Coal country begs Obama for mercy as hundreds of coal plants ready for closing

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Coal industry lobbyists and politicians have been urging the Obama administration to ease up on its regulatory agenda and craft carbon dioxide emission rules that would allow the coal industry to survive.

All the while, reports indicate that hundreds of coal plants are slated to be shut down in the coming years.

The unveiling of President Obama’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants earlier this summer stoked the fears of coal supporters who have already been hit hard by stricter environmental regulations.

However, the industry is not going down without a fight.

Coal lobbyists met with White House officials at the end of July, the Hill newspaper reports, to ask the administration to consider a plan that would allow new coal plants to be built.

Earlier this year the Obama administration put forward rules that would have effectively banned building new coal plants, unless they utilized carbon capture technology.

“In Kentucky, coal is not just an energy source, it’s a way of life,” reads a letter from 50 Kentucky Republican and Democratic state legislators, urging Obama to reconsider new rules for carbon emissions limits. “In Kentucky alone, the loss would measure in the billions of dollars — both from declines in the industry and what are predicted to be steep increases in energy costs.”

Last week, West Virginia lawmakers , coal industry representatives, and union officials met with White House officials and Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy to discuss scaling back the planned emissions limits which would disadvantage the industry.

However, coal supporters left the meeting uncertain of how the administration will proceed in curbing carbon emissions.

“We’ll have to see how it plays out,” West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin told The Washington Post. “They’re using every tool they have to destroy the most abundant, reliable and affordable resource that we have.”

Meanwhile, as the coal industry bargains with the Obama administration over what should be done to tackle global warming while preserving an entire industry, reports indicate coal plants across the country are slated for shut down in the coming years.

Reuters compiled a list of 207 coal plants that are slated to shut down in the next decade or so, in part due to stricter environmental regulations. However, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity found that 285 coal-fired generators will be shut down, at least in part, because of EPA rules.

Burning coal generates 30 percent of U.S. power, and the share of electricity generation from coal is expected to rise to 40.5 percent in 2014 due to increases natural gas prices. Though, this will probably be short-lived according to analysts.

“Lower‐than‐projected natural gas prices along with the industry’s response to future environmental regulations could cause the coal share of total generation to fall below this forecast,” Energy Information Administration head Adam Sieminski told Congress.

The EPA will unveil its new rules regarding new coal plants this September, and agency rules regarding existing coal plants will be released by June 2014.

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