The WPM Forum On Coal was a moderated discussion about the challenges coal is currently facing politically, economically and environmentally, how that could impact Wyoming in the future, and ways the state is innovating to keep coal relevant.
Increasing volumes of coal and oil being shipped to the Pacific Northwest are putting pressure on rail capacity in the region, according a new report from the Western Organization of Resource Councils.
Employment in Wyoming's coal mining sector has fallen 6 percent in the past year. The latest data from June 2013 shows there were 425 less jobs than in June 2012.
Coal production has slumped nationwide, and taken jobs along with it, but Wyoming is faring better than other coal producing regions. Nationwide the sector has lost significantly more jobs as mines closed or reduced their capacity.
Wyoming Department of Workforce Services senior economist David Bullard, says so far, there haven't been many layoffs in the state.
Wyoming lawmakers are voting on the state budget this week and are considering proposals to strengthen the energy industry in the state.
15 million dollars is proposed for a facility to study the capture, sequestration, and management of carbon emissions from a coal fired power plant. Senator Jim Anderson of Glenrock says it’s important to the future of Wyoming Coal.
“Perhaps bring Wyoming into a new era and it would certainly in regard to our reliance on coal and other things that are carbon based be a blessing if in fact we could do this.”
Wyoming Mining Association Executive Director Marion Loomis says coal’s future is bright -- but that there’s a need for continued innovation -- both in extraction technology and emissions control.
“We’ve made such tremendous strides in reducing emission levels. We’ve increased coal production about 170 percent in this country in the last 20 years and reduced pollutants by over 85 percent,” says Loomis.
Marion Loomis has been with the Wyoming Mining Association, one of the state’s most influential interest groups, for almost 40 years. Earlier this week, he announced that he would be retiring that post in April. Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce caught up with Loomis at the Capitol to discuss his career and what the future holds for the state’s mining industry.
Coal sales in western states are under increased scrutiny from lawmakers after revelations of problems including reserves of the fuel sold at prices below market value.
A letter from the U.S. Department of Interior Inspector General released Friday shows federal officials in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico accepted below-market bids for coal or sold the fuel without full appraisals.
Inspectors said that violated federal rules including the 1920 Mineral Leasing Act, which requires coal sales to be competitive.
The Government Accountability Office released a report earlier this week that outlined problems in the federal coal leasing system. The report called the Bureau of Land Management’s process ‘out of date.’
A new report by the Government Accountability Office says the Bureau of Land Management’s coal lease valuation program is ‘out of date.’ The report says BLM offices around the country are not consistent in the way they calculate fair market value, don't always document the rationale behind accepting low bids and do not use independent reviewers to ensure calculations are correct.
It also says the BLM does not properly consider the export potential of coal when calculating fair market value of coal leases.
Governor Matt Mead and other elected officials made the case during a Jackson forum Wednesday that Wyoming's future depends on energy. They said that tapping state's energy resources, from coal to natural gas, is what pays the bills when it comes to building schools and other vital infrastructure.
But the governor said that doesn't mean producing energy should come at the cost of the environment. And that impressed Paul Hansen, who moderated the forum.
Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector increased about 2 percent in 2013 from a low point in 2012. The Energy Information Administration did the analysis. The agency attributes the increase to a small comeback by coal from a dramatic market share low in 2012.
Another proposed coal export terminal has folded. Ambre Energy is asking to be let out of a lease agreement with the Port of Corpus Christi, saying that shipping Powder River Basin coal out of Texas is no longer viable.
The company had planned to ship 1.5 - 2.5 million tons of coal out of the facility every year. Its decision to pull out is latest in a string of roughly half a dozen planned terminals that have been tabled or scrapped in the last year.
A project that proposes setting fire to deep coal seams in order to produce fuel is moving forward. At a hearing last week, the Environmental Quality Council rejected arguments that Linc Energy’s proposed underground coal gasification project would contaminate drinking water supplies in Campbell County. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, concerns linger about the safety of the technology.
