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An Education: Meeting America’s Power

As the 2015 Communications Intern at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, I’m learning right alongside the thousands of people across the country the organization fights for every day. Though I didn’t grow up around coal, I’m passionate about protecting American businesses and families. The coal industry is too often misrepresented in the media and mistreated in Washington. Just like you, I’m determined to hear the stories and fight the fight on behalf of the 700,000 men and women who provide us with reliable energy from coal.

I grew up a military brat and lived in Maryland, Georgia, Hawaii and Texas before moving to the Virginia suburbs outside of Washington, D.C. In each place, I observed and appreciated the resourcefulness and work ethic of everyday Americans. After 9/11, I watched young soldiers bravely stand guard at our nation’s military bases and government facilities. When I moved to San Antonio, I was astounded at construction workers who repaired our city’s roads in sweltering temperatures of over 100 degrees. Now that I live near West Virginia, it amazes me every day to think of and read about the hard work and determination of that state’s thousands of coal miners. The Mountain State is one of many that receives a vast amount of its electricity from coal and the people who harvest that energy must not be forgotten.

Since both of my parents were lawyers for the military, I heard many stories growing up of how the Air Force works tirelessly to comply with the Clean Air Act, a vast and broad piece of legislation associated with the Environmental Protection Agency. My mother knew the ins and outs of that law impressively and could share with me the sometimes harmful ways in which it inconvenienced military members and slowed progress. Today, America faces new EPA regulations that would unfairly burden families and businesses.

I’ve seen throughout my life the danger that is posed when government agencies overregulate the private sector. Our nation was built on the success of privately-owned industries that were allowed to flourish and grow. I’m not a coal miner’s daughter, but I believe the people of the coal industry represent the strength of American ingenuity.


Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidates Vow to Fight EPA Overreach

The political scene in my home state of Kentucky has been quite interesting since early 2014. Barely half a year has passed since Senator Mitch McConnell cinched a reelection victory and became Senate Majority Leader. Now another heated election is underway, this time for the position of Kentucky’s governor. Beyond enduring a tough race, candidates in the gubernatorial election have one significant thing in common – a staunch opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations.

The resistance displayed by this year’s gubernatorial candidates is especially important, as it is state officials who will be mandated by EPA to craft a plan to comply with the regulations. In Kentucky, allowing EPA’s regulations to take effect would be disastrous to both our economic and energy future. Kentucky generates 93 percent of its electricity from coal and receives nearly 70,000 direct and indirect jobs from the coal industry. For political candidates in Kentucky, fighting EPA’s seriously flawed plan is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but a matter of the state’s energy stability and economic security.

Before the primary, every major gubernatorial candidate either “promised or suggested they would not follow through” with a state implementation plan. The eventual party nominees, Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat (and current Attorney General) Jack Conway, have both made it known Kentucky will not stand idly by while EPA tries to impose the rule.

When asked about carbon regulations, Matt Bevin said he would direct his administration to “resist EPA and their draconian regulatory agenda.” Attorney General Conway echoed this sentiment, saying he viewed EPA’s overreach as illegal and would work to “prevent further damage to [Kentucky’s] economy from overzealous regulation.” In fact, Conway has already taken action against the agency, joining 14 other states in a lawsuit against EPA’s plan.

With both major gubernatorial candidates vowing to oppose EPA’s harmful carbon regulations, and Leader McConnell rallying governors across the nation to reject the Obama Administration’s climate crusade, Kentucky is leading the fight for states to shape their own energy futures. I am proud to see my home elect this approach to energy policy and hope other states will do the same.


The Morning Consult: EPA & NRDC Resorting to Smoke and Mirrors Antics

This column originally appeared in The Morning Consult on May 28, 2015.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations have been at the center of widespread opposition since their release last year. Even in the face of criticism from elected officials, energy experts, regulators and scores of concerned citizens, the Obama Administration has vowed to ensure its environmental agenda is implemented at any cost. As a result, EPA is now scrambling to build public support before the rule is finalized this summer, calling on friends and allies to come to its aid – and, according to a recent New York Times article, using social media campaigns to build perceived support for its plans.

In coordination with the EPA, environmental groups have been staunch and vocal defenders of its proposal. Some have even argued the measure doesn’t go far enough, demonstrating the alarming degree of radicalism within the ranks of the environmental elite.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently attempted to broaden support by releasing a study with questionable claims that casts EPA’s plan in an emphatically positive light.  This comes as no surprise considering NRDC has an intimate connection to EPA’s carbon regulations and maintains a cozy relationship with the agency.

