coal

Peabody Energy announced a huge increase in revenue for its first quarter of 2017. Many see this as a victory for the struggling energy industry, while some don’t believe it will last.

 

Peabody Energy is the largest coal mining firm in the world. They went bankrupt the first quarter of last year. At their Wyoming complex, the company laid off 15% of their workforce. 

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President Donald Trump has just finished his first 100 days in office. When it comes to energy and the environment, he has already taken some aggressive steps toward fulfilling major campaign promises. Inside Energy reporter Leigh Paterson joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to review President Trump’s energy policy in his first few months. 

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At a presentation at the University of Wyoming’s Energy Innovation Center, an energy economist argued that the coal industry will likely never recover to previous levels. That’s despite a small rebound in the first quarter of this year because of a cold winter.

Stephanie Joyce

Gillette and other towns in Northeast Wyoming may be looking to carbon products - goods like water filters and building materials – to stabilize the coal industry.

The New Growth Alliance, which includes Sheridan, Buffalo, and Gillette, is a group focused on economic development in Northeast Wyoming. It recently held a conference to discuss alternative coal markets, and now the communities are combining efforts to recruit other types of businesses, as well.  

Stephanie Joyce

The $2 million funding for coal workers comes from a U.S. Department of Labor grant meant to aid dislocated workers. Eligible workers can put the money towards training programs in other fields. 

Stephanie Joyce

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he is embarking on a re-evaluation of the system for approving new coal leases. The question of whether the American public is getting fair market value on those leases led the Obama administration to place a moratorium on new leases. Zinke lifted that moratorium two weeks ago.

Stephanie Joyce

Last week, President Trump lifted a short-lived moratorium on new coal leases imposed during the last months of the Obama administration. But the reason for that ban wasn’t just environmental.

Rob Godby is the director at the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming. He said President Obama halted new coal leases primarily to evaluate whether, as owners of federal lands, the American public is getting a fair market value from coal companies.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

A lot happened in the world of coal mining in the last week or so. The biggest coal company is the United States—Peabody Energy—emerged from bankruptcy, and the Interior Secretary lifted an Obama-era ban on new coal leases.

But what does it all mean for Wyoming’s coal future? To figure it out, Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards sat down with Rob Godby, director at the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming.

Nearly a year after filing, Peabody Coal has emerged from bankruptcy by reducing its debt by$5 billion and by providing third party bonding for mine restoration. That’s according to a company press release this week.

Rob Godby, director at the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy, said the key was a reduction in the company's costs in Australia. According to Godby, Peabody sank a lot of debt into expanding its market there, but that was only one reason they went bankrupt.

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Wyoming's congressional delegation is thrilled with the executive order President Trump signed to unwind President Obama’s climate change initiatives. But some in their party aren’t happy with the effort to roll back America’s role in combating global warming.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Coal country was celebrating this week when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lifted a coal moratorium signed into law by the Obama Administration 14 months ago. But now the question is whether coal companies will even decide to expand their production in states like Wyoming. With the price of natural gas so low, coal has been having a hard time competing. But if and when companies do expand, their first stop is the Bureau of Land Management to submit an application. Right now BLM has 11 applications, but all but one was submitted over ten years ago.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

This week, President Trump lifted a moratorium on new coal leases signed into law 14 months ago by President Obama. But Wyoming's Bureau of Land Management office says, even while that moratorium was in effect, the agency continued to take in lease applications for potential mining projects.

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Two orders were signed Wednesday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, one of which overturns the Obama administration moratorium on all new coal leases on federal land. 

In a teleconference, Zinke said his agency has not yet decided whether to raise royalty rates, but a federal advisory committee will be re-established to study whether or not Americans get a fair return on natural resources from public land, and will include state, tribal, and other advocacy group members. 

Zachary Wheeler

Wildlife advocates are among those concerned about the presidential executive order to reverse the Clean Power Act and lift a moratorium on new coal leases. The National Wildlife Federation says migrating mule deer and pronghorn are suffering from the effects of energy development and benefited from federal regulations of the industry. 

Tribal Partnerships Director Garrit Voggesser says market forces will likely limit how many coal jobs actually return to Wyoming, but he says dwindling wildlife will hurt the state’s economy.

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The Clean Power Plan may face some serious changes, as President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order this week reversing the Obama administration’s commitment to regulate carbon dioxide produced by coal-burning power plants. 

The long-expected executive order is rumored to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to slash regulations of coal-related carbon dioxide emissions by re-writing and re-enacting the plan. From the beginning, industry groups have criticized Obama’s plan for eliminating jobs.

Stephanie Joyce

 

The House Revenue Committee killed a bill Friday that would have lowered the coal industry’s severance tax from seven to six percent.

The Coal industry has struggled over the last couple of years and Gillette Representative Tim Hallinan said he hoped that the decrease would spur industry and prevent further bankruptcies, but he said it’s unknown whether or not it would create jobs. For Laramie Representative Dan Furphy that was a deal breaker.

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After accepting a $15 million dollar loan from the State of Wyoming, Standard Alcohol Inc. is continuing plans for a new facility at Swan Ranch, outside of Cheyenne. The loan is set to be paid back in twenty years, while the rest of the funding for the $76 million dollar plant will come from private investments.

The company will use natural gas, coal, and CO2 to create a gasoline additive that company vice president Robert Johns says is high value.

Coal State Considers Carbon Future Under Trump

Jan 13, 2017
Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

The coal industry is breathing a sigh of relief with Donald Trump about to enter the White House.

He campaigned on an energy platform that would strip away Obama administration regulations on the fossil fuel industry. Chief among them: the Clean Power Plan.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Obama administration has released five options for making about 10 million acres of federal sagebrush habitat ineligible for new mining leases in the West in hopes of protecting the imperiled greater sage grouse.

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 team is composed of former Alpha executives.

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.”

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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.

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.

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 to start quantifying the impact of its air quality regulations on jobs.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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