The Energy Spectator

The EPA Coal Tour

A "listening tour" that is bypassing coal-producing and -consuming areas.

By 10.30.13

This week bureaucrats from the Environmental Protection Administration have embarked on a “Listening Tour” of eleven cities to solicit feedback on their on-going campaign to shut down the nation’s coal industry.

The cities they will be visiting over the next two weeks are: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Lenexa, KS, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle. Do you notice anything unusual about those cities? They are all outside the nation’s coal consuming and producing regions. Only two cities -- Denver and Lenexa -- get more than half their electricity from coal and most don’t have a coal plant within 50 miles. The entire West Coast consumes less than 1 percent of the nation’s coal as opposed to 35 percent consumed in the Industrial Belt stretching from Detroit to Birmingham, represented here only by one city, Chicago.

What the EPA is “listening” for, of course, is adulation from urban elites who don’t know anything about energy but are happy to hear about how the federal bureaucrats are dealing with the world-threatening catastrophe of global warming. Here’s how the cities on the list get their electricity:

  • Boston. Coal accounts for only 3 percent of Massachusetts’ electricity, 6 percent of New England’s. The Brayton Point Coal Station, 50 miles south of Boston, largest of six remaining plants in the region, will close in 2017 because of the EPA regulations. In July, Scientific American reported that coal has become “virtually extinct in New England.”
  • New York. New York City gets none of its power from coal. The closest coal plant on the New York grid is in Watertown, 320 miles to the north, near the Canadian border.
  • Philadelphia. All the coal plants in the Philadelphia area have been closed down. Electricity now comes from natural gas and nuclear. Pennsylvania’s remaining coal plants are in the Pittsburgh region.
  • Washington. The only coal-burning plant in the District of Columbia is the Capitol Power Plant, built in 1910. It supplies heating and air conditioning to the United States Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and all the House and Senate office buildings. It is now in the process of converting to natural gas.
  • Atlanta. Atlanta is one of five cities on the tour burning coal above the national average (47 percent to 43 percent), down from 70 percent five years ago. Georgia Power has announced plans to close 15 more coal plants and will convert two others to natural gas. It is currently building two reactors in east Georgia but worried about supplying enough electricity in the meantime.
  • Chicago. Commonwealth Edison, which serves Chicago, gets 44 percent of its electricity from coal, 40 percent from nuclear, 12 percent from natural gas, and 5 percent from wind. It is trying to buy more wind.
  • Dallas. Texas once had plans for nine new coal burners but all have now been cancelled. Coal now supplies only 36 percent of the state’s power. Dallas still gets electricity from three aging coal plants but doctors have been petitioning to have them shut down.
  • Lenexa, Kansas. Seventy-five percent of the state’s electricity comes from coal but the Kansas Supreme Court recently reversed approval of a new coal complex that was long opposed by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius before she become Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • Denver. Sixty-six percent of Colorado’s electricity is generated with coal, 20 percent from natural gas, and 14 percent from renewable energy.
  • San Francisco. Except for a few grandfathered plants around Los Angeles, burning coal has long been illegal in California. Some areas now even ban wood-burning fireplaces. Almost 60 percent of the state’s power comes from natural gas, twice the national average. Last November voters rejected a ballot referendum sponsored by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups that would have dismantled the Hetch-Hetchy dam, which provides San Francisco with 85 percent of its water and 40 percent of its electricity.
  • Seattle. Washington gets nearly all its power from Columbia River hydro. The state’s only commercial coal plant is in Centralia, 90 miles south of Seattle. It is scheduled to close in 2025.

If the EPA wanted to get an earful about the campaign to shut down, it could have visited:

  • Ohio. Seventy-eight percent of Ohio’s electricity is generated from coal. The state’s entire industrial complex is dependent on it. Ohio ranks third in the nation in manufacturing employment, with 5.4 percent of the country’s manufacturing jobs.
  • Indiana. Indiana gets 83 percent of its electricity from coal. The state’s manufacturing sector, which produces aluminum, chemicals, glass, metal casting, and steel, consumes more energy than the residential and commercial sectors combined.
  • Michigan. The state gets 54 percent of its electricity from coal. Public officials from both parties say the EPA campaign is threatening their state’s manufacturing base. Even Congressman John Dingell, a Democratic stalwart in the House for 59 years, has expressed reservations about the EPA effort.
  • Missouri. Twenty-four coal plants producing 82 percent of its electricity. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill has expressed concern that EPA regulations might “devastate my state.”
  • West Virginia. The state employs 30,000 miners in producing one-tenth of the nation’s coal. Unemployment in the coalfields now exceeds 10 percent.
  • Kentucky. More than 4,000 coalminers have lost their jobs. Allison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat who is trying to unseat Republican Congressional Leader Mitch McConnell, is running against him on the coal issue with support from the United Mine Workers and members of the coal industry.
  • Wyoming. The state produces 40 percent of the nation’s coal, feeding 35 states and providing eight states with more than 90 percent of their supply. Wyoming gets 86 percent of its electricity from coal and has the second lowest rates in the country,

I asked the EPA if there were any plans to visit states more dependent on coal than Massachusetts, New York, California, and Washington State. I received the following reply:

EPA is in the midst of hosting 11 public listening sessions at each of our regional offices and at headquarters to help inform the development of carbon pollution guidelines for existing power plants. These sessions, combined with extensive stakeholder outreach with all interested parties and with EPA’s state, local and tribal partners, are part of a comprehensive national conversation that will help the agency develop common sense, pragmatic guidelines that will be used by the states, as required by the Clean Air Act, to develop and implement programs for reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants. The plans developed by the states will allow for regional differences and encourage flexibility.

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William Tucker is news editor for