Recapping Our Day in Pittsburgh Supporting Affordable Energy

Posted by Elizabeth Jennings at 12:09 pm, August 06, 2014

Last week, I went to Pittsburgh to join my colleagues with the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, Ohio Coal Association and West Virginia Coal Association to host a rally for affordable energy the day before the EPA hearing session in Pittsburgh on July 31. Our Rally to Support American Energy gathered thousands of people across the spectrum and from all age groups whose lives, one way or another, are tied to coal-based industries or who benefit from low-cost coal-based electricity.

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The EPA session in Pittsburgh was just one of four around the country meant to garner wide-spread public comment on EPA’s proposed regulations on existing power plants.  A problem with having only four hearing sessions is that some have to travel great distances to make remarks that may not be taken to heart. We are doubly appreciative, therefore, for those who took the time to not only speak directly with EPA despite the difficulties of doing so but also for stopping by the rally to show us their support.

The America’s Power team had a great day. Our display stood at the front of Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh, and we had the America’s Power #7 Nationwide car outside of the stadium for all attendees to see. We got fabulous pictures with our hard working supporters and the West Virginia Coal Festival princesses with the car! I took the opportunity to walk down the lines of attendees while they were waiting to enter the stadium to shake a few hands while I passed out stickers. I can’t tell you how meaningful it is to talk to some of them and hear their stories. Several people brought their spouses and their children to the event, and thanked us for our participation in the fight for affordable, reliable coal-based electricity.

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Chris Higbee came to perform some country favorites, and we had a great group of speakers! Governor Corbett (PA), Governor Tomblin (WV) and Lt. Governor Taylor (OH) were our keynote speakers and boy, did they bring down the house! You could feel the energy as these legislators spoke from the heart and really brought the issue home. It was an added bonus that we were on the Monongahela River and had a couple supportive honks from the coal barges sailing by! Our team met so many new people, and gathered a ton of signatures for our EPA Comment Tool. Some supporters had met us at NASCAR races (we love seeing people wear our shirts!) and some were meeting us for the first time. It really is a joy to get out there and tell people how we are involved and why this fight is an extremely important one.

It was a beautiful day for us to get together in support of coal-based electricity – America’s Power!

 


Trouble for the Tri-State: How Carbon Regs will Affect OH, PA, and WV

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 10:09 am, July 24, 2014

Next week, EPA is holding a hearing in Pittsburgh to discuss its most recent carbon regulation for existing power plants. We decided to write a post about three of the most affected places in the country—Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia—that will no doubt be well represented at the public hearing.

OHIO

In Ohio, coal is the dominant source of energy in the state’s portfolio (69 percent of electricity generation in 2013). Ohio also boasts among the highest coal employment numbers in the country, with more than 20,000 Ohioans employed in the state’s mines. This doesn’t even begin to count the thousands more who work outside the mines but whose jobs are tied to the power generation industry. But EPA is causing jobs to disappear, making paying any bills, let alone higher electricity bills, extraordinarily difficult. The Buckeyes enjoy an average electricity price that is lower than both the national and regional average, largely thanks to low-cost coal-based power.

PENNSYLVANIA

Pennsylvania’s economy is built upon the energy industry. Energy supports thousands of jobs in the state and helps keep electricity prices low by enabling Pennsylvania to use a diverse portfolio of fuel sources. Coal accounts for 40 percent of the state’s generating capacity.  If they just look to their neighbors to the north and west—New York and New Jersey—Pennsylvanians can see that an energy policy relying on more expensive and volatile fuel sources will bring electricity prices that are  among the highest in the entire nation.

WEST VIRGINIA

We left the discussion of West Virginia for last because it may be the state most affected by EPA’s overreaching regulations. The state economy has suffered blow after blow from federal regulatory agencies bent on eliminating coal-based power from our energy mix. Jobs have left the state and have not been replaced. One positive element, however, is West Virginia’s low-cost electricity. This spring, electricity prices in West Virginia were 7.76 cents per kilowatt hour, which is significantly lower than both the regional and national average for electricity prices. Despite this fact, more than half the families in West Virginia spend over 20 percent of their after-tax incomes on power bills. The fact that the Mountaineers generate 95 percent of their electricity from coal and pay the lowest prices is no coincidence – it’s thanks to coal that prices are so low.

