Archive for June, 2013

What’s At Stake: President Obama’s Upcoming Speech on Climate Change

One day before President Obama’s highly anticipated speech on climate change, energy producers, small businesses and families are all preparing for the impact of a potentially serious shift in energy policy.

On one side, American energy producers, who want to operate within a reasonable framework, continuing to advance cleaner more efficient technology projects; and on the other, environmentalists and the EPA, who do not seem interested in finding a balance between protecting jobs, keeping energy prices affordable and producing cleaner energy.

Jean Chemnick, reporting for E&E examined how industry and political leaders are gearing up for the President’s speech and turned to ACCCE President and CEO Mike Duncan for his insight:

If the government creates standards that are not practical, they risk not just shutting down existing plants, but also halting the development of additional clean-coal technology facilities.  Taking America’s most significant source of electricity offline would have disastrous consequences for our nations economy.

Energy policy is about jobs and finding a way to produce cleaner more efficient power but mostly it’s about keeping the lights on for American families.  We hope that the President and his Administration recognize these priorities tomorrow when he addresses climate change.

A Bipartisan Effort to Protect Jobs and Keep Prices Low

These days, finding an issue where Republicans and Democrats agree is no easy task, but yesterday a bipartisan group of state Attorneys General joined together to call on the administration to protect American jobs and keep our energy costs low.

What brought the AGs from 21 states and two parties together?

Certain states and Washington D.C. are working in conjunction with environmental groups to pressure the EPA into issuing rushed regulations as part of a court settlement rather than through an open and deliberative process.

Criticizing the “sue and settle” tactic, the 21 AGs who signed the letter wrote: “Appropriate process should not be subjugated, and effective policy making cannot be forced to fruition, by threatening litigation.”

These 21 Attorneys General just want to see energy policy made correctly, and we don’t think that’s too much to ask of the administration:

Alan Wilson
Attorney General
State of South Carolina
Luther Strange
Attorney General
State of Alabama
John J Burns
Attorney General
State of Alaska
Dustin McDaniel
Attorney General
State of Arkansas
Tom Horne
Attorney General
State of Arizona
Samuel S. Olens
Attorney General
State of Georgia
Leonardo M. Rapadas
Attorney General
Derek Schmidt
Attorney General
State of Kansas
James D. “Buddy” Caldwell
Attorney General
State of Louisiana
Bill Schuette
Attorney General
State of Michigan
Jon C. Bruning
Attorney General
State of Nebraska
Wayne Stenehjem
Attorney General
State of North Dakota
Michael DeWine
Attorney General
State of Ohio
E Scott Pruitt
Attorney General
State of Oklahoma
William H. Ryan, Jr.
Attorney General
State of Pennsylvania
Marty J. Jackley
Attorney General
State of South Dakota
Greg Abbott
Attorney General
State of Texas
Mark Shurtleff
Attorney General
State of Utah
Ken Cuccinelli
Attorney General
State of Virginia
Gregory A. Phillips
Attorney General
State of Wyoming
Pam Bondi
Attorney General
State of Florida

Stand Up for Kentucky Miners and Kentucky Families

Today we want say “thank you” to U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield and Kentucky State Rep. Jim Gooch who are standing with Kentucky’s 14,000 plus coal miners.

In an op-ed published last Friday, Reps. Whitfield and Gooch shine a much-needed spotlight on a planned anti-coal protest in Louisville later this week.

The group planning the protest, who is supported by the Sierra Club, has one goal: to destroy the jobs and benefits Kentuckians enjoy thanks to the coal industry.

Coal-fueled plants generate 92 percent of Kentucky’s electricity. The protest group would see these plants shut down and energy prices skyrocket as a result of the drastic decrease in energy supply.

What’s more troubling than this protest group trying to influence Kentucky’s energy policy is that they stand in support of a rule that wasn’t created by elected officials with public input, but rather by the EPA who wouldn’t just hinder new plant creation, but could target existing plants if they get their way.

At a time when coal generated electricity production is increasing around the world, we need strong leaders like Reps. Whitfield and Gooch to stand against this plan to destroy Kentucky jobs and raise energy costs for Kentucky families.

Congratulations to the Turk Plant for Winning EEI’s 2013 Edison Award

We are proud to announce that American Electric Power (AEP) received Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI’s) 2013 Edison Award for the completion and recent launch of the John W. Turk, Jr. Power Plant in Arkansas. The most prestigious honor in the electric power industry, the award recognizes the use of innovative technology that allows the plant to operate at high efficiency and meet “21st-century electricity needs” says EEI President Tom Kuhn.