Amid a slew of disappointing quarterly financial results from Powder River Basin coal companies, some groups are raising questions about the commodity’s long-term viability.
The Boulder-based environmental group Clean Energy Action released a report Wednesday that predicts the country has already passed “peak coal” and that production will continue to decline because of rising costs. They include Powder River Basin coal in that prediction, even though it has the lowest production costs in the country.
With continued weak prices for coal, one of Wyoming’s largest coal companies is planning to reduce production.
During a meeting with investors to discuss third quarter results, Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall said the company is looking to cut 10 million tons at the Cordero Rojo mine near Gillette in 2015. That’s roughly 10 percent of the company’s overall production in the Powder River Basin.
Marshall said the plan won’t change unless prices rebound significantly.
“We're going down until things change enough to make it worthwhile going up.”
Governor Matt Mead says there’s no question that Taiwan and South Korea want Wyoming coal. Mead just returned from a trip to those countries where he met with government leaders, trona industry representatives, and attended events promoting tourism in Wyoming. He says exporting Wyoming coal is still a good idea.
A coal miner is dead after a bulldozer accident in the early morning hours on Sunday.
The incident happened at the Bridger coal mine near Rock Springs, which is jointly owned by PacifiCorp and Idaho Power. The Sweetwater County sheriff’s department says Mark Christopher Stassinos, 44, died after being thrown out of his bulldozer as it plunged over a highwall at the mine.
PacifiCorp spokesman Jeff Hymas says Stassinos had been working there for the last two years, and that mining operations have stopped pending an investigation.
DKRW Advanced Fuels, the company that’s proposing to build a coal-to-liquids conversion facility near Medicine Bow, has submitted yet another request to delay construction. The company announced its latest construction schedule in June. It's now asking to place that schedule on hold for up to 30 months. At the end of that period it would either provide all necessary information – including a new construction schedule, socioeconomic analysis, and updated housing plan – or lose its permit.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has released a set of rules that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas power plants. If finalized, the rules would be the first to set such a national standard. The rule caps carbon emissions from natural gas power plants at 1,000 pounds/megawatt hour and from coal power plants at 1,100 pounds.
The Bureau of Land Management received a single bid at today’s/Wednesday’s coal lease sale and it has rejected that bid.
Kiewit Mining Properties bid 21-cents per ton on the Buckskin Mine Hay Creek Two tract. The tract has about 167-million tons of mineable coal and is adjacent to the Buckskin mine, which Kiewit operates.
However, the bid is the lowest the B-L-M has received since 2001.
B-L-M spokeswoman, Beverly Gorney, says ultimately the bid did not meet the B-L-M’s secret calculations of what’s considered fair market value.
The Bureau of Land Management received a single bid at today’s coal lease sale, and it has rejected the offer. Kiewit Mining Properties bid 21cents/ton on the Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II tract. The tract has about 167 million tons of mineable coal and is adjacent to the Buckskin mine, which Kiewit operates.
However, the bid is the lowest the BLM has received since 2001.
BLM spokeswoman, Beverly Gorny, says ultimately the bid did not meet the BLM’s secret calculations of what’s considered fair market value.
The Bureau of Land Management’s coal lease sale today coal lease sale received one bid. The Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II tract is adjacent to the operating Buckskin Mine in Campbell County. The bid came from Buckskin Mine’s operator, Kiewit Mining Properties, and amounted to 21 cents/ton for the estimated 167 million tons of mineable coal in the tract. If accepted, the tract could extend the mine’s life by about eight years.
While coal producers look to international markets to make up for a soft coal market at home, experts advise that Asian coal demand will not be as strong as had been expected.
During a recent teleconference, researchers and environmentalists discussed the financial viability of building coal export terminals in the Northwest US to ship Powder River basin coal to Asia. Ross Macfarlane works for Climate Solutions, a clean-energy advocacy group. He said domestic producers didn’t account for the evolution of the coal market abroad.