Tags: EPA

Straight talk on coal


Today’s Wall Street Journal has a little Q&A with Greg Boyce, CEO of Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest (by output) coal company. Here’s a portion of the interview:

WSJ: Can you improve the image of coal?

Mr. Boyce: Explain to everyone how much electricity today depends on coal. I mentioned to folks here in the U.S. that we still get 42% of our electricity on coal. And they say, “Wait a minute. I thought we stopped using coal.”

WSJ: What do you say to people who say coal is dirty?

Mr. Boyce: Since 1970, coal use has increased almost 200%, yet the emissions from coal have been reduced by almost 90%. Technology has reduced what used to be the standard emissions for coal—sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury and particulates—so the next wave of technology is what do we do to try to decarbonize and try to reduce the CO2 from coal.

WSJ: But what if Americans are willing to pay more for clean energy?

Mr. Boyce: We have 115 million U.S. citizens that qualify for some kind of low-income energy assistance. We already have a third of the population that can’t afford their utility bills. If there are people who want to use boutique and high-priced energy and can afford it, that’s great. But many people can’t even afford what we already have.

WSJ: Does the Obama administration really have a “war on coal,” as many in the coal industry allege?

Mr. Boyce: They just don’t like fossil fuels. But there are no replacements for fossil fuels at scale, at affordability. [The Environmental Protection Agency said there was no war on any fossil fuel. "We see coal continuing to be a third of our energy mix after these rules are implemented," a spokeswoman said.]

WSJ: The EPA has proposed rules to curb climate change by drastically cutting power-plant CO2 emissions. How will that affect you?

Mr. Boyce: It’s too early to tell. All I know is just about everybody doesn’t like them.Many states have already passed some kind of resolution or law saying, “Hey these aren’t going to work for us.” About 80% of U.S. businesses are saying this doesn’t make sense. The devastation in terms of electricity rates will not be tolerable.

Tags: Coal , EPA , Obama Administration

The EPA Plays a Kardashian Game While Toxic Smoke Burns in Afghanistan


The Environmental Protection Agency, hard at work, as ever: “Just last night, government officials at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water sent out a tweet confirming they’ve achieved C-list status in the game.”

Let’s face it, “C-list celebrity” is a really accurate label for this lame-duck administration. 

Meanwhile, in environmental news on the other side of the world

In May 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $4.4 million contract to construct solid waste management facilities, including two incinerators, at Shindand Airbase, a coalition base located in Herat province in western Afghanistan housing approximately 4,000 U.S. and Afghan military personnel and contractors. At the time of the contract award, Shindand Airbase was primarily using open-air burn pit operations to dispose of its solid waste. In addition to the two U.S. Forces- Afghanistan-operated incinerators, in September 2009 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded an $11 million contract for incinerators at various bases for use by the Afghan military…

A May 2013 U.S. Forces-Afghanistan evaluation found that the Afghan-operated incinerators were in operable condition and the Afghans had been trained and had the proper equipment to operate their incinerators; however, the Afghans did not use them because the burn pits were cheaper to operate.

CENTCOM commented that the Afghans fail to use the incinerators because they do not perceive that the health benefits of using the incinerators are worth the cost of the fuel to run them. Nevertheless, CENTCOM stated that coalition leadership continues to encourage the ANSF to use the incinerators.

Toxic smoke emanating from Afghan burn pits poses a threat to the health of coalition personnel serving with Afghans at Shindand Airbase and will not be confined to the Afghan-controlled side of the base.



Tags: EPA , Afghanistan

EPA Rule: All Pain, No Gain


In President Obama’s Year of Action, the EPA levied another unilateral tax on America’s struggling economy Monday with expensive new sulfur standards. The new mandates will cost the energy industry an estimated $10 billion, impact small refineries most, and goose gas prices by 6 to 9 cents per gallon.

And all for no benefit to human health.

“The benefits far outweigh the costs,” claimed EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “These standards will reduce pollution, they’ll clean the air we breathe and protect the health of American families.” There’s no evidence to support that statement.

“It’s made up science,” says Steve Milloy, a regulatory scholar with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and publisher of, of the restriction on gasoline’s sulfur content — part of EPA’s so-called Tier 3 rules.

