release here.

Congress Must Act Quickly to Axe Stream Rule

Via The Montana Standard:

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Here’s why:

There’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

OSM’s own annual reports confirm that, under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary, and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

The economic impacts predicted by OSM are in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have placed the stream rule in the congressional cross hairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Hal Quinn is President and CEO of the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

Congress Can Act to Help Coal Survive Regulatory Onslaught

Via The Kearney Courier:

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. As the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its Constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Canceling the stream rule matters to Missouri, though, since the state generates 78 percent of its electricity from coal, yielding some of the lowest utility prices in the nation.

It’s not just Missouri that should be concerned about the stream rule. Congress should be alarmed too.

First, there’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

Second, OSM’s own annual reports confirms under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary, and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

Finally, the economic impacts predicted by OSM are in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region— found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have placed the stream rule in the congressional crosshairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. President-elect Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Dial Back Rules Threatening North Dakota’s Coal Miners

Via The Grand Forks Herald:

WASHINGTON—On its way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at North Dakota’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states that are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Canceling the stream rule matters to North Dakota, because the state’s coal industry employs more than 1,600 workers. North Dakota also generates 75 percent of its electricity from coal, yielding some of the lowest utility prices in the nation.

But it’s not just North Dakota that should be concerned about the stream rule. Congress should be alarmed, too.

First, there’s no environmental benefit from this massive rewrite of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing.

It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.

Second, OSM’s own annual reports confirm that under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.

Finally, the economic impacts predicted by OSM are, in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.

An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal-mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate.

Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality; this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have placed the stream rule in the congressional crosshairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. President-elect Trump undoubtedly would sign it, given that he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal-mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Quinn is president and CEO of the National Mining Association.

See the article here.

Trump’s Day-One Chance to Turn Back ‘War on Coal’

Via Lifezette.com

During the recent election cycle, Donald J. Trump vowed to roll back the onerous environmental restrictions currently besieging America’s coal communities. It was a sensible campaign pledge, since the coal industry has shed 68,000 jobs in recent years — in large part due to overzealous targeting of industrial carbon dioxide emissions.

Who knew, however, that the president-elect would face his first regulatory challenge immediately upon taking office? That’s because President Obama has just issued a last-minute “stream rule” that could potentially render as much as two-thirds of U.S. coal reserves off-limits to mining.

It’s a rather astounding bit of nerve on the president’s part — to issue a new rule that will take effect literally one day before Trump takes office. But such is the fierce divide over energy and environmental policy, with ideological concerns taking precedence over job creation.

The stream rule that President Obama has just announced is a brazen, last-minute effort to seal the coffin on America’s coal industry. Running more than 1,640 pages, the rule simply duplicates existing environmental protections already ensured by various state and federal agencies. Currently, these authorities administer a host of oversight measures to ensure both the safe extraction of coal and the mandatory reclamation of finished mining sites. The new stream rule not only duplicates these controls but also interferes with existing procedures — a redundancy expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

It’s not entirely surprising that the rule contradicts the present oversight system, since the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) that formulated the regulation simply disregarded its legal obligation to consult with states during the development phase. As a result, 19 states have written letters to OSM urging it to comply with congressional mandates and to re-engage with state agencies in order to rectify such a troubling bureaucratic roadblock.

America’s coal communities — the tens of thousands of miners, households, and businesses that coal supports — should not have to seek protection from their own government. Now, with a new administration, they won’t have to.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass a resolution within 60 days to disapprove the stream rule. All that would be required is a simple majority vote in both the House and the Senate, with the incoming president subsequently signing the resolution.

The clock is ticking, however, and America’s coal miners will have to wait anxiously to see if Congress and President-Elect Trump can take such timely action. Overturning such a rule would be a tremendous first step for the new administration to deliver on the promise of pursuing policies that not only boost energy production but also create good-paying, middle-class jobs.

Luke Popovich is vice president for external communications at the National Mining Association (NMA).

See the article here.

Guest Opinion: Congress Must Act Quickly to Axe Stream Rule

Via The Billings Gazette:

On the way out the door, the Obama administration just threw one more regulatory punch at America’s coal miners. Just days before Christmas, the outgoing administration published its extreme stream rule in order to guarantee it will take effect the day before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.

This 1,640-page regulatory Frankenstein created by the federal Office of Surface Mining was issued over the strenuous objections of states who are the exclusive regulators for coal mining under federal law. These states view the rule as another federal power grab that prescribes a one-size-fits-all framework in defiance of both common sense and the federal law empowering them to craft standards appropriate for their diverse circumstances.

President-elect Trump had this rule in mind when he promised to unwind regulations now strangling coal miners. And, as the new Congress looks for a way to reassert its constitutional authority over unelected regulators, it won’t find a better target than the stream rule.

Here’s why:

  • There’s no environmental benefit from this massive re-write of more than 400 separate regulations. It does nothing to protect our streams that states and other federal agencies aren’t already doing. It only engenders more confusion and bickering among various agencies.
  • OSM’s own annual reports confirm that, under the watchful eye of the states, coal mines are being successfully reclaimed with virtually no off-site impacts. The reward for these states, though, after a job well done, is a massive, unnecessary, and expensive federal rule developed without consulting the agencies that actually regulate 97 percent of all coal mines in this country.
  • The economic impacts predicted by OSM are in a word, preposterous. The agency believes the rule will create almost as many jobs as it will destroy. But OSM never once visited any coal mines to assess the rule’s costs. Instead, it preferred to stay in Washington and rely upon computer models.
An independent analysis based on real mines — 36 located in every coal mining region — found the rule would jeopardize at least one-third of the current high-wage coal workforce. Countless more jobs in the coal supply chain would face a similar fate. Early in the process, an OSM official was at least candid about the rule: “This is not about reality — this is about rulemaking.” Enough said.

Small wonder that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have placed the stream rule in the congressional cross hairs. They also have the weapon to kill it.

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can pass within 60 days a resolution disapproving the stream rule. A simple majority vote by each House is all that’s required. Trump would undoubtedly sign it since he has called out Washington’s regulators for deliberately destroying coal mining jobs and the communities they support.

The outgoing administration’s determination to destroy more coal jobs with the extreme stream rule suggests that half measures won’t work. To honor campaign pledges to help coal miners, Congress should take decisive action and pass a resolution of disapproval without delay.

Hal Quinn is President and CEO of the National Mining Association.
See the article here.

Capozzola: Obama Issues Last-Minute Rule, Wants to Finish Off U.S. Coal Industry

Via Breitbart.com

So President Obama has gone and done it.

In a rather vindictive move, his Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is out with a broad new “stream rule” that could potentially designate as much as two-thirds of U.S. coal reserves off-limits to mining. In fact, a study of the rule suggests that at least one-third of America’s remaining coal jobs could be put at risk due to the restrictive nature of the rule.

The president has certainly chosen one heck of a last-minute Christmas present. The rule will actually take effect exactly one day before Donald Trump’s inauguration—thereby imposing a very late obstacle to the new administration’s quest to craft a more pragmatic energy policy.

The full text of the new regulation clocks roughly 1,640 pages. And despite OSM’s legal obligation to consult with state agencies, the final rule was drafted without the input of key mining states. What’s particularly troubling is that the regulation simply duplicates the existing oversight already being conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and various states agencies.

Significantly, the actual language being proffered by OSM suggests that the minutiae of the rule is happily intended to kill off the nation’s coal industry. OSM says the rule will “result in the protection or restoration of 22 miles of intermittent and perennial streams per year.” Essentially, the rule bans mining within 100 feet of these streams, which establishes a fairly broad mandate since intermittent streams are one of the typical features of almost every wooded area in North America.

However, green activists like to vilify coal as a “dirty” fuel. But this overlooks the fact that America’s coal-fired power plants are now 90% cleaner than 30 years ago, thanks to the 15 different high-tech mechanisms that trap power plant emissions. And America’s mining companies are already legally required to reclaim the land surrounding mining sites, a task for which they’ve readily invested billions of dollars in recent years.

The supposition, though, is that coal companies simply want to make money—with no thought to the “greater good.” But America has gained much from the extraction of coal, including the affordable power that has long supported safe, first-world living, modern sanitation, and an industrial sector driven by robust electricity generation.

And so, the real question is whether such a redundant new “stream rule” is even necessary. Not when U.S. mining companies are already working diligently to eliminate offsite impacts under the watchful scrutiny of both state and federal agencies.

The U.S. coal industry has lost 68,000 good-paying, middle class jobs in recent years. The new stream rule could boost that toll by potentially tens of thousands of jobs. It could also eliminate billions of dollars in state and federal tax revenues—a troubling prospect for a country already struggling to create middle-class jobs.

If Washington decides that the new stream rule isn’t worth the economic pain, there is some recourse. Under the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority vote in both Houses of Congress could pass a resolution of disapproval. Congress has 60 days to pass such a resolution. But if the resolution succeeds, the new president could sign it, thereby eliminating the stream rule entirely.

With thousands of coal jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues at stake, it would be understandable if Congress votes to end such an unwieldy regulation.

See the article here.

Obama’s Overreach

Via The Leader-Herald:

President Barack Obama could not resist a parting shot that extended his legacy of vindictive executive overreach. When his administration released a new Stream Protection Rule on Monday, the intent was clear: one last attempted blow to coal miners and their families.

In a re-working of the George W. Bush administration’s Stream Buffer Zone Rule (which, by the way, was vacated by a federal judge), the new rule requires additional data gathering and monitoring at and around mine sites, and imposes new financial assurance and reclamation requirements.

It was a work-in-progress for most of Obama’s administration — taking so long, in fact, that most states ended up withdrawing from cooperative agreements to work on the rule with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation after they realized they were being kept in the dark for much of the process.

Implementation of such a rule — which industry leaders criticize as federal overreach based on questionable science — would threaten the livelihoods of 80,000 coal miners and their families, according to U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., who estimated implementation of the rule would result in a decrease of up to 85 percent in coal reserves available for mining.

But Obama is not worried about the rule’s implementation, or streams, for that matter. He wanted to send a message.

“This rule is nothing but an insult to the working men and women of this country,” McKinley said. And that is all Obama means it to be, because he, like McKinley, knows Congress and President-elect Donald Trump will overturn it.

“It is clear that this administration was not paying attention in November,” McKinley said.

On the contrary, what is clear is that Obama and his followers were paying attention, and could not resist the chance to demonstrate one more time that voters who do not see things their way will be targeted for punitive action.

One good thing about Obama’s move on Monday: Because it occurred just a month before Trump takes office, the federal bureaucracy cannot claim the program is too far along to be canceled in January.

That is precisely what Trump should do on his very first day in office.

See the article here.

Fighting for Coal

Via The Bluefield Daily Telegraph:

Members of a 24-state coalition led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are urging President-elect Donald Trump and congressional leaders to act quickly next month in withdrawing President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and to take necessary steps to ensure that similar or more extreme job-killing proposals never again take shape.

The coalition forwarded a letter to Trump, and congressional leaders last week, urging prompt action.

In the bipartisan letter – addressed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Senate President Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan — the coalition suggested a four-point strategy that begins with Trump rescinding his predecessor’s Climate Action Plan on day one.

 “An executive order on day one is critical,” Morrisey wrote in the letter. “The order should explain that it is the administration’s view that the (Clean Power Plan) is unlawful and that EPA lacks authority to enforce it. The executive order is necessary to send an immediate and strong message to states and regulated entities that the administration will not enforce the rule.”

In the letter, the coalition suggests Trump follow with formal administrative action to withdraw the Power Plan and related matters in court. Such action will properly effectuate the rule’s withdrawal, while negotiating an end to pending litigation, the 24 states said in the letter.

Finally, the coalition is recommending Congress take longer-term legislative action. Morrisey said the proposed legislative fix aims to prevent any future U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from drafting similarly unlawful and/or more extreme rules.

 West Virginia and Texas led a 27-state coalition challenging the EPA’s Power Plan on Oct. 23, 2015, the very day it was published. That original coalition was successful in halting the rule’s enforcement by winning a stay of the regulation on Feb. 9, 2016, before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The legal challenge argues the Power Plan exceeded EPA’s congressional authority by transforming the nation’s energy industry, double regulating coal-fired power plants and forcing states to fundamentally shift their energy portfolios away from coal-fired generation. Furthermore, it argues the Power Plan violates the U.S. Constitution by attempting to commandeer and coerce the states into carrying out federal energy policy.

While there is no magic wand that Trump can wave that will automatically restore the thousands of coal mining jobs that have been lost over the past eight years under the Obama administration, the repeal of the job-killing Clean Power Plan would be a good start. The removal of these burdensome, anti-coal regulations, can only help the still struggling industry, which has faced multiple challenges in recent years, including intense competition from natural gas.

With the support of Republican majorities in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, Trump should be well positioned to act upon the request of the 24-state coalition.

See the article here.

Obama Administration’s New Rule Could Eliminate Thousands of Jobs

Via The Washington Post:

The Dec. 20 news article “Last-minute rule to make coal industry cleaner met with praise, criticism” missed several key points.

The rule provides no discernible environmental benefits. It simply duplicates and interferes with extensive existing environmental protections at the federal and state levels and it does so in a way that could potentially lock away more than half of the nation’s existing coal reserves.

Set aside the duplication and interference, which are prohibited by current regulation, and the lack of environmental benefits, and consider the costs.  A study commissioned by the National Mining Association predicted that at least a third of coal-mining jobs will be lost given the massive volumes of coal that would be uneconomic to mine. Add the loss of coal-supported jobs in manufacturing, power plants and freight rail and the number rises into the hundreds of thousands.

With so much at risk for no gain, the rule embodies all that is wrong with regulation and all the reasons Congress must overturn it.

 Hal Quinn, Washington

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

See the article here.

Coal Country Lawmakers Ready to Fight Stream Protection Rule

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

Critics of the Obama Administration’s new Stream Protection Rule believe it is a parting shot from the president to the coal industry on his way out the door of the White House.

