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tv   Washington Journal Robert Murray Discusses the Future of the Coal...  CSPAN  May 9, 2017 12:19pm-12:54pm EDT

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center on the ohio river. just across the river there you can see in that image is the mitchell power plant owned by american electric power, as well as cammer station plant. jeff lafleur is senior vice president of commercial operations at american electric power, which owns those plants. he joins us now from powhatten point. good morning, sir. >> good morning, john. >> i want to ask you how many power plants does american electric power operate and how many customers does it provide electricity for? >> john, we serve 5.4 million customers across our 11-state area. the number of plants is getting to be a little more difficult to nail down with the technology change now that we're investing in wind turbines and solar plants, but we -- our capacity, our generating capacity is about
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3.1 gig watt hours. it's approximately 175 units. >> in terms of those plants, how many are coal fired? >> about 47% of our generating capacity is coal. >> and the smokestacks we're seeing behind you, cammer station, mitchell power plant, are those coal power plants? >> yes, they are. the camera plant is the one where you see nothing coming out of the stack. the mitchell plant you see water vapor come out of the stack and due to the fgd, the modern technology that we installed on that plan. >> and why is there nothing coming out of the stack? what happened to that station? >> cammer, really what you're seeing across the river is the transition that's occurred in our coal fleet. and across the country. cammer plant was a group of plants we shut down around nine
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plants in 2015. these were 50-plus-year-old plants and due to the environmental regulation that came down the pike, we really just couldn't justify investing for the wet scrubbers on those plants. >> so what's going to happen to that facility? >> that facility has been sold and it will be dismantled and hopefully repurposed and we'll bring in an industrial customer into the area. >> jeff lafleur, commercial operations, senior vice president joining us from powhatten point. over his shoulder you can see some of the plants we're talking about. before you go, mr. lafleur, can you explain how a coal power plant works for viewers that may not know? >> yeah, as you can tell, we're on the ohio river. many of our plants here i'll
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refer to the mitchell plant. we receive coal by conveyer belt from a neighboring coal mine, as well as rail, as well as barge coal. we bring that coal into the plant, store that coal, the advantage of the coal plants, of course, is you've got tons of several days of inventory in the front yard. so reducing the risk of that transportation. we grind that coal to a fine powder, blow it in the boiler, transfer that heat to steam, high pressure steam flows through steam turbines, therefore, driving the generators. after the flue gas leaves the boiler, we send it through an scr to remove the nitrous 5:oxis and then it goes through the wet
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scrubber that causes the water vapor that you see. in that scrubber we inject limestone and that limestone reacts with the sulfur dioxides to form gypsin. gypsin is a chalky substance that most folks know from wallboard, that's on the walls of their house. we take that gypsin out of that fgd and ship it across the street to the wallboard plant, and our gypsin is made into wallboard to go across the construction industry, avoiding those land fill costs for our customers. >> mr. lafleur, before we let you go as we look at the smokestacks over your shoulder, about how many people work at the mitchell station over across the way that's operating today? >> approximately 220 permanent workers and then during the year for maintenance and other activities we can employ as many
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as 300 or 400 construction workers. >> jeff lafleur, senior vice president of commercial operations at american electric power, it's if you want to check them out online. appreciate you stopping by to chat with us today. >> thank you, john. >> and from powhatten point, ohio, we take our viewers now to murray energy corporation's headquarters in st. clairsville, ohio, where we're joined by founder and president and ceo robert murray. thanks for joining us this morning. >> thank you, john, for having me. >> we're at your powhatten point transfer center. it takes the coal from one of your mines. how many mines does murray energy operate and how many employees do you have? >> we have 17 mines. may 1st of '15 we had 8,400 employees, but because of the actions of barack obama and the democrats, we got down to 5,000
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employees. we're back up to about 6,500 employees now under president trump. who has done a wonderful job so far for reliable, low-cost electricity and for our coal miners. we hope to get back to where we were eventually. >> and what kind of mines does murray energy operate? are these all underground mines? are these surface mines? the ones we hear about, open pit mines? >> no, i have all underground mines, john. that is the environmentally the most acceptable way to mine coal. we're typically underground a thousand feet. people don't even know we're down there mining the coal. so murray energy corporation is exclusively an underground mining company in the united states with our 17 mines. we do do some surface mining in colombia, south america, but we
