Say Goodbye to Thermal Coal

Click to enlargeEdward Burtynsky

❝ ,,,Just one year ago, in his 2018 State of the Union address, the president claimed that his administration “ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.”

If the war on coal is over, peace for coal is a curious-looking thing.

❝ 2018 was a particularly bleak year for the industry. Coal capacity retirements actually doubled in 2018 compared to 2017, and coal production was largely flat. Recent projections from the Energy Information Administration don’t show the conclusive end of the coal industry any time soon, but they do show that coal may have reached a point of no return, despite all the rollbacks of environmental regulations that the Trump administration has proposed or enacted…

❝ In President Trump’s State of the Union speech, this year, he didn’t mention coal once…

Metallurgical coal is still needed. Specific chemical requirements in legacy steel-making processes continue. Thermal coal? Natural gas is going to take care of that easy-peasy.

20 thoughts on “Say Goodbye to Thermal Coal

  1. Goaf says:

    Idaho Power cuts coal consumption 60% in a decade : In 2008, 46.1 percent of Idaho Power’s energy came from coal. In 2017, the most recent numbers available, coal dropped to 18.3 percent.
    One of the largest power plants in the West could be at risk if Westmoreland Coal raises the price of coal at the utility’s sole supplier as part of its bankruptcy proceedings – however If negotiations hasten the closure of Montana’s massive coal-fired power plant, ratepayers may wind up saving money.
    Colstrip Power Plant shut down to address unsafe pollution emission, scheduled maintenance (July 2018)

  2. Mike says:

    President Donald Trump on Monday publicly pushed the Tennessee Valley Authority to save an aging coal plant in Kentucky that buys its fuel from one of the president’s top supporters.
    “Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and @TVAnews should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!” Trump tweeted.
    His missive came just days before the TVA board is slated to vote on the future of Paradise Unit 3, a 49-year-old coal plant that the federally owned utility has said would be too expensive to keep operating. The 1,150-megawatt plant gets the bulk of its coal from a subsidiary of Murray Energy, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Robert Murray, the CEO of the mining company, is a major Trump supporter who has personally lobbied the president to take other actions to help the ailing coal industry, particularly in regions where he sells coal.
    ….Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who is awaiting Senate confirmation, lobbied for Murray Energy among other clients before joining the Trump administration, including joining the CEO and other company officials in a 2017 meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry to discuss Murray’s policy proposals. Wheeler has said he did not write the action plan Murray presented to the Trump administration.

  3. Bilagáana says:

    “Environmental groups plan to sue Peabody Energy for failing to notify the federal government that the Kayenta coal mine [on the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona] may close before the end of its operating permit.” “Utilities plan to shut down the Navajo Generating Station in December because they say the power plant is no longer able to compete with facilities fueled by natural gas. The mine, owned by Peabody Energy, feeds the plant. The Sierra Club and two Navajo groups say they’re concerned Peabody is trying to avoid its legal obligations to prepare for reclamation of the 44,000 acre mine.”

  4. Artificial respiration says:

    A New York hedge fund negotiating with the city of Farmington N.M. to take over the coal-burning San Juan Generating Station is proposing to refit the aging power plant with technology city officials say would reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent and help pay for itself by shipping captured carbon to oil fields through a pipeline.
    But the “carbon capture and sequestration” technology being touted by Farmington and Acme Equities LLC is controversial and has never before been used in an operation as large as the San Juan plant. State legislators sponsoring a bill designed to shut down the San Juan plant by 2022 discussed the bill and the Farmington negotiations before the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee on Saturday, expressing doubts about the technology and whether the proposal would be economically feasible.

    • Magical realism says:

      A bill aimed at shutting down the coal-burning San Juan Generating Station and strengthening New Mexico renewable energy standards survived a rambling 3 1/2-hour filibuster and other parliamentary maneuvering by opponents in the state Senate on Wednesday night, which included a proposed amendment to the shutdown bill that would have allowed the city of Farmington, a part owner of the power plant, more time to negotiate a sale of the plant to a New York hedge fund.

