Increasing Worry Over ‘Hundreds of Million, if Not Billions’ in U.S. Coal Mine Cleanup Costs

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Steven Mufson and Joby Warrick for the Washington Post:A worsening financial crisis for the nation’s biggest coal companies is sparking concerns that U.S. taxpayers could be stuck with hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in cleanup costs across a landscape of shuttered mines stretching from Appalachia to the northern Plains.Worries about huge liabilities associated with hundreds of polluted mine sites have mounted as Peabody Energy, the world’s largest publicly traded coal company, was forced to appeal to creditors for an extra 30 days to pay its debts. Two of the four other biggest U.S. coal companies have declared bankruptcy in the past six months.Under a 1977 federal law, coal companies are required to clean up mining sites when they’re shut down. But the industry’s plummeting fortunes have raised questions about whether companies can fulfill their obligations to rehabilitate vast strip mines in Western states — many of which are on federally owned property — as well as mountaintop-removal mining sites in the East.A number of smaller companies have defaulted or skimped on cleanup obligations, leaving behind abandoned strip mines and denuded mountains. Some are simply eyesores, unhealed scars on the landscape that can be seen for miles. Others are perpetual sources of water pollution, slowly leaking acidic and otherwise toxic wastes into streams and groundwater supplies.Now coal giants are facing outcomes similar to those experienced by some of the smaller companies. Several are struggling to make payments on debts for ill-timed multibillion-dollar acquisitions of their rivals in recent years. On top of that, they have been financially squeezed by competition from cheap natural gas and declining U.S. and Chinese demand for coal.The biggest coal companies typically pay third parties to ensure that mine sites are cleaned up in the event of financial hardship. But in recent years, many coal companies have relied on a cheaper technique called “self-bonding,” pledging only their own names and financial wherewithal to guarantee their cleanup obligations.With mounting losses and debt loads, the companies do not have enough money to pay for all their obligations, and self-bonding is “not worth [the] paper [it’s] written on,” Steve Jakubowski, a bankruptcy lawyer with the firm Robbins, Salomon & Patt, said in an email. In a bankruptcy, where Alpha Natural Resources is now, a judge can decide which creditors are paid and how much — and state and federal governments could be left holding the bag for reclamation costs.“There is a lot of liability out there and a lot of uncertainty,” said Shannon Anderson, a lawyer with the Power River Basin Resource Council, a Wyoming nonprofit group that supports tougher rules for cleaning up mine sites.Full article: Can coal companies afford to clean up coal country? Increasing Worry Over ‘Hundreds of Million, if Not Billions’ in U.S. Coal Mine Cleanup Costslast_img read more

Moody’s: Markets Will Continue to Drive Electricity-Generation Shift Across U.S.

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Moody’s Investors Services:US greenhouse gas emissions will likely continue to decline, driven by trends in the economics of renewable energy and gas-fired power generation, as well as efforts by private and sub-national entities, such as states and cities, to step in to compensate for the lack of federal carbon regulations. Low gas prices and the presence of tax credits for renewable energy through 2020 for wind and 2022 for solar, along with coal plant shutdowns, will maintain the pace of decarbonization for the next 3-5 years.“Looking ahead, state and local governments and private sector entities will continue to drive the growth of renewables,” says Swami Venkataraman, a senior vice president at Moody’s and the co-author of the report. “Several large corporations have 100% renewable energy goals and several states and cities have together pledged that they would help fulfill America’s Paris Agreement commitments.”In the absence of a nationwide emissions trading scheme, a number of states have set up cap-and-trade programs, either as a collective, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which is made up largely of northeastern states, or individually, such as California (Aa3 stable).Eight states, including large load centers such as California, New York (Aa1 stable) and Massachusetts (Aa1 stable), are moving toward legislating that renewables constitute 80-100% of supply by 2050. Some of these states, such as California, New York, Minnesota (Aa1 stable) and Connecticut (A1 stable), have an intermediate 50% target by 2030.Investor and shareholder preferences for greater corporate focus on sustainability also supports the decarbonization trend. Over the past five years, assets managed under sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI) strategies have more than doubled to $8.7 trillion.More: Moody’s: US exit from Paris Agreement would not stop decline in its carbon emissions Moody’s: Markets Will Continue to Drive Electricity-Generation Shift Across U.S.last_img read more

