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Trump signals exit from Paris pact; greens revive suit vs. DOI on coal leasing


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Trump signals exit from Paris pact; greens revive suit vs. DOI on coal leasing

A weekly snapshot of regulatory news affecting the coal sector.

Report: Trump says he will quit Paris climate agreement

President Donald Trump has told multiple people that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Axios reported May 28.

After deliberating for months on whether to exit the accord, the Trump administration still has not announced a decision. But Axios said Trump told several people, including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he intends to leave the agreement. The president tweeted that he will make a final decision on the Paris climate accord this week.

Enviros revive lawsuit against DOI over federal coal leasing program

Environmental groups are reviving a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior over the agency's alleged failure to conduct an "adequate analysis" of the effect of climate and other environmental factors in its management of the federal coal leasing program.

The Western Organization of Resource Councils, or WORC, and Friends of the Earth initially sued the DOI in late 2014 in an attempt to get the agency to consider climate change. The environmental groups refiled the lawsuit May 26, according to a document filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in response to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's decision to stop the programmatic environmental impact statement process for the federal coal leasing program.

"For a federal agency to ignore the huge new body of knowledge acquired since 1979 is just whistling past the graveyard. This is not how a responsible nation operates," said Bob LeResche, chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council and past chair of WORC.

Divided lawmakers make late-stage pleas on Paris climate accord

Congressional allies and enemies of the Paris Agreement on climate change tried to sway President Donald Trump's decision on whether to withdraw from the agreement ahead of a gathering of world leaders at the G7 Summit in Italy.

On May 25, a group of over 20 Republican U.S. Senators sent a letter to Trump asking him to make a "clean break" from the Paris Agreement, arguing that staying in the deal would make striking down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan more difficult legally. "It is clear that those advocating for greenhouse gas regulations will use the Paris Agreement as a legal defense against your actions to rescind the Clean Power Plan," the letter said.

A day before that letter was sent, a group of 40 mostly Democratic senators urged Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement. "Backing out of the Paris Agreement now, after the years of painstaking negotiations and strong U.S. leadership it took to get the world to this point, would be a self-inflicted injury to America's credibility and influence on the world stage," the letter said.

Coal industry hopeful after Gianforte wins Montana House seat

The coal industry is thrilled with Republican Greg Gianforte's victory in a special election to fill Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Gianforte won the seat with 50.2% of the vote, according to election results reported by The New York Times.

"Representative-elect Gianforte has repeatedly expressed a recognition of the important role that coal mining and energy production from coal play in Montana's economy," said Rick Curtsinger, spokesperson for Cloud Peak Energy Inc. "We are hopeful that this knowledge will inform his positions on issues and legislation in Washington."

Trump administration requests steep cuts to mine reclamation funds

President Donald Trump's budget request for the 2018 fiscal year includes large cuts to mine reclamation funds and the agency responsible for overseeing them.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke applauded the requests to cut the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's funding from $241 million in the 2016 fiscal year down to $129 million.

The White House's fiscal-year 2018 budget requested $20 million for the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund, down from the $117.1 million spent in the fiscal year of 2016, according to a bureau highlight.

Trump's budget proposal slashes clean coal investment by 85%

President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 fiscal-year budget would cut back drastically on clean coal technology, despite the rhetoric he used during his campaign.

In a fiscal year 2018 Congressional Budget Request document, the administration allocates $31 million for carbon capture and storage, or CCS, research under the U.S. Department of Energy's Fossil Energy Research and Development, or FERD, program — an 85% drop from the $207 million it received in 2016.

FERC nominee dodges climate change question during Senate confirmation hearing

With a Senate committee chairman vowing to move the process along quickly, Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee appear well on their way to being cleared to sit at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after facing relatively few difficult questions during their May 25 confirmation hearing.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., asked the nominees how they would define "baseload" power, which has become a hot issue given the DOE study. Powelson said nuclear, coal and natural gas provide baseload power, but renewables also play a role. "We're going to need it all," he asserted, and Chatterjee agreed.

Ironically, the proceeding then was interrupted by a protester yelling "shut FERC down," after which Manchin quipped "God Bless America." The lawmaker also stressed the need for reliability, asserting that certain requirements FERC has placed on coal-fired plants in the past are threatening that reliability by not allowing those facilities to run economically.