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underground mine as it is the most environmentally acceptable way to do it. again, our employees -- the public don't even know i have thousands of employees right under them down there mining this coal. >> when did you start in the mining business, and have you ever worked in an underground mine? >> i worked 16 years, john, underground every day until i contracted a problem, i was underground every week until last july. it is my life. that is why i put my headquarters here in st. clairsville, ohio, just 15 miles from where you are right now in the coal field among our people. these people just want to work in honor and dignity, and under barack obama, 63,000 coal miners, families, were destroyed and lost their jobs. for every job we have in the mines, john, there are up to 11 jobs in the communities, for
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school teachers, county employees, state employees, doctors, lawyers, store clerks, that spin off from every coal mining job. that's from university studies. so i was very proud of the fact that in early '15 i had 8,400 employees and accounted for 100,000 jobs in the united states of america. very proud of that. and that is why six years ago i moved my headquarters back to the coal fields to be among our people. they just want to work in honor and dignity. the other day i had a 52-year-old coal miner i had hired 30 years ago and i was forced to lay him off by the democrats. he was bawling in my office. i couldn't get him out of my office. that's something that obama, clinton, the democrats, never saw. and i am among them, and these are wonderful people that just want to work in honor and dignity. >> a recent headline from the
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cleveland plain dealer, bob murray, coal's flinty leader, has president donald trump's ear. can you talk about your relationship with the president? >> i have a very close relationship with president trump. he's done wonderful things for the coal industry. i've met with him three times at his request in the last three months. we've been very engaged in the transition and identifying those regulations of the obama administration that need to be eliminated, and in helping him get the right people, not the political hacks that mr. obama and the democrats had for eight years. but people that really understand the coal industry and the electric utility industry. you're, our electric utility customers had uncertainty for eight years because of these mixed signals that they have gotten from the illegal regulations of the obama administration. and we need to get that settled down, because reliable, low-cost electricity is a state, john.
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coal-fired electricity -- the electricity from a windmill and a solar panel that was mentioned earlier is 26 cents a kilowatt hour. it gets four cents a kilowatt hour from the taxpayer, you, as a subsidy. wouldn't even exist without the subsidy. natural gas has historically been 15 cents a kilowatt hour, so coal is one-fourth the cost of natural gas, one-seventh the cost of a windmill or solar panel, and we need to keep it in the mix so people have reliable, low-cost electricity. we have an energy poverty problem in this country. we worry about that woman trying to raise children on one income, we worry about the customer who worked all their lives to save the next day. they are paying out 22% of what they make for what income they have for energy.
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that manufacturer of a product for the global marketplace is also paying out 22%. we have to worry about the cost of electricity and reliability of it. it is a staple of life today, john. >> robert murray is taking your calls and questions and your comments. special lines for coal miners and family members. if you're a coal miners or family member, call us, otherwise we split up our lines by time zone. if you're in the eastern or central united states it's 202-748-8001. mountain and pacific regions 202-748-8002. you can start calling in now. before we get to the calls, mr. murray, you mentioned 63,000 jobs lost over the course of the obama administration. the latest jobs number from the bureau of labor statistics, only 72,600 jobs in the coal industry right now. do you expect that those 63,000 jobs to come back, almost
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doubling the coal employment? >> john, president trump by killing the ill-fated so-called clean power plant has already saved 25,000 coal mining jobs. yes, we've lost 63,000 coal mining jobs times 11. that's about 40,000 jobs in america under the democrats and obama the last eight years. the killing of the clean power plant already done by mr. trump saved the closing of 56,000 more coal-fired units on top of the 411 that mr. obama closed, illegally most of them. >> when you say illegally -- >> that saved 25,000 coal mining jobs. we've calculated that he's
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already saved 25,000. he will bring the economy back as he brings manufacturing to the united states. coal would grow with that because our coal-fired electricity is one-sixth the cost of a windmill or a solar panel and one-fourth the cost of electricity from natural gas. >> when you say illegal regulations, what specific regulations? are you referring to the clean power plant there? >> yes, i was referring to the clean power plant alone brought back 25,000 jobs. the first regulation illegal that he called was the so-called stream protection rule. it would have stopped mining under any dry ditch on the surface. that was the first regulation that mr. obama killed. it was simply an attempt, had no environmental benefit at all, the most environmental acceptable way to mine coal. then the clean power plant. he's now called a time-out. resiliency as a security electric power plant, because
