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US Energy Department to rewrite National Coal Council charter

The U.S. Energy Department will not renew the National Coal Council's charter, choosing instead to write a new one and revise its focus, the federal advisory council told S&P Global Market Intelligence on Nov. 23.

Launched in 1984, the National Coal Council, or NCC, provides recommendations to the Energy Secretary on policies related to coal technology, marketing and use while also generating research reports on coal topics, including increasing the export of U.S. coal and promoting carbon capture and storage technology. But the council's charter was set to expire this month, and the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management decided to revamp the committee's mission to better align with the Biden administration's economic and climate agendas.

The proposed changes to the charter could broaden the scope of the council to include issues facing coal workers and communities and respond to priorities set out in the Energy Act of 2020 and the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, according to the DOE.

"The realities of federal advisory committee procedures mean that the current charter will lapse for a period until the new charter is approved, but rest assured that the important work of the National Coal Council will continue," Jennifer Wilcox, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, said in a Nov. 20 letter addressed to the council's chairman Randall Atkins. The NCC provided the letter to Market Intelligence.

The DOE did not specify when it would submit a new charter. The NCC's charter was last renewed in 2019.

The NCC called the decision disappointing, emphasizing the benefits its members provided to the federal government for nearly four decades. In a Nov. 23 letter, Atkins, NCC chairman, urged the department to preserve the existing functions of the volunteer group, including its focus on "policy, technological and market-related matters most germane to the coal and carbon industries." Atkins is also CEO of metallurgical coal producer Ramaco Resources Inc. and Ramaco Carbon LLC.

"Your proposed revisions to the charter on first reflection cover a scope of societal, workforce and other matters," Atkins said in the letter. "These new inclusions seem afield from the technical and policy industry-related areas for which the NCC has traditionally provided expertise."

The chairman also noted that the expanded focus would potentially duplicate work already being conducted by existing federal programs, such as an interagency working group focused on economic revitalization in communities dependent on coal and power plant operations.

Concern over the charter lapse came up in an Oct. 12 letter signed by over two dozen lawmakers, who called on the DOE to renew the charter and continue advancing coal and carbon management technologies.

In recent years, the council has faced mounting pushback from environmental groups, alleging that the advisory committee disproportionately serves the interests of the coal industry over the public and climate.