Slowly and Grudgingly, Change Is Coming to Coal Country

by Daniel Farber | May 30, 2017

A sign of the times: Fox News has reported, without comment, that the Kentucky Coal Museum is installing solar panels to save money. This is part of a larger trend.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported on shifts in power production in states like West Virginia and Kentucky. For instance, Appalachian Power has “closed three coal-fired plants and converted two others to gas, reducing its dependence on coal to 61 percent last year, down from 74 percent in 2012.” In response to an inquiry from the Governor, the company said it has no plans to build another coal plant. In Kentucky, the Public Utility Commission has advised companies about offering renewable energy packages in order to attract large corporations, many of whom have strong green energy programs.

Similarly, in Wyoming, Microsoft made a deal to get wind power for its new data center. In fact, according to the Energy Information Agency, Wyoming gets nearly 10% of its power from wind, making it 15th in the nation.

Corporate pressure has made a difference beyond these states, according to the Times:

Last year, utilities made deals with corporate customers through rate arrangements known as green tariffs for 220 megawatts of power, enough to run about 40,000 average American homes. Thus far this year, there have been 360 megawatts worth of agreements, with an additional 465 megawatts under negotiation.

It seems that efforts at corporate sustainability, which I’ve posted about previously, are actually having ...

How Does the Clean Power Plan Measure Up?

by Robert Verchick | August 03, 2015
  Against intense pressure from the coal industry to tie Americans to dirty fuels forever, the Obama administration has surged forward in the battle to fight climate change. The Clean Power Plan rule, released today by the EPA, promises serious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, while giving states the flexibility and incentives they need to reduce pollution, keep the grid humming, and save consumers money. The challenge, as EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy put it, was “wicked hard.”  But polls show Americans ...

EPA Sends Coal Ash Rule to OIRA

by Rena Steinzor | October 28, 2014
After ringing its hands for nigh on four years, EPA has at last coughed up a final coal ash rule.  Of course, no one but the White House staff will know what it says until the White House releases it in absolutely final form.  Nevertheless, the staff will now engage in the charade of hosting multiple appearances by various interest groups that want to tell the President’s people about those concerns without really knowing what they should be talking about. ...

Power Plant Regulation and the Rhetoric of Reliability

by Emily Hammond | March 15, 2013
The coal-fired power plant industry has always fought air-emissions standards enacted pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA).  But the industry has increasingly raised the specter of reliability problems, arguing that EPA’s recent “tsunami” of regulations will cause a “train wreck,” forcing companies to retire aging plants so rapidly that lost capacity will outpace the development of new sources.  The result, they maintain, will be such an unmanageable strain on the regional grids that they will have to impose brownouts ...

House Votes to Give Coal Ash Dumps a Free Pass; President Stops Short of Veto Threat

by Rena Steinzor | October 17, 2011
The residents of Kingston, Tennessee had no inkling that the Christmas of 2008 would be any different than another year. In the wee morning hours three days before the holiday, an earthen dam holding back a 40-acre surface impoundment at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power plant burst, releasing 1 billion gallons of inky coal ash sludge across Kingston, Tennessee. The sludge flood crossed a river, destroying 26 houses. One had a man inside, and was lifted off its foundation and ...

The Delays Get Delayier: The Sad First Year of EPA's Coal Ash Proposal

by James Goodwin | May 04, 2011
Before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, before the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and before the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, there was the TVA coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee. It was at Kingston, during the early morning hours on December 22, 2008, that an earthen dam holding back a 40-acre surface impoundment burst, releasing one billion gallons of inky sludge. The Kingston coal ash spill taught the American public about the catastrophic costs that can accompany so ...

Two Years After Tennessee Disaster, U.S. Effort to Prevent the Next Coal Ash Catastrophe Faces Uncertain Future

by Ben Somberg | December 23, 2010
Two years ago this week, an earthen wall holding back a giant coal ash impoundment failed in Kingston, Tennessee, sending more than a billion gallons of coal ash slurry over nearby land and into the Emory River. The ash had chemicals including arsenic, lead, and mercury. Clean up costs could be as much as $1.2 billion. The coal ash issue is not "new" -- toxic chemicals from unlined coal ash pits have been leaching into the ground for a long ...

Coal Ash Comments Submitted: Get Serious, Please

by Ben Somberg | November 19, 2010
"In order for CBA [cost benefit analysis] to be workable, regulators need to have a relatively restricted range of possibilities." That's what OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein wrote in a 2007 book. So how about from $82 billion to negative $251 billion, a third of a trillion dollars – is that a relatively restricted range? Those are the estimated net benefit figures, over 50 years, in the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) for EPA's "strong" coal ash regulation proposal. Do those numbers ...

