The U.S. coal industry targeted a familiar collection of regulatory goals with federal lobbying spending in the first quarter, while some companies pushed for carbon capture and export solutions to the sector's current challenges.
Lobbying expenditures include, but are not limited to, travel expenses, office rent, salaries for in-house lobbyists, legal fees, association dues and funds paid to any outside service for lobbying services. Data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence was reported by the company or organization to the U.S. Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database.
Peabody Energy Corp. ended the quarter as the industry's largest individual company spender, with lobbying expenditures allotted for a wide array of regulatory and legislative goals.
The company focused its energy on familiar targets in the first quarter, including changes to the Clean Air Act, the Waters of the U.S. rule and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. It also spent on company-specific issues, especially activity that would affect the fate of the Navajo Generating Station.
The Arizona plant is the only customer of Peabody's Kayenta mine, and its future is uncertain after its utility owners said they would back away from the facility after its lease ends in December 2019 because natural gas is more economical.
Arch Coal Inc. upped its spending in the first quarter by about 46% from the previous quarter and by about $100,000 from the year-ago period, echoing Peabody's focus on traditional regulatory targets as well as changes to the federal coal lease program.
The Trump administration has explored options for changes to the program, most notably reversing a moratorium on some new leases introduced by the Obama administration. Since then, companies and legislative allies have pushed for further action to adjust royalty rates and forbid any further moratoriums.
Arch also spent in support of carbon capture and sequestration technology, including the 45Q tax extenders pushed by lawmakers including Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and the U.S. House of Representatives' Carbon Capture Act.
Carbon capture and other advanced coal technologies appeared in a number of lobbying disclosure reports for the first quarter. Proponents have argued that federal support will be necessary for these efforts to gain traction, suggesting this will be vital to ensuring power plants can continue to operate while meeting tighter emissions standards.
Most recently, Reps. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, and David McKinley, R-W.Va., sponsored the Fossil Energy Research & Development Act of 2018, legislation that will bolster funding and provide a program of research, development, demonstration and commercial application for carbon capture technologies.
Both Arch and Cloud Peak Energy Inc. focused their lobbying expenditures on promoting coal exports, supporting an industry sentiment that the international market is one of the few avenues for growth among U.S. producers. In addition to direct appeals to federal agencies to advocate for coal abroad, companies have pushed to expand export capacity, including removing obstacles to proposed port projects along the U.S. West Coast.
Lighthouse Resources Inc, the company behind the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview LLC coal export project in Washington, sharply increased its spending in the first quarter, with efforts focused mainly on "issues related to the North American Free Trade Agreement." Lobbying expenditures in the first quarter amounted to 77.3% more than the company spent in all of 2017.
Lighthouse is suing Washington's governor and members of his administration over the denial of state permits for the port project. The company has been joined in the legal action by several states and, most recently, rail and trade groups. The focus on NAFTA during the first quarter supports a strategy that Michael Klein, Lighthouse's vice president of legal and business development and general counsel, outlined earlier this year to focus on permitting and regulatory reform within the discussion of the trade agreement.