Sierra Club cautions TransGas on groundbreaking

May 5, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

TransGas has announced that it plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony next week for its proposed coal-to-gas project in Mingo County, W.Va. But the Sierra Club is cautioning the company against actually starting construction of the facility.

In this letter to TransGas lawyer David Yaussy, the Sierra Club reminds the company that it has yet to receive its final air pollution permit from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. The letter says:

Pursuant to West Virginia and federal law, the company cannot construct a major source of air pollution without a Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit … Nor can the company move forward with construction of a minor source without a final minor source permit.

While a mere ‘groundbreaking’ does not meet the definition of  ‘construction’ under the Act … TransGas faces significant risk if it moves forward with constructing the source itself. Doing so without the proper permit could subject your client to both federal and citizen enforcement actions, even if the state permitting authority has condoned the project.

Interestingly, the Sierra Club tells me:

WVDEP is taking the position that TransGas can go ahead and construct while they are fixing their permit.

I’ve tried to ask WVDEP about that, but agency officials have not responded to my questions.

Another interesting thing here is that this permit somehow ended up being vacated, reversed or re-issued after July 1, 2011, TransGas could eventually find itself covered by whatever greenhouse gas emissions regulations the U.S. EPA one day issues.

We’ve discussed before on this blog how what TransGas will do with its carbon dioxide emissions is really the biggest question facing this project and its backers. (Not for nothing, but the TransGas lawyer, Dave Yaussy, is among those in West Virginia who refuse to accept the overwhelming scientific consensus about global warming).

Just last month, the state Economic Development Authority approved the issuance of $3 billion in bonds for the TransGas project, but my understanding is that these aren’t the typical tax-free bonds the EDA approves as a way to encourage such projects.  As George Hohmann over at the Daily Mail explained (subscription required):

David Warner, executive director of the West Virginia Development Authority, said there is no limit to the amount of taxable bonds the authority can authorize in a year.

Also particularly interesting here is that Randall Harris (who Coal Tattoo readers know for his work on mine rescue technology for the state Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training) is working as both project manager for TransGas (subscription required) and as project director for the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, which is promoting the project locally.

Stay tuned …

26 Responses to “Sierra Club cautions TransGas on groundbreaking”

  1. Thomas Rodd says:

    It’s sad to see well-educated people like the Transgas lawyer mentioned above saying that there are real “questions” about whether greenhouse gases have “supposed” effects on global climate change.

    The truth is that the only “questions” about the science behind the EPA finding of serious adverse effects on the climate from greenhouse gases are like the “questions” about President Obama’s birth — cynical misinformation.

    I wonder if well-educated tobacco company lawyers still challenge FDA regulation of cigarettes based on “questions” about tobacco’s “supposed” effects on smoker health. Probably so. Money can corrupt even the best education.

  2. rcj112 says:

    The greenhouse gases are only clouded by greenbacks.

  3. Thomas Rodd says:

    Here’s a great piece that explains why and how climate science deniers, as mentioned above, are so much like the “birthers” who deny Obama’s birth in the US:

  4. Dell Spade says:

    And the world is still flat according to our latest “peer reviewed” consensus.

  5. Bob the Miner says:

    At the risk of spinning this conversation around and around for eons, there are a good many, well-educated, well-informed people who question this “overwhelming consensus.”
    Also, there are those of us, such as myself, who believe the answer to this issue — if it exists — is not to condemn ourselves to the future some of those who preach the Gospel of Gaia would build, but rather to rely on technology (such as the CTL plant and CCS) to find the answers while allowing us to continue our lives.
    As I have said in other posts, I have no problem with alternative energy sources — no problem with investing in their development and commercialization — BUT I have a real issue with the forced implementation of policies that are hurtful to our economy, to our people and to our children. I have a real problem with policies that sacrifice the well-being of our nation and our people on the altar of political correctness, just as I have a problem with mortgaging our children and grandchildren’s futures to pay for the utopian dreams of Obama and company.
    For one, I think Obama was probably born in the United States. I cared about this issue only because it is a constitutional issue and one that excluded generations of very good, very well-qualified people from the office. If you don’t like the law, change it, otherwise abide by it.
    Frankly, I grow weary with the attacks on those who disagree with the “standard” line of environmental and political correctness as “un-educated,” “ignorant” or “evil.” We just disagree. We are skeptical. Since when is that a bad thing?
    There is an old saying “make your words better than silence .. or be silent.” I welcome debate. I welcome difffering opinions. I have respect for those people who join in the marketplace of ideas. I do not respect, however, attempts to paint disagreement as ignorance or worse.
    This is my only comment on this thread. …

  6. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Bob the Miner,

    you’re right … no need for anyone (this means you, Tom) to call someone ignorant on this blog …

    I would just add a couple of things, Bob …

    One, if you want to discuss exactly what about the consensus of the science of global warming you don’t believe is accurate, that’s fine … but please point to specific scientific articles that support your view, so we can have a discussion about it.

    Second, the posts I linked to about the TransGas facility raise exactly the question you do about CCS — perhaps a facility like this could be a good thing — but certainly if it isn’t capturing its carbon dioxide, it’s not helping deal with global warming. CCS is one possible technological solution, but it’s clear to most experts that CCS isn’t going to happen without limits on greenhouse gases that make it worthwhile for investors.

    Third, I just hate to see anybody come to the blog with an attitude that they are only making one comment — to say what they think — and then not be willing to continue the discussion from there.

    Finally, you might want to read some about the potential economic impacts of not doing anything about global warming … they are pretty scary.


  7. Thomas Rodd says:

    How deeply wrong it is to assert that wonderful people — who are trying to really understand and deal with the terrifying consequences of our changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere over the last one hendred years — have some sort of “utopian agenda.”

    I saw a Nobel Prize winner, Energy Secretary Chu, and Jay Rockefeller, sit in the UC auditorium, and tell the truth about what we need to do. It’s depressing to see how these good peoples’ efforts to prevent horrible damage to our species’ future is attacked in such a fashion.

  8. Thomas Rodd says:

    Did I use the word “ignorant”? If I did, I apologize. But I don’t think I did.

    I point critically to those whose education precludes that appellation — and yet, despite their education, on behalf of the interests who pay them, they advocate for positions that are contrary to the clear understandings of modern science. Like tobacco lawyers used to do.

  9. Bob the Miner says:

    Ken, I am willing to discuss issues. I think I have shown that. I have to admit, however, that sometimes I grow weary of what seems to be an endless merry-go-round… and sometimes I admit I (as I am sure others do as well) wear our emotions a little close to the sleeve.

  10. Bob the Miner says:

    Thomas …
    “Money can corrupt even the best education.”

  11. coalguy says:

    I, like Bob the Miner, would be considered a skeptic by global warming activists like yourself. And it is not that I don’t believe there is warming. Obviouosly the statistics show that the climate has warmed 1.4 degrees F over the last 100 years. The part that would make me a skeptic in your eyes is my disbelief of statements like:

    “the terrifying consequences of our changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere over the last one hendred years”

    I’m sorry. It is 1.4 degrees F. Do we need to concern ourselves with this warming trend? Yes! Do we need to run around like Chicken Little screaming that the sky is falling? No!

    Again, as I have said before, my concern over leaving my children and grand children with an economy like the one we have now outweigh my concerns over global warming. That does not mean that I don’t think we should work on global warming. But, we should do so in a well thought out manner that keeps our low cost power advantage and helps us rise out of this sluggish economy.

    Call me ignorant if you must. I consider myself practical.

  12. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    You stated:

    “Again, as I have said before, my concern over leaving my children and grand children with an economy like the one we have now outweigh my concerns over global warming.”

    This statement assumes that the economy in most of the coalfields is good … which I am sure you would agree is not the case … helping coal has been the focus on the region’s political and business leaders for more than a century … and still, we remain among the poorest places in the country.


  13. Coalguy says:


    I may not have been clear. I know the economy stinks. Not just in WV but across the country. I am worried more about leaving my children and grandchildren with this “BAD” economy than I am about the near term effects of global warming.

  14. Thomas Rodd says:

    I don’t at all resent the commenter’s suggestion that I am being an alarmist about the consequences of global warming — by suggesting that I am saying “the sky is falling.”

    The problem is – in lots of ways, it is falling!

    I generally dislike hysteria and exaggeration about the negatives of coal mining. You can see that in my comments here on all sorts of issues. And I truly wish that burning more coal and putting more CO2 in the atmosphere was safe.

    But it isn’t safe – and the stakes are astronomical, and alarmism is actually quite appropriate.

    If we don’t get started on a path of steeply reducing global CO2 emissions – NOW – the planet that my children and grandchildren and humanity will live on be nothing like the planet on which our species has managed to create remarkable civilizations. Hunger and suffering and war and ecological catastrophe are in the cards, big-time.

    We don’t need to have that future. Getting away from it will require an end to coal mining and use as we now know it, and we need to deal fairly and fully with that fact, NOW. (And I do not mean compensating the absentee landowners who are making millions from their mineral holdings. They have had enough, thank you!)

    Now to the science that makes me a reluctant alarmist:

    Here’s a link to a chart that shows that even if we get serious about radically reducing atmospheric carbon emissions in the next fifteen years, humanity is on track to warm the Earth’s atmosphere by two to three degrees, which will put us well outside the range that human civilization has evolved in over the past ten thousand years.

    c climate.

    With the now-expected two to three degrees of warming, huge areas of coastal populations will be dislocated by sea levels, quite possibly rising more than six feet before 2100 and CONTINUING. Even slightly rising temperatures are even now putting massive amounts of additional moisture in the atmosphere, leading to big increases in extreme weather events. We will see staggeringly high temperature rises, especially over land — some 10°F over much of the United States; and droughts and Dust Bowls over the U.S. SW and many other heavily populated regions around the globe. We can expect massive species loss on land and sea — 50% or more of all life forms. Loss of 40 percent of ocean plankton has already been documented; and ongoing ocean acidification is threatening marine biological meltdown. Methane – an even more potent greenhouse gas – is being liberated from formerly frozen tundra – and it’s not factored into most temperature projections yet.

    Want to see some of the evidence for these statements?:

    We don’t know yet if we can limit the increase to two to three degrees. So far, every projection has underestimated the consequences of what we are currently doing. A four degree increase would be truly hellish:

    Here’s what a conservative, mainstream foundation, the Pew Climate Trust says:

    The scientific community has reached a strong consensus regarding the science of global climate change. The world is undoubtedly warming. This warming is largely the result of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities including industrial processes, fossil fuel combustion, and changes in land use, such as deforestation.

    Continuation of historical trends of greenhouse gas emissions will result in additional warming over the 21st century. Current projections point to a global increase of 2.0°F to 11.5°F (1.1°C to 6.4°C) by 2100, with warming in the U.S. expected to be even higher. This warming will have real consequences for the United States and the world, for with that warming will also come additional sea-level rise that will gradually inundate coastal areas and increase beach erosion and flooding from coastal storms, changes in precipitation patterns, increased risk of droughts and floods, threats to biodiversity, and a number of potential challenges for public health.

    Most projections of future impacts do not address what could happen if warming continues beyond 2100, which is inevitable if steps to reduce emissions are not taken, or if the rate of change accelerates. Furthermore, the longer warming persists and the greater its magnitude, the greater the risk of climate “surprises” such as abrupt or catastrophic changes in the global climate. Even if we are able to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, some further warming is unavoidable. We must plan and take action now to adapt to the changes we will face as our climate changes.

    Addressing climate change is no simple task. To protect ourselves, our economy, and our land from the adverse effects of climate change, we must ultimately dramatically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    To achieve this goal we must fundamentally transform the way we power our global economy. This demands shifting away from a century’s legacy of unrestrained fossil fuel use and its associated emissions in pursuit of more efficient and renewable sources of energy. Such a transformation will require society to engage in a concerted effort, over the near- and long-term, to seek out opportunities and design actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    It’s great to see this discussion on Coal Tattoo. Thanks to all the commenters.

