coal

Screenshot, taken from the Campbell County government’s website.


In the second hour of a fluorescent-lit Board of Commissioners meeting in Campbell County, Chairman Mark Christensen introduces "the long-awaited Alpha Natural Resource payment."

Deputy County Attorney Carol Seeger speaking in front of the Campbell County Commissions on the Alpha Bankruptcy
Campbell County

Earlier this month, Campbell County and Alpha Natural Resources have reached a settlement after a lengthy case over unpaid taxes. Alpha is one of the three major coal companies that went bankrupt between 2015 and 2016.

No Review Of Federal Coal Leasing Program, Following Court Case
Western Organization of Resource Councils

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided not to reassess the federal coal leasing program in a decision this week. 

Logo for Governors' Partnership on Carbon Capture
Matt Fry / Office of Governor Matt Mead

Montana and Wyoming’s Governors Steve Bullock and Matt Mead announced Tuesday the formation of a new group focused on supporting carbon capture policies and projects: the Governors' Partnership on Carbon Capture. While the two will lead the group, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Utah will also be involved.

Gavin Bade

The Trump administration has confirmed a proposed bailout to the coal and nuclear industries. A memo from the Department of Energy was leaked recently outlining the plan. It would force utilities to buy electricity and capacity from retiring coal and nuclear plants to keep them alive for two years. University of Richmond Law Professor Joel Eisen, who has written extensively on matters on administrative law, energy, and the electric grid, helps make sense of what the draft memo means.

A federal watchdog group said the U.S. Interior Department didn’t give an adequate reason for cancelling a study on the health impacts of coal mining last year.

Screenshot of the leaked DOE memo obtained by Bloomberg last week
Gavin Bade

The Trump administration is planning to keep coal and nuclear-fueled power plants alive, according to a 41-page memo acquired by Bloomberg News. The plan would enable the federal government to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants that were planning to retire. If the bailout becomes a reality, it will be the first of its kind.

Wyoming Energy Summit logo
Wyoming Business Report

Coal could soon be used to make affordable carbon nanomaterials for mass use. The sci-fi sounding production is already used for things like water-resistant coats, electronic displays, or even dyes and pigments. Though, for now, it’s developed with expensive oil or gas feedstocks.

Map of Westmoreland's assets from its 10K filing
Westmoreland Coal Company

The Western Organization of Resource Councils, WORC, believes a coal company that could soon face bankruptcy may not have sufficient funds to pay for mine clean-up costs. A spokeswoman for Westmoreland Coal Company said they are, however, in full compliance with bonding and reclamation regulations.

Integrated Test Center Facebook Page

The Integrated Test Center is open for business. The Gillette-based facility is aimed at research and testing new uses for carbon dioxide, say, as a building material, common fuel, or green concrete. Many hope the center will find new, profitable uses for coal — Governor Matt Mead is one of them. In a brief conversation, the Governor discussed his expectations for the project and the risks that come with it.

A U.S. district court judge has struck down the City of Oakland’s ban on transporting coal through a planned export terminal there.

Millennium Bulk Terminals Header
Millennium Bulk Terminals

Six states including Wyoming and national interest groups are pushing back against a decision that could stop a major coal export terminal from getting licensed. Last year, Washington State regulators denied critical permits for the terminal which would be the largest in North America if approved. It would connect western coal to Asian markets.

Highway 30 next to the Kemmerer Mine
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

In this past budget session, Wyoming’s state legislature funded a $30 million project that would benefit a coal mine that’s owner may soon go bankrupt. Westmoreland Coal Company is over a billion dollars in debt and has mentioned the possibility of bankruptcy in this past quarterly report. State legislators approved the sizable project, which would invest money relocating the highway U.S. 30 to accommodate a mine expansion.

Kemmerer Mine
Westmorealnd Coal Company

One of the largest producers of coal in the country may soon face Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Westmoreland Coal Company's stock has been in free fall over the last year and several of its primary customers are moving away from coal.

Clean Coal Technologies, Inc. logo
Clean Coal Technologies, Inc.

A company attempting to improve the burning efficiency of coal has found a permanent site for a testing facility. Clean Coal Technologies, Inc. (CCTI) will build just outside of Gillette in Fort Union Park. 

Just Transition Fund

Google has given a million dollars to an organization devoted to helping coal communities as the industry declines. It’s part of a wider $50 million initiative announced Tuesday focused on the future of work.