The rule is scheduled to be entered in the federal register Tuesday, and become effective January 19, one day before Donald Trump is inaugurated. West Virginia Congressman Alex Mooney (R-WV2) contends Obama is making one final effort to eliminate coal from the nation’s energy portfolio.

“The deal with the Obama Administration, whether it’s coal ash disposal, Clean Power Plan, or this stream buffer zone, every time you meet the environmental standard they just move the goal post another time,” said Mooney on MetroNews Talkline. “Obama said he was going to bankrupt the coal industry. This is part of their agenda.”

The stream protection rule significantly tightens the standards for underground and above ground mining. West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney said guidelines are so stringent that it makes it nearly impossible to mine coal.

“It’s going to make it difficult because it sterilizes reserves,” said Raney. “It’s going to have a direct impact on underground mining.  In this particular rule, in this case, it’s an effort to stop the majority of mining in this country.”

The federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) was supposed to develop the rule in conjunction with the states, but Mooney said the agency just gave lip service to the concerns of the states.

“There are different types of ‘listening’. There’s listening just so they can simply say you had a chance to say something and then there’s the type of listening where they really take into account what you say and work with you on it,” Mooney said.

Opponents of the rule on Capitol Hill will try to block the measure through a rarely used maneuver called the Congressional Review Act where lawmakers pass a resolution blocking a rule and send it to the president for his signature

“I am highly confident he will sign it,” Mooney said. “When President Trump visited West Virginia and other coal mining states he made it clear he was going to roll back President Obama’s war on coal and this is a big one.”

See the article here.

Stream Rule Aim Is to Harm Miners

Via The Wheeling News-Register:

President Barack Obama could not resist a parting shot that extended his legacy of vindictive executive overreach. When his administration released a new Stream Protection Rule on Monday, the intent was clear: one last attempted blow to coal miners and their families.

In a re-working of the George W. Bush administration’s Stream Buffer Zone Rule (which, by the way, was vacated by a federal judge), the new rule requires additional data gathering and monitoring at and around mine sites, and imposes new financial assurance and reclamation requirements.

It was a work-in-progress for most of Obama’s administration — taking so long, in fact, that most states ended up withdrawing from cooperative agreements to work on the rule with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation after they realized they were being kept in the dark for much of the process.

Implementation of such a rule — which industry leaders criticize as federal overreach based on questionable science — would threaten the livelihoods of 80,000 coal miners and their families, according to U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., who estimated implementation of the rule would result in a decrease of up to 85 percent in coal reserves available for mining.

But Obama is not worried about the rule’s implementation, or streams, for that matter. He wanted to send a message.

“This rule is nothing but an insult to the working men and women of this country,” McKinley said. And that is all Obama means it to be, because he, like McKinley, knows Congress and President-elect Donald Trump will overturn it.

“It is clear that this administration was not paying attention in November,” McKinley said.

On the contrary, what is clear is that Obama and his followers were paying attention, and could not resist the chance to demonstrate one more time that voters who do not see things their way will be targeted for punitive action.

One good thing about Obama’s move on Monday: Because it occurred just a month before Trump takes office, the federal bureaucracy cannot claim the program is too far along to be canceled in January.

That is precisely what Trump should do on his very first day in office.

See the article here.

Lawsuit, Resolution Aim To Push Stream Rule To ‘Dumpster’

Via E&E Publishing: 

Critics this week opened up two new fronts in their campaign to take down the Obama administration’s controversial new restrictions on coal mining pollution.

North Dakota yesterday became the first state to sue the Interior Department over the Stream Protection Rule released earlier this week. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress moved forward with their own plan to kill the regulation (Greenwire, Dec. 19).

The National Mining Association, which has spearheaded opposition to the rule, yesterday said the rule, which imposes new standards and monitoring requirements on coal companies and state regulators, is “destined for the dumpster.”

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) filed the lawsuit against Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to vacate and prohibit any enforcement of the Stream Protection Rule.

“This case involves a last-ditch effort by the outgoing Administration to encroach on the clear authority granted to the State of North Dakota and the [North Dakota] Public Service Commission,” he said.

The commission is the primary coal regulator in North Dakota under the cooperative federalism model outlined in the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

North Dakota contends that the Stream Protection Rule violates both SMCRA and the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment regarding states’ rights by overextending OSMRE’s authority.

The rule defines what constitutes “material damage” to water beyond the area permitted for mining. Under new data collection requirements, regulators are to use new baseline data to determine whether there are violations of the Clean Water Act or Endangered Species Act at mine sites, or whether pollution precludes any downstream groundwater use that existed before mining began.

OSMRE has said the rule was intended to modernize outdated standards to include new science, including research linking mountaintop-removal coal mining to elevated rates of cancer and other illnesses downstream, particularly in Appalachia.

The coal industry questioned those studies, arguing that the rule imposed a massive burden that was intended to put the coal industry out of business, not prevent environmental damage.

State regulators also condemned the rulemaking after nine out of the 11 states that signed on to help write it withdrew in protest over the outreach by OSMRE, which has vigorously defended the transparency of the seven-year process.

“The agency ignored all of our input and went ahead with a one-size-fits-all rule that will be extremely destructive to North Dakota industry while addressing no identified problem in our state,” said Public Service Commission Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak.

According to court documents, OSMRE’s most recent evaluation of North Dakota’s regulatory program found no issues, but OSMRE has said those evaluations do not account adequately for pollutants like conductivity and selenium.

Congressional resolution

Stenehjem urged President-elect Donald Trump and Congress to quickly repeal the rule, but Capitol Hill coal advocates already have a plan.

Hours after the rule came out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised to use the Congressional Review Act to strike down the rule (E&ENews PM, Dec. 19).

The seldom-used law gives Congress 60 workdays to void a regulation.

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) yesterday introduced a resolution of dismissal, H.J.Res. 107, in the House.

“I urge my colleagues to join me in saying no to this president — no more over-regulation, no more lost jobs, and no more policies that put West Virginians out of work,” Jenkins said in a statement.

President Obama would likely veto it, but Jenkins, Republicans and coal-state Democrats have plenty of time to pass the resolution after Trump takes office promising to ax coal regulations.

The dismissal requires only a simple majority to pass, undercutting filibuster attempts. Under the law, a dismissal means the rule could not be reintroduced without Congress’ consent unless it is “substantially” changed. According to the Congressional Research Service, “substantial” is not defined, but actions made under the law are not subject to judicial review.

See the article here.

W.Va. Reacts to Ruling on Stream Protection

Via The Weirton Daily Times:

Officials throughout Appalachia and the coal industry are reacting following Monday’s announcement by the Obama administration of final rules aimed at protecting 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests from any impacts of coal mining.

Among those promising quick legal action against the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule was St. Clairsville-based Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s fifth-largest coal producer. The company believes the rule effectively outlaws underground longwall mining.

“This unlawful and destructive rule is nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt to destroy our nation’s underground coal mines and put our nation’s coal miners out of work,” said Murray spokesman Gary Broadbent. “The Stream Protection Rule has been illegally taken from the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 in which Congress specifically said, at least three times, that the law applies only to surface coal mining. We will immediately file our already prepared lawsuit to block this illegal rule.”

West Virginia and Ohio’s Republican attorneys general, Patrick Morrisey and Mike DeWine, issued a joint press release, saying they are “closely reviewing the regulation and will take appropriate legal action to safeguard the states’ interests.”

Coal already is struggling under steep competition from cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas, as well as regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas pollution that contributes to climate change.

U.S. coal production has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 30 years, and several coal companies have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent months, including three of the country’s biggest coal producers, Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the rule part of Obama’s “eight-year war on coal” that he said has cost jobs and hurt coal miners and their families. He and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said they look forward to working with Trump to provide “relief” to coal communities hard-hit by the industry’s downturn.

McConnell said he will introduce a resolution of disapproval under the rarely used Congressional Review Act to overturn the stream-protection rule and vowed to “use every tool available to turn back this regulatory assault on coal country.”

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota also criticized the rule, which can be rejected by a majority vote in Congress.

Manchin called the rule “alarming in its scope and potential impacts” and said he will “pursue legislation to ensure it does not harm our coal mining communities and economies.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., vowed to block the Interior Department’s rule from taking effect.

“Fortunately, the decision by voters last month makes today’s announcement by the Office of Surface Mining an exercise in futility,” she said. “Working with President-elect Trump and our Republican congressional majority, I am confident that we will be able to use the Congressional Review Act to stop this rule from taking effect.”

Also vowing Monday to overturn the rule were U.S Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Bill Johnson, R-Ohio.

“This action is outrageous,” McKinley said. “The (rule) is yet another attack on the coal industry and this administration’s final shot in the war on coal before President Obama leaves office.”

“At least a third of coal-related jobs across the United States are now at severe risk due to the fact that this rule … essentially deems such a plentiful amount of coal economically infeasible to mine … ,” Johnson added. “The people of coal country and across America voted in November, and they voted to protect coal, coal-related jobs and our way of life. I will continue to fight tooth-and-nail to protect jobs in eastern and southeastern Ohio, and to work with the incoming administration and House leaders to overturn this ill-advised, job crushing rule.”

The negative reaction to the rule from coal industry officials was swift and severe. The West Virginia Coal Association called on Republican President-elect Donald Trump, who has pledged to put out-of-work coal miners back on the job, to overturn the rule.

“We are hopeful that Congress and the incoming Trump administration will take swift action to overturn this irresponsible regulation as quickly as possible,” said WVCA President Bill Raney. “We look forward to working with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey should legal action by the states be necessary to prevent this job-killing regulation from taking effect.”

See the article here.

Four Obama Regulations Trump Can Undo Right Away

Via The Washington Examiner:

President-elect Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington struck a chord with millions of Americans and helped propel him to his stunning election as the nation’s 45th president.

Trump can start by reversing many of the laws the Obama administration created on its own, in its serial abuse of executive authority. Unable to get Congress to enact his environmental and energy policies, Obama had federal agencies concoct regulations that accomplished the same thing and he bound the U.S. to self-inflicted wounds via an international climate agreement.

Trump has pledged to tackle these abuses, and Obama’s unilateral actions are vulnerable to Trump’s own administrative counter-measures. It’s a game two can play. Here’s where Trump can start:

Clean Power Plan: After failing to pass cap-and-trade legislation through Congress, Obama had his political appointees at the EPA slap coal-fired power plants with greenhouse-gas-emission limits they knew the industry couldn’t meet—the Clean Power Plan, Obama called it. In doing so, EPA usurped the states’ role in regulating electricity markets within their boundaries, and even commandeered the states to enforce its new policy. The power grab is on hold by the Supreme Court pending the outcome of lawsuits filed by 27 states and the energy industry. Trump has said that the Clean Power Plan must go, and his Justice Department could ask that the case be dismissed, sending the rule back to EPA, where it could be rewritten and defanged.

Paris Climate Change Agreement: The December 2015 U.N.-sponsored Paris climate change agreement is the latest effort by transnational bureaucrats, environmentalists and purveyors of green energy to entangle the U.S. in a global commitment to abandon fossil fuels. It also entails a substantial transfer of wealth from American taxpayers into the waiting hands of Third World potentates to assist the latter in various schemes to combat climate change.

During the campaign, Trump vowed to withdraw the U.S. from this scam. It will send an unmistakable message that the U.S. — the world’s largest producer of natural gas and fastest-growing producer of oil — intends to use its vast energy resources as befits a country that’s serious about its global role and the economic well-being of its people.

Waters of the United States: The Obama administration is firmly committed to putting unelected and unaccountable Washington bureaucrats — working hand in glove with green activists — in control land- and water-use decisions throughout the country.

Under the guise of “clarifying” EPA’s regulatory authority over certain bodies of water under the Clean Water Act, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers devised regulations that will bring millions of acres of private land under federal jurisdiction. Obama’s “Waters of the United States” rule will impose federal zoning on farms, ranches, orchards and other private property from coast to coast. WOTUS is on hold nationwide pending the outcome of a slew of lawsuits filed against it, and the case could come before the Supreme Court after Trump takes office. President Trump’s Justice Department can cease defending WOTUS in court, sending the rule back to EPA for a rewrite that would effectively nullify the power grab.

Environmental Protection Agency: Accustomed to issuing rules and regulations with the force of law behind them, EPA has become a de facto lawmaking body (minus the accountability such bodies usually have). With its disregard for standard administrative procedures, its misuse of science to forward its regulatory agenda, and its funneling of taxpayers’ money to political cronies on the outside, EPA has become a state within a state. The agency is too institutionally corrupt to be reformed.

Congress didn’t create EPA — President Nixon brought it into being by a 1970 executive order. Trump can dismantle it with his own executive order.

Trump has already expressed interest in devolving EPA’s functions to state environmental agencies. It’s an idea whose time has come. Appointing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a relentless EPA critic, to head the agency bodes well for change.

Draining Washington’s swamp will be a messy business. Those creatures that have grown fat and happy off the swamp’s corruption will scream bloody murder at the mere thought of losing their power and privileges. This is a fight Trump should relish.

See the article here.

Gillette Hopes Trump Puts Coal in Christmas Stockings

Via WyoFile:

Lula Belle’s Cafe is a freestanding white-stone building between the railroad tracks and the bottom end of Gillette’s sloping main street. Smoking is still allowed inside, and the ashtrays between mugs of coffee suggest that’s the way the customers like it.

Clientele varies from ranchers and retirees lingering over their coffee in the morning, to railroad workers taking in big daily specials on their lunch break, and all manner of coal miners and oil field workers throughout the day. It is a jovial home of coarse but friendly jokes, homestyle food and a smell of cigarettes that lingers in clothes long after one departs.

Jena Meader, who has worked on and off at Lula Belle’s since she was 12 years old, said she never has seen the cafe more jovial than the morning after Donald Trump surprised the pundits and upended the polls to become president-elect. On that day she was threading through the crowd serving coffee and food as the restaurant did a brisk trade. All day long people talked loudly about their surprise, and their excitement, at who would be 45th president of the United States. In Campbell County, 15,778 people voted for Donald Trump. Just 1,324 cast their votes for Hillary Clinton.

