Governor’s Office of Energy Development Coal Hearing Statement
SALT LAKE CITY (May 19, 2016) – Dr. Laura Nelson, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development presented the following statement at the U.S. Interior Department’s coal reform public meeting:
“It is no secret that Utah has one of the nation’s best economies and highest qualities of life. Affordable and reliable energy, largely supplied by coal-fired power, plays a crucial role in Utah’s successful formula. Over 70 percent of Utah’s power is generated from coal mined right here in Utah. In 2014, for example, 18 million tons of coal was produced in Utah valued at $600 million. Utah’s coal economy is especially important to rural Utah, providing roughly 2,000 direct high-paying jobs, and a significant portion of several rural counties tax base
Located in the heart of the Western Energy Corridor, Utah has world-class coal resources. Utah’s low-sulfur, high-energy coal provides significant environmental advantages relative to other domestic and global coal sources. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s forecasts, coal-power will continue to expand globally through 2040 to meet developing economy’s need for affordable and reliable electricity.. It is important that Utah’s superior coal is available to meet these needs.
Not only does Utah’s coal have environmental and safety advantages, but Utah’s coal-fired power plants are among the most efficient in the country, and because they are located in rural Utah they don’t contribute to air quality challenges along the Wasatch Front. Rather, because coal keeps electricity prices low, coal actually supports electric vehicles, electric home appliances and other electric alternatives that make a difference in improving Wasatch Front air quality.
Utah is leading the way on advanced coal technologies including carbon capture, oxy-firing, gasification, and coal to liquids. For example, the University of Utah’s Institute for Clean and Secure Energy is one of nation’s top coal research institutes that is leading a five-year, $16 million grant to conduct supercomputer simulations aimed at developing a prototype low-cost, low-emissions coal power plant that would provide new opportunities for coal utilization.
Utah’s support of coal does not ignore climate change concerns, but rather recognizes that Utah’s cleaner coal and advanced coal technologies can contribute to the U.S. and world’s energy needs as part of a robust, resilient portfolio of energy options. This is especially important recognizing the global demand for coal is not subsiding. For example, India’s coal is up nearly 12 percent, while its production is only up 6.5 percent, creating an increasing reliance on imported coal.
Utah disagrees strongly with the BLM’s unjustified moratorium on coal leasing, and is exploring its legal options. Utah and the BLM have worked together for decades, enjoying a successful federal leasing program that produces numerous benefits to Utah and the U.S. Eighty-three percent of Utah coal is produced from federal land. In 2014, Utah coal produced on federal lands had a total sales value of over $570 million and generated royalty revenues in excess of $41 million. Without consulting Utah and other impacted states, the BLM unilaterally announced a review of its coal leasing program and a three year moratorium on federal coal leasing. The BLM’s decision to halt leasing while they review the program is an egregious violation of its fiduciary duties to its beneficiaries – the citizens of the U.S., including those in Utah.
The BLM’s coal leasing program can be reviewed without bringing an unjustified end to new leasing. BLM’s actions threaten several major coal mine expansion projects, including the Sufco and Alton Coal mine expansions, which have spent years complying with expensive environmental reviews and other permitting requirements in good faith only to discover that the BLM is changing the rules on them. The BLM’s coal leasing moratorium is a rushed and uninformed political decision that unnecessarily threatens Utah’s coal industry and the many benefits that industry provides.
Utah will challenge this moratorium. With the proper leadership, coal can be part of an effective energy strategy that addresses carbon emission and other environmental goals. We believe that a collaborative approach without a moratorium is the best approach to realizing the most effective outcomes.”
About Governor’s Office of Energy Development (OED)
Governor Gary R. Herbert recognizes energy as one of the four cornerstones of Utah’s strength, along with education, job creation, and self-determination. In recognition of this priority, the Governor’s Office of Energy Development (OED) was created in 2011 to advance Utah’s diverse energy and minerals economy through policy, planning and direct engagement.