  15. Bob the Miner says:

    At the risk of the obvious, I would simply say to look at the source of all this information — Sorry, but for me that has no more validity that I would have to you if I simply cited information from the National Mining Association.
    I realize that there is data that suggests the planet is warming. I question whether that warming is the result of man’s activities, and if it is how much of it can be attributed to it and whether ANYTHING man does can impact that change. While there is in my mind conclusive evidence to suggest the earth is, indeed, warming … the cause of that warming is far from conclusive.
    That said, and as I have said on countless posts, I share the desire of (pretty much) every one on this blog commentary for a new, improved, diversified economy for the coalfields and for our state. I also realize that we are inexorably moving toward a post-coal economy and a much-reduced coal-fired energy mix, so the time is short (whether 20 or 200 years) to build this new economic profile. There truly is no time to waste.
    It does us little good to sit on go and spin around this debate. The question is how to proceed.
    And as I have said before, I suggest we take a true inventory of our resources (ALL OF THEM INCLUDING COAL MINING) and determine how we can make them work for us today AND tomorrow. I also suggest we take a realistic approach to this future — not some utopian vision, but one that provides a manageable transition and minimizes the economic impact on our people.
    Is that so much to ask? Is this in any way a “corrupt” viewpoint?
    Sure, if (and I reiterate “IF”) you are correct and there is manmade environmental damage, we can modify our lives to accomodate it while we make this managed transition.
    Frankly put, this transition is going to happen whether or not there is manmade global warming. Fossil fuels are a limited resource. We all realize we have to find true alternatives that are renewable AND affordable.
    The only question is how quickly this transition happens and how draconian the impact on people and our economy. So I will say again what I said some time back … If we all agree, why are we arguing?

  16. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Bob the Miner,

    You wrote:

    “I question whether that warming is the result of man’s activities, and if it is how much of it can be attributed to it and whether ANYTHING man does can impact that change. While there is in my mind conclusive evidence to suggest the earth is, indeed, warming … the cause of that warming is far from conclusive.”

    We could have a discussion about Climate Progress, but whether it’s a good source of information aside (I think it is), there are others in the scientific world who have much to say on this particular issue:

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change —

    “There is very high confidence that the net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming.”

    “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica).”

    According to the IPCC —

    Very high confidence: At least a 9 out of 10 chance of being correct.
    Very likely > 90%

    And the National Academy of Sciences agrees:

    “Evidence now shows that the increases in these gases very likely (>90
    percent chance) account for most of the Earth’s warming over the past 50 years.”

    I would be interested to know what scientific evidence you have that supports your skepticism on this issue.


  17. Bob the Miner says:

    I have been kind of tied up on and off this morning …
    With all due respect, I would suggest the IPCC has little more credibility in this than Climate Progress, in large part due to the scandals associated with it over the past few years — not to mention its relationship to the United Nations (but that is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish). Suffice it to say I question the objectivity of the IPCC.
    Now, as for the National Academy of Sciences, I tend to respect the findings of the NAS, and as I said in my previous response, there does seem to be data that supports the conclusion that the climate is warming. I am just not willing to take the “leap of faith” that this is the result of man’s activities and if it is I believe we are best served by relying on our ability to address our needs through the application of technology.
    That is perhaps my most important point — I trust engineers much more than “researchers.” Maybe that makes me a “denier.” I rather believe it makes me a skeptic and a realist.

  18. Thomas Rodd says:

    Every piece on climate progress is well sourced to mainstream science. I regret taking the time to respond.

  19. Coalguy says:

    Thomas and Ken,
    I guess this is where we disagree. I do not put much faith in the projections for future global warming. I have read all the science and it still boils down to projecting future changes in climate based on one variable (CO2) when the formula probably has hundreds if not thousands of variables.
    For example, I used to laugh at people that said they used the Black-Scholes formula to solve for the premiums required on certain stock options. Now the Black-Scholes formula has at least 3 variables and cannot be solved, only estimated. That is why stock option pricing is not perfect. Obviously, the climate has more than 3 variables, probably hundreds. So, I don’t put a lot of faith in projections that try to calculate the future climate by saying that global temperatures are 100% controlled by CO2. It may not even qualify as an educated guess. However, I do agree we should begin making progress towards the control of CO2. But, I am fairly confident it can be done without destroying the economic recovery if we use our heads and don’t panic.

  20. Thomas Rodd says:

    Bob the Miner:

    As I have described here before, the position expressed in some of your comments is like the position of the townspeople in Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People.” Economic interests are threatened by the disclosure and acceptance of the scientific truth. People who identify with those economic interest engage in “I just believe” skepticism and plot-seeing — in order to try to live on without painful choices and changes.