EPA administrators justify the reduction of smog-inducing PM2.5 particulates to 12 micrograms (from 15 mcg) because they say there is no safe level of PM2.5 exposure. That is absurd. In fact, the EPA routinely funds lab tests that expose humans to diesel fumes containing PM2.5 particulates. The air Americans breath today is clean. Our worst metropolitan areas rarely exceed 15 mcg a day — as compared with the estimated 10,000-40,000 mcg that a smoker inhales from a single cigarette, says Milloy.

“Saying that there is no safe exposure gives EPA carte blanche to regulate whatever they want,” says Milloy.

That regulation inflicts real pain. Higher gas prices hurt low-income Americans most. And EPA regs have made the U.S. refinery business a regulatory thicket — resulting in the closure  of over 100 refineries in the last 40 years — mostly small businesses that can’t afford the regulatory costs. So much for White House claims that it backs the little guy.

The EPA’s rule pitted refineries against Big Auto, which had lobbied hard for the costs to be borne by the energy sector to help autos meet their own stringent government mandates. “This rule’s biggest impact is to increase the cost of delivering energy to Americans,” protested Bob Greco of the American Petroleum Institute. “But it will provide negligible, if any, environmental benefits.”

“This rule is all pain and no gain,” says House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R., Mich.). An apt summary of the Obama presidency.

Tags: Oil , auto , Tier 3 , EPA

Does McAuliffe Even Understand the EPA’s New Rules for Coal Plants?



Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday that he supports new Environmental Protection Agency rules on carbon emissions, taking a clear stance for the first time on an issue that has become a key flashpoint in the Virginia governor’s race.

The EPA unveiled guidelines two weeks ago that would limit the amount of carbon that future coal- and gas-fired plants can emit into the atmosphere, likely making it difficult for any new coal-powered plants to be built. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for governor, has said the rules would be devastating to Virginia’s coal industry, and has accused McAuliffe (D) of being an accomplice to the Obama administration’s alleged “war on coal.”

Lachlan Markay put together this map of where the country’s major coal mines are, and where the EPA’s “listening sessions” about the rules new were held:

As you’ll notice, the sites of the mines and the “listening sessions” weren’t near each other. If you wanted to ensure that no one who actually works in mining weighed in at these “listening sessions,” this is pretty much how you would do it.

The only listening session near Virginia occurred in Washington, D.C.; the Buchanan Number One mine, in Buchanan County, Virginia, is a 400-mile drive away from the nation’s capital. That mine has been in operation for 30 years, employs 627 people, and produces 4.5 million tons of coal per year.

In McAuliffe’s defense, there’s always the possibility that he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about, and is just winging it again:

Asked about the issue again Tuesday during a tour of the Tyson’s Corner technology firm MicroTech, McAuliffe initially avoided a clear position again, saying: “I think we have to look at when the permits [for new coal plants] come in and look at how it applies and what the regulations are.”

When a reporter pressed McAuliffe on whether he supports the guidelines “as they are written right now,” McAuliffe responded: “I do, you bet. What I’ve looked at, I support what we need to do to obviously protect our air and our water.”

“I think we have to look at it” isn’t, technically, a position.

Tags: Terry McAuliffe , Ken Cuccinelli , EPA , Coal

Romney’s New TV Ads Aim to Win Over Coal Country


This morning, the Romney campaign is airing two new television ads hitting the Obama administration on regulations that have hurt — some say crippled — the coal industry. Expect to see them on the airwaves in Ohio and Virginia.

The first is entitled “Way of Life.”

The second is entitled simply “War on Coal.”

The Obama administration’s view was never so succinctly put as it was by Biden at a 2008 rally, “No coal plants here in America.” Or perhaps it was when Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, “If somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all the greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”


After giving then-Sen. Barack Obama a full-throttled endorsement in the 2008 presidential election, the United Mine Workers of America has decided not to endorse either Obama or the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in 2012.

Also note:

The Obama campaign, after strong criticism from coal-industry folks and Democrats in coal country, has quietly fixed its ‘all of the above’ energy policy Web site. The original version included seven pillars of the policy but made no mention of coal — which, after all, generates nearly half the nation’s energy supply.

