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Trump to name DOE official as top energy aide; carbon capture gets budget bump


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Trump to name DOE official as top energy aide; carbon capture gets budget bump

Trump to name DOE official as top energy aide

President Donald Trump will name U.S. Department of Energy official Wells Griffith to the National Economic Council as a top energy aide, according to reports.

Citing a White House official, E&E News reported that the president's decision would position Griffith as a primary adviser on energy and environmental issues.

Carbon capture, inland waterways receive spending bumps in FY'18 budget

Funding for carbon capture and storage technology increased 13.5% in Congress' fiscal-year 2018 omnibus spending bill compared to the previous year's budget, while inland waterways projects in coal country also received important financing.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 released March 21 would provide $481.1 million for carbon capture and storage and power systems, an increase from the $423.8 million enacted in the Fiscal Year 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act and more than quadruple the $114.8 million in the Trump administration's fiscal-year 2018 budget request.

The spending bill also provides a record $6.83 billion in funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a 13.1% increase from the fiscal-year 2017 appropriations and a 36.5% increase above the Trump administration's budget request for fiscal year 2018.

Bipartisan US Senate bill aims to spur deployment of carbon capture technologies

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a bill March 22 to promote research and development of carbon capture technologies, including through expedited carbon dioxide pipeline permitting. Supporters of the bill say these technologies will be crucial to maintaining demand for coal and other fossil fuels in a carbon-constrained economy.

The Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies Act was introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

JJudges challenge Interior's refusal to consider how coal leases affect climate

During a March 23 hearing for a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, federal judges challenged the U.S. Department of the Interior's failure to consider how the federal coal leasing program could cumulatively affect climate.

"You're not going to look at the larger concerns, climate change, that [environmental groups] are talking about and you're not disagreeing with them that there have been major climate changes," Judge Harry Edwards said to Michael Gray, the attorney representing the DOI in a hearing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. "So you're saying the government's position is there is no obligation to revise or update a [programmatic environmental impact statement] when everyone can see that the underlying assumptions are wrong?"

Railroads consider discounts to help stave off decline in coal demand

Major U.S. railroads are considering dynamic freight pricing tied to natural gas markets that would help coal compete in the power generation market.

"We're trying to develop market strategies to incent, if you will, incremental burn where it's necessary, where possible," said Russ Epting, vice president of coal sales and marketing at CSX Corp.

William Wolf, vice president of business and market analysis at John T. Boyd Co., said his biggest takeaway from Epting's comment is that CSX "is fully aware that if they stick with the traditional fixed price tariff, they run the risk of seeing their coal delivery business dry up entirely," and that the railroad needs to implement a natural gas-indexed pricing plan to preserve remaining coal business in key market areas.