“Everyone was relieved,” Meader said. “They felt the coal industry would rebound.”

The optimism that Trump will bring coal back has reverberated throughout Gillette in the six weeks since the long campaign ended. The hope extends not only to coal, but also to oil and gas — the markets for which went bust over the last few years. It is an optimism fueled by Trump’s rhetoric and businessman background.

Meader can’t remember a day of equivalent joviality at Lula Belle’s per se, but she said she can remember it’s opposite: Nov. 6, 2012, the day President Obama was re-elected. Lula Belle’s that day was “somber,” she said.

When President Obama first won office in 2008, Meader does not remember a depressed mood. The crowd at Lula Belle’s is “blue collar, intelligent people,” she said, and though almost wholly Republican, they were still cognizant of a historic event — the election of the nation’s first black president.

But the Obama administration’s policies toward coal turned residents here strongly against him, she said, and by the day of his second election, the customers of Lula Belle’s felt he was a president who didn’t have them in mind.

The attitude in Lula Belle’s come November 2020 could depend on President-elect Trump’s ability to keep his promise to coal country. Can he stave off a decline that some research suggests is more a result of market forces than the “war on coal” oft-cited in Campbell County as being waged by the Obama administration.

Soaring optimism

At nearby Brothers Coffee, a smoke-free place where speakers usually broadcast Christian rock music, owner Judi Sipe said similar optimism permeated the day after the election. It enveloped its owner, a diminutive woman who calls many of her customers “babe,” hosts open mic nights and sells Trump t-shirts along with the coffee and snacks. The day after the election, she described the pervading sentiment as one of relief.

“Gillette won’t die like a lot of people thought it would,” she said.

One of her regulars is a dispatcher on the railroad, who comes in after his night shifts for a cup of coffee and breakfast. The day after the election, he told her he soon anticipated getting more hours as coal-train traffic picked up. For that to happen, a Trump administration would have to reverse a year long slide for coal that until recently seemed to show little sign of settling.

The challenge is significant, but so is what it would mean to the community, and to individual miners.

Richard Reavey, vice-president of external affairs for Cloud Peak Energy that has two major mines in Gillette, described his outlook on the next four years as “cautiously optimistic.” He hopes to see federal coal leasing revived and a “reset” on the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. What the industry most needs is regulatory certainty, which Trump’s team could deliver with a well-thought-through replacement for the Clean Power Plan, he said. A new plan would regulate carbon dioxide emissions in a way that “coal producers, utilities and mainstream environmental groups can live with.”

No matter what, “it’s great to have a fossil fuel friendly administration,” he said.

In 2016, three of the largest coal companies in Gillette, Arch Coal, Alpha Coal Resources and Peabody, went into bankruptcy. That was a result of depressed coal markets due to cheap natural gas and a global economic slowdown, according to University of Wyoming economist Robert Godby. After 2008 there was little growth in demand for electricity.

Duffy Jenniges, an ex-railroad worker, is known as Lula Belle’s resident Democrat. He thinks Gillette will be disappointed when jobs don’t suddenly appear after President-elect Trump’s inauguration. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

The hurt on the big multinational coal corporations was compounded by overseas investments they’d made in metallurgical coal that wound up being a mistake. Their bankruptcies were followed by layoffs at Gillette mines. Over March and April, more than 500 Gillette coal miners lost their jobs. The effects on the town were widespread.

Toward the end of summer, however, coal in the Powder River Basin got some seasonal relief. Utilities restocked and production during the third quarter of the year, from July through September, rose to surpass the previous quarter by nearly 30 percent, according to data from the Wyoming State Geological Survey. While that’s still almost 15 percent less production than in the same quarter in 2015, it meant some mines started to hire again, exciting laid-off coal workers.

That was the case for Mark Frausto, a military veteran and laid-off mine mechanic featured in an Oct. 4, WyoFile story. At that time, he had been on unemployment for five months. He was frustrated, continually searching for jobs and ready to leave Gillette. But later that month he saw an opening for a mechanic at the Buckskin mine, owned by Kiewit Mining Co. He applied immediately.

Frausto interviewed, and the next day, while working on fencing at his dad’s property outside of town, he got the call. The job was his. When he showed up at the mine, people kept coming up and shaking his hand and congratulating him, he said. Now he alternates between day or nighttime 12-hour shifts

Between new hires and the election results, Frausto said spirits at Buckskin were high. While he isn’t particularly political — either on Facebook or in conversation — he does believe Trump will bring back more energy jobs as per his campaign rhetoric.

“I think our energy industry is gonna go back again,” he said. “I think it’s gonna boost up.” Trump promised it on television for all the world to see, he said.

Mostly, however, Frausto is just relieved to be working. He is beginning to pay off bills that had piled up during his long run of unemployment, including medical expenses for his wife Desirae.

“We can see the light,” Desirae said on a recent Saturday. Frausto’s two daughters from a previous marriage — Alita, who is 14, and Kiana, who is 12 — were with them for the weekend, up from Douglas. The girls sat in front of the TV early in the afternoon on Saturday talking about boys and wondering if their father would drive them home Sunday or Monday.

Frausto, standing over them with arms crossed and legs spread, had that question settled. It would be Monday. “Daddy’s working tomorrow,” he said, grinning. “Gonna get some overtime.”

“Save the community as well as the coal mine”

Branden Walsh, an employee at Arch Coal’s Coal Creek Mine, is also getting overtime, for the first time in a while, he said. Coal Creek has yet to staff back up after reductions, so there’s work to go around. “As much as I can take,” he said.

Walsh watched the elections at the Fireside Lounge, a roadside bar toward Gillette’s western edge, with a room full of pool tables and a crowd that runs to the younger, and rowdier, side. “There was a lot of cheering and it was quite the party afterwards,” Walsh said of the moment it became clear Trump would carry the electoral college. “People were buying drinks all around.”

When miners realized they wouldn’t see a Hillary Clinton presidency, “it felt like there was kind of a weight lifted,” he said.

Walsh has acted as an unofficial voice for a group called Interfaith Workers Justice, a non-union workers’ rights group. He was upset at the way some of the big multinational companies treated their workers during layoffs, by slashing benefits and health insurance. He also worries about companies walking away from their obligations to perform environmental reclamation on mines, because he thinks the industry needs to leave communities like Gillette healthy in the long run.

Of president-elect Trump, Walsh said, “I think he will try and bring jobs back, I think he was sincere in his talks to do so.” His message for Trump is that he hopes Trump will realize really helping coal miners and coal communities means more than that.

“Loosen up on the coal mines a little bit, but at the same time make sure that they’re going to take care of reclamation and their employees,” he said. “Save the community as well as the coal mine,” he said.

While he hopes Trump recognizes that need, Walsh also is aware from the President-elect’s rhetoric that his chief focus is on the jobs side, he said. When told of a $30 billion package Hillary Clinton had proposed for coal communities, Walsh said he didn’t think the federal government could really afford such a bailout. “It’s easy to promise billions of dollars worth of revitalization projects when you’ve got blank checks,” he said.

Trump offered something that resonated more to the miners: helping them mine on by helping the business they work in.

“I don’t think there were many Hillary supporters at the coal mine, and if there were they didn’t say much,” Walsh said.

If Trump can’t fulfill his promise, Walsh said he’ll have a hard time holding his support in the community. After all, in Gillette, Trump’s promises resonate far beyond coal. Whether explicitly or not, he promised to keep alive a way of life, and an industry that brought this town from a small ranching community to the coal capital of the most productive coal-mining state in the nation. Along the way a community formed that most residents say provides an excellent way of life, funded by what seemed for a time to be boundless mineral revenues. It’s a place, and a culture, that many believed had become threatened with extinction.

As Walsh put it: “Everybody is pretty much banking on him.”

But just before closing on a slow Thursday afternoon at Lula Belle’s, in the heart of dark red Campbell County, there is at least one person who doesn’t believe president-elect Trump will be filling Gillette stockings with coal this Christmas.

For the dissenting opinion, Jena Meader gestures from behind the counter towards Duffy Jenniges, who she calls Lula Belle’s “resident Democrat.” With the exception of his faded ball cap, which says “Duff” in large letters, Jenniges doesn’t differ much in looks from other patrons There’s a worn flannel jacket on his back, a cigarette dangling in his fingers, and others in the ashtray next to his coffee cup. But Jenniges is indeed a Democrat.

While other left-leaning voters in Gillette have told WyoFile that they prefer to keep quiet about politics, Jenniges, a former railroad worker and union chief now long retired, said he’s not afraid of his label. Still, he understands the trepidation of like-minded Campbell County voters.

For Democrats here, he said, “It’s like a big game of whack-a-mole. If you stick your head up, somebody’s gonna whack it.”

Jenniges ran for Gillette’s House District 52 against Republican Bill Pownall in this year’s general election, and got roughly 18 percent of the vote. It was at least Jenniges’ fourth time running, he said.

“I don’t stand a chance in hell of winning, but at least for three or four months I get to tell everybody what’s on my mind,” he said.

Jenniges blames natural gas, not regulation, for coal’s decline in the last year. On top of that, he thinks automation of coal jobs presents a longer-term threat in the Powder River Basin. Mining technology has evolved to the point where the mines need fewer and fewer laborers, he said.

Needless to say, Jenniges does not have much faith in the president-elect’s ability to keep his promises to coal country.

“The people running around this town right now think come the 21st, the sun’s gonna come out and jobs are gonna fall from the f****** sky,” he said. “They might be a little disappointed when things don’t turn into Nirvana.”

See the article here.

Obama’s Last Coal Rule Likely Headed for the Chopping Block in Congress

Via Politico:

The Obama administration’s years-in-the-making rule to protect streams from mountaintop removal coal mining is on track to go into effect a day before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, meaning Congress will have to step in to kill it quickly.

Trump has railed against regulations on the coal industry in general, although he has not specifically addressed the Interior Department’s stream rule, which has been in the works since 2009 and was finally released Monday. His pick to be Interior secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), is an ardent coal backer and has called for Congress to block the rule. Zinke would be in charge of unwinding the rule, but that process could take years through normal administrative channels. A quicker route runs through Congress, where Republicans are assembling a hit-list of recently passed rules they can block with little recourse from Democrats.

“It is disappointing, but certainly not surprising, that the Obama administration has decided to pursue this last-ditch effort to further harm West Virginia coal jobs,” said Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who says the rule will hurt miners in her state. “Fortunately, the decision by voters last month makes today’s announcement by the Office of Surface Mining an exercise in futility. Working with President-elect Trump and our Republican congressional majority, I am confident that we will be able to use the Congressional Review Act to stop this rule from taking effect.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who cosponsored a bill with Capito and other Republicans that would have effectively blocked the stream rule, did not specifically mention the CRA in a statement on the rule Monday. But he said he would “pursue legislation to ensure it does not harm our coal mining communities and economies.”

The Obama administration did not brief outside green groups ahead of the rule’s release Monday, a step it has taken with major rules in the past, said Thom Kay, a senior legislative representative for Appalachian Voices who has participated in previous briefings.

Some environmentalists expressed surprise that the Obama administration essentially forced the stream rule into a GOP firing line, practically guaranteeing its repeal in some form. Trump’s electoral victory last month quickly spurred speculation that Interior might shelve the rule rather than finalize it, in order to avoid a CRA showdown that could prevent the department from ever updating the rule again.

While some green groups are upset the Obama administration was not more aggressive, others are planning to defend the rule as a modest step to improve water quality in the coalfields, in line with Trump’s previous insistence that he favors “clean” air and water without unduly harming businesses.

“I just hope people read it before they propose killing it. It’s very different than the proposed rule. One of the primary pieces in the monitoring, so if there is a big change in water quality because contaminants get into the water supply, they can be addressed immediately,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “I’m hoping that folks take a look at the changes that were made and how the concerns that were raised were addressed, but it’s going to be a difficult rule to protect.”

Republicans have been critical of the Obama administration’s rulemaking since 2011, when a leaked internal document estimated an earlier version of the rule would cause coal mining job losses in excess of 7,000. Interior has long disputed that figure, and argued the revised rule would end up creating jobs in coal communities.

The final rule estimates an annual average employment gain of 156 jobs between 2020 and 2040, largely because of increased reclamation work — including annual coal mining job losses of 124, compared with 280 jobs gained each year from implementation.

Congressional leaders will have to decide which rules to prioritize, but given Trump’s campaign promises to restore the coal industry by repealing regulations, this rule presents a tempting target that would showcase immediate results early in his presidency.

“We want clean air. We want clean water. But to do that, you don’t have to destroy our country and destroy our businesses,” Trump said at a rally in North Carolina earlier this year.

Repealing the stream rule is unlikely to prove a panacea for the ailing coal industry, which has declined for decades under administrations of both parties, because of technological changes, environmental regulations and competition from cheap natural gas. A recent Energy Information Administration report found that coal production in 2015 was at its lowest since 1986, with Appalachia seeing an even stronger decline. Employment in coal mines was at just less than 66,000, the lowest level EIA had seen since tracking began in 1978.

Still, the National Mining Association immediately called for lawmakers to pass a CRA resolution, which would not only would kill this rule but would prevent Interior from ever issuing an update that is “substantially the same” in the future.

CRA resolutions, which cannot be filibustered, are subject to up to 10 hours of debate in the Senate and can only be used within 60 legislative days of a rule’s enactment, limiting the number that Republicans could push through given a heavy workload to confirm political appointees and start on their own legislative agenda, including overhauling the tax code and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Congress may only have time to undo two or three energy rules with CRA resolutions, given the floor time they require and the desire to target non-energy rules as well, and the stream rule is a prominent target for one of those spots, according to a note to clients from analyst Kevin Book of ClearView Energy. (Interior’s recent venting and flaring rule is “a strong contender for the No. 2 position,” he added.)

“I look forward to working with the Trump administration to overturn this unparalleled executive overreach and implement policies that protect communities forsaken by this administration,” House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop said in a statement.

