Coal Tattoo

Senate climate bill hearings: What about coal?


Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., makes a point during testimony on the Senate’s climate change bill earlier this week.

Hearings started yesterday and continued today on the Senate climate change bill, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

The hearings before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee continue tomorrow, and it’s apparently coal day … testimony is expected from Mike Carey, President of the Ohio Coal Association and Gene Trisko of the United Mine Workers of America union. I’d also suggest checking out what David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council has to say … NRDC has been very critical of coal, but also is a big supporter of CCS technology, so it will be interesting to see what Hawkins says about the latest bill.

When the latest version of the bill was released very late Friday night, Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer listed “new provisions to address clean coal technology” among the changes.  A fact sheet released by the committee outlined these changes:

— New provisions to stimulate development of commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies;

— A modified “bonus allowance program” that allows for advanced payments to “early actors” in installing CCS technology, provided that funded projects will achieve at least a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases.

— Provisions that require coal-fired power plants to meet emissions performance standards once sufficient commercial-scale CCS technology has been deployed, while also ensuring timely reductions in global warming pollution from power plants.

And in the opening day of hearings on Tuesday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu touched on the importance of sending a signal to the market — in the form of a cap on carbon dioxide emissions — to push companies to develop, perfect and install CCS:

Imagine, for example, that you own a power company and are considering building more generating capacity. Building a new coal-fired power plant or a new nuclear plant is a serious, multi-billion dollar investment. And these investments could last at least 60 years. If you knew that carbon emissions had to decrease, would you build a coal plant without carbon capture and storage technology? Would the nuclear plant look more attractive? Would you consider investing in wind and solar?

On-again, off-again incentives will not drive the level of clean energy investment we need. A cap on carbon will give the energy industry the long-term direction and the certainty it needs to make appropriate technology and capital investment decisions.

Coal provisions in the latest bill are getting some attention from the media. Coal Tattoo readers in West Virginia will recall that our two Senators, Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, are both said to be “on the fence” on the Senate bill … I asked for and got statements from both of them today.

Sen. Byrd said:

I am very pleased with the coal technology provisions in the Chairman’s mark.  I hope these provisions remain in the Committee-reported bill, and are included in any legislation that comes before the Senate.

As I have said before, we have a long way to go on this legislation. Many issues have yet to be addressed. There is still a tough road ahead.   But I remain dedicated to helping craft a new energy policy that will ensure that America finds cleaner, more efficient ways to use her abundant, affordable coal resources for many, many years to come.  However, I will actively oppose any bill that would harm the workers, families, industries, or our resource-based economy in West Virginia.

And a spokeswoman for Rockefeller said:

The latest version of climate legislation by Senators Boxer and Kerry was released and Senator Rockefeller is working with his staff to review a detailed analysis of the bill language in its entirety.  One thing that remains evident in the revised bill, is that requiring 20 percent emission reductions by 2020 is unrealistic and harmful – it is simply not enough time to deploy the carbon capture and storage (CCS) and energy efficiency technologies we need. Senator Rockefeller remains adamant in his conviction not to support any bill that might threaten the economy, workers or families all across West Virginia and the U.S.