By John Davies, Davies Public Affairs
The latest salvo came when the Environmental Protection Agen-cy (EPA) revoked a previously granted 404 permit for the Spruce 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia. The EPA’s unprecedented permit revocation sent a clear and chilling signal that it was moving ever closer to using its regulatory power to begin to outlaw coal mining.
The EPA’s action is not an isolated event. It’s part of a multi-front battle being waged against coal within Federal agencies, local governments, in the courts, and through the media.
The strategy is to kill American coal from death by a thousand cuts. Opponents plan to make coal uneconomic by dramatically driving up costs of mining and electricity generation by any means available.
Over the last 40 years new technology and innovation has led to substantial reductions in emissions. Likewise, recent stringent new environmental regulations are being met and surpassed by power generators across the country. Yet opponents of coal are more aggressive then ever and are increasing their attacks on coal. Clearly, opponents are not concerned with improving coal – they want it gone.
Last year, Montgomery County, Maryland enacted a first in the nation single source local carbon tax against the county’s sole electric producer. Maryland has some of the toughest emissions standards in the country and the power plant in question had just completed a billion dollar plus pollution control project at its plants. The bill’s proponents argued that was not enough and that the best-case scenario would be to shut the plant down. Their reasoning: because it was too expensive to run.
In 2009, a Sierra Club lawyer announced the environmental community would eventually shut down all of the existing fleet of coal-fueled plants, replacing them with energy efficiency measures or renewable power. His plan was of course to fight every new plant, but also according to this lawyer, the plan by which they will achieve their goal is an indirect attack, an attack on the cost of energy from coal-fueled plants.
The total effect has been plans for dozens of new coal-fueled plants have been scrapped in the last two years; probably a mercy killing because chances of getting them successfully through the regulatory approval process were slim to none.
None of this should be a surprise as there has been an all out assault on coal for decades. Now that the anti-coal activists are entrenched in a number of federal agencies, they are acting quickly. The Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign is really a political campaign and has effectively portrayed coal as the environmental public enemy number one.
Ok that was the bad news. Here’s the good news.
Our research and experience shows there is an approach that the public understands and will move them to assist us.
Lining up coal miners and employees at public hearings, is helpful, and can show the real face of the industry.
But much more powerful is activating people with absolutely no vested interest in coal. Individuals, who were moved by a compelling message to take action, can help us better tell the story with passion and credibility.
I often hear coal executives lamenting that the industry has no friends and they worry about coal’s certain and imminent demise. Even their biggest utility customers with coal-fueled plants don’t want to be seen helping coal interests. Utilities are too busy promoting their green energy agenda and conservation efforts and trying to meet their renewal portfolio standards (RPS).
The coal industry’s best efforts to re-shape public opinion – by using catchy terms such as “clean coal” – isn’t working because it is fundamentally flawed.