When Coal Companies Fail, Who Pays for the Cleanup? FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Leigh Paterson for NPR:For decades massive, open-pit coal mines have been feeding the country’s appetite for energy. Once coal companies are done with the land, they’re supposed to restore it. But as America’s coal industry declines, it may not have the funding to keep its cleanup promises.Restoring a mine to its original state is an elaborate and expensive process, one that some say makes the land better than before. The coal companies, however, often don’t have to set aside money for future cleanup processes thanks to a provision called “self-bonding” — an assurance for companies to pay for reclamation based only on their financial health.Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources, a coal company with mines in Appalachia and Wyoming, declared bankruptcy in August. Operations still continue at the company’s Wyoming mines, and regulators estimate it would cost over $400 million to clean up those sites once mining is complete. But Alpha was approved to ensure its cleanup costs with self-bonds.“A self-bond isn’t much more than a wink and a promise,” says Clark Williams-Derry, director of energy finance at Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that focuses on sustainability. “A promise that … when the time comes, you’ll be good for it.”But some of these companies may no longer be good for it. Federal regulations require that a company pass a test of financial strength to qualify for self-bonding, although some companies have been approved despite their questionable financial status.In September, a second major company, Arch Coal, was reapproved to self-bond and filed for bankruptcy four months later.“So then that raises the question, who is going to pay for cleanup? Is it going to be you and me? It is going to be the general public? Is it going to be adjacent landowners?”These questions extend far beyond the Powder River Basin. Three-quarters of Wyoming’s cleanup costs are self-bonded. In Colorado, North Dakota, Indiana and Texas — in each state — it’s more than half.When Coal Companies Fail, Who Pays For The Cleanup?
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享From TheWeek.com:“We’re witnessing something that we rarely see in America: the sudden and sharp collapse of a functioning industry,” said Daniel Gross at Slate. Overall, the value of the companies in the Dow Jones U.S. Coal Index has plummeted 93 percent over the past five years. Natural gas now accounts for 31 percent of electricity produced in the U.S., up from 21 percent in 2007. The shift is being accelerated by regulations that discourage companies from building new coal-fired plants. Many states now “dictate that a certain amount of power come from renewable sources,” and “virtually every utility in the U.S.” has contingency plans for stricter emissions standards that could come down the road. The playbook is almost always the same: “Burn a lot less coal.”Peabody’s failure actually shows the limits of clean coal technology, said Richard Martin at Technology Review. The coal industry has invested billions in clean coal R&D worldwide, with little to show for it. Carbon capture still adds 30 to 40 percent to the cost of generating coal power, “a nonstarter if it’s to be competitive with inexpensive natural gas.” Coal’s “dirty legacy” will outlive the industry itself, said Tom Sanzillo and David Schlissel at The New York Times. Abandoned mines “create long-lingering problems including polluted drinking water.” By law, coal companies are required to clean up after mining, but with bankruptcies mounting, hundreds of millions of dollars in reclamation guarantees are now “in limbo.” Big Coal’s demise means taxpayers will be stuck with cleanup bills for years to come.The swift demise of Big Coal ‘Long-Lingering Problem’ in Coal Industry’s Collapse
Big Proposed Australian Gas Project Faces a ‘Zero Value’ Problem FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Northern Star (News Corp. Australia):Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is playing into the hands of the gas cartel ‘ripping off Australia’ by encouraging the NSW Government to approve a controversial gas project in the state’s north, according to an energy analyst.The Prime Minister’s comments “strongly encouraging” the Berejiklian government to approve the Narrabri Gas Project are “unbelievable”, said Bruce Robertson of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.In fact, the massive project – which environmentalists say threatens the Pilliga forest – is literally worthless on Santos’ books.“This project is valued at that level because at the moment it has zero reserves of gas,” Mr Robertson said.But Santos is in a life and death struggle over billions of dollars in mounting losses incurred by its gamble on the East Coast gas export industry, particularly its share in one of the three Gladstone LNG “trains” worth a combined $70 billion.The Gladstone plants and related gas fields came online just as world gas and oil prices went into freefall. There is now a huge global glut which could last years.And yet Australia is paying through the nose for gas because the cartel – Shell, Santos, Origin, and BHP-Exxon – have pushed up prices by exporting the bulk of domestic gas overseas through Gladstone.The industry is now desperate for gas – anything, even a gas project which has zero proven reserves.“What they’ve got to do is keep feeding the beast,” Mr Robertson said.“In the last result pre-tax (Santos) wrote off over a billion dollars.“They’re basically hoping for a war in the Middle East to get them out of this.”Mr Robertson argues this economic disaster could push Australian manufacturing to the wall in a “second wave” of deindustrialisation.“According to the ACCC we should be paying $5.30 a gigajoule, and we are currently paying $10.16. We’re paying two times what we should be,” he said.“The employment consequences of this are dire. Action simply has to be taken to reduce the costs (of gas) to reasonable levels.”More: Narrabri gas project has zero book value: analyst
