coal

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

The outlook for the North American coal sector is negative. That's according to a bleak industry report released by the credit ratings agency Moody’s, on Friday.  

 

Listen To U.S. Coal Production Fall Off A Cliff

May 6, 2016
Wikimedia Commons

America’s coal industry is hurting: In the past year, thousands of workers have been laid off and a majority of the country’s major coal companies have filed for bankruptcy. Coal production is at 30-year low. Here’s what three decades worth of U.S. coal production looks like:

The drop off in the past year (the orange portion of the graph) is staggering. 

Tim Stubson

 

State Representative Tim Stubson is the third-ranking member of the Wyoming House of Representatives and a member of the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee. His next move is to try and replace U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis and become Wyoming’s next Congressman. Stubson is also a Casper attorney. He joins Bob Beck to discuss a couple of key issues starting with the declining coal market.

 Learn more about Stubson and his issues.

 

Wyoming Public Media

It’s election season, which means politicians are busy promising lots of things, including when it comes to energy. Hillary Clinton has pledged to give $30 billion to coal communities if elected; Donald Trump has promised energy independence. We wondered, if these policies actually came to pass, what would the world look like? Are they good ideas or bad ideas?

Bankrupt coal company Alpha Natural Resources confirmed that it laid off 37 employees today from its two Powder River Basin coal mines.

These cuts follow much larger layoffs last month at two of the country's largest mines, owned by Arch Coal and Peabody Energy. Together, those companies cut around 465 jobs, or about 15%  of the workforce at Peabody's North Antelope Rochelle Mine and Arch's Black Thunder mine. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Gail Japp’s bright blue eyes are the kind you keep on noticing. I met the 64-year-old at her home outside of Gillette, Wyoming on a gray, windy, day in April. She had just finishing filling out unemployment paperwork.

Japp is one of the 235 coal miners who were laid off by Peabody Energy in March. Arch Coal cut around 230 positions that same week.

I asked her how she felt that day. Her reply: “Devastated, scared. What in the world am I gonna do? I’m single. I’m 64. I have a mortgage. Am I gonna lose my house?”

Liz Cheney

  

Republican Liz Cheney is one of ten announced candidates for the soon to be open U.S. House seat. Cheney is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who also was Wyoming’s congressman. Ms. Cheney has been an attorney, she’s worked in the U.S. State Department where she worked on U.S. policy in the Middle East. She also was a Fox news contributor and co-authored a book with her father. Today she talks to Bob Beck about energy issues, specifically coal. 

ecowatch.com

The largest coal producer in Wyoming declared bankruptcy this week. Companies like Arch Coal, and Alpha Natural Resources have done so as well over the past year, but this filing is particularly symbolic of the industry’s struggles, because of the company’s size. Peabody Energy is the largest privately-owned coal company in the world. Our Inside Energy reporter Leigh Paterson joins Bob Beck. 

statemuseum.nd.gov

  

It’s hard not to notice the influence of the oil and coal industries at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck. Inside the Continental Resources-sponsored Inspiration Gallery you can learn about coal reclamation, touch the Bakken shale, and guess which everyday products are made of petroleum. You can buy oil-themed chocolate at the gift store. Fossil fuel companies are some of the largest donors to this museum, which reopened in 2014 after a $52 million expansion and renovation.

Wikipedia Creative Commons

What does bankruptcy actually mean on the ground?

For now, not very much. In Chapter 11 bankruptcy a company reorganizes but doesn’t shut down. In a statement, Peabody said it plans to continue operating its mines as usual while it restructures.

GOOGLE EARTH

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday. The filing comes on the heels of several other bankruptcy declarations from major coal companies, including Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.

Just a few days after hundreds of workers were laid off at two Wyoming coal mines, another company offered buyouts to some of its employees. 

Cloud Peak Energy announced last week that it is offering what's called a voluntary separation benefit. The company wouldn't give details on what's actually in the buyout but it is available to hourly employees who are either 65 years old or 55 and have been with the company for ten years.

PHOTO CREDIT NORTHWEST COLLEGE VIA FACEBOOK

 

There’s a lot going on at Wyoming’s 7 community colleges. Tuition hikes, a new funding formula, and a budget crunch. The colleges are also poised to play a big role in the state’s economic recovery. Wyoming lost more than 2 percent of its jobs last year. And just last week, nearly 500 coal workers were laid off in the Powder River Basin.

Jim Rose is the executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission. Wyoming Public Radio’s Aaron Schrank sat down with Dr. Rose—and started by asking how community colleges will help retrain workers amid the downturn. 

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Last Friday, anyone driving past the Holiday Inn Express in Douglas, Wyoming, might have remarked on the large number of American-made pickup trucks in the parking lot. If they stuck around for a while, they would have seen that most of those pickup trucks belonged to stoney-faced men, who emerged from the hotel one-by-one, clutching blue folders.

