Murray Energy acquired CONSOL Energy’s longwall operations in West Virginia and immediately became the state’s largest coal producer. The combined production from those mines in 2013 amounted to 29.1 million tons or 25% of West Virginia’s 116 million tons. But, all is not well in the Mountain State (See WVCA Roundup, p. 40). Robert E. Murray spoke at the annual West Virginia Coal Association (WVCA) meeting and admitted he is worried about the current situation. He also delivered the keynote at the Bluefield Coal Show in 2013. Murray Energy has also filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The company says the EPA failed to consider the true costs of its stringent environmental policies (See Murray Taking on the EPA, p. 41). Murray Energy is not the only group voicing this concern, but they are the first coal operator to put teeth behind it with litigation.

Kentucky officials, including the state’s attorney general, are pushing back against the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) decision in November to shutter two of the three coal-burning units at the Paradise power plant (See Kentucky Officials Question TVA’s Motives, p. 6). Attorney General Jack Conway and State Rep. Brent Yonts (both Democrats) forwarded requests to TVA seeking documents to justify the decision.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) has also expressed concerns over the EPA’s New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) and the process the agency used in developing the rule. The ACCCE points out that the NSPS uses federally funded demonstration plants as the standard for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, versus other commercially available technology, undermining the agency’s claims about the economic and technological availability of CCS. That issue is the focus of a federal lawsuit recently filed by the state of Nebraska that challenges the EPA over the inclusion of these facilities in determining commercially available technology. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the EPA, according to the ACCCE, reveal that OMB repeatedly recommended the EPA include more realistic costs to implement CCS. It’s becoming more apparent that the EPA disregarded the constructive input. The ACCCE is demanding the EPA come clean about both the dubious science and true economic costs of its new rule, as well as their potential violations of federal law.

Sadly, this rally against the NSPS, which could possibly gain traction outside of coal country, is being over-shadowed by environmental mishaps related to coal production and coal-fired power in Appalachia. As this edition was going to press, a coal slurry spill was darkening a river in West Virginia, while coal ash was leaking from an impoundment in North Carolina.

Steve Fiscor