Trump replaces Republican head of energy regulatory panel who supports carbon markets

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump demoted Neil Chatterjee, the Republican head of an energy regulation panel, after he promoted the use of carbon markets by U.S. states to curb climate change.

Trump replaced Chatterjee, who had been chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, with fellow Republican James Danly, who had been a commissioner, Chatterjee said on Twitter late Thursday.

If Joe Biden becomes president it is likely he would quickly name a Democratic FERC chair.

Last month Chatterjee had promoted putting a price on carbon emissions, an idea backed by many former Republican politicians and leading companies as a way to lower emissions of pollutants scientists say are warming the planet.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Carbon pricing has struggled to gain support in the U.S. Congress and in the administration of Trump, who doubts climate science and wants to cut costs on coal, oil and natural gas.

In a proposed policy statement on Oct. 15 Chatterjee said that carbon pricing by U.S. states is an “important market-based tool that has wide support from across sectors.” He also held a conference exploring how a carbon tax would world in power markets.

Josh Price, an analyst at Height Capital Markets, said in a note to clients that the proposed blessing for state-led carbon pricing schemes was a “direct threat to coal.”

Chatterjee’s term was due to end on June 30, and he said he would serve out the rest of that as a commissioner. He once worked on pro-fossil-fuel policies as an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of coal-producing Kentucky.

FERC, an independent panel of the Energy Department, regulates the transmission of electricity and natural gas across states and reviews large energy projects.

Chatterjee told the Washington Examiner that his demotion was “perhaps” because he has supported carbon markets and that if the demotion was retribution, he was proud of his independence.

Danly said in a statement that Chatterjee had left his mark on FERC by brokering an agreement on terminals for natural gas exports and taking other actions to help “secure our American energy independence.”

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman)

Trump tells Putin more steps needed to scrap North Korea nuclear program

President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, who complained last month that Moscow was “not helping us at all with North Korea,” told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday that more needs to be done to scrap Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the White House said.

“President Trump reiterated the importance of taking further steps to ensure the denuclearization of North Korea,” the White House said in a statement about the call with Putin.

In an interview with Reuters last month, Trump accused Russia of helping North Korea evade international sanctions meant to punish Pyongyang for its pursuit of a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the United States.

“Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump told Reuters.

Moscow denies it has failed to uphold U.N. sanctions.

Trump and Putin spoke after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, in an interview with the Washington Post, raised the prospect of talks with North Korea.

But Pence, who traveled to South Korea for the Winter Olympics, also said Washington would intensify its “maximum pressure campaign” against Pyongyang until it takes a “meaningful step toward denuclearization.”

Last year, North Korea conducted dozens of missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of U.N. resolutions.

Russia signed on to the latest rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea imposed last year, including a ban on coal exports, which are an important source of the foreign currency Pyongyang needs to fund its nuclear program.

But North Korea shipped coal to Russia at least three times last year after the ban was put in place on Aug. 5, three Western European intelligence sources told Reuters.

The North Korean coal was shipped to the Russian ports of Nakhodka and Kholmsk, where it was unloaded at docks and reloaded onto ships that took it to South Korea or Japan, the sources said.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh and Peter Cooney)

Ending North Korea oil supplies would be seen as act of war, says Russia

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance at the Pyongyang Pharmaceutical Factory, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang January 25, 2018.

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The delivery of oil and oil products to North Korea should not be reduced, Moscow’s ambassador to Pyongyang was cited as saying by RIA news agency on Wednesday, adding that a total end to deliveries would be interpreted by North Korea as an act of war.

The U.N. and United States have introduced a wave of sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons, including by seeking to reduce its access to crude oil and refined petroleum products.

“We can’t lower deliveries any further,” Russia’s envoy to Pyongyang, Alexander Matzegora, was quoted by RIA as saying in an interview.

Quotas set by the U.N. allow for around 540,000 tonnes of crude oil a year to be delivered to North Korea from China, and over 60,000 tonnes of oil products from Russia, China and other countries, he was quoted as saying.

“[This] is a drop in the ocean for a country of 25 million people,” Matzegora said.

Shortages would lead to serious humanitarian problems, he said, adding: “Official representatives of Pyongyang have made it clear that a blockade would be interpreted by North Korea as a declaration of war, with all the subsequent consequences.”

Last week, the United States imposed further sanctions on North Korea, including on its crude oil ministry.

In his first annual State of the Union speech to the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, President Donald Trump vowed to keep up the pressure on North Korea it from developing missiles which could threaten the United States.

