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Coal company claims water rules would kill underground mining

Western Energy News | Posted on May 5, 2016

The nation’s largest underground coal mining company claims a proposed update to the federal stream protection rule is the top regulatory threat to its industry.  “What this rule does is put an end to underground mining in the United States,” Gary Broadbent of Murray Energy Corporation said at an Ohio State Bar Association program in Columbus on April 14. The closely-held company is headquartered in St. Clairsville, Ohio. Environmental organizations maintain that the new rule is necessary to reflect current knowledge about ecology and to address shortcomings in existing regulations, which are more than 30 years old.

Regulators warn updated grid needs updated reliability rules

Midwest Energy News | Posted on May 4, 2016

The lumbering coal-fired power stations facing closure because of age and air emissions have been the workhorses of the U.S. high-voltage electric transmission grid. When the grid was stressed and frequency dropped, they ran harder.

Now, as tomorrow's grid is reshaped with more wind farms, solar arrays and gas-fired plants, experts warn that new regulation will be needed to ensure that these new resources provide the frequency support and other essential services that the coal plants delivered.

According to the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), those cleaner, greener sources of power provide a "significantly lower level of essential reliability services than conventional generation."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) also said there is a "significant risk" that primary frequency support -- the initial source of backup power for the grid -- could be weakened if gas, wind and solar don't offer the services the shuttered coal plants provided.

April winds led to ‘unprecedented’ power production in Upper Midwes

MPR News | Posted on May 4, 2016

It’s not your imagination. It’s been windier than usual lately across Minnesota.  April is the windiest month of the year on average in Minnesota. And this April our winds have blown harder than average.  It turns out our winds have been producing some unprecedented power production across the Upper Midwest lately.  On one day last November, more than 50 percent of Xcel’s total energy output was produced by wind. That’s a pretty remarkable fact for renewable energy, and one that might have been unthinkable just five or 10 years ago.

Justice says two companies crucial to U.S. energy exploration have abandoned their planned merger

US News | Posted on May 2, 2016

Two companies crucial to the business of U.S. energy exploration have abandoned their planned $34 billion merger, according to the Justice Department.

The department filed suit April 6 to block the merger of Halliburton and Baker Hughes. It claims the transaction would unlawfully eliminate significant competition in almost two dozen markets crucial to the exploration and production of oil and natural gas in the United States.

"The companies' decision to abandon this transaction — which would have left many oilfield service markets in the hands of a duopoly — is a victory for the U.S. economy and for all Americans," Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said.

New renewable energy projects may find opportunity in old transmission lines

High Country News | Posted on April 30, 2016

A Montana wind energy project plans to make use of existing infrastructure built for coal.

In large part, the existing electrical grid was built around hydropower, nuclear and coal and natural gas power plants. Those existing long-distance power lines are either filled to capacity with conventionally-generated electrons, or they just aren’t there, leaving vast swaths of the West — often the best places to build a wind or solar plant — without a way to get that power to the people who need it.

The bulk of the West’s transmission infrastructure is concentrated along the Pacific Coast, where it is predominantly oriented north to south, with few significant lines branching directly to the Interior West. But projects such as TransWest Express, Gateway West and Gateway South are seeking to bridge the gap between the coast and Wyoming, which has “some of the best on-shore wind resources in the United States,” says Kara Choquette, the director of communications for TransWest Express LLC. That project is being built primarily to distribute energy from a sprawling, 1,000-turbine wind farm owned by the same parent corporation, being planned near Rawlins, Wyoming.

Coal downturn hits railroads hard

High Country News | Posted on April 30, 2016

Federal transportation board rejected a proposed Montana railroad due to coal bankruptcies.

In the latest ripple effect from the coal industry’s troubles, the federal Surface Transportation Board cancelled a proposed railroad in southeastern Montana on Tuesday. The Tongue River Railroad project was designed to connect the proposed Otter Creek coal mine to an existing BNSF Railway line. Arch Coal, one of several large U.S. coal companies that have filed for bankruptcy, pulled its application for mine permits last month but Arch and its partners still wanted the federal government to keep the proposal for the railroad alive, in hopes that they could revive the mine project in the future. Ranchers, who have fought the rail line for decades, appealed to the Surface Transportation Board to reject the railroad, given the bankruptcies and the weak market for coal.

Fifteen lawsuits seeking eminent domain over pipeline easements

Farm and Dairy | Posted on April 29, 2016

Kinder Morgan Utopia has filed lawsuits seeking eminent domain against 15 Harrison County landowners.

The lawsuits were filed April 4 against landowners who have declined all Kinder Morgan Utopia offers for pipeline easements across their properties.

The Kinder Morgan Utopia pipeline will stretch 240 miles and carry ethane and ethane-propane mixtures from the Utica shale fields in Harrison County, Ohio, to Fulton County, Ohio. From there, it will proceed through Michigan to Ontario.

First U.S. Gas Shipment En Route to Europe

Wall Street Journal | Posted on April 25, 2016

A tanker from Louisiana loaded with U.S. natural gas is en route to Portugal, the first shipment in a trade relationship that could shake up the European market. In Europe, American gas will add to a swell in supply in a crowded market long dominated by Russia. Analysts predict that the arrival of U.S. gas could trigger a price war, leading to lower prices for consumers that could act as a shot in the arm for the struggling European economy.

As Oil Jobs Dry Up, Workers Turn to Solar Sector

Wall Street Journal | Posted on April 25, 2016

Plunging oil and gas has generated more than 84,000 pink slips in Texas, according to the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. But many rig hands, roustabouts, pipe fitters and even some engineers are finding a surprising alternative in the utility-scale solar farms rising from the desert near the border with New Mexico.

The 30,000 jobs the U.S. solar sector is projected to add this year are a fraction of the estimated 150,000 American jobs being lost in oil. And it remains to be seen whether such workers will stay in the solar sector if an oil boom returns, and beckons again with the lure of bigger paychecks that can stretch into the six figures.

Firm suspends plans to build $3.3B natural gas pipeline

AP | Posted on April 25, 2016

Plans to build a $3.3 billion natural gas pipeline from New York into New England through western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire have been suspended.