NATIONAL NEWS

CNX plans $1.5B hydrogen fuels plant at Pittsburgh airport, but wants federal tax credit to build it

May 15, 2024, 2:26 AM

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Natural gas producer CNX Resources said it plans to build a $1.5 billion facility at Pittsburgh’s airport to make hydrogen-based fuels, but only if President Joe Biden’s administration allows coal mine methane to qualify for tax credits that are central to the Democrat’s plan to fight climate change.

The proposed facility has the backing of Pittsburgh-area labor unions, which hope to fill thousands of construction jobs, and top Pennsylvania officials, including U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. But it is likely to face scrutiny from clean energy and climate change activists.

The announcement comes as Biden’s administration decides how to tailor billions of dollars in tax credits in a massive effort to build out a hydrogen industry to be a cleaner alternative to fossil fueled energy and slash planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

CNX said the facility would remove a potent greenhouse gas from the atmosphere — methane vented from coal mines — and blend it with natural gas to produce enough hydrogen-based airline fuel to supplant almost all of the jet fuel consumption at Pittsburgh International Airport.

“We want to produce our gas here, use it here to solve complex problems and this is one of those that addresses a really hard problem to solve: decarbonizing aviation is a challenge,” said Ravi Srivastava, CNX’s president of new technologies.

CNX’s partners include the airport and KeyState Energy, which is building a facility in northern Pennsylvania to produce hydrogen from natural gas.

Darrin Kelly, president of the Allegheny/Fayette Central Labor Council, called it the “most significant energy project” in years in a region where many boosters have hoped a natural gas boom would reindustrialize an economy battered by the collapse of coal and steel.

Climate change activists don’t want coal mine methane and other fossil fuels to qualify for the tax credits.

They don’t like coal mine methane escaping into the atmosphere, but producing hydrogen from fossil fuels, instead of from carbon-free electricity, would undermine the purpose of the entire hydrogen program to displace fossil fuels, they say.

“I fear that if we take this path, we’ll look up a decade down the line and see we’ll have just poured hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars into something that is not clean and does not move us in the right direction,” said Julie McNamara, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Lobbying is heavy over the final rule, giving Biden a political hot potato in a premier battleground state with fewer than six months until November’s election.

The Treasury Department hasn’t said when it will publish a final rule, and nothing may happen before the election.

A final rule could determine how qualifying hydrogen projects must calculate their emissions and direct billions of public tax dollars on a sliding scale. Qualifying projects with the lowest emissions scores would get bigger tax credits.

As part of that, the department could determine whether a project can use coal mine methane as a feedstock. The federal government considers methane capture to have a negative emissions score, which helps lower the emissions score of a project that also uses natural gas a feedstock.

CNX could draw natural gas from below the airport and it has the rights to capture methane from coal mines in northern Appalachia.

Methane from operating and shuttered coal mines is normally vented straight into the atmosphere. Capturing it requires expensive equipment and there are no regulatory requirements or incentives to capture it.

The tax credit, however, makes methane capture economically viable as part of a project “that is checking all the boxes when it comes to economy, jobs and climate that the law was intending to check,” CNX’s CEO Nicholas DeIuliis said.

The project isn’t financially viable without a tax credit to price the aviation fuel competitively, CNX officials said.

The draft regulation for the tax credits — part of Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act passed in 2022 — was published in December. At the time, the Treasury Department said it anticipated a final rule would allow “hydrogen production pathways” using coal mine methane.

Administration officials estimate the hydrogen production credits will help the U.S. produce 50 million metric tons of hydrogen by 2050.

Hydrogen is being developed around the world as an energy source and can be made by splitting water with solar, wind, nuclear or geothermal electricity, yielding little if any greenhouse gases.

Most hydrogen today is made from natural gas. About 10 million metric tons of hydrogen is currently produced in the United States each year, primarily for petroleum refining and ammonia production.

___

Follow Marc Levy at twitter.com/timelywriter.

National News

Associated Press

Widespread power outages from deadly Houston storm raise new risk: hot weather

HOUSTON (AP) — As the Houston area works to clean up and restore power to thousands after deadly storms, it will do so Saturday under a smog warning and as all of southern Texas starts to feel the heat. The National Weather Service in Houston warned that with temperatures hitting around 90 degrees (32.2 C) […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Man shoots his 6-month-old baby multiple times at home near Phoenix, but child expected to survive

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — A man shot his 6-month-old baby multiple times Friday at a home northwest of Phoenix after taking the infant and its mother captive, but the mother escaped with minor injuries and the child was expected to survive, authorities said. They said the status of the suspect remained unknown after a fire […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Missouri candidate with ties to the KKK can stay on the Republican ballot, judge rules

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A longshot Missouri gubernatorial candidat e with ties to the Ku Klux Klan will stay on the Republican ticket, a judge ruled Friday. Cole County Circuit Court Judge Cotton Walker denied a request by the Missouri GOP to kick Darrell McClanahan out of the August Republican primary. McClanahan is running […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

UN experts say South Sudan is close to securing a $13 billion oil-backed loan from a UAE company

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. experts say South Sudan is close to securing a $13 billion loan from a company in the United Arab Emirates, despite the oil-rich country’s difficulties in managing debts backed by its oil reserves. The panel of experts said in a report to the U.N. Security Council that loan documents it […]

13 hours ago

Associated Press

A murderous romance or frame job? Things to know about Boston’s Karen Read murder trial

BOSTON (AP) — A highly anticipated trial in Massachusetts involving a woman accused of striking her Boston police officer boyfriend with her SUV and leaving him for dead in a snowbank is finishing its third week on Friday. The case has garnered national attention because the defense alleges that state and local law enforcement officials […]

13 hours ago

Associated Press

US security alert warns Americans overseas of potential attacks on LGBTQ events

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department renewed a global security warning Friday for Americans overseas, adding to it that LGBTQ people and events in particular face an “increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence.” The alert is a standard renewal of travel advice telling Americans to exercise increased caution against possible attacks by violent extremist […]

14 hours ago

CNX plans $1.5B hydrogen fuels plant at Pittsburgh airport, but wants federal tax credit to build it