Monday, February 16, 2015

Morgan Griffith on Dirty Coal

The trouble with closing coal-burning plants in the United States is that it's likely to mean opening even dirtier coal-burning plants in other countries. U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9) discussed this issue in Congress:

"Electricity from Mexico – Dirty Coal, Drug Gangs

On February 11, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz testified before and took questions from me and my colleagues on the Subcommittee on Energy and Power in a hearing covering a wide range of energy-related topics.

Responding to a question from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Secretary Moniz discussed a December 2014 trilateral meeting he held with Natural Resources Canada Minister Greg Rickford and Mexican Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquín Coldwell.  He called this meeting “very, very, very positive,” saying, “For example, we signed an [memorandum of understanding] we’ve already launched the work on through our energy information administration on energy data integration.  We really don’t have a lot of data integration across the borders, or – in some cases – the same data.”
 
Secretary Moniz said Mexico’s Energy Secretary briefed them extensively on Mexico’s energy reform.  Moniz said, “While there’s been a lot of focus on the hydrocarbon part, [Mexico] want[s] to emphasize the reform on the electricity sector is equally ambitious and will open up many more collaborative possibilities.  In fact, they said more electricity integration is something that Mexico would like to work with us very, very closely [on].”

Secretary Moniz’s comments specifically related to electricity integration concerned me.  Workers in Central Appalachia and other coal-producing regions are being laid off because of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies.  But if we integrate our electrical grid with Mexico’s, they could theoretically send electricity to the United States that is made with Mexican coal as opposed to American coal.

Not only are there concerns about Mexico’s lower grade coal and the country’s restrictions on coal power plants, there also are worries about the Los Zetas gang which has reportedly controlled, at least in part, Mexico’s coal industry.

When it came time for my turn to question Secretary Moniz, I spoke to these concerns.  I expressed my fears that, because this Administration’s EPA is debilitating our ability to produce and use American coal in this country, instead we may end up using energy produced by lower-grade Mexican coal that is burned at lower standards, and also potentially mined in places that may have abysmal safety records and or may even be controlled by the powerful Los Zetas cartel.

“We may not agree how much coal ought to be used,” I said to Secretary Moniz, “but when coal is used to provide American electricity, it ought to be done under American work standards and under American energy standards, and we should not be allowing Mexico to backdoor the use of coal – particularly dirty coal – when we have lots of clean coal that my folks would like to be mining.”

Secretary Moniz said these were points he would have to take into consideration.

I also asked Secretary Moniz about the EPA’s budget request in which the agency seems to want to expand their technical abilities for work outside their jurisdiction – work currently being done by the DOE.

I often feel the EPA thinks it doesn’t need Congress.  It also seems the EPA thinks it doesn’t need the Department of Energy.

I remain worried about this EPA’s policies and their impact on jobs, the Appalachian economy, and the possibility they may be leading the DOE to look elsewhere for energy.

While we may not completely agree, I respect Secretary Moniz and appreciate that his agency has not abandoned efforts to burn coal more cleanly.  Earlier this month, I wrote his Deputy Assistant Secretary on Fossil Energy in specific support of one such effort – the chemical looping project currently being undertaken by Dr. Liang-Shih Fan of The Ohio State University.  I continue urging Secretary Moniz and his colleagues at DOE to encourage the discovery of new ways to use American coal and to promote its continued use as a part of our nation’s energy portfolio.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.  Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives."