Coal is One of America’s Greatest National Treasures
By Rep. Liz Cheney (R‐WY), Member of Congress
Wyoming is America’s largest coal producing state, mining close to 40 percent of the coal consumed by our nation every year. Common estimates give Wyoming close to 145 billion tons of recoverable coal and 1.4 trillion tons in total coal reserves. This coal is a national treasure.
Tens of millions of American homes and businesses rely on coal every day to provide electricity because it generates some of the most affordable energy in America. According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), the national average price for electricity is around 10.42 cents per kilowatt hour. States which generate a majority of their electricity from coal pay on average 13 percent less than this national average. Conversely, states that generate less than 8 percent of their electricity from coal pay 24 percent more than the national average. Despite coal’s abundance and affordability to American consumers, the Obama administration spent eight years trying to destroy the industry.
In 2016, Wyoming’s Powder River Basin produced 285.2 million tons of coal compared to the previous year’s total of 363.4 million tons. In addition to the decline in production, according to ACCCE, 37 states have seen coal fired unit retirements and conversions caused by Obama‐era EPA policies. The American Action Forum estimates that the Obama war on coal imposed $312 million in regulatory costs to the coal industry and cost 180,000 jobs. This has amounted to more than $9.7 million in lost wages.
This deliberate War on Coal has certainly done significant damage to Wyoming’s state economy, impacting every community, and putting thousands of our neighbors out of work. Early last year, our state witnessed the loss of hundreds of jobs at Wyoming mines in the Powder River Basin. These mass layoffs were heartbreaking for those who lost their jobs and heartbreaking for their families. The federal government had no right to target an industry in this way and destroy the jobs connected with it.
My family’s involvement in the Wyoming energy industry reaches back a hundred years. My great‐grandfather began working in the Salt Creek Oil Fields in the early 20th century. My grandmother and her siblings were raised there in a hard‐sided tent on the edge of the oil fields. We have seen the cycles of boom and bust that have long characterized Wyoming’s energy economy. Sadly, for the last eight years, we have been living through something altogether different – an all‐out assault on our nation’s vital fossil fuels industry. With no regard for our economy, our security, or our livelihoods, a select few over the past eight years were determined to kill the coal industry at any cost.
I have talked with Wyoming citizens in every corner of our state about the damage done by the War on Coal. I carry their concerns and comments with me to D.C. and know each day that my most important job in Congress is to fight for Wyoming and her way of life. A big part of that life has included being a faithful steward of a national treasure, America’s coal.
Understanding Wyoming’s role in that stewardship, it is not surprising we are on the front lines of this fight. A fight that requires building a nationwide coalition to stand up for our coal industry. This includes leading an effort to educate Americans about the importance of coal in the generation of electricity, about the tremendous strides in clean coal technology that have already been made, about the stewardship of the land by our coal companies through reclamation efforts, and about the national security implications of continuing to pursue policies that threaten the reliability of our power grid, threaten to put thousands of our fellow citizens out of work and raise our utility prices.
We have started much of this important work over the last three months in Washington. I was pleased to see President Trump lift the moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands. I have introduced legislation that would prevent future such moratoria without congressional approval. The President also took necessary steps to begin repeal of the Clean Power Plan and curtail other Obama‐era regulations strangling the energy industry. Using the Congressional Review Act process, Congress has taken steps to roll back the Stream Protection Rule. We also began work in the House to provide fundamental regulatory reform. Passage of the REINS Act requires Congressional oversight on any new regulation that will have an economic impact of $100 million or more.
The first bill I introduced, which was passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Trump, repealed BLM Planning Rule 2.0. Planning 2.0 would have taken authority away from our local leaders and stakeholders and centralized decision making in Washington about issues related to local land use and resource planning. We are making important progress, but we also know much remains to be done. As a member of the Natural Resources Committee, I am committed to working on these important issues to ensure energy production on our federal lands are not stymied by past ideologically driven and flawed federal policy.
Congress should adopt policies and standards that recognize the clean coal advancements already made by our coal industry and we should incentivize additional investment in clean coal technologies. In Wyoming, we have important work under way in this regard at the University of Wyoming and the Dry Fork Power Station.
Congress must work to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxic Standards and the Regional Haze Rule and enact legislation that prohibits the regulation of CO2 as a pollutant. All of this is an important part of the overall need to significantly reduce the size, scope and authority of the EPA.
Equally important is ending federal government favoritism of renewable sources of energy. The Obama administration wasted tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in an unsuccessful effort to promote renewable sources of energy at the expense of our fossil fuels. The U.S. government should pursue an all‐of‐the above energy strategy on a level playing field. We should not be using taxpayer dollars to prop up unsustainable renewable fuel projects as they undermine and attempt to kill off America’s fossil fuel industry.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I know it is also important that we repeal renewable energy mandates, including those imposed on the Department of Defense. Our military should not be forced to divert funds away from military capability to fulfill the legacy projects and renewable energy fantasies perpetrated by Democrats.
There is nothing more important to our country’s security and economy than the reliability of our energy. From our cell phones, computers and cars to our central air conditioning and electric fireplaces, America runs on energy. And a big chunk of our energy comes from coal. We must embrace a future that recognizes coal’s unique and long‐lasting contribution to our energy mix. Wyoming houses a national treasure and we stand ready to supply our nation with energy for many years to come.