News & Comment

Apologies for not Updating our Blog

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.

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We Have a Bright Future if We Take the Right Steps Today

By BILL RANEY, president
West Virginia Coal Association

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Bill Raney
According to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), an office of the federal Department of Energy, West Virginia coal production year-to-date is up 20 percent over the same period last year, and we appear on target to possibly cross the 100 million ton level for the full year. Our mines are once again producing, we are beginning to rehire miners after eight long, hard years of fighting to just stay in business.
 
Even so, we remain a long way from the 170 million tons we produced in 2008, before the Obama Administration began its war on coal. And we may never get back to those levels, because most of those 400 coal-fired power generation units Obama shut down with his regulatory assault have been torn down, left to rust or converted to natural gas.
 
The good news is the world never stopped recognizing the value of coal, and 2,200 new coal-fired power plants are scheduled to go online between now and 2040. Many of those plants will look to import their supplies and we plan to be the source of much of that coal. We are uniquely located close to rail and barge transportation to major coal port facilities. And our metallurgical coal remains plentiful and second to none in quality.
 
The recovery in the state’s coal industry has played itself out through the entire economy, with state unemployment levels dropping from double-digits just a year or so ago to 4.4 percent today – led by a recovery of the coalfield economy.
 
But none of this would be possible without the 2016 election of President Trump – who has kept every promise he made to our coal miners and the people of our state. He has one-by-one rescinded every anti-coal regulation enacted by the Obama Administration, and he continues to do more. Just recently, his Department of Energy issued a report that said it is vital for the U.S. to preserve its coal fleet for the sake of the stability and reliability of the electric grid.
 
It also appears likely that the president will strip away the billions of dollars of grants and tax credits that have propped up the renewable energy industry for the past eight years, finally returning the energy markets to a level playing field. And that’s all we’ve ever asked for – a fair chance to compete.
 
The Trump Administration has stepped up and done its part. Now it is time for the state government to do its part to position us to compete in the world marketplace. We need to reduce costs across the industry. To do so, we need to reduce the state tax rate on the coal industry. We need to cut severance taxes, cut property taxes (particularly for idled property so it can be held for future use) and remove outdated regulatory constraints.
 
Most of all, we need state agencies to recognize the value of our coal industry. We believe most do. If there is one good outcome of the past eight years it is that many state leaders have been reminded of that importance. However, in the effort to find ways to plug a budget hole, we are concerned they will see coal as a source for that revenue. That can’t happen. The state’s coal industry is barely getting back on its feet and we need investment to continue that climb. We need to have capital for improvements freed up and not locked up in taxes.
 
We are confident our current Legislature and Governor Justice understand this need. And we see a bright future for West Virginia coal if given a chance.
 
Yours,
 
Bill

EPA Plans to Streamline Air Regulations Permitting

By Devin Henry 

The Hill

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.”

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/357162-epa-plans-to-streamline-air-pollution-permitting

Death of U.S. Coal Industry Greatly Exaggerated

By Roger Bezdek

Public Utilities Fortnightly

WASHINGTON, DC (October 2017) — In Part One, we assessed the recent past and current state of the U.S. coal industry, with emphasis on Appalachia. In Part Two, we examine alternative scenario futures for the industry, involving assumptions about economic growth, energy requirements, technologies, tax incentives, and research and development.

http://misi-net.com/publications/PUF2.0-Mid1017.pdf.

U.S. Rail Coal Shipments To Rise Amid Favorable Business Environment

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.

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EPA Sued for Withholding Info on Employees Sending Encrypted Text Message

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).

“Career employees at the EPA appear to be using Signal to avoid transparency laws and vital oversight by the Executive Branch, Congress, and the public,” Henry Kerner, CoA’s assistant vice president, said in a statement. “Communications on this encrypted application, however, which relate to agency business must still be preserved under the Federal Records Act and be made available for disclosure under the FOIA.”

 

Republican senator defends cuts to EPA, which he says is ‘brainwashing our kids’

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.

 

Mon Power & Potomac Edison Invest in Upgrades at Harrison & Fort Martin Stations: Will Keep Coal Plants Working

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.

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Current Daily Fuel Mix of Electric Generation Companies

pjm aug 14

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 Miso august 14California, 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.

 

 

Southwest Power Pool August 14

California ISO August 14, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISO fuel mix August 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Outlines Economic Plan that will Restore our Nation’s Economy and put our People Back to Work

Capture

As I’m sure everyone knows, Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, laid out details of his “America First” economic plan in a speech in Detroit earlier this week, that was carried live on nationwide television. While he spoke of tax reductions and reform and changing and/or nullifying trade agreements, the significance to our industry were his proposals for regulatory reform and advancing a workable energy program that will put our people back to work. Below are some of the pertinent excerpts from his speech that will give you a feel for the positive tone of his proposals …
“The U.S. economy today is twenty-five percent smaller than it would have been without the surge of regulations since 1980.”
“Upon taking office, I will issue a temporary moratorium on new agency regulations.”
“I will also immediately cancel all illegal and overreaching executive orders. Next, I will ask each and every federal agency to prepare a list of all of the regulations they impose on Americans which are not necessary, do not improve public safety, and which needlessly kill jobs. Those regulations will be eliminated.”
“The Obama-Clinton Administration has blocked and destroyed millions of jobs through their anti-energy regulations, while raising the price of electricity for both families and businesses. As a result of recent Obama EPA actions coal-fired power plants across Michigan have either shut down entirely or undergone expensive conversions. The Obama-Clinton war on coal has cost Michigan over 50,000 jobs. Hillary Clinton says her plan will ‘put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business.’
“We will put our coal miners and steelworkers back to work.”
“American steel will send new skyscrapers soaring. We will put new American metal into the spine of this nation. It will be American hands that rebuild this country, and it will be American energy – mined from American sources – that powers this country.”
“We are ready to show the world that America is Back – Bigger, and Better and Stronger Than Ever Before.”

There are other highlights in the release that accompanied the speech. Those highlights include lifting restrictions on American energy, rescinding the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and Waters of the United States regulations, cancelling the Paris Climate Agreement and stopping all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.

Bill Raney, president
West Virginia Coal Association