There are no “concrete” plans for a CRA vote, said Bishop spokeswoman Molly Block. But it’s on the list for consideration, she said, along with the Bureau of Land Management’s recent venting and flaring rule. Repealing older regulations despised by the GOP, including the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule, would require more lengthy and more difficult administrative rulemakings that could takes years, or securing 60 votes in the Senate to amend the laws underlying them.

The CRA has been used only once successfully, to kill an ergonomics rule finalized in the final days of Bill Clinton’s administration. But observers expect that the Republican-controlled Congress will exercise that power significantly to attack Obama regulations across the board early next year.

Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw declined to discuss the potential for Congress or Trump to roll back the rule, saying only that the department “is expected to carry out applicable laws that guide our mission of responsible stewardship of public lands, water and wildlife management and that is what we will continue to do … no matter who the president is.”

The stream rule, out of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, is the broadest regulation directly affecting coal mining since the Labor Department cracked down on safety violations following the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 miners.

“This updated, scientifically modern rule will make life better for a countless number of Americans who live near places where coal is being mined,” said OSM chief Joseph Pizarchik.

It updates a 1983 regulation aimed at protecting streams from the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining, particularly in Appalachia. A George W. Bush-era rewrite that drew environmentalists’ scorn never went into wide effect, and ultimately was tossed out by a federal judge.

The updated regulation keeps in place a 100-foot buffer zone around most streams, even intermittent waterways. It strengthens other aspects of the rule, requiring companies to establish baseline pollution levels in waterways before mining begins for better impact management during and after mining, as well as new details on how to restore and protect plants and wildlife.

Several green groups have also argued that the Obama update was too moderate and didn’t go far enough in light of scientific advances in understanding mining’s effects on water and aquatic life.

“Though it isn’t perfect, the Stream Protection Rule does provide important protections that can help keep coalfield communities safe and takes steps toward holding coal mining companies accountable,” said Dalal Aboulhosn, the Sierra Club’s deputy legislative director for land and water.

Kay said he was “disappointed” the rule didn’t go further to curtail mountaintop removal mining.

“Moving forward, the Trump administration should be focusing on ways to diversify and strengthen Central Appalachia’s economy, rather than taking on a political fight against a moderate and reasonable rule,” he said.

See the article here.

President Obama Takes One Final Shot at Coal

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

The Obama administration on its way out the door is delivering one last blow to the coal industry–the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement’s (OSM) final version of the Stream Protection Rule.

The rule piles on controversial new regulations to the mining industry, which is already laboring under the heavy hand of the EPA and market forces.

It will take awhile to pore over the 1,648 pages, but if the final rule resembles earlier versions then the coal industry should brace for the worst.

The National Mining Association released a study last year on the proposed rule predicting the amount of recoverable reserves in Appalachia would decrease between 51 percent and 88 percent in underground mines and 38 percent to 67 percent at surface mines by the time all the new regulations are met.

The study also predicted a direct loss of mining jobs nationwide of between 40,038 and 77,520. That would just about finish off the coal industry, achieving the intended goal of this administration, the EPA and the environmental groups that have held the upper hand for the last eight years.

Notably, it’s not just the coal industry that has recoiled against the new rule. States that would be most impacted by the changes have pushed back as well, often because OSM ignored its responsibility of working cooperatively with those states to develop the rule.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman testified before the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources last year that OSM had “lost its way” by taking a unilateral regulatory approach.

“OSM flouted the cooperating agency process and excluded states from participating in this rulemaking, even though this rule will drastically affect how those states regulate the mining industry,” said Huffman.

He was not alone.  Ohio Department of Natural Resources Mineral Resources Management Division Chief Lanny Erdos told the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works earlier this year that the proposed rule supersedes traditional state jurisdiction of mining operations and “is tantamount to providing the federal government veto power over a permit without any explanation whatsoever.”

At least ten states, including West Virginia, that initially pledged to work with OSM to develop the new stream rule pulled out after it became apparent the federal agency had no interest in their concerns.

The new rule is scheduled to be entered into the federal register today, making it effective in 30 days, January 19th, exactly one day before Obama leaves office.  But the change of administrations will give opponents an avenue to stop the rule.

Donald Trump has promised to roll back many of Obama’s regulations and put miners back to work.  If congress passes a resolution of disapproval of the regulation and Trump signs the resolution, then the new Stream Protection Rule will be voided.

That’s what should happen, but in the meantime the outgoing president is hurling one more Hail Mary government overreach for one last score against the coal industry.

See the article here.

Obama Adds Last Minute Anti-Coal Regs Before Trump Takes Office

Via The Daily Caller: 

The Obama administration added another layer of anti-coal mining regulations to the books Monday, just before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The new regulations require coal companies which have finished mining in an area to restore the land to the same condition that existed before digging began. Obama’s Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called the new regulations “a balanced approach to meeting the nation’s energy needs.”

Companies are currently obligated to rehabilitate the areas they mine, but the new regulations are much more strict and largely focused on groundwater protection. The regulations replaced by the rule had been in force for 33 years — a rule under development since 2009.

The rule will almost certainly face opposition from Republicans, as it was enacted only a month before Trump takes office. This is exactly the sort of regulation Trump pledged during his campaign to reverse. Trump claimed during his campaign that he’d help turn around the coal industry, which is beset by debt, job losses, regulations and declining profits which make Obama’s new cleanup requirements much more difficult.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and cheap natural gas are devastating coal companies as well, even forcing Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, to declare bankruptcy earlier this year. Other American coal companies have faced financial problems too. Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy as well in January and coal companies like Alliance Coal announced mass layoffs.

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, the industry employment in coal mining has fallen by another 33,300 jobs, 10,900 of which occurred in the last year alone, according to federal data. Currently, coal mining employs 69,460 Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of the blame for the job losses is targeted at federal regulations aimed at preventing global warming, which caused coal power plants to go bankrupt, resulting in a sharp decline in the price of coal.

“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” Obama said during a 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also pledged that, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Employment has fallen so drastically because coal production has fallen by 15 percent since 2008 as companies have been forced by environmental regulations to shut down 400 mines. Companies opened 103 new mines in the U.S. in 2013 while 271 coal mines were idled or shut down, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As a result, many ex-coal miners are unemployed and Appalachian “coal country” faces very real economic devastation as a result. The coal-producing areas of eastern Kentucky have an unemployment rate of 8 percent and parts of West Virginia have double-digit unemployment.

The Obama administration responded by offering a mere $14.5 million in federal funding for programs to retrain out-of-work coal miners, after imposing regulations that greatly hampered the American coal industry.

See the article here.

 

NMA Strongly Opposes Interior Department’s Duplicative Stream Rule

The National Mining Association (NMA) today expressed its strong opposition to the Interior Department’s stream rule, calling on Congress to swiftly pass a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval and the president to sign it without delay.

The rule, which the Trump Administration has said it opposes and will act to rescind, provides no discernable environmental benefits while duplicating and interfering with extensive existing environmental protections at both the federal and state levels—duplication and interference which is expressly prohibited under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

“The decision to promulgate this duplicative rule at this stage is post-election midnight regulation and therefore obstructionism at its worst,” said Hal Quinn, NMA’s president and CEO. “This is after the agency failed in its obligation to engage mining states in the rule’s development and ended up with a massive rulemaking that is a win for bureaucracy and extreme environmental groups, and a loss for everyday Americans.”
Quinn said the rule’s primary purpose appears to be to support the environmental lobby’s “keep it in the ground” platform, locking away important U.S. domestic coal reserves, while putting tens of thousands of Americans out of work, raising energy costs for millions of Americans, and preserving the agency’s regulatory mission that is diminished with the declining number of coal mines.

The rule:
• Disregards State Authority and Expertise. Eight out of 10 states that originally signed on as state cooperating agencies withdrew from their agreements after a four-year period without any dialogue because OSM ignored its legal obligation to consult with the states during the rule’s development.

    o Nineteen states have written letters to OSM urging the agency to comply with congressional mandates and re-engage with the states.

• Duplicates, Contradicts and Creates Confusion Around Established State and Federal Regulations. Extensive environmental protections are currently administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the states’ regulatory authorities. SMCRA expressly prohibits rulemaking that creates regulatory overlap resulting in uncertainty through inconsistent requirements.

• Harms U.S. Jobs. A technical analysis of the impact of the proposed rule shows that at least a third of coal related jobs are now at risk owing to the massive volumes of coal that would be uneconomic to mine. The final rule closely tracks the proposal, so similar impacts are anticipated. Estimated job losses are based upon an independent analysis performed at 36 operating surface and underground mines across the country. By contrast, OSM’s analysis of economic impacts relied upon “hypothetical mines.”

• Blocks Access to Important American Resources. Under the rule, up to 64 percent of total U.S. coal reserves could be off limits to mining nationwide—a result at direct odds with SMCRA, which directs regulatory policies to encourage surface and underground mining.

• Reduces Much-Needed Tax Revenues in Coal Communities and States. Coal mining contributes more than $18.5 billion annually in state and federal tax revenues. The rule is expected to reduce these revenues by between 15 and 35 percent, devastating communities that have already been hit hard by job losses and reduced mining activity. These revenues are a vital source of financing for education, infrastructure, and emergency services in many states which would be forced to find alternate funding or forgo services.

See the press release here.

The Trump Cabinet: Bonfire of the Agencies

Via The Washington Post:

Democrats spent the first two decades of the post-Cold War era rather relaxed about Russian provocations and revanchism. President Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for suggesting that Russia was our principal geopolitical adversary. Yet today the Dems are in high dudgeon over the closeness of secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, to Vladimir Putin.

Hypocrisy aside, it is true that, as head of ExxonMobil, Tillerson made major deals with Russia, received Russia’s Order of Friendship and opposed U.S. sanctions. That’s troubling but not necessarily disqualifying. At the time, after all, Tillerson was acting as an agent of ExxonMobil, whose interest it is to extract oil and make money.

These interests do not necessarily overlap with those of the United States. The relevant question is whether and how Tillerson distinguishes between the two and whether as agent of the United States he would adopt a tougher Russia policy than he did as agent of ExxonMobil.

[A small victory for the republic: Rex Tillerson isn’t a kook or a crank]

We don’t know. We shall soon find out. That’s what confirmation hearings are for.

The left has been in equally high dudgeon that other Cabinet picks appear not to share the mission of the agency which they have been nominated to head. The horror! As if these agency missions are somehow divinely ordained. Why, they aren’t even constitutionally ordained. The Education Department, for example, was created by President Carter in 1979 as a payoff to the teachers unions for their political support.

Now, teachers are wonderful. But teachers unions are there to protect benefits and privileges, not necessarily to improve schooling. Which is why they zealously defend tenure, protect their public-school monopoly and reflexively oppose school choice.

Conservatives have the odd view that the purpose of schooling — and therefore of the Education Department — is to provide students with the best possible education. Hence Trump’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, a longtime and passionate proponent of school choice, under whom the department will no longer be an arm of the teachers unions.

She is also less likely to allow the department’s Office for Civil Rights to continue appropriating to itself the role of arbiter of social justice, micromanaging everything from campus sexual mores to the proper bathroom assignment for transgender students. If the mission of this department has been to dictate policy best left to the states and localities, it’s about time the mission was changed.

The most incendiary nomination by far, however, is Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. As attorney general of Oklahoma, he has joined or led a series of lawsuits to curtail EPA power. And has been upheld more than once by the courts.

Pruitt has been deemed unfit to serve because he fails liberalism’s modern-day religious test: belief in anthropogenic climate change. They would love to turn his confirmation hearing into a Scopes monkey trial. Republicans should decline the invitation. It doesn’t matter whether the man believes the moon is made of green cheese. The challenges to EPA actions are based not on meteorology or theology, but on the Constitution. The issue is that the EPA has egregiously exceeded its authority and acted as a rogue agency unilaterally creating rules unmoored from legislation.

Pruitt’s is the most important nomination because it is a direct attack on the insidious growth of the administrative state. We have reached the point where EPA bureaucrats interpret the Waters of the United States rule — meant to protect American waterways — to mean that when a hard rain leaves behind a pond on your property, the feds may take over and tell you what you can and cannot do with it. (The final rule excluded puddles — magnanimity from the Leviathan.)

On a larger scale, Obama’s Clean Power Plan essentially federalizes power generation and regulation, not coincidentally killing coal along the way. This is the administration’s end run around Congress’ rejection of Obama’s proposed 2009-2010 cap-and-trade legislation. And that was a Democratic Congress, mind you.

Pruitt’s nomination is a dramatic test of the proposition that agencies administer the law, they don’t create it. That the legislative power resides exclusively with Congress and not with a metastasizing administrative bureaucracy.

For some, this reassertion of basic constitutionalism seems extreme. If so, the Obama administration has only itself to blame. Such are the wages of eight years of liberal overreach. Some legislation, like Obamacare, will be repealed. Some executive orders will be canceled. But most important will be the bonfire of the agencies. We may soon be secure not just in our puddles but our ponds.

See the article here.

Clearing the Air at the EPA

Via The Roanoke Star: 

President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is welcome news. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt has strongly pushed back against many rules and regulations coming from Washington, DC. In particular, he has led states in suing to block the EPA’s overreaching policies.

Many in the media report this news with shock. They wonder how someone “CURRENTLY SUING” the EPA could possibly be fit to lead it. I wish those stunned by this appointment would listen to or read the testimony I have heard from EPA officials in Energy and Commerce Committee hearings. What I find stunning is the logic offered by agency officials to justify actions at odds with the plain text of laws passed by Congress.

Take the Clean Power Plan. I have written often in this column about the EPA’s claim that it can use the Clean Air Act to force states to create and implement a plan to reduce their carbon emissions. It is bad for coal miners and all consumers of electricity, but it is also bad for the rule of law. Under the Clean Power Plan, the EPA claims it can regulate existing power plants under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, but the EPA already regulates them under Section 112. The problem is that the language of the Clean Air Act prohibits this type of dual regulation, a point that the EPA itself has conceded in the past (before changing its tune).

