Op-Ed: Three Trends That Suggest No Coal Comeback
Three distinct trends continue to work against the U.S. coal industry. One is a rapid rise of black lung among miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, where old coal seams that are increasingly difficult to tap are creating new health hazards, according to research by Stone Mountain Health Services. Two is national momentum toward retirement of the aging fleet of U.S. coal-fired electricity generation stations. Three is a Trump administration plan that is being crafted to bail out failing coal plants. “What seems clear from all three cases is that the coal industry isn’t coming back,” says the author.
Michigan’s Biggest Utility, Buyer of Wyoming Coal, Is Shifting Direction
Consumers Energy, the biggest utility in Michigan and an important customer of Wyoming mines owned by Arch Coal, Peabody Energy, and Cloud Peak Energy, is phasing out its coal-fired generation in favor of other power sources. The utility supplies electricity to more than 60 percent of Michigan’s 10 million residents. “We believe we’re going to be on the right side of history on this issue,” said Consumers CEO Patti Poppe.
Editorial: Diversify Kentucky’s Economy
A Kentucky newspaper, editorializing on the decline of the state’s coal-mining industry, calls for greater diversification of the region’s economy. The editorial acknowledges broad energy market changes and notes by way of example that the Big Sandy Power Plant in Lawrence County, one of the “largest and most dependable customer for coal mined in the eastern third of the state,” no longer burns coal. And it concedes that much of the region’s coal has gotten so costly to mine that the industry is no longer competitive.
Trump $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Stands to Disadvantage Impoverished Communities
In a shift in long-standing federal policy, the Trump administration is beginning a $1.2 trillion infrastructure-improvement push that prioritizes attracting profit-motivated investors over determinations based on public benefit. The strategy could put impoverished communities at a disadvantage. “Instead of the public sector deciding on public needs and public priorities, the projects that are most attractive to private investors are the ones that will go to the head of the line,” one analyst said.
As Coal Revenues Dry Up, Wyoming Considers Turning to Property Taxes for School Funding
The state senate voted unanimously to move forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow school districts to pay for new school construction with property tax revenue. The plan is a departure from reliance on coal leases from public lands and is being pursued as a way to replace $1 billion in such funding, which has all but disappeared in recent years.
Kentucky Coal Job Gains in 2017 Seen as Unsustainable
Even with a recent uptick in coal-industry jobs in Kentucky, analysts do not consider the gains sustainable. Even the federal government is skeptical: “The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that after an upturn in coal production in Central Appalachia in 2017, production in the region will generally decline.”
Commentary: A Grass-Roots Push Toward Responsible Change
Pushing back against new federal policies aimed at propping up the old U.S. energy economy, local governments are crafting their own electricity-generation strategies, note the authors: “2018 is shaping up to be a year when neighborhoods, towns and cities take control over their own energy destinies, working to promote a just transition to clean energy for all, regardless of income, race or zip code
Electricity Company That Reaches Into 11 States Announces a Clean-Energy Transition
Ohio-based American Electric Power, which has five million customers in 11 midwestern and southern states, is changing its business model from coal-fired generation to a combination of gas- and renewable-driven power. “The energy industry is in an era of transformation, moving rapidly toward a cleaner energy economy,” said Nick Akins, AEP’s chairman, president and CEO.
Solar Park Rises Near Site of Retired New York Power Plant
In Grand Island, N.Y., planners are proceeding with an initiative to build a 20-megawatt solar park across the Niagara River from the defunct coal-fired Huntley Power Generating Station. “To have this type of change where we can have all this electricity, all this power and not put anyone’s life at risk or threaten anyone’s health is kind of an amazing thing,” the town supervisor said.