Indiana utility president says renewable transition is part of energy industry ‘revolution’

first_imgIndiana utility president says renewable transition is part of energy industry ‘revolution’ FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Inside Indiana Business:The president of Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) says she is seeing a “real revolution” in the energy industry, and wants to make sure the utility is part of the movement. Violet Sistovaris says that’s much of the motivation behind the utility’s “Your Energy, Your Future” effort.The goal is simple, but ambitious: cut coal dependency, which is currently about 65 percent, down to essentially zero over the next 10 years. Instead, NIPSCO will increase its pursuit of largely renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind energy, along with battery storage technology. She says the plan “envisions a brighter future that delivers the energy our customers need while reducing emissions and focusing on the long-term strength of our local economy.”The utility says it will accelerate the anticipated retirement of its five-remaining coal-fired units. The plan is to shut down four units at the R.M. Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield no later than 2023 and another at the Michigan City Generating station by 2028. NIPSCO will continue to operate its natural gas-fired Sugar Creek Generating Station in Terre Haute and its hydroelectric dams along the Tippecanoe River.While Sistovaris says the environment will benefit from the changes – NIPSCO anticipates reducing carbon emissions by more than 90 percent by 2028 – she knows the plan will impact the utility’s workers and customers as well. “It’s too early to really talk through and really know the details of the impact to our workforce,” she said during an interview on Inside Indiana Business With Gerry Dick, “but what I can say is we have a commitment to work with our employees, to work with local and regional and statewide educational and training facilities, so that we can really minimize the impact to our workforce.”“In the short term…we’re seeing some shift in the demand of our industrials that we needed to think about and take into consideration,” she says. “And then, I think about the long term, and that is that we’re paving the way, providing the pathway to get to this new future of renewables. And so, for those two reasons, a rate review and an increase were really important for us in the here and now.”More: NIPSCO looks to ride energy ‘revolution’last_img read more

Financial woes may land PRB coal producer Cloud Peak in bankruptcy

first_imgFinancial woes may land PRB coal producer Cloud Peak in bankruptcy FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Casper Star Tribune:Even as the bottom was falling out, Cloud Peak kept a brave face in calls with investors. All through 2018, executives said they hoped for a cold winter and praised the one bright spot in their company’s outlook: its export success. Similarly, Cloud Peak has represented a bright spot for Wyoming, a solution to declining domestic demand. It is the only company operating in Wyoming – whose financial filings are public – that is sending Powder River Basin coal to Asia.And now that company is in trouble.The Gillette-based company is not gritting its teeth and smiling anymore — it is too busy facing up to a likely delisting from the New York Stock Exchange. Cloud Peak is cutting costs like retiree health benefits and communications staff to staunch the cash bleed reported in financial statements. It recently hired outside consultants to weigh its options — including a sale, a potential restructuring and an expected bankruptcy.“The question of whether or not Cloud Peak goes bankrupt could have some short-term effects on exports, but there’s a bigger question,” said Clark Williams-Derry, director of energy finance for the Sightline Institute, a think tank in Seattle that advocates a transition to green energy. “The question is: Do exports make economic sense?”For now, most say, they don’t.Cloud Peak’s financial troubles are related to the downturn in demand in the domestic market, rather than what is happening in their small piece of the Asian market. The company only sends about 5 percent of its production overseas, he said.More: With Wyoming’s only coal exporter facing potential bankruptcy, what happens to the export dream?last_img read more

