Coal Mining

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At two of the world's biggest coal mines, the finances got so bad that their owner couldn't even get toilet paper on credit.

Warehouse technician Melissa Worden divvied up what remained of the last case, giving four rolls to each mine and two to the mine supply facility where she worked.

Days later, things got worse.

To explain why folks in rural Delta County, Colo. are feeling a lot less anxious than they were a couple years ago, consider the story of Johnny Olivas.

He's digging a line down a steep, dirt driveway, where he'll lay fiber optic cable into a home. His company, Lightworks Fiber, has begun installing badly needed broadband to this remote valley of deserts and aspen-cloaked mesas.

"I didn't know anything about fiber optic, but you catch on pretty quick," Olivas says during a break. "It's a hell of a lot easier than coal mining."

Jerry Huddleston / Flickr

The Trump administration announced a new rule on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, called the ‘Affordable Clean Energy Rule.’ It would put regulatory power in states’ hands.

The Obama administration had previously tried to enact something called the Clean Power Plan, which was considered the country’s primary strategy for lowering emissions to meet its 2030 target under the Paris climate agreement.

A federal watchdog group said the U.S. Interior Department didn’t give an adequate reason for cancelling a study on the health impacts of coal mining last year.

A U.S. district court judge has struck down the City of Oakland’s ban on transporting coal through a planned export terminal there.

Clean Power Plan Rollback: Five Things To Know

Oct 10, 2017
Stephanie Joyce / Inside Energey

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday signed a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan  — President Obama’s signature climate change legislation. Here are five things you should know:

What is the Clean Power Plan anyway?

The 2015 rule aimed at reducing carbon emissions nationwide by moving the country’s electric grid away from coal and towards cleaner sources of energy. It was this nation’s most ambitious proposal to fight climate change.  Here’s an easy video explainer of the whole plan:

Bente Birkeland / Capitol Coverage

Colorado is a resilient state. The unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation and the population along the Front Range is booming. It’s easy to see the impact of a strong economy in Denver. Construction cranes are up all over the city and it’s harder than ever to find affordable housing.

But it’s a different story in many parts of western Colorado.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

At 11 p.m. on a recent Friday night, the West Elk Mine outside Somerset opened its gates. Cars and trucks started rolling out, signaling the end of a coal mining shift in this rural pocket of Colorado.

Workers had been opening up a new section of the mine four or five miles underground, a tough job made tougher considering that the current economics of the coal industry means fewer workers at the mine.

Gail Schwartz at a campaign event in Steamboat Springs.
Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

In a hotel ballroom, at the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort, candidates for the U.S. House and Senate, and their surrogates, tick through talking points.

“There are two issues I know of Scott Tipton cares very, very deeply about. One of them is water. The other one is energy,” Chuck McConnell, of the Routt County Republicans, said. 

As Our Energy Wants Change, Where Does Coal Stand?

Jul 28, 2016
Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

As of 2015, Coal production is at its lowest level since 1986, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That means coal companies are struggling to operate in a weak market.

A local effect is that Routt County, home to the Twentymile Mine, found its budget falling short due to a missed tax payment. The small school district there was counting on those funds and the state had to step in with a loan – although Peabody Energy did eventually get permission from the bankruptcy court to pay its taxes. But the decline of the coal industry is massive and widespread.

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