    One of the best ways to try to delay and prevent painful choices and changes is to reduce the perceived need for the choices and changes. Some of your comments do that, offering so scientific evidence — just, “I am not convicnced” — as if you know anything about the hard science, which you don’t. I find it depressing.

    As to “enlightenment” — to be perfectly clear, most self-professed evolution (or global warming or even Obama-birth) “skeptics” are not “evil,” or “corrupt,” or otherwise generally “ignorant” — which, by the way, are your words, not mine. They are, however, almost exclusively people who have absolutely no recognized qualifications for having a contrary opinion. They fly, like the above comments, on “I don’t put a lot of faith” — “I am just not willing” — “I am fairly confident.”

    These self-professed skeptics are — and almost always conveniently for their other interests, like paychecks and politics — simply wrong.

    The corrupt people in these situations, as I see it, are well-educated people who appreciate the truth but dispute and conceal it for money.

  21. Bob the Miner says:

    So, unless someone agrees with your position, they are either:

    a. ignorant
    b. corrupt
    c. evil
    d. lying
    e. unqualified
    f. etc., etc., etc.

    And you wonder why we are getting nowhere in this discussion.

  22. Bob the Miner says:

    I apologize for being pulled into this discussion. It was against my better judgment.

  23. Bob the Miner says:

    One last thing … the real “enemy of the people” is someone who would impose their views on an unwilling public just because, in someone’s opinion or even by the preponderance of evidence, it is in “their best interest.” That is not democracy. It smacks of authoritarianism.
    Most of the folks in this country have some degree of concern about the environment. Many, if not most, believe the evidence of global warming, BUT most of us are unwilling to destroy our economy, bankrupt ourselves and our children, and de-industrialize our nation.
    We are willing to discuss the issues and to move to transition our economy away from its dependence on fossil fuels over time. This is the responsible approach — not turning our lives over to the environmental police. Sorry, that won’t sell on Mainstreet. Thank god.

  24. Thomas Rodd says:

    Bob the Miner — do YOU agree that the scientific consensus on global warming from human-emitted gases is well-founded and basically accurate?

    Or are you “skeptical?”

    If you agree, then exactly how do you propose to deal with the problem?

    If you don’t agree and are personally “skeptical,” then provide some hard scientific opinion and evidence to support your position — or admit that you simply have sleptical “beliefs,” like evolution skeptics and birther skeptics, that are unsupported by any recognized scientific opinion.

    Which is it?

  25. Thomas Rodd says:

    By the way, Bob the Miner, I am glad to see that you agree that the doctor in the Ibsen play who prescribes ending the poisoning of patients at the spa — over the “democratic” wishes of the majority, but in accord with the scientific evidence — is the real “enemy of the people.”

    This is a welcome confirmation of my analogy. Thank you, Larry Harless, whereever you are.

  26. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    All right …. I think this discussion has about worn itself out …

    I’m going to take the blogger’s prerogative and have the last word(s)…

    Tom — Go easy on making these broad stroke descriptions of people … while I share your frustration with folks who profess “skepticism” but offer no science to back up their skepticism about specific issues, it doesn’t get anywhere to make broad comparisons to slavery or birthers or whatever other things you can come up with.

    Bob the Miner — you’re welcome to your views on anything … and you’re right that science alone doesn’t decide public policy. But also understand that we’re not really a democracy … we’re a constitutional republic. We don’t vote on whether to enact climate change. We elect representatives who decide such things. BUT, the laws of physics and the global climate aren’t up for a vote either. And science isn’t a vote … we should rely on experts who study and publish in peer-reviewed journals and follow their advice — and understand we ignore them at our peril.

    Finally, I didn’t see much of any commentary from anyone on the coal-to-liquids proposal in here anywhere.

    I do appreciate the discussion, and I’m sorry to Bob the Miner that he felt it would (and then did) kind of spiral beyond the discussion he’d hoped for. But for folks who just want to proclaim themselves as “skeptics” and then offer no science to support their skepticism, well … understand that you’re entitled to your view, but if you can’t offer some evidence or support for it, it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to call you on it.

    Anyway, we’ve had enough discussion on this thread.