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the closing of these coal power plants has left a very unreliable power grid. that is the margin in the grids are dangerously low and all the experts are saying that. coal needs to be there. it's the only solid hydrocarbon that can be stored into plants. and so to keep reliability of the power grid in this country, we need about 30% coal-fired electricity and that's where we're at right now. the margins are very thin, so he's ordered studies of the electric power grid. the thing that was closing the coal fired plants right now, the scrubbers were ordered on the plants, but the obama administration passed regulations they couldn't use the scrubbers. limitation guidelines on the water discharges from the scrubbers. that has been killed. he has now in the process, mr. trump, of killing the coal combustion residual regulations on solid discharges, so he has
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addressed about six or seven items down the list that were totally illegal done by executive fiat by the past president, the greatest destroyer of america ever, barack obama and his democrat friends, and i don't know of a democrat that doesn't support him. >> mr. murray, i want to let you talk to some of our callers this morning. monroe is up first in clinton, maryland. monroe, you're on with the president and ceo of murray energy. go ahead. >> caller: good morning, gentlemen. there was an article last month that talked about how britain is almost a coal-free nation and they are down to nine plants and it prompted me to do more research and i see an article from "the washington post" and they were showing how natural gas usage is up above coal and even solar, wind, and all the other ones are coming up. and the thing is, is look, industries change. i'm pretty sure when the car came, the horse and buggy
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industry also complained, but we have to change as a nation. climate change is real, and also i noticed when you were talking about the cost per kilowatt hour you didn't mention the cost for nuclear. >> mr. murray, i'll let you take on any of those topics. >> well, he's misinformed in much of what he just stated. number one, we need nuclear power, as well as coal-fired energy to have reliability to the electric power grid. we need those two. wind is only available if the wind blows. solar power is only available if the sun shines. these gas wells that are eliminating coal right now only last ten years. what are we going to do after ten years? they are virtually depleted after ten years. and he's wrong in saying that gas is replaced coal. they are about even right now. they are both at about 30% to 32% of our electricity generation.
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coal was 52% before the election of barack obama. global warming does not exist. the earth has cooled the last 20 years. and the uscpa under obama did a study. you could close down every coal-fired plant in the united states and it would have an immeasurable effect on global climate temperatures. only -- and they quantified it. 0.02 degrees farenheit. so your listen's comments are virtually all misguided, not correct. >> few more callers. tom conway, south carolina. go ahead. >> caller: hi, i'm glad to see you're on the show telling american people the truth once and for all. the previous callers' comments are misguided because they listen to democratic propaganda. they are not only destroyed your
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industry, but they destroy everything they dip their hands into. the first part of the show where you had james clapper, sally yates, maxine waters, those are more political hacks. we have to start straightening out and you being on the show to tell the american people the truth is where we've got to start. >> all right. let's go to joanna in converse, indiana. joanna, good morning. >> caller: good morning. >> go ahead. >> caller: i have a question for you, sir. you're so very concerned about your people that, you know, it seems awful odd to me that you take your power plant upgrading and throw it back into our pockets, the ones that pay for the electricity that we use to 16% during the middle of the worst winters we had two years ago, 16% is an awful lot to raise a person's electricity in the middle of the winter. now, you say you are so up about
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the coal industry being so bad for you, how come the epa had to get on to you after you have known since the 30s that this has been a bad business, dirty business, defending you to do something? >> mr. murray, give you a chance to respond. >> well, i think her comments are so misguided and so wrong and her thoughts, i don't know how to respond to it. this coal industry is very environmentally conscious. i have children and grandchildren just like she does, and i'm concerned about the environment as she does. that's why i underground mine coal. coal can be burned as cleanly as natural gas today. we need to make a commitment to ultra super critical combustion, to high energy, low emission technology. it's all there. and the emissions from
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coal-fired generation, using those technologies, actually are lower from natural gas. we can't rely on a windmill and a solar panel. and ma'am, i don't run any coal-fired power plants. i don't run any power plants, so you'll have to ask somebody else the question about your electric bill, but i can tell you our coal is holding your electric bill down. apparently you didn't hear me say it's one-sixth the cost of windmills and solar panels. it's one-fourth the cost of natural gas. and there are no other ways to produce electricity today other than with nuclear power plants and with coal-fired plants, which absolutely need in our energy mix. >> nancy's up next in connecticut. nancy, good morning. >> caller: good morning, thanks for having me. well, i really feel like i have a lot to say. you know, there have been other industries over history that have had to go away because they
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were not sustainable environmentally. whaling, for instance. people, you know, i'm sure were just as attached to those jobs. and foresting old growth forest. as we learn about what the effects are of these things, we move on to other more sustainable things. and, i mean, i've watched a lot of documentaries, a lot of things, read a lot, and i -- what i'm hearing is there really is no such thing as clean coal. now, you may be able to burn it more effectively with less pollution at this point, but just the very act of getting it out of the ground and shipping it and now that trump has rolled back the law or rule that they can't put the tailings in
