coal

The Obama administration released sweeping environmental regulations today. The first-ever nationwide standards to regulate emissions from power plants are even more ambitious than expected.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Amid a devastating industry-wide downturn, one of the largest coal producers in the US has filed for bankruptcy. 

Coal-giant Alpha Natural Resources has been in poor financial health for some time. The company acknowledges contributing factors like increased competition from natural gas and an oversupply in the global coal market. But Alpha puts much of the blame for its bankruptcy on environmental regulations that it says are causing electric utilities to shut down coal-fired power plants.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The Environmental Protection agency is set to release the first-ever federal limits on carbon emissions from power plants on Monday. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports

The Clean Power Plan is a key part of President Obama’s climate agenda and will likely force a lot more natural gas, wind, and solar to come online. Critics say the plan will raise electricity rates and kill coal mining jobs. But Sarah Propst of the InterWest Energy lliance says it could actually present economic opportunities.

Stephanie Joyce

The losses are continuing to mount as more coal companies report their second quarter earnings.

Cloud Peak Energy announced a $53 million loss for the quarter Wednesday, while Arch Coal reported a $168 million dollar loss Thursday, following on the heels of Peabody Energy's $1 billion loss on Monday.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Peabody Energy suspended its shareholder dividends Tuesday after announcing a $1 billion dollar second quarter loss—the latest in a streak of bad earnings reports.

Peabody is the world’s largest coal miner, with operations in Australia and across the US. Like many of its peers, it's been hammered recently by low natural gas prices, slumping demand for metallurgical coal and uncertainty surrounding new environmental regulations.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Department of the Interior is proposing new regulations to reduce the impact of coal mining on streams. 

The rule, which has been in the works for six years, creates a buffer zone that restricts mining operations within 100 feet of streams and aquifers.

Joe Pizarchik, the director of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement says the rule also aims to restore streams.

Stephanie Joyce

The New York Stock Exchange suspended trading of Alpha Natural Resources Thursday amid concerns about bankruptcy. 

Alpha owns the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines in Wyoming, and is one of the nation’s largest coal producers. The company has struggled in recent years because of low coal prices and considerable debt, and the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that it's in talks about bankruptcy financing.

ecowatch.com

The song is called Paradise. Recorded in 1971 by folks musician John Prine. In it, he criticized Peabody Energy's mining practices in a Kentucky town called Paradise. It's now being used as a protest song in another coal mining town, Gillette Wyoming. In 2013, two Colorado activists were arrested there for demonstrating at Peabody shareholders meeting. That same day thousands of protestors showed up at Peabody's headquarters in St. Louis Missouri. Both groups were accusing the company of denying healthcare benefits to workers.

Dan Boyce

Pope Francis made international headlines last month by calling on the world to proactively address human-caused climate change.

The document, a so-called encyclical, is one of the most important statements a pope can issue.

Shortly after its release, Inside Energy reporter Dan Boyce sat down with Paul Etienne, Catholic Bishop of Cheyenne.

His diocese, or jurisdiction, covers the entire state of Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal producer.

Philip Brewer / Flickr Creative Commons

Chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning can emit potent greenhouses gases. This week, the Environmental Protection agency passed regulations to curb these emissions. 

Martin Schulz via Flickr Creative Commons

Pope Francis’ recent statements framing global climate change as a moral issue could be hard to swallow for some Catholics in Wyoming—where just 42 percent of residents say they believe climate change is caused by humans. 

Leigh Paterson

Today the US Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency in a suit that challenged one of the Obama administrations most ambitious environmental plans. 

The question at the heart of the case was this: should the EPA have considered cost before issuing a rule designed to cut mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. In the 5-4 decision, justices ruled in favor of the states and industry groups that brought the suit essentially saying yes, the EPA should have considered cost. 

Stephanie Joyce

The Governor of one of China’s largest coal-producing provinces visited Wyoming Wednesday, meeting with University and State officials. The Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs organized the visit by Li Xiaopeng and other top officials of Shanxi province.

Center President David Wendt says the goal is to foster more cooperation between Wyoming and Shanxi on issues relating to carbon capture.

EIA

Despite a spate of bad news recently, companies trying to export coal to Asia remain bullish on the future. Backers of all the proposed West Coast coal terminals were at the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority's summer meeting.

The projects were originally proposed in 2011 and 2012, when Asian coal prices were well above $100, but they’ve fallen by almost half since then.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

In an effort to cut costs amid weak coal prices, St. Louis-based Peabody Energy is laying off 250 corporate workers, including 20 in Gillette. 

