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Wyoming moves to save coal plants; clean energy bill passes Wash. Senate


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Wyoming moves to save coal plants; clean energy bill passes Wash. Senate

Wyo. governor signs bill to help save coal plants

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill to require investor-owned utilities to first seek buyers for coal-fired power plants they want to close, in an attempt to save coal mining jobs.

The new law's biggest impact could be on Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary PacifiCorp, which owns 67% of the 2,111-MW Jim Bridger plant, 100% of the 762-MW Dave Johnston plant, 100% of the 357-MW Naughton plant and 80% of the 340-MW Wyodak plant. PacifiCorp closed the 330-MW Naughton unit 3 in January, so only units 1 and 2 are still operating. IDACORP Inc. subsidiary Idaho Power Co. owns 33% of Jim Bridger.

Report: W.Va. Legislature passes bills to lower coal tax, create rebate

Two bills intended to benefit coal producers in West Virginia received final legislative approval on March 9 and now await the signature of Republican Gov. Jim Justice, whose family owns several coal companies in Appalachia.

One of the bills would reduce the severance tax on thermal coal from 5% to 3% over three years, the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette-Mail reported. Doing so would reduce state tax revenue by about $20 million the first year and $60 million annually once fully implemented.

The other measure would make coal companies eligible for a 35% tax rebate on new equipment purchased to open or expand mining operations.

Westmoreland Coal to liquidate, but mines will continue bearing its name

Though Westmoreland Coal Co. plans to wrap up a significant portion of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization over the next several weeks before dissolving, several of its mining operations will still bear its name under new management.

A federal bankruptcy court confirmed the company's reorganization plan, allowing the parent company to transfer many of its assets to creditors who acted as a stalking horse bidder during the sale in exchange for relieving some of the company's debt. Westmoreland will transfer its Denver headquarters, Canadian business as well as its San Juan, Savage, Colstrip, Beulah and Jewett mining operations in the U.S. to the lenders' Westmoreland Mining Holdings LLC, which will later change its name to Westmoreland Mining LLC.

Wheeler sees EPA under Trump bringing 'balance back' to agency

As the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency reverses Obama-era regulations, newly confirmed administrator Andrew Wheeler is framing the rollbacks as less of an ideological shift than an adherence to federal law and free markets.

"There had to be some changes made over the past two years to try to equal the balance back, away from some of the draconian regulations the Obama administration tried to do," Wheeler said in a March 5 interview, following his remarks during the S&P Global Market Intelligence Annual Power and Gas M&A Symposium in New York.

Wheeler said the EPA is regulating the coal industry under existing rules "in a fair manner." However, the structure of its proposed replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, the Affordable Clean Energy rule, could soon change.

Clean energy bill passes Wash. Senate

The Washington Senate on March 1 passed Senate Bill 5116, calling for the establishment of a coal elimination standard, a greenhouse gas neutral standard and a clean energy standard requiring a 100% renewable portfolio standard by 2045. SB 5116, part of Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee's clean energy proposal, was introduced on Jan. 10. A public hearing before the House Committee on Environment & Energy is scheduled March 5.

If enacted, SB 5116 would require all electric utilities to cease utilizing coal generation power by Dec. 31, 2025. In addition, the legislation would require each electric utility to make all retail sales of electricity "greenhouse gas neutral" by Jan. 1, 2030, and each year through Dec. 31, 2044.

All electric utilities would be required to meet 100% of retail electric load using non-emitting and renewable resources by Jan. 1, 2045.

Minn. governor calls for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz wants the state to have 100% carbon-free energy by 2050.

"We will pioneer the clean energy economy, creating new jobs and protecting our planet for generations to come," Walz said during a press conference to discuss the proposal.

The plan is contained in a bill introduced March 4, House File 1956. Along with setting the 100%-by-2050 carbon-free standard, the bill requires utilities to prioritize energy efficiency and clean energy resources when proposing to replace or add new generation. It also sets a slightly higher energy efficiency resource standard for investor-owned utilities up to an annual energy savings goal of 1.75% of average retail energy sales, from 1.5%.