U.S. Lawmakers Devise Legislation to Require Coal Companies to Honor Employee Pensions and Benefits FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Naomi Jagoda for TheHill.com:The leader of a union for coal industry workers on Tuesday urged senators to act quickly on legislation that would help retired miners and their families who are in danger of losing their pension and healthcare benefits.“I think the coal miners in this country have been promised these benefits, these coal miners in this country have earned these benefits,” Cecil Roberts, international president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.Coal industry employees and their beneficiaries are provided retirement, disability and survivors benefits through the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan, which is federally guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Retired coal miners can receive retiree health benefits through one of three multi-employer plans.But the program is approaching insolvency due to losses during the financial crisis and the wave of bankruptcies in the coal industry. Roberts said that 21,000 people could lose their health benefits by the end of the year if Congress doesn’t act.A bill introduced last year by West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin (D) and Shelley Moore Capito (R) would transfer excess funds from the Abandoned Land Mine Fund to the pension plan. It would also allow some retirees who lose health benefits because their former employer have become bankrupt or insolvent to join one of the multi-employer health plans. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House.The legislation has bipartisan support. Both Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are in favor of it.Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is a co-sponsor of the bill, said coal miners are “hard working guys who deserve better than their getting from their pensions.”The Washington Post reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) prevented a fix for the pension and health benefits issue from being included in the spending package enacted in December.“Senator McConnell has been and remains committed to helping ensure the retirement security of our nation’s coal miners as well as other retirees, and discussions are ongoing on how best to address this challenge,” McConnell’s office told The Hill.“He continues to believe this is a very important issue that deserves open, transparent debate through regular order. To that end, he appreciates the Senate Finance Committee holding a public hearing today to examine a number of challenges in the multi-employer pension world, including how to help current and retired coal miners.”The problems facing the miners are part of a broader trend of multi-employer pension plans being severely underfunded.When multi-employer plans default, the PBGC pays pensions to retirees up to a certain amount. But a default from the UMWA plan and others could lead to the PBGC itself to go bankrupt.In 2014, Congress passed the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA), which was included in a spending bill. The MPRA allows plans that are headed toward insolvency to reduce benefits if they get approval from the Treasury Department. These cuts would still allow retirees to receive more than they would from the PBGC.Already, the Central States Pension Fund, which benefits Teamsters, has applied to Treasury to make cuts. Rita Lewis, a widow of a retired Teamster from Ohio, testified that the proposed cuts to the Central States plan could reduce pension benefits by as much as 40 to 70 percent.Full article: Miners union pleads with senators for pension fix
Month: December 2020
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Major U.S. coal producers that bit the bullet early and filed for bankruptcy a few years ago are now enjoying the benefits of improved coal markets and clean balance sheets, but the companies that avoided that first wave of reorganizations now find themselves particularly stressed by declining domestic demand.Two companies that illustrate some of the problems faced by the sector today are Westmoreland Coal Co., which just wrapped up a bankruptcy reorganization, and Cloud Peak Energy Inc., which skipped an interest payment on its debt due March 15 while it considers a bankruptcy reorganization. Both companies avoided major acquisitions of metallurgical coal assets, but they also avoided the diversification that is allowing other U.S. coal companies to reap the benefits of improved demand for seaborne metallurgical coal.Westmoreland’s minemouth model — building coal mines near the power plants that need them and securing long-term contracts — proved a detriment when pressure from cheap natural gas and environmental legislation pushed those customers out of the market. Cloud Peak bet big on the Powder River Basin and its potential as an exporter, which never quite materialized, and a shrinking market for Powder River Basin coal is challenging Cloud Peak’s higher-cost operations. Meanwhile, natural gas and renewable energy are cutting into coal’s overall share of electricity generation.Competing with companies that restructured debt and reduced costs through bankruptcy reorganization can slow the balancing of supply against reduced demand, a process Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert Murray described in 2016 as being dragged “down the bankruptcy sewer.” Murray Energy, another thermal coal-focused entity that has avoided bankruptcy, produces coal in the less stressed Northern Appalachia and Illinois basins but was recently downgraded by S&P Global Ratings based on its “unsustainable capital structure.”Increased exports have helped disguise a secular decline in domestic demand for coal that has continued despite President Donald Trump’s attempts to boost the coal sector’s prospects.“Utility companies … are dealing from a newly powerful position in which they operate with less dependence on coal — and from a position that regards coal-fired power as increasingly untenable,” said a March 18 report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “Without the robust customer base it had for generations, the U.S. coal industry — the [Powder River Basin] segment of that industry included — cannot continue along a business-as-usual path.”More ($): Miners that dodged met coal-fueled bankruptcy now haunted by reliance on thermal Decline in U.S. demand hitting domestic thermal coal miners hard
