Source: Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
Several state legislatures took up bills aimed at boosting coal during their 2019 sessions, but industry observers said the efforts will do little to turn the tide for the struggling sector.
While some producers have been able to take advantage of strong export pricing in the global metallurgical market, many of the proposed bills were geared toward helping thermal coal producers as domestic demand continues to shrink.
Robert Godby, director of the University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy, said much of the pro-coal legislation “has largely been symbolic” and is unlikely to do much more than slightly extend the life of some affected mines or plants. “If nothing else, it demonstrates state support for a coal industry that is either politically important or economically important,” he said. “… The market’s kind of like a tide. There’s just not a lot you can do to stop it. You can maybe sandbag for a little while, but eventually, it overwhelms.”
In Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill into law mandating that investor-owned utilities try to sell coal-fired power plants before closing them down. But utilities already seek out buyers when they consider closing a plant, said James Van Nostrand, a West Virginia University law professor and director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development.
“If it thinks there’s a buyer out there, it’s going to have to try to sell it,” he said. “… They’re closing them for a reason. They’re not cost-effective.”