      • Molly M. says:

        New Mexico regulators on Wednesday decided on a course for how they will handle a major utility case that marks the beginning of the end for coal-fired electricity generation in the state.
        The state’s largest utility, Public Service Co. of New Mexico, recently submitted its application for closing the San Juan Generating Station. The filing includes a mechanism for financing the closure and providing benefits and training to the workers who will be displaced. It also outlines options for replacing the lost power. All the elements hinge on the state’s new energy transition law.
        The Public Regulation Commission during its meeting voted to split the proceeding into two parts: one for the closure and financing and the other for the replacement power.
        In addition to establishing ambitious new renewable energy goals for investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives, the state’s new Energy Transition Act allows Public Service Co. of New Mexico and other owners of the San Juan plant to recover investments and decommissioning costs by selling bonds that are later paid off by utility customers.
        PNM plans to shutter the plant in 2022 as part of its plans to drop coal-fired generation. As regulatory and market pressures have pushed many utilities across the U.S. to move away from fossil fuels, PNM also has set a goal of being emissions-free by 2040.
        SB #489: Energy Transition Act was signed into law March 22, 2019 by N.M. Governor. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

        • Update says:

          “A group of organizations filed a lawsuit in N.M. state Supreme Court this week that alleges the Energy Transition Act is a deregulation law for PNM, and are challenging provisions in the law as unconstitutional.”
          The suit from New Energy Economy, a Santa Fe-based advocacy nonprofit, and six other groups claims the ETA removes some of the authority given to the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) to regulate the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and its proposed rate increases associated with its fossil fuel assets. “PNM has a history of making imprudent decisions around generation assets and investments, and New Energy Economy has been involved in a number of cases against PNM.
          The New Mexico Supreme Court found in 2019 that PNM’s investment in the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station was “imprudent” because PNM did not conduct the necessary financial assessments and comparisons with other resources. New Energy Economy was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
          “The consideration of alternatives is of course to reasonably protect ratepayers from wasteful expenditure,” the court decision reads. “Ratepayers must be held harmless for the imprudent decisions in utility management.”
          And in 2017, a hearing examiner decided the utility’s investment in the Four Corner Power Plant was also imprudent, as no financial analysis, risk evaluation or consideration of alternatives had been conducted.”
          In the last election PNM pumped about a half million dollars into a political action committee promoting the reelection of two incumbents on the State’s Public Reguation Commission.

        • Status quo says:

          “Dysfunction and a lack of expertise within the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) threaten to undermine the state’s ambitious plan to flip the switch from coal to reenewable power.”
          “The Energy Transition Act — the centerpiece of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s agenda to rein in greenhouse gas emissions — phases out coal, turbocharges solar and wind development, and provides funding to retrain displaced coal plant and mine workers. It has been hailed as one of the strongest climate measures in the country.
          But six months after Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law, its success appears jeopardized by the very regulatory body charged with overseeing its implementation.
          The powerful commission must vet every aspect of the plan: the closure of the San Juan Generating Station coal plant; the complex financing to pay for decommissioning and worker assistance; and every new energy project that will provide the replacement power. But when the first proposals came before the PRC in July, the commission chose to ignore the new law, leaving the state’s energy transition in limbo.
          The unusual move has sparked a political furor, pitting the PRC against the governor and Legislature and leading to calls for impeachment of three of the commissioners as well as a proposal by the governor to convert the PRC from an elected body to an appointed one.”

      • Death grip says:

        New Mexico (Aug 16, 2019) Farmington city officials on Friday signed an agreement with a company that proposes outfitting the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station with carbon-capture technology in an effort to extend the power plant’s life beyond its planned closure in 2022. Under the agreement, the city would keep its 5% share in the plant and Enchant Energy Corp. would acquire a 95% ownership interest from other utilities that will be divesting in the plant.
        Public Service Co. of New Mexico plans to shut down the facility as it moves toward a 2040 emissions-free goal and the state begins implementing a new energy law aimed at transitioning to more renewable resources. The utility’s decommissioning application is pending before state regulators along with proposals for replacing the lost capacity once the plant closes.
        It would be up to Enchant Energy to pay for installing the new emissions equipment. The company has estimated that it would pay about $1.2 billion for the project but that it could benefit from federal tax credits associated with investments in carbon-capture technology.

