Tuesday, April 13, 2021
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Video: Standing with WV Gov. Jim Justice, Liberty U. President Jerry...

This seems like an Onion parody, but apparently these guys - WV Gov. Jim Justice and Liberty "University" President Jerry Falwell, Jr. - are...

Where Does West Virginia Rank in Terms of Dangerous Drivers?

SPONSORED CONTENT A recent study conducted by the insurance giant, Esurance, looked at the states that had the most dangerous drivers. The news is not...

Sunday News: Matt Damon in #SNLPremiere as Brett Kavanaugh; “Trump denies...

by Lowell Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, September 30. Indonesian quake toll jumps to 832 dead...

Sen. Wexton, Rep. Comstock Weigh In on “Rockwool” Story; 500 People...

If you haven't been following the "Rockwool" story, don't worry...I hadn't been either until very recently, when I saw politicians and activists starting to...

Edwin Santana: TransCanada Columbia Gas Pipeline Explosion Shows Why “we need...

I couldn't agree more with VA-01 Democratic candidate Edwin Santana on this: With the news of the TransCanada Columbia gas pipeline explosion in West Virginia...

What Does Peak Coal in America Mean for Appalachia?

rear viewAmerica is forecast to get less than 40% of its electricity from coal this year, mostly replaced by cheaper, less polluting natural gas and to a lesser extent by emerging renewables like solar & wind. That would be coal's lowest level in more than 60 years:
Just five years ago, coal was flourishing in the U.S. With electricity demand and the price of natural gas both rising, coal was viewed as essential to keeping power costs under control. Utilities drew up plans to build dozens of coal-fired plants.

But around the same time, a revolution was under way in the natural gas industry. Drillers figured how to tap enormous deposits of previously inaccessible reserves. As supplies grew and the price of natural gas plummeted, the ground shifted under the electric-power industry. [...]

Power plants that burn coal produce more than 90 times as much sulfur dioxide, five times as much nitrogen oxide and twice as much carbon dioxide as those that run on natural gas, according to the Government Accountability Office, the regulatory arm of Congress. Sulfur dioxide causes acid rain; nitrogen oxides cause smog; and carbon dioxide is a so-called greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

For coal industry apologists, here's the real kick in the pants: "Even without the EPA rules, coal is not really competitive," says Jone-Lin Wang, head of Global Power for the energy research firm IHS CERA. So much for coal executives' fever dreams of a "war on coal."

So if America really has put coal in its rear view mirror, what does it mean for Appalachia? Countries like Saudi Arabia are taking their oil profits and pouring them into renewable energy to prepare for the inevitable decline of their oil reserves. Is there a similar plan to prepare Appalachia for a world where its coal is too expensive and too dirty? Or any plan at all?

“Out-of-State Coal Corporations Have Used West Virginia Like a Colony”

Today's Charleston (WV) Gazette on how corporate coal lobbyists are basically writing new mine safety laws:
For generations, out-of-state coal corporations have used West Virginia like a colony, bleeding away mineral wealth and leaving little behind but poverty and ravages. The industry invests heavily to sway the Legislature. Traditionally, it wielded enormous power.

But coal is fading. The number of West Virginia miners dwindled from 125,000 after World War II to around 15,000 today, as machines displaced human workers. All studies say easy-to-reach Appalachian coal is being depleted, and production will decline severely in coming years.

Under these circumstances, it's remarkable that coal lobbyists still have power to steer the Legislature, like the tail wagging the dog.

Replace "West Virginia" with "southwest Virginia" and "Legislature" with "General Assembly" and this editorial could just as easily be talking about our own state.

TVA Moves Away From Dirty Power As Coal’s Long Sunset Continues

I wrote last year about how, by helping kill clean energy & climate legislation, politicians claiming to be on coal's side were actually helping accelerate coal's inevitable decline. Without a Congressional mandate to pretend "clean" coal is real and massive subsidies for technology research, coal wouldn't be able to compete against natural gas, solar and wind power.

States like Colorado have already begun shuttering coal plants and moving to cleaner energy sources. Dominion Virginia Power is switching coal plants to natural gas & biomass. And now the Tennessee Valley Authority is announcing plans to phase out 18 units at three dirty, coal-fired power plants and install modern pollution controls on three dozen additional units:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations at 11 of its coal-fired plants in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The settlement will require TVA to invest a TVA estimated $3 to $5 billion on new and upgraded state-of-the-art pollution controls that will prevent approximately 1,200 to 3,000 premature deaths, 2,000 heart attacks and 21,000 cases of asthma attacks each year, resulting in up to $27 billion in annual health benefits. TVA will also invest $350 million on clean energy projects that will reduce pollution, save energy and protect public health and the environment.

"This agreement will save lives and prevent billions of dollars in health costs. Modernizing these plants and encouraging clean energy innovation means better health protections and greater economic opportunities for the people living near TVA facilities," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Investments in pollution control equipment will keep hundreds of thousands of tons of harmful pollutants out of the air we breathe, and help create green job opportunities that will reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency."

But coal state politicians continue to insist all is well. Ken Ward Jr. of the Charleston (WV) Gazette's Coal Tattoo blog has a must-read post on West Virginia politicians denying the reality of coal's decline:

A “Dear Joe” Letter to Sen. Manchin on Coal

Appalachia Rising: More than 100 Arrested at White House Demanding End to Mountaintop RemovalJW Randolph of Appalachian Voices has a message for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) - "Arch Coal has a plan, and it is not you":
Well, I'm not sure how it happened. But it seems like southern West Virginia has survived its first post-apocalyptic, economy-annihilating, way-of-life-ending weekend after EPA heroically vetoed Arch Coal's Spruce Mine permit last Thursday. As bad as Joe Manchin and Nick Rahall said life was going to be after the veto, myself and most folks in West Virginia ended up having a pretty decent weekend, all things considered. Heck, we even learned that despite the snow many if not most nearby residents are celebrating EPA's veto of Spruce #1 mine.

Which leads me to wonder...has anyone ever been so loud and proud about shoving their head in the sand and ignoring the cries of their constituents and colleagues, the consensus of scientists, and the pleading of health professionals as loudly as Joe Manchin and Nick Rahall? Senator Manchin certainly hasn't had a very positive first few weeks in the United States Senate. In fact, despite not taking too many big votes, he has found that his actions have already left him with a lot to apologize for. He set another high bar last week when EPA announced its decision on Spruce. Not only was his rhetoric irresponsible, but his information is just plain incorrect - particularly in asserting that EPA was "retroactively" vetoing this permit.

The whole post is long but definitely worth reading.

Manchin Threatening to Bolt Party 6 Days After Getting Elected

Joe ManchinBefore he's even sworn in as a U.S. senator, Joe Manchin is already threatening to leave the Democratic Party unless he's showered with gifts:
Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects -- a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. [...]

"He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on," said one Manchin advisor. "Now, if that doesn't work and Democrats aren't receptive, I don't know what possibilities that leaves open."

If Joe Manchin is so eager to join the GOP, why didn't he do it before election? Oh, right. Because he'd have gotten obliterated in this or any other GOP primary. Any Democrat who offers any sort of "reward" to Manchin for staying in the party shouldn't be surprised if they suddenly find dozens of other Democrats with their hand out for goodies as well.