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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.


Advocating for America’s Power: Week 1

If you are a frequent reader of Behind the Plug, you have never seen my name before and may be wondering who I am. Well fellow energy enthusiasts, I am China Riddle, a native Eastern Kentuckian making her way as an intern in Washington, D.C. I am writing to you from my office at the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), where I have worked for one week. My status as an intern who is new to ACCCE may cause you to be skeptical about the credibility of this blog or my knowledge of energy. There is no need to fret, however, as I know first-hand of what I speak.

Before venturing to our nation’s capital, I grew up in a small town in the heart of coal country – Virgie, KY to be exact. My father worked as a miner for seventeen years – making me a true representation of the popular ‘coal miner’s daughter’ notion – and eventually became a chief electrician. When I was fourteen, my father’s unique set of skills in welding and electricity allowed him to open his own mining equipment refurbishing business called K&R Rebuild. While his business is doing well, the volatility of the coal industry has caused serious difficulty in the past few years – difficulties that almost closed us down, putting my family’s livelihood in peril.

Due to the administration’s actions concerning coal-fueled power plants, the despair my family experienced is increasingly being shared by the people of my region. When you shut down coal-fueled power plants, coal mines are also shut down, which in turn affects businesses like my father’s. As I take steps toward my dreams of attending graduate school and working in Washington, D.C., my heart is still tethered to my home. How can I allow myself to leave while my family, friends and neighbors are left to face the hardship EPA’s regulations will surely bring? The answer for me is working at ACCCE and advocating for America’s Power. It is here that I am able to chase my dreams, while still using my skills and passion to work on the most important issue that my native region is facing. Through my role at ACCCE, I can make my voice heard and ardently advocate against unrealistic policies that will leave entire coal producing regions throughout the U.S. in economic turmoil.

So, energy enthusiasts, you can expect to hear more from me over the next eight weeks. I will be updating you on my journey as I work with the staff here at ACCCE to advocate for coal, our most abundant, affordable and reliable source of electricity. Together we can contest these poorly made policies to keep electricity rates down and our lights on.

- China Riddle, Communications Intern


Continuing to Share Your Stories

Continuing our “Share Your Story” segment, I decided to go to our Facebook page and collect some thoughts that you all were sharing with us in our comments section of our posts. It’s always amazing to see everyone band together towards a more affordable and reliable energy future. Here’s what you all are saying:

“You talk about state’s rights. Here’s an example where states need to enforce their rights. I wonder how much money we could slash from the budget if we could eliminate the EPA.”

If we have another winter like this past one, without the coal fired plants we will have significant power outages. All though the environmentalists in California will not care about the people in the Midwest and Northeast.”

 

In response to our macro for “What does Coal mean to you?”:

 “It means that I will have lights when the sun goes down and Barry is taking that away from us. Electricity will be unaffordable after he is done we will all be back to candles.”

“It means my family will eat, my husband is a good man who works hard in the mines to take care of us and we are so proud of him.”

 

It’s also great to see everyone engaging in conversation on posts as well. This week, in response to our posting of an Associated Press article, you all had a short conversation which was great and I wanted to highlight:

“I can’t imagine our power bills any higher! Southwest Virginia is going to be dead and people will have to move away to get work.”

  • “Same here in eastern Kentucky…My great great great great grandfather walked into eastern Kentucky with Daniel Boone…This is home, I don’t want to leave…..”
  • “It is the same for us in PA too. The last couple of years’ work has been getting worse. My husband has worked in coal most of his life and now at 63 what are we to do?? This government is only hurting the working middle class!!”

“Do you realize that the invention of electricity due to coal has extended life expectancy over the past 150 years? The industry is cleaner today than ever.”

 

Many thanks to everyone on Facebook who continues to be a part of the energy conversation. We will soon be putting out another comment tool so that we can all tell the EPA to Keep America’s Power On.


Clean Air Month: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Visits Mississippi’s Kemper County Energy Facility

America’s Power has teamed up with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. again, this time highlighting the advancements in clean coal technology to improve emissions.

Since May is Clean Air Month, we visited the Kemper County Energy Facility in Kemper County, Mississippi with Dale Jr. Kemper is one of the cleanest coal plants in the world. By using the most advanced admissions technologies at work in the U.S., Kemper will be able to power the local community in Mississippi cleaner than ever before. Not only is Kemper utilizing cutting edge technology, but it is also investing in the community by boosting local economic activity, increasing tax revenue, hiring local workers and more.

While at Kemper we got to see first-hand the advanced carbon capture technology they are putting into action. Carbon is separated and transported, in Kemper’s case to local oil fields where it is used in the enhanced oil recovery process.

Just like Dale Jr. says in the video, coal is America’s power and works to keep utility costs low and stable in homes and businesses. Dale Jr. himself is a business owner and understands the importance of reliable and affordable electricity to any business’ operations.

We’re proud to partner with Dale Jr. and spread the word about innovative clean coal technologies like those at work at Kemper. Be sure to check out our most recent video and visit www.AmericasPower.org to learn more:

 


My Day at Century Mine

Last week, I paid a visit to St. Clairsville, Ohio, home to Murray Energy Corporation and Century Mine—one of several Murray enterprises. It was my first mine visit, and I’m certainly hoping it won’t be my last. The day started with a personal briefing by Mr. Murray, where we learned about the subsidiaries of Murray Energy Corporation and how his business came into fruition 26 year ago. We then toured a bit of the countryside seeing Ohio Valley Coal and American Energy Corporation in Belmont County before arriving at Century. Mr. Murray detailed for us the many aspects of his operations, imparting his personal wisdom along the way; which I can’t even begin to tell you how valuable it was, especially for a newbie like me.

Murray Mine Group Picture

After getting suited up in our gear and having our safety briefing, we took a quick elevator ride about 400 feet into the earth. When arriving into the actual mine, we took a mine transportation vehicle about six or seven miles into the mine, where we made several stops.  Century Mine opened in 2000, so it was interesting to see how much progress has been made since its inception. The highlights of the visit were seeing the longwall and the continuous miner. There aren’t really words to describe what we saw—the longwall sitting just a couple hundred feet away from us was plowing through the earth and produced an insane amount of coal in just minutes. The efficiency was incredible, and watching the coal pass by on the conveyor belt was a treat. The continuous miner is not as efficient or quick as a longwall, but it gets the job done and is still an amazing piece of technology. We watched the miner drill into the wall and shoot the coal back onto a vehicle that transported it to the conveyor belt. It sounds like a simple process, and the miners made it look easy, but I knew it was nothing of the sort.

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The best part of all of this was that Mr. Murray was giving us the tour himself. You could see his dedication and passion for this industry as well as the well-being of his miners. The people in his mines and community mean the world to him, and it’s evident how much he cares about their safety. Mr. Murray built his company on faith and commitment, and he remains committed today. He cares about people’s jobs and their families and knows how important it is to provide job security in communities where there is too often none. I never would have thought that I would get to spend so much quality time with the CEO of a company, and get to ask him the questions that we did and learn from his work ethic. It was an experience that I know won’t ever be replicated.

 

Probably the most important thing that I’ll take away from this visit is that I got to see a part of the industry that I work to promote and defend. It puts a whole new perspective on what’s really at stake and what the administration is NOT telling people about the consequences of its actions to take coal-based energy out of the mix. My new perspective will be instrumental in helping me carry out our mission, and I am thrilled that I had the opportunity to broaden my horizons.  Thank you to everyone at Murray Energy who helped to make our day truly special. I look forward to the next visit!

 


Nemacolin Energy Conference & PA Economic Impact Analysis



Last week was a big week for coal in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Coal Alliance (PCA) released its economic impact analysis at a press conference in Harrisburg, and they participated in the Nemacolin Energy Institute’s third annual coal conference. Attendees of these events included Governor Tom Corbett; State Representative Jeff Pyle; State Senator Tim Solobay; PCA CEO John Pippy; members of the legislative coal caucus; industry leaders; and, a handful of miners, workers and small business owners. They all had at least one thing in common: their strong belief that taking coal out of our energy mix would have a profound impact on consumers and communities.

