We would like to apologize to our readers for leaving our blog unattended for the past few months. We are pleased to say this blog will no longer be unattended and will be regularly updated. We thank you for your continued patronage of our site and we promise we will do our best to once again make this blog your go-to source for news, information and commentary about the nation’s coal industry with a particular focus on West Virginia.
By Devin Henry
WASHINGTON, DC (Oct. 25, 2017) — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday said it would reassess the way it issues Clean Air Act pollution permits for new facilities, as a way to reduce regulatory burdens for businesses.
As part of a review President Trump mandated earlier this year, the EPA said it would undertake four new initiatives to re-evaluate how it regulates pollution.
The most notable of those is the creation of a new task force to reconsider the permitting process for new sources of air pollution under the Clean Air Act, called the New Source Review (NSR).
“The potential costs, complexity and delays that may arise from the NSR permitting process can slow the construction of domestic energy exploration, production, or transmission facilities that must undergo review,” the EPA wrote in a 15-page report on its regulations.
“In some circumstances, the NSR process discourages the construction of new facilities or modifications of existing ones that could result in greater environmental improvements. Such reactions to the NSR process slows the growth of domestic energy resources and raise energy.”
Under the Paris Climate Agreement, the U.S. committed to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by the year 2025. Had the U.S. followed through on its commitment, it would have led to the rapid substitution of coal by natural gas, a fuel with lower emissions, in electricity generation from 2020 onwards, when the Paris Climate Agreement enters into force. However, with the federal government indicating that it does not plan to follow through on the agreement as a part of its promise to lower restrictive environmental regulations on U.S. industries, the regulatory environment for coal production going forward appears to be favorable.
In addition, natural gas prices, which averaged close to $2.50 per MMBTU in 2016, are likely to rise to $3.17 per MMBTU and $3.43 per MMBTU in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Rising exports of natural gas and LNG, as well as higher demand for natural gas for electricity generation amid strengthening economic conditions, are expected to translate into rising natural gas prices, at least in the near term.
However, in the longer term, the declining production costs of electricity generation from renewable sources could threaten the sustainability of electricity generation from fossil fuels.
By Michael Bastach, Daily Caller (03/22/2017)
A public interest law firm sued the EPA for not turning over records regarding agency officials’ use of encrypted messaging applications. The Cause of Action Institute (CoA) filed suit in the District Court for the District of Columbia Tuesday after the EPA failed to turn over any records to the group within the time limits specified under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
By Eliza Relman, Business Insider (Mar. 16, 2017)
Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency is releasing “propaganda” that is “brainwashing our kids,” during a CNN interview on Thursday. “We want to deliver the services. We ought to make things clean,” Inhofe said. “But we ought to take all this stuff that comes out of the EPA that’s brainwashing our kids, that is propaganda, things that aren’t true, allegations.”
Inhofe also defended President Donald Trump’s proposed 31 percent funding cut to the EPA, which includes a $100 million reduction in funding for the agency’s climate change programs.
The EPA is facing, arguably, the deepest cuts of any federal agency under Trump’s proposed budget, an outline of which was unveiled on Thursday. The budget allocates $5.7 billion for the EPA, down from $8.3 billion.
For Immediate Release: August 24, 2016
Legislature’s Action Keeps West Virginia Coal Miners Working
CHARLESTON – Earlier this year, the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill that allowed utility companies to fast-track recovery of costs for upgrades to existing power plants if the upgrades help keep West Virginia coal miners working.
The bill is already doing what was intended.
FirstEnergy subsidiaries Mon Power and Potomac Edison recently submitted a request to the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) to recover costs for environmental control projects that support the long-term operation of Harrison and Fort Martin Power Stations.
The upgrades are part of FirstEnergy’s investments in emissions control at Harrison and Fort Martin that allow the plants to meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations. These investments will allow the plants to continue generating low-emitting and affordable electricity, providing well-paying jobs, and contributing significant tax income to surrounding communities.
West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney today offered his thanks to the members of the Legislature for their foresight in passing the legislation.
“West Virginia’s coal industry has suffered a great deal under the Obama Administration over the past eight years,” Raney said. “There are 11,000 coal miners not working today who should be. We have to do whatever we can here in West Virginia to help our electric companies meet the demands imposed on them by a radicalized federal regulatory system. The leaders of the Legislature realize this and are working hard to find ways to keep West Virginians working. First Energy’s investment in upgrades to their power plants likely wouldn’t have happened and the facilities would simply have been closed had it not been for what the Legislature did earlier this year. We thank them for their efforts to protect West Virginia jobs.”
The Modernization and Improvement Plan (MIP) will help Harrison and Fort Martin achieve ongoing compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) II requirements.