World Bank study sees potential for 10GW of offshore wind in Vietnam by 2030

first_imgWorld Bank study sees potential for 10GW of offshore wind in Vietnam by 2030 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享ReNews.biz:Vietnam could potentially bring online up to 10GW of offshore wind by 2030, according to recommendations by the World Bank and the Danish Energy Agency.The findings were presented by the organisations to the Vietnamese government as part of efforts to develop an offshore wind sector. The studies are being presented ahead of the release of the new Power Development Plan 8 outlining the pathway for the next 10 years of power sector development in Vietnam with a vision for 2045.Vietnam has an estimated potential of 160GW of offshore wind capacity within 5 km and 100 km from shore.Consultants from the Danish Energy Agency and the World Bank carried out assessment[s] of potential and grid transmission capacity, local supply chain capacity, opportunities and challenges in offshore development, policy and management experience from countries with advanced offshore industry as well as recommendations for a roadmap to offshore wind power development.Meanwhile Vietnam is set to be the “shining star” in south-east Asia’s race to add wind power capacity. The country accounts for 66% of new capacity expected to be added by the end of the decade in Wood Mackenzie’s recent market research.The rise in projects in Vietnam is driven by the government’s decision to upgrade the wind feed-in-tariff (FiT) in 2018 to $85 per megawatt hour for onshore wind and $98/MWh for intertidal offshore wind with a 2021 deadline for both FiTs, though a potential extension to 2023 is still to be decided.More: World Bank sets out 10GW offshore vision for Vietnamlast_img read more

Orsted to develop 1.6GW of offshore wind in South Korea

first_imgOrsted to develop 1.6GW of offshore wind in South Korea FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享ReNews.biz:Orsted plans to develop South Korean offshore wind projects with a potential capacity of up to 1600MW off the coast of Incheon city.The announcement was made at an event joined by National Assembly members, South Korea’s Energy Agency, as well as Orsted and other industrial players with offshore wind track records in South Korea’s supply chain.Orsted’s offshore wind projects will be located more than 70km from the main parts of Incheon city and have relatively shallow water depths at the target project site to allow for a cost-effective development. Subject to permits, off-take agreement with a Korean energy utility, and final investment decision, the projects could be commissioned from 2026 onwards.Several South Korean companies have been working with Orsted on offshore wind projects in Europe and Asia, including POSCO Steel, CS Wind, LS Cable, Hyosung, Samkang M&T, Hyundai ESI and EEW Korea.Orsted said it has a “strong commitment” to support South Korea’s green energy transition and aims to work with South Korean suppliers and shape a “healthy and competitive” domestic supply chain that can maintain and expand its export success.Orsted Asia Pacific president Matthias Bausenwein said: “Orsted’s projects in Incheon will support a thriving offshore wind industry in South Korea and contribute to the realization of the government’s target of 12GW offshore wind capacity by 2030.More: Orsted eyes 1.6GW South Korea offshore windlast_img read more

Stretching and Working the Core Psoas Muscle

first_imgThe psoas muscle – this nasty muscle is really hard to deal with when it’s been tweaked. If you don’t take care of it, it can totally debilitate the way the hip rotates.I currently have three massage clients who are being tortured by this very muscle. They are in all different stages of “tweakedness”, so it’s especially nice to become so intimate with it. What’s even better is that just last week I rid myself of this terrible pain by contorting myself into specific stretches and mashing hard objects into my abdomen where the beast dwells.The psoas starts in the lower back, attached to several of the very lower (lumbar) vertebrae. It’s the only muscle in the body that spans from back to front. It is also one of the largest muscles. It goes through the abdomen and attaches to the inside of the thigh bone. Every time you sit or stand your psoas muscle is working. It mainly flexes the leg forward.To work on this muscle, I pretty much have to dig into the person’s abdomen until I reach their spine. It requires a lot of breathing on the client’s part. It tickles at first, but then it is just entirely not funny.Psoas is an important core muscle, used a lot by cyclists and runners, because it lifts the knees forward and up. Constant contraction of this muscle can cause it to become sore, and the muscle can actually shorten in people who sit for long periods of time.And I’ve got news for you—it can shorten over time if you don’t deal with it as soon as it starts hurting. The pain will be throughout your hip, lower back, and inner thigh. Range of motion in the hip can be totally debilitated. The pain can be really hard to pinpoint. If that happens, you will be unable to rotate your knee out, lift your knee forward, or stand up straight without pain.If you think you are a likely candidate for this muscle to become permanently contracted, begin a series of stretches on a regular basis. If you instead decide to let it go and then see a surgeon, this is what you have to look forward to:“…surgery to reduce ongoing hip destruction associated with chronic psoas tension…which can elicit an intestinal shutdown lasting from minutes to several days, requiring IV feedings while the reflex subsides. The deep nature of the surgery, near the bladder and in the pelvic floor, requires post-op pain management and anti-spasm medication. In most cases additional muscle surgeries are done to deal with other paralytic imbalances…and can contribute to spastic scoliosis in the lumbar area.” More information here.If it just started hurting, do the stretches night and day, go to yoga, and get an appointment with a sports massage therapist.Psoas StretchesStretch A:1. Kneel down with a straight back and toes tucked under.2. Arch back, reaching behind you for your heels.3. Look at the ceiling, or behind you if you can.4. Push your hips forward as if you are pushing them against a wall in front of you.Stretch B:1. Lie on your back with your legs hanging off the end of the table/bed (The edge of the bed should hit you just below your bum).2. On the good side, pull your knee toward your chest, allowing the affected side to stretch.Stretch C:1. Lunge with the affected leg behind you.2. On the same side as the sore psoas, reach your arm above your head, arching backward as far as you can.last_img read more

