Coal

Climate Adaptation

Twenty-Three regulators and legislators from around the country attended the CSG “Building Relationships Between Regulators and Legislators” Policy Academy on September 13-15 in Washington DC. The policy academy provided a forum for state regulators and legislators to engage and collaborate with each other on energy resource planning. In addition to participating in breakout discussions, attendees heard from representatives of the electric utility industry, industry associations, academics, think tank researchers, and others about...

The coal industry has been on a bumpy ride in recent years. The industry has seen a wave of bankruptcies and mine closures in the face of falling demand and efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Jobs losses in the industry have led to economic devastation in already struggling communities across eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, and southwestern Virginia.

Bringing back coal mining jobs and reviving the coal industry is at the top of President Donald Trump’s energy agenda. But it is unclear whether the federal government has the power to disrupt a complex set of trends that have to do with market forces and technology, in addition to regulations.

This brief first looks at the current state of the U.S. coal industry. It then discusses a variety of trends that have impacted the coal industry over the past several decades as well as in the last few years. While environmental regulations have certainly played a part, this brief argues that there are other, likely stronger influences at work. The brief closes by discussing the outlook for coal’s future.

The mix of energy sources used to generate electricity across the country has changed significantly in the last decade as coal, while still the largest single source of fuel, has lost its share of the generation market to natural gas and renewables like wind and solar. States’ electricity generation includes such sources as coal, natural gas, nuclear power, hydropower, and renewables. The electricity generation mix varies significantly from region to region and even state to state, depending on available resources and regional market prices.

Experts discussed the legal arguments for and against the Clean Power Plan, or CPP, during a recent eCademy webcast, “What's Next? Legal Perspectives on the Clean Power Plan,” presented by CSG and the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies. 

The Clean Power Plan

On Aug. 3, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Clean Power Plan, which is expected to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule sets target emissions reductions for states and states are responsible for designing their own plans to meet these emissions reductions targets...

CSG Director of Energy and Environmental Policy Liz Edmondson outlines the top five issues for 2016, including the Clean Power Plan, the rise of U.S. natural gas production, water quality and quantity, the use of science-based decision making, and electricity transmission and grid reliability. 

The comment period closed for the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan rule on Dec. 1. The total number of comment submissions is on track to reach close to 2 million -maybe even exceed it.  Between now and mid-spring the EPA will be busy sifting through comments to aid in crafting the final rule scheduled to be released in June, 2015.  State environmental agencies, the agencies responsible for developing compliance plans, had much to say about the EPA proposal and most states submitted comments.

CSG Midwest logo

In early October, a facility in the province of Saskatchewan became the first commercial-scale coal-fired plant with carbon capture and storage capability in the world. The Boundary Dam Power Station is run by SaskPower, a crown corporation — meaning it is owned by the provincial government but operates like a private company. The plant uses clean coal technology to prevent most of its carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from being released into the atmosphere

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments urges the executive branch and Congress to establish a national energy policy that encourages access to and removal of impediments to all available domestic sources of energy; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments encourages the U.S. EPA to recognize the sovereign power of state regulators to avoid costly litigation; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments recommends state policymakers work closely with their environmental commissioners, informed by electricity providers and other stakeholders, this resolution and the states’ previous recommendations, to develop comments and where appropriate comments with other states addressing the legal, economic, employment, timing, achievability, affordability, implementation scheduling and reliability issues in the proposed regulations for their state and file them by U.S. EPA’s comment deadline and to stay engaged with U.S. EPA and other relevant federal agencies after the comment period ends and the regulation is finalized to eliminate or minimize the risks and consequences from U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Council of State Governments encourages states to inform their congressional delegations on their evaluations and comments and encourage these representatives to help resolve issues by reducing or eliminating negative consequences from U.S. EPA’s proposed regulation;

With the new proposed rules by the United States Environmental Protection Agency related to section 111 (d) of the Clean Air Act, many states have questions about what the rule means for their state. The session addressed the questions state leaders need to ask to have a better understanding of how the rule affects their state’s businesses, citizens and energy future.

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