The red smokestacks of the Comanche power plant outside of Pueblo, Colorado can be seen from miles away. The plant supplies power to communities along the Front Range, including Denver, and consumes hundreds of tons of coal an hour in the process. That coal arrives in mile-long trains from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and is stockpiled at the plant. Normally, that pile would be a hundred feet tall, according to Xcel Energy fuel supply manager Craig Romer. But right now, it’s less than a third of that.
Wyoming isn’t only duking it out with Oregon on the football field this week. On Monday, the state filed an appeal of a recent decision by Oregon to deny permits for Ambre Energy’s proposed coal export terminal.
Wyoming’s largest coal company is selling its stake in a Montana mine for less than its original asking price. In a deal announced Thursday, Cloud Peak will give up its 50 percent ownership of the Decker coal mine in exchange for Ambre Energy taking on $67 million in reclamation and lease bonding. The deal also promises Cloud Peak capacity at Ambre Energy’s proposed Millennium Bulk coal export terminal in Washington state.
Energy reporter Stephanie Joyce talks with Speaker of the House, Tom Lubnau, Shawn Reese, head of the Wyoming Business Council, and Roger Coupal who’s an economist at the University of Wyoming during the forum on coal and foreign exports.
In the last few years, the United States has undergone a radical transformation, from energy importer to energy exporter. Liquified natural gas terminals that were built to process natural gas from abroad are being converted for export. The first tanker full of unrefined US crude oil to leave our shores in decade set sail from Texas late last month. Coal companies are increasingly relying on foreign markets to pad their balance sheets. Wyoming Public Radio held a forum recently to discuss how increased foreign exports could affect the state.
According to a recent analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, mining occupied approximately 35 percent of Wyoming’s GDP in 2013, up from around 29 percent in 2003. That makes Wyoming the most mining-dependent state in the country.
The increase comes despite calls from the Wyoming Business Council to diversify the state’s industries.
Wyoming Principal Economist Jim Robinson said that after concentrating on energy for so long, growth in areas outside energy is slow.
Girls in clunky roller skates whizz past their coach. They're sweaty, rowdy, and covered in tattoos. Gillette's roller derby team proudly represents coal country, as does their name.
"We’re called the Coal Miner’s Daughters, number one because Loretta Lynn rocks!" Katie Buffington, president of the team, explained. "Number two because coal is the main source of income in the area. And we really wanted to get back to our roots, where we come from."
Stephanie Joyce, Wyoming Public Media's Energy & Natural Resources Reporter, moderated a discussion on Wyoming's raw commodity exports, primarily focused on coal and natural gas. Speakers with a diversity of perspectives were invited to participate in the conversation.
The Energy Export Forum will air on Wyoming Public Radio's Open Spaces Friday, Aug. 15 at 3 pm.
This week’s Supreme Court ruling on the EPA and its ability to regulate carbon is a mixed bag for Wyoming officials and energy producers. It sets the stakes even higher for Republicans in the state who are determined to derail a pending EPA rule on climate change.
Like most all things here in Washington these days, the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of the EPA is being read along party lines. But Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi says it’s not just partisanship. He says your opinion also hinges on where you’re reading.
In the week since the Obama administration unveiled new rules to curb carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants, Wyoming regulators have been digging in, trying to figure out exactly what they’ll mean for the Cowboy State. So far, they have more questions than answers.
It didn't take long after the Obama administration unveiled new rules this week regulating carbon emissions from power plants for people to start naming winners and losers. Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state, and a huge coal consumer, was immediately billed as a loser.
A controversial coal export terminal proposed for this Columbia River town has a big supporter from Wyoming.
Governor Matt Mead was in Longview Tuesday to tour the old aluminum smelter where the The Millennium Bulk coal export terminal would move up to 44 million tons a year of Wyoming coal off trains and onto ships bound for Asia.
The Obama administration said Monday that it intends to aggressively reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, or greenhouse gas pollution, produced in the United States. To boost these ambitions, the White House will partner with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce varying rules state-by-state to be carried out by power plants that produce the gases.
If successfully implemented, the regulations will deliver a 30 percent decrease in carbon emissions by 2030.