When famed liberal legal scholar Laurence Tribe, who taught America’s first environmental law class and mentored President Obama, testified before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, he stated:

“EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the States, Congress, and the Federal Courts – all at once.  Much is up for grabs in this complex area. But burning the Constitution of the United States – about which I care deeply – cannot be part of our national energy policy…”

The EPA cited the Clean Air Act in another power grab, this time to regulate truck trailers. The law authorizes the EPA to regulate emissions from motor vehicles, defined in the US code as follows:

42 USC 7550(2)

The term “motor vehicle” means any self-propelled vehicle designed for transporting persons or property on a street or highway.

When I asked EPA official Janet McCabe how a trailer could be considered a self-propelled vehicle, she claimed that trailers are covered because, “without a trailer, a truck is not transporting goods.” Based on this logic, because trucks don’t currently drive themselves, the EPA could regulate the size of the driver, too!

On a number of occasions during the current administration, the courts have found that federal agencies exceeded their authority in making rules. The fact that this has happened repeatedly tells me that many of the lawyers employed by the federal government are not doing their jobs.

Lawyers employed by the federal government should not evaluate proposed regulations by their goal or their supervisors’ wishes, but rather by their compliance with the Constitution and the law.

I believe that the lawyers for the EPA and other agencies have acted with malfeasance in this regard. When the federal government’s lawyers improperly sign off on ridiculous arguments, Scott Pruitt and other state attorneys general have a duty to stand up for the powers the Constitution reserves to the states, just as congressmen have the duty to stand up for the powers delegated to the legislative branch.

As EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt’s first task should be to clean house in the EPA’s Office of General Counsel, which provides legal advice to the agency.

Under its present leadership, the EPA apparently believes that it’s better for a thousand people to lose their jobs than for a single tree to be axed or one chunk of coal to be burned. We need the EPA to balance protecting our environment without destroying our economy. As the Supreme Court ruled in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency, it should not pursue an environmental agenda at all costs.

The EPA must also recognize that it should carry out the laws passed by Congress, not rewrite them or create new ones.

Scott Pruitt has shown that he understands the proper role of the EPA. He is an excellent choice to lead the EPA and I urge the Senate to confirm him promptly.

Congressman Morgan Griffith

See the article here.

EDITORIAL: High Hopes for New EPA Leader Pruitt

Via The Gazette:

There’s a new sheriff in town, and nothing hammers it home like Thursday’s nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

A man suing the EPA may soon control it. We have confidence this appointment will directly benefit Colorado Springs and the rest of the country.

If confirmed, we hope Pruitt immediately stops the agency’s insane lawsuit against Colorado Springs. He can end it with a pen and a phone.

The EPA suit against Colorado Springs pertains to stormwater infrastructure problems the city is aggressively correcting. The suit threatens to enrich lawyers with the money our community could otherwise use to protect clean water.

We also hope Pruitt will stop federal regulators from obstructing plans to widen Interstate 25 and other essential transportation projects. State highway officials say EPA regulations could help tie up the I-25 project for 10 years, feeding bureaucrats and lawyers with money that could otherwise buy pavement. No one needs a decade to ensure two more lanes of asphalt, through an existing high-speed corridor, won’t destroy Mother Earth.

Those are some local reasons to applaud this selection. On a national scale, Pruitt’s leadership could fuel an economic resurgence. He could help turn smoldering economic embers into a raging inferno.

Environmental protection is important. That’s why President Richard Nixon created the EPA by executive order in 1970. Since then, careless abuse of the agency’s authority has inadvertently killed jobs and smothered economic growth.

Through the EPA, President Barack Obama tried to impose the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt sued to stop it, along with Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and others. The Supreme Court of the United States, after reviewing the suit, put the plan on hold until it could hear the full case. The court ruled the plan may cause “irreparable harm” to communities and states, with lost jobs and other economic burdens.

The Clean Power Plan would force communities throughout the country to close power plants. They would be stuck with costs of replacement sources powered by solar, wind and natural gas. For some communities, the costs would be billions.

EPA energy regulations have ushered the early demise of the coal industry throughout Colorado and other states with economies and cultures built around mining.

Meanwhile, the EPA wants more onerous methane regulations that would stifle the oil and gas industry’s production of natural gas.

A variety of new and looming emissions regulations, combined with the government’s heavy corporate tax burden, have made the United States a less competitive host of manufacturing.

“For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn,” President-elect Donald Trump said in a news release announcing Pruitt’s nomination. Pruitt “will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”

The environment is sacred and warrants protection. We should embrace and invest in new and emerging sources of power. Meanwhile, jobs and economies are also sacred and in need of protection.

We hope Pruitt, Congress and Trump can strike the right balance. Protect water and air, and allow our economy to soar.

See the article here.

Cleaner Coal Should be a Priority for Washington

Via The Pueblo Chieftain: 

As the recent election cycle demonstrated, American politics is beset with a number of polarizing issues. Among the most obvious has been the debate over coal.

Where Hillary Clinton favored renewable energy at the expense of the coal industry, Donald Trump has promised to launch a coal renaissance. This “either/or” schism overlooks a larger point, though, since technological advances eventually could lead to coal — and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports — playing a key role in the clean energy transformation of the 21st century.

Before this is even possible, however, government policy must find a middle course that balances costs with reasonable goals. Roughly 200 U.S. coal plants have closed in recent years, due in part to burdensome regulations that failed to adequately assess job losses. Ironically, President Barack Obama may have offered a helpful solution back in 2008 when he first suggested, “If technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. That I think is the right approach.”

Regrettably, the president never followed through on the possibility of making coal cleaner. And that’s unfortunate since advanced technologies have made extraordinary progress in recent years, leading to coal emissions that are now 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago.

And thanks to pilot programs in Mississippi, Texas and Saskatchewan, this same scientific prowess also is beginning to allow for the capture of coal’s carbon dioxide emissions. Given the right investment, such technology could become a game-changer. In fact, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has suggested that meeting climate targets for this century actually could be impossible without successful carbon capture development.

It’s noteworthy that America has long benefited from a diverse mix of power sources, and electricity generation anchored by coal saves consumers roughly $90 billion annually, according to IHS Energy Consulting. Imagine, then, if the United States could move forward with the affordable, abundant power that coal provides — and without the carbon emissions that have hung a question mark over the future of the world economy.

Instead of consigning coal to the scrap heap — and triggering mass unemployment that would necessitate tens of billions of dollars in federal aid to coal country residents — Washington should focus on efforts to make coal more environmentally friendly. Such a responsible path forward would require combined action from both industry and government. But the development of such advanced technologies could establish America as a global leader while also benefiting a developing world already banking heavily on coal.

It’s clear that America will need abundant power generation in the years to come. And since the United States possesses the world’s largest reserves of coal, it makes sense to incorporate coal as part of a diverse energy mix that also includes natural gas, renewables and nuclear power.

Americans want energy solutions that continue to use and explore advanced technologies. And so, there are obvious advantages to incorporating cleaner coal along with the jobs and revenue that such technology could support.

The advanced coal technologies under development today continue a decadeslong trend of reducing emissions and increasing efficiency at coal power plants.

Thus, the effort to make coal cleaner should be part of an “all-of-the above” strategy for clean energy in the 21st century. The world’s growing need for energy, and America’s own reliance on a diverse energy supply, argue strongly for such a path forward.

See the article here.

Trump EPA Pick Puts Target on Job-Killing Regulations

Via PoliZette:

President-Elect Donald Trump has tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to serve as director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt’s nomination is certain to worry environmental activists focused on global warming issues. But Pruitt, who has led Oklahoma’s challenge against President Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” (CPP), could guide the EPA back to its core mission of environmental protection, rather than continue its recent obsession with reducing industrial carbon dioxide emissions.

In selecting Pruitt, the president-elect has staked out a clear position on the looming debate over U.S. energy independence vs. climate change austerity. While serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt argued that the Clean Power Plan infringes on state sovereignty over power generation — a view shared by 27 other states currently challenging the measure.

Overall, the choice of Pruitt suggests that the president-elect is on track to roll back some of the more onerous initiatives of the Obama administration. Significantly, the CPP is one of three efforts that have combined to help dismantle much of America’s coal industry. Opponents of the plan note that it would vastly expand the EPA’s authority to regulate state power grids — a move never previously interpreted in the Clean Air Act. And the plan would impose harsh costs on coal-fired power generation to achieve a theoretical 0.018 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures by 2100.

 If the Clean Power Plan were not enough to shut down the domestic coal industry, President Obama has also prepared a “Stream Protection Rule” (SPR) that duplicates existing state and federal controls on coal mining. The rule, which was drafted without the input of coal-producing states, has been written so broadly as to potentially designate half of all U.S. coal reserves off-limits to mining. And where the coal industry has already shed 68,000 jobs in recent years, a fully realized SPR could potentially cost another 78,000 jobs.

The Obama administration’s hostility to coal also extends to the recent moratorium on federal coal leases. Under the guise of seeking a more equitable leasing program, the administration launched a review of the federal coal program that generated revenues of $1 billion for American taxpayers in 2014 while also producing 40 percent of the total coal-generated electricity in the United States.

Overall, this trifecta of regulations has grievously burdened the nation’s coal producers while also driving up the cost of power generation in at least 13 states that rely principally on coal-fired power. At the same time, the president has happily subsidized measures to ramp up wind and solar power. That such renewable energy continues to prove expensive and intermittent (since the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine) has mattered little to green advocates.

Ironically, this investment in green energy has yielded only modest returns even as the domestic coal industry has made enormous investments to reduce emissions. Modern U.S. coal plants are 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago, thanks to impressive advances in scrubbing technologies. Thus, the same money being generously funneled to wind and solar projects could also yield even cleaner coal — which would be a sensible priority since coal has formed the backbone of reliable, robust, and affordable domestic power generation for decades.

The measures implemented by President Obama have obviously been aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But the president’s guiding assumption has been that global warming is a principally man-made phenomenon.

Unfortunately, this discounts the work of climate activists who continue to argue that increased solar activity, not rising carbon dioxide, has driven recent climate trends. And so, President Obama has unilaterally imposed stunning costs on the nation’s power sector based on a potentially flawed ideology.

Pruitt’s selection for the EPA has sparked yet another round of divisive climate debate. But there are reasons to appreciate his nomination since Pruitt appears to recognize the benefits of affordable power for the working people of the United States. It’s worth noting that cleaner coal and expanded natural gas production provide sturdy, reliable power generation. Along with nuclear power, they are the only proven means of reliably producing the massive supplies of electricity needed to treat municipal drinking water, for example, and to process the enormous waste water and sanitation byproducts of large metropolitan areas. And so, there are valid reasons to prioritize such environmental safety issues for the American people.

President Obama’s rush to dismantle coal without assuring a robust alternative could actually threaten the sanitary living conditions of major cities. And so, the nomination of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA could help to foster a wider debate on the growing energy needs of America’s expanding population. While green activists may rush to condemn him, there are important priorities to consider. President-Elect Trump’s choice of Pruitt could redefine some of these pressing environmental concerns, even as the new administration prepares to take office.
See the article here.

Editorial: Spread the Word, Mines Make Everyday Life Possible

Via The Elko Daily Free Press:

Whether people realize it or not, every day they come in contact with something that was produced because of a mine.

According to the National Mining Association, “every American uses an average of 40,000 pounds of newly mined materials every year, including three tons of coal.” I write about the industry regularly and that fact still surprised me.

I knew the average annual salary for a miner is $80,000 or more, which is well above the national average wage of $52,874, but people who don’t know the industry may be shocked by that information.

I thought I should share some of the mining facts I learned while attending the 2016 MINExpo, so people in the industry are a little better informed when talking to those who know nothing about mining. When people wonder why we still have a mining industry, it is good to have facts to back up why mineral resources are still needed.

Computers wouldn’t exist without mined materials. The number of minerals used in the average computer is 66 and an electric car contains 165 pounds of copper – three times as much as a gasoline-powered car. Solar energy is projected to use 70 million ounces of silver in 2016, and 29 minerals are needed to deliver electricity to homes and businesses.

While many in northern Nevada know that we mine gold in the Silver State, they may not realize that the yellow metal is just one of several minerals produced in Nevada. The other “major mined” products are copper, silver, lime, diatomite, sand and gravel, stone, and gypsum, according to the National Mining Association.

Many politicians talk about mining being essential to national security. This is at least one time when they aren’t exaggerating. The U.S. Department of Defense uses 750,000 tons of minerals each year in technologies that protect our troops. Lithium-ion batteries can lighten a soldier’s pack by almost 7 pounds and provide them three times the charge. The U.S. remains 50 percent or more import-reliant on 43 key mineral resources.

These are just some of the reasons mines are needed in Nevada and the rest of the country. However, that doesn’t mean mining companies don’t help our communities in other ways.

At the end of summer, Stantec employees volunteered their time to map noxious weeds in the area, to help eliminate these intrusive species.

Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Mining Corp. have opened their wallets quite a bit lately. While both companies give to many different causes, I focused on two different programs. Barrick helped establish a new student veteran program at Great Basin College, and Newmont hit a new record with its employee driven Legacy Fund.

Most Mining Quarterlies focus on Nevada mines, but this time around, MQ correspondent Adella Harding got to travel to Colorado to visit Newmont’s Cripple Creek and Victor Mine.

This edition also has a story on EP Minerals which mines diatomaceous earth and makes some pretty interesting products.

The Elko Daily Free Press also began sending out mining newsletters every Monday. If you haven’t already signed up, go to the email alerts at elkodaily.com to receive a weekly email on the latest mining news.

While the industry is constantly going through changes, this magazine also will have something new for our spring edition.

You can find the details on all these stories and more in this edition of the Mining Quarterly.

See the article here.

NMA Recognizes National Miners Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Mining Association (NMA) today recognized National Miners Day, a day established to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of our nation’s miners.

