The Energy-Election Nexus

More recently, the courts have again pushed back on the EPA’s anti-coal regulations. This time, on July 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in a case involving Texas, blocked the EPA’s Regional Haze Plan—a plan that has already caused the Public Service Company of New Mexico to shutter two of its four coal-fired units at one station. Even before the transition is complete, 85 jobs at the adjoining coal mine have already been lost—and that doesn’t count expected staffing reductions due to attrition at the mine and power station. Similar shutdowns, mostly due to the Regional Haze Plan, of as many as 32 coalfueled units have been, or are being, forced throughout the southwest—which results in a loss of approximately 60 percent of capacity and an untold number of jobs. The Institute for Energy Research has called Regional Haze “Obama’s stealth weapon in the war on coal.” Instead of complying with the EPA, Texas fought the ruling and won.

With his promise to save coal, coal miners have come out en masse for Trump. When asked what Trump could really do for coal, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Trump’s energy advisor, explained that while coal-fueled power plants that have already been shut down or converted to natural gas will not likely be reopened, a Trump administration can save what’s left and stop the bleeding by not artificially punishing the industry through regulation. Additionally, he also proposed, and the GOP party platform has embraced, reforming the EPA into more of an independent bipartisan commission—similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. There are similar victories on the oil-and-gas front.

On June 21, 2016, a federal judge, an Obama appointee, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, struck down the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) hydraulic fracturing regulations—a rulemaking in process since 2012. Judge Scott Skavdahl found that Congress never delegated authority over fracking to the BLM or the Interior Department. In its report on the ruling, Environment & Energy Publishing declared: “The Obama administration’s hydraulic fracturing rule is dead.” The decision blocks the enforcement of the BLM’s rule and leaves the regulation of hydraulic fracturing to the individual states.

Within the states, outside groups have come in to agitate the locals in an attempt to get communities to ban fracking. Like the BLM’s rule, the courts (and, in Texas, the legislature) have determined that the regulation of hydraulic fracturing is the jurisdiction of the state. Anti-fracking activity has been thwarted in New Mexico, Colorado, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, and Texas. The Obama administration has already appealed the BLM decision. It will now be heard by the Tenth Circuit Court. If decided in the government’s favor, it would send it back to the lower court to hear arguments on the specifics of the rule.

Donald Trump agrees with the courts and says fracking should be regulated by the states. While there is no official Trump statement regarding allowing states to make decisions regarding coal mining, the overall tone of his energy policy makes that a safe assumption.

Just as the Obama administration’s threeyear moratorium on new coal mining leases on federal lands and changes to the federal coal leasing program are more about keeping coal in the ground than about a “fair return to taxpayers,” the attacks against hydraulic fracturing are not really about fracking. They are a covert way to ban drilling.

America’s abundant and available natural resources have provided us with energy that is effective, efficient, and economical—giving us energy security and a competitive advantage in a global marketplace. They are riches that should be managed and maximized to the benefit of our nation. They can be shipped to other countries, bringing balance to our trade deficit and offering secure supplies to our friends. Locking them up will make us more dependent on foreign countries which are hostile toward our interests—thereby hurting our allies and our balance of payments.
This election, understanding energy is essential.

Marita Noon is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).