In 20 years there will be no more coal (mining)
The Manchester Enterprise
In 20 years he predicts no industry
During a recent interview with the Manchester Enterprise, Shamrock Coal owner and operator B. Ray Thompson was very blunt when asked about the future of coal.
“None!” he quickly replied.
“We thought everything was coming to a stop with the mine laws in the 1970s,” explained Thompson. “We were able to live with them and keep mining.”
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) is the primary federal law that regulates the environmental effects of coal mining in the United States. SMCRA created two programs: one for regulating active coalmines and a second for reclaiming abandoned mine lands.
SMCRA also created the Office of Surface Mining, an agency within the Department of the Interior, to promulgate regulations, to fund state regulatory and reclamation efforts, and to ensure consistency among state regulatory programs.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was created to regulative coal mining for worker safety.
But an executive order signed by Richard Nixon was the real first nail in the coffin of the coal industry, according to Thompson.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by Nixon in 1970 by executive order and was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate. The agency now has over 15,000 fulltime employees.
At first the EPA had little impact on the coal industry but that changed over time.
“Emission regulation has made it impossible to burn coal.” explains Thompson. “Emission standards keep stretching each year.”
Unlike the mining laws, coal operators like Thompson have no way to adjust and keep mining, because the EPA only deals with the end use of coal, mostly in coal-fired power plants. The EPA was a major issue in the recent race for governor. Both candidates ran on a pro-coal platform, but the winner, Matt Bevins, was able to successfully tie Jack Conway to President Barack Obama the person who many in Eastern Kentucky blame for a “War on Coal” led by the EPA.
In August, Obama unveiled his coal policy in partnership with the EPA, granting the agency authority over what is traditionally a state responsibility. Obama calls it “the single most important step the U.S. has ever taken to fight climate change.”
The new regulations have the goal of cutting carbon emissions by another onethird by 2030 and grant the EPA sweeping new powers.
“Why it is that we in Kentucky are not participating in something that the world wants more of than they ever have?” Bevin responded to the proposal. “And so, from my way of thinking, we will tell the EPA and other unelected officials who have no legal authority over us as a state, to pound sand.”
Under the current administration Kentucky is one of 23 states now suing the EPA.
The EPA began regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for the first time in 2011. In 2013, Congress renamed the EPA headquarters as the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building.
The EPA has become one of the most powerful agencies in Washington. When they announced in 2013 they were holding 11 public meetings on its proposed carbon limits on existing power plants none were held in the top coal producing states. Even the most powerful Republican in Washington, Kentucky senator and Senate President Mitch McConnell could not get one scheduled in Kentucky.
B. Ray Thompson has seen the writing on the wall and sees no future in the industry that allowed him become one of the most powerful coal producers in the country.
“I am no prophet.” said Thompson. “But it looks like in 20 years there will be no more coal.”