MSHA Issues Emergency Rule to Prevent Coal Dust Explosions

by Celeste Monforton | September 22, 2010
Cross posted from The Pump Handle. MSHA announced Tuesday that it will be issuing on September 23 an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to improve a practice to prevent coal dust explosions. The rule addresses "rock dusting"--the decades old practice of generously applying pulverized limestone dust throughout a coal mine to dilute the potential power of a coal dust explosion. As NIOSH's Man and Teacoach explain: "...the rock dust disperses, mixes with the coal dust and prevents flame propagation by acting ...

At Coal Ash Hearing, Poisoned Waters and the "Stigma Effect" on the Agenda

by Rena Steinzor | August 30, 2010
The below is testimony (PDF) given today by CPR President Rena Steinzor at the EPA's public hearing on coal ash regulation. The hearing, in Arlington, VA, is the first of seven; the public comment period has been extended to November 19. See CPR on Twitter for updates from the hearing. We are all familiar with the psychological studies that have become a cottage industry at American universities. Consider this one. A presumably dead cockroach is “medically sterilized”—and I honestly do not know ...

OIRA's Fuzzy Math on Coal Ash: A Billion Here, a Billion There

by Rena Steinzor | July 13, 2010
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Michael Patoka, a student at the University of Maryland School of Law and research assistant to Steinzor. Last October, the EPA proposed to regulate, for the first time, the toxic coal ash that sits in massive landfills and ponds next to coal-fired power plants across the nation. The 140 million tons of ash generated every year threaten to contaminate groundwater and cause catastrophic spills, like the 1-billion-gallon release that devastated ...

Eye on OIRA: No Room for a More Compassionate CBA in EPA's Coal Ash Rule

by James Goodwin | May 24, 2010
“Although the 1976 RCRA [Resource Conservation and Recovery Act] statute does not require benefit-cost justification of RCRA regulations, this RIA [regulatory impact analysis] presents a qualitative benefit analysis for compliance with OMB’s 2003 ‘Circular A-4: Regulatory Analysis’ best practices guidance.” This statement comes from the executive summary to the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) that EPA sent to OIRA last October with its original proposed rule for regulating coal ash waste, and it is without a doubt the most important sentence in the ...

Coal Ash Announcement Now Scheduled for May?

by Ben Somberg | May 03, 2010
The EPA had projected an April announcement on the next step in regulating coal ash. But April came and went. The EPA now lists "05/2010" as the projected time for publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register. ...

Eye on OIRA: Is EPA About To Take a U-Turn on Coal Ash?

by James Goodwin | April 20, 2010
For the past 6 months, OIRA has hosted an all-out assault on EPA’s proposed coal ash waste rule, as a parade of representatives from King Coal and the coal ash reuse industry have walked in to attack any and every aspect of the hybrid approach the agency reportedly proposed. (Under the hybrid approach, EPA would regulate coal ash waste as a “hazardous” substance, unless it was dedicated to certain forms of beneficial use, in which case it would be regulated ...

Massey's Don Blankenship is No Average Global Warming Denier; He's Also Operating an Unsafe Coal Mine

by Matthew Freeman | April 07, 2010
About a year ago in this space, I wrote a piece taking the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to task for its unhinged reaction to the Environmental Protection Agency’s then-nascent efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. As an example of the bombast, I included a link to a speech made by Chamber board member Don Blankenship, head of Massey Energy, in which he denied climate change, compared those who disagree with him with Osama Bin Laden and called them communists and atheists, ...

Eye on OIRA: Coal Ash Meetings Up to 42, or More Than Half of All OIRA Meetings on EPA Rules

by James Goodwin | April 05, 2010
Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have long celebrated the number 42 as the “answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.” Now, the number 42 also happens to be the number of meetings that OIRA has hosted regarding EPA’s pending coal ash rule, as it works toward developing the Obama Administration’s answer to the ultimate question of how to regulate the disposal of this toxic waste. ________________________________________ OIRA Meetings on Coal Ash, as of ...

The Empire Strikes Back

by Matthew Freeman | March 02, 2010
Ordinarily, if an organization with the word “recycling” in its name said unkind things about the Center for Progressive Reform, I’d worry. But the other week, we got dinged by a newly launched outfit called “Citizens for Recycling First,” and I’m thinking it’s a badge of honor. Before proceeding, let’s dwell for a moment on the mental images the group’s name conjures up. I’m thinking about plastic bins with recycling logos on their sides, filled by conscientious Americans with soup cans, beer ...

Eye on OIRA: King Coal

by Rena Steinzor | February 26, 2010
Thirty-eight years ago today, the dam holding back a massive coal-slurry impoundment (government-speak for a big pit filled with sludge) located in the middle of Buffalo Creek gave way, spilling 131 million gallons of black wastewater down the steep hills of West Virginia. The black waters eventually crested at 30 feet, washing away people, their houses, and their possessions. By the end of the catastrophe, 125 people were dead, 1,121 were injured, and more than 4,000 were left homeless. Interviewed ...

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