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:BHP Group is moving ahead with plans to exit thermal coal, according to people familiar with the matter, the latest move by the world’s biggest miners to retreat from the dirtiest fuel.BHP is looking at options to divest the business that includes assets in Australia and Colombia, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the development has not been made public. There’s no guarantee the company will go ahead with a sale, the people said.The decision demonstrates how growing climate-change pressure from investors and regulators is reshaping the future of extractive industries. Rival Rio Tinto Group has already removed all exposure to thermal coal and other producers including Anglo American Plc have been cutting output amid growing pressure from investors. Even Glencore Plc, the biggest shipper, has said it will look to limit production.BHP had already signaled cooling interest in thermal coal. Earlier this year, Chief Financial Officer Peter Beaven said the company had no appetite for growth in the commodity.While thermal coal makes up a fraction of BHP’s profits, it’s led to some investors saying they can’t hold the stock. Norway’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund last month got the green light to dump more than $13 billion in stocks linked to fossil fuels, including companies that mine more than 20 million tons of thermal coal, pushing Anglo American and BHP out of reach. Climate Action 100+, which has the backing of more than 300 investors managing $32 trillion, has already forced reforms from extractive giants such as BP Plc and Glencore.For BHP, thermal coal has become increasingly hard to justify. The company’s profits are driven by iron ore, oil, copper and coking coal (used to make steel) and thermal coal is likely to contribute just 1% of profit this year, according to Liberum Capital Markets.More: BHP is latest giant miner to plan exit from thermal coal Sources say BHP considering exit from thermal coal market
India cancels auction for 21 coal mines due to lack of interest FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享CNBC:The coal ministry has received valid interest for only six coal mines out of the 27 which were offered for the iron & steel, cement, and captive power plant end-use. Auction of 21 coal mines has been cancelled by the ministry as it received less than three bids for them.According to the norms of the coal auction under the Coal Mines Nationalisation Act, each mine requires minimum three bids for the government to hold auction.Jamkhani coal mine, situated in the state of Odisha, has attracted maximum bids including from companies like Vedanta, JSW, Hindalco, JSPL, Rungta Mines and Natural Resources Energy Limited.“The response to the coal auction has been subdued, mainly because of the market sentiment and also changes in policy,” said a source from the coal ministry.The auction process was incorporated in 2014, post deallocation of 214 coal mines. India has not seen a successful auction of coal mines after the first round where it auctioned 24 coal mines, out of which about 12 are now in production.More: Auction of 21 coal mines cancelled as govt sees tepid response
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Denver Post:Xcel Energy, Black Hills Colorado Electric, Colorado Springs Utilities and the Platte River Power Authority announced Tuesday that they will join the California Western Energy Imbalance Market. (WEIM) Starting in 2021, the four utilities will be able to trade electricity in real time with utilities in California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming.“The decision is an important next step in our efforts to keep our customers’ bills low and provide more 100% carbon-free energy like wind and solar,” said Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy Colorado, in a statement.The utilities, with the exception of Colorado Springs, which will join in next year, currently have a joint dispatch agreement, the equivalent of a mutual aid society. If someone is short of electricity on a given day, say because a gas turbine went down, the others will step in and fill the gap. If they have a surplus, the others will see if they can make use of it.Within two years, if everything goes as planned, they will have dozens of other partners to turn too, all on the fly. If it is cloudy and snowing in eastern Colorado, the four utilities can pick up power from solar arrays in California or a hydro dam in Washington. If it’s a blustery day here, they can sell the extra wind power rather than shut turbines down because there isn’t enough demand.[Aldo Svaldi]More: Xcel Energy announces it will join forces with California, western states Colorado utilities to join California’s western energy market, boosting options for renewables