“While we regret the impact that these actions have on employees, their families and communities, today’s announcement represents another necessary step to drive the company lower on the cost curve,” CEO Glenn Kellow said in a statement.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Part 4 of an Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid

The Environmental Protection Agency is putting the finishing touches on its Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions, but warnings against it are getting louder.

Many who deal in the energy sector- grid operators, lawmakers, and especially the coal industry- are piling on to the idea that transitioning away from coal to renewables and natural gas will destabilize our power grid.

Stephanie Joyce

In the latest sign of a struggling US coal market, one of Wyoming’s largest coal producers has failed a financial test from the state.

Alpha Natural Resources owns several large coal mines in the Powder River Basin. Mining companies in Wyoming are typically required to post bonds assuring regulators they can reclaim or clean up the mines when they’re abandoned. But under a provision called “self-bonding,” companies meeting certain financial criteria don’t actually have to put up the money. 

Stephanie Joyce

With the final draft of the federal Clean Power Plan due out later this summer, the Wyoming Legislature’s Minerals Committee took its first look at the proposal during a meeting in Casper Thursday.

Stephanie Joyce

Citing recent decisions by financial companies like Bank of America to withdraw funding from coal operations, Governor Matt Mead says Wyoming needs to innovate in order to stay an energy leader.

During his keynote address at the Wyoming Business Report's Energy Summit, Mead said that he has and will continue to fight against federal regulations, but added that more will be needed.  

Wikimedia Commons

For years, Wyoming has been the leader in Coal Production. Production has dipped slightly in the state, but Wyoming still produces 40% of the nation’s coal – far more than any other state. As part of Inside Energy’s series on the Future of Coal, Reporter Clay Scott visited the state and found the industry’s imprint on the West runs deep.

 

 

The super bowl of energy conferences, called CERAWeek, wrapped up in Houston on Friday. Industry executives, analysts, and policy makers were all there to talk about the current state of the industry and where it's headed. Panels and keynote speakers talked about everything from natural gas, to coal, to of course, oil prices.

Leigh Paterson is a Wyoming-based reporter for Inside Energy. That’s a public media collaboration focused on America’s energy issues. She was at the conference all week and joined Wyoming Public Radio's Caroline Ballard to talk all about it.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

On Thursday, at an energy conference in Houston, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency emphasized that under a plan to cut carbon emissions, coal will still be an important part of the nation's energy mix.  

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Today, the largest coal company in the U.S. announced that it is considering selling assets, including in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin,  as a way to deal with the depressed coal market. 

Peabody Energy Corporation posted larger than expected first quarter losses and is exploring ways to cut costs. Options include selling coal reserves and land holdings in both Australia and the U.S. Company CEO, Greg Boyce spoke at an energy conference in Houston. He emphasized that all assets are under review. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Over two decades ago, Wyoming surpassed Kentucky as the country’s number one coal producing state and has kept that title ever since.  The steady and sharp increase in demand for the state’s comparably cleaner coal wasn’t due to obvious factors, like market forces or labor costs. It was brought on largely by federal environmental regulations. And now a series of new regulations are changing the industry even more. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports.  

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $30 million to a Sierra Club campaign that aims to close half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants by 2017. There are currently just over 500 coal-fired power plants in the US, including 13 in Wyoming. Those supply 90% of the state's power. 

Connie Wilbert is with the Sierra Club of Wyoming. She says while the campaign hopes to see some of state’s coal power shuttered, there are challenges in Wyoming.

One of the world’s largest coal companies has withdrawn its application for a federal coal lease in the Powder River Basin. Arch Coal’s move is part of a bigger slow down in sales of Wyoming coal leases. According to the Bureau of Land Management, there are currently six leases pending. But the last one that was actually sold was in 2012. 

On Monday, Gov. Matt Mead signed legislation that would allow the state to finance the construction of coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.  

A bill headed to the Governor's desk allows the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority to issue up to one billion dollars in bonds to support construction of out-of-state coal ports.  Senator Michael Von Flatern says the bill allows the Authority to borrow money from investors for the bond, which can then be lent to projects elsewhere.

“A great morale booster by the way, so if the state’s showing that it’s willing to put up bonding ability, or allow an authority to have bonding ability it may make a project look more viable than if we weren’t gonna put any skin in the game.”

Creative Energies

    

With its big blue skies and high altitude, Wyoming's solar potential is among the best in the nation, but even as residential rooftop solar has boomed recently in places like California, Colorado and New Jersey, it's barely made any inroads in the state. Economics and politics both play a role, but with the price of photovoltaics continuing to drop, some people are starting to ask whether momentum is building for solar in nation's largest coal-producing state. 

Stephanie Joyce

How should Wyoming's coal industry evolve to deal with current challenges?

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