The plant, which began commercial production in December 2012, serves as a principal source of baseload electricity for the three-state operating region of Louisiana, Arkanasa and Texas, the release reported. The plant is known for deploying ultra-supercritical generating technology and is the first of its kind. “Turk will provide reliable, affordable power for our customers and project partners and will provide significant benefits for the area’s economy,” according to Nicholas K. Akins, AEP President and CEO and previously reported by ACCCE.

According to the release, this is not the first time American Electric Power has had the honor of receiving the Edison Award. The organization was recognized twice in the 1950s and once again in the 1990s for their use of innovative technologies and commitment to environmentally responsible practices.

High-Tech Coal Comes to Indiana

A new 21st Century coal plant utilizing state-of-the-art technology began running today in Knox County, Ind., says Duke Energy Corp. to E&E.

The Edwardsport Generating Station will replace older coal plants and offers immediate environmental benefits. “The 618-megawatt integrated gasification combined cycle Edwardsport plant will produce more electricity but about 70 percent less sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions compared with the plant it is replacing. The new plant will cut greenhouse gas emissions by half, ” reported E&E.

Clean coal technology has become a commercial reality in states like Indiana, where coal has powered the state for “more than a century,” said Doug Esamann, president of Duke Energy Indiana. Other high-tech facilities, like the John W. Turk Power Plant in Arkansas, showcase the benefits of clean coal technologies. The plant, which generates “electricity more efficiently at higher temperatures, requiring less coal and producing fewer emissions to generate the same amount of power as existing coal units,” is the first ultra-supercritical generating unit to go into operation in the U.S., as reported previously by ACCCE.

Coal may not regain its dominance in the electricity sector — study

Originally posted on E&E Daily, Daniel Cusick, 6/7/2013

While coal consumption by U.S. electric utilities has rebounded from 2012′s historic low levels, a new analysis from SNL Financial suggests that coal will not regain its dominance among energy fuels as utilities and independent power producers gravitate toward natural gas, wind, solar and other alternate fuels to meet U.S. electricity demand.

According to SNL Energy, more than 11,600 megawatts of new coal-fired generation units are currently in the development pipeline, accounting for 3 percent of all planned capacity additions. But given the “rigors of a project advancing from announcement through construction,” SNL Energy said, the likelihood of all that generation coming online “is slim.”

Rather, 13 projects in the advanced development stage or already under construction — currently estimated at just more than 7,000 MW of capacity — are “most likely to become operable,” the researchers said. And of that, only 1,250 MW is expected to come online before 2015, when new federal regulations targeting coal plant emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants take effect.

“The bulk of new coal capacity with an expected in-service date — 6,230 MW, or 53 percent — will come online in 2015 or later, after the standards for new electric generating units under MATS [Mercury and Air Toxics Standards] take effect,” the researchers wrote. More than 4,200 MW of those planned projects have no expected in-service date, and 2,168 MW are postponed projects “that may never get off the ground,” according to SNL.

Steve Piper, SNL Energy’s associate director of energy fundamentals, said that all new coal plants will be designed to comply with EPA’s MATS rules, but developers will face additional EPA regulations addressing water intake and cooling water discharges, rules that could further drive up costs for new plants.

CO2 regulations a ‘wild card’

A greater risk to coal plant development, he said, lies in EPA’s proposed regulation of carbon dioxide, the omnipresent greenhouse gas that scientists have linked to climate change. The agency has issued a draft rule that would cap CO2 emissions at 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of generation for new power plants, a proposal that has drawn fire from utilities and proponents of coal-fired power.

Piper called EPA’s carbon regulation plans a “wild card … that could potentially put a lot of these projects on the shelf temporarily or in some cases over the long term.”

Lisa Camooso Miller, a spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which has advocated for new advanced coal plants, said in an e-mailed statement that “it is clear the EPA regulations are having a chilling effect on the development, of newer, cleaner and more efficient plants that the United States will need to stay globally competitive.”

She also rebutted the notion that coal is waning as fuel for electricity, saying it is “still projected to be our nation’s dominant source of electricity for decades to come.”

Among the more promising technologies for future coal plants, according to SNL’s Piper, is integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), one of only a few technologies that can capture CO2 from flue gases.

But construction of IGCC plants has proved to be very expensive, and only two such plants are under construction in the United States: Southern Co.’s Plant Ratcliffe in Mississippi and Duke Energy Corp.’s Edwardsport facility in Indiana. Both of those projects have been burdened by steep cost overruns, and only one, Plant Ratcliffe, plans to incorporate carbon capture and storage technology.

