Science Dies in the Dark

During the President Barack Obama administration, serving in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy was a thankless task, like being a stand-up comic in a penal colony. Clearly there is a need for comic relief, but the guards and conditions discourage a sense of humor.
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Perry’s Angry Critics

It was the 17th century English playwright William Congreve who claimed “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Congreve never met the renewable fuels industry.
Wind and solar lobbyists reacted furiously to a proposal by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry last month that would allow many utilities to recover the full value of their baseload power units for the reliable power they provide to the grid. The secretary agrees with the National Mining Association (NMA) that today’s marketplace ignores the advantage coal and nuclear offer by storing their fuel “on-site” — unlike natural gas, wind and solar that rely on vulnerable or spotty transmission infrastructure or sunny and windy days to deliver electricity to your light switch.
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States Find New Friends

Last month, two seemingly disparate events showed how some in the President Donald Trump administration are holding fast to promises and principles. Both events encouraged a respect for state partnership and the welfare of coal communities.

The first event was a subdued birthday party at the Department of the Interior, where the Office of Surface Mining and Regulatory Enforcement (OSM) observed its 40th anniversary. Recall that Congress passed OSM’s authorizing law, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), in 1977, directing the agency to strike “a balance between protection of the environment … and the nation’s need for coal …”

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Change We Can Believe In

Editor’s note: The following is a transcript of the speech Hal Quinn (left), president and CEO of the National Mining Association, delivered at Longwall USA 2017 in June. 

When I was here two years ago, we discussed the twin forces we faced — the market and our government. We have always faced market forces, but never the relentless wrath of our own government.

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Who’s Mining the AML Store?

We interrupt our normal programing about Washington’s regulatory follies to bring you this message about an obscure federal program that was the long-overdue subject of a U.S. House of Representatives oversight hearing last month.

This would be the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund, paid for by the coal industry and administered by the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSM). The House subcommittee on energy and minerals heard how this ramshackle, multibillion-dollar program has become equally inefficient and ineffective. Billions from the fund can’t be accounted for, with the only certainty that most of the money hasn’t been spent on abandoned coal mine cleanup, the intended purpose.

Here’s the plot to date. Since 1977, the AML fund has collected some $11 billion from fees, with interest, on each ton of mined coal to clean up abandoned coal mines prioritized for this purpose. Of this total, about $8.5 billion as of last fall has been spent — but not on abandoned coal mines. In fact, just $2.8 billion has been spent on high and low priority sites, according to OSM’s records.

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