coal

A report out Monday from environmental groups looked at groundwater contamination from coal-fired power plants. Three of the worst sites are located in the Mountain West.

Coal ash is the solid waste leftover when you burn coal. It often gets mixed with water and washed into a pit — an ash pond. If the base of a pond isn’t properly sealed, pollutants in the mix can make their way into groundwater.

United Mine Workers of America logo
United Mine Workers of America

Retirees of the Kemmerer Coal Mine won't be getting their expected health-care benefits, but the United Mine Workers of America aren't giving up. 

Donlin Recano

Two years ago, Jim Bills retired from the Kemmerer mine in Southwestern Wyoming.

"After spending seven years in the Air Force, I spent 36 years with Westmoreland coal," he said.

Bills worked as a laborer, truck driver, and driller. His son works there now, too. Bills recalls watching retirees taken care of year-after-year. He was excited when his time finally came.

Stephanie Joyce

A coal company in the Powder River Basin has avoided paying millions in personal and property taxes to Campbell County. Blackjewel has fallen delinquent $8,647,576.23 in taxes primarily from production, according to Campbell County attorney Carol Seeger. They were due last year. On March 1, another $8 million will come due. If the company doesn't pay it by May 10, it will be considered delinquent.

Cooper McKim

Hundreds of train cars overflowing with coal extend alongside a road. Trucks haul the same energy resource in a large pit on the other side of the road. The highway is outside of Gillette, Wyoming, commonly called the coal capital of the U.S.

Naughton Power Plant In Kemmerer, Wy - Unit 3 was shut down on January 31, 2019
DigitalGlobe / USDA Farm Service Agency

A bill seeking to keep retiring coal plants alive has passed third reading out of Wyoming's House of Representatives today: 50-8-2. It would obligate utilities to look for another potential buyer in good-faith and accept any reasonable offer. The Wyoming Public Service Commission would be responsible in determining what’s a reasonable offer. Its chief counsel Chris Petrie said the task would be welcome and that it already engages in similar analysis.

Cloud Peak Energy Logo
Cloud Peak Energy

On February 12, Cloud Peak Energy laid off 15 employees in higher level positions including public affairs. The company announced serious changes were coming last November after prolonged financial difficulties. Its strategic review could mean a potential sale of the company.

Cordero Rojo Mine Reclamation
Wyoming Mining Association

Wyoming's Environmental Quality Council has approved Department of Environmental Quality updates to how companies guarantee reclamation costs. If signed by the Governor, the decision would limit mining companies' access to self-bonding; that's essentially an IOU to pay reclamation costs, rather than a financial guarantee.

Wyoming State Geological Survey

The Wyoming State Geological Survey published a new report about coal resources in South-Central Wyoming. The assessment analyzed coal beds that are part of the Fort Union Formation.

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality logo
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

The Powder River Basin Resource Council has filed a complaint against the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality for an alleged public records act violation.

Marcius Extavour at the ITC gathering in February 2019
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Four of the five finalists for the NRG Cosia Carbon XPRIZE competition gathered at the Integrated Test Center (ITC) in Gillette Tuesday. It's the first time the organization has brought teams back to the site since the ITC opened in May of 2018.

Pexels

A bill passed out of a legislative committee yesterday that would make it easier for counties to collect ad valorem taxes. A report last year found counties were missing out on over $50 million in delinquent ad valorem taxes, often due to bankruptcies.

Cut Out From Rocky Mountain Power's Presentation On Its Integrated Resource Plan
Rocky Mountain Power

More and more coal-fired power plants are setting retirement dates and the next steps for them are unclear. The Senate Minerals committee heard a bill attempting to deal with these power plants. It aims to create a process allowing decommissioned plants to continue under new ownership.

Uranium, coal, oil and gas, and wind energy are all being discussed this legislature -- and the word of the hour is revenue
Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

The big hitters in the energy industry are all back on the docket this session: coal, wind, uranium, and oil and gas. Unsurprisingly, the focus is on revenue for all of them. Here’s a look at a few of the bills still under discussion.

Cloud Peak Energy's share price over the course of a year
Seeking Alpha

The coal company Cloud Peak Energy filed a stockholder rights plan, more commonly known as a poison pill provision, with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week. It's a way of protecting management from a hostile takeover from a new investor. 

Public Domain

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon asked the legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee to fund a $10 million carbon capture test project. Gordon said the money would be provided to the University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources.

A new study shows US greenhouse gas emissions are going up. The natural gas boom is partially to blame. It’s a big industry in our region.

Irina Zhorov of Wyoming Public Radio

Three PacifiCorp coal-fired power plants in Wyoming reported contamination of groundwater earlier this year above state or federal limits. That includes the Dave Johnston, Jim Bridger and Naughton plants. PacifiCorp reported detecting selenium, arsenic, lithium and many more polluting elements. A recent report from Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm, drew attention to the information. It highlighted 67 plants across 22 states with the same problem.

Comparison of benefits treatment in bankruptcies
Peter Morgan / Sierra Club

Filings from Westmoreland show it’s taking a different approach to its financial obligations from other recently bankrupt coal companies. The coal company is seeking to default on nearly $400 million owed in pension funds, black lung claims and retiree healthcare benefits. Three other coal companies, Alpha, Peabody and Arch all passed along those obligations to re-organization debtors with value reduced in some cases.

ACPIC location just north of Gillette
The Advanced Carbon Collaborative Balanced Resources

The Advanced Carbon Products Innovation Center (ACPIC) was expected to finish construction north of Gillette at the Fort Union Industrial Complex by spring of 2019. Now, the coordinators of the project have requested a delay from the Wyoming Business Council.

Gary Kohn, the Chief Financial Officer of Westmoreland Coal Company, has announced his resignation effective January 4 of 2019. In a statement released by the company, he's leaving for personal reasons.

Stephanie Joyce

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced revisions on an Obama-era regulation limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. The EPA wrote that the rule discouraged new coal development by requiring unproven carbon capture technology. Wyoming Mining Association's Travis Deti said there's still a lot of uncertainty around coal, but this deregulation could help that.

The EPA is expected to announce a rollback of regulations on coal-fired power plants. Meanwhile, two new reports could cast some doubt on that decision.

Net generation by select fuel source - notice the share of goal increasingly goes down from 2010 to July of this year
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Domestic coal-fired power plants are set to shut down at double the rate of last year. The retirements would remove about 6 percent of all coal-generated capacity in the U.S. This comes despite the Trump administration's promise to extend a lifeline to the coal industry.

Fossil Fuel-Associated Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from Federal Lands
USGS

You may have missed it, but on Black Friday the federal government released a second climate-related report. The United States Geologic Survey (USGS) found nearly one-quarter of carbon dioxide emissions come from fossil fuels extracted on public lands - that's the average from 2005 to 2014. Not to mention over 7 percent of methane and 1.5 percent of nitrous oxide, on average during that same time period.

Diagram illustrating how CCS works after the carbon fuel has been burned.
Explain That Stuff

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology has been a source of hope for coal country and touted by the Trump Administration as a way to keep the coal industry alive, while reducing its emissions. CCS aims to remove carbon dioxide from significant fossil-fuel emitting sites like power plants – it then either be stored or eventually used to develop products. But one report questions if its development is too slow to have a mainstream impact.

Labor force changes from June 2009, the end of the Great Recession to October of 2018
Cooper McKim / Obtained from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Numbers

The majority of states have recovered labor forces since the end of the Great Recession, but Wyoming has actually seen the steepest drop in the country.

Cloud Peak Energy

Cloud Peak Energy has announced it will review "strategic alternatives". Basically, that means the coal producer is open to major changes, including a potential sale of the company in order to improve its financial situation. The move was announced alongside bonuses to executives encouraging them to stay on.

Market Summary of Cloud Peak Energy just after announcing its potential sale
Google Market Summary

Cloud Peak Energy, one of the largest coal producers in the country with two mines in Wyoming, announced today it will review strategic alternatives which include a potential sale of the company. The announcement comes after company stock shares hit a 52-week low today at $1.32. That’s nearly half of its value from this time last year.

Cloud Peak Energy logo
Cloud Peak Energy

One of Wyoming’s largest coal companies cut health care benefits for its retired workers. In its third quarter report released October 25, Cloud Peak Energy said the move will provide it with $19.4 million in net income. It was announced to employees in August. The report also recounted an approximately 15 percent reduction in coal shipments compared to Q3 last year. Coal has been costlier to remove from the ground due to additional overburden from digging deeper.

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