In an effort to curb climate change, the Obama administration has proposed a rule to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation by 30 percent. The rule is the first to target power plants, the nation’s largest carbon emitters.
The predicted effects of continuing to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at current rates range from dramatic sea level rise to extreme weather to famine and drought. Power plants are among the largest carbon dioxide emitters, and on June 2, the Obama administration is scheduled to release new rules regulating those emissions. Utilities and trade groups are already warning those rules will have some dire consequences of their own.
New EPA rules aimed at cutting carbon emissions are expected to be unveiled June 2nd. Coal generates nearly half of this country’s electricity and is the largest source of air pollution. The new rules are expected to spur the use of clean coal technology. At least that’s the hope of both the coal industry and some environmental groups.
L-R: Steve Dietrich, Administrator, Air Quality Division, Department of Environmental Quality; Dan Byers, senior director for policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy ; Tim Rogers, environmental manager, Black Hills Corp
New regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants are due out at the beginning of next month and industry is warning that they could have a devastating impact on the economy.
Speaking at the Wyoming Business Report’s Energy Summit in Casper, Dan Byers, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the cost of the regulations will likely significantly outweigh the climate benefits, pointing out that developing nations are emitting more than ever. Byers says he’s skeptical of how the Environmental Protection Agency will calculate cost-benefit.
The latest proposal for getting coal from the Powder River Basin to world markets involves a port on the west coast of Mexico. According to a report from SNL Financial, a Mexican company is in the process of securing permits for a $700 million export terminal. MEXPORT’s CEO Daniel Suarez told SNL there’s been interest from Powder River Basin coal producers, and if the company is able to raise sufficient capital, it could start exporting by 2017. The company's consultant didn't return calls for comment.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says the plan by the Environmental Protection Agency to require carbon pollution limits on new power plants is too limited and hurts the state’s economy. During a news conference, Mead was critical of the E-P-A for not following Wyoming’s lead and look at ways to develop clean coal technology.
“I think everybody should have an interest in how we do it in the most environmentally friendly way possible, but when you set a standard that nobody has done yet…to me it looks like you are just shutting off coal completely.”
The Mine Safety and Health Administration says that Arch Coal could have prevented the August 2013 death of a miner at its Black Thunder facility near Wright.
Jacob Dowdy, 24, was crushed by an out-of-control shovel that rolled backwards over his pick-up truck. MSHA coal mine administrator Kevin Stricklin says if Arch had been following its own safety procedures, Dowdy wouldn’t have been behind the shovel.
Millions of railcars leave the Powder River Basin every year, carrying hundreds of millions of tons of coal. Those are big numbers, but the coal we mine is just a small fraction of what’s underground. Most of the basin’s coal reserves are buried too deep for conventional mining.
An Australian company called Linc Energy wants to use a technology known as underground coal gasification to tap those deep coal reserves and turn them into fuel. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, that might come at the peril of another valuable resource: water.
In the latest sign of a shaky future for the nation’s first coal-to-gas conversion plant, one of the project’s major investors has written it off as a loss. Ben Storrow of the Casper Star-Tribune has been following the development and spoke with Wyoming Public Radio energy reporter Stephanie Joyce about what it means for the future of the project.
STEPHANIE JOYCE: So, to start, for any of our listeners who might be at little fuzzy on the details of the DKRW Advanced Fuels project, can you give us the 30-second overview of its history?
Arch Coal executives expressed frustration with the nation’s two biggest railroads during a conference call with investors Tuesday. Coal shipments out of the Powder River Basin have been delayed in recent months because of congestion on the BNSF and Union Pacific main lines. Arch Coal CEO John Eaves said it’s hurting the company’s earnings.
Governor Matt Mead met with Taiwanese officials Thursday in an effort to enhance Wyoming’s foreign trade. The meeting was in Cheyenne.
He says Taiwan is very interested in Wyoming Coal and Mead is hoping that they can reach other trade agreements as well.
"We want the opportunity to reach out to great trading partners and friends who can help us as we help them with these trade relationships. And so it’s a great way for us to continue to build our economy."
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.”