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streams and rivers, i find that very upsetting. and i don't think these people are political hacks. i've also been, you know, listening to documentaries and reading things about how the price of wind and solar is coming down drastically and is actually in many cases less expensive than coal. >> nancy, a lot there. mr. murray, let you jump in. >> well, again, she's been reading the wrong materials. a windmill and a solar panel is 26 cents a kilowatt hour and it gets four cents subsidy from her. in her taxes that she pays. coal is four cents a kilowatt hour, one-sixth the cost. electricity from natural gas is four times more expensive than from coal. again, a gas well only lasts ten
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years. we need solid hydrocarbons to keep the reliability of the electric power grid. this technology that we have today must sustain coal. we must have it to maintain the reliability and the low cost in our electric power grid. low cost electricity is a staple of life today. >> the caller talked about clean coal there and you talked about clean coal, as well. for the advancement in clean coal in this country, what could washington do to help with that? >> well, first of all, carbon capture and sequestration as a technology does not work. it's neither practical nor economic. indeed, carbon dioxide isn't even a pollution. it's a gas that makes matters grow and it was never covered under the clean air act. so, we need to have other
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technologies besides carbon capture and sequestration and those are called high emission or high energy, low emission technologies, ultra super critical combustion, and confined cycle coal fired generation. with those technologies, coal can be burned cleaner than with natural gas. we need a commitment to it in this country, because we need all of the above in our energy mix. we need coal, we need nuclear, we need natural gas, we need windmills, we need solar panels. we need it all. it's a staple of life, and we all want to protect the environment. and there are no discharges from any of our power plants that i supply or from our coal mines right now, as she has asserted, that are violating any laws or that create any pollution for the country. >> we're talking with robert -- >> it's all -- it's all in the
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information that is put out there. you know, the margins in the coal industry have been very tight. we don't have a large public relations program. the obama administration spent $1.2 billion against me personally to silence me over the last eight years. that's taxpayer money. they spent $158 million in public relations. that was taxpayer money. so the information that people get in connecticut from their reading is often very skewed, because we don't get the information out there. we just simply can't afford it. we're fortunate to keep our people working and to keep coal at 32% of our energy mix where it is right now from the 52% where we started under president obama. >> mr. murray, i want to give you a chance to talk to as many callers as possible on a special line for the rest of our program today for coal miners and family members of coal miners. june is on that line in
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brooksville, florida. june, good morning. >> caller: good morning. sir, i would like to say thank you for what you've done for my family. i'm 74 years old. my grandfather and great grandfather come over and had their own little coal mines. we have been coal miners all of our lives. without it, we would not have survived. i can remember when i was in -- could remember real plainly when i was in first and second grade that my family lived in a home that the coal mines owned. without that, over my mother and father and my brothers and sisters had, we would have had nothing. we had to go next door to the church and they would give us soup and sandwiches when things were bad. the coal mine has been our life, and i am just -- some of these
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people that's never lived what we had lived doesn't know what coal does for our lives. it kept things going in west virginia. look at the steel mills, everything, there's nothing there now. we used to be the most beautiful state down around bel air, that's where i was born. we lives in mountainsville, down in powhatten. i don't know what to say to these people. you have to live this life to know what it does to you. my brothers are coal miners. i have one that just retired after putting his -- he was 17 when he went into the coal mine. now he's 56 years old. that should tell people we need the jobs for the people around there. so, please, just keep up what you're doing. let the people know just how
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important this is and it's not what as bad as what the democrats are saying. even some republicans say this. without this coal mine, there would be no west virginia. there'd be no ohio. >> june, thanks for the call and sharing your story. mr. murray, i want to give you a chance to respond to june. >> well, june is absolutely correct. these people in these areas, these miners, have fought the wars for this country. are very dedicated, hard working people that just want to work in honor and dignity. i respect them so much. that's why i built my headquarters right where you are in the coal fields among these people, but more importantly, we are the industry that is holding down electric rates for all americans. we cost one-sixth the cost of a windmill and a solar panel and one-fourth the cost of electricity from natural gas.