North Korea on Saturday condemned the latest U.S. sanctions. and Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov said Russia had no obligation to carry out sanctions produced by the U.S.

The ambassador also denied charges by Washington that Moscow, in contravention of U.N. sanctions, was allowing Pyongyang to use Russian ports for transporting coal.

“We double-checked [U.S.] evidence. We found that the ships mentioned did not enter our ports, or if they did, then they were carrying cargo that had nothing to do with North Korea,” he is cited as saying.

Reuters reported earlier that North Korea had shipped coal to Russia last year which was then delivered to South Korea and Japan in a likely violation of U.N. sanctions.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Exclusive: Despite sanctions, North Korea exported coal to South and Japan via Russia

A cargo ship is loaded with coal during the opening ceremony of a new dock at the North Korean port of Rajin July 18, 2014.

By Guy Faulconbridge, Jonathan Saul and Polina Nikolskaya

PARIS/LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – North Korea shipped coal to Russia last year which was then delivered to South Korea and Japan in a likely violation of U.N. sanctions, three Western European intelligence sources said.

The U.N. Security Council banned North Korean exports of coal last Aug. 5 under sanctions intended to cut off an important source of the foreign currency Pyongyang needs to fund its nuclear weapon and long-range missile programs.

But the secretive Communist state has at least three times since then shipped coal to the Russian ports of Nakhodka and Kholmsk, where it was unloaded at docks and reloaded onto ships that took it to South Korea or Japan, the sources said.

A Western shipping source said separately that some of the cargoes reached Japan and South Korea in October last year. A U.S. security source also confirmed the coal trade via Russia and said it was continuing.

“Russia’s port of Nakhodka is becoming a transhipping hub for North Korean coal,” said one of the European security sources, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of international diplomacy around North Korea.

Asked to respond to the report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Russia abided by international law.

“Russia is a responsible member of the international community,” he told reporters on a conference call.

Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified official at Russia’s embassy to North Korea on Friday as saying Russia did not buy coal from North Korea and was “not a transit point for coal deliveries to third countries.”

Russia’s mission to the United Nations told the Security Council sanctions committee on Nov. 3 that Moscow was complying with the sanctions.

Two lawyers who specialize in sanctions law told Reuters it appeared the transactions violated U.N. sanctions.

Reuters could not independently verify whether the coal unloaded at the Russian docks was the same coal that was then shipped to South Korea and Japan. Reuters also was unable to ascertain whether the owners of the vessels that sailed from Russia to South Korea and Japan knew the origin of the coal.

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday put the owner of one of the ships, the UAL Ji Bong 6, under sanctions for delivering North Korean coal to Kholmsk on Sept. 5.

It was unclear which companies profited from the coal shipments.

RUSSIA URGED “DO MORE” ON SANCTIONS

North Korean coal exports were initially capped under a 2016 Security Council resolution that required countries to report monthly imports of coal from North Korea to the council’s sanctions committee within 30 days of the end of each month.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia had not reported any imports of North Korea coal to the committee last year.

The sanctions committee told U.N. member states in November that a violation occurs when “activities or transactions proscribed by Security Council resolutions are undertaken or attempts are made to engage in proscribed transactions, whether or not the transaction has been completed.”

Asked about the shipments identified by Reuters, Matthew Oresman, a partner with law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman who advises companies on sanctions, said: “Based on these facts, there appears to be a violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution by the parties involved.”

“Also those involved in arranging, financing, and carrying out the shipments could likely face U.S. sanctions,” he said.

Asked about the shipments, a U.S. State Department spokesman said: “It’s clear that Russia needs to do more. All U.N. member states, including Russia, are required to implement sanctions resolutions in good faith and we expect them all to do so.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The independent panel of experts that reports to the Security Council on violations of sanctions was not immediately available for comment.

North Korea has refused to give up the development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States. It has said the sanctions infringe its sovereignty and accused the United States of wanting to isolate and stifle North Korea.

An independent panel of experts reported to the Security Council on Sept. 5 that North Korea had been “deliberately using indirect channels to export prohibited commodities, evading sanctions.”

Reuters reported last month that Russian tankers had supplied fuel to North Korea at sea and U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview on Jan. 17 that Russia was helping Pyongyang get supplies in violation of the sanctions.

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday imposed sanctions on nine entities, 16 people and six North Korean ships it accused of helping the weapons programs.

TWO ROUTES

Two separate routes for the coal were identified by the Western security sources.

The first used vessels from North Korea via Nakhodka, about 85 km (53 miles) east of the Russian city of Vladivostok.