“What many Americans don’t realize is that the mining industry drives our supply chain, bringing affordable energy and essential materials to virtually every home and industry in the U.S.,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “From infrastructure to manufacturing, advanced technologies and our national defense system, every aspect of our lives is supported by mining and made possible by American miners. Today we thank this vital yet too often unrecognized group for their extraordinary contributions.”

When asked about the importance of mining to their lives, just half of Americans identified mining as important to their daily lives, according to polling conducted by Morning Consult for NMA on December 1-2, 2016. But when reminded of all the industries and technologies that rely on the essential materials and reliable, affordable electricity made available by mining, that number rises to nearly 80 percent – a 30 percent jump. Seventy three percent of voters went on to say that they are supportive of policies that encourage domestic mining and the use of America’s natural resources.

The national poll was conducted with 1,401 registered voters, and includes a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

Also timed with National Miners Day, and to help raise awareness of the importance of the work undertaken by miners across America, NMA released a new video featuring leaders from across the industry discussing their thoughts on mining’s greatest contributions to the American experience. The video can be accessed here.

See the press release here.

These 5 EPA Regs Could Be The First In Trump’s Crosshairs

Via The Daily Caller:

President-elect Donald Trump could eliminate these five Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations some studies have labeled as “job-killers” that do little for the environment.

Under President Barack Obama, the EPA made individual rules and regulations that cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Given the high costs, Republican lawmakers encouraged states not to implement such rules because they could be overturned by the courts or by a subsequent administration.

Ozone Rule:

The EPA required every county in America last year to cut ozone from 75 to 70 parts per billion by 2025. The agency did this even though a third of all Americans live in one of the 177 counties that haven’t yet met 2008 standards of 75 parts per billion. Simply ignoring EPA ozone standards isn’t an option either, as local governments risk losing federal highway funds, oil and gas operations may be forced to cease and manufacturers can shut down.

Several accomplished scientists have criticized the ozone rule’s benefits, as there’s no recorded case of anyone being killed by ozone. EPA claims the new ozone standards will avoid 710 to 4,300 premature deaths by 2025, but clinical tests cast doubt on this number.

Critics labeled the EPA ozone rules as the costliest regulations ever imposed on the U.S. economy. Previous EPA estimates for the current standard went as high as $25 billion annually. A study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the EPA’s strictest ozone standards of 65 parts per billion could cause $1.7 trillion in total economic damage and kill 1.4 million jobs by 2040.

Methane Rule:

The agency does not list the amount of temperature increases averted in the rule’s press release, even though the rule exists just to limit global warming. Industry groups estimate the rule would only cause a temperature drop of 0.0047 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, an amount so small it couldn’t even be detected.

The regulation even has the potential to make global warming worse, as it will make producing natural gas harder, leading to more release of CO2 emissions — the primary driver of global warming — according to a 2014 EPA report. The report concluded that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 fell to their lowest levels in 17 years, largely due to hydraulically fractured natural gas out-competing coal as a power source

A report by the firm ICF International, which cited 75 scientific studies and EPA reports, concluded that methane emissions are declining in both absolute terms and per unit of natural gas produced, despite an enormous increase in the amount of gas produced.  Absolute methane emissions from natural gas fell by 15 percent between 1990 and 2014, and emissions per unit of natural gas produced dropped by 43 percent over the same period.

Clean Power Plan:

Clean Power Plan (CPP) would significantly increase the price of electricity in the U.S., and could cost the economy up to $479 billion by 2031, according to a study by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI). The average American’s electricity bill would rise by more than 10 percent as a result of CPP.

The CPP would force states to develop plans to slash carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from power plants with the goal of reducing emissions by 32 percent by 2030. The plan would probably eliminate most cheap coal power plants and replace them with much more expensive and unreliable sources like solar and wind if it survives current legal challenges. This would further increase the price of electricity, which causes the price of everything made using electricity to also spike, effectively raising the price of almost everything.

Climate models created by the EPA and utilized by the Cato Institute show that even if CPP was fully implemented, it wouldn’t even accomplish its goal. The plan would only prevent an additional 0.019° Celsius of warming by the year 2100, an amount so small it cannot be detected.

Waters Of The United States:

The EPA has been attempting to expand its regulatory authority to include every body of water or area that could potentially hold water in the entire U.S., over the express objections of the U.S. Senate.

The EPA’s power grab would replace the phrase “Navigable Waters” in the Clean Water Act with “Waters Of The United States,” immensely expanding the agency’s authority. “Navigable” has been determined by the Supreme Court to only include rivers, lakes, bays, and other relatively large bodies of water. The EPA has been attempting to change the definition internally to regulate ditches and even deserts30 different states have expressed concern about the agency’s overreach.

Despite the failure to push the redefinition through the legislative process, the EPA continued where Congress declined to act and is attempting to make the change through the rule-making process.

The stakes are particularly high for farmers and ranchers, who would have to spend time and money obtaining EPA permits to continue using their own land. A redefinition has the potential to cause “costly atime-consuminging delays” in permitting new development, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. The average permit applicant spends 788 days and $271,596 on an application.

Fining Companies For Not Buying Nonexistent Fuel:

EPA has repeatedly fined companies for not purchasing cellulosic biofuels which don’t exist, using the Clean Air Act.

In 2010, the EPA instructed companies to burn 5 million gallons of certain biofuels which were not yet commercially available. In 2011, the EPA upped the mandate to 6.5 million gallons, but zero gallons were produce. In 2012, the mandate was for 8.5 million gallons, but only 25,000 gallons were produced.

After a federal judge demanded that EPA stop fining companies for not buying fuel that didn’t exist, the agency responded by raising the mandate next year to 14 million gallons.

See the article here.

Bill Keeps Coal in the Energy Mix

Via The Bismark Tribune:

Destructive gridlock too often cripples Congress, and it frustrates me as much as anyone.

Congress shouldn’t be a place where good ideas with bipartisan support fail to move forward. If this election has taught us anything, it’s that Congress needs to get to work finding the kind of practical, bipartisan solutions that I’ve pushed for and that North Dakotans rightfully expect.

Earlier this year, I wrote a bill that most folks in North Dakota — and most folks in Congress — would agree with: The bill would put coal on a viable path forward by encouraging investment in technologies that drastically reduce emissions while making sure coal remains an affordable, reliable piece of our energy mix.

 In North Dakota, we know coal. This resource powers our homes, and coal workers have helped build the all-of-the-above energy strategy our state has proudly implemented for decades. North Dakota gets almost 80 percent of its electricity from coal, and my bill provides the incentives we need to keep coal viable for years to come, while recognizing the need to reduce carbon emissions.

After introducing the bill in July, it quickly gained bipartisan support from a diverse group of lawmakers — spanning the ideological spectrum to include some of the most conservative and most liberal lawmakers. It also has broad backing from a growing list of coal companies, utilities, and environmental groups. Even Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a strong coal supporter who controls which bills get votes in the U.S. Senate, has come out in favor of the bill.

Since joining the U.S. Senate, I’ve worked hard to forge bipartisan consensus wherever I can, and especially on commonsense policies that benefit our state. That’s why I worked with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska last year to successfully lift the decades-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil.

We spent months explaining the economics of lifting the ban to other lawmakers, showing them that it made no sense for a major oil producer like the U.S. to prevent its oil from seeking the best price in international markets. Then, in December 2015, Sen. Murkowski and I forged a bipartisan deal to get the job done by coupling our effort to lift the ban on exporting oil with an extension of tax credits supporting wind and solar energy, further boosting North Dakota’s diverse energy sector.

Now, I’m hopeful Congress can come together like we did last year — this time, to pass my bill extending and expanding the 45Q tax credit to find a path forward for coal-fired generation and make sure that coal remains a key part of our energy mix for decades to come.

 The 45Q provision in the tax code, which my bill uses as a starting point, is one of the most important tools for incentivizing carbon capture projects in coal-fired power plants and other industries. Our bill would provide tax credits to businesses that invest in technologies to limit emissions, capture carbon dioxide, and use that captured carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery or to create usable products. Carbon capture is the key to coal’s future — but it can’t take off unless there’s federal support to encourage investment and implementation of the technology through tax credits and other mechanisms.

With 20 Republicans and Democrats supporting my bill, there’s no good reason for Congress to sit on its hands and do nothing.

Partisan gridlock isn’t just frustrating — it also can quash ideas that I know would benefit our state. But if Congress works together in a bipartisan way as we have done on this bill, it should be able to reach real results that support North Dakota and the entire country. Now’s the time to get this bill across the finish line.

See the article here.

Another View: Time for Reasonable Policy, Plans for Coal Energy

Via The Daily Times:

As the recent election cycle demonstrated, American politics is beset with a number of polarizing issues. Among the most obvious has been the debate over coal. Where Hillary Clinton favored renewable energy at the expense of the coal industry, Donald Trump has promised to launch a coal renaissance. This “either/or” schism overlooks a larger point, though, since technological advances could eventually lead to coal – and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports – playing a key role in the clean energy transformation of the 21st century.

Before this is even possible, however, government policy must find a middle course that balances costs with reasonable goals. Roughly 200 U.S. coal plants have closed in recent years, due in part to burdensome regulations that failed to adequately assess job losses. Ironically, President Obama may have offered a helpful solution back in 2008 when he first suggested “If technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. That I think is the right approach.”

Regrettably, the president never followed through on the possibility of making coal cleaner. And that’s unfortunate since advanced technologies have made extraordinary progress in recent years, leading to coal emissions that are now 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago. And thanks to pilot programs in Mississippi, Texas, and Saskatchewan, this same scientific prowess is also beginning to allow for the capture of coal’s carbon dioxide emissions. Given the right investment, such technology could become a game-changer. In fact, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has suggested that meeting climate targets for this century could actually be impossible without successful carbon capture development.

It’s noteworthy that America has long benefited from a diverse mix of power sources, and electricity generation anchored by coal currently saves consumers roughly $90 billion annually according to IHS Energy Consulting. Imagine, then, if the United States could move forward with the affordable, abundant power that coal provides—and without the carbon emissions that have hung a question mark over the future of the world economy.
Instead of consigning coal to the scrap heap—and triggering mass unemployment that would necessitate tens of billions of dollars in federal aid to coal country residents – Washington should focus on efforts to make coal more environmentally friendly. Such a responsible path forward would require combined action from both industry and government. But the development of such advanced technologies could establish America as a global leader while also benefiting a developing world already banking heavily on coal.

It’s clear that America will need abundant power generation in the years to come. And since the United States possesses the world’s largest reserves of coal, it makes sense to incorporate coal as part of a diverse energy mix that also includes natural gas, renewables, and nuclear power. Americans want energy solutions that continue to use and explore advanced technologies. And so, there are obvious advantages to incorporating cleaner coal along with the jobs and revenue that such technology could support.

The advanced coal technologies under development today continue a decades-long trend of reducing emissions and increasing efficiency at coal power plants.

Thus, the effort to make coal cleaner should be part of an “all-of-the above” strategy for clean energy in the 21st Century. The world’s growing need for energy, and America’s own reliance on a diverse energy supply, argue strongly for such a path forward.

See the article here.

Let the Coal Industry Compete

To the Editor:

The Coal Industry Isn’t Coming Back,” by Michael E. Webber (Op-Ed, Nov. 16), suggests that the decline in coal has been due to “cheap natural gas, cheap renewables” and “regulations that got their start in the George W. Bush administration,” and that the coal industry is waiting to be saved.

King University recently found that natural gas accounted for the loss of only 20 million tons in coal demand before 2013. On the other hand, 105 million tons in lower yearly coal production resulted from Environmental Protection Agency regulations that took hold after 2012.

Looking ahead, the government’s Clean Power Plan would double the number of coal plants closed. And the pending stream-protection rule would make one-half or more of total coal reserves off limits to mining. Without those rules, coal production would increase and stabilize, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Far from looking for a savior, the coal industry simply wants to compete on a level playing field with natural gas and what Mr. Webber calls cheap renewables — cheap, thanks largely to big government subsidies. Scaling back disruptive and damaging regulations will do much to accomplish this.

HAL QUINN

President and Chief Executive

National Mining Association

See the article here.

A Fair Chance to Make Coal Cleaner

Via Kokomo Tribune:

As the recent election cycle demonstrated, American politics is beset with a number of polarizing issues. Among the most obvious has been the debate over coal. Where Hillary Clinton favored renewable energy at the expense of the coal industry, Donald Trump has promised to launch a coal renaissance. This “either/or” schism overlooks a larger point, though, since technological advances could eventually lead to coal — and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports — playing a key role in the clean energy transformation of the 21st century.

Before this is even possible, however, government policy must find a middle course that balances costs with reasonable goals. Roughly 200 U.S. coal plants have closed in recent years, due in part to burdensome regulations that failed to adequately assess job losses. Ironically, President Obama may have offered a helpful solution back in 2008 when he first suggested: “If technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. That I think is the right approach.”

 Regrettably, the president never followed through on the possibility of making coal cleaner. And that’s unfortunate since advanced technologies have made extraordinary progress in recent years, leading to coal emissions that are now 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago. And thanks to pilot programs in Mississippi, Texas and Saskatchewan, this same scientific prowess is also beginning to allow for the capture of coal’s carbon dioxide emissions. Given the right investment, such technology could become a game-changer. In fact, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has suggested that meeting climate targets for this century could actually be impossible without successful carbon capture development.

It’s noteworthy that America has long benefited from a diverse mix of power sources, and electricity generation anchored by coal currently saves consumers roughly $90 billion annually, according to IHS Energy Consulting. Imagine, then, if the United States could move forward with the affordable, abundant power that coal provides — and without the carbon emissions that have hung a question mark over the future of the world economy.

 Instead of consigning coal to the scrap heap — and triggering mass unemployment that would necessitate tens of billions of dollars in federal aid to coal country residents — Washington should focus on efforts to make coal more environmentally friendly. Such a responsible path forward would require combined action from both industry and government. But the development of such advanced technologies could establish America as a global leader while also benefiting a developing world already banking heavily on coal.

