Speaking up for coal

WITH a staff of just four individuals and a voluntary board of 15, the American Coal Council (ACC) speaks loudly for the country’s industry.

Donna Schmidt

The Arizona-based coal organization is proud to be celebrating its silver anniversary in 2007, said executive director Janet Gellici, and there’s no mistaking the hard work the ACC has packed into that 25 years.

Rewind to 1982, when the then-Western Coal Export Council (WCEC) began aiding in the export of western coal to the Asian Pacific Basin. As the Powder River Basin began rising up as a coal staple in the late 80’s, the western-concentrated group commenced a multinational initiative that resulted in the formation of the WCEC.

A number of years later, as western export markets waned, the WCEC refocused its efforts on the domestic utility market under the newly named Western Coal Council (WCC). It wasn’t until April of 2002 that the ACC was established as it is known today, a move Gellici noted was tied to the “resurgence” of the coal market and industry as a whole. It was at that time that the association became nationally focused, representing both eastern and western coal interests.

ACC, a 501(c)(6) non-profit, now boasts 155 member companies including suppliers, transportation firms, utilities and industrial consumers, energy traders, consulting companies, legal representatives and others. The members encompass “the full coal chain”, Gellici said proudly.

With that strong membership comes diverse opinions on a number of industry-related topics, from marketplace trends to high-tech coal conversion issues to demand and supply. The ACC has worked to promote discussions prompted by these opinions, to enhance the marketing and management capability of its member companies, and to advocate for coal as an economic, abundant and environmentally sound fuel source.

The ACC hosts five annual conferences, including a technical conference on PRB coal, an environmental gathering, a coal-trading conference that highlights financial topics such as risk management, a coal conversion event and two public policy and marketplace trends forums. As a non-profit organization, Gellici said the funding for the continuation of ACC’s efforts comes largely from these events, as well as sponsorships, membership dues and other activities.

As an added benefit to membership, two publications – a buyer’s guide and a membership directory – are distributed annually. Yearly ACC dues include those pieces as well as reduced conference attendance fees, studies and a members-only area on the group’s website.

The purpose of the ACC is to serve as an information resource for the industry and to play its part on energy decisions that affect the nation as well as the world. To do that, it works hard to join forces with other groups such as the Institute for Clean Air Companies, the Environmental Markets Association, the Coal Trading Association and the National Energy Foundation.

“The coal industry continues to be a vital resource for meeting our nation’s energy security needs, providing a secure domestic option for affordable, environmentally sound power generation and transportation fuels,” said Gellici. “The ACC is pleased to serve a role in advancing the development and utilization of coal in our nation’s energy mix.”