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Coal firms call for Trump to support Paris agreement to shape climate debate


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Coal firms call for Trump to support Paris agreement to shape climate debate

A handful of coal producers have joined a growing number of energy companies urging the Trump administration to stay in the Paris climate agreement in hopes of shaping the climate change debate.

According to a Reuters report, Cloud Peak Energy Inc., Arch Coal Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp. have all expressed their support for the climate change agreement in recent weeks as Trump has called for input from energy companies likely to be affected by the effort.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the president's decision on whether to abandon the agreement, support it or press for changes under the deal could come as early as late May.

Richard Reavey, Cloud Peak's vice president for government and public affairs, said supporting the agreement provides a way for the country to help shape climate policy debate.

"Our view is that things are not going to get better in terms of the international approach to climate policy without the U.S. at the table," Reavey told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Specifically, this would mean changing what he feels is the current debate over "prosperity or the environment" to "prosperity and the environment," echoing members of the Trump administration, like U.S. EPA head Scott Pruitt.

Reavey said he would not comment on those in the industry calling to abandon the agreement. Instead, he said President Donald Trump's recent executive actions had already removed the potential impact of Obama-administration-era environmental regulations that would be felt under the Paris agreement.

"The president has the opportunity to say, 'We're going to remain engaged, we're going to stop the policies aimed at picking winners and losers, that are persecuting coal, for example,'" Reavey said.

By retaining a place in the debate, Reavey said, the U.S. could push for the application of "innovation and technology to address people's legitimate concerns about emissions and the climate," later citing the development of carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, projects.

"[Signatories to the Paris agreement] are not living up to the same basis on which they claim to act," Reavey said. "And I think the U.S. has the opportunity, by staying in Paris, to be a force for good and a force for leadership."

Reavey would not expand on the specifics of Cloud Peak's communications with the administration, but he said the company had made its position clear on the Paris agreement.

While the notion of fossil fuel companies supporting the agreement could be seen as "clearly confusing," Sierra Club's Global Climate Policy Director John Coequyt said it should not be surprising.

"The Paris agreement allows governments to pursue targets and timetables and solutions that are within our national interest, and I am sure they believe that the Trump administration is listening to them about what they feel that would mean," Coequyt said, making a place at the table all the more important.

Further, he argued that exiting other international climate agreements, most notably the Kyoto Protocol, caused the U.S. to be excluded from the conversation and at odds with the international community on climate issues.

Coequyt added that remaining in the agreement would also allow coal producers to push for greater investment in emissions reduction technology, such as CCS, though he called that strategy "wishful thinking."

In recent weeks, Royal Dutch Shell plc, BP plc, Statoil and ConocoPhillips Co. have all reportedly expressed support for the agreement, as well as Exxon, which was formerly headed by current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson has also, reportedly, urged the president to stay with the climate agreement, citing diplomatic reasons.

While producers like Cloud Peak may be embracing the climate agreement, some companies are balking at the notion that the industry should support climate change agreements. One of the industry's most vocal advocates, Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert Murray, called for withdrawing from the Paris agreement in a February speech, calling it "illegal" and costly.