Trump’s EPA Responds to FOIA Request Obama Completely Ignored
By Michael Bastasch
The Daily Caller
(Dec. 27, 2017) – The Environmental Protection Agency sent The Daily Caller News Foundation a Christmas present this year by finally responding to a records request from more than two years ago.
Well, it wasn’t all holiday cheer. EPA said The DCNF needed to narrow down its two-year-old request for emails between Obama administration officials and environmental groups regarding the Clean Power Plan.
Federal agencies are required by law to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests within 20 working days. The DCNF filed its FOIA request on May 29, 2015, and EPA responded on Dec. 21, 2017 — that’s 646 working days.
By Taylor Kuykendall
(DEC. 22, 2017) – Political rhetoric around the coal industry may have sounded to some like the promise of a comeback, but many in the sector are simply hoping for a year of stability after markets finally took a turn for the better.
Coal companies, railroads and analysts have suggested 2018 demand could be roughly flat compared to 2017, a year in which coal volumes sprang back off record lows. A relatively warm winter so far could temper early domestic demand, while exports could soften after special circumstances including weather-related events sparked especially strong demand in 2017.
Peabody Energy Corp., the largest U.S. coal mining company, said on its third-quarter earnings call that it was evaluating the weather and other factors to determine its mining plan for the year but was expecting U.S. utility demand to be largely stable, with about 20 million tons of reduced coal demand from plant retirements expected to be largely offset by higher capacity utilization.
With the largest names in the coal space putting bankruptcy reorganizations behind them after a multiyear downcycle in coal markets, balance sheets are cleaner and production cuts have brought the market closer to balance in the wake of a wave of coal retirements. Still, the threat of natural gas displacement and coal-fired retirements looms on the horizon even as companies have been able to lean on recently improved export markets to make up for lost customers at home.
By Robin Bravender, Niina Heikkinen and Zack Colman, E&E News reporters
(Dec. 19, 2017) – After spending most of its first year tearing down climate rules, the Trump administration is now taking steps to write its own.
U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt yesterday asked for wide-ranging comment about how to replace the Obama administration’s signature climate change rule, the Clean Power Plan. In the lengthy document known as an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR), the administration offered important clues about the way forward, claimed that the Obama rule was illegal and gave critics fodder for counterattacks.
“This notice is a lot more substantive than a lot of us expected,” said Jeff Holmstead, an industry attorney who served as EPA’s top air official during the George W. Bush administration. “The expectation was the EPA was going to do a short ANPR and say, ‘Send us your ideas,’” he added. But the level of detail in the 44-page document “suggests they’re serious about coming up with a replacement rule.”
By Greg Walcher
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
(Nov. 30, 2017) – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt recently issued a directive to end a 20-year string of “sue and settle” cases that have funneled untold millions of tax dollars to environmental organizations. Predictably, those groups and their allies are apoplectic about it. Many of these groups have grown from grassroots citizen movements to gigantic cash-flush conglomerates, with much of the cash coming from the government they appear to be fighting. Many now have separate legal arms with hundreds of attorneys, whose primary job is to sue the government and keep the cash flowing.
These organizations vehemently object to the phrase “sue and settle,” saying it oversimplifies a very complex legal procedure. But in fact, the strategy isn’t really very complicated at all.
Congress has created a mess, with all sorts of processes and procedures agencies must follow in making rules and decisions. Every step of the way, those decisions are subject to potential lawsuits. For entirely different reasons, Congress also authorized the government to pay the legal bills of people who are forced to sue to defend their interests against government overreach. It didn’t take long for clever organizations, and their allies in government, to figure out how to turn that combination into a massive public policy ATM.
By NETL STAFF (2017) – Few people think of coal when they think of high-tech devices. However, that may soon change as researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) work to recover materials called rare earth elements (REEs) from coal and coal-based materials. REEs are essential to the manufacturing of many of the devices that people use every day. For instance, their unusual properties help make the best, strongest and lightest magnets in the world that are used in products from earbuds to electric motors that power car windows and mirrors. They also enhance light emissions, making them integral in fluorescent lighting, catalysts, computer screens and smartphones. In addition, rare earths are important in making nearly every technology used in defense systems that protect the country.
Steady & Improved Coal Supply Has Led to a Revival of Indian Power Plants, Ensuring Uninterrupted Power Supply
By Nadja Koijam
(Dec. 22, 2017) – Economic Times reported that Indian power plants now have average coal inventory of about nine days, comfortably breaching the critical stock threshold that forced several generating companies to recently shut down units amid a crisis in supplies of the primary solid fuel.
A senior executive at top state-run generating company NTPC said that “Supplies have improved considerably and a large number of our units at power stations have been brought back up. These units were either operating at very low capacity levels or idling due to the lack of coal. We have been receiving additional rakes since the last few days, helping scale up generation.”
China Faces Wintertime Energy Crisis of its Own Making
By Peter Wood
Jamestown Foundation (Dec. 22, 2017) – Northern China is facing an energy crisis this winter due to shortfalls in heating gas. Since mid-December, reports from Hebei, the province that surrounds Beijing and Tianjin, indicate that schools and residential areas are going without natural gas for heating.