  5. Molly M. says:

    Nearly all of the nation’s coal-fired power plants subject to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule have contaminated groundwater with coal ash pollution, according to a new report The report — produced by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice — also describes alleged loopholes in the rule while raising questions about how electric utilities plan to close hundreds of coal ash storage sites across the country.
    Data covering 265 coal plants, or roughly three-quarters of all coal plants across the U.S., show that 91% of those plants have leaked unsafe levels of one or more coal ash constituents into underlying groundwater, the report found. The analysis further determined that groundwater at 52% of coal plants has unsafe levels of arsenic, a cancer-causing carcinogen, and 60% of groundwater at coal plants has unsafe levels of lithium, a neurotoxin.
    See also “Mapping the Coal Ash Contamination” (interactive map)

  6. Last gaspers says:

    ● “Energy proposals across the U.S. West illustrate how state lawmakers are responding to the market transition away from coal power in the face of inaction from the White House.” (Utility Dive 3/5/19)
    ● “Wyoming Legislature extends lifeline to coal power : As economics challenge coal’s future, Wyoming passes a law to prop it up.” (High Country News 3/5/19) See also “Coal bailout bill will impose a hidden tax on families and workers” (Casper Star-Tribune Op-Ed, Feb 19, 2019)
    ● “With Wyoming’s only coal exporter facing potential bankruptcy, what happens to the export dream?” (Casper Star-Tribune 3/7/19)
    ● “Wyoming coal ash ponds rank among nation’s worst in contaminated groundwater study” (Casper Star-Tribune 3/5/19)

  7. Chrizzart says:

    Cleaner energy: Idaho Power wants to completely cut coal (3/21/19)
    Meanwhile in Montana: The first hearing for the latest draft of a Colstrip rescue bill drew a crowd of supporters and opponents Tuesday. Senate Bill 331 sets up terms for NorthWestern Energy to buy an additional 150 megawatts of generating capacity in Unit 4 of the coal-fired power plant. It also guts the Public Service Commission’s ability to regulate rates the utility passes on to customers to recover its existing investment at Colstrip and the additional 150 megawatts. Also nothing in the bill obliges NorthWestern to purchase additional generation to receive the scaled-back oversight. Jason Brown, an attorney with Montana Consumer Counsel, told lawmakers that nothing in SB 331 would prevent an early closure at Colstrip. The plant faces abandonment by larger West Coast utility operators looking to end their dependence on coal, a fact the bill notes in its preamble. “Right after it acknowledges the plant can close early, this bill, in the same breath, encourages NorthWestern to buy more of it,” Brown said.
    In other news, “the Rosebud Mine, the lone coal supplier for Colstrip Power Plant, appears to be on steadier ground, at least for now, as Westmoreland Coal Co. exits bankruptcy.”

  8. 'Invisible Hand' says:

    ● Two Wyoming coal mines close, send 700 workers home after bankruptcy filing
    ● Blackjewel CEO resigns as judge approves $5 million in emergency financing (7/3/19)
    ● Blackjewel withheld $1.2 M from payroll, didn’t put in 401(k)s
    ● Utilities across US exposed to Blackjewel’s abrupt coal mine shutdowns (7/3/19)
    ● “The Meltdown Started”: A Coal Bankruptcy Dramatically Unfolds (7/5/19)
    ● A timeline of Blackjewel’s bankruptcy filing and mine closures in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin

    • Update says:

      The unprecedented bankruptcy case involving coal operator Blackjewel showed signs of resolution last week when a federal judge approved the sale of two Wyoming coal mines to a new company called Eagle Specialty Materials. But a court document filed Saturday revealed the federal government has been investigating Blackjewel for potential fraud since before the company filed for bankruptcy, adding another possible wrinkle to a case that has rattled Wyoming’s coal country for over three months.

    • Company Man says:

      “Since PacifiCorp first indicated interest in transitioning away from coal power in favor of wind and solar, some of Wyoming’s political leaders have begun to eye the Wyoming Public Service Commission as a potential lever to protect coal country jobs. The posture state politicians are adapting toward the energy transition mirrors the sentiments of many in southeastern Wyoming. “We don’t want you to pay too much attention to the radicals in California and those people, and let them make your decision for you,” Cokeville resident Sharon Dayton said during a PSC meeting last week. “We want to keep on burning Wyoming coal.”

