WASHINGTON - A major coal mining company in Indiana has hired former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt to lobby against plans to close several coal-fired power plants in the state.
Hallador Energy Company issued a news release heralding its decision to hire Pruitt “to attempt to protect the ratepayers of Indiana” from plans by two electric utilities, Vectren and NIPSCO, to shutter all aging coal-fired power generation facilities in the state by 2030.
Hallador is a subsidiary of RailPoint Solutions LLC and Sunrise Coal, the second largest coal operation in Indiana.
“Who better than Scott Pruitt to aid the Indiana legislature on what Trump energy policy will look like?” said Hallador’s release.
Last week, The Indianapolis Star reported that Pruitt – who resigned in July 2018 from the EPA after an 18-month tenure marked by spending and ethical scandals – had registered as a lobbyist in Indiana.
Earlier this month, the Republican-controlled state legislature strongly rejected a measure that sought to place a moratorium on coal plant closures by prohibiting utilities from purchasing new electric generation from renewable and natural gas sources. Other than coal mining companies, no groups – including utilities, the Chamber of Commerce or state consumer interest and environmental organizations – supported the measure.
Now Hallador and Pruitt are pushing another scheme, urging lawmakers to include language in the budget bill that would prohibit the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission from considering Obama-era regulations at EPA that were put in place to reduce carbon emissions in the commission’s decisions about rates and other issues that could impact the future of coal-generated electricity in the state.
Hallador is falsely asserting that Obama clean air regulations are the reason coal costs more than wind, solar and natural gas. They argue that once President Trump and current EPA head and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler are finished gutting those regulations, the price of coal will drop. Both Vectren and NIPSCO acknowledge that rates will go up slightly at first to help cover the costs of transitioning to renewables and natural gas, but that they will ultimately be lower than current rates.
“The decisions we’re making regarding generation are squarely focused on economics and cost savings for our customers,” NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer told E&E News.
State House Speaker Brian Bosma told the Star it is highly unlikely Pruitt and Hallabor’s suggested moratorium language to stave off coal-fired power plant closures will be added to the budget bill, which is expected to be voted on this week in the final days of the legislative calendar.
The U.S. Energy Information Agency’s own data show that coal consumption has plummeted to its lowest levels in nearly 40 years. The drop in coal use by utilities “is the result of both the retirements of coal-fired power plants and the decreases in the capacity factors, or utilization, of coal plants as increased competition from natural gas and renewable sources have reduced coal’s market share,” according to the EIA. In fact, more coal-fired power plants have closed in the first two years of the Trump administration than during President Obama’s entire first term.
The trend for renewable energy sources is a much different story:
- Solar capacity has almost tripled in recent years, from 19,000 megawatts in 2015 to 48,000 megawatts in 2018.
- Wind production has also almost tripled since 2009, from 35,000 megawatts in 2009 to more than 90,000 megawatts in 2018.
- In combination, total solar and wind potential is more than 14 million megawatts – or 14 times current electric power capacity.
- Growth in wind and solar has lowered the cost of solar and wind by 88 percent and 69 percent, respectively, since 2009.
- Wind and solar already support three times as many jobs as gas and coal.
“The battle between coal and renewables is over. Coal lost,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “And nothing, including lobbying by an inept grifter like Scott Pruitt, is going to bring it back.”
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.