Although the current outlook is frightening, high costs can be avoided if all three states show a unified front to EPA and push back on these overreaching carbon regulations. A true “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that continues using low-cost fuel sources like coal can provide the economic and energy security our states need. We’re looking forward to next week as an opportunity to provide needed feedback that will hopefully shape the final rule.


EPA is Visiting Georgia, a Leader in Fuel Diversity

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 10:58 am, July 23, 2014

In a state known for sweet peaches, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newest carbon regulations for existing power plants will leave Georgia feeling the unfortunate effects of sour policy. With these carbon regulations, the EPA is imposing one of the strictest emissions rates on a state that should be used as an example of responsible energy policy.

Georgia has exemplified a diverse, all-of-the above energy portfolio by generating power from coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower and other renewables.  To provide reliable base load power, Georgia relies on coal for one-third of its electricity generation. The use of coal has helped the Peach State keep electricity rates affordable, allowing businesses to hire more Georgia residents and offer lower prices to consumers. If EPA’s overreaching carbon regulations go into effect, the security of Georgia’s energy and economic sectors will face tough times ahead.

Next week, EPA is offering Georgians the opportunity to weigh in on its proposed plan; a plan that will shape the future of power production in their state. EPA is visiting just three cities outside of Washington, D.C. to gather in-person feedback on these carbon regulations, and Georgia made it onto the list. There are many things EPA left out of its overreaching plan that I know they’ll hear about in Atlanta on Tuesday and Wednesday.

For starters, EPA has given no consideration to the consumer cost of these regulations. Even with the affordable electricity rates coal affords Georgia, many citizens still struggle to pay their utility bills. Nearly 1.8 million low and middle-income families – over half of the state’s population – already spend 24 percent of their after-tax income on their power bills. EPA’s carbon regulations will force Georgia to reduce its reliance on affordable and reliable coal, which will only heighten the struggles these families face. President Obama himself admitted during the 2008 presidential campaign that the power plan he envisioned would cause electricity rates to “necessarily skyrocket.” This is a cost vulnerable Georgia families should not, and frankly cannot, be forced to pay. By maintaining coal’s role as a vital element of their energy mix, these staggering costs can be avoided.

But families and households are not the only Georgians who depend on affordable electricity – businesses across the state need reliable, low-cost electricity to run their operations and balance their books. This spring, electricity prices for homes and businesses have been below the national average. As energy costs increase, businesses in Georgia will be forced to confront unreasonably high rates in lieu of growing and hiring workers. As if rising cost of living tied to energy costs wasn’t a burden enough, EPA’s regulations also have the potential to increase unemployment in the state. With the nation slowly gaining a sense of economic relief after the recent recession, it is astounding the Obama Administration is pushing policies that will wreak such economic havoc on the lives of Georgia families, as well as families across the country.

These negative consequences can be avoided through the continued use and development of abundant, affordable, and reliable coal. By maintaining its diverse energy portfolio, and playing an active role in setting the course for its future, Georgia can ensure that households and businesses have the affordable power needed for prosperity.

Just this year the state passed a resolution that asserts the importance of an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy for Georgia, dictated by state lawmakers as opposed to federal bureaucrats. A diverse portfolio not only promotes economic stability, but it also protects the energy security of the Peach State. Like millions across the U.S., Georgia citizens rely on affordable power to light their path towards a successful future. It is crucial that coal remains in Georgia’s energy mix so that this future, fueled by affordable electricity, becomes a reality.

If you want to weigh in on this important policy decision, visit www.KeepAmericasPowerOn.org today to file a comment with the EPA. Tell them these carbon regulations won’t work for Americans in Georgia and across the country.