One vessel that used this route was the Palau-flagged Jian Fu which Russian port control documents show delivered 17,415 tonnes of coal after sailing from Nampo in North Korea on Aug. 3 and docking at berth no. 4 run by LLC Port Livadiya in Nakhodka. It left the port on Aug. 18.

The vessel had turned off its tracking transmitter from July 24 to Aug. 2, when it was in open seas, according to publicly available ship tracking data. Under maritime conventions, this is acceptable practice at the discretion of the ship’s captain, but means the vessel could not be tracked publicly.

Another ship arrived at the same berth — No. 4 — on Aug. 16, loaded 20,500 tonnes of coal and headed to the South Korean port of Ulsan in Aug. 24, according to Russian port control documents.

Reuters was unable to reach the operator of the Jian Fu, which was listed in shipping directories as the China-based Sunrise Ship Management. The Nakhodka-based transport agent of the Jian Fu did not respond to written and telephone requests for comment. LLC Port Livadiya did not respond to a written request for comment.

The second route took coal via Kholmsk on the Russian Pacific island of Sakhalin, north of Japan.

At least two North Korean vessels unloaded coal at a dock in Kholmsk port in August and September after arriving from the ports of Wonsan and Taean in North Korea, Russian port control data and ship tracking data showed.

The Rung Ra 2 docked in Kholmsk three times between Aug 1 and Sept. 12, unloading a total of 15,542 tonnes of coal, while the Ul Ji Bong 6 unloaded a total of 10,068 tonnes of coal on two separate port calls — on Aug. 3 and between Sept. 1 and Sept. 8, according to the official Russian Information System for State Port Control.

The coal did not pass Russian customs because of the UN sanctions taking effect, but was then loaded at the same dock onto Chinese-operated vessels. Those vessels stated their destination in Russian port control documents as North Korea, according to a source in Sakhalin port administration who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Reuters has seen the port control documents which state the destination of the coal as North Korea. But the vessels that loaded the North Korean coal sailed instead for the ports of Pohang and Incheon in South Korea, ship tracking data showed.

In Beijing on Friday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters she did not know anything about the situation but China was clear in its hope that the UN resolutions are followed fully.

China will not allow any Chinese company or individual to do anything that goes against the resolutions and if there is cast-iron proof this is happening, China will handle it seriously and in accordance with the law, she added.

The U.S. Treasury on Wednesday included the owner of the Ul Ji Bong 6 under sanctions for delivering North Korean coal to Kholmsk after the sanctions took effect.

It was unclear which companies profited from the coal shipments.

Asked about the shipments, a South Korean foreign ministry official said: “Our government is monitoring any sanctions-evading activities by North Korea. We’re working closely with the international community for the implementation of the sanctions.”

The official declined to say whether the ministry was aware of the shipments reported by Reuters.

The Japanese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The European security sources said the route via Russia had developed as China, North Korea’s neighbor and lone major ally, cracked down on exports from the secretive Communist state.

“The Chinese have cracked down on coal exports from North Korea so the smuggling route has developed and Russia is the transit point for coal,” one of the European security sources said.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Jonathan Saul; Additional reporting by Michele Nichols in New York, Oksana Kobzeva and Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow, Hyonhee Shin in Seoul, William James in London, Muyu Xu, Ben Blanchard and Josephine Mason in Beijing, Aaron Sheldrick and Linda Sieg in Tokyo, and Mark Hosenball and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Clarence Fernandez and Sonya Hepinstall)

Awaiting Trump’s coal comeback, miners reject career retraining

Loaded coal cars sit on the rail road tracks leading to the Emerald Coal mine facility in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 11, 2017.

By Valerie Volcovici

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing.

He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course.

“I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner.

Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget.

Trump has promised to revive coal by rolling back environmental regulations and moved to repeal Obama-era curbs on carbon emissions from power plants.

“I have a lot of faith in President Trump,” Sylvester said.

But hundreds of coal-fired plants have closed in recent years, and cheap natural gas continues to erode domestic demand. The Appalachian region has lost about 33,500 mining jobs since 2011, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Although there have been small gains in coal output and hiring this year, driven by foreign demand, production levels remain near lows hit in 1978.

A White House official did not respond to requests for comment on coal policy and retraining for coal workers.

What many experts call false hopes for a coal resurgence have mired economic development efforts here in a catch-22: Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.

Federal retraining programs have fared better, with some approaching full participation, in the parts of Appalachia where mining has been crushed in a way that leaves little hope for a comeback, according to county officials and recruiters. They include West Virginia and Kentucky, where coal resources have been depleted.