One of the report’s most egregious and tiresome points is that EPA’s proposal will lower electricity bills for U.S. consumers. Even EPA admits electricity prices will increase under its rule, a fact that is further validated by research from NERA Economic Consulting. NERA’s analysis found that 43 states will experience double-digit electricity price increases under EPA’s plan, with 14 states facing peak-year price increases of 20 percent or more. To reduce electricity bills and energy use, consumers will have to spend upwards of $560 billion. So people will have to pay more to use less energy.

Like many environmental groups, NRDC claims to be a champion of the disenfranchised. But we know that low-income Americans will face a disproportionate burden of electricity cost increases under EPA’s proposal. By ignoring these truths and claiming in its report that landlords will help the poor, they do serious injustice to 23 million low-income families in 31 states who bring home less than $1,300 after-tax a month and already spend 22 percent on energy costs they can barely afford.

It is the very underserved people NRDC claims to be helping — impoverished families, children, the elderly and other vulnerable constituencies — who will suffer the most as a result of EPA policy.

Another claim made in NRDC’s report is that EPA’s carbon regulations will help prevent health problems caused by air pollution, especially in low-income communities. These claims are patently false and have been debunked repeatedly, as carbon dioxide emissions have nothing to do with pollution or public health. EPA already stringently regulates the environmental causes of these ailments, ozone and particulate matter, which NRDC erroneously commingled in its discussion of public health.

The erroneous claims in the report keep piling up as NRDC goes onto suggest EPA’s plan won’t harm electric reliability. They argue renewable resources will supplant low-cost, dependable fossil fuels under the plan that will actually result in “a better electricity grid with reliability that is second to none.” This is laughable as leading utility experts and grid operators across the country have invalidated this claim repeatedly, as low-cost, reliable fuel sources like coal are absolutely indispensable to generating electricity.

The report likewise fails to pass the sniff test in its assertion that EPA regulations are not to blame for coal plant retirements. Of the 72,000 MW of coal plant retirements and announced retirements since 2010, EPA policies have been the primary factor cited for 61,000 MW, or 85 percent, of this capacity. This is equal to almost the entire generating capacity of Ohio. Even EPA’s own analysis attributes 49,000 MW of these retirements to its carbon regulations—nearly twice the entire electricity supply of Virginia. Without fossil fuels, America’s grid will be pushed to the edge, leaving families and businesses susceptible to blackouts, brownouts and rationing.

Finally, NRDC is in the dark about the proposal’s effect on climate change, arguing that the shift to clean energy will “prevent the worst impacts of climate change.” It appears, contrary to their fear-inducing talking points, EPA and its allies are well aware the agency’s proposal is only being pursued under the guise of climate change. In fact, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy even admitted before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “The great thing about this [EPA Power Plan] proposal is that it really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control.” Research confirmed this and proved EPA’s carbon regulations will have no meaningful effect on climate change at all, reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration by less than one-half of a percent, lowering global average temperature by 2/100th of a degree and reducing sea level rise by 1/100th of an inch—equal to the thickness of three sheets of paper.

EPA’s last-ditch effort to muster support for its proposed carbon regulations has only illuminated how problematic and costly the plan really is, as evidenced by NRDC’s flawed report. Unfortunately, EPA and its allies have chosen to ignore reality and, in turn, ignore the investments being made by the coal industry to reduce emissions and foster clean energy innovation. As this administration forges ahead with its dangerous agenda, it is ultimately American consumers who will pay the price if EPA’s carbon regulations are left unchecked.

 


Guest Blog: Kelley Earnhardt Miller on Small Businesses and Affordable Electricity

As the co-owner of a small business, I know firsthand the wonderful and important role small businesses play in communities across our nation. Small businesses drive our local economies, fuel innovation and provide opportunities where they may otherwise not exist, creating two out of three new jobs in the U.S. every year.

The economic health of our communities depends on the success of our small businesses. We have seen that here in Mooresville, N.C., where JR Motorsports has proudly called our home for years. In order for a small business to succeed, it’s important they be allowed to flourish, not held back by rising costs. When the costs of doing business increase, small business owners are forced to make sacrifices to keep their operations afloat.

Electricity is one of the most critical components of a modern business, powering everything from a garage full of machinery to the heat and air conditioning that keep us warm in the winters and cool in the summers. Small business owners rely on low-cost, predictable electricity rates to balance budgets and invest in future growth.

The team at JR Motorsports knows that rising electricity rates affect our bottom line. The last thing my brother Dale Jr. and I want to worry about is choosing between hiring a new team member and keeping the lights on. We’re glad that North Carolina’s electricity rates are nearly 11 percent lower than the national average, due in part to our state’s use of coal.