Keeping Colorado Affordably Powered

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 2:08 pm, July 22, 2014

In June, the Obama Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it’s proposed stringent carbon regulations on existing power plants — a clear attempt to eliminate coal-based power. Next week, EPA will kick off four separate two-day hearings in Atlanta, GA; Denver, CO; Pittsburgh, PA; and Washington, D.C. Here at America’s Power, we’re kicking off a three-part series highlighting the critical role affordable, reliable coal-based electricity plays in all of the places EPA will visit. And, we’re starting with Colorado which depends on coal-based power for local economic development, fuel diversity and low-cost power statewide.

As a top ten coal-producing state, Colorado’s energy reliability and economic vitality are threatened by EPA’s proposed rule. More than 2,500 workers staff Colorado’s 14 coal mines, and thousands of workers’ jobs are indirectly tied to mining and power generation. On top of that, coal is Colorado’s primary power  source and is necessary to keep electricity rates affordable so it can continue to fuel economic progress.

In 2013, 64 percent of Colorado’s electricity was generated by coal. Because coal makes up a majority of the state’s energy portfolio, Colorado has been able to keep electricity prices under 10 cents per kilowatt hour, which is below the national average for power prices. These affordable rates allow businesses to employ more Coloradoans, which in turn enables these employees to have an increased opportunity for income mobility.

Despite the economic opportunities affordable energy creates for the Centennial State, a tremendous number of citizens still struggle to pay their energy costs. Currently, almost 880,000 low- and middle-income Colorado residents allocate 17 percent of their after-tax income to power bills. With so many citizens already struggling, Colorado cannot allow these costs to increase. If the Obama Administration and EPA have their way with these regulations, skyrocketing power bills will be the unfortunate future that Colorado, and the rest of our nation, faces.

Colorado is a fantastic example of how an “all of the above” energy policy can work if the federal government stays out of state-level energy decisions. The state relies on a diverse portfolio of sources and fully embraces the abundant natural resources at Colorado’s disposal including coal which is a vital element of the fuel mix. That’s why so many affected parties will be testifying in front of EPA next week telling the agency that its carbon regulations for existing power plants won’t work for Colorado.

Rather than making everything from power bills to grocery bills more expensive, we should support innovation and prioritize maintaining a reliable and low-cost electricity portfolio. With so many citizens depending on the jobs and affordable energy coal provides, this fuel source is something the Centennial State cannot afford to lose. We’re looking forward to the hearing and hope EPA pays close attention to the important criticisms shared with regards to their overreaching carbon regulations.

If you want to contribute to the conversation by filing a comment with EPA, visit www.KeepAmericasPowerOn.org today.


My Opportunity at ACCCE

Posted by Ashari Taylor-Watson at 11:23 am, July 21, 2014

This summer I had the privilege of being an intern with The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.  This was not just an internship, but a captivating and challenging experience for the summer. While at ACCCE I found place where I could thrive, all while learning new things. Coal was resource that I knew little about, but now after working with ACCCE, I have learned the value and the importance of how coal connects people all over the world as it offers a reliable source of energy, provides job security, and generates much-needed local revenue. This summer was especially important and exciting to be in the industry due to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on coal-based power. Joining an organization that understands the importance of coal to American people and their way of life, raised my level of patriotism and respect for this great country.

As an intern with the State Affairs and Outreach team, I worked closely with a team of professionals who taught me the different aspects of advocacy at the state level. This team is full of caring, patient people who had a vested interest in helping me not only develop my skills, but also who took the time to impart valuable advice to help me continue to thrive and advance in my personal life.  Darren Bearson, Jade Davis, and Katie Gates all taught me the different positions, directions, and approaches that define State Affairs and Outreach. While working with this department, I was invited to many different events in which I was able to network and meet new people passionate about interested that I too shared. The whole department was welcoming and more than happy to help answer my many questions about ACCCE’s work, and what role the team plays in advancing ACCCE’s goal.

