Study: ‘The Easier Coal’ Has Already Been Mined in Central Appalachia
A new study that compiles data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission finds that low natural gas prices, stagnant demand for electricity, and rising production costs have driven the decline of mining in Kentucky and West Virginia. “In central Appalachian coal is deeper in the ground and the seams are thinner,” one expert said. “Because we’ve been mining coal for so long and so aggressively, we’ve already taken out all the easier to get coal.”
Report: Owner of 2 Wyoming Mines Paid $20 Million for Another Company to Take Them Over
New company filings show that that the owner of two well-known coal mines in Wyoming paid more than $20 million for Blackjewel Inc. to takes possession of them in December. Contura Energy had owned the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines as a result of Alpha Energy’s bankruptcy reorganization in 2016 during an industry downturn that has continued: “Some say the deal heralds bad days to come. Others are more diplomatic about the challenges for Wyoming coal, but agree that the sale is telling of how the sector has changed in a few short years.”
In West Virginia, programs like Refresh Appalachia, Reclaim Appalachia, and the Appalachian Bee Collective are helping former coal workers, and communities, create a path forward. "...the idea is to create a new generation of small-holding Appalachian farmers who will contribute to a larger agricultural community—one that’s appropriately scaled, diversified, and vertically integrated. "
Corporate Miners in Appalachia Are Showing Little Interest in the Economic Future of the Region
Advocates for diversification see over-reliance on the coal industry continuing to impoverish much of Appalachia. But local ownership of economies offers a way forward as corporate interests abandon much of the region: “Those people don’t have any stake in the communities there. They don’t have any reason to reinvest in the human capital and public services and goods."
Renewable Energy Additions Outpaced Traditional Power-Generation Sources 2-1 in 2017
Renewable energy capacity additions beat out new fossil fuel projects globally by more than two to one in 2017, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the United Nations. The surge in renewables is led by solar but includes wind, biofuels and geothermal energy. “We are at a turning point ... from fossil fuels to the renewable world,” one commentator said. “The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas.”
GAO Urges Federal Government to Stop Letting Coal Companies ‘Self-Bond’ on Cleanup Obligations
The Government Accounting Office is recommending termination of a federal program that allows coal companies to “self-bond” against mine clean-up costs. The practice lets mining companies promise to pay for reclamation, even though they may be in no financial position to do so. The recommendation to amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act would protect taxpayers but come at no small expense to already-struggling coal companies.
In Seeking Federal Bailout, FirstEnergy Does So at Others’ Expense
FirstEnergy’s plea for a government bailout puts the Trump administration in a difficult political position: Whether to rescue a failing industry at the expense of ratepayers and other sectors of the U.S. energy economy or let market forces determine outcomes. Saving the company “would hurt rival energy businesses and could raise electricity prices for companies and consumers across the Midwest and mid-Atlantic states.”
Wyoming Has Added Only 5 Full-Time Coal Jobs Since 2016
The latest government jobs report shows Wyoming, the biggest coal-producing state in the U.S., having added only five full-time coal-mining jobs since 2016. The industry is hampered by the rise of natural gas and renewables alongside customer preferences for clean electricity generation. “When companies don’t see a lot of positive on the horizon, they’re always reluctant to hire again,” said one Wyoming official.
FirstEnergy’s Failures Require a Fierce Response From Civic Leaders and Elected Officials
As it closes two nuclear plants in Ohio, FirstEnergy continues a downward spiral leaving communities to pick up the pieces. "As Cindy Winland of the Just Transition Fund has pointed out, the size and the number of closings of coal-fired and nuclear plants in Ohio makes the state an epicenter of energy industry disruption."
Ruling on Montana and Wyoming Federal Coal Lease Policy Another Setback to Mining Industry
In a blow to the coal industry in Montana and Wyoming, a federal judge has ruled that the Bureau of Land Management must consider potential impacts on climate change in deciding on further permitting of federal coal leases. The case could ultimately put a legal limit on the amount of coal mined in the region. “This ruling is the latest example of courts forcing the federal government to be honest with the American public,” one plaintiff said.