Dueling Races

first_imgTwo creek boat races define our region: The Green River Narrows Race, in Saluda, N.C., and the Lord of the Fork race on the Russell Fork in Breaks Interstate Park on the Virginia/Kentucky border. Both races cover class V creeks, and both attract the best hair boaters from around the world, but their similarities stop there. Here’s a look at how each race, and river, breaks down.Lord of the Fork RaceOctober 17-18, 2011The River: The Russell Fork “Gorge Run” is four miles of class IV-V+ whitewater dropping 180 feet per mile through the heart of Breaks Interstate Park and the 1,600-foot deep Russell Fork Gorge. It’s a natural flow river that locals run three to four times a week, nine months out of the year. In October, that natural flow is augmented by four weekends of dam releases on a tributary that pumps 800 to 1,100 cfs into the gorge. “At high water, it’s a pushy river, but still demands creek boating maneuvering,” says Steve Ruth, a local Elkhorn City boater who runs the Russell Fork 100 times a year. The race course covers a two-mile stretch that’s packed with four class V’s and just as many class IV+ drops. “The Russell Fork is a badass river,” Ruth says. “It’s not as hard as the Green, but it’s more dangerous because of all the undercut rocks.”The Race: The first Russell Fork race was started by Olympic boater Chris Hipgrave and his paddling partner Brent Austin in 1995. It was an under the radar affair, with only seven boaters showing up to compete. “We were so worried about liability, we didn’t really tell anybody,” Hipgrave says. “Extreme racing hadn’t caught on yet. There was no Green Race at the time. But we wanted to step up the racing difficulty, so we challenged each other to see who could paddle the Russell Fork the fastest.”The Lord of the Fork has grown from a handful of competitors to a solid 50 in the last few years, pulling in some of the best boaters from around the world. Still, it’s a low-key, grassroots event with no sponsors, no cash, no real registration except for a waiver boaters sign before taking the shuttle. The Russell Fork Rendezvous is a weekend-long celebration that’s grown out of the race that is billed as the “anti-Gauley Fest,” meaning the crowds are small and the boat demos and manufacturer branding is nonexistent. There is belly dancing though. 1 2last_img read more