A look at the trajectory of Westmoreland Coal Company's Market Summary
NASDAQ

In the past year, Westmoreland Coal Company’s stock price has dropped 97 percent, and, on Wednesday, April 25th, the company will be removed from the Nasdaq Stock Exchange with shares hovering around 20 cents. But that’s just a symptom of a larger trend for the company. 

Mark Christensen speaking in front of the House Subcommittee on Natural Resources
House Committee on Natural Resources

Congress is considering a bill called the POWER Counties Act that would re-direct funds back to mineral-producing counties. The reclamation fund within the Mineral Leasing Act typically supports water projects, like dams, but now has an excess of money thanks to increased mineral leasing. 

Wyoming Integrated Test Center
Tri-State Generation and Transmission

The Integrated Test Center (ITC) in Gillette will host five finalists for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition later this year. The 10 teams were selected this week, down from 27 in the semi-final round. The remaining five teams will be located in Alberta studying natural gas instead of coal. 

Amount of Financial Assurances Held in 2017, by Type, for Reclaiming Coal Mines in States and on Indian Tribal Lands with Active Coal Mining
U.S. Government Accountability Office

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is recommending Congress eliminate self-bonding. It's a method used by coal companies to guarantee clean-up costs without putting money down.

The problems with self-bonding were highlighted when several of the nation’s largest coal companies went bankrupt in 2015 and 2016. The huge bill leftover for clean-up costs nearly fell on taxpayer shoulders. Wyoming has been looking to reform the practice since 2013, with a more concrete proposal released in 2017.

Over the past decade, the market for Mountain West coal has cooled. Renewables and natural gas in the U.S. are cheaper, stocks are tumbling and some coal companies are even teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Gov. Matt Mead speaking to a pro-coal rally at Gillette College prior to the official EPA listening session
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Hundreds of people from across the mountain west gathered Tuesday at Gillette College to discuss the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, or CPP. That’s a 2015 Obama-era rule that would force states to limit greenhouse gas emissions at power plants. Many see it as the former president’s key piece of legislation to combat climate change. In October of 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the first step towards a repeal.  

The foreground is reclaimed mine land, with the active coal mine behind.
Wyoming Mining Assocation

Back in 2011, the coal market looked great. Three of the largest coal companies in the world, all with mines in Wyoming, invested big in metallurgical coal, the kind used for infrastructure. Sierra Club Attorney Peter Morgan said, “Each company took on hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of debt."

DEQ Notice of Public Meeting
Department of Environmental Quality

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has released a final rule proposal that would change how coal companies self-bond. That’s when a company uses an IOU to guarantee clean-up costs based on its financial strength. 

Combination of several notices, regulations, and proposed policies
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Club’s Wyoming Chapter

This week, both the state and federal government took steps that will change how coal companies deal with pollution and reclamation.

Sheridan County meeting to discuss rezoning
Robin Bagley / Powder River Basin Resource Council

Sheridan County Commissioners voted three to two in favor of rezoning 114 acres of land from agricultural to industrial. It’s the first regulatory step for Ramaco Wyoming Coal Company LLC, which owns the land, to eventually develop there. 

The Modern West 31: Cleaning Up Coal, Folly Or The Future?

Feb 21, 2018
Zach Frailey/Uprooted Photographer

Coal is cheap, abundant…and dirty. In a greening energy economy, is clean coal the answer?

Peabody Energy logo
Peabody Energy

The largest coal company in the world released its earnings report today, announcing that 2017 was a strong year for its production, revenue, and exports. Peabody Energy operates several of its largest mines in the Powder River Basin, including the North Antelope Rochelle, Rawhide, and Caballo mines. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2016 and re-emerged last year.

Adjacent Property Owners Map, Laramie River Station -- map in emergency plan
Laramie River Station / Basin Electric Power Cooperative

The Sierra Club, a national conservation group, has threatened the Laramie River Station, LRS, a cooperative, coal-fired power plant near Wheatland, with a lawsuit over its failure to follow certain federal guidelines.

Pinedale, WY at sundown with a rig in the background
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

When you look past the light brown brick courthouse in downtown Pinedale, there are rolling hills dotted with sage brush and thin dark shapes in the distance. Those are oil and gas rigs. They are the largest contributor to revenue out here, but sometimes, when those companies that own those rigs remove resources from the ground, they don’t follow through on paying a key tax to the county. 

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