CA-Black-Transp

The View from Rock Bottom

The term “rock bottom” is often used to describe a great loss, such as financial ruin. Its derivation can be traced back to coal mining in the late 1800s as a description of the harder bedrock formation lying below the coal bed, and using it to describe the current state of the coal business would be relevant. The irony would be humorous if it were not so tragic, especially when one considers the tens of thousands of coal miners who have lost their jobs. As difficult as it will be to manage through the bottom of this cycle, better times lie ahead.

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Historically Challenged

The opening spread for News this month has three items that Coal Age readers probably never thought they would ever see. First, former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has been sentenced to prison. As this edition was going to press, Peabody Energy, one of the world’s largest coal producers, filed for bankruptcy. Also, total coal production in the U.S. continues to plummet.

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OSM Skirts Rules to Rush SPR Rulemaking

On February 3, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee held a hearing on the Stream Protection Rule (SPR) being proposed by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). This proposed rule poses the greatest and most immediate threat to U.S. coal production, and the Obama administration will likely rush it through the system this summer while the country is distracted by election year banter.

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Supreme Court Puts CPP on Hold

Sanity prevailed. On February 9, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay temporarily blocking President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The regulation, which is the cornerstone of his climate change agenda, would require a 32% cut in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030. In a brief written order, the court granted emergency requests by coal operators, states and business groups to delay the regulations while they challenge it in the courts. The court’s action was seen as a significant blow to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to close coal-fired power plants in the United States.

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DOI Puts Coal Leases on Hold

In his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama continued to show little respect for coal operators and those who produce inexpensive electricity from coal. He mocked them by saying that wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power (coal). Before trying to take credit for lower gasoline prices, which he has only influenced by a lack of foreign leadership, he said the solar business now “employs more Americans than coal — in jobs that pay better than average.” The latter is certainly true, as new laws from the Environmental Protection Agency have wiped out tens of thousands of really good-paying jobs.

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