Enel completes work on 497MW Roadrunner solar project, largest in Texas FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Tech:Enel Green Power has completed the 245MW second phase of the Roadrunner solar plant, which now increased its capacity to 497MW to become the largest PV facility in Texas.Located in Upton County, the plant has 1.2 million bifacial panels capable of generating approximately 1.2TWh annually.Completion of the project now means Enel Green Power, the clean energy arm of Italian utility Enel, has an operating portfolio of more than 6GW of renewable capacity across the US and Canada.Roadrunner will sell its energy through a 70MW power purchase agreement (PPA) with cleaning products manufacturer The Clorox Company and a 65MW PPA with Cadbury owner Mondelēz International. The Clorox deal represents about half of the company’s 100% renewable electricity goal in its operations in the US and Canada.Enel Green Power operates more than 70 renewable energy plants in North America and has plans to install some 1GW of new utility-scale solar and wind projects each year until 2022.The firm recently broke ground on the Lily solar storage project in Kaufman County, Texas. It will combine 146MWac of solar PV generation with a 50MWac/75MWh battery storage system and is due for completion by next summer.[Jules Scully]More: Enel starts operations at Texas’ largest solar project
Douglas Tompkins, co-founder of The North Face outdoor apparel line and noted conservationist, died yesterday after suffering severe hypothermia sustained during a kayak outing in Patagonia. He was 72 years old.According to Outside Online, Tompkins was kayaking with a group of outdoor industry professionals, including Patagonia founder and Tompkin’s long-time friend Yvon Chouinard, when powerful winds producing waves up to nine feet caused six of the boaters to capsize.Some sought refuge by swimming to a nearby island, but Tompkins was life flighted to a Chilean hospital before ultimately succumbing to hypothermia.Tompkins founded The North Face in 1968 not long after his infamous accent of Patagonia’s Cerro Fitzroy, a journey that was memorialized in the popular adventure documentary 180° South. The experience, which Tompkins enjoyed alongside Yvon Chouinard, inspired the two men to create their respective outdoor gear companies and launch them both on a quest of protecting Patagonia’s natural beauty forever.Patagonia’s Fundo Vodudahue in the Tompkins-owned conservation area.Since retiring from The North Face in 1989, Tompkins, an avid climber, paddler, and mountaineer, worked tirelessly to preserve and protect natural lands around the world, particularly the stunning stretch of Patagonia that he called home.In 1990 he began purchasing millions of acres in this remote and rugged section of South America and had hopes to protect it permanently by forming 12 national parks.“Doug was a passionate advocate for the environment,” said The North Face in a statement. “His legacy of conservation will help ensure that there are outdoor spaces to be explored for generations to come.”Tompkins’ mission will live on with his wife Kristin Tompkins, a former Patagonia CEO who founded Conservacion Patagonia, an organization with the express mission of creating national parks in Patagonia while saving and restoring its wildlands and wildlife.
Bat fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome detected for first time in California The tragic event is a reminder that the New River has swift currents, deep holes, and a rocky bottom. Water levels can change by the day. Life jackets should be worn in the water at all times, even while on a boat. The National Park Service reminds the public that most drownings in the New River involve people who didn’t plan on being in the water and that even experienced swimmers can become disoriented or incapacitated during an accident on the river. Search crews find body of swimmer missing in New River Gorge National River The fungus that causes the deadly bat disease White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has been detected at low levels for the first time in California. The fungus was detected in samples collected from bats on private land in Plumas County, California and is the first indication that WNS has finally arrived in the state. The U.S. Forest Service has launched a program in Pisgah National Forest aimed at educating the public about the importance of macroinvertebrates and other aquatic wildlife. The first of its kind, four-woman ranger program works in teams seven days a week, visiting the most popular areas in Pisgah to provide education and outreach to kids and their parents, too. In the first four weeks of the program, the rangers collected 800 pounds of garbage, dismantled rock dams and rock sculptures, and interacted with over 800 people. The fungus was first detected in New York in 2006 and has since spread to 33 states and seven Canadian provinces. It has killed over 6 million bats in North America by waking the bats during hibernation, forcing them to use energy reserves needed to survive the winter. Until spring of 2016, the westernmost occurrence of the fungus was in Nebraska. That spring, however, the WNS was detected in Washington State. Because bats produce just one offspring per year, it can take some populations decades to recover from the devastating disease. One of the program’s most important jobs is educating the public about the Eastern Hellbender. The large aquatic salamander lives in streams and rivers in Western North Carolina and is considered a species of special concern in the state. The Hellbender lives under large, flat rocks and feeds on aquatic insects. The public is asked not to move rocks as it disruptions the Eastern Hellbender and the macroinvertebrates that live on the rocks in the water. U.S. Forest Service deploys “River Rangers” to protect fragile wildlife The body of a 16-year-old boy who was swimming near the McCreery River Access Point of New River Gorge National River in West Virginia was found on the afternoon of Friday, July 5. National Park Service rangers and trained search and rescue divers and personnel began searching for the boy shortly after he became caught in the swift-moving current around 7am on July 5. His body was located 200 yards downstream from where he was last seen, submerged 14 feet below the water.
