Coal Age

JAN-FEB 2017

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8 January-February 2017 news continued d a t e l i n e w a s h i n g t o n In Washington, as in the real world, we often expe- rience a frustrating disparity between expectation and reality. This could change. The incoming admin- istration and the 115 th Congress is proving to be the exception. At least with respect to major regulations that have hamstrung the coal industry. Early signs suggest that House and Senate lead- ers, with the National Mining Association's (NMA) help and the Trump administration's blessing, intend to honor the pledges they made to undo some of the Obama-era rules that of- fer little benefit but costly job losses. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy echoed remarks made earlier by Majority Leader Paul Ryan that the Office of Surface Mining's (OSM) stream rule would be among early targets of opportunity. This is both smart politics and smart policy. While the climate class is worried about fulfilling Obama's commitments to the Paris treaty, a Janu- ary poll by Morning Consult found the working class named job creation as their top concern. So one way to win over Trump voters might be to put their interests ahead of the United Nation's. Blunting regulations that have crippled the coal industry is not only a great way to say "we hear you," it's also a policy for broadening U.S. energy diversity, making it truly "inclusive." Luckily, former President Barack Obama has left the de-regulatory movement with a target-rich environment. Among the record-breaking 560 major regulations costing $100 million or more issued by his administra- tion through early 2016 are several that could unlock coal employment and rebuild energy diversity. The new president can quickly show how elections have consequences by voiding the moratorium on new coal lease sales. With the stroke of a pen he could spare hundreds of high-wage jobs in Wyoming and Montana. Stopping the Department of Interior's (DOI) 1,600-plus-page stream rule will save upward of 42,000 direct jobs and many thousands more throughout the supply chain. A careless grab bag of duplicative measures offering no discernible environmental protection, the stream rule exemplifies all that is wrong with regulatory overreach and begs for a resolution of disapproval un- der the 1996 Congressional Review Act. Then there is the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP). Now idling in limbo at the D.C. circuit court, the CPP poses a more intractable rule to be rid of. Still, if the court doesn't strike it down, the new administration can water it down. Fresh evidence of the damage the rule heaves on the coal industry came last month from no less an authority than the U.S. Energy Informa- tion Administration (EIA). In its 2017 Annual Energy Outlook, EIA refutes the Obama administration's doomsday prediction for coal, finding solid po- tential for robust coal production — provided the CPP dies instead. That's because the rule holds down coal production to 619 million short tons by 2040. Without the rule, said the EIA, coal production rises to 861 million tons, a 39% increase. "If indeed the CPP goes away, a lot of the economics people were using to retire coal units changes quite a bit," said Tom Hew- son Jr. of consultancy Energy Ventures Analysis. Here in "La La Land," regulators sometimes forget that capacity de- struction means job destruction. Using standard multipliers and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) jobs data, NMA found that the 242 million tons of coal neutralized by the CPP could support 27,700 jobs paying upward of $85,000 annually with good benefits. Almost 100,000 indirect jobs could also be spared. This finding will disappoint coal's detractors, but it should encourage the new Congress and administration to lift the regulatory boot from coal's neck. It will take more than words to reverse the course we've been on, still more to win over coal communities. In her exit interview last month, former EPA Administrator Gina McCa- rthy, still stunned by the election results, regretted her agency's failure to "change the outreach and messaging in rural America." As if demoralized communities and families left destitute without breadwinners could be consoled by words from an administration that wrote them off. That's a lesson the new administration seems to have learned. In to- day's political climate, there's more value in defending 127,700 good jobs than job-killing regulations. Luke Popovich is a spokesperson for the National Mining Association, the industry's trade group based in Washington, D.C. Great Expectations by luke popovich "One way to win over Trump voters might be to put their interests ahead of the United Nations."

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