Waterproof Wars

first_imgGore-Tex is getting sued.W.L Gore and Associates, the makers of Gore-Tex, a waterproof, breathable membrane that has been the industry standard for 40 years, is the subject of anti-trust investigations in both the United States and Europe because of allegations that the company abused its market share to stifle rivals.Columbia Sportwear filed an official complaint with the European Commission in June. “[Gore-Tex’s] commercial practices systematically prevent consumers and manufacturers from gaining access to competing product innovations….[their] exclusionary conduct has deprived outdoor enthusiasts from benefiting from new and innovative products,” said Peter Bragdon, Columbia’s V.P. of legal and corporate affairs.In 2008, REI released a line of clothing with eVent, a waterproof breathable technology that directly rivals Gore-Tex. Shortly after, REI had its license to use Gore-Tex in its footwear revoked.“Losing those licenses is what pushed us out of the footwear market,” says REI spokesperson Libby Catalinich, who adds that REI is participating in the ongoing investigation.W.L. Gore spokesperson Michael Ratchford said that “Gore’s business practices are in compliance with the applicable federal law.”How does Gore-Tex work?Gore-Tex is a membrane that has nine billion microscopic pores per square inch. Each is 20,000 times smaller than a drop of water, but 700 times larger than a water vapor molecule.The problem with Gore-Tex, according to its competitors, is that it’s not breathable enough. Gore-Tex doesn’t start breathing until you create enough body heat to turn sweat into water vapor. Jacket manufacturers have typically addressed this with pit zips. But if you could make a waterproof fabric that’s more permeable to air, you could benefit from direct evaporation and start transferring moisture before you begin to heat up.That’s what three new technologies have done. And W.L. Gore isn’t resting on its laurels. They’ve introduced a brand new waterproof tech that they bond directly to the jacket, making it lighter than traditional Gore-Tex and far more breathable. Here’s a look at the newest crop of waterproof, breathable jackets.Columbia Flyin’ DryColumbia’s new waterproof/breathable technology is Omni-Dry, which the company says is just as waterproof as Gore-Tex, but 75 percent lighter and far more breathable. Omni-Dry takes a traditional three-layer format with a waterproof membrane sandwiched by an inner and outer layer, but Columbia uses a polyethelene membrane that’s comprised of 50 percent air. The Flyin’ Dry is a lightweight jacket that’s easy to stash and built for high output activities in rainy conditions.$250; columbia.comRab Stretch Neo ShellRab is using Polartec’s new NeoShell waterproof/breathable technology in this lightweight shell that we’ve pegged for high-output winter activities like snowshoeing or backcountry skiing. According to Polartec, NeoShell is 100 percent waterproof, but five times more breathable than traditional waterproof membranes. There’s a two-way air exchange with NeoShell, so a little wind gets through the jacket in order to jumpstart evaporation, making it a bit cooler than a traditional hard shell. This may be okay for the backcountry, but it might not be your choice for a bitter cold resort day. Look for Polartec’s NeoShell in a variety of jackets this winter.$365; us.rab.comMountain Hardwear Dry Q Elite Quasar PulloverMountain Hardwear partnered with GE (the makers of eVent fabric, also a supremely breathable waterproof technology) to create Dry Q. Elite, an air-permeable laminate. Mountain Hardwear is using the technology across their top-of-the-line jackets (check out the Snowtastic for a killer winter shell). We tested the Quasar Pullover, which comes in at a svelte 9 ounces, easily the lightest jacket on this list. This is a piece you can put in the bottom of your pack and forget about it until you need it. And when that day comes, you’ll find it does the job in spades, keeping the rain at bay, but breathing much better than the shells most of us are used to. The hood and stretchy thumbhole cuffs are also an unexpected touch on such a lightweight jacket.$375; mountainhardwear.com Mammut Felsturm Half ZipMammut uses Gore-Tex Active Shell, a new technology that the company says is 33 percent more breathable than their other membranes. It’s a laminate bonded to the inside of the jacket that’s far lighter than their traditional membrane and has proven to be much more breathable. It’s thinner, softer than the old Gore-Tex model, but you still have to heat up before your sweat will evaporate. Still, the Felsturm is a sweet jacket with zippers bonded directly to the fabric to save weight. And while it’s not air permeable like the competition, it is completely wind proof, which could come in handy on bitter cold days.$390; mammut.chlast_img read more

