Trump EPA to strike blow against climate rules, reports say

Irving Hamilton
December 8, 2018

Coal retirements were highest in 2015, driven in part by stricter emissions standards required by the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, which went into effect in April of that year for coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.

The United States is on pace to set its lowest level of coal consumption in almost 40 years, mostly because of a wave of retirement of coal-fired power plants across the country. The decline in coal consumption since 2007 is the result of both the retirements of coal-fired power plants and the decreases in the capacity factors of coal plants as increased competition from natural gas and renewable sources have reduced coal's market share.

News of the expected announcement coincides with a federal report showing that consumption of coal in the USA has plummeted to its lowest levels since 1979.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects total U.S. coal consumption in 2018 to fall to 691 million short tons (MMst), representing a 4% decline from 2017 and the lowest level since 1979.

During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump repeatedly told crowds in coal-reliant regions of the country that as President he would 'bring back coal.' Trump carried the state of West Virginia by more than 40 points over Hillary Clinton largely over his pledge to bring coal jobs back to hard hit communities in Appalachia. And more coal-fired plants are expected to retire in 2018, which will further reduce coal consumption.

The Energy Information Administration says coal consumption by the country's power grid will end the year down 4 percent, and fall another 8 percent in 2019.

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The move dovetails with the EPA's separate effort to dramatically weaken an Obama administration regulation limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

Trump "talks tough to the coal miners to get their support, but he doesn't deliver for them, and I don't think that he can, because the markets are bigger than him", said Joe Pizarchik, who directed the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement in the Obama administration. Natural gas prices have stayed relatively low since domestic natural gas production began to grow in 2007. They often referred to it as a "war on coal".

Despite the continued drops in domestic coal use, 2018 has been a better year for the industry thanks to soaring exports, said Joe Aldina, director of USA coal analysis for S&P Global Platts.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from media.

National gas production in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia has jumped from 2 percent of the nation's total in 2008 to 27 percent previous year, Perry said.

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