Jade Davis played an especially important role in my summer at ACCCE as he took the time to assign me work that was meaningful, worthwhile, and informative. One assignment in particular really stands out in my mind, and that’s an extensive presentation he asked me to construct. While working on the power point, I learned about ACCCE, coal, and the different member companies. I got an excellent overview of the operations, while contributing something to the team that Jade told me would be used long after my internship was complete. This experience is a small example of how my overall internship at ACCCE taught me the importance of seizing opportunities, networking, and connecting with others.  ACCCE introduced us to many people who were more than willing to offer advice and connect with us so that we might also have different opportunities. This internship was the beginning of many great discoveries that have been informative, challenging, and rewarding. Working with ACCCE taught me to seize every opportunity and work to achieve every goal.

 


Tom Steyer’s Wallet Has Coal to Thank

Posted by Elizabeth Jennings at 9:12 am, July 18, 2014

Last week, Michael Barbaro and Coral Davenport of the New York Times wrote a front-page story about billionaire activist Tom Steyer and the hedge fund that he founded almost 30 years ago, Farallon Capital Management. The piece examines the investments that Steyer’s company made under his leadership, including many that promoted the use of fossil fuels around the globe. This week, Steyer took to the pages of Politico magazine and attempted to defend his decision to divest his holdings from companies that promote fossil fuel production. He went on to describe a radical change that molded him into the Tom Steyer we know today, dedicating his life, and his pocketbook, to battle climate change.

It’s ironic that a man with so much money claims to want to help the world; yet the beliefs he evangelizes and the initiatives he supports, in fact, hurt low- and middle-income families. I’m sure the radical environmental groups and political candidates that receive funding from Mr. Steyer wouldn’t be too pleased to learn that profits from coal helped write those checks. But that isn’t the point.

The recent coverage of Mr. Steyer illustrates two fundamental problems among those who set environmental policy in this country: elitism and a complete disregard for the economic and social consequences of their actions. Mr. Steyer profited for decades off of an entire industry. While Mr. Steyer certainly got rich, coal and other fossil fuel industries support millions of direct and indirect jobs, helping to keep energy costs low for American families and businesses. The industry that is partially responsible for helping Steyer achieve this status of wealth is the same one where hard-working Americans are receiving pink slips because their mines or plants cannot operate any longer due to EPA regulations; regulations that were supported in large part due to Mr. Steyer’s own activism. Does this seem right to you? Not to me.

The elitism Mr. Steyer and others in the environmental community display is downright insulting to his fellow Americans who work hard to keep food on their tables, to meet payroll, to pay their utility bills each month. I’d venture to say that Mr. Steyer, a mainstay of the San Francisco and Democratic social scenes, hardly considers such consequences when he’s writing his check to organizations that are equally out of touch with these concerns. But seeing as how he is currently tens of millions of dollars short in his current bout of fundraising for the Democratic Party, he might be looking for his next venture sooner than we think.


Advocating for America’s Power: What I Learned at ACCCE

Posted by Joe Singh at 10:14 am, July 17, 2014

Hello, energy enthusiasts. I’m Joe, the Federal Affairs & Policy intern. While I collaborated with China on an earlier post (that illustrated the symbiotic relationship between policy and communications quite nicely), this is my first time talking to you directly. Along with China and our fellow intern Ashari, I’ve been charged to write up a post summing up what I learned this summer as we wind toward the conclusion of our time at ACCCE.

I’ve been privileged, first and foremost, to work with a brilliant and eclectic group of people in Federal Affairs. They’ve been warm, friendly and accessible, in addition to being generous with their time. I’ve also been able to watch them ply their trade, and I can assure any coal enthusiast that as a unit ACCCE’s Federal Affairs team really is among the best in the business.

The best part has been ACCCE’s embracing of my own interests, encouraging me to grow as a researcher instead of saddling me with work no one else wants to do. My family is from India, and I was born there before immigrating to the United States. Much of my academic work to this point has thus centered on Asia, and to my surprise the Federal Affairs department readily allowed me to pursue coal research in India and China. I’ve had the responsibility of producing international research for ACCCE’s use where there was little before, and I hope I succeeded in that to some degree.

I’ve been able to conduct intensive and exhaustive research on international coal policy, production, consumption and compliance. I was able to pursue my interests in energy economics and particularly in data-driven analysis, and I hope my output can measure up to Federal Affairs’ high standards. Above all, between the number crunching and report writing, I learned just how tightly bound countries are in our modern world. Coal is, across the planet, keeping the lights on, and is just one of many truly global issues that will define this century.

