Coal Report March 12, 2012
Midwest Generation, an electricity provider in Chicago, announced it will shut the two coal plants it operates in the city. The plants in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods are among the oldest in the nation, and it would be very expensive to bring them up to modern air-quality standards. So they will be retired. The news brought street celebrations in the two neighborhoods, where bad air has been a problem for generations, according to the Chicago Tribune. Company officials said that low natural gas prices made the coal plants uncompetitive.
At the same time, the utility consortium GenOn Energy announced it will retire eight plants, seven coal and one gas, according to a report in the Washington Post. The plants are located in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
On the other side of the ledger is the giant new Prairie State Power Plant, a new coal plant that will soon start a thirty-year run of burning coal in southern Illinois. According to the McClatchy newspaper chain, the 1600-megawatt plant is the largest coal plant built in the US during the last 30 years. The plant has $1 billion worth of pollution controls.
Also coming on line soon is the Dominion Energy coal plant at Virginia City in Wise County, expected to be running by the end of the year despite a fire on the structure’s roof. The Coalfield Progress reports the plant will soon begin test burns of Wise County coal.
Alpha Natural Resources has won a major safety award, reports the online newsletter Occupational Safety and Health. Alpha’s Belle Ayr surface mine in Wyoming has gone two full years with no lost-time accidents. In that time the mine logged 1.3 million man-hours. In 2011 the mine produced over 24 million tons of coal. In a statement, Alpha CEO Kevin Crutchfield said the company emphasizes safety. Alpha inherited an array of safety issues when it took over Massey Energy. Crutchfield noted that last year two former Massey mines, Randolph and Revolution, have been removed from MSHA’s pattern of violations list, and that the overall rate of safety issues at former Massey mines dropped 20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Tragically, an Alpha miner died Saturday in Fayette County. Jeremy Sigler died while operating a continuous miner in the Kingston No. 1 mine near Scarboro. This mine was not a former Massey operation. It was the scene of a fatal accident in December 2010.
An old mine repair shop site in Jenkins may prove to be a major toxic waste site, reports the Mountain Eagle. The Beth-Elkhorn repair shops sat in the middle of Jenkins for many years, till the company sold out in 1988. They were reportedly a dumping ground for toxic PCBs as well as various oils, greases, and solvents. Former mayor Charles Dixon says he fears the toxics destroyed his wife’s health, and has asked for a cleanup. That got the attention of Representative Keith Hall of Pike County. Any toxics in Jenkins would drain into Elkhorn Creek and from there to the Big Sandy, water supply for many communities including Pikeville. Former mayor Dixon said that during his term he brought the area to the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA offered to come clean up the site, but the property owner never responded. The Jenkins city council authorized mayor G.C. Kincer to take steps to get the property evaluated.
CONSOL has announced a cutback in operations at its Buchanan mine in Buchanan County, Virginia. As quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the company says it will temporarily suspend longwall operations and cut continuous miner operation to five days a week. CONSOL says it is, “responding to market conditions,” namely increased supply and decreased demand for metallurgical coal. The cutback will amount to 300,000 tons a month. In northern West Virginia, CONSOL will cut back at its Blacksville No. 2 mine in Monongalia County. The company blames the cutback on warm weather and low natural gas prices.