Forbidden Fruit

first_imgMassive cliffs on private property tempt climbers and access advocates.It took Sean Cobourn more than 30 years to climb the Chimney, a 315-foot monolith inside North Carolina’s Hickory Nut Gorge. Most of the chasm, which is preserved as Chimney Rock State Park, is thick with climbable granite, including hundreds of routes and boulders on Rumbling Bald, a granite dome on the north side of the gorge. But the Chimney, easily the most prominent rock in the area, has been off limits to all but a few lucky climbers throughout the years. Chimney Rock Park and the Chimney was a privately owned tourist attraction until the state purchased it in 2007.“I always dreamed about it,” 50-year-old Cobourn says. “There were a handful of people who got to climb it occasionally because they knew the family that owned the park, but I was never in that crowd.”After years of pining, Cobourn had an opportunity to tag along with a friend who guides inside Chimney Rock Park. Finally, the dream was a reality. Sort of. The Chimney is a two-pitch route, but the second pitch is aid climbing, which takes specialized gear. Cobourn and his partner were only prepared to climb the first pitch, an overhanging 5.11 that delivered them half way up the monolith that towers over the gorge and Lake Lure.“Even just climbing that first pitch, I can say it’s one of the best routes I’ve ever done,” Cobourn says, adding that the rock didn’t disappoint after 30 years of anticipation.Cobourn spent 2011 knocking out 50 first ascents on cliffs that he’d previously only dreamed about climbing—most of which were on private property. These crags are tantalizing for climbers, but ultimately off limits without permission. They are forbidden fruit. And the Southern Appalachians are full of them.“The East Coast has less public land than the West, so a lot of our most impressive cliffs are on private property,” says Brad McLeod, one of the founding members of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC). The dearth of public property has led the SCC to begin buying cliffs and tracts of boulders to secure climbing access. The group is in the business of plucking forbidden fruit for the good of all climbers, with more than half a dozen cherished crags in their real estate portfolio today.Currently, the most tantalizing piece of forbidden fruit on the club’s radar is Yellow Creek, a cliff that dominates a corner of Lake Weiss in Alabama, but has a landowner that’s uninterested in selling or allowing climbing of any kind.“It’s a huge, beautiful orange and yellow sandstone cliff with a waterfall running down it,” McLeod says. “We drive by it and salivate.”But McLeod knows if he keeps working the legal channels and trying innovative approaches, good things will happen. He also knows what it’s like to finally get to climb those forbidden crags he’s salivated over for years. McLeod and his team worked to gain access to Castle Rock, in Tennessee, for 15 years.“That cliff was definitely a forbidden fruit. You’d see it clearly as you were driving to the sport climbs at Foster Falls. I’d always wondered if we’d ever get to climb it,” McLeod says. Four years ago, after signing a lease that secured access to Castle Rock for all climbers, McLeod finally got to climb the cliff. “To finally climb these cliffs, it’s like in Raiders of the Lost Arc, when they finally make it into the temple and see all that gold.“Climbing ChimneyTaste the FruitThanks to the hard work of climbers like McLeod and Cobourn, much of the South’s forbidden fruit has been plucked and preserved for the rest of us. Here are three impressive crags that were off-limits to climbers until recently.Laurel Knob, N.C.The tallest cliff east of the Mississippi, Laurel Knob offers 1200 vertical feet of slab and water groove climbing on granite. Some of the most daunting multi-pitch trad climbing is found here. And the long approach through Panthertown Valley is just as epic as the climbing.Yellow Bluff, Ala.Home to some of Alabama’s toughest routes, including the state’s first 5.13a, as well as the first 5.13d/14a, Yellow Bluff was a hotspot of hard climbing in the ‘80s before access was shut down. The SCC secured access to half of the cliff, offering roughly 1,000 linear feet of climbing, with a variety of routes from 5.5 up.Castle Rock, Tenn.This buttress remains on private land near Foster Falls State Park, but a long-term lease agreement has secured climbing access. The cliff is a half-mile long and 80 to 120 feet tall with bullet sandstone and more than 50 sport and traditional routes. You’ll find one of the hardest routes in Tennessee at Castle Rock, Apes on Acid, a 513d.Check out another outdoorsy hotspot, Pine Mountain in Kentucky!last_img read more