I’m grateful for an abundant energy resource that can reliably power not just my business, but small businesses across the U.S. I’ll be back with a guest blog post in June, but until then be sure to learn more about affordable, reliable coal-based power, and keep watching the JR Motorsports team each race weekend.


Guest Blog: Buckeyes Count on Coal

For more than 200 years, coal has powered the Buckeye state. With new proposed regulations seeking to change that, Ohio’s energy future, as well as the nation’s, could be in jeopardy.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman tours B & N Coal Company in Noble County, Ohio with the Ohio Coal Association.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman tours B & N Coal Company in Noble County, Ohio with the Ohio Coal Association.

The growth Ohio saw in the early 20th century and the rise of the world’s strongest middle class was no doubt powered, in part, by Ohio’s coal industry. During that time coal jobs were abundant, reaching nearly 50,000 in 1918, the highest in history. Coal also made Ohio an epicenter for manufacturing because of its ability to produce low-cost, reliable electricity. When talking about this state’s great history, you couldn’t possibly tell the full story without coal.

Tom Mackall (CEO, E. Fairfield Coal Company) shows a mining tool to Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson before a mine tour in Jefferson County, Ohio.

Tom Mackall (CEO, E. Fairfield Coal Company) shows a mining tool to Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson before a mine tour in Jefferson County, Ohio.

Current coal reserves in America have the ability to power Ohio and the rest of the country for more than 250 years. That is, if Washington D.C. would step out of the way. The Obama Administration and its unprecedentedly radical Environmental Protection Agency has continuously attacked Ohio’s coalfields with excessive and politically motivated regulations. The effects have been costly for Ohio’s families, who continue losing access to affordable and reliable electricity.

The most disturbing part, however, is that when EPA was taking “testimony” on its so-called “Clean Power Plan,” it stayed far away from Ohio and other coal-producing states. It’s easy to make these decisions when you don’t have to look into the eyes of the people you are harming the most.

When asked by Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson during a committee hearing if she could visit his coal-producing district in Southeast Ohio, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said she had a busy schedule, but that her office would look into it. So far, McCarthy has not landed her taxpayer-funded jet anywhere near coal country to hear how these regulations will affect Ohioans.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French tours B & N Coal Company in Noble County, Ohio.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French tours B & N Coal Company in Noble County, Ohio.

Our vision statement at the Ohio Coal Association is simple:

“…We are committed to advancing the development and utilization of Ohio Coal as an abundant, affordable, and environmentally sound energy source.” 

Environmentalists cringe when reading that coal is environmentally sound because it goes against the misinformation they have propagated for years. The facts are the facts, and our coal companies have tremendous mitigation and reclamation records that have been recognized nationally.

Ohio Congressman Dave Joyce Participates in America’s Power’s "Thank a Miner" Campaign.

Ohio Congressman Dave Joyce Participates in America’s Power’s “Thank a Miner” Campaign.

Our members and association work tirelessly every day to tell coal’s story and to give a voice to those that some in D.C. have chosen to ignore. We teach at schools, community events and alongside our elected officials in both Columbus and Washington. Countless elected officials who have visited our member mines have all had the same reaction to the industry: respect and gratitude to our miners for the coal energy that they work to provide.

The current Administration does not share that reaction and the coal industry has faced incredibly tough times because of it. Regardless, our members have faith that a little bit of Buckeye common sense will prevail in the end. People often say, “Coal Keeps the Lights On.” Well here in Ohio, where we get nearly 70 percent of our electricity from coal, it isn’t just a catchy tag line, but the truth.

Christian R. Palich, President of the Ohio Coal Association


EPA’s Regulations Will Hurt Americans on Fixed Incomes

Like so many across the country, the residents of Red Springs, North Carolina are concerned about rising electricity prices. Since 2001, real energy costs for middle- and low-income families have increased by a staggering 27 percent. Higher energy prices affect all of us, but have a particularly devastating impact on low- and fixed-income families.

Fixed-income seniors are a growing proportion of the U.S. population, and are among the most vulnerable to energy cost increases due to their relatively low average incomes. In 2012, the median gross income of 27.9 million households with a principal householder aged 65 or older was $33,848, one-third below the national median household income. When prices rise but income remains the same, Americans are forced to make tough choices. Do I pay for the utility bill or medication? Do I heat my home or shop for groceries this week?

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon regulations will only exacerbate an already dangerous situation. Under the agency’s plan, 43 states could experience double-digit electricity price increases, with 14 states potentially facing peak year electricity price increases that exceed 20 percent. Jim Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association, explained the devastating effect these increases would have, noting that:

Seniors and low-income folks on fixed incomes will be hit disproportionately hard by rising electricity costs. […]Households in the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution will pay roughly three times what the richest 10 percent pay as a percentage of their income. For all of the president’s talk of income inequality, his carbon plan will only exacerbate the problem.