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享CNBC:Chief Executive Elon Musk said he will speak to Puerto Rico’s governor about helping get the hurricane-hit island’s power grid back online.On Thursday, Musk tweeted that his company has built solar grids for many small islands, adding that there “is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too.”Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello responded early Friday saying: “Let’s talk today; I will be in touch.”Musk tweeted back saying that he would be “happy to talk.”Last month, Puerto Rico was badly hit by Hurricane Maria. Electricity is not up and running yet and millions of citizens are struggling without basic necessities.Tesla makes the Powerpack storage battery, which it’s deploying in other countries. For example, Musk won a contract from South Australia to install a 100 megawatt facility, which could power 30,000 homes.More: Puerto Rico’s governor says ‘let’s talk’ after Elon Musk says Tesla can rebuild the island’s power grid Tesla’s Chief and Puerto Rico’s Governor in Talks to Bring Permanent Solar Microgrids to Hurricane-Crippled Island
More Transmission Would Speed Coal Plant Closures Says German Regulator FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:FRANKFURT—Germany could reduce its coal-fired power generation capacity by half in the coming years if planned grid expansion and the addition of new gas-fired plants come online on schedule, the head of its energy regulator said.“Half of coal-fired power plant capacity can disappear by 2030 without any risk to supply,” Jochen Homann, president of the Bundesnetzagentur or Federal Network Agency, told German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview.His comments come ahead of a year-end deadline for a commission to submit plans to the German government for an exit from coal-fired energy. Germany aims to raise wind and solar power’s energy share from a third now to 65 percent by 2030 to help to cut carbon dioxide emissions and achieve its climate commitments, in line with the wishes of the new coalition government.Homann reiterated that grid expansion would be needed to meet those goals. “If you want more green energy faster, then you have to accept grid expansion,” he told the paper.He said the lack of grid capacity is likely to have raised the cost of ensuring a stable energy supply system to a record of more than 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion) in 2017.More: Germany Could Shut Down Half Of Its Coal Capacity: Regulator
Fitch: Solar capacity in U.S. could jump by 100 gigawatts by 2030 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Magazine:Fitch Solutions Macro Research has released a report, Midwest U.S. Set To Experience Strong Growth In Solar Sector, which makes some very bold predictions about the future of the solar industry in America’s heartland.Chief among those bold predictions, Fitch states that it expects the region to contribute heavily to the 100 GW of solar power capacity expected to come to the United States over the next 10 years. This astronomical, gargantuan, whichever word of scope you use to describe, prediction is supported mainly by the region’s large proposed solar project pipeline, with a total potential added capacity of a smidge under 79 GWac that are registered within the MISO, SPP and PJM generation interconnection queues – the grid operators that cover the region.Fitch expects that this unprecedented development will be driven by the strengthened renewable energy targets of Midwest states, cities and utilities. Chiefly among these targets, Fitch references Wisconsin’s 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 goal, the 100% renewable electricity pledges made by Chicago, IL and Madison, WI, DTE and Xcel’s plans for carbon neutrality by 2050 and the litany of renewable energy-based requests for proposals sweeping the region.Strangely, the report doesn’t address the trend of large corporations increasingly adopting renewable generations to fulfill their power needs. The report, however, also attributes the projected growth to year-over-year improvements in the technologies associated with solar projects, the ever-falling costs of developing and installing solar and the expanding adoption of community solar initiatives in the region.That last point is an especially interesting one, as in 2019 utilities in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska all launched their first community solar programs, with most being so successful that they led to over-demand and filled their capacities nearly immediately.These projections by Fitch paint an incredibly bullish view on the future of solar development, one more optimistic than the projections made by Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie. These two organizations are currently projecting a 2019 solar market of 12.6 GW, with Fitch estimating an annual Midwest average growth of 83% of that figure. Obviously, the expectation is that those annual additions would increase exponentially so that the biggest additions are being made at the end of the decade. The 79 GW project pipeline only includes projects to be completed through 2023, so, if even a third of that goes on-line, that would lend major credence to the optimistic projections of the region as a whole.More: The Midwest’s solar future will be unlike anything seen before
