coal

The Select Committee on Coal/Mineral Bankruptcies At Its Cheyenne Interim Meeting
Cooper McKim

Hours into a meeting of the Select Committee on Coal/Mineral Bankruptcies, Chairman Eric Barlow brought up a draft bill called "Protested Tax Payments." With little pause, Barlow welcomed in the day's regular testifiers.

An example of the itemized questioning by federal Judge Frank Volk of five group's expenses involved in the Blackjewel bankrutpcy
Prime Clerk

The federal judge overseeing Blackjewel's bankruptcy is disputing the "propriety and necessity" of noticeably high fees from attorneys and professionals.

In a court filing yesterday, Judge Frank Volk questioned restaurant, travel, and lodging expenses from five firms totaling $73,583. That included three law offices, a financial services group, and a research firm. It accounted for about 30 percent of the total expenses racked up by the groups in only four months since Blackjewel filed to reorganize.

 Comparison of Natural Gas Production and Price Forecasts.
Consensus Revenue Estimating Group

Natural gas producers in Wyoming are facing a dramatic new normal as prices drop and supply explodes. The state Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) report estimates natural gas production is falling at similar levels to coal projected to be down nearly 40 percent this year from 2009.

Naughton Power Plant; Rocky Mountain Power's coal-fired power plant looking at early unit closures
Pacificorp

Wyoming's Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee tabled a bill that would have changed how the Public Service Commission (PSC) oversees coal-fired power plants that are closing early. The bill considered requiring the PSC to consider socioeconomic factors, reliability impacts and any other information deemed necessary when looking at early retirement.

U.S. Natural Gas dry production, consumption and exports (2000-2018)
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Natural gas had a banner year in 2018 with production, consumption and exports all hitting record highs. Production actually saw its largest year-over-year growth by volume since the Energy Information Administration began collecting the data in the 1930.

Preferred portfolio cited in the PSC's order to initiate an investigation
Wyoming Public Service Commission

The Wyoming Public Service Commission has initiated an investigation into Rocky Mountain Power's (RMP) Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) filed on October 18, 2019.

Cloud Peak's Gillette-based Cordero Rojo mine.
Cloud Peak Energy

The company taking over Cloud Peak Energy's three mines in Montana and Wyoming has hit a snag in securing its surety bonds that are used to guarantee reclamation. The Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC) expected the Navajo Nation to back its reclamation costs through a pre-existing agreement.

Four likely scenarios forecasting the next few years
Rob Godby

Gov. Mark Gordon announced an effort called Power Wyoming this week to study new revenue scenarios for Wyoming. The group presented data to the legislature's Joint Revenue Committee showing the state can no longer rely on revenues from the energy industry.

Forecasted revenue from different versions of the bill
Legislative Service Office

Wyoming's Joint Revenue Committee let a bill die without a vote that would have levied a tax on electricity generation whether it's coming from coal, hydroelectric, or wind. Members of the committee considered the Electrical Generation Tax as a way to generate additional funds for the state which is looking at a major budget deficit. This bill could have raised funds ranging from $3 million to $190 million per year.

Cooper McKim

U.S. senators have introduced a bipartisan bill that promises to protect the pensions for 92,000 retired coal miners and secure 13,000 miners' healthcare benefits.

Preferred Portfolio Coal Retirements based on its chosen IRP
Rocky Mountain Power

Wyoming's Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee used its last hearing before the budget session to discuss concerns over Rocky Mountain Power's recently announced Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The public utility's long-awaited plan detailed its shift away from coal, including the early retirement of two Wyoming coal plants.

Montana Department of Environmental Quality

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to roll back Obama-era rules governing how coal-fired power plants store and release toxic waste.

Wikimedia Commons

Televangelists Joel and Victoria Osteen will visit Gillette this month to speak with community members about hope following recent coal bankruptcies.

Coal To Product Tree From A Ramaco Carbon Presentation
Ramaco Carbon

The First Judicial District Court in Cheyenne has sided with Brook Mining Company, LLC, ruling that the Environmental Quality Council (EQC) did not have the authority to reject a permit application in 2017. The Environmental Quality Council is an independent board that reviews issues relating to pollution and preservation of air, water, and land quality in Wyoming.

A map of all federally owned land in the United States (from 2005)
U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Judge Scott Skavdahl for the United States District Court, District of Wyoming has placed an injunction on part of the Obama-era valuation rule. That rule was intended to update how royalties are calculated from energy production on federal and native land with the goal of giving a fair price to taxpayers.

Eagle Butte mine post-bankrutpcy
Cooper McKim

Eagle Specialty Materials, LLC (ESM) can't close on its deal to own and operate two Wyoming mines just yet. The affiliate of Ohio-based FM Coal hit a snag in its attempts to replace surety bonds for the mines; an agreement that guarantees clean-up costs.

