coal

West Virginia regulators have filed a complaint accusing several top executives of the newly-formed coal mining company Contura of committing fraud.

Contura was created as a new company during Alpha Natural Resources' bankruptcy this year. Contura’s main assets are Alpha’s former mines in Wyoming and its leadership...

The Modern West #17: Western Coal On The Rocks

Nov 14, 2016
Stephanie Joyce

It’s been a tough year for the coal industry and the communities that depend on it. Can Wyoming adapt?

Stephanie Joyce

Coal country is celebrating Donald Trump’s election victory. Support for Trump was strong from Appalachia to Wyoming, and people have high hopes he can reverse coal’s recent downturn. But can he? Like most of his co-workers, Jeremy Murphy listened to the election results on the radio in his pickup truck as he worked the overnight shift at the country’s largest coal mine, in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. “The two-way radios at work were really quiet,” he said. “Really, really quiet.” But when...

Wikimedia Commons

Donald Trump promised sweeping reforms to the energy industry during the campaign. He vowed to bring back coal jobs, boost domestic oil and gas production, back out of international climate change agreements and gut the Environmental Protection Agency. Essentially, he vowed to undo most of what the Obama administration has done in the last eight years, and take the country in the opposite direction on energy and climate. Now, Trump is the president-elect. Wyoming Public Radio’s energy...

Surprises In Oil And Gas Campaign Spending

Nov 4, 2016
Jordan Wirfs-Brock / Inside Energy

This chart shows oil/gas and coal company contributions to presidential candidate committees. It includes contributions from company PACs as well as individuals employed by the companies who donated at least $200. While coal interests have retained their strong preference for Republican presidential candidates, oil and gas interests have shifted their spending to Clinton in the general election. With a month to go before the election, oil and gas interests had spent roughly the same amount on...

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency says it could take two years to develop an accurate method for measuring the impact of its regulations on coal jobs.

In October, in response to a lawsuit from Murray Energy, one of the nation's largest coal companies, a federal district court judge in West Virginia ordered the EPA...

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Things are looking up in the coal market, but 2017 is still going to be a tough year—that was the message from Cloud Peak Energy’s CEO during the company’s latest earnings calls. Colin Marshall said a hot summer helped boost demand for coal domestically, as power plants ramped up to meet electricity demand for air conditioning. But the company’s coal shipments are still down by 26 percent from the same period last year. “Things have turned significantly in the right direction but we’d like to...

Leigh Paterson/Inside Energy

In a hotel ballroom, at the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort, candidates for the US House and Senate, and their surrogates, tick through talking points. “There are two issues I know of Scott Tipton cares very, very deeply about. One of them is water. The other one is energy,” Chuck McConnell, of the Routt County Republicans, said. McConnell stood in for Congressman Scott Tipton at a candidate forum hosted by the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs. Tipton is a third-term Republican incumbent who...

Stephanie Joyce

A federal judge has ruled the Environmental Protection Agency has two weeks to figure out how to quantify coal jobs lost because of regulation. The EPA currently analyzes potential economic impacts from proposed regulations, but the court said those measures aren’t detailed enough. Judge John Preston Bailey found the Clean Air Act requires the agency to specifically analyze the potential job impacts and to continue that analysis once the regulation is implemented. Murray Energy, the coal...

What would be the first new coal mine to open in Wyoming in decades is one step closer to becoming reality after the state's Environmental Quality Council voted Wednesday to allow the project to proceed despite the objections of another coal company. Big Horn Coal, a subsidiary of Lighthouse Resources, owns the land where the new mine would be developed while Ramaco owns the coal underneath. In Wyoming, mineral rights typically take precedence over surface rights, although companies do...

Germany UN

Over the last three years, the German embassy has donated about $20,000 dollars toward educating University of Wyoming students about the fall of the Berlin wall and German history. Recently, the German Ambassador Peter Wittig visited the campus himself and, while he was here, Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards sat down with him to talk about what Wyoming can learn from Germany’s own coal downturn and the refugee crisis.

Germany UN

Last week, Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Peter Wittig gave a lecture at the University of Wyoming on the importance of maintaining a strong trans-Atlantic alliance. He said the German-U.S. relationship is more important than ever as terrorism and mass migrations continue. He said Germany has taken in 1.1 million Syrian refugees in the last year, which would be equivalent to the United States taking in 4.4 million. He said each country must take its own needs and preferences into...

Stephanie Joyce

Some states are better positioned than others to weather the downturn in coal, oil, and gas according to data from the credit ratings agency Moody’s. Analysts considered factors like economic diversification, budget structure, and how much savings states set aside. Moody’s sees Colorado, for example, as fairly insulated because severance taxes make up a small part of the state’s total tax revenue. Local governments, however, are more exposed because they receive a relatively large share of...

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

A federal judge has confirmed Arch Coal’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy.

Arch declared bankruptcy in January, citing a weak market for coal and a high debt load. The company’s bankruptcy attorney, Marshall Huebner, told the court Tuesday that through restructuring, Arch has...

A federal judge will consider Arch Coal's updated plan to get out of bankruptcy Tuesday. As part of that new plan, the company says it will replace its self-bonds in Wyoming with something more secure. Arch Coal has more than $400 million in estimated cleanup obligations at its Wyoming coal mines. In the past, Arch was allowed to self-bond those obligations—effectively making a promise to clean up, without putting up cash or collateral to insure those obligations. In the latest version of the...