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Casper Star Tribune:A Powder River Basin coal mine suddenly ceased operations and sent about 300 workers — a majority from Wyoming — home indefinitely Thursday, over permit disagreements between Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality and the mine’s new owner.Out-of-state coal firm Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC) recently assumed ownership of the Spring Creek Mine in southern Montana from bankrupt coal company Cloud Peak Energy.But the ownership transfer stalled this week when Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality denied the new operator a permit due to outstanding legal concerns. In response, NTEC shut down the Spring Creek facility Thursday, leaving hundreds of Wyoming workers, many who commute to the Montana mine, suddenly in the dark.According to Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality, NTEC, which is a Navajo Nation tribal entity, could potentially protect itself from future liabilities using its sovereign immunity. If NTEC violated mining laws, the company’s sovereign immunity could shield it from state or federal jurisdiction, the state agency reasoned.Shiloh Hernandez, a staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, says sovereign immunity could shield the company from not just environmental laws, but also labor and tax laws.The Navajo Nation extended partial sovereign immunity to NTEC when it assumed ownership of a coal mine and power plant on the Navajo Nation in 2013. The corresponding indemnity agreement placed the Navajo Nation government potentially on the hook for about $463 million in cleanup costs (attached to the Navajo Nation coal mine and Four Corners Power Plant), if NTEC failed to fulfill its reclamation obligations.More: Spring Creek coal mine closure affecting hundreds of Wyoming workers Mine closures in Wyoming cause hundreds of layoffs
In our upcoming February issue, our Switchback question will focus on risk taking, specifically whether parents should take potentially life and limb threatening risks in the outdoors. The issue is debated by two outdoor enthusiasts, and parents, and we are looking forward to what our readers have to say on the issue.Below is a video that directly addresses the psychology of pushing the limits of our ability in the outdoors, especially for those with families back at home. While avalanches are not the most apparent threat here in the Blue Ridge, the message can be translated to any outdoor activity, most of which involve some amount of danger whether it be falling in the water, off a cliff, or into a tree. The video is emotionally moving, gorgeously shot, and well worth your time, whether you are a parent or not.You can read more about Roger Strong and the story of making the film on The Adventure Journal.Strong from ARC’TERYX on Vimeo.
Guide to the Western North Carolina Road Trip:BRING: Fly rod, mountain bike, water shoesHIGHLIGHT: Staring into the Smokies from Hemphill BaldSOUVENIR: Trout caviar from Sunburst Trout CompanyDay OneGet an early start to give yourself time to tackle the nine-mile out and back to the summit of Hemphill Bald, a 5,540-foot high grassy bald that’s still grazed by cattle, on the eastern rim of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Pick up the trail off of Heintooga Road at Polls Gap, and savor the views of the Cataloochee Valley from this remote knob. Retrace your steps, then head into downtown Waynesville, a small gateway town that’s experienced a food renaissance in recent years. Grab a plate of perfectly crispy, locally sourced fried chicken ($13) at Sweet Onion, just off Main Street. You have your choice of breweries after dinner. We like the vibe at Frog Level Brewing, which has a small grassy lawn that backs up to a creek. Get their Lily’s Cream Boy.Pitch a tent 14 miles southeast of Waynesville at Sunburst Campground ($13) inside Pisgah National Forest off NC 215.Day TwoIn the morning, head to the Blue Ridge Parkway, driving north to milepost 420, where you can pick up Flat Laurel Creek Trail. The small streams that drop off the Parkway above 5,000 feet are home to some of the feistiest wild trout in the state. In Flat Laurel Creek, you’ll find brookies waiting in deep pools. From the trailhead, hike a mile down the trail until you cross the creek, then fish your way back upstream. Even if you’re not an angler, you can spend a day boulder-hopping and swimming in the river’s deep plunge pools.Kiss the trout goodbye in the afternoon and take NC 215 into Brevard for a mini brewery tour that includes a Bohemian Pilsner at the small, but worthy Brevard Brewing and the 5pm tour and tasting at Oskar Blues.Finish the night with a London broil sandwich ($10) at hip and local Square Root.Bed down riverside at the Davidson River Campground, ($20 a site) just a couple of miles outside of downtown Brevard.Day ThreePack up camp and head east to Dupont State Forest with your mountain bike, where the 80-mile trail system just gets better and better thanks to local volunteers and trail building pros. Park at Corn Mill Shoals parking area and knock out a quick loop that climbs the 3,074-foot granite dome of Cedar Rock via Corn Mill Shoals, Little River and Cedar Rock Trails, then bombs down the granite face of the mountain on Big Rock Trail, arguably the best downhill in the forest thanks to copious amounts of slickrock surface and rock drops on the descent. Tack on Micajah Trail for swoopy, purpose-built singletrack before calling it a day.Want more adventure? Check out our full list of road trip guides!
As we finally bid farewell to winter, the propensity for warm weather adventure becomes stronger by the day. While you may opt to hit the trails or hop on a bike, there are a select few who seek…alternative thrills. Trauma Tuesday: Shopping Cart Wipeouts features some aggressive attempts for fun that end quite poorly.These girls just wanted to enjoy some drinks in the sun. Instead, they got a face plant in the asphalt.Shopping carts should only be used for shopping.Morons? Or Legends?