But in southern Pennsylvania, where the industry still has ample reserves and is showing flickers of life, federal jobs retraining programs see sign-up rates below 20 percent, the officials and recruiters said. In southern Virginia’s coal country, participation rates run about 50 percent, they said.

“Part of our problem is we still have coal,” said Robbie Matesic, executive director of Greene County’s economic development department.

Out-of-work miners cite many reasons beyond faith in Trump policy for their reluctance to train for new industries, according to Reuters interviews with more than a dozen former and prospective coal workers, career counselors and local economic development officials. They say mining pays well; other industries are unfamiliar; and there’s no income during training and no guarantee of a job afterward.

In Pennsylvania, Corsa Coal opened a mine in Somerset in June which will create about 70 jobs – one of the first mines to open here in years. And Consol Energy recently expanded its Bailey mine complex in Greene County.

But Consol also announced in January that it plans to sell its coal holdings to focus on natural gas. And it has commissioned a recruitment agency, GMS Mines and Repair, to find contract laborers for its coal expansion who will be paid about $13 an hour – half the hourly wage of a starting unionized coal worker. The program Sylvester signed up for was set up by GMS.

The new hiring in Pennsylvania is related mainly to an uptick in foreign demand for metallurgical coal, used in producing steel, rather than domestic demand for thermal coal from power plants, the industry’s main business. Some market analysts describe the foreign demand as a temporary blip driven by production problems in the coal hub of Australia.

Officials for U.S. coal companies operating in the region, including Consol and Corsa, declined requests for comment.

“The coal industry has stabilized, but it’s not going to come back,” said Blair Zimmerman, a 40-year veteran of the mines who is now the commissioner for Greene County, one of Pennsylvania’s oldest coal regions. “We need to look at the future.”

Career center representative Alison Hall works on the computer looking to place out of work coal miners at the Mining Technology and Training Center just outside of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

Career center representative Alison Hall works on the computer looking to place out of work coal miners at the Mining Technology and Training Center just outside of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

EMPTY SEATS

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor has received about $2 million since 2015 from the federal POWER program, an initiative of former President Barack Obama to help retrain workers in coal-dependent areas. But the state is having trouble putting even that modest amount of money to good use.

In Greene and Washington counties, 120 people have signed up for jobs retraining outside the mines, far short of the target of 700, said Ami Gatts, director of the Washington-Greene County Job Training Agency. In Westmoreland and Fayette counties, participation in federal job retraining programs has been about 15 percent of capacity, officials said.

“I can’t even get them to show up for free food I set up in the office,” said Dave Serock, an ex-miner who recruits in Fayette County for Southwest Training Services.

Programs administered by the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal and state partnership to strengthen the region’s economy, have had similar struggles. One $1.4 million ARC project to teach laid-off miners in Greene County and in West Virginia computer coding has signed up only 20 people for 95 slots. Not a single worker has enrolled in another program launched this summer to prepare ex-miners to work in the natural gas sector, officials said.

Greene County Commissioner Zimmerman said he’d like to see a big company like Amazon or Toyota come to southwestern Pennsylvania to build a distribution or manufacturing plant that could employ thousands.

But he knows first the region needs a ready workforce.

Amazon spokeswoman Ashley Robinson said the company the company typically works with local organizations to evaluate whether locations have an appropriate workforce and has no current plans for distribution operations in Western Pennsylvania. Toyota spokesman Edward Lewis said the company considers local workforce training an “important consideration” when deciding where to locate facilities.

Students sit in a training class at the Pennsylvania Career Link office located in Waynesburg.

Students sit in a training class at the Pennsylvania Career Link office located in Waynesburg. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

SIGNS OF LIFE

For Sean Moodie and his brother Steve spent the last two years working in the natural gas industry, but see coal as a good bet in the current political climate.

“I am optimistic that you can make a good career out of coal for the next 50 years,” said Sean Moodie.

Coal jobs are preferable to those in natural gas, they said, because the mines are close to home, while pipeline work requires travel. Like Sylvester, the Moodie brothers are taking mining courses offered by Consol’s recruiter, GMS.

Bob Levo, who runs a GMS training program, offered a measure of realism: The point of the training is to provide low-cost and potentially short-term labor to a struggling industry, he said.

“That’s a major part of the reason that coal mines have been able to survive,” he said. “They rely on us to provide labor at lower cost.”

Clemmy Allen, 63, a veteran miner and head of the United Mineworkers of America’s Career Centers, said miners are taking a big risk in holding out for a coal recovery.