Closed areas north of Buxton include: Cape Hatteras National Seashore will open most areas and services north of the Cape Hatteras Secondary school in Buxton tomorrow, 9/11/19, at noon. National Park Service visitor areas and services in Frisco, Hatteras Village, and on Ocracoke Island remain closed. Open facilities and services include: Salvo Day Use area will be closed due to flooding of the restroom facility and septic system. Haulover Day Use areas will be closed due to damage to the parking area, seawall and railing, and flooding of the restroom septic system. Windsurfers, kiteboarders, surfers and other beach users seeking access between Avon and Buxton should not park along the highway and should consider using the Kite Point parking area just south of Haulover The Avon Pier remains closed until Thursday morning. Bigfoot enthusiast Doug Teague of Hickory claims he’s captured footage of three Bigfoot creatures watching him in the woods after a rock was thrown at him and his dog in North Carolina. Cape Hatteras National Seashore to open most areas north of Buxton at noon on September 11, 2019 Triple Threat: Man captures video of three sasquatches who are accused of throwing a rock at him Teague was out in the woods collecting game cameras when his dog, Crazy Daisy, started chasing a rock that was thrown. When he turned to see what threw it, he saw not one, but three ape-like creatures watching him. He began recording the creatures the best he could, but the trees make it difficult to make out the creatures clearly. Beachfront parking areas.The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.Oregon Inlet boat ramps and parking. Off-road vehicle routes from Ramp 2 to Ramp 44 at Cape Point.The Kite Point sound side access. Oregon Inlet and Cape Point CampgroundsBodie Island and Cape Hatteras lighthouse climbing operations and bookstores Off-road vehicle permit offices at the Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras lighthouses. The Inside Road between Ramp 44 and South Beach Road (old Ramp 45).
On May 22, 2020, NPS officials announced heavy rain created multiple road hazards in the Roanoke, Virginia, area of the Parkway that required a road closure from milepost 112.4 to milepost 135.9, from U.S. Route 24 to Adney Gap. Access to Explore Park via the Parkway Restored from the North Two road hazards in the sections that remain closed, at milepost 119.7 and milepost 127.9, require significant reconstruction and slide prevention measures prior to reopening. Repairs at the smaller of these slides (milepost 119.7) will take place first, in an effort to reopen the section from the Explore Park Access Rd (milepost 115.5) to U.S. 220 (milepost 121.4) by fall of 2020. National Park Service (NPS) officials announced yesterday that a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Milepost 112.4 to Milepost 115.5 is now open providing access to Explore Park from the north. This section is the northernmost portion of a larger closure put in place in late May after multiple landslides in the area. Access to Explore Park via the Parkway remains closed from the south, and through traffic on the parkway south of Explore Park (milepost 115.5) remains closed to Adney Gap (milepost 135.9). Closures South of Explore Park Remain The largest hazard is a full road failure roughly one hundred and fifty feet (150′) in length at milepost 127.9. This complex road failure will require a longer-term closure for repair, and the estimated timeline for these repairs is still in development. Visitors are reminded that, due to the hazardous nature of this slope failure, the section of parkway from U.S. 220 (milepost 121.4) to Adney Gap (milepost 135.9) is closed to all uses including motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.