In Quyang county southwest of Beijing and North of Shijiazhuang, schools have not had heating since November 15—though the average temperature during the day has been close to, or below freezing. (These schools were required to remove coal-fired heating ahead of the winter season as part of a larger initiative to reduce smog and CO2 emissions.
In August, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), a powerful government agency, announced that the construction of new coal power plants was going to be postponed through 2020. At the same time, use of coal was going to be essentially replaced in north central China—primarily with natural gas.
As the world’s top consumer and producer of coal, this is no easy task (EIA, May 14, 2015). In fact, China consumes four times as much coal as all of Europe (including Russia) and Central Asia combined.
By Betsy Monseu, CEO
American Coal Council
There is no question that the future is brighter for our nation’s coal industry.
Changes in policy, regulations, and markets are contributing to a stronger domestic coal industry. The U.S. economy is growing again. Global economic activity is increasing. The business prospects of other countries that use our coal for electricity, steel-making, and other industrial purposes are better. U.S. coal exports are up a whopping 70 percent year-to-date through September 2017.
Some new U.S. coal mines have opened and others are expanding, adding good jobs and tax revenue for states and localities. According to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, year-to-date 2017 U.S. coal production has increased by about 8 percent over 2016. Coal-mining employment is trending similarly. It has risen every quarter of 2017, and was up 7 percent for the most recent period, per analysis by S&P Global Coal Market Intelligence.
The path for coal’s comeback is driven by President Trump’s dramatically different vision for the development and use of our nation’s energy resources. These riches are seen as a strength, not something to be kept in the ground. They are viewed as a means to achieve energy independence and provide energy security. The energy policy differences between the current administration and the prior one are most striking when it comes to coal, which the United States has more of than any other country.
The Trump administration started early this year to restore balance and fairness to the federal regulatory process, support job creation, and strengthen energy independence. Actions by Congress and the president in February and March initiated the process of eliminating, rescinding, or changing many federal regulations affecting coal production and use. Having been pushed through under the various guises of environmental benefits, regulatory streamlining, and business planning certainty, they were simply sweeping bureaucratic maneuvers to increase the cost of coal and make it less competitive in the marketplace. Thus, the foundation has begun to be laid to rebuild and sustain our nation’s vital coal industry.
One regulation currently proposed for repeal by Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt is the EPA’s rule for carbon-dioxide emissions reductions from the power sector, dubbed the Clean Power Plan by the prior administration.
EIA’s “Annual Energy Outlook 2017” analysis shows that 240 million tons of annual coal production will be maintained without the Clean Power Plan. The National Mining Association estimated that nearly 28,000 high-wage mining jobs and about 100,000 jobs throughout the supply chain will be saved without the Clean Power Plan.
Both Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have been vocal about the need for fuel diversity in the power sector. Perry’s recently proposed rule to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urges appropriately valuing our nation’s important baseload generating resources, including coal, in wholesale electricity markets.
Many years of policy incentives for building wind and solar generation have increased the amount of these less efficient, intermittent electricity sources in our nation. FERC must act to counter this trend that is likely to expose consumers to diminished electricity system reliability and resilience, and higher electricity prices in the absence of its action. Coal is a key fuel resource with proven reliability and resilience attributes. The price level and price stability of coal over time have been integral to affordable electricity in America.
In addition to these policy and regulatory changes on the domestic front, facilitating U.S. coal exports to the global marketplace is important to coal’s continuing recovery. International use of coal is growing as global electrification and urbanization increase. Preserving traditional export markets and finding ways to increase U.S. competitiveness to expanding markets has important corollary benefits, including enhancing our nation’s balance of trade and sustaining jobs in coal mining, transportation, and shipping. A good example would be adding new port/terminal capacity on the U.S. West Coast, which can ensure long-term U.S. participation in the Asian markets.
Our coal is mined, shipped, and consumed under the most stringent environmental and safety standards in the world. With the appropriate and overdue leveling of the playing field for coal in the federal policy and regulatory arenas, the rebound our industry is experiencing will continue. That will benefit both Americans and those beyond our borders.
Exciting work is going on at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory where researchers are looking at recovering valuable rare earth elements from coal and coal-based materials. Read more about it in thie current edition of American Coal magazine at http://acclive.com/2017/11/17/the-future-of-rare-earth-elements-may-lie-with-coal/.
By Roger Bezdek, for the U.S. Department of Energy
(WASHINGTON) – The U.S. coal industry is distressed, and the fate of U.S. coal mining regions and jobs figured prominently in the 2016 Presidential election. EIA forecasts that coal will continue to decrease as a source of U.S. electricity production through 2050. The economic and societal costs of coal mine closures are large, and the decline of the coal industry has taken a heavy toll. For example, the increased poverty associated with coal job losses is startling, and in some eastern Kentucky counties poverty rates exceed 30% and child poverty rates approach 50%.
[The study shows that] coal-related job losses in Appalachia were actually four times as large as is generally reported, and the job losses in the U.S. were nearly six times as large. These job losses in Appalachia over a five year period had devastating consequences – especially for Kentucky and West Virginia. Absent these losses, both states would have experienced full employment instead of recession. Coal jobs are thus the difference between recession and full employment, especially at the county level. Further, coal jobs in Appalachia pay very well. For example, a coal mining job in eastern Kentucky pays more than twice as well as the average private sector job in the state.
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