Judge Frank Volk approving the closure of Blackjewel's sale of western assets to Eagle Specialty Materials, LLC
Prime Clerk

Prior to bankruptcy, the federal government was investigating Blackjewel, LLC for possible fraud. The U.S Attorney's Office was concerned the coal company may use a reorganization to get out of debts owed to the government. In other words, that it was violating the False Claims Act. Court filings show Blackjewel owes several federal agencies upwards of $50 million.

Pacificorp

In December of last year, Pacificorp released a presentation that shook several Wyoming cities and their state leaders. It was the first hint of the utility's 20-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and it included the early closure of many coal plants including three in Wyoming.

Cloud Peak's Gillette-based Cordero Rojo mine.
Cloud Peak Energy

On October 2, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware approved the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, LLC (NTEC) to purchase Cloud Peak's assets including the Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines in the Powder River Basin. It comes a month and a half after the Navajo Nation-company won in the initial auction.

Coal mines north and east of Gillette Campbell County Airport, including the Eagle Butte Mine
Public Domain

Judge Frank Volk for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia has approved Eagle Specialty Materials, LLC (ESM) as the buyer of Blackjewel's western assets including the Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte mines. ESM is an affiliate specifically formed by Ohio-based FM Coal to purchase the assets.

Campbell County Commission Meeting
Campbell County

Three months since Blackjewel LLC filed for bankruptcy, a new company is set to close a deal this week and take over the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines. At a Campbell County Commission meeting, Carol Seeger, the county administrative director, said Eagle Specialty Materials LLC is expected to close on its sale order this Friday, October 4.

Eagle Butte mine post-bankrutpcy
Cooper McKim

Contura Energy has entered into an agreement with an Alabama coal company to take over the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr coal mines in the Powder River Basin. The deal is dependent on Contura reaching a resolution with the federal government and other entities in court to become the owner of both mines.

Inspection Log From DEQ
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality says Contura Energy does not have to revise its permit to mine or for reclamation plans right now.

It comes in response to an August 28 complaint from the Powder River Basin Resource Council (PRBRC), a landowners' group, arguing the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines have been inactive for enough time without seeing updated relevant plans that Contura is in violation of state and federal rules.

Letter sent to Blackjewel employees September 9
Blackjewel LLC

After weeks of little information from a West Virginia court, Blackjewel could soon be welcoming back its western employees. Workers received a letter with the company's letterhead yesterday, September 9, with the subject, "Possible Recall of Furloughed Blackjewel Workers of Belle Ayr and Eagle Butte Facilities."

Agenda of topics to be discussed in the coming committee
Legislative Service Office

Wyoming's Management Council has started a new, one-year legislative committee in response to the recent spate of bankruptcies in the coal industry. The hope is to produce legislation that puts Wyoming in an improved position in future reorganizations.

Cooper McKim

On a bright morning outside Gillette, Darlene Rea is getting ready to job search. She might visit Sheridan this afternoon. Until two months ago, Rea worked in Blackjewel's warehouse - receiving freight, writing invoices and finding parts. But since the coal company's abrupt bankruptcy, she's been stuck looking for work.

The five preferred scenarios. Higher numbers within the parentheses stand for larger consumer savings over the life of the IRP
Pacificorp

Pacificorp held another public input meeting on its 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) in Salt Lake City this week. The IRP goes through over 50 potential models to decide its energy portfolio for the near future. The utility provides power across the west including Wyoming.

Pacificorp has whittled down its preferred choices to five scenarios, which would all impact Wyoming plant retirements. Four of the five scenarios would close two of three units from Kemmerer's Naughton Plant early in 2025. All five would convert the last unit there to gas. All scenarios would also mean early retirement for part of the Jim Bridger plant near Rock Springs.

View of the southeastern part of the Black Thunder ranch - land considered in the appraisal document
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

The First Judicial District Court in Wyoming ruled in favor of a landowners group in a case considering the release of previously confidential reclamation documents to the public. It helps shed light on how Contura Coal West, LLC (Contura) is backing 20 percent of its reclamation obligations for the Belle Ayr mine in the Powder River Basin.

In 2017, Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) accepted the real property collateral bond. A certified appraiser showed that nearly 50,000 acres of property were collectively worth $26.7 million. It was appraised twice, and then reviewed by another appraiser, according to the DEQ.

Petition
Citizens Supporting Wyoming Coal

A Washington state appeals court dealt another blow to a controversial coal export terminal. It reaffirms a regulator's decision made back in 2017. Judge Lisa Sutton found the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) acted properly in denying the Millennium Bulk Terminal necessary leases to begin development.

In 2012, Millennium introduced a full plan to build the largest coal export terminal on the West Coast and was seeking to ship about 44 million metric tons of coal per year. It hoped to add two large docks to its property in Longview, Washington.

Catherine Wheeler

A U.S. Department of Energy official visited the state this week after an invitation from Gov. Mark Gordon.

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