A Turn for the Better
Out with the old and in with the new – 2017 is off and running! In Washington D.C., where the wheels often seem to turn SOOOOOOO slowly, the new administration has shown a sense of urgency in tackling important issues addressed during the campaign. And that includes coal!! After years of a stifling regulatory environment intent on keeping coal in the ground rather than fostering its responsible development and use, the veil of regulation is being lifted. This is indeed a meaningful turn for the better.
Even so, we must not cease our efforts in educating everyone from the public to the media to policymakers about our industry. Because it’s not that we are anti‐regulation – our industry is filled with experts in regulation who are focused on compliance with the stringent standards that guide our everyday operations at coal mines, in coal transportation and handling, and in power and industrial plant consumption and beneficial use of coal by‐products. It’s that we believe in and are committed to what we do and the importance of coal to our nation and the world. We know that American energy and the economy go hand in hand, and that our diverse energy resources support our way of life.
On a more local level, coal communities are some of the best communities in our country. I started my career at a midwestern utility, and our coal power plants and the towns they were located in or nearby were great places for me to spend time. I was educated on many levels. Certainly there’s nothing like being at an operation to get that hands‐on learning experience. But beyond learning about power plants, I observed something else – happy people. The power plants were spotless and humming 24/7. Employees there had good jobs, the ability to sustain themselves and family members, and a positive attitude about the future. They had a sense of making a contribution to an industry, accompanied by a purpose for positively impacting their communities. Townspeople mirrored that, as the ripple effects of the plant generated jobs and the means for others to prosper.
I saw this replicated later as I worked in other parts of the coal supply chain – on the railroad where railroad towns were often THE towns in a county, and in mining towns across the different states I traveled to with my job for a coal company. In recent years, the growing number and expanding scope of regulations for coal mining and coal power plants have significantly increased the cost of coal for electricity generation and industrial use, made it less competitive against other fuels, and resulted in the closure of a large number of coal power plants. There have been devastating impacts on these coal communities. The jobs lost cannot easily be replaced, if they can be replaced at all. Economic diversification has a nice ring to it, but all too often it’s not achievable – or at least not on a scale that could possibly translate to the equivalent of life before that devastation.
With a significant loss of coal demand made permanent due to plant closures, it will be critical to protect the investments made in the remaining coal generation fleet. Regulatory relief and a supportive policy environment will help. Not only will that preserve coal and related sector jobs, it will retain plants that are needed for our nation’s power sector to deliver reliable 24/7 electricity to American homes and businesses. The path forward for coal must also include new technologies and uses.
The American Coal Council appreciates the new administration’s focus on regulatory reform. We support efforts to restore balance and reasonableness and reduce the costly burden of regulations that lack commensurate benefits. We will work to ensure that coal has the best possible opportunities to compete and grow again.
As the American Coal Council celebrates our 35th year of service to the coal sector this year, we’re grateful to represent the industry and advocate for the policy change that’s in the air. In 2017, ACC is changing as well. In February, the American Coal Council and the Coal Trading Association agreed to combine. Our two organizations had a working relationship for many years to co‐host the annual Coal Trading Conference in December in New York. On a bigger picture level, the missions, activities, and programs of the organizations fit well together. Bob McLean, longtime Executive Director of the Coal Trading Association, has retired and I will lead the combined organization operating under the existing American Coal Council name. I wish Bob all the best in this new phase of his life. I saw him recently and he seems to be handling it quite well. Bob mentioned that he was reading four books at the same time. What a luxury! I hope he’ll have a chance to fit reading this American Coal magazine into his repertoire!
I welcome our new Coal Trading Association members and look forward to extending American Coal Council resources and services to them. CTA programs and events to be continued under ACC include:
- The reception at the Eastern Fuel Buyers Conference in Orlando on May 2, 2017.
- The Coal Trading Conference, in New York on December 4‐5, 2017.
- The Fundamentals of Coal Trading class, which is being converted to an online education program.
As a result of the ACC‐CTA combination, the popular ACC “BOGO” membership benefit of one free conference registration per Member Company with a paid conference registration for is being extended to include the Coal Trading Conference beginning in 2017. If you are an ACC member and did not use your company BOGO at Spring Coal Forum in March, you can do so at Coal Market Strategies (August 14‐16, Park City, UT) or the Coal Trading Conference (December 4‐5, New York, NY). We’re also expanding sponsorship opportunities and benefits.
I look forward to seeing ACC members and industry colleagues at all of our events this year. To all coal stakeholders, please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss ways that we can cooperate across the industry to optimize the opportunities for coal. Change is in the air, and it’s a turn for the better!