Coal: The Fuel of the Future
By: Bill Reid
Coal Leader: We’re at 101 Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C., the headquarters of the National Mining Association, and we’re talking to Jack Gerard, President and CEO. Jack, thank you for talking to readers of Coal Leader. When you first joined NMA, one of the first things you did was produce a strategic plan. Tell us a little bit about that.
Jack Gerard: Well Bill, thank you and it’s always a pleasure. We read your publication, think highly of it and look forward to continuing to get the news from it. When I first came to the NMA, I was presented with the mission statement of the organization. We took that mission statement and looked to the future, through the end of 2004, and made some tough decisions as to what would be necessary to focus the industry on those priority areas that matter most. We have done that over the course of the last three years. As you know, we have streamlined the organization. We’ve reduced the staff. We focused those resources we have on the priorities for the industry. On behalf of our coal producer members, we’ve focused on energy legislation, and on other issues such as the Kyoto Protocol, climate change, and amendments to the Clean Air Act. From the legal and regulatory perspective, we’ve had a number of highly successful outcomes, including favorable decisions affecting surface and underground coal mining. In addition to consolidating our core competencies, we’ve streamlined our committee structure to make sure we have provided a forum in which our members can actively express their views and we can integrate those views without a lot of bureaucracy. We have reorganized our communications effort, and we have now created and launched a grass roots program.
Coal Leader: You’ve also been involved with Sustainable Development principals and MICAP. Tell us a bit about that please if you would.
Jack Gerard: Our hope at the NMA is to look to the future; to not only deal with the issues of the day, but also to project forward to make sure we are preempting and managing issues that could develop on the horizon. Sustainable Development has been talked about internationally for a number of years. In the United States, when you look at the coal sector—but it’s true of the entire US mining industry— we are clearly the leaders in the world in terms of safety, environmental protection, human rights protection, and other factors generally thought of as being contributors to Sustainable Development. So we are committed to practice the principals of Sustainable Development, including economic as well as environmental and safety results.. We have developed terms and principals that our members adhere to. Likewise, with the Mining Industry Climate Action Plan (MICAP), we also recognize there will continue to be considerable debate surrounding greenhouse gas emissions. Our industry is a very energy efficient industry, and we have focused heavily on voluntary practices that would allow us to further reduce our emissions, make our operations more energy efficient and prove that voluntary programs can address some of these challenges without putting in arbitrary limitations, which disrupt and hurt our economy.
Coal Leader: So, there are some changes at NMA, but political action committees and grass roots efforts remain the cornerstone of your activities. Is that correct?
Jack Gerard: They go hand-in-hand with what we are doing on legislation, our regulatory agenda and our focus on communications. We have been very active politically and have made some major strides in our political involvement. The Political Action Committee is one focus of that involvement. We have raised record amounts of money to allow us to participate in the political process. We have set a record every year since I have been here. It’s an accomplishment that is necessary to make sure we are supporting the candidates in the political process who understand mining, who appreciate our role in society and those are the types of candidates we support. Last year, we had phenomenal success. Those candidates we contributed to, over 90% of them won their elections, and we got in some tough races where we had to make some tough choices. We’re doing that again this year. On the grass roots side, one of the things we have begun to develop here is to make sure all those involved in the mining process, be they directly or indirectly involved, are given the opportunity to express their views in the political process. So as issues of importance come before the Congress or the Administration, our people, the citizens of the country, will speak out and express their views to make sure good policies develop.
Coal Leader: If I could turn now to the Energy Bill, H.R. 6 failed. Do you think that any of the coal provisions will be affected when the Bill is reintroduced in 2004?
Jack Gerard: Bill, H.R. 6 was dealt a set back in the short term when the Senate failed in December by two votes—out of the necessary 60—to stop debate on the Energy Bill. We do have one more opportunity. We expect to revisit H.R. 6 in late January of ’04. Senate Majority Leader Frist has agreed to bring it up one more time to see if we can’t secure those two votes. As it relates to the coal industry, we were very successful in securing numerous provisions to the long term benefit of the industry and the American economy. For example, we have roughly $7.5 billion in a variety of areas in the bill that directly address coal to support clean coal technologies, to provide additional fossil fuel research and perhaps, most importantly as we look to the future, to encourage electric power generators to deploy or commercialize the latest in clean coal power plants, such that we will preserve not only the current demand for coal, but also to generate additional demand based on the potential for a future with zero emissions.
Coal Leader: What other challenges are there with regard to coal in the future that you expect NMA to be facing?
Jack Gerard: Well, we’ll continue to face a variety of regulatory challenges, both domestically and internationally. As we all know, the Kyoto Protocol is in transition. It’s somewhat unclear, but we are getting indications the Russians aren’t interested in formally ratifying the treaty. If that is true, then that whole debate in terms of greenhouse gas emissions will likely be revised and reignited in a new format over the next few years. We are heavily focused on recognizing its impact to the coal sector and to the impact of any suggested future mandates on the US economy—since coal based power generation is the lowest cost option in the US. Likewise, we’ll have ongoing regulatory activities such as mercury rules, regional transport rules, ozone, haze, and a variety of other challenges that we have faced for many years. This past year, we have won a variety of lawsuits to benefit the coal industry, and we will continue those efforts into the future.
Coal Leader: You’ve been in charge of NMA now, Jack, for about three years and you’ve got to know the people in mining and in the coal industry. How do you see the future of coal?
Jack Gerard: I believe that coal has a bright future, and I do believe we are at a turning point. For many years, the industry has faced considerable challenges. We will continue to face many of those challenges, but I believe in the public policy arena today, coal is better recognized for its role as a critical component to strong economic performance. US industry—as never before in our history—is dependent upon affordable and reliable energy. On both scores, energy from coal is our country’s best choice. And we have more coal here than anywhere else in the world. If we can continue to address the emissions challenges and improve the regulatory framework we are dealing with, I believe we can preserve coal, not only as a fuel now, but also as the fuel for the future.
Coal Leader: Well, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to readers of Coal Leader newspaper. Thank you very much indeed.
Jack Gerard: Thank you, Bill.
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