Several of the miners, workers and small business owners joined Gov. Corbett in a roundtable discussion, putting a face to the administration’s regulatory crusade against coal and describing the consequences they are facing as a result. Corbett also announced a partnership with Wyoming Governor Matthew Mead to  explore alternatives to carbon emissions from electric generating facilities. The new research facility will be at a coal-fueled power plant and will further research on carbon capture and utilization.

 

“An EPA mandate that does not provide for an ‘all of the above’ energy approach that does not recognize Pennsylvania’s diverse energy resources would compromise electric grid reliability, increase the cost of energy and result in significant job loss . . . We need innovation and flexibility to ensure that we are protecting our environment, while also securing the thousands of jobs that so many families in Pennsylvania’s coal industry rely on.”

–PA Governor John Corbett, at the Nemacolin Energy Institute’s Third Annual Coal Conference

At the press conference, the House-Senate Coal Caucus also introduced a new study that highlights the fact that coal is a significant source of energy and employment in the state. PCA commissioned the study, undertaken by the Pennsylvania Economy League, which shows the coal industry contributed to more than 36,000 jobs and added about $4.1 billion to the state GDP. With about 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s electricity coming from coal, coal will continue to play an important role in the state’s economy and business sector. The study also found that about half of the counties in Pennsylvania have coal-mining activities and jobs, which pay higher wages than the average private sector job in Pennsylvania by about $30,000.

The economic impact that coal has on Pennsylvania is eye-opening. With about 300 plants around the country being forced to close due to EPA regulations, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost. States like Pennsylvania stand to pay the ultimate price because of EPA’s rulemaking, where communities will be devastated and residents will be forced to pay astronomically high electricity bills.

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Protecting Grid Reliability Now, So We Don’t Regret it Later

Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on electric grid reliability concerns—something that was definitely necessary after a series of Wall Street Journal articles came out highlighting the vulnerability of the grid if there were to be a coordinated attack in conjunction with internal analysis from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). While those that normally contribute to the discussion of grid reliability were well represented, it was notable that EPA was absent from the hearing.

This winter was one of the coldest we’ve had in a while, and the changing temperatures all but gave us whiplash. Thanks to coal-based electricity, however, none of us truly suffered the bite of Old Man Winter as the power stayed on. The same may not be true this summer when coal-fueled plants that were running at full capacity this winter come off line due to EPA regulations. In fact, we could all be in for a rude awakening when rolling brownouts and blackouts begin this summer due to an overreliance on one fuel source that is just not capable of meeting demand in real time.

In terms of generating electricity, coal-based power has some general advantages over natural gas that are magnified under conditions like the polar vortex. Natural gas is a “just-in-time fuel”, piped in as power plants use it – so pipeline disruptions due to a drop in temperature or spike in demand impact generation in real time. Coal, on the other hand, is stock-piled at the plant and generally not subject to such disruptions. Further, the price of coal has remained historically steady, whereas the price of natural gas has been much more volatile. Moving forward, we can expect that the price of natural gas will continue to rise much more rapidly than the price of coal. EIA projects that real natural gas prices for electric power generation will increase three times more than coal over the next 20 years.

Since American Electric Power (AEP) ran about 90% of its coal plants that are set to retire in 2015 to help meet demand through the coldest days of winter, it makes you wonder why people want to eliminate the most reliable form of electricity. Further, it begs the question as to why EPA isn’t front and center at a hearing on reliability when its regulations will be responsible for all but ensuring an unreliable grid and higher electricity costs for all.

There’s still time for you to tell EPA that you want a reliable source of affordable electricity. Visit www.EPAregscostjobs.com today and make your voice heard.

 


Coal has been a constant for ACCCE head in a varied career

The article “Coal has been a constant for ACCCE head in a varied career” originally appeared in CEO Update on November 15, 2013.

Mike Duncan says some of his earliest memories concern coal. Both grandfathers, at various times, were miners. After 67 years, his dad still has a country store in Kentucky where he sold supplies to miners when coal was booming in Central Appalachia, where Duncan has always made his home.

After law school, he and his wife bought a controlling interest in a Kentucky bank. For 40 years, they lent money to small coal companies and miners themselves. He’s back in Appalachia often, recently visiting along with six staffers. “It’s part of the culture. I’m trying to make sure that they understand a little bit more about the groups that we represent.

Duncan came to ACCCE in 2012 after a career that took him from small-town banking to big-time politics. Active in Republican politics for years—at county, state and national levels—he was chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2007-2009, and in 2010 was founding chairman of the American Crossroads Super PAC. Along the way, President George W. Bush had named him to a term on the Tennessee Valley Authority board.

“Of course coal was part of the mix,” he said, along with nuclear and hydroelectric power.

He talked to CEO Update about steering ACCCE (See Preparing for transition can prevent staff turnover from becoming toxic), his entry into associations and his political background. Excerpts follow:

CU: How did the job at ACCCE come about?

MD: I was looking to go on another corporate board after my Tennessee Valley Authority board [post] expired, something in the energy space. I’d learned a lot during that period of time, so I had a skill set that was kind of interesting, and I was young enough and I thought, well, this might be an interesting thing to do, so I started talking to some of my friends. One called me and said, “Hey, I’ve got something for you,” and I thought it was probably an energy board of some kind. They said, “No, there’s this association that you really need to look into,” and I said, “Well, I’m not interested in being a lobbyist.”

[But] I’ve worked on causes all my life, and he said, “Well, this is a cause that you’ll feel good about.” And he submitted my name to [executive search firm] Russell Reynolds. Then I was contacted and did the interview process and learned it was something I did have a passion about, because it was the whole idea of coal and coal-based electricity, which means that the utilities were involved, and then, the third part was the rail.

We are a little different than an average coal association. We’re a coalition of coal companies. They’re represented by their own association here in town [National Mining Association]. And we’ve got the railroads—[Association of American Railroads CEO] Ed Hamberger does a great job representing the railroads. Then, you’ve got the investor-owned utilities, and we also have co-ops as part of our group, and the utilities. We also have as the final component, manufacturers, vendors who supply the chain. So ACCCE was created.

CU: In leading this coalition, you have different constituent groups in a way. Is there some analogy to the RNC?

MD: Well, I think everything you do in life prepares you for the next step. Certainly, being at the RNC was great preparation. There, I was a member first, then a southern regional vice chairman. Then, I was elected treasurer, then confirmed as general counsel, and then President [George W.] Bush asked me to be chairman. I’ve worked with almost every group within the RNC, so managing coalitions really is an important part.

Beyond that, I spent a year studying—when I worked at the White House for Bush 41—the difference between private enterprise and government, so had classes at [Harvard's] Kennedy School. Working in the nonprofit sector is analogous to that. It’s not private sector, and it’s not government. It’s somewhere in between, but it’s managing those expectations of different groups, so all those things, I think, prepared me.

CU: And you had association experience. You were head of the Kentucky Bankers Association.

MD: I was. It was a great experience for me. I was the youngest bank CEO at one time, and then, I was the youngest president of our state bankers association. I was 26 when I became CEO of a community bank. Then when I was president of the Bankers Association—gosh, that was in the mid-’80s, so I was in my early 30s—it fell upon me to head the association during a time when they were looking for a new CEO. The guy who had it for many years decided to retire, so a big part of my job that year was to prepare the association for the transition.

We were trying to go from a dues-based organization to a service-based organization, and I learned a great deal about associations. During that period I wasn’t the day-to-day officer, but I had to immerse myself in the daily activities of the association during the interview process, and I’m proud to say that the person that we hired is still there all these years later.

CU: How did you get involved in politics?