Above all, this summer humanized coal. Growing up in the urban northeast, coal was never a hot-button issue for me. When I did learn about it, it was usually in the context of how carbon emissions were destroying the planet in high school, or the economics of coal pricing in college. I had never known people who were pro-coal and had deep personal ties to it. Above all, I had—unconsciously—bought into the idea that you were for the environment or against it, and if you were against it you’d traded your soul for a hefty wallet. That’s not how DC works, and ACCCE has shown me that there are no good or bad people and no black or white issues. The best we can do is believe in something strongly enough to stand in its defense, and fight for it using every tool available to us. That’s the spirit driving ACCCE forward, and I’m honored to have spent a summer watching it in action.

If I may end with a quotation, here’s one of my favorites from Irish novelist Oliver Goldsmith. “Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall.” As I leave ACCCE, full of gratitude and optimism, that is what I wish upon everyone here: in an industry with a target on its back, they get up just one more time than they’re knocked down. Knowing the people here, I’m sure they will.


Advocating for America’s Power: Final Weeks at ACCCE

Posted by China Riddle at 10:53 am, July 16, 2014

Greetings, energy enthusiasts! Yet again, I bring news from the international front. England’s conservative minister of climate change, Greg Barker, is stepping down from his position. The Financial Times reported the story, saying the departure is viewed as a “vivid symbol of the Conservative party’s changing priorities” because the former conservative push for green energy is weakening. Prime Minister David Cameron was initially in support of Mr. Barker’s ambition to make England the “Saudi Arabia of green energy.” Last year, however, Cameron was quoted saying he wanted to “cut” their “green” policies, which caused energy bills to skyrocket. In addition to Cameron’s lost climate sentiment, England’s chancellor, George Osborne, refused to “save the planet by putting [the] country out of business.” With this shift in ideology, and their leader in climate change abandoning his cause, England appears to be reassessing its attempt to replace fossil fuels with less abundant, more expensive sources of energy.

This type of reluctance to embrace strict energy policies – and in Germany’s case regret for implementing those policies – has been a common theme in my research this summer. In each case, although the situations differ, the essential issue is the same –people and businesses bear the brunt of the consequences of overly aggressive rulemakings. My mind goes to China where abundant, affordable coal is powering their economic growth. I think of the families in Germany who struggled to pay their daunting power bill during their government’s quest to be the shining example of energy transformation. There was even a new report released that demonstrates the financial struggle of rising energy bills.

As my mind jumps around the globe, however, there is one family that is always top of mind – my own in Kentucky. I think of my father and his partner John, proud owners of K&R Rebuild, depending on coal to provide for their families and power their business. They need coal just like families in South Dakota, electric cooperatives in Arkansas, small businesses in Indiana, and the millions of other working Americans who depend on affordable energy to power their everyday lives.

Next week is my final week at ACCCE, and as I reflect on my time here, I have ultimately learned how the concerns I expressed in my first blog post are shared across the globe. While the Obama Administration distracts America with misleading rhetoric, and EPA touts the feigned flexibility of its new plan, voices like mine need to unite and call for a true “all of the above” energy policy. Rather than demonize a particular fuel source, the government should embrace all forms of energy – coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables. We need all of these sources to power our growing energy needs. With coal providing nearly 40 percent of our nation’s electricity, it is clearly an essential portion of our energy portfolio. All fifty states should be permitted to complement each other’s energy strengths so that we can reach environmental goals without sacrificing jobs, our overall competitiveness and the hard-earned income of working Americans.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s lust for climate legacy keeps him from embracing reasonable and achievable energy policy. My hope for our future is that the dismal outcomes which will result from EPA’s proposed carbon regulations will be fully examined and prevented. Until then, I will be advocating for America’s Power, even after my time with ACCCE ends. So for now energy enthusiasts, I bid you adieu. I encourage you to continue to raise your voice about these ludicrous policies, so America can be reliably and affordably powered for years to come.