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and we need to give these electric utilities some certainty now under mr. obama -- away from mr. obama's regulations and under mr. trump. so they can go ahead and stop the destruction of the coal-fired electricity, because we have a very unreliable electric power grid right now. people are going to freeze in the dark. people are going to die on the operating table if we get another polar vortex like we had in this area two years ago. there isn't enough margin in the electric power grid to keep the lights on if we get a very bad cold snap or very hot weather in the summer. that's what people need to be worrying about. >> mr. murray -- >> we have an energy poverty problem in this country. we have an energy poverty problem in the world. half of the homes in india don't have a light bulb, for heat, as well as light. england came up, great britain, in your discussion a few minutes ago. i have an office in london.
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their electric bills have doubled. they are hurting for electricity. they've shut down all their coal-fired electricity. so has europe in the same position. let's not put the united states of america in that position. for no environmental benefit at all. again, you can close down every coal-fired plant in the united states and by the obama administration itself, the effects on the environment are immeasurable, 0.0 degrees farenheit. >> mr. murray, we're going to have to end it there. appreciate your time and your chatting with our callers this morning on "the washington journal." >> thank you, john, for having me. i appreciate it very much. >> and up next this morning as we continue our focus on the coal industry, we'll be joined by republican congressman bill johnson. he represents the 6th district of ohio where powhatten point transloading facility is, along
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with several other murray energy mining facilities in that area. we'll talk about the mining industry and the federal regulations that impact it, and later, vivian stockman about hee environmental impacts of the coal industry. but first, on a recent visit to murray energy we talked to some of those who spend their work day moving the coal that comes through that facility. one of them was railroad engineer darren strait. >> it can be hectic. depending on the weather. the amount of coal we got. it's fast paced at times and then other times it's kind of relaxed. it's pretty easy going. >> how much coal comes through on one train car that comes through here? >> one train car? there's 70 cars, 72 cars and there's about 8,000 tons. break that down to one car. i didn't do the math. >> how many different trains do you move a day on an average day
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for you? >> three. usually three different trains. >> how long does that take? >> it ranges. between four hours and eight probably. depending on, you know, what we're doing. whether we're putting it on the stockpile or we're loading barges with it. loading to the stockpile usually takes a little bit longer but yeah. between four and eight hours. >> what's the toughest part about being a train engineer? >> the weather. and keeping -- keeping an eye out for everybody around. i mean, you have got several different ent tiffs down here, several different contractors down here and these things are -- they're big. and they're heavy. and you get enough people around them you have to make sure everybody stays on their toes. make sure everybody goes home safe. >> the coal that you bring in on the trains and that goes out of here, where does it go? where does it come from and where does it go? >> comes from century coal mine.
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murray's century coal mine and it goes to multitude of places. bob murray has several contract that is we load for barges here. there is several different places it goes to. >> up and down the ohio river? >> yeah. up and down the ohio river to sometimes it will go as far as overseas. yeah. it's -- murray has several different contracts. >> is railroading in your family? >> no. no. i'm the first one and only one. >> how much training do you have to go through to be a railroad engineer? >> it ranges from three to six months. it's -- it's pretty stringent. there's a lot of regulations. there's a lot of rules. there's a lot of safety measures. there's a lot to running one of these things. they're a little bit over a mile long and like i said, it's just a big safety thing. you have to keep your mind in the game the whole time you're
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up there. >> about 300 miles northwest of washington, d.c. is powhatan point, ohio, on the ohio river and this morning "washington journal" is live from murray energy's transloading center there at powhato n point. we're talking about the impacts and regulations and joining us now from powhatan point is bill johnson, republican, 6th district runs along the ohio river and eastern ohio. congressman, good morning to you. want to ask you about coal miners' health benefits. we are coming off a week in which the omnibus spending bill included provisions to support coal miners and health benefits. why is the federal government involved in health benefits for coal miners? >> well, we have to be. you know, these were benefits that were promised to these coal miners. the coal industry as you heard mr. murray talk about just a little bit ago has kept the lights on in america,


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