MD: I grew up on the Tennessee-Kentucky border. Our business was in Kentucky, and our farm was in Tennessee. I had an uncle who ran for superintendent of schools. It was an elected position then, and I went with him every day he campaigned one summer, and we lost by 12 votes. Of course, it broke my heart, but I learned a great deal, and I was hooked. Also, in this little community, former Sen. Howard Baker resided there, and his father was a congressman. His father and my uncle knew each other, and I thought everyone was interested in politics because I was in a hotbed of political activity. So my roots in politics go back a long way, and I think prepared me for the debate that was going on in leadership positions, understanding structures and understanding moving organizations forward.

CU: What are some of the policy challenges this association is facing?

MD: I believe that the EPA sometimes misreads the acts, and in this instance I think they have misapplied the Clean Air Act, and how it should be interpreted. I think the fact that they’ve come out with a new source of standards for new power plants to be built has done a couple things while they’ve gone through the process. It’s frozen any new plants because of uncertainty in the capital market, and I think now that they have a proposal out for comment that will create a de facto ban on new coal plants in the country, because it’s established a standard that’s not achievable. I believe their policy will be counterproductive in the fact that it will discourage people from making investments.

When I was a young man, I remember seeing Los Angeles for the first time or even Cleveland and seeing the dirty air there. We’ve cleaned up a lot of that, and where they’re going with their new standards, if you did away with all the coal plants in the country—which would be a terrible shock to our system for reliability, for affordability, it just it wouldn’t work, but let’s say you did—all you’re doing is getting rid of 3 percent of the CO2 emissions worldwide.

CU: How will you respond to this challenge?

MD: First of all you have a consensus as to what the message is, and with a coalition, you’ve got to listen to everybody, then you educate as many people as you can. Then, you advocate your position in many different ways. You advocate it on a federal level, but primarily, the fight is getting ready to go to the states. Because as the government goes through this process that the president has outlined, it’s very tight process. And this is a legacy issue for him. He wants to get it done during this period of time—there’s not a lot of room on the other end for a thorough debate.

Now we’re on this end up here where we’re having hearings—we believe they’re having them in the wrong locations because the states where they’re having the hearings only average 26 percent of their electricity from coal. And states that have a high percentage of coal, they’re not having hearings there. So we’re arguing with them on process. We think that it’s disingenuous.

Then, they next will come out with regulations or proposals on existing plants. Then, the states will have a chance to talk about that and work on that, and then, there’ll be a plan that comes out of the Federal Register. That will be given to the states as guidelines, and states will have to comply, and they have to do this all before 2016.

So we want to make sure everybody understands that there are tradeoffs. If you create this system, it’s not going to be uniform all over the country. A lot of places that have competitive advantages now, and have manufacturing, their electric rates will go up dramatically. We have to make sure that the policymakers understand what these tradeoffs are.

CU: When you’re working with policymakers, your group is working with both parties. How do you transition from former RNC chair to this bipartisan role?

MD: I think I was able to do that because of the passion I have for the issue and the people involved. I think the fact that I grew up in coal country, that I have an affinity for the people there, that I understand it so well and that I don’t see it as a Republican or Democrat issue. Flipping the switch on should not be [a partisan issue], or having a national energy policy that gives you national security.

I think if you go back and look at some of the quotes when I was hired here from Howard Dean—Howard and I served as chairmen together—and some of the other Democrats I worked with over the years, they’ll tell you I have the ability to understand policies and to work for solutions. I don’t know the political affiliation of everyone in the organization, but I know some of them are Democrats.

CU: Has anything in this job surprised you?

MD: Well, there’s a learning curve. I subscribe to this idea that it takes a period of time for you to maximize your effectiveness in any organization, and there is a learning curve with ACCCE, not only the people involved internally and externally, but the nuance of the issues. One of the good things about a job like this is every day is different. Sometimes you’re advocating, and sometimes you’re managing, and you’re educating. But sometimes you’re working on budgets.

CU: Did you ever consider running for office?

MD: I did early, but it just wasn’t the thing that motivated me. At different times I looked at it, and I would say, well, for this business reason or family reason, this is probably not the best thing for me to do. But I hope that I continue working, and I hope that I continue to have—this is your money quote—meaning and adventure in my life. That’s what I teach my interns to look for.