Other IGCC projects — in Texas, Ohio, Kentucky and California — remain in the advanced development stage but have not commenced construction, according to SNL Energy. One of those plants, known as the Texas Clean Energy Project, will deploy carbon capture technology, according to developer Summit Power Group of San Antonio.

Another Texas project spearheaded by NRG Energy Inc. will seek to retrofit an existing coal plant near Houston with carbon capture technology, but it will not use IGCC (ClimateWire). In Illinois, a coalition of investors along with the Department of Energy is working to complete FutureGen 2.0, which will use oxy-combustion technology combined with carbon capture and storage. That plant is projected to come online in 2017 (ClimateWire).

Democrats Uniting Against Coal Regulations

Democrats are breaking ranks with the Obama administration on proposed regulations that could cost America jobs, claims the Daily Caller in multiple recent articles.

Filing a brief that the EPA has misinterpreted its authority under the Clean Air Act and is overstepping their power by requesting to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, Govs. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia and Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are uniting for Coal, says the Daily Caller.

“The EPA’s proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions threaten the livelihood of our coal miners to the point of killing jobs and crippling our state and national economies, while also weakening our country’s efforts toward energy independence,” said West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

This contingent of Democrats have brought the new emissions rules to the attention of the Obama administration, going so far as to claim it would “ruin the coal industry,” says the Daily Caller. They report that the proposed limits would prevent construction of new coal plants or the upgrading of existings sources. In a letter to the EPA, Beshear asked to drop the proposal that would require coal-fired plants to meet the same emissions standard as those that use natural gas or oil.

Industry coalition backs off aggressive ads, looks for softer pitch

Originally posted on E&E Daily, Manuel Quinones, 6/5/2013

Last summer the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity rolled out an ad campaign featuring NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. Others had more of a hard edge, slamming the Obama U.S. EPA.

Then-ACCCE Senior Vice President Evan Tracey said the group had about $40 million for communications.

The group spent much of that on ads like this: “Heavy-handed EPA regulations have taken us down a reckless path, a path limiting our most abundant and reliable domestic fuel to generate electricity — coal. Now is the time to send leaders to Washington who will tell the EPA enough is enough.

Now, the coalition is doing an about-face.

Without offering details, coalition CEO Mike Duncan said yesterday that ads would no longer be as important to ACCCE’s goals.

“We have spent a lot of money in recent years on paid media,” he said in an interview at ACCCE’s office in downtown Washington, D.C. “One of the things that we found is that we didn’t get our message out as effectively as we would like.”

Not enough people know, he said, that plants have installed emissions control technologies that have significantly reduced the release of pollutants like mercury and sulfur dioxide.

Duncan — former chairman of the Republican National Committee and founding chairman of the political action committee American Crossroads — said he wants to generate more “earned media,” press coverage that can explain “clean coal” in a positive way.

“People will listen, if you are making a logical case,” said Duncan, 62. “So it’s being reasonable. That’s a big part of what we are going to be talking about — the reasonable case for folks.”

In recent months several top staffers have left ACCCE, including Tracey. So Duncan is looking to tap a new senior vice president with a track record for garnering press coverage.

The coalition has also hired public affairs firm JDA Frontline Inc. and is continuing to work with FTI Consulting.

“We’ve got to do more than that,” Duncan said. “We’ve learned from our polling and our research that we’ve got to take it to another level.”

Utilities, railroads and other members don’t always agree on how to “sell” coal. So while working on crafting a new strategy, especially leading into another election cycle, Duncan is also persuading ACCCE members to buy into an “all of the above” campaign aimed at deploying various techniques beyond ads.

“Frankly, it takes a great deal of money to move the needle substantially in America in advertising,” Duncan said. “When you look at that spending and you look at the other opportunities that are out there today to persuade people though social media, through direct contact, you evaluate your resources and see how you’re going to use those resources.”

He added, “One of the things that I’m particularly interested in is big data and how we can use that to help identify people we can persuade, help identify people who have a predilection for our message now and identify those who oppose us so we can talk to them in different ways.”

Duncan’s experience is not only political. He was once president of the Kentucky Bankers Association with roots in the Appalachian coal fields. He has also served as chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority board.

With President Obama winning re-election and EPA poised to continue its regulatory agenda dealing with greenhouse gases from power plants, affecting coal generation in particular, ACCCE wants more dialogue with the administration.

The group had a meeting with senior White House officials in recent weeks and is preparing for another one. ACCCE’s goal is to reach some common ground that doesn’t prevent new power plants from being built.

Duncan’s message to America: “We are going to provide reliable, affordable electricity in an environmentally friendly way.”