“They put us all in one room and they told us all they were sorry, it was a layoff,” Kyle Christiansen recounted.

Stephanie Joyce

Wyoming needs to start planning for a lower-carbon future, according to panelists at a University of Wyoming discussion about the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule that would cut carbon emissions from power plants.

The panel of coal and utility industry representatives and academics was largely critical of the rule, calling it a clumsy vehicle for carbon reduction. But at the same time, the panelists all agreed that with or without the rule, carbon reduction will happen. 

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

Thousands of miners gathered in Pennsylvania on Friday to advocate for their rights as the coal industry struggles. 

Bankruptcies are sweeping the industry and coal production is down. Recently, around 465 workers were laid off from two mines in Wyoming's Powder River basin.

John Smallwood, a miner from West Virginia said the coal industry's troubles are hurting his town too. 

Wyoming Workforce Services

In the wake of layoffs at Wyoming’s two largest coal mines, the state has set up resource centers in Douglas, Gillette and Casper where laid-off workers can get help from state agencies.

Peabody Energy and Arch Coal announced Thursday they are each cutting 15 percent of their workforce, about 500 total jobs, at the North Antelope Rochelle and Black Thunder mines. 

Flickr Creative Commons, by Tom Brandt

(In a previous version of this story we indicated the entire plant was closing while only Unit 3 is closing. We regret the error.)

Stricter federal emission rules for power plants are having an effect in Wyoming. Rocky Mountain Power says plans to convert one unit of a coal-powered plant to natural gas in western Wyoming fell through and instead they’ll shut it down at the end of 2017.

With some 465 Powder River Basin coal mine workers laid off it’s been busy at the Gillette Workforce Services Center.

Gillette Workforce Services Manager Ramona Peterson says it was probably the busiest day she’s ever seen. A steady stream of displaced coal workers have stopped in to figure out their next step. For some, it's help with updating their resume, for others it's explaining what their options are. Peterson admits that there aren’t a lot of jobs at the moment.

In 2016, for the first time ever, natural gas could overtake coal as the main source of electricity in the U.S.

A decade ago, coal accounted for almost 50 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. but in 2015, it was down to 33 percent. The dramatic decline has been fueled largely by utilities switching from coal to natural gas, as gas prices have fallen in recent years because of the fracking boom.

Now, the Energy Information Administration is predicting that in 2016, natural gas will surpass coal as the country’s leading power source, although only by a narrow margin.

ecowatch.com

In financial documents filed this week, one of the largest coal companies in the world warned that it may file for bankruptcy, in part, because the company may not be able to make upcoming debt payments.

Just this week, Peabody Energy missed around $70 million dollars worth of interest payments and instead chose to take advantage of a 30-day grace period. 

Bob Beck

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has unveiled a new energy plan that still pays a lot of attention to coal, but also looks to boost renewable energy. Mead says Wyoming needs to diversify its energy economy, but denies that the decline of coal did not lead to that choice.

“It was never, hey, coal is having a tough time now and so we are going to move away from coal and to renewables. In fact in some ways I’d say it’s a doubling down on coal and a very good start on renewables.”

Arch Coal will not develop a massive coal mine in southeastern Montana.

The company based Thursday’s decision on a weakened global coal market and an uncertain permitting process.

Coal advocates say the decision will cost Montana thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue and wages.

They blame the project’s failure on environmentalists and political heel-dragging on behalf of Governor Steve Bullock’s administration.

Alpha Natural Resources filed a plan today outlining how it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy. At the heart of the plan is a proposal to sell the company's core assets, including its Wyoming mines.

Google Earth

Peabody Energy is one of the largest coal companies in the world and operates mines all over the United States. But some of its senior lenders are now recommending bankruptcy, as the company faces potential defaults on several loans.

Oregon Says No To Coal-Fired Electricity

Mar 4, 2016
David Hanson

Oregon lawmakers have passed a landmark clean-energy bill that lays out a timeline for Oregonians to stop paying for electricity from coal-fired power plants through its two largest utilities, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Peabody Energy, one of Wyoming’s largest coal producers, appears to be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Bob Beck

Wyoming lawmakers are addressing a revenue shortfall that could reach 600 million dollars by 2018, by making some budget cuts and using some of the nearly $2 billion dollars they have in savings. But things could get worse very soon, especially since the state is losing a major source of income for school construction, which is coal. 

With Industry In Turmoil, Energy Players Meet In Houston

Feb 26, 2016
IHS Energy/CERAWeek

  

The energy industry is in turmoil. Coal and oil prices are way down, there are big changes to environmental regulations in the works, and more and more renewables are coming online. Some of the biggest players in the industry met at a conference in Houston this week to weigh in on what it all means. Inside Energy reporter Jordan Wirfs-Brock was at IHS CERAWeek. She spoke to Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce from the conference about the biggest issues on the table for the energy industry.  

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