To meet these requirements, 18 projects are planned or underway, including improving electro-static precipitators, installing technology to control mercury and other emissions, improving existing flue gas desulfurization equipment, enhancing continuous emission monitoring, tuning boilers, and improving controls and the selective catalytic reduction system.
If approved, the project will cost an estimated $6.9 million.
By T.L. Headley, MBA, MA
CHARLESTON, W.Va – Despite the news the media pushes, the truth is out there if you look for it.
Taking a look at the latest data from the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission (FERC), coal currently makes up more than half the daily fuel mix for most of the United States.
In some areas it is difficult to determine what the daily fuel mix is because they do not adequately report the fuel mix. This is the case in California and New York. In terms of California, the only fuel mix they report is the renewable content — which only provides about 20 percent of the daily needs. The remaining 80 percent is apparently undisclosed.
By BILL RANEY, president
West Virginia Coal Association
Despite challenging times, West Virginia coal is proud
to continue to be a major contributor to the State’s economy with its coal being mined by more than 12,000 of the best coal miners in the world, and its use in the efficient and compliant coal-based electric generating plants throughout the State. We are passionate about doing everything possible to protect our people’s jobs and making sure we continue to be a significant component of our economy. While we have experienced declining production over the past few years, we are blessed with some of the finest coal in the world and we continue to be the nation’s second leading coal-producing state in the country.
However, we need help as do the other coal-producing states across Appalachia since the industry in West Virginia, and those states surrounding us, is experiencing as challenging of times as anytime in our lifetimes. Folks point to several reasons for this downturn in production and market, but none are greater than the anti-coal policies of this current federal administration.
While there have historically been ups and downs in the cycle of business, this time is different because our own federal government has never had “its boot on our throat” like they have for the past seven and half years! That negative government interference has created a perfect storm of paralyzing pressures that have taken and continue to threaten the jobs of our people, the mining of our coal, the reliability of America’s electric grid and the very security of our country.
Some want to point to the geologic and geographic challenges resulting from 150 years of mining high-quality bituminous coal that fueled American victories in the World Wars and conflicts of the 20th century as well as the industrial revolution that provided the strong basis for the United States to become the true leader of the free world. Or, they want to point to the oversupply of natural gas that keeps its price low. While each of these has a part, the real, overwhelming factor most directly affecting our ability to mine and use more West Virginia coal is, unquestionably, the anti-coal policies of our own federal government. This, in itself, is puzzling and amazing since America has more coal reserves than any other country in the world.
It is only logical to think the federal government, which has, for years, cried for energy security and energy independence, would do everything possible to promote the extraction and use of our most prolific resource. If there are problems with its extraction or its use, one would, again, logically expect the government to undertake meaningful research and incentives to be sure America would be the world leader in extraction technology, safety and clean-coal based energy usage.
Can anyone imagine Saudi Arabia, Iraq or any of the other Middle Eastern countries treating their oil reserves the way this government is treating American coal reserves?
We will only be able to enhance our production through the increased marketability of our coal and that is all about the cost of production and the ability of our coal to compete domestically and internationally, particularly since we are competing with other countries that mine similar coals, but do not meet American environmental and safety standards.
We’re not asking for nor would we ever seek a diminution of safety or environmental standards as nothing is more important than the well-being of our professional miners and the health and welfare of their families. However, practicality, as practiced in other states, must be injected into the current policies and laws in effect today as well as those being proposed for the future.
Our coal miners are the best practicing environmentalists in the world as they do everything they can each day to protect the environment they work and live in throughout West Virginia. We are confident our operations are among the best, if not the best, in the world, from an environmental achievement and safety accomplishment standpoint.
Thanks to our Legislature recognizing the out-of-step cost challenges we face in marketing our coal, there has been a great deal of progress achieved with the laws, regulations and policies in the last two years, here in West Virginia. However, it is critical that progress with our laws, regulations and policies continue to be made so as to do everything possible to insure they mirror those in the other coal-producing and coal-using states so as to achieve that ever-elusive “level playing field” for cost competitiveness.
We’ll be sure these state-level changes will not diminish nor detract from our desire to be the best in safety and environmental protections, but the changes will allow us to continue to operate so we can improve each day and keep our people working, contributing to their communities and State of West Virginia.
There remains plenty of opportunity for our longtime contributions to continue. According to the West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey in Morgantown, West Virginia has some 50 billion tons of remaining coal reserves. Since we began keeping records, we have mined some 14 billion tons of coal in West Virginia, so we literally have hundreds of years of coal we can mine and continue contributing to the State’s well-being and America’s energy security well into the future.
The ingenuity and devoted work ethic of our miners and managers will find answers to the geologic and geographic challenges, and to the oversupply of natural gas which will likely develop its own set of challenges, but for us to realize that future the behavior and proposed regulations of this federal administration has got to change. This federal administration and the next one have to understand that a working West Virginian is a healthier West Virginia and that our people want to work right here, not in North Carolina, Michigan, Georgia or Florida. They want to remain here doing what they do best, mining and using West Virginia coal, so they can raise their families where they were raised.
