The US Coal Industry’s Influence On President Trump’s Energy Policies

The following story is a perfect example of how GOP ‘dark money’ donors have been directing the the republican President Donald Trump, his administration and the sycophant GOP  lawmakers in the US Congress, in enacting policies favorable to the fossil fuel industry, and in this case, coal mining.

It has long been my premise that ‘dark money’ GOP donors specifically backed the presidency of Donald Trump versus more qualified conservative candidates because they knew he would not be constrained in delivering on their demands by being conflicted over acting in the best interests of  the American peoples.

The GOP ‘dark money’ donors have joined up with the Trumpian coalition of voters, including the anti-immigration zealots; Evangelicals as the anti-climate change science, anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ rights crowd; the racists which include those who are the anti-Semitics and anti-Muslim: and the NRA second amendment enthusiasts, to reach their goals of major tax cuts, deregulation measures and the placement of conservative justices on the US federal court system who would tend to rule in favor of corporate interests while backing Evangelicals’ objectives of limiting women’s access to legal abortions and LGBTQ rights.

Starting in 1973, these conservative ‘dark money’ donors, corporation leaders formed non profit organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), Americans for Prosperity and others to further their interests. These organizations’ power was placed on steroids following the 2010 US Supreme Court ruling in the case of Citizens United v FEC.  The SCOTUS justices held : “Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections.”

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Here is the rest of the story…

On February 12, 2019, Steven Mufson of the Washington Post penned the following report, “Trump urges Tennessee Valley Authority to keep open an aging coal-burning power plant”

Excerpts:

“President Trump set up a clash with an independent agency Monday (2/11/19) evening with his call for the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep open an aging coal plant that buys much of its coal from a company chaired by Robert E. Murray, one of the president’s major supporters.”

“The TVA board will meet Thursday to consider whether to close the 49-year-old plant, which operated only intermittently last year because it was no longer needed to supply uninterrupted power known as baseload. The board also is considering shutting down a 52-year-old coal unit at Bull Run near Oak Ridge, Tenn.”

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TVA – A Dam for the People

“In a tweet Monday night (2/11/19), Trump said: “Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and @TVAnews should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!”

“But the TVA is leaning toward the closure of the Paradise and Bull Run plants precisely because they are not viable.”

“The agency has already said that closing the Paradise coal plant would have no significant effect. The unit “does not provide the level of flexibility needed to balance hourly, daily and seasonal changes in energy consumption,” the agency said in a proposal. “In addition, cycling the unit off and on results in more wear and tear and higher operation and maintenance costs,” it added.”

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“With less need for base load resources, assets that have relatively high projected future maintenance cost and environmental compliance expenditures, high forced outage rates and poor generation portfolio fit are now the focus of more detailed study for potential retirement,” the agency said on its website. “The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Paradise Fossil Plant (PAF) Unit 3 falls into this category of assets.”

“As recently as 2013, Murray Energy was delivering nearly 100,000 tons of coal a month to the Paradise coal plant. But two other coal units, Paradise 1 and 2, on the same site in Muhlenberg County in western Kentucky were replaced with natural gas generation in the spring of 2017. The Paradise Unit 3 employs about 140 people.”

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ROBERT E. MURRAY

Murray, founder of Murray Energy and a leading donor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, has been pressing the president to help prop up coal-fired plants since the beginning of the administration. In Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s first month in office, Murray presented a four-page “action plan” to rescue the coal industry. The plan said that commissioners at three independent regulatory agencies “must be replaced,” Environmental Protection Agency staff slashed, and safety and pollution rules “overturn[ed].”

“Murray is also a customer at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington, according to a list of “VIP Arrivals” distributed to Trump hotel staff on June 20, 2018. This list, which was obtained by The Washington Post, showed Murray and a fellow coal executive, Heath Lovell of Alliance Energy, checking in for one-night stays. Under both of their names, the hotel’s staff wrote “High Rate” signifying they were especially high paying.”

