Pittsburg, Pa. – The nation’s coal industry and its dependent communities are enduring a difficult realignment of supply and demand, but the more lasting damage is caused by the “relentless offensive we face from President Obama’s regulators,” said a mining industry leader in Pittsburgh today. “It’s the reckless destruction of useful assets that contribute affordable and reliable power to an entire nation,” said Hal Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
In a keynote address at the annual Longwall USA Exhibition and Conference, Quinn itemized the long list of costly regulations – from the moratorium on coal permits to power plant regulations that provide no health benefits – that in the past several years have destroyed present and future markets for coal producers throughout the country. The result has been additional mine closures, tens of thousands of additional job losses and deeper economic woes for coal communities.
“Every industry faces a tough market at one time or another,” said Quinn. “Few, if any, American industries have faced an existential crisis brought about by their own government.” Quinn refuted the administration’s line that market forces, not policies, account for industry’s woes. Despite massive coal plant closures from prior regulations, the Department of Energy’s own 2016 Energy Outlook shows U.S. coal-based power generation would still rise through 2025 but for the Environmental Protection Agency’s controversial proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.
“With that market-distorting policy,” said Quinn, “the government’s own experts show the impact on coal becomes severe, forcing the closure of almost twice the coal-based capacity than under the current scenario.”
From this impact all Americans can expect less reliable electricity supply and more expensive electricity, with more than 40 states facing utility bills climbing by double digits.
“Contrary to the administration’s false narrative, this is not market driven,” said Quinn. “It is policy driven asset destruction and its attendant human toll on a massive scale.” Natural gas prices alone have not separated 45,000 coal miners from their high-wage jobs over the past three years or closed up to 60 Gigawatts of power capacity.
This is a policy-driven campaign all the more remarkable for its determination to avoid congressional approval and the judgement of American people. “The campaign is brought about by regulatory fiat, not by congressionally authorized legislation,” said Quinn. The marginalization of Congress puts unelected regulators in charge and “largely makes the American voter a passive observer to a transformation of the power grid that will affect everyone’s budget for years to come,” he said.
Nor are the benefits to the environment remotely commensurate with the costs. An earlier rule to control emissions that accounted for most of the closures of affordable electricity generation provided no discernable health benefits. The benefit from EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulation is similarly insignificant. In just one year, 2013, global emissions rose by 630 tons – or about 90 percent of the total reductions the Administration would achieve in over 15 years with its proposed power plan.
The administration dismisses legal and legislative challenges to its latest regulations as obstructionism. Yet by refusing to submit its agenda to Congress for approval, said Quinn, the administration acknowledges that members of both parties have repeatedly rejected the very scheme EPA now wants to impose on the country. “Congress is understandably reluctant or unwilling to impose a carbon trading scheme and a carbon tax—both central features of EPA’s power plan rule,” he said.
Advances in mining technology have consistently helped the industry mine more efficiently, more safely and improve its environmental performance. But the coal industry and the many thousands of Americans who rely on it must have balanced public policy to continue this enviable record, said Quinn.