Archive for May, 2013

Nevada in Danger of Higher Electricity Rates

In this tough economy, Nevada must produce electricity at a price families and small businesses can afford.

One bill, SB 123, being considered right now by the Nevada State Assembly, would increase utility rates across Nevada and guarantee higher profits for NV Energy, the state’s biggest utility. Additionally, SB 123 would require ratepayers like you to foot the bill for both replacement power plants and the idle power plants that will be shut down early.

Worse, the bill would undercut consumer protections by circumventing the normal approval process at the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

Read the Las Vegas Review Journal’s editorial on the bill and if you’re a Nevada resident, call your State Assemblyman today and urge them to vote NO on SB 123. Thank you for your support!


The EPA Must Answer for its Back-door “Sue and Settle” Deals

An article from the Washington Examiner has decried the EPA’s continued use of “sue and settle” tactics which allow for closed-door deals to be made and ratified without any sense of transparency to the public.

The “sue and settle” process occurs when a private environmental group sues the EPA in federal court seeking to force the EPA to issue new regulations by a certain date. Then, the agency and group officials meet behind closed doors to hammer out a deal; typically, in the deal, the government agrees to do whatever the activists want. Most importantly, the last step occurs when the federal judge issues a consent decree, thus making that deal the law of the land.

Since 2009, the EPA has reached such closed-door deals with the Sierra Club 34 times and have worked under a “settle and sue” process with another environmental activist group, the WildEarth Guardians, 20 times. The article poses the question as to why the agency isn’t seeing the public rebuke that this type of shady interaction warrants, citing that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted in a comprehensive new report that “several environmental advocacy groups have made the “sue and settle” process a significant part of their legal strategy,” with the article adding that this process is also “a significant funding tool,” for the agency, as in most cases, the suing group’s legal fees are paid for by taxpayers.

All of this occurs outside of the public eye, without congressional hearings or the opportunity for anyone outside of a privileged few to know how new governmental regulator policy is being shaped until it’s already ratified and too late to for any changes to be made. This process is intrinsically anti-democratic and scoffs in the face of any sense of transparency or accountability in the government. It is essential that we repeal “sue and settle” and bring transparency back to all government happenings.

Head over to Twitter and tell @EPAgov to repeal “sue and settle.”


Department of Energy Awards Texas Coal Project $167 million

Originally posted on Climatewire

A proposed project to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide from the W.A. Parish power planet near Houston, Texas was awarded $167 million yesterday by the Department of Energy, says ClimateWire.

This project is set to be the first of its kind in commercial use of carbon capture and sequestration CCS technology on a coal generator. Amid a current environment of diminished stimulus funding and lackluster carbon incentives, this project will succeed projects from Mississippi Power’s Kemper project and SaskPower’s Boundary Dam project in Canada that are currently under construction. 

“The proposed project would help [the department] meet its congressionally mandated mission to support advanced clean-coal technology projects,” states the decision.

The Texas project is planning to have the capture unit of the existing plant operational in 2015. The estimated CO2 captured is said to equate 1.6 million tons per year from the plant’s exhaust, which would otherwise have been emitted to the atmosphere. Older plants will be the source of most coal emissions in coming decades. 

New Technologies Demand Better Policies

Originally posted on National Journal’s Energy Expert Blog :

When it comes to coal, technology is a game-changer. Over the past several decades, emissions from American coal plants are down 90 percent thanks to the more than $100 billion dollars invested in new technologies by America’s coal industry. Unfortunately, the policies coming out of the federal and many state governments do not reflect the transformation occurring in our industry.

The EPA and some state agencies frequently take the bait laid by special interest groups promoting a political agenda that ignores the role that technology has played in making sources such as coal cleaner than ever. They overlook the fact that affordable and reliable electricity impacts not only our nation’s economy, but also the family budget.

So instead of pursuing balanced policies that protect the environment and strengthen the economy, we end up with excessive policies that seek to limit America’s energy options. This is evident with the Nucla Power Plant in Colorado. Thanks to new technologies, this is one of the lowest mercury-emitting coal plants in the country. Yet the EPA’s new rules on mercury could shut it down. This is not an isolated problem. A recent published report found that more than 280 coal-fueled generation units are scheduled to be shutdown due at least in part to EPA regulations.

This is happening at the state level too. In Colorado, some state legislators are seeking to more than double the renewable energy standards for the state’s utilities, which would increase costs for consumers. The city of Los Angeles is proposing to move the city away from coal-based electricity two years before a state-imposed deadline. Last month, the city’s ratepayer advocate reported that such a move could cost more than $600 million dollars.

Responsible policymakers recognize the promise of clean coal technology, and pursue policies that allow American to take advantage of our massive volumes of coal. Much progress has been made in clean coal technology, but the future is even more promising. Last month, GE Power and Water unveiled a new filtration technology for coal plants that is both stronger and more efficient. Earlier this year, researchers at Ohio State University were able to run a scaled-down coal plant while capturing 99 percent of carbon dioxide.

Twenty-first century technologies demand 21st century policies. Instead, we’re getting a stream of policies based on 20th century policies. Coal and clean coal technology must play an important role in meeting our future energy demands. The question is our government pursuing the balanced approach necessary to ensuring that it can?

Coal Fuels More than Electricity in the Midwest

The Midwest has seen a significant uptick in coal output, and as the Wall Street Journal reported today, its recent “comeback” has powered new jobs and economic activity in the region.

The article attributes coal’s surge in this region to clean coal technologies that have enabled mining companies to access more broadly the Midwest’s vast deposits of coal. As Vic Svec, of Peabody Energy, noted in the article, “The widespread deployment of scrubbers [installed on coal-fueled power plants] removes the major barrier—sulfur dioxide—to Illinois Basin coal use.”

As many in the article go on to say, the ramped up production of coal from the Illinois Basin is not only giving communities access to affordable, reliable American-made energy, but it’s also creating jobs and spurring economic growth.

David A. Meyer, chairman of the county board of Washington County, IL, said the project has given the area a much-needed boost and has provided “permanent good-paying jobs, some of them very high-tech.” Indeed, one coal mine in a farming community southeast of St. Louis added 580 jobs and helped fund a high school and court building. In McLeansboro, 70 miles to the east, a mine under construction has brought jobs and several new businesses to the area.

Wyoming sets coal mining milestone

This week, Governor Matt Mead announced a new milestone: Wyoming will mine its ten billionth ton of coal in May.  According to the EIA, “The Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming is the largest coal-producing region in the Nation, accounting for nearly two-fifths of all coal mined in the United States.”

“This is a significant achievement for our state and country. Coal mining has provided thousands of jobs in Wyoming over the last 150 years, all the while fueling America’s economy,” Governor Mead said. “Coal has helped make America great because it is an affordable and reliable source of energy. It keeps the lights on in our homes and powers America’s industries.”

The announcement also applauded two Wyoming-based mines Arch Coal’s Black Thunder Mine  and Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle Mine—that accounted for 20% of all U.S. coal production in 2012 combined.  Overall, 401 million tons of coal were produced in Wyoming last year.

Coal fuels American homes and businesses with affordable and reliable energy, and will continue to play a vital role in our nation’s energy mix.