Our miners will protect the streams and mountains, because it’s the ones they fished and hunted when they were growing up and they want their children and grandchildren to have the same rewarding benefit. There cannot be a higher level of protection than that familial preservation.
We have to create a mechanism that prompts an increased use of West Virginia coal in our West Virginia power plants, but one that does not affect the revenues of the state. An additional sixteen million tons of West Virginia production would be a tremendous benefit to keep more of our people working. Similarly, but every bit as challenging, we need to figure a way to reduce the severance tax on West Virginia coal so we can hopefully make up the revenue differences by being more competitive and being able to sell more of our coal.
We will make every effort to work with everyone to reach a reasonable solution to this issue. However, our biggest problem today is, as mentioned earlier, is the attitude and behavior of our own federal government toward our coal miners and our industry. There are specific federal issues that need to be changed, reversed and retracted, but the over-reaching problem is the lack of respect shown to our professional coal miners and managers by this administration.
Previous administrations had respect for the West Virginia and American coal miners and managers — and the tremendous job they do every day. The Bushes, Clintons, Reagans, Carters and Nixons, all the way back to President Truman– each of them and their administrations knew that America has more coal than any other country in the world, and they recognized the tremendous contributions West Virginia coal miners – America’s coal miners — made to improve the quality of life of Americans everywhere. Each of those previous administrations sought to strengthen our country through the electrification of America with coal-powered electricity.
They each knew that our coal provided the reliable, low cost electricity that became the envy of the world, dependable feedstock for domestic steel as well as America’s manufacturing, chemical and technology industries. They didn’t favor one region over another. They didn’t favor one fuel over another, they were simply depending on the one that would most likely bring energy security for America and improved lifestyles for all Americans. We must regain that “respect.”
We must recognize the tremendous progress that’s been made with power generation in our state and across the nation. Our utilities and our citizens have taken the lead over the past ten years, providing enhanced air quality, efficient generation and state-of-the-art technologies in a concerted effort to preserve West Virginia jobs and perpetuate our peoples’ health. Since 2005, in West Virginia, one of our major coal-burning utilities has reduced SO2 by 70 percent, NOx by 64 percent and, unbeknownst to many, CO2 has been reduced by 21 percent! Our other major coal-burning utility has made similar strides in state-of-the-art technology. But, of course, none of that progress is recognized by this current federal administration, all to the demise of our people and the economy of our state.
We promise to do everything possible to protect and preserve our people’s jobs, our operations, our power plants and our way of life. We have the support of our Governor, our Attorney General, our Legislative and Congressional leaders as well as many members of the Legislature and many citizens across the state and the nation. With your help and prayers, we will do everything within our power to continue to be as big a part of West Virginia’s economy as possible.
Team of Trump and Cole Provides Leadership We Need to Rebuild our Economy
CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney today issued the following statement lauding presumptive GOP nominee for President Donald Trump for his comments following last night’s victories in the nation’s final primaries.
“Last night, Donald Trump made it absolutely clear that he is who we need as president if we want to restore our nation’s economy,” Raney said. “And he reminded us all of what America can be if our industries are allowed to compete on a level playing field.
“As Mr. Trump said in his brief comments following his wrapping up the party’s nomination, ‘Every election year politicians promise change and every year they fail to deliver. And the one thing we have learned is we can’t solve our problems by relying on politicians who have created our problems.’
“For the past eight years, the Obama administration has done everything possible to put our coal miners out of work and destroy the nation’s coal industry, and Hillary Clinton has promised the same thing! We can’t afford another four or eight years of leaders who have shown themselves willing to destroy our own basic industries while bankrupting our nation.
“Mr. Trump is right, our coal miners – our wonderful and hardworking miners, who have been absolutely and totally mistreated by this administration – deserve respect for the work they have done and continue to do to make this country great. They absolutely don’t deserve to be the target of ridicule and callous disregard for their economic futures.
“Mr. Trump says he “will reduce regulatory pressures from their current insane levels” and bring an end to the War on Coal. When this occurs and we return to a situation in which the market determines winners and losers I am certain we can once again compete and restore our coal mining jobs. Our coal is the best in the world. Our coal miners are the best in the world, and given a fair chance, they can compete with anyone, anywhere.”
“Mr. Trump says he is a ‘fighter’ and if he is forced to fight he ‘will never back down.’ Our coal miners are too. We have fought this fight for almost eight years and we will not stop.
“West Virginia is suffering. America is suffering, but as Mr. Trump says, we CAN turn this around.
“We believe the team of Trump and GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Cole provides the leadership our state and our nation needs as we restore our economy and our people’s faith in the greatness of America. And yes, it is long past time to put America – and West Virginia – first once again. “