Blowin’ in the Wind 2.0

In their opinion editorial from this past Sunday – Blowin’ in the wind: An appeals court stymies the cause of clean air – the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discusses their view of the implications of the of recent U.S. Court of Appeals ruling striking down the “Cross State Air Pollution Rule”, one of the cornerstones of the Obama Administration’s war on coal.

The piece concludes with this statement – – “ordinary American’s lungs must breathe the best air that the political and legal system allows – and that won’t be improving any time soon.”

Has Pittsburgh’s environment not improved dramatically in recent decades?  Through existing law and current and future investments in clean coal technology; air quality is continuing to improve.  For instance, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection states that since 2000, the Pennsylvania utility industry has cut SO2 emissions by 67% and NOx emissions by 54% – just don’t tell that to the environmental movement – doesn’t quite fit the narrative they’re going for.

The op-ed also claims that the CASPR rule would have “prevented 34,000 premature deaths” – more flimsy data that has been distributed widely by those who seek nothing more than an effective public scare tactic to justify EPA’s war on coal.

Further, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that emissions of all major air pollutants have decreased nationally since 1970. Between 1980 and 2006, total emissions of the six principal air pollutants dropped by 49 percent, with lead emissions decreasing by 98 percent. During this same time, gross domestic product increased 121 percent, vehicle miles traveled increased 101 percent, energy consumption increased 29 percent, and the U.S. population grew by 32 percent – facts are very stubborn and these facts most certainly do not fit the desired political narrative.

Of course we need regulation, and U.S. energy producers should be held to the highest environmental and safety standards – and we are.  Air quality, water quality, safety in the workplace – we are the envy of the world.  So, clearly we can do it in a way that facilitates rather than discourages progress.

The D.C. court ruled that EPA’s transport rule ‘exceeds the agency’s statutory authority,’ offering yet another warning to all Pennsylvanians that President Obama’s EPA is an agency with a political agenda run out of control. It is imperative that the public keep in mind, when consuming information from mainstream media sources, that impartial statistics and common sense clearly demonstrate that continuous improvement has and will continue to occur in our region and across America – even in the absence of heavy-handed regulations coming out of Washington, DC.
We can have a clean environment and good jobs if we will reject the extremism and start promoting our region instead of seeking to frighten the populace into aligning with a misguided and dangerous political agenda that runs contrary to their own economic interests.

Coal Summit Calls on Legislators

WESA radio out of Pittsburgh reported on a bipartisan coal industry summit in Pittsburgh last Friday.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says a national energy policy should work towards clean coal burning.

“[A national policy that] certainly takes into consideration the environmental concerns,” Fitzgerald said, “but also utilizes coal, which is one of our biggest resources here in western Pennsylvania, and continuing to invest in the technology to make it viable— to clean it up.”

Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) agrees with a national energy policy, but from a different perspective.

“We need a comprehensive energy policy in this country that has coal at the center of that,” Murphy said. “Most of America’s energy is coal.”

Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) also participated in the summit and said coal shouldn’t be the only source of energy in the country.

“We want an energy portfolio in this country that’s diverse,” Doyle said. “We want to use all of the energy that we have— every form.”

Doyle said the future of coal “lies in technology.”

“We simply are not going to be able to burn coal the way we burned it in the old days,” Doyle said.

Jack Shea, President of the Allegheny County Labor Council, said if coal is eliminated as a source of energy, it’s more than just the coal miners’ jobs on the chopping block.

“It’s our boilermakers, its our building trades, it’s our steelworkers, it’s so much of us,” Shea said. “When we turn that light on, that’s account of we got coal miners way under the Earth, digging that stuff up.”

The Boilermakers Union Local 154 organized the event which also featured representatives from Consol Energy, First Energy, Pennsylvania Energy Development and others.

GOP says report proves EPA rules burdensome

The Hill reports that Republicans said a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report proved their claims that a pair of environmental rules would harm the economy and electric reliability:

The GAO report released Thursday touched on two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that have drawn criticism from Republicans. Though the report said complying with those rules would pose “reliability challenges,” it maintained those risks were avoidable.

GOP staff from two committees saw the final report differently. They said the report points to glaring problems their members have long identified as significant risks to electric reliability and costs.

“The report confirms the committee’s repeated assertions that EPA’s power sector regulations will raise electricity prices and present serious localized reliability challenges for many coal-dependent parts of the country,” House Energy and Commerce Committee spokeswoman Charlotte Baker told The Hill on Friday. “We are seeing more and more coal plants retire as a result of EPA’s actions, but the administration has yet to account for how this reduced capacity will affect consumers and our ability to keep the lights on.”

EPA Coal Regulations Cast Job-Killing Cloud Over PA’s Economy

Commentary by PA State Rep. Rick Saccone:
Pennsylvanians are being hit hard and fast by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newest regulations. As recently reported, two regional coal companies were forced to downsize laying off hundreds of workers.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the 52,000 Pennsylvanians who rely on the coal industry for a paycheck. The EPA regulations have struck a major blow to all coal companies.