From Stan Burling’s house at the end of Main Street, it’s a minute walk to downtown Hazen in central North Dakota. The street sports a thriving business community in this town of 2,400 with amenities like a drug store, an insurance company, a Chevy car dealer. Power plants surround Hazen, along with the coal mines that feed them. “They support the local economy,” Burling said. About half the residents work in the industry, or in a related job. “They buy their vehicles here, groceries, support...

Aaron Schrank

Amid a wave of historic coal bankruptcies , states like Texas and Colorado have taken proactive steps to make sure coal companies are on the hook for their future cleanup costs while in Wyoming, over $1 billion of these cleanup costs have gotten tied up in bankruptcy court. Why are there different outcomes in different energy-rich states? Travis Brown has some ideas. He drives down a quiet country road in Elgin, Texas, a small town about 25 miles east of Austin. A dark, open pit coal mine...

Carbon emissions from burning natural gas are projected to surpass emissions from coal by around 10 percent this year.
It will be the first time that's happened since 1972, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Although natural gas emits nearly half as much CO2 as coal when burned for electricity, consumers are using more and more of it. In the first four months of this year, the U.S. consumed more than twice as much energy from natural gas as from coal....

Stephanie Joyce

The federal government is changing its rules for mine reclamation, to ensure there is money available for cleanup even when companies declare bankruptcy. The rule change will make it harder for companies to self-bond their clean-up obligations. Companies that pass certain financial tests qualify to self-bond and don't have to put up cash or third-party guarantees for their reclamation. Self-bonding has come under fire recently though as coal companies have been allowed to self-bond even as...

Stephanie Joyce

Glance at a satellite image of northeast Wyoming, and you can’t miss the coal mines. Even zoomed out, the square-cornered grey blotches stand out—stretching north to south over more than 70 miles. But if all goes according to plan, someday, when the mining is done, those scars will disappear, erased from the landscape by intensive reclamation efforts. Coal companies are on the hook for that cleanup, but the industry’s recent collapse has raised questions about whether they will actually be...

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

With the downturn in the coal market, the federal government is encouraging states to reconsider whether to allow coal companies to self-bond. Self-bonding allows coal companies to avoid putting up cash or other assurances to guarantee their cleanup obligations.

The practice...

Coal giant Peabody Energy is asking a bankruptcy court to approve up to $11.9 million in bonuses for six top executives.

In the court filing , Peabody argues the bonuses will encourage its executives to achieve certain financial, safety and environmental clean-up goals as...

Stephanie Joyce

Record heat in much of the country is good news for the struggling coal industry. Hotter temperatures mean more people running their air conditioning, which in turn means more power plants burning more coal. “The hot start to summer has greatly improved the outlook, after a very slow first half [of the year],” said Colin Marshall, CEO of Cloud Peak Energy, one of the nation’s biggest coal producers, on an earnings call with investors. But while hotter temperatures may bring back some demand...

Coal Dependent School Budgets In Crisis

Jul 29, 2016
Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

This story originally aired on Inside Energy partner station KUNC. Colorado's coal country is experiencing the same slump that is gripping the heart of more traditional mining locales, like Wyoming or West Virginia. "We see the trains and we hear the trains, and they used to be often. Daily," says Darci Mohr, the superintendent for South Routt County School District. "Now we hear one every five to six days." Cheaper natural gas has dealt a blow to the coal industry -- and to Mohr's school...

STEPHANIE JOYCE / WYOMING PUBLIC RADIO

On April 1, 2016, Frank Thompson lost his job as a mechanic at Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle mine. He was one of almost 500 coal miners laid off that day by Peabody and its competitor, Arch Coal. At the time, Thompson, who is a single dad, was most concerned about what being laid off would mean for his son. "He’s seven years old, so he kind of sees it as some time to hang out," he told Inside Energy's Stephanie Joyce. "But I don’t think he really realizes that this could be us...

Rhodium Group

President Obama called for Democrats to offer aid to miners in coal country during his speech to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday. It was just one of several recent attempts by Democratic party leaders to reach out to voters in largely conservative coal states.

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Flickr via Creative Commons

Despite the major layoffs in the coal industry this year, the unemployment rate in Wyoming rose slightly in June, up by .1% to 5.7% since May. Although that rise isn’t significant, it is a serious increase from last June when it was only 4.2%. A report from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services says almost every county in Wyoming has seen increases in unemployment since last summer. Senior Economist David Ballard says the largest of these increases were seen in the more energy...

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Alpha Natural Resources emerged from bankruptcy Tuesday as a much smaller company. As part of the bankruptcy deal, Alpha sold its core assets, including its mines in Wyoming, to a new company, Contura. Alpha will continue to operate a handful of mines in Appalachia, while Contura will take over the company's more lucrative mining operations in the Powder River Basin and elsewhere. Contura is majority-owned by a group of Alpha’s former senior lenders. Employees of Alpha in Wyoming are now...

A federal bankruptcy court judge gave Peabody Energy the go-ahead on Wednesday to pay nearly $30 million in property taxes in four states while the company makes its way through bankruptcy. Peabody Energy can now make payments to counties in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Indiana. One missed payment of around $1 million hit a small Colorado school district particularly hard. The state had to dip into its emergency fund to bail out the South Routt School District after taxes were not paid...

Stephanie Joyce

Senators from Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota are among those asking the government to suspend its review of the federal coal program.

In January, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a comprehensive review of the federal coal program, and a moratorium on new coal...

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