Sunday, October 15, 2017

Illinois coal producers are praising the Trump administration’s planned rollback of the Clean Power Plan

Illinois coal producers are praising the Trump administration’s planned rollback of the Clean Power Plan, Metamora Herald

Illinois coal producers are breathing a sigh of relief following the announcement of the Trump administration’s planned rollback of the Clean Power Plan.

The Obama-era rules were an effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired plants. Legal challenges have prevented the regulations from ever actually taking effect.

“The Clean Power Plan going away means that power plants that could not comply with the air emissions limits are going to be kept online,” said Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association. “We’ll be able to provide them with coal to provide reliable energy.”

Uncertainty about the regulations helped contribute to a recent wave of shutdowns of coal-fired plants. More than 400 have closed their doors in the past six years nationwide. Gonet says the whole idea never made much sense.

“Even Gina McCarthy, the former administrator of the EPA, admitted if the United States implemented the Clean Power Plan, it would have an impact on global [carbon dioxide] emissions of less than 1%,” Gonet said. “Our point was, it’s going to cost billions of dollars in more costly power from renewables or wherever to replace coal and it would have a negligible impact on emissions worldwide. Why are we doing this?”

The EPA estimates that repealing the Clean Power Plan could lead to up to $33 billion dollars in avoided compliance costs in 2030. And Gonet says the increased regulatory certainty would mean a brighter future for Illinois coal.

“I see coal [in Illinois] that is easy to extract,” Gonet said. “The coal mines are very productive, in terms of tons per man hour produced. Our operators know how to get the product to the end market. And in a shrinking marketplace, the low-cost producer is going to prevail.”

Total coal production in Illinois is expected to be up about 12% in 2017, to 50 million tons. Illinois supports about 3,300 jobs in the coal industry, down from about 4,400 just three years ago, and a high of 10,000 back in 1990.

Gonet says the rollback is a shot in the arm for the industry but admits it’s not a cure-all.

“The [rollback of] the Clean Power Plan, while we welcome it, is not going to bring those plants back,” Gonet said, “but it’s going to stop the bleeding and stop the further reduction in coal being used.”

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