      “In September, the PSC sent the letter urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to accelerate an inquiry that could subsidize coal plants in the name of electrical grid reliability. Part of the letter copied language crafted by the American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity.
      The Sept. 12, 2019, letter signed by Public Service Commission chairwoman Karen Forstrom urged the FERC to act on the item that had languished on its docket since January 2018. In that month, FERC rejected a proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants but agreed to examine the role of both power sources in grid “reliability and resilience,” according to the news site Utility Dive [link].”

  9. Cost–benefit analysis says:

    “First major U.S. insurance company moves away from coal” “Chubb Ltd., the nation’s largest commercial insurance company, announced it will move away from insuring and investing in coal. It becomes the first major U.S. insurance company to take such action, joining more than a dozen European and Australian insurers that have already adopted similar policies.
    Chubb will no longer underwrite the construction of new coal-fired power plants, according to the policy. It will also stop investing in companies that generate more than 30 percent of their revenues from coal mining or production, as well as phase out existing coverage for mining and utility companies that exceed the 30 percent threshold.”
    On July 1, 2019, Chubb adopted the following policy concerning thermal coal related underwriting and investment.

  10. Update says:

    The fall of coal, and its pollution-linked deaths, is boosting the economy : Farming now produces more particulate pollution than electricity generation.
    “…Particulate production is dominated by four sectors of the economy: agriculture, power generation, manufacturing, and transportation. Everything else accounts for only a quarter of the known sources. Agriculture and manufacturing were relatively stable over this period, while transportation saw a significant drop, primarily through cleaning up diesel emissions from trucks, rail, and boat transport.
    But the biggest change was clearly in the power sector, where economic damages dropped from about $300 billion to $150 billion in that period. That’s almost entirely attributable to lower levels of sulfur dioxide particulates, which can be attributed to the shuttering of coal plants.”

  11. Invisible hand says:

    “Biggest Coal Plant in the West Closes One of Three Units”
    The Navajo Generating Station in northeastern Arizona has been burning coal since it was built in 1976.
    The closure on Sept. 19 wasn’t a surprise. Peabody Energy Corp.’s nearby Kayenta Mine sent its last trainload of coal to NGS in late August, according to the company.
    With no buyers interested in taking over the plant, it is now virtually certain to shut down by Dec. 22, when the current operating lease expires. the Salt River Project (which operates the NGS) said in May it wouldn’t entertain any more bids, and it already has begun decommissioning.
    The plant sits on Navajo land, and the Navajo Nation’s current leadership supports a transition to renewable energy. The tribe announced Sept. 20 the completion of the second phase of its Kayenta Solar generating facility, which pumps out 28 megawatts. Phase one of the plant creates 27.3 megawatts.

    • Bye-bye says:

      ‘New Mexico is leading the nation’: Renewables set to replace coal-fired San Juan Generating Station”
      “With a unanimous vote Wednesday morning, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) ended one piece of a year-long debate on the future of coal in the Four Corners region. The utility PNM, which is slated to exit the San Juan Generating Station in 2022, will now need to rely on 100 percent renewable energy and battery storage to replace the power generated at the coal-fired plant.
      Commissioners were faced with the tough decision of weighing the economic future of the Four Corners area with the climate goals of the landmark Energy Transition Act (ETA), a 2019 law which mandates the state move to 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2050.”

      Aerial view of the Four Corners Generating Station on Navajo Nation land (south, left) and San Juan Generating Station (north, right), separated by the San Juan River between Farmington (foreground) and Shiprock (background) : click to enlarge

  12. Daniel 5:5 says:

    At least one analyst believes that more U.S. metallurgical coal mines are likely to shut down in the coming weeks and months following Murray Energy Corp.’s announcement that it is shutting down its Maple Eagle coal mine West Virginia. (S&P Global intelligence 9/30/19) Due to soft demand for steelmaking coal around the world, Murray’s decision to temporarily idle its metallurgical coal operation is likely only the beginning of an “accelerated number of mine shut-ins in the U.S.” Seaport Global Securities LLC analyst Mark Levin wrote in a Sept. 30 note. While the sector has been slow to respond as prices dipped in the past, it is reacting with greater urgency to shut down mines that are losing money this time around, the analyst added.
    “At the end of the day, we think it’s fair to say the market is in tough shape, and it’s not abundantly clear to us why it would get a whole [lot] better any time soon,” Levin wrote.

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