Category Archives: National

Selling the Taxpayers’ Coal

The United States government owns 700 million acres of mineral estates, 570 million acres of which is open for coal development. The Mineral Leasing Acts of 1920 and 1947 gave responsibility for these coal mineral estates to the Bureau of Land Management, who are in charge of leasing them to companies for mining. This federal coal system has not been reviewed in more than 30 years.

Taxpayers for Common Sense has been investigating the national coal program to make sure that American taxpayers are being paid what they are owed for the more than one billion tons of coal produced annually in the United States. Their 2013 report highlighted the urgent need for review and overhaul and spurred the Department of the Interior to launch their own multi-year review of the program. Check out TCS’s video and the great work they have been doing to promote transparency and protect American taxpayers.

 

Blocking the Sun

The solar industry is growing rapidly in the U.S. and becoming increasingly popular among U.S. citizens as an obvious solution for clean, affordable power.

However, Environment America and Frontier Group recently released this report which reveals that at least 17 fossil fuel backed groups and electric utilities are working aggressively to slow the growth of the solar industry by undermining key environmental policies.

This work is well funded and being done largely behind the scenes, making it very dangerous, but hopefully state decision-makers will resist these efforts in favor of progressive legislation which serves the burgeoning solar industry.

blocking-the-sun

Suit Alleging U.S. Government Failed to Protect Future Generations from Climate Change Allowed to Go to Trial

“Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”

–U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken

Last year, 21 youth filed a lawsuit against the federal government for violating the youngest generations’ constitutional right to life, liberty, and property through its part in causing climate change.

The U.S. government and fossil fuel industry moved to dismiss the lawsuit, but on November 10th, 2016 federal judge Ann Aiken denied this motion, affirming that the rights of the youth are at stake and allowing the case to go to trial.

Read more here.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission clears way for rural clean energy

In a decision yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected a proposed fee from Tri-State Generation and Transmission that would have acted as a serious barrier to rural electric utilities like Delta-Montrose (located in West-central Colorado) from accessing local clean energy by making it uneconomical.

This decision is expected to help communities across the West develop their own local sources of clean, affordable energy – creating jobs, reducing emissions, and investing in local economies!

In March, Clean Energy Action and its supporters submitted a petition, joining approximately 120 individuals and organizations led by Delta-Montrose to urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to protect rural access to clean, affordable energy.

On June 16th, FERC responded, rejecting Tri-State’s penalty because it would “undermine the Commission’s prior order in Delta-Montrose” by making the cost of accessing local clean energy prohibitively high.

In FERC’s previous Tri-State and Delta-Montrose decision (last year’s Delta-Montrose proceeding) the Commission  ruled that Delta-Montrose was not only allowed but obligated to purchase electricity from qualifying local renewable energy facilities. In its decision, FERC relied on the 1978 Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which seeks to “encourage cogeneration and small power production” from renewables.

In turn, Tri-State responded by attempting to impose a penalty to recover revenues it claimed would be lost if rural communities began to rely on local sources of clean energy.

FERC ruled that the proposed lost revenue penalty “should be rejected” because it “undermine[s] the Commission’s prior order finding that, under PURPA, Delta-Montrose must purchase” energy from qualifying local facilities.

In doing so, the Commission has essentially reaffirmed and clarified last year’s decision that local access to clean energy should be prioritized and protected. This anxiously-awaited decision is widely seen as an important step forward for communities working to developing local sources of wind, solar, and geothermal!

Updated Trends in U.S. Delivered Coal Prices: Volatility in U.S. Coal Prices Increases Pressure to Phase Out Coal Power

Clean Energy Action has questioned the practice of making long-term continued investments in coal-fired power plants for years. These concerns are driven by several factors including carbon dioxide emissions which in many states make coal plants the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, emission of pollutants like mercury and sulfur dioxide, increasingly unfavorable economics, and the uncertainty of future coal prices and supplies.

The price of coal has changed greatly over the last two decades. This volatility puts continued investments in coal-fired power plants at risk of becoming stranded assets – assets that have suffered from unanticipated or premature write-downs, devaluations or conversion to liabilities. Rather than adding pollution control equipment or other investments to keep coal plants online, regulators and utilities should consider making plans to phase out coal power.

Coal plants can’t operate without a stable supply of coal over their entire lifetime, which means that the long-term stability of coal prices and supplies are essential to the solvency of a coal plant investment.­­ In 2013, CEA published a detailed analysis of historical coal prices in each U.S. state to gain insight into their stability. The study revealed that prices rose steadily over the preceding decade, thereby continually increasing costs for coal based utilities.

In light of the recent coal industry bankruptcies, we updated this report to include more recent data and found that instability in the coal industry was paralleled by decreasing coal prices and persistently rising production costs, resulting in dangerously low profit margins. Our analyses indicate that utility commissions, utilities, and political leaders should seriously consider the unpredictable nature of fossil fuel markets when making decisions about long-term energy investments. Our findings point to the long-term economic benefits of investing in “free fuel” renewable energy resources such as wind and solar that have stable and affordable prices.