These layoffs come at a time when our economy is struggling to stay afloat and hardworking Americans are fighting against an 8 percent unemployment rate.

When people know the facts they are far less ready to wage war on coal. The bituminous coal found in Western Pennsylvania is vital to the state in terms of jobs and electricity generation. Ninety five percent of Pennsylvania’s bituminous coal ends up generating electricity and 56 percent is used to generate power right here in our own state.

Coal will power economy for decades to come

In a guest opinion piece in the LA Times, Robert Bryce of the Center for Energy Policy and the Environment at the Manhattan Institute talks about coal’s vital importance to our global economy.

Bryce writes, “Over the last decade, global coal consumption has increased by more than the growth in oil, natural gas and hydro and nuclear power combined.

We needn’t look only at developing countries to see the essential role of coal. After the disaster at Japan’sFukushima nuclear power plant, Germany is rushing to shutter its reactors. Although renewable-energy projects are the darling of European politicians, nearly 14,000 of the 36,000 megawatts of new electricity generation capacity that will be built in Germany over the next few years probably will be coal-fired facilities.

Coal is helping meet the world’s electricity demands for a simple reason: It’s cheap, thanks to the fact that deposits are abundant, widely dispersed, easily mined and not controlled by any OPEC-like cartels. According to theU.S. Department of Energy, from 1999 through 2010, coal cost about half as much per BTU as the next cheapest fuel, natural gas.

Record number of coal-fired generation plants to be shut down this year

The Daily Caller reports that “coal plant operators are planning to retire 175 coal-fired generators, or 8.5 percent of the total coal-fired capacity in the United States, according to an analysis by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

A record-high 57 generators will shut down in 2012, representing 9 gigawatts of electrical capacity, according to EIA. In 2015, nearly 10 gigawatts of capacity from 61 coal-fired generators will be retired.”

Most of the coal-fired generator retirements will occur in the Mid-Atlantic, Ohio River Valley and the Southeast.

10th Anniversary of the Quecreek Mine Rescue

Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the Quecreek Mine Rescue, when 9 miners were rescued in Somerset County after spending 77 hours underground.

WITF-FM reports that Joe Sbaffoni, the director of the state’s Bureau of Mine Safety, says the overhaul of the state’s Mine Safety Act in 2009 has resulted in safer conditions for miners than ever before. “One injury in a mine is one too many, but when you look at the dynamic of working in a mine and the ever-changing statistics and environment, and then you look at the statistics, we’ve come a long way when it comes to mine safety,” he says.

On Sunday, in a guest opinion piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,Kevin G. Stricklin, an administrator for coal for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, reflects on his time at the rescue site, and cites mine safety improvements over the years. He writes, “Overall compliance is improving at mines after we inspect them. Violations per inspection hour are down 13 percent after mines receive an impact inspection, significant and substantial violation rates are down 21 percent, and actions requiring miners be withdrawn from a mine are down 43 percent.

Improvements are also occurring in the industry as a whole. In 2011, MSHA inspected about 14,170 mines and issued 157,613 citations and orders. This number is down from 2010, when MSHA issued 170,909 citations and orders…

But there is one thing we’ve known all along, and that doesn’t change: Mine disasters are preventable, and miners deserve to return home to their loved ones after every shift.”

EPA to review mercury rules for new power plants

Reuters reports that the US EPA will review limits on mercury emissions on new coal-fired power plants.

“In agreeing to reconsider emissions standards for new power plants, the EPA is acknowledging that its standards are unachievable,” said Ken Anderson, the general manager of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a consumer-owned, power supplier. Tri-State and others had filed suit against the EPA for its mercury rule.

“The agency should now review the comments of industry and technology vendors and come back with a regulatory standard that has a proper time frame and is rooted in the realities of science and engineering.”

The agency said the review, known as a reconsideration, is a routine tool it uses to ensure its standards to incorporate new information.

Coal is Key in Keystone State

With coal being an important natural resource in Pennsylvania—not only does the state get nearly half of its electricity from coal, it also provides thousands of jobs to Pennsylvanians—it’s no surprise that the President has made a stop in the Keystone State this week.


Last year, we spoke with Pennsylvanians in Allentown about the importance of coal in their communities. As one Pennsylvanian told our team, “Coal is one of the most important industries in Pennsylvania. It has been for years, and should continue to be.”

As the president’s bus swings through the Keystone State, it’s important to remind the campaign of this. Not only is coal important to Pennsylvania, it’s essential in an “all-of-the-above” energy portfolio.

Coal-based electricity brings economic advantages to families and workers in Pennsylvania by keeping rates down for residents and small businesses owners in the state. Not only that, it provides thousands of jobs throughout the state.

With economic advantages like thousands of jobs, stable electricity, and affordable rates, it’s clear why coal is key in Pennsylvania.