Earlier this year, EPA Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding spoke at Yale University and declared:

[EPA Administrator] Lisa Jackson has put forth a very powerful message to the country. Just two days ago, the decision on greenhouse gas performance standard and saying basically gas plants are the performance standard which means if you want to build a coal plant you got a big problem. That was a huge decision. You can’t imagine how tough that was. Because you got to remember if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities who depend on coal. And to say that we just think those communities should just go away, we can’t do that. But she had to do what the law and policy suggested. And it’s painful. It’s painful every step of the way.

Then of course, there was the EPA official who described his job and philosophy of enforcement as “crucifying” them:

Kind of like how the Romans used to conquer villages in the Mediterranean — they’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere and they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. Then that little town was really easy to manage for the next few years.

Tags: Barack Obama , Coal , EPA , Mitt Romney

Lack of Energy Policy Kills Two Plant Proposals


Jobs saved, or created, or canceled.

News out of Wyoming:

Work on the High Plains Gasification-Advanced Technology Center, a much-anticipated $100 million research facility planned for Cheyenne, will be halted for at least a year and a half, University of Wyoming officials said Friday.

GE Energy, which has been working jointly with UW on the coal-gasification research center, delayed the project because of uncertainty about the future of U.S. energy policy, according to a UW media release.

GE has already delayed the project since the fall of 2010 because of a lack of a clear U.S. policy on climate and energy.

The facility, which would study advanced coal gasification technology for the Powder River Basin — a key economic driver to Wyoming’s economy — was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012

Wyoming’s Republican Gov. Matt Mead puts the blame square on Washington: “Capital from the private sector only flows to large and ambitious projects when there is reasonable regulatory, legal and financial certainty. This is a real world example of the local impact of the federal government’s failure to provide a policy path forward for energy use in America. An energy policy must include the responsible use of our coal resources. Without a clear policy, investors and developers do not have certainty and cannot plan for risk, which is critical in making decisions to build modern, efficient plants… “America and Wyoming have the leadership capacity, the technology prowess and the private capital availability to wisely put our energy resources to productive use but we are strangled by uncertainty created by the energy policy vacuum in Washington.”

This comes after American Electric Power “shelved plans for a commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) project that was a centerpiece of the federal government’s so-called Clean Coal Initiative” in West Virginia.

The company says Congress’ inability to act on climate policy and a weak economy were left little incentive to go forward with the $668 million project.

AEP and French partner Alstom are already operating a pilot-scale CSS project at the Mountaineer coal plant in West Virginia. With $334 million in federal funding, they planned to expand the project in four phases to eventually capture the emissions from about 220 MW of the plant’s 1,300 MW capacity and store it deep underground…

So far, no commercial-scale CCS plants are in operation in the US, and the technology is beginning to look more and more economically unfeasible (like nuclear power).

The Department of Energy still has $612 million in Recovery Act funding designated for CCS projects in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois. And Southern Company is reportedly building CCS at a 582 MW gasified coal plant in Mississippi that will capture 65% of the emissions.

The American Electric Power plan got scrapped in mid-July and the Wyoming proposal’s delay was announced at the end of July. What possibly could have made these coal plant companies so nervous about what’s coming out of Washington?

Oh, that.

Power plant operators are nervously awaiting a new Environmental Protection Agency regulation, finalized last week, which requires more than 1,000 facilities, including more than 500 coal-fired plants, to meet stricter emissions standards so as not to pollute neighboring states. 

The regulation, called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, calls for plants to install scrubbers to lower particulate emissions in states that are downwind…

The rule, one of a slew of EPA regulations directed at smokestack industries in the coming months, will impose huge costs on power plant operators, say industry representatives. 

“There are five or six other regulations coming down the pike that will have a huge impact on industry and on consumers and businesses, especially in parts of the country where we still have industrial manufacturing jobs,” said Jeffrey Holmstead , an expert in environmental strategies at the law firm of Bracewell and Giuliani.

The stimulus giveth the taxpayer money to create jobs; the regulations taketh away the financial feasibility.

Tags: Barack Obama , EPA , Stimulus

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