coal

The US Environmental Protection Agency has released a set of rules that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas power plants. If finalized, the rules would be the first to set such a national standard. The rule caps carbon emissions from natural gas power plants at 1,000 pounds/megawatt hour and from coal power plants at 1,100 pounds.

The Bureau of Land Management received a single bid at today’s/Wednesday’s coal lease sale and it has rejected that bid. 

Kiewit  Mining Properties bid 21-cents per ton on the Buckskin Mine Hay Creek Two tract. The tract has about 167-million tons of mineable coal and is adjacent to the Buckskin mine, which Kiewit operates.

However, the bid is the lowest the B-L-M has received since 2001.

B-L-M spokeswoman, Beverly Gorney, says ultimately the bid did not meet the B-L-M’s secret calculations of what’s considered fair market value.

The Bureau of Land Management received a single bid at today’s coal lease sale, and it has rejected the offer.  Kiewit Mining Properties bid 21cents/ton on the Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II tract. The tract has about 167 million tons of mineable coal and is adjacent to the Buckskin mine, which Kiewit operates.

However, the bid is the lowest the BLM has received since 2001.

BLM spokeswoman, Beverly Gorny, says ultimately the bid did not meet the BLM’s secret calculations of what’s considered fair market value.

The Bureau of Land Management’s coal lease sale today coal lease sale received one bid. The Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II tract is adjacent to the operating Buckskin Mine in Campbell County. The bid came from Buckskin Mine’s operator, Kiewit Mining Properties, and amounted to 21 cents/ton for the estimated 167 million tons of mineable coal in the tract. If accepted, the tract could extend the mine’s life by about eight years.

The federal government is getting ready to unveil rules for carbon emissions at new coal-fired power plants, and they probably won't be what industry had hoped for.

While coal producers look to international markets to make up for a soft coal market at home, experts advise that Asian coal demand will not be as strong as had been expected.

During a recent teleconference, researchers and environmentalists discussed the financial viability of building coal export terminals in the Northwest US to ship Powder River basin coal to Asia. Ross Macfarlane works for Climate Solutions, a clean-energy advocacy group. He said domestic producers didn’t account for the evolution of the coal market abroad.  

The comment period closed Monday on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Regional Haze Plan. The plan seeks to address the issue of air pollution produced by coal fired power plants. Wyoming put together its own regional haze program, but the EPA rejected parts of it, saying it wasn't strong enough, particularly when it came to nitrogen oxide emissions at four plants.

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for coal on federal lands. That coal makes up about 40 percent of total coal production in the U.S. Of the 314 existing federal coal leases, nearly a quarter of the leases are in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Companies acquire these leases by bidding on the right to mine the federal coal. It has generated a lot of income, which the federal government splits with states. But not everyone thinks the program is working as it should and that the government might be losing out on money.

Today’s coal lease sale of nearly 150 million tons of mineable coal in the Powder River Basin received zero bids.

It’s the first time the Wyoming office of the Bureau of Land Management has received no bids for a sale. Cordero Mining, a subsidiary of Cloud Peak Energy, asked BLM to open the tract in 2006. It's adjacent to an operating Cloud Peak mine.

But Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall says things have changed since then. In a press release, he cited current coal market conditions and regulatory uncertainty as factors in the company's decision not to bid.

Two coal lease tracts in the Powder River Basin will go up for sale in the next several weeks at the request of two operators in the area.

Cordero Mining and Kiewit Mining Properties requested the sales using the “lease by application” system. Under that system companies with existing mines can request specific tracts, often adjacent to their operations. The system has been criticized for limiting competition.

University of Colorado Law School professor, Mark Squillace, says often, such coal lease sales only attract one bidder.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County have announced that their joint Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed coal export facility in Washington State will include a broad analysis. The proposed Cherry Point terminal would be able to export 48 million tons of coal each year, mostly of Powder River Basin coal going to Asia.

A new report by the environmental group Sierra Club says at least three coal-fired power plants in Wyoming discharge pollution containing metals into streams. According to the report, some plants do not monitor how much waste they discharge or what it contains.

The Environmental Protection Agency says coal plants nationwide contribute more than half of the toxic pollutants discharged to water bodies by regulated industry, but discharge standards have not been updated since 1982. 

Last week the Congressional House Sub-Committee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing focusing on the benefits of Powder River Basin coal production for local communities and national energy security.  Campbell County Commissioner Dan Coolidge testified that when he moved to Gillette, he never expected to stay. But, he said he was surprised by the impact of coal tax revenues on quality of life there.    

Wyoming leaders say the state's energy-based economy is suffering under recent Obama administration environmental initiatives.

Republican Gov. Matt Mead plans to testify next week in Cheyenne against a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to restrict emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Mead says the rule will cost Wyoming's five coal-fired power plants about $1 billion initially and perhaps $100 million a year thereafter. He says implementing the regulations won't affect haze.

