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Commentary: Politics of Status-Quo Energy Policies Are Failing
The “decarbonization” of the economy is gaining momentum, even with stiff political resistance in Washington, as gains in technology continue to translate into cost advantages that favor wind and solar over fossil-fuel-fired electricity generation. “The renewable energy future is already pretty much here,” writes the author.
GAO Urges Federal Government to Stop Letting Coal Companies ‘Self-Bond’ on Cleanup Obligations
The Government Accounting Office is recommending termination of a federal program that allows coal companies to “self-bond” against mine clean-up costs. The practice lets mining companies promise to pay for reclamation, even though they may be in no financial position to do so. The recommendation to amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act would protect taxpayers but come at no small expense to already-struggling coal companies.
Ruling on Montana and Wyoming Federal Coal Lease Policy Another Setback to Mining Industry
In a blow to the coal industry in Montana and Wyoming, a federal judge has ruled that the Bureau of Land Management must consider potential impacts on climate change in deciding on further permitting of federal coal leases. The case could ultimately put a legal limit on the amount of coal mined in the region. “This ruling is the latest example of courts forcing the federal government to be honest with the American public,” one plaintiff said.
Congress, Over White House Objections, Succeeds in Leaving Coal Country Money in U.S. Budget Bill
Several coal country programs at risk of being scrapped in the latest budget bill out of Congress survived. The law maintains funding for black-lung clinics. The Appalachian Regional Commission will receive more money for its economic-development work, much of which goes into the POWER Initiative, which operates job retraining programs in areas hard hit by the collapse of the coal industry. West Virginia will continue to get $30 million in grants to support development in struggling coal counties. The bill was enacted largely through the insistence of Congress and over the objections of the president.
State Policies and Market Forces Limit What Washington Can Do to Save Coal
Trends in electricity generation are being driving increasingly by state policies that are adding to the larger momentum of market forces. Twenty-nine states have enacted requirements for more reliance on solar and wind which—combined with “the cheap price of natural gas and the rapidly falling cost of renewables,” as one analyst puts it—undermines Trump administration policies and rhetoric aimed at bringing coal-fired electricity back.
Trump $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Stands to Disadvantage Impoverished Communities
In a shift in long-standing federal policy, the Trump administration is beginning a $1.2 trillion infrastructure-improvement push that prioritizes attracting profit-motivated investors over determinations based on public benefit. The strategy could put impoverished communities at a disadvantage. “Instead of the public sector deciding on public needs and public priorities, the projects that are most attractive to private investors are the ones that will go to the head of the line,” one analyst said.
Kentucky Coal Job Gains in 2017 Seen as Unsustainable
Even with a recent uptick in coal-industry jobs in Kentucky, analysts do not consider the gains sustainable. Even the federal government is skeptical: “The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that after an upturn in coal production in Central Appalachia in 2017, production in the region will generally decline.”
Commentary: A Grass-Roots Push Toward Responsible Change
Pushing back against new federal policies aimed at propping up the old U.S. energy economy, local governments are crafting their own electricity-generation strategies, note the authors: “2018 is shaping up to be a year when neighborhoods, towns and cities take control over their own energy destinies, working to promote a just transition to clean energy for all, regardless of income, race or zip code
Editorial: ‘Empty Promises to Appalachian Coal Miners’
Political rhetoric from Washington will neither reverse market forces that are making old ways of generating electricity obsolete nor help hard-hit communities. “What miners need are real programs to help transition them to new jobs, not promises of ‘beautiful, clean coal.’”
A Move in Congress to Invest in Coal Country
Three members of Congress are co-sponsoring the America Wins Act, a proposal to invest $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure with a special focus on communities hard hit by the coal industry downturn. The bill would be funded by a tax on carbon emissions, and would earmark $5 billion a year for economic transition.
Report: Trump’s Policies Are Worse for Coal Than Obama’s
An analysis published by researchers at the Brattle Group finds that Trump administration policy toward natural gas industry production will undermine coal companies, “leading to net mining employment losses of 13,000-16,000 jobs” compared to Obama administration policies had they been left in place.