Editorial: ‘It isn’t the job of the federal government to pick winners and losers in business’
An editorial board for a newspaper in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming has questioned the Trump administration’s controversial proposal to prop up failing coal-fired electricity generation plants. “Coal’s place in the energy sector has changed,” the editorial says. “Investing in our past will only shortchange us in the future.”
Deal moves Colstrip closer to a "post-coal" future
The Montana Public Service Commission approved a sale that moves ownership of the Colstrip Power Plant to a Canadian corporation in a deal that includes a $4.5 million payment to the city of Colstrip as part of an arrangement meant to blunt the impact of the eventual closure of the plant. Commissioners said the deal “appears to be in the public interest, for Montana consumers and the state.”
Xcel steps up date for retirement of two Colorado coal plants
Citing the “historically low” cost of renewables, Xcel Energy is pressing for state approval to close two coal-fired generators in Colorado a decade earlier than planned. The plants, part of the Comanche Generating Station in Pueblo, would be retired in 2022 and 2025 under the proposal, and would be replaced by a pair of existing gas-fired plants, three windfarms and five utility-scale complexes.
Wyoming county has yet to be paid $4 million in overdue coal-royalty taxes
Local officials say Campbell County, Wyo., has been stiffed on a $4 million tax payment due May 1 from Contura Energy, the company that acquired the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr coal mines last year from Alpha Natural Resources. The mines, near Gillette, have since been acquired by Blackjewel LLC, “a firm troubled by environmental concerns and court cases in Appalachia.” Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr are also beset by millions of dollars in cleanup obligations.
Pushback in West Virginia against Trump’s coal-subsidy plan
One clear result of a White House plan to subsidize failing coal plants: Bigger utility bills for households, businesses, and industry in West Virginia. Skeptics of the proposed bailout include officials with the Public Service Commission’s Consumer Advocate Division, the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the West Virginia University College of Law, and the Natural Gas Supply Association. The plan “would definitely drive rates up,” one analyst said.
South Carolina public solar projects ‘make a sound like "cha-ching"
In Edgefield and nearby Saluda, S.C., an elementary school and a town hall have installed solar electricity systems that are expected to save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Low-interest loan programs have helped make the initiatives successful. “Not many local governments and school districts in South Carolina have embraced solar power, which can involve navigating utility incentives and state Energy Office loans, but several that have taken the plunge couldn't be happier.
Cuts in funding put Black Lung Disability Trust Fund at risk
A 55 percent congressionally-mandated cut in revenue to the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund comes as an epidemic in the fatal disease gains momentum. The GAO reports that as a result of the impending reduction, the fund will incur a deficit of as much as $15 billion over the next 30 years. Fund revenue comes from taxes on coal companies, and the National Mining Association says maintaining support for the fund “would burden the coal industry.”
Backlash against Trump plan to subsidize coal
After President Trump ordered the Energy Department last week to devise a way to subsidize failing coal plants, an assortment of other energy interests criticized the initiative as a “misguided” policy move that will disrupt markets and hurt consumers. Opponents include solar and wind energy interests, the natural gas industry and the American Petroleum Institute. Should the plan proceed, “litigation would begin almost immediately,” one analyst said.
Two coal-fired units at Indiana plant close
Northern Indiana Public Service Company, which provides electricity to almost 1.3 million customers in the northern third of the state, is closing two coal-fired units at the Bailly Generating Station on the shore of Lake Michigan, effectively mothballing the station. The decision is part of the utility’s intention to close half its coal fleet by 2023. "Bailly was the first step in that plan," a company official said.
West Coast shift in energy policy undermines Wyoming’s bet on coal
As West Coast states look to power their electricity grids with cheaper and cleaner energy sources, their retreat from traditional generation models poses an existential threat to Wyoming’s coal industry. Utilities involved in the transition include regional household names like PacifiCorp and Rocky Mountain Power. “If Oregon, Washington and California ditch coal, it may leave Wyoming’s largest utility, and its customers, holding a bag they don’t want to carry,” reports one newspaper.