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Pete Altman’s Blog

The EPA is in Coal Country

Pete Altman

Posted November 4, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Solving Global Warming

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The Pollution Industry and its friends are revving up a campaign using a new round of phony “War on Coal” attacks to distract from the EPA’s legal and moral obligation to protect Americans and future generation from the dangerous carbon pollution dumped out by our nation’s power plants.

The reality is that these attacks are based on a myth, and the EPA is going to extraordinary lengths to gather input on carbon standards, as Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation Janet McCabe explained last week. The EPA is actually doing unprecedented outreach around the carbon standard, including

-       11 listening sessions around the nation

-       Use of webinars, web videos, email to provide information and gather input back

-       Face-to-face meetings with state leaders, multistate organizations, power companies, unions, academic institutions, nonprofit groups, trade associations, faith leaders and others.

But as to the central complaint that EPA is ignoring coal country and rural areas, here’s the real deal:

EPA is holding listening sessions in 5 of the top 11 states for coal-based electricity generation. Listening sessions at EPA regional offices in Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Georgia and Colorado are in five of the eleven states that generated the most electricity from coal on average during last two years (2011 and 2012), based on the Energy Information Administration’s Electric Power Monthly.

EPA is holding listening sessions in 4 of the top 11 coal producing states. Listening sessions at EPA regional offices in Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Colorado are in four of the top 11 coal producing states in the United States [American Resource, US Coal Production by State and Rank, November 2012].

In fact, if you total up the electricity generated from coal by the states that the US Chamber of Commerce named as top coal states being ignored by EPA, and compare that to the amount of coal generated electricity in the states where the EPA is holding its listening sessions, its hard to actually tell the difference: the Chamber’s states accounted for 7.2% of all coal-generation in the US, while the listening session states account for 5.6%. That's hardly supports the claim that EPA is ignoring coal states.

State ListeningSession?  Average annual generation from coal during 2011 and 2012, in megawatt hours (MWh)
All States         8,155,141,040
 
WV N            73,132,314
OH N            95,679,272
KY N            87,111,072
IN N            98,364,761
MO N            75,593,021
NE N            25,538,001
ND N            27,671,487
WY N            42,301,963
UT N            31,964,578
NM N            26,069,625
Total           583,426,092
% of US Total: 7.2%
WA Y             4,495,772
CA Y             1,787,103
CO Y            34,299,024
KS Y            24,819,352
TX Y          147,994,627
GA Y            50,431,922
DC Y                         -  
PA Y            94,315,877
NY Y             6,987,159
MA Y             3,078,488
IL Y            85,426,805
Total           453,636,127
% of US Total: 5.6%
Source: US Energy Information Administration,
Electric Power Monthly, 2011 and 2012

Bottom line: Coal voices are well represented in the EPA process. In reality, the polluter industry and political leaders from coal country have had plenty of access to the EPA under Administrator Gina McCarthy, who is known for her ability to work with all stakeholders. According to a Nov. 1 National Journal report, McCarthy has had the following meetings with coal interests: “Last week she met with Thomas Farrell, CEO of Dominion, a major energy company whose portfolio includes coal-fired power plants. Earlier this week, EPA convened a meeting with aides of several governors from states including Colorado, Wyoming, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. In September she met with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat. Also that month, she met with CEOs of the Edison Electric Institute's member companies, including Nick Akins of American Electric Power and Thomas Fanning of Southern Company” [National Journal, 10/31/13].

Even Coal Miners Know The War on Coal Is A Myth . . .retired coal miner Carl Shoupe wrote in The Hill earlier this week that:

It has been clear that we needed to be building a new economy here in the coalfields for generations, yet our political leaders have done little or nothing to help us prepare for the inevitable transition…These claims are nothing but a distraction from the real needs of coal communities...In a district represented by some of the most powerful politicians in Washington D.C., one-third of our children live in poverty and we rank 435th in combined quality of life indicators. It's time to try something new…

I wanted my own zinger to wrap up this post, but i just couldn't do better than to use Carl's own words to do it: 

The war on coal is nothing more than a smokescreen designed to keep us from seeing the true challenges and real opportunities in communities like mine.

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Comments

Katherine GriffinNov 6 2013 02:52 PM

I wish these listening sessions were streamed live, so more of us could listen, even if we can't visit.

Did I miss a link that was offered?

Perhaps you plan to post the podcasts?

Comments are closed for this post.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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