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“Since November 2013, the TVA board has approved the retirement of 16 coal-fired electric power units at 5 plants, according to its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Coal has dropped to 17 percent of TVA’s power supply.”

“We have a situation where in order to maintain reliable power and keep prices as low as feasible, we have to assess the generation fleet and make some difficult but necessary decisions,” TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said.”

“The closure of coal plants was part of a 2011 agreement the authority made with the Environmental Protection Agency, four state governments and three environmental advocacy groups, the SEC filing said. More recently, the state of Maryland and seven environmental advocacy groups have filed complaints against the EPA because of excessive nitrogen oxide emissions from TVA plants, including Paradise Unit 3.”

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“Trump’s call to keep the plant open “flies in face of what we see happening in U.S. energy markets,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy. “Coal can’t compete with cheap gas and renewables. TVA’s own analysis justifies reducing the use of coal in its power mix.”

“This is the latest in a string of efforts by the Trump administration to prop up failing coal plants. The Energy Department urged the independent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order subsidies for coal and nuclear plants in the name of the reliability of the electrical grid, but the commission rejected the call, citing other factors as more important in ensuring reliability. Four of the five members of that panel were appointed by Trump, but the vote against the Energy Department plan was unanimous.”

Link: Trump urges Tennessee Valley Authority to keep open an aging coal …

5 comments

  1. The fact that Murray gave at least $300k to Trump’s inauguration plus the fact that two years later, much of what was on his action plan has been enacted by the Trump administration, tells you everything you need to know about our president and how he’s running the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear TokyoSand,

      President Trump has an invisible ‘FOR SALE’ sign on the White House that any nefarious actor sees like it was full of neon lights.

      The sad part is that he implements policies on this basis over and over again. It should be obvious that the president caters to those who advance his base of political power and/ or his financial well being as in the fossil fuel industry or in foreign lands like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Like

  2. Gronda, I just posted a variation of this on Jill’s blog. Several comments:
    – it is hard to drain the swamp when the boss appoints Yertle the Turtles. It should be noted one more Trumpet resigned today over issues relating to padding expense accounts.
    – When Trump tried to cut funding for career retraining of laid off coal workers in 2017, it was said of Trump; he is for coal owners not coal workers, there is a big difference.
    – you have done a yeoman’s job on dark money funding for coal interests. This Murray example is just one more benefit. Yet, you also reported on The New York Times story of last month that notes coal mines are be shuttered far more in Trump’s two years than in all of Obama’s first term.
    – the above is unfair in part in that this demise cannot be stopped, nor should it. Coal demise is passed the tipping point. What is not unfair is Trump was untruthful to workers. The only Presidential candidate who stood up in front of coal miners and told them the truth was Senator Bernie Sanders; he also shared what he was going to do to help them learn a new career.

    Here is what frustrates me most. This is not a surprise. The leaders of coal mining states have known longer than I have of the pending demise of coal. Instead of greasing the skids for new energy – wind and solar would do well there – they tried to stop the leaks on the dyke. To me, they were derelict in their duties. There is still time, especially with the lower cost of renewables. But, that dark money wants to plug up the dyke.
    Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • PS – It was good to see TVA’s board ignore the President and make a financial decision based on facts. More coal plants, especially old ones, will continue to close. We are passed the tipping point. Keith

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Keith,

      You’re thinking on this is so helpful. Those gov representatives of states that were heavy into coal mining need to lead the state into introducing new business models as the coal mining industry is dying a rightful death.

      The same could be said of any fossil fuel industry. Instead of investing solely on this kind of energy they should be leading the way in new technologies and better forms of energy sources.

      I remember having serious conversations with folks in the 1970s that if the US car market didn’t start investing in making quality smaller cars, they were going to left out in the cold which is exactly what happened. These industries can either embrace the future and changing times and demands or be left behind.

      Monies should have been set aside for retraining after US created all those trade deals, but again corporations became scrooge like. It’s this attitude that helped kill TPP. Instead of fixing this weakness in the trade agreement, the agreement was foolishly ended.

      This is when business is at its worst.

      Hugs, Gronda

      Like

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