coal

Stephanie Joyce

Citing recent decisions by financial companies like Bank of America to withdraw funding from coal operations, Governor Matt Mead says Wyoming needs to innovate in order to stay an energy leader.

During his keynote address at the Wyoming Business Report's Energy Summit, Mead said that he has and will continue to fight against federal regulations, but added that more will be needed.  

Wikimedia Commons

For years, Wyoming has been the leader in Coal Production. Production has dipped slightly in the state, but Wyoming still produces 40% of the nation’s coal – far more than any other state. As part of Inside Energy’s series on the Future of Coal, Reporter Clay Scott visited the state and found the industry’s imprint on the West runs deep.

 

 

The super bowl of energy conferences, called CERAWeek, wrapped up in Houston on Friday. Industry executives, analysts, and policy makers were all there to talk about the current state of the industry and where it's headed. Panels and keynote speakers talked about everything from natural gas, to coal, to of course, oil prices.

Leigh Paterson is a Wyoming-based reporter for Inside Energy. That’s a public media collaboration focused on America’s energy issues. She was at the conference all week and joined Wyoming Public Radio's Caroline Ballard to talk all about it.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

On Thursday, at an energy conference in Houston, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency emphasized that under a plan to cut carbon emissions, coal will still be an important part of the nation's energy mix.  

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Today, the largest coal company in the U.S. announced that it is considering selling assets, including in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin,  as a way to deal with the depressed coal market. 

Peabody Energy Corporation posted larger than expected first quarter losses and is exploring ways to cut costs. Options include selling coal reserves and land holdings in both Australia and the U.S. Company CEO, Greg Boyce spoke at an energy conference in Houston. He emphasized that all assets are under review. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Over two decades ago, Wyoming surpassed Kentucky as the country’s number one coal producing state and has kept that title ever since.  The steady and sharp increase in demand for the state’s comparably cleaner coal wasn’t due to obvious factors, like market forces or labor costs. It was brought on largely by federal environmental regulations. And now a series of new regulations are changing the industry even more. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports.  

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $30 million to a Sierra Club campaign that aims to close half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants by 2017. There are currently just over 500 coal-fired power plants in the US, including 13 in Wyoming. Those supply 90% of the state's power. 

Connie Wilbert is with the Sierra Club of Wyoming. She says while the campaign hopes to see some of state’s coal power shuttered, there are challenges in Wyoming.

One of the world’s largest coal companies has withdrawn its application for a federal coal lease in the Powder River Basin. Arch Coal’s move is part of a bigger slow down in sales of Wyoming coal leases. According to the Bureau of Land Management, there are currently six leases pending. But the last one that was actually sold was in 2012. 

On Monday, Gov. Matt Mead signed legislation that would allow the state to finance the construction of coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.  

A bill headed to the Governor's desk allows the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority to issue up to one billion dollars in bonds to support construction of out-of-state coal ports.  Senator Michael Von Flatern says the bill allows the Authority to borrow money from investors for the bond, which can then be lent to projects elsewhere.

“A great morale booster by the way, so if the state’s showing that it’s willing to put up bonding ability, or allow an authority to have bonding ability it may make a project look more viable than if we weren’t gonna put any skin in the game.”

Creative Energies

    

With its big blue skies and high altitude, Wyoming's solar potential is among the best in the nation, but even as residential rooftop solar has boomed recently in places like California, Colorado and New Jersey, it's barely made any inroads in the state. Economics and politics both play a role, but with the price of photovoltaics continuing to drop, some people are starting to ask whether momentum is building for solar in nation's largest coal-producing state. 

Stephanie Joyce

How should Wyoming's coal industry evolve to deal with current challenges?

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In recent years there’s been plenty of discussion and a lot of worry in Wyoming about the future of coal. Politicians have blamed the federal government for the coal industry's struggles and pushed for coal export terminals to save it. But until now, there’s been very little data to back up the talk. This week, economists at the University of Wyoming previewed a study looking at coal’s role in the state economy as well as its prospects for the future. Rob Godby is the Director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy and lead author of the report.

Department of Energy

A long-planned clean coal project in Illinois is dead after the Department of Energy pulled the plug on the majority of its funding.  

FutureGen 2.0 would have been the country’s first near-zero emissions coal-fired power plant.  But without the one billion dollars in federal funding, which was originally awarded in 2010 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, companies involved say they will have to cancel the project entirely.    

The American public lost out on $850 million dollars in potential coal royalty revenue between 2008 and 2012, according to a new study from Headwaters Economics. 

The study says the federal coal royalty system is in need of reform. The group's analysis shows that coal companies pay a much lower royalty rate on public lands than other extractive industries -- roughly five percent of market price. By comparison, oil and gas companies pay roughly 12 percent. Mark Haggerty says that's partly because of the complex marketing system for coal. 

In his State of the State message Governor Matt Mead asked for support of his energy and water initiatives and for investment in education, infrastructure, and local government. Mead said this will help overcome a downturn in energy prices.

But the governor admitted that challenges remain. He told legislators that his administration will fight against what he calls federal overreach, especially as it pertains to coal. 

Center for American Progress

Proposed changes to the way coal royalties are calculated are proving controversial, with coal companies coming out strongly against them and taxpayer advocacy groups saying they don't go far enough.

Stephanie Joyce

Coal companies could have to pay royalties on the sale price of exported coal if the Department of the Interior adopts new regulations next year. The draft rules released on Friday address a loophole first identified by the Reuters news service.

Greg Goebel / Wikimedia Commons

 

 

    

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency released the first national guidelines to regulate the disposal of coal ash. This dust-like substance is what is leftover when power plans burn coal for electricity and can contain toxins like arsenic, lead, and mercury.  Coal ash is usually collected and then buried in a disposal pond or landfill. In some cases, it can be recycled.

The State of Wyoming may be getting into the coal export business.

Stephanie Joyce / Inside Energy

The window to comment on the EPA's Clean Power Plan closed on Monday with over 1.6 million comments. A quick search of the 22,718 comments that are publicly posted (less than 1% of the total) showed that Wyoming-ites sent their thoughts in to the EPA at six times the rate of the average American.

Stephanie Joyce

With backing from the co-founder of Microsoft, two environmental groups filed suit Tuesday over the federal government’s coal leasing program.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The oil and gas boom in states like Wyoming, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas has not only brought jobs and prosperity but also a dangerous spike in traffic and accidents. These states have reacted with a variety of fixes, but not one has been able to prepare in advance for the traffic boom. That is partly because a large slice of transportation funding in most states comes from the oil and gas industry itself. Jim Willox is a local official in Wyoming’s Converse County, where much of the oil and gas boom is taking place:

Stephanie Joyce

Coal may be king in Wyoming, but oil is making steady inroads.The state budget forecast, released last last month, shows that last year, for the first time in decades, oil accounted for a larger share of state severance tax revenues than coal. Wyoming Department of Revenue Director Dan Noble says it will likely overtake natural gas in the coming year as well. “Oil is the new big game in town,” he said.

Ramaco LLC

While coal mines are being shuttered in the east, there’s a new mine being proposed for Wyoming. The company Ramaco has submitted an application for a mining permit to the Department of Environmental Quality. The mine would be just north of Sheridan and would produce up to 8 million tons of coal a year. Ramaco CEO Randall Atkins says he expects the mine to be profitable despite tough market conditions in part because it’s on private land, unlike most of the region’s coal mines.

Leigh Paterson

Climate change is a controversial topic in this election cycle, especially when it comes to teaching it in school.  So far only 12 states have adopted a new set of science education standards that include the human impacts on global warming  - and Wyoming is not one of them.

Natalia Macker, who is running to represent District 22 in the Wyoming State House, said something shocking during our recent interview:

Coal companies in the Powder River Basin are hiring, and some of those workers will likely come from Central Appalachia.

Companies there have been laying off miners and shuttering operations in recent years. But in Wyoming, companies like Cloud Peak Energy are hiring.

A miner was killed at Peabody Energy's North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in the Powder River Basin over the weekend, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The Gillette News Record reports that Darwin Lee Reimer, 51, was driving a haul truck when it went over a highwall. 

INSIDE ENERGY: Wyoming Governor Offers Coal Country Tour

Oct 8, 2014
Michael Werner

Treaty fishing rights give Northwest tribes extra clout when it comes to the future of proposed coal terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound.

That’s not lost on the governor of Wyoming, a big proponent of coal exports.

Gov. Matt Mead is inviting Northwest tribal leaders on an all-expenses-paid trip to coal country in Northeastern Wyoming, according to an email obtained by EarthFix.

Ambre Energy

Oregon has shut down Wyoming’s attempt to force the permitting of a coal export terminal in that state.

The Oregon Department of State Lands rejected Ambre Energy’s application for a permit to build a coal transfer terminal in August, citing concerns about the impact on nearby tribal fisheries. The terminal would allow Powder River Basin coal to be shipped to Asia.

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