He’s placing his hopes for the region’s future on retraining. UMWA’s 64-acre campus in Prosperity, Pennsylvania – which once trained coal miners – will use nearly $3 million in federal and state grants to retrofit classrooms to teach cybersecurity, truck driving and mechanical engineering.

“Unlike when I worked in the mines,” he said, “if you get laid off now, you are pretty much laid off.”

 

Follow Trump’s impact on energy, environment, healthcare, immigration and the economy at The Trump Effect – https://www.reuters.com/trump-effect

 

 

(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot)

 

U.S. coal exports soar, in boost to Trump energy agenda, data shows

FILE PHOTO: Dump trucks haul coal and sediment at the Black Butte coal mine outside Rock Springs, Wyoming, United States, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/File Photo

By Timothy Gardner and Nina Chestney

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. coal exports have jumped more than 60 percent this year due to soaring demand from Europe and Asia, according to a Reuters review of government data, allowing President Donald Trump’s administration to claim that efforts to revive the battered industry are working.

The increased shipments came as the European Union and other U.S. allies heaped criticism on the Trump administration for its rejection of the Paris Climate Accord, a deal agreed by nearly 200 countries to cut carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels like coal.

The previously unpublished figures provided to Reuters by the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed exports of the fuel from January through May totaled 36.79 million tons, up 60.3 percent from 22.94 million tons in the same period in 2016. While reflecting a bounce from 2016, the shipments remained well-below volumes recorded in equivalent periods the previous five years.

They included a surge to several European countries during the 2017 period, including a 175 percent increase in shipments to the United Kingdom, and a doubling to France – which had suffered a series of nuclear power plant outages that required it and regional neighbors to rely more heavily on coal.

“If Europe wants to lecture Trump on climate then EU member states need transition plans to phase out polluting coal,” said Laurence Watson, a data scientist working on coal at independent think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative in London.

Nicole Bockstaller, a spokeswoman at the EU Commission’s Energy and Climate Action department, said that the EU’s coal imports have generally been on a downward trend since 2006, albeit with seasonable variations like high demand during cold snaps in the winter.

Overall exports to European nations totaled 16 million tons in the first five months of this year, up from 10.5 million in the same period last year, according to the figures. Exports to Asia meanwhile, totaled 12.3 million tons, compared to 6.2 million tons in the year-earlier period.

For a graphic on U.S. coal exports, click http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/USA-COAL-EXPORTS/010050650E9/index.html

Trump had campaigned on a promise to “cancel” the Paris deal and sweep away Obama-era environmental regulations to help coal miners, whose output last year sank to the lowest level since 1978. The industry has been battered for years by surging supplies of cheaper natural gas, brought on by better drilling technologies, and increased use of natural gas to fuel power plants.

His administration has since sought to kill scores of pending regulations he said threatened industries like coal mining, and reversed a ban on new coal leasing on federal lands.

TAKING CREDIT

Both the coal industry and the Trump administration said the rising exports of both steam coal, used to generate electricity, and metallurgical coal, used in heavy industry, were evidence that Trump’s agenda was having a positive impact.

“Simply to know that coal no longer has to fight the government – that has to have some effect on investment decisions and in the outlook by companies, producers and utilities that use coal,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Energy Department, said: “These numbers clearly show that the Trump Administration’s policies are helping to revive an industry that was the target of costly and job killing overregulation from Washington for far too long.”

Efforts to obtain comment from exporters Arch Coal and privately held Murray Energy Corp were unsuccessful. Contura Energy, which emerged as part of Alpha Natural Resource’s bankruptcy and restructuring, and filed for public offering in May, declined to comment.

A spokesman for Peabody Energy, the largest coal producer, though without a major export profile, said the United States was generally a “swing supplier of seaborne coal.”

U.S. Energy Information Administration analyst Elias Johnson said the U.S. coal industry may now be better positioned to meet foreign demand because U.S. miners have learned to produce at lower cost, after coming through a series of recent bankruptcies.

“There’s the possibility that the U.S. will become more of a primary player in the global coal trade market,” he said.

But he added there are also plenty of reasons the spike in demand could be temporary. For one thing, U.S. coal production and transportation costs are much higher than for other producers such as Indonesia and Australia.

Because coal can often be transhipped from European ports before it is consumed, it is also hard to determine where shipments ultimately end up.

Johnson pointed out that some of the fuel shipped into Western Europe, for example, could be making its way to other places like Ukraine, which is having trouble securing coal from its separatist-held regions.

Trump said last month that his administration is offering more coal to Ukraine, but it was unclear how, given deals are typically worked out between companies.

(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Alden Bentley)