It’s clear that America will need abundant power generation in the years to come. And since the United States possesses the world’s largest reserves of coal, it makes sense to incorporate coal as part of a diverse energy mix that also includes natural gas, renewables and nuclear power. Americans want energy solutions that continue to use and explore advanced technologies.

The effort to make coal cleaner should be part of an “all of the above” strategy for clean energy in the 21st century. The world’s growing need for energy, and America’s own reliance on a diverse energy supply, argue strongly for such a path forward.

See the article here.

A Trump Administration Could Bring Real Relief to America’s Coal Communities

Via The Roanoke Times:

Donald Trump praised America’s coal workers throughout the recent presidential campaign. And he vowed to get the coal industry back on its feet. Now that a Trump Administration is poised to take office on Jan. 20, it’s realistic to believe that relief could be on the way for decimated coal communities.

You wouldn’t know this from the mainstream media, however. Too often, pundits belittle the impact that Obama administration regulations have had on coal. We’re told that it isn’t federal rules stifling coal production; instead, it’s only market competition that has been responsible for coal’s decline.

This is the administration’s line, and it is nonsense. Coal production rose steadily from 1980 until 2009. Production in 1980 was 830 million tons and in 2008 it was 1.2 billion tons. Coal employment climbed from 2000 through 2011, reaching a level not seen since 1994. Before the Obama administration took action, coal’s share of the nation’s power generation market hit 51 percent — higher by far than competing fuels. Coal also broke records for exports and drove increasing high-wage employment, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs paying an average of $84,000 per year with great benefits.

But beginning with a “MATS rule” in 2011, coal lost half of its entire power generating fleet — sparking a gradual decline in market share that soon accelerated, thanks to a regulatory barrage capped by the Clean Power Plan (CPP). In fact, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the CPP proposed by President Obama could shut down another 56 coal plants nationwide. Without this one rule, EIA says coal output would stabilize, not vanish.

A recent study from the King University business school confirmed this view, showing that natural gas had only a modest effect on coal production and that EPA regulations destroyed five times as much coal demand. And, a Duke University study concluded that less than 10 percent of America’s coal fleet was threatened by natural gas before EPA’s regulations kicked in.

Overall, EPA climate regulations under President Obama contributed to the loss of 68,000 jobs in coal communities. The result has been so severe that the President eventually proposed a $3 billion aid package to repair the damage.

In short, coal’s distress has not primarily been the result of market competition. The MATS rule, the Clean Power Plan, renewable fuel standards, New Source Performance Standards, the retroactive vetoes of mining permits, hefty federal subsidies for competing fuels—none of these was the result of “market conditions.” They were government decisions.

Lifting this regulatory burden from coal fields can also lift the industry up, sparing thousands of jobs throughout the supply chain and even bringing back some jobs lost over the past few years.

There are other valid reasons for President-elect Trump to support coal. Electricity generation anchored by coal currently saves U.S. consumers roughly $90 billion annually, says IHS Energy Consulting, thanks to a more diverse and affordable energy supply.

A robust coal industry will become a cleaner industry, too. Already, advanced technologies have made coal emissions 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago. And thanks to pilot programs in Mississippi, Texas, and Saskatchewan, this same scientific prowess is also beginning to allow for the capture of coal’s carbon dioxide emissions. The development of even smarter coal technologies could help to establish America as a global leader while also benefiting a developing world already banking heavily on coal.

It’s clear that America will need abundant power generation in the years to come. And since the United States possesses the world’s largest reserves of coal, it makes sense for the Trump Administration to incorporate coal as part of a diverse energy mix that also includes natural gas, renewables and nuclear power.

Instead of directing his regulators to keep coal in the ground and its employees in the jobless lines, a Trump administration can encourage the nation’s engineers to make coal cleaner and keep coal miners employed.

See the article here.

The EPA Shows Again That It’s an Affront to Common Sense

Via The National Review:

For decades, in administrations Democratic and Republican alike, the Environmental Protection Agency has been a paragon of waste, fraud, and abuse, a corrupt taxpayer-funded Evil Empire. “Science” there is just a tool to be manipulated in order to advance radical anti-technology and anti-industry agendas, even if it means distorting the intent of statutes and affronting common sense.

The EPA is the prototype of agencies that, driven largely by politics, spend more and more to address smaller and smaller risks. In one analysis by the Office of Management and Budget, of the 30 least cost-effective regulations throughout the government, the EPA had imposed no fewer than 17. For example, the agency’s restrictions on the disposal of land that contains certain wastes prevent 0.59 cancer cases per year — about three cases every five years — and avoid $20 million in property damage, at an annual cost of $194 to $219 million.

In his excellent book Breaking the Vicious Circle, written shortly before he was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer cited another, similar example of expensive, non-cost-effective regulation by the EPA: a ban on asbestos pipe, shingles, coating, and paper, which the most optimistic estimates suggested would prevent seven or eight premature deaths over 13 years — at a cost of approximately a quarter of a billion dollars. Breyer, appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton, observed that such a vast expenditure would cause more deaths than it would prevent from the asbestos exposure, simply by reducing the resources available for other public amenities.

Also, perversely, the very act of removing asbestos from existing structures poses greater risk from asbestos than does simply leaving it where it is: During removal, long-dormant asbestos fibers are spread into the ambient air, where they expose workers and bystanders to heightened risk. When the EPA banned asbestos in 1989, it was already an old product whose risks and benefits were well understood. Nevertheless, political pressures from environmental activists pushed the EPA into making a decision that actually raised public-health risks.

Breyer also addressed the EPA’s counterproductive efforts to eliminate the “last 10 percent” of risk from a substance or activity, noting that it involves “high cost, devotion of considerable agency resources, large legal fees, and endless argument,” with only limited, incremental benefit. Such overly stringent rules are also more likely to be challenged in court and overturned on judicial review. Breyer quotes an EPA official as observing that “about 95 percent of the toxic material could be removed from [Superfund] waste sites in a few months, but years are spent trying to remove the last little bit.”

Another example of flawed decision-making at the EPA was the imposition of overly stringent ambient-air standards under the Clean Air Act. Clean air is desirable, of course, but an ill-conceived EPA rule finalized in February 2012 created new emissions standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. According to an analysis by Diane Katz and James Gattuso of the Heritage Foundation:

The benefits are highly questionable, with the vast majority being unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. The costs, however, are certain: an estimated $9.6 billion annually. The regulations will produce a significant loss of electricity generating capacity, which [will] undermine energy reliability and raise energy costs across the entire economy.

One of the costliest EPA policy boondoggles is a program known as “Superfund” (officially the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act), which is intended to clean up and reduce the risk of toxic-waste sites. It was originally conceived as a short-term project — $1.6 billion over five years to clean up some 400 sites (by law, at least one per state and, not coincidentally, about one per congressional district). But it has grown into one of the nation’s largest public-works projects: more than $30 billion spent on about 1,300 sites.

How could cleaning up toxic-waste sites not be a good thing? Well, various studies have attempted to evaluate the effects of Superfund’s massive and costly cleanups, but the results are equivocal. Put another way: After the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars, no beneficial results have been demonstrated.

On the other hand, Superfund projects have caused a great deal of harm. University of California economics professor J. Paul Leigh has analyzed the occupational hazards of environmental cleanup projects and concluded that the risk of fatality to the average cleanup worker — a dump-truck driver involved in a collision, for example, or a laborer run over by a bulldozer — is considerably greater than the cancer risks to individual residents that might result from exposures to unremediated sites. (And consider that cancer risks are theoretical estimates over many years or decades, while worksite fatalities occur during the much shorter time of the cleanup.) Even former EPA administrator William Reilly admitted that Superfund’s risk-assessment paradigms are flawed. In a speech at Stanford University while a visiting lecturer, he discussed the excessive costs of basing cleanups on exaggerated worst-case scenarios:

The risks [Superfund] addresses are worst-case, hypothetical present and future risks to the maximum exposed individual, i.e., one who each day consumes two liters of water contaminated by hazardous waste. The program at one time aimed to achieve a risk range in its cleanups adequate to protect the child who regularly ate liters of dirt. . . . And it formerly assumed that all sites, once cleaned up, would be used for residential development, even though many lie within industrial zones. Some of these assumptions have driven clean-up costs to stratospheric levels and, together with liabilities associated with Superfund sites, have resulted in inner-city sites suitable for redevelopment remaining derelict and unproductive.

The most recent new EPA travesty is new rulemaking on methane emissions, which have elicited more than a dozen legal challenges. Driven more by politics than by science, they are based on dubious data and would bring the American energy revolution to a halt, devastating not only the economy but also the environment.

Last year, the EPA reported that since 2005, net methane emissions from natural-gas infrastructure had fallen 38 percent, while total methane emissions from natural gas had dropped 11 percent. This year, however, the EPA claims that methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are one-third higher than previously thought and that overall methane emissions from natural gas have dropped only 0.68 percent since 2005. What can explain such a huge turnaround? Have America’s cows been put on a diet of hummus and baked beans?

The agency says it now has better data to determine methane emissions, but this claim is highly suspect, not only because of the administration’s political objective on this issue but because of the methodology. For one thing, the EPA’s latest figures are based on older sources developed in the 1990s, which has the effect of inflating the current measurements.

The EPA has chosen to ignore that the energy sector has taken numerous steps to reduce emissions. For example, fuels and oils that have been contaminated are now filtered by producers so they can be reused to yield maximum performance with fewer emissions. Birmingham’s Alabama Power has invested in technology that produces electricity more efficiently, lowering overall emissions. Since 2000, oil and gas companies nationwide have invested roughly $90 billion in technologies designed to reduce harmful pollutants.

The EPA is now using the cooked data to justify imposing much tighter limits on methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure. For instance, other studieshave found that the annual price tag to comply with these regulations could hit $800 million, and National Economic Research Associates has concluded that, by 2020, the regulations could be three times more expensive than the EPA estimate.

These costs will undoubtedly be passed on to consumers in the form of higher energy bills and more-expensive consumer products, depleting the recent energy savings consumers have enjoyed as a result of a resurgence of domestic oil and gas production. Last year, those savings saved consumers an average of $550 at the gas pump and boosted the disposable income of the average American household by $1,337.

Another effect of the EPA rule will be negative pressure on one of the American economy’s few sources of job growth: natural-gas exploration. Between 2005 and 2012, the U.S. lost over 378,000 jobs across all sectors, while energy production created more than 293,000 jobs.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and horizontal drilling, which produce most of America’s natural gas, support 2.1 million jobs — a figure once expected to nearly double by 2025. But the new methane standards would crush job growth by impeding new oil and gas projects.

Ironically, the new methane rules will also hurt the environment by crippling a low-carbon-emission technology. As of last year, natural gas–fired power plants tied coal-powered plants as America’s biggest sources of electricity production. Because gas-fired energy plants produce 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal plants do, the growth of natural-gas infrastructure has played a key role in reducing carbon emissions.

The oil and gas industry has been very effective at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It has invested $90 billion in zero- or low-carbon energy technologies since 2000 — almost as much as the federal government has spent on clean energy.

Finally, we and others question the EPA’s legal authority to issue such rules. Congress has passed no law that requires the EPA to clamp down on methane emissions. It appears to be yet another example of regulators’ pushing the envelope, similar to the EPA’s declarations that carbon dioxide and rainwater runoff are “pollutants.” “This is yet another example of unlawful federal overreach,” charged West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey. “The rules are a solution in search of a problem and ignore the industry’s success in voluntarily reducing methane emissions from these sources to a 30-year low.”

President-elect Trump has promised that his “environmental agenda will be guided by true specialists in conservation, not those with radical political agendas.” To achieve that goal, he may need to consider eliminating the rogue EPA entirely and assigning the agency’s essential functions to other less scientifically and ethically challenged departments within the sprawling federal bureaucracy. (Recall that the EPA was created during the Nixon administration by cobbling together elements of various departments, including the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture.) Conservation of the environment is something all Americans should support, but trying to accomplish that via a corrupt, ideological, and incompetent agency is a fool’s errand.

— Henry Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA. Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division.

See the article here.

OBAMA’S LEGACY: Coal Plants Are Still Closing Despite Trump’s Win

Via The Daily Caller:

President-Elect Donald Trump’s recent election win may have boosted coal industry stocks, but dozens of coal-fired generators around the country are still slated to be shut down in the coming years.

Utilities have plans to shutter 45 coal-fired units at various power plants, according to data compiled by SNL Energy. The closures mean 15,400 MW of coal-fired capacity has received regulatory approval to shut down through 2028.

At least 19 of the coal-fired generators seem to be shutting down because they won’t be able to comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits on mercury emissions, or MATS rule. Others are shutting down likely in anticipation of stricter federal regulations amid low natural gas prices.

Dominion Virginia Power spokeswoman Bonita Harris told SNL its two older coal units at Yorktown are shutting down because of MATS. Harris said the closures would go through even if Trump repealed the rule since such a process would take too long.

“It’s important to know that the MATS rule, which led to the closure of the coal units at Yorktown, is a final rule that has been in place for several years,” Harris said.

“It would take several months if not a year or more for the EPA to propose revisions, accept comment, review and respond to comments, and adopt the final language. So a new administration couldn’t just change it easily,” she said.

EPA granted some power plants a one-year extension in 2015 to come into compliance with the $10 billion rule or shut down, so that’s one explanation for the wave of closures of coal units over 100 megawatts.

It’s a similar story for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s five coal units at two Kentucky power plants. TVA will close the coal units in 2017 to comply with a multi-billion dollar 2011 settlement with the EPA as well as MATS.

Here too, a Trump win has not changed TVA’s plans to close coal units. TVA closed 19 coal units by late 2015, totaling 3,210 megawatts of electric capacity, to comply with the 2011 settlement and other EPA rules.

“While President-elect Trump has indicated a desire to address certain environmental regulations, it is much too early to make any assumptions and determine if that will indeed occur and what it would look like,” Scott Harelson, a spokesman for the Salt River Project, told SNL.

