coal

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.  

TRANSCRIPT:

Recent coal company bankruptcies pose a significant risk to taxpayers, the Secretary of the Interior told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday.

Some of the largest coal companies in the country were never required to put up cash or obtain third-party insurance to cover their reclamation costs.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the federal government is concerned there is little cleanup money set aside as the coal industry slides deeper into financial trouble.

In January, the federal government notified the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality that bankrupt coal company Arch Coal could be in violation of mining regulations. On Monday, DEQ responded to the notice, writing that it has already dealt with the alleged violation which relates to Arch Coal's reclamation bonding.

Regulators cited an agreement that would require Arch to put aside some funds for future coal mine clean up as one of the steps it has taken to ensure the company's reclamation obligations are covered. 

In a surprise move earlier this month, the Supreme Court put the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan on hold while legal challenges are resolved.

On Thursday, speaking at a conference in Cheyenne, an official with the Environmental Protection Agency suggested that the delay may give states more time to comply with the rule if it is ultimately upheld. 

The federal government notified regulators in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico this week that one of the world's largest coal companies may be out of compliance with coal mining regulations. 

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Cloud Peak Energy, one of Wyoming’s largest coal producers, reported a $205 million loss in 2015. 

"Clearly 2015 was a tough year for domestic coal producers with demand being driven down by anti-coal regulations and very low gas prices. Unfortunately, 2016 looks like it's going to be even tougher," Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall told investors on a conference call. 

In response to a federal inquiry about potential mining violations by bankrupt coal company Alpha Natural Resources, Wyoming regulators say they are in compliance with the law. But, regulators did note that the challenges created by "the dramatic decline in Alpha's financial condition... highlight certain systemic problems with self-bonding." Self-bonding references a financial tool that gives companies a pass on putting aside funds for clean-up if they can prove financial strength. 

EIA

The number of train cars carrying coal on U.S. railroads has dropped thanks to falling demand and warmer-than-usual winter temperatures.

Total train traffic during the first week of February was down slightly, just 1.4%, from the same week last year. But the number of train cars carrying coal plummeted by around 30%. Transportation analyst Tony Hatch says railway companies are trying to diversify by transporting new products.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

  

  

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a major part of President Obama's climate change agenda... the Clean Power Plan. That rule, which would limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal fired power plants is now on hold until legal challenges against it are resolved. Wyoming is one of the 27 states to sue the federal government over the regulations. Our Inside Energy reporter Leigh Paterson joins Caroline Ballard to talk about what it all means. 

Wyoming regulators and a bankrupt coal company have reached a resolution on the company's substantial outstanding coal mine cleanup costs. 

Arch Coal declared bankruptcy with nearly half a billion dollars of future clean up costs still on its books. Documents filed with the bankruptcy court earlier this week indicate Wyoming regulators wanted financial assurances that the company would be able to pay those clean up costs.

Stephanie Joyce

Bankrupt coal miner Alpha Natural Resources is hoping to put its core assets on the auction block, including its mines in Wyoming. 

A group of the company’s lenders have placed a so-called “stalking horse bid” of $500 million, effectively setting the floor for what the company would accept. Pending approval by a bankruptcy judge, Alpha could start taking bids from other interested buyers later this month.

The company doesn’t have to go through with the sale of the assets, but could if it gets a high enough bid.

The federal government has agreed to give state regulators an extension to respond to its inquiry into potential violations of mining regulations.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, OSMRE, sent two Ten-Day Notices to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality on January 21st. The notices asked the state to take a closer look at whether two bankrupt coal companies are out of compliance with federal and state mining regulations.

Stephanie Joyce

Wyoming regulators have asked for more time to respond to the federal government's concerns about potential lapses in state oversight of coal mine reclamation.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement sent two ten-day notices to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality on January 21st. The agency believes that two bankrupt coal companies, with hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding clean up costs, could be in violation of federal mining regulations.  

Stephanie Joyce

A panel that makes recommendations on whether new federal coal projects should move forward has given the green light to two proposals in Montana and Wyoming.

Cloud Peak Energy and Lighthouse Resources want to mine a combined 644 million tons of coal from government reserves. The Powder River regional coal team recommended that the Bureau of Land Management begin the environmental review process for both projects.

A bankruptcy judge has authorized up to $12 million dollars in bonuses for executives of the bankrupt coal mining company Alpha Natural Resources.

Coal Downturn Makes It Harder To Clean Up Its Dirty Past

Jan 22, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

When she was growing up, Julie Bundy’s parents forbade her from playing on the "slate dumps." That was their shorthand for the hundred-foot-tall pile of loose rubble that sat right in the middle of Fredericktown, the southwestern Pennsylvania coal town where her grandparents lived.

“My grandparents lived in the yellow house on the corner with the slate dumps in the back yard. As long as I can remember, it was there,” Bundy says.

Bundy, 36, now lives across the street from the dumps, a coal-refuse pile left over from a defunct mining operation that ended decades ago.

The federal government sent two notices to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality today, wanting regulators take a closer look at hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-up costs held by two bankrupt coal companies.

It is called a Ten-Day Notice. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) sends these out if it believes there is a violation of coal mining regulations. 

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