Reflections on the Environmental Legacy of George H.W. Bush

During that late 1980s period, my personal life also took a different turn. I had met “the one” and he lived in Colorado. When we tied the knot, I left the utility and moved to Colorado. It was fortuitous that the year was 1990, and interest in the Clean Air Act Amendments was high. I had some contacts from the utility search for low sulfur coal, which had expanded from the East to also consider Colorado coal.

I was fortunate to land a job in coal market development with the Class I railroad originating the coals in Colorado and Utah. My role was to work with utilities to facilitate using these coals as part of their SO2 emissions compliance plans. I was excited about the prospect of engaging with mines and potential customers, and the opportunity to work in another part of the supply chain. I soon found out how much I had to learn about the actual railroad operations part of the equation. I had been involved with transportation while at the utility, but this was another level entirely. I recall being on a phone call with an operations manager and having almost no idea what he was talking about, such was the railroad lingo. I took copious notes, hung up and literally ran down the hall to the office of a colleague for translation. No doubt this gave my colleagues a good laugh! After that auspicious start, things moved quickly and we did some innova-tive things over the course of five years in developing new business.

Then I had a chance to move to another leg of the supply chain, to a diversified coal mining company with operations in nearly every U.S. coal basin. Again, new experiences began immediately as I went to Gillette, Wyoming to meet our operations and transportation management. That began a long association with Powder River Basin (PRB) coal. Clean Air Act Amend-ments or not, the PRB was a market force to be reckoned with. To see a PRB mine is to understand that.

Back in the Midwest, the Clean Air Act Amendments were taking their toll on the production of high sulfur coals. Volumes dropped precipitously for many, many years. And while the Clean Air Act has not been changed by any major new legislation subsequent to 1990, the power sector has been faced with a multitude of additional environ-mental regulations for air, water and waste from EGUs. This has meant more changes and a great deal of complexity in how EGUs are operated, the environ-mental controls they use and the coals they consume.

The Bush administration’s 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments have been characterized as a success story. As ACC’s former communications director Jason Hayes used to say, “When was the last time you heard anybody men-tion acid rain?” Problem solved. But there was significant dislocation and difficulty for families in some mining communities from the changes brought about by this legislation.

For the last six years at the Ameri-can Coal Council, my job means that I have the opportunity to engage on behalf of all U.S. coal. Our industry must continue to work together to support environmental policy actions that are reasonable and pragmatic. President George H.W. Bush found a way to work in bipartisan fashion – and beyond that, he sought advice and counsel from a variety of stakeholders, including industry and environmental groups. Perhaps that’s the real lesson and legacy.