Today the Congressional House Sub-Committee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing about coal mining in the Powder River Basin.

237 years of independence and energy

Jul 4, 2013

The Energy Information Administration says that in the 237 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence the U.S. has gone from using primarily renewable resources like wood and water to using fossil fuels.

Statistician at the EIA, Tyson Brown, says he compiled the brief just for fun, but says it’s still enlightening to look at the long-term changes.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration released its “Today in Energy” brief today, which details, among other things, coal exports from the U.S. According to the report, March had the highest number of coal exports yet. The top importing countries were China, the Netherlands, the UK, South Korea, and Brazil. The top five ports were all in the southern and eastern United States. Those ports exported over two and half times more coal in March alone than the Northwest ports did for all of 2012. Powder River Basin coal mostly ships from the Northwest.

The Sierra Club and partner organizations filed a lawsuit today against BNSF Railways and several coal producers. The suit claims the companies are violating the federal Clean Water Act when they discharge coal dust along railways from the Powder River Basin without permits to do so.

Pacific Northwest Regional Press Secretary for Sierra Club’ Beyond Coal campaign, Krista Collard, says a letter of intent to file the suit was sent to all parties two months ago, but they did little to limit coal dust pollution.

Wyoming hosts mining reclamation conference

Jun 4, 2013

Mining industry representatives and researchers are gathering in Laramie this week for the meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation. The last time Wyoming hosted the American Society of Mining and Reclamation was in 2007. Peter Stahl, director of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center, says the fact that the industry gathering has returned to Wyoming so soon is a testament to the state’s role in the field of land reclamation.

As demand for coal has dropped domestically, producers have turned to exports abroad as a way to make up for market losses at home. 2012 was a record year for coal exports out of the US.

The demand for coal in China and other Asian markets, has raised hopes for coal producers in the Powder River Basin. They’ve helped develop plans for expanded port facilities in the Northwestern US and some coal companies, including Arch Coal, have invested money in the proposed ports.

Gov. Mead releases WY energy policy

May 13, 2013

Governor Matt Mead and his policy director, Shawn Reese, released an energy policy for Wyoming at a press conference today. The policy contains 47 initiatives broken down into categories including economic competitiveness and expansion, regulation, conservation, and education. Reese said there were a number of hallmark initiatives.

Three protesters were arrested yesterday at the Peabody Energy shareholders meeting in Gillette. United Mine Workers of America representatives were demonstrating against pension cuts to retired miners that came about when Peabody unloaded some of its pension responsibilities on a company that has since declared bankruptcy. Other demonstrators were there to protest Peabody projects and conduct. An organizer from Missouri, Arielle Klagsbrun, said the meeting was held at Gillette College and the arrests happened in the parking lot… 

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is asking the White House to not evaluate the effects of greenhouse gases that would be emitted by exporting U.S. coal and burning it overseas.

Wyoming is the nation's leading coal-producing state and state officials are concerned about falling domestic demand for coal as a result of global warming concerns. State officials are pushing to secure ports in the Northwest to allow coal exports to Asia.

Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

A new study conducted by the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University reports that as more EPA regulations go into effect, natural gas is likely to become even more attractive to utilities than coal.

Co-author of the study, Professor Lincoln Pratson, says that one reason coal will become less desired is the expensive emission controls the coal plants will have to install.

The only pollutant that natural gas plants produce that the EPA regulates are NOx emissions.  NOx stands for pollutants which contain NO and NO2, gases formed during combustion.

The U-S Energy Information Administration says coal-fired electric power plants are generating more energy this year than last , but Wyoming coal production numbers are still below last year’s.

Wyoming Mining Association President Marion Loomis says that while interest in coal is up right now, the outlook for 2013 is still not good for Wyoming’s coal industry.

“We’re certainly not back to what we’ve seen in prior years, and our production is still down. It’s looking like it will still be a tough year.” 

The Sierra Club says it plans to sue railroad and coal companies in 60 days for spilled coal in the Northwest, and sent out letters of intent to the parties. The environmental group has been testing land and water around railroad tracks, and claims to have found pieces of coal and coal dust that, they say, blows off the train cars from mines in Wyoming and Montana.

A new US Geological Survey study says that only a small percentage of coal in the Powder River Basin is cost-effective to mine in the current market. According to the USGS, there are more than one trillion tons of coal present in the Basin, of which 162 billion tons could technically be recovered. Of that, it would only be economically viable to mine about 25 billion tons in today’s market.

Project Chief for the US Coal Assessment Program, Jim Luppens, says new geologic data made the study possible.

Coal is weakening its dominion over the energy market, and according to a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, new EPA regulations are not to blame.

Wyoming lawmakers including Sen. John Barrasso and Rep. Cynthia Lummis have pointed to what they call President Obama’s war on coal as the reason for declining coal production.

But David Schlissel of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis -- who led the presentation -- says other factors are responsible.

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