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Coal Report for March 22, 2017

Coal Report for March 22, 2017

President Trump’s budget proposal is asking Congress to pull the funding for the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan which is currently in litigation in federal court.  The president also promised a rally in Louisville, Kentucky that he has more plans for changing legislation in order to put the industry back on its feet and miners back to work, however, he did not offer the crowd any details to support the statement.  As the executive branch continues promises and actions in hopes of boosting the coal industry, Peabody Energy, which is the largest privately held mining company in the United States, has gotten approval for its amended bankruptcy exit plan and is expected to emerge from Chapter 11 in April.  The St. Louis-based coal company expects its new equity to trade on the New York Stock Exchange, separate from its existing ticker symbol BTUUQ.

Ohio Valley ReSource – Mine Safety Changes

Lawmakers in both Kentucky and West Virginia are working to loosen mine safety regulations. Glynis Board has details.

Kentucky passed a bill this week that reduces the number of underground mine inspections. The state used to require six inspections a year. Now it’s one. Lawmakers in West Virginia are considering similar legislation. The introduced bill is more drastic and would change the mining inspection program to a “compliance assistance” program.  Kentucky attorney and mine safety expert Tony Oppegard says these bills won’t result in increased coal production or even a better business climate, they’ll just make mining more dangerous.  “West Virginia has no mine safety law anymore if that passes. It’ll be a joke. And Kentucky’s is about a step above a joke.”  West Virginia Coal Association’s Chris Hamilton says given tightening budgets, states would be better served to leave mine inspections to existing federal investigators who already inspect each mine four times a year, and instead focus state dollars on safety training programs. But even he thinks West Virginia’s bill goes too far.  “Going from four to one inspection might be a little too drastic; why not go with two inspections and two compliance visits?”  West Virginia’s bill is currently being reworked by lawmakers, according to the bill’s lead sponsor Randy Smith.

The Kentucky state government has passed a bill which will lift a ban on building nuclear power plants in the state.  Gov. Bevin is in support of the bill.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Kentucky is one of only 15 states who restrict nuclear power facilities.  Representatives from the coal producing regions of the state are not happy with the bill’s passing saying it will cause further decline in Kentucky’s already struggling coal industry.  Republican Rep. Steven Rudy from western Kentucky said (quote), “Should this bill become law, as a matter of fact, it will take a decade or more, probably decades, before an applicant could possibly wade through the regulatory environment before bringing a reactor online.” (end quote)  In 2014, 93% of Kentucky’s electricity was produced by coal.  It has since fallen to 83% as coal fired power plants are being replaced by cheaper to obtain and burn natural gas.  Lawmakers in western Kentucky are hoping the highly skilled workers left behind by the 2013 closing of a uranium enrichment plant in the area will be able to find work in a nuclear facility.  The bill requires Kentucky officials to review the state’s permitting process to ensure costs and “environmental consequences” are taken into account.

Owensboro Municipal Utilities announced that it plans to stop using coal completely for power generation by 2023.  The utility expect Unit 1 of the Elmer Smith Facility on KY 144 to stop burning coal as soon as 2019.  The plant plans to convert to burning solely natural gas.

The Coal Report is a weekly production of WMMT. It is assembled from newspapers and press services and reports coal-related material as these sources give it. It does not represent the opinion of WMMT on the matters discussed. Our aim is to reflect both local developments regarding coal and the big picture we’re a part of. For feedback, comments, or questions, email [email protected]

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