“These regulations single out those who deserve our compassion and our aid and place the greatest cost on their shoulders,” civil rights leader Dr. Charles Steele recently said. Keeping energy prices affordable is critical for so many Americans. Coal can continue to provide the reliable, low-cost electricity our country needs, but must remain an integral part of our energy portfolio.

 


America’s Power Team Heads to Illinois

Hi Behind the Plug readers! I recently joined ACCCE as senior director of communications, and I look forward to contributing to the Behind the Plug Blog. Here’s a short preview of what’s in store for us this weekend:

Today, the America’s Power team is heading to Joliet, Illinois for an exciting weekend of NASCAR racing at Chicagoland Speedway. We’re looking forward to cheering on Regan Smith, driver of the #7 Clean Coal Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide series, and meeting other members of the America’s Power team from around the country.

At our booth, we’ll be talking to supporters about the importance of coal-based power to fuel electricity in our homes and businesses. Coal provides nearly 43 percent of Illinois’ electricity and accounts for close to 39,000 jobs. Affordable, reliable power is especially critical to Illinois’ economy, as the state serves as a manufacturing hub with nearly 580,000 workers – or 10 percent of the workforce – employed by the industry as of 2013. Keeping our energy costs low will allow these manufacturers to grow their businesses and hire even more workers throughout the state.

If you’re at the race, come find America’s Power in Champions Park, where Regan Smith will be meeting fans and signing autographs on Saturday September 13th at 10:00 AM CT. And if you’re not at Chicagoland Speedway but will be watching the NASCAR races this weekend, keep an eye out for Regan in the #7 Clean Coal Chevy rounding the track and (fingers crossed) racing to victory.

Orange Regan Smith and Car Macro


EPA’s Proposed Carbon Emissions Rule Has Real Consequences

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed  its long-awaited rule aimed at reducing carbon emissions from America’s existing power plants. If the proposed rule is implemented, it will have enormous and far-reaching costs. By cutting down our use of coal-based power, the Obama Administration and the EPA are burdening our families, businesses and local communities with a less reliable and more costly energy future.

So, what are some of the consequences of the rule? Over the past two weeks, we’ve heard from an array of individuals and organizations who understand how far-reaching the consequences of EPA’s carbon emissions rule will truly be:

It will put electric cooperatives across the country at risk.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jo Ann Emerson: “The potential costs of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas regulations threaten every household and business on a budget, not to mention the ability of electric cooperatives to continue providing reliable and affordable energy.”

It will raise prices for families and business owners.

National Black Chamber Of Commerce President & CEO Harry Alford: “Black business owners have already faced rising energy costs over the past few years, a reality that has undermined their competitiveness in the marketplace. We hope that EPA’s new regulation does not set the stage for even greater energy costs and, instead, helps to foster business growth and job creation in communities across the United States. We will thoroughly examine EPA’s new rule to determine how it stands to impact black businesses and America’s broader economy.”

It will jeopardize America’s competitiveness on the world stage.

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons: “As users of one-third of the energy produced in the United States, manufacturers rely on secure and affordable energy to compete in a tough global economy, and recent gains are largely due to the abundance of energy we now enjoy. Today’s proposal from the EPA could singlehandedly eliminate this competitive advantage by removing reliable and abundant sources of energy from our nation’s energy mix. It is a clear indication that the Obama Administration is fundamentally against an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, and unfortunately, manufacturers are likely to pay the price for this shortsighted policy.

It will encourage an overreliance on one source of energy, eliminating the diverse fuel mix needed to maintain price stability and electric reliability.

Arkansas Rural Electric Cooperatives CEO, Duane Highley: “There were gas plant failures, pipeline freezes and wholesale natural gas supply disruptions. Our nation needs and deserves a diverse energy supply portfolio to keep the lights on. By reducing the amount of coal in our generation mix, prices will go up and reliability could go down.’”

Georgia PSC Commissioner Stan Wise: “These overreaching rules trump state authority, put energy users at risk to future price swings, ignores the investments and progress Georgians have made to improve the environment and are a backdoor attempt to force federal renewable energy mandates.”

 

These are just a few of the millions of Americans who know EPA’s proposal rule to cut carbon emissions  is poor policy with costs that far outweigh the benefits. We look forward to sharing more of these opinions over the coming months and encouraging the EPA to listen closely and drastically change their proposed rule accordingly.