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Coal lobbyist tapped to join EPA; lawmakers propose fix for miners' pensions

Q2: U.S. Solar and Wind Power by the Numbers

Essential Energy Insights - September 17, 2020

Essential Energy Insights September 2020

Rate case activity slips, COVID-19 proceedings remain at the forefront in August


Coal lobbyist tapped to join EPA; lawmakers propose fix for miners' pensions

Lobbyist for coal company tapped to be deputy administrator of EPA

Coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler was nominated to be deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He currently is a principal at the Faegre Baker Daniels firm and a registered lobbyist for Murray Energy Corp.

The Sierra Club released a news release calling the nomination "absolutely horrifying" due to his connection to the coal industry, while the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity said: "Andrew is extraordinarily qualified to be EPA's Deputy Administrator."

Lawmakers propose bipartisan fix to protect coal miners' pensions

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is sponsoring federal legislation to shore up coal miners' pension funds that could otherwise go bankrupt in the next few years.

"The bill we will introduce today, the American Miners Pension Act, protects the pensions of nearly 87,000 current beneficiaries and another 20,000 eligible coal miners with vested pensions," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said at an Oct. 3 press conference in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Manchin said the bill would use some of the "excess funds" in the Abandoned Mine Land fund to support the 1974 United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan.

DOE resiliency proposal narrow, but may boost key Trump coal supporters

The latest pro-coal policy move by the Trump administration has riled energy market players but could benefit key supporters of the presidency.

The way Perry's request was structured, most of the coal plants eligible to benefit from the proposed rule are in the PJM Interconnection, where three producers — Murray Energy Corp., Alliance Resource Partners LP and Peabody Energy Corp. — delivered a combined 42% of the market's coal in 2016, according to a recent S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.

Peabody cheered Perry's proposal as a "good first step" in preserving the reliable baseload generation and to "begin leveling the playing field in a fuel-neutral manner."

Energy industry hopes to use new Interior committee to simplify royalty process

Energy industry representatives hope to use a new federal policy committee on resource royalties to simplify federal payment processes, meeting for the first time Oct. 4 in Washington, D.C. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the creation of the Royalty Policy Committee on March 29 when he lifted a moratorium on new federal coal leases.

Matthew Adams, the vice president and senior tax counsel for Cloud Peak Energy Inc., told S&P Global Market Intelligence that the coal producer was looking to be part of the solution in sorting out the royalty process.

"The more that we can develop the understanding of how the process works, we think the more the questions will go away," he said. "We're trying to the do the best thing for the taxpayers and for our companies."

Senate panel advances nominees to head DOE reliability, fossil energy offices

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted Oct. 4 to advance two of President Donald Trump's nominees to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The committee by voice vote approved Bruce Walker's nomination as assistant secretary of energy for electricity delivery and energy reliability. Walker is a former vice president of asset strategy and policy for National Grid USA and served as director of corporate emergency management for Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc.

In addition, the Senate energy committee on Oct. 4 approved by voice vote Steven Winberg's nomination as assistant secretary of energy for fossil energy. Winberg, a former vice president for research and development at CONSOL Energy Inc., has advocated using public-private partnerships to help develop and deploy technologies that can capture and store or use carbon emitted by power plants.