“Our current plans for future operations are not impacted by the election results in the near-term; operations of our facilities and efforts to meet environmental regulations continue as planned,” said Harelson, whose company still plans to shutter a Colorado coal unit in 2025.

Trump won by huge margins in Appalachia propelled, in part, by his pledge to roll back federal environmental regulations and put coal miners to work.

The wave of planned coal plant closures highlights the difficulty facing the coal industry, and the uphill battle Trump faces if he wants to keep his promise of bringing coal mines back online. Despite the uphill climb, many in coal country are hopeful Trump can bring some prosperity back to the region.

“In Trump’s term, I feel we’ll do good, but after that who’s to say?” Roger Prater, a coal miner, told Fox Business.

“I believe in the guy,” echoed North Dakota coal mine superintendent Dave Bettcher. “If he can hold up his end, he’s going to help a lot of people.”

See the article here.

Ten Ways to Fix EPA and Jump-Start the Economy

Via Breitbart.com

President-elect Donald Trump has an unprecedented opportunity to get the economy moving again while protecting the environment in a reasonable and practical manner.

While Republicans have been in charge of the White House and Congress before, there are three major differences between now and then.

First, President-elect Trump campaigned on a platform of rolling back unnecessarily burdensome and economically harmful climate and EPA regulations.

Second, since EPA was formed in 1970, we have gained an awful lot of scientific knowledge about the environment and public health. We have an excellent understanding the health risks that “pollutants” and chemicals in the environment do and do not pose.

Third, we have made great strides in environmental protection since 1970.

Our air is clean and safe. Our water (with the limited exception of spots like Flint, Michigan) is clean and safe. So the task ahead then is to keep the environment clean and safe and to make improvements where it makes sense  — versus spending inordinate sums senselessly returning the environment to Garden of Eden status.

Here are 10 things President Trump could do help jump-start the economy while keeping our environment clean and safe.

  1. Climate. Hysteria over greenhouse has emissions has so proven to be scientifically baseless and economically harmful. Making energy less affordable and less available is a greater actual threat to the environment and public health than climate change at its imaginary worst. President Trump should pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate deal and rollback the Obama Clean Power Plan. This would remove the government boot from the throat of the coal industry and allow the miners to work and compete fairly in the energy marketplace.
  2. Air Quality. EPA has grossly abused air quality science and cost-benefit analysis to impose unnecessarily draconian air quality standards on states. EPA’s recent ozone rule is reputed to be the most expensive EPA regulation of all time – one that will produce no public health or environmental benefits but cost as much as one trillion dollars. These regulations cause states to forego economic opportunities and impose heavy compliance costs in Pyrrhic efforts to satisfy EPA standards that accomplish nothing of value.
  3. Water. EPA and environmentalists have long abused the Clean Water Act in an effort to stop economic development. While the Clean Water Act provides EPA with jurisdiction over “navigable waters,” EPA has arbitrarily extended this jurisdiction even to cover drainage ditches that are dry most of the time. The Obama administration issued the so-called “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule and other usurpation of state authority to formalize even greater EPA power over land use. WOTUS and efforts like the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load program should be rolled back and, ideally, prevented from happening again by Congress. Land use is almost entirely a state issue and states should be allowed to determine what is best for them.
  4. Permitting. Historically, EPA has often wielded its permitting process as a weapon to be used in bringing industry to heel to the agency’s political will. The Obama EPA took this to a new level in disregarding permitting decisions made by states and other federal agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers. Permits granted by states and other federal agencies should be deemed valid by the EPA unless the agency can make a clear-cut showing of significant legal deficiency.
  5. Fracking. Fracking is local activity that should be left entirely to the states. The Obama EPA has been angling for regulatory authority to control/shut down fracking. These efforts should be ended.
  6. End the War on Coal. Much of this can be done by reversing Obama actions on climate and air quality. But there are also a host of actions take by other agencies including the Department of Interior and Mine Safety and Health Administration that have weighed heavily on the industry, while failing to protect/improve miner safety or the environment.
  7. Energy Exports. With all our coal, oil and natural gas, America enjoys practically limitless energy supplies. We can’t possibly use them all so we should facilitate exports to an energy-thirsty world. The Obama administration has slow-walked permits for natural gas export terminals. These should be greenlighted.  Environmental groups have harnessed friendly state governments to block West Coast export terminals for coal. That should also end.
  8. Regulatory Reform. Twenty years ago regulatory reform of EPA was a bipartisan issue. The all of a sudden when Republicans moved to require EPA to make its risk assessment process more science-based and to require EPA to use realistic cost-benefit analysis, Democrats screamed bloody murder at the effort to rein in EPA’s lawless arbitrariness. Sound regulatory reform would prevent EPA from making arbitrary anti-business political decisions that masquerade as environmental protection.
  9. Stop funding enemies of the economy. EPA doles out hundreds of millions of dollars per year to activist groups, universities and to allied states and local governments. The American Lung Association, to name just one, received over $22 million during 2000-2010 and always backed EPA to the hilt. While the money saved won’t balance the federal budget, choking off the life support system for the anti-business mafia is a must.
  10. Change EPA’s culture. EPA has become a left-wing political bludgeon versus an agency that reasonably protects the environment without unduly hindering economic activity. Part of changing the EPA culture involves devolving responsibilities back to states where they belong. A smaller EPA will be less prone to abuse. Remaining EPA duties should be managed to produce actual benefits to the economy and our society. The ideologically anti-business element among agency staff should be shown the door.

EPA has become the most economically destructive regulatory agency in America. President-elect Trump has a unique opportunity to change this. He talked about this during his campaign. Voters expect it from him.

See the article here.

Trump Can Ax the Clean Power Plan by Executive Order

Via The Wall Street Journal:

President Obama pledged to wield a pen and phone during his second term rather than engage with Congress. The slew of executive orders, enforcement memorandums, regulations and “Dear Colleague” letters comprised an unprecedented assertion of executive authority. Equally unparalleled is the ease with which the Obama agenda can be dismantled. Among the first actions on President Trump’s chopping block should be the Clean Power Plan.

In 2009 Congress rejected a cap-and-trade scheme to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency then devised a nearly identical scheme to mandate shifting electricity generation from disfavored facilities, like those powered by coal, to those the EPA prefers, like natural gas and renewables. No statute authorized the EPA to seize regulatory control of the nation’s energy sector. The agency instead discovered, in an all-but-forgotten 1970s-era provision of the Clean Air Act, that it had that power all along.

To support its preferred policy, the agency was compelled to “interpret” the statute in a way that contradicts what it acknowledges is the “literal” reading of the text and clashes with decades of its own regulations. It also nullifies language blocking regulation for power plants because they are already regulated under an alternative program. By mangling the Clean Air Act to intrude on areas it was never meant to, the regulation violates the constitutional bar on commandeering the states to carry out federal policy.

 These defects are why the Supreme Court put the EPA’s plan on hold while an appeals court in Washington, D.C., considers challenges brought by the energy industry and 27 states. These legal challenges now appear to have been overtaken by events. President Trump can immediately issue an executive order to adopt a new energy policy that respects the states’ role in regulating energy markets and that prioritizes making electricity affordable and reliable. Such an order should direct the EPA to cease all efforts to enforce and implement the Clean Power Plan. The agency would then extend all of the regulation’s deadlines, enter an administrative stay and commence regulatory proceedings to rescind the previous order.

That would leave the D.C. appeals court—which some supporters of the plan are still counting on for a Hail Mary save—or the Supreme Court with little choice but to send the legal challenges back to the agency. While the Clean Power Plan could technically linger in the Code of Federal Regulations for a year or so, it would have no legal force.

When an agency changes course, it must provide a reasoned explanation to address factual findings supporting its prior policy. In certain instances that requirement may impose a real burden. For example, a rule rescinding the EPA’s “Endangerment Finding” regarding the effects of greenhouse gases would have to address the evidence underlying it. A failure to provide a satisfactory explanation of a change in policy may render a rule “arbitrary and capricious” and vulnerable to legal challenge.

Environmentalist groups have already vowed to bring suit to defend the Clean Power Plan, but a challenge would be toothless. The aggressive legal positions underlying the Obama administration’s most controversial rules—including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States rule, and the FCC’s Open Internet order—will make it easier to rescind them. That’s because rejecting the assertion of legal authority underlying such a rule is enough to justify a policy change. If the agency’s view is that it simply lacks the power to carry out a rule, then it follows that the rule must be withdrawn.

 Even if a court were to find that the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act underlying the plan is permissible, that would still not compel the Trump EPA to accept that interpretation as the only permissible one. And even if a court were to rule—erroneously, in our view—that the Clean Power Plan does not violate the Constitution’s vertical separation of powers, that would still not absolve the executive branch of the responsibility to consider that constitutional issue for itself and then act accordingly.

President Obama may soon come to understand that the presidential pen and phone is a double-edged sword.

See the article here.

McKinley: Changes to EPA Regs Will Come Quickly Under Trump

Via West Virginia MetroNews:

Following re-election, 1st District Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) appeared invigorated in a continued fight against Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

His hopeful demeanor could be attributed to an election outcome that will send Donald Trump (R) to the White House. McKinley said voters expressed their pent-up frustrations at the polls.

“They just wanted change. They’re willing to take a risk and experiment to see if something could be better in their lives. We’ve seen wages frozen, jobs lost, and companies going overseas. It needed a shake-up.”

Meanwhile, McKinley told MetroNews “Talkline” host Hoppy Kercheval his post-election work has including time spent with the Congressional Coal Caucus.

The congressman said there could be immediate changes with EPA laws.

“You’re going to see a real rollback of some of those regulations that have occurred. We’ve already talked with the president’s transition team about that. Give the coal miners and the coal industry and the gas industry a chance to compete in this global economy.”

The Clean Power Plan was announced by the Obama Administration in 2015. The plan sets a national limit on carbon pollution from power plants.

According to McKinley, Trump could repeal the plan by executive order or such action could be initiated by Congress.

“If we pass the Congressional Review Act, which we’ll be able to and they can’t filibuster it in the Senate, then it goes to the president and at that point it is virtually withdrawn.”

McKinley claimed making states submit reduction emission plans by September 2018 prohibits coal and gas companies from entering a global market.

“India is going to double its consumption of coal and they are now consuming for more coal than we are in America totally. China is going to increase its consumption by 70 percent in the next ten years. There are markets overseas that we can reenlist these people back to work by exporting coal.”

McKinley is part of the all-Republican congressional delegation that will continue to represent West Virginia. He recalls a time as a state senator when there was a single Republicans in the state senate.

“A generation has passed before Republicans carried Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. People were rebelling. They say enough. We’ve got to see change. I think that’s what they’re saying in West Virginia as well,” McKinley said.

See the article here.

Trump Administration Could Bring Real Relief to Coal Communities

Via Breitbart.com

Donald Trump praised America’s coal workers throughout the recent presidential campaign. And he vowed to get the coal industry back on its feet.

Under the incoming Trump Administration, it’s realistic to believe that relief could be on the way for decimated coal communities.

You wouldn’t know this from the mainstream media, however. Too often, pundits belittle the impact that Obama administration regulations have had on coal. We’re told that it isn’t federal rules stifling coal production; instead, it’s only market competition that has been responsible for coal’s decline.

This is the administration’s line, and it is nonsense.

Coal production rose steadily from 1980 until 2009. Production in 1980 was 830 million tons and in 2008 it was 1.2 billion tons. Coal employment climbed from 2000 through 2011, reaching a level not seen since 1994. Before the Obama Administration took action, coal’s share of the nation’s power generation market hit 51 percent—higher by far than competing fuels. Coal also broke records for exports and drove increasing high-wage employment, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs paying an average of $84,000 per year with great benefits.

But beginning with a “MATS rule” in 2011, coal lost half of its entire power generating fleet—sparking a gradual decline in market share that soon accelerated, thanks to a regulatory barrage capped by the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

 In fact, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that the CPP proposed by President Obama could shut down another 56 coal plants nationwide. Without this one rule, EIA says coal output would stabilize, not vanish.

A recent study from the King University business school confirmed this view, showing that natural gas had only a modest effect on coal production and that EPA regulations destroyed five times as much coal demand. And, a Duke University study concluded that less than 10 percent of America’s coal fleet was threatened by natural gas before EPA’s regulations kicked in.

Overall, EPA climate regulations under President Obama contributed to the loss of 68,000 jobs in coal communities. The result has been so severe that the President eventually proposed a $3 billion aid package to repair the damage.
In short, coal’s distress has not primarily been the result of market competition. The MATS rule, the Clean Power Plan, renewable fuel standards, New Source Performance Standards, the retroactive vetoes of mining permits, hefty federal subsidies for competing fuels—none of these was the result of “market conditions.” They were government decisions.

Lifting this regulatory burden from coal fields can also lift the industry up, sparing thousands of jobs throughout the supply chain and even bringing back some jobs lost over the past few years.

There are other valid reasons for President-elect Trump to support coal.  Electricity generation anchored by coal currently saves U.S. consumers roughly $90 billion annually, says IHS Energy Consulting, thanks to a more diverse and affordable energy supply.

A robust coal industry will become a cleaner industry, too. Already, advanced technologies have made coal emissions 90 percent cleaner than 30 years ago. And thanks to pilot programs in Mississippi, Texas, and Saskatchewan, this same scientific prowess is also beginning to allow for the capture of coal’s carbon dioxide emissions. The development of even smarter coal technologies could help to establish America as a global leader while also benefiting a developing world already banking heavily on coal.

It’s clear that America will need abundant power generation in the years to come. And since the United States possesses the world’s largest reserves of coal, it makes sense for the Trump Administration to incorporate coal as part of a diverse energy mix that also includes natural gas, renewables, and nuclear power.

Instead of directing his regulators to keep coal in the ground and its employees in the jobless lines, a Trump administration can encourage the nation’s engineers to make coal cleaner and keep coal miners employed.

Luke Popovich is Vice President for External Communications at the National Mining Association (NMA).

See the article here.