Kemmerer Mine

Coal from Westmoreland's Kemmerer Mine is moved by conveyor to the adjacent Naughton Plant, operated by PacifiCorp, in Kemmerer. 

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Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $62.86, Brent (ICE) $71.59

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $2.50, Wyoming Pool $1.68, Opal $1.73

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S 991, Wyoming 32

 Quote of the week

“I will advocate for a positive path where this utility and others are part of developing solutions rather than destroying communities and delaying progress.”

Gov. Mark Gordon on Rocky Mountain Power's consideration of coal plant closures in Wyoming and Colorado 

Coal plant concerns 

Gov. Mark Gordon voiced concern Friday over the direction of the state's largest utility, Rocky Mountain Power, which reported earlier in the week that closing coal plant units in Wyoming would save its customers millions. 

The utility has been considering the economics of its coal fleet and released a preliminary report in December noting that many of its plants in Wyoming and elsewhere were uneconomic. The company's report is in keeping with other utilities in the country who have reported similar findings due to the economic advantages of low natural gas prices and renewables. 

Talk of coal plant closures -- particularly in small towns that depend on plants -- has stoked fear and uncertainty in parts of Wyoming but environmental groups argued that the admission from PacifiCorp was an advance for public health and the fight to combat climate change. 

The governor said in a statement that he would be advocating for the continued use of coal plants, which he argued was a crucial aspect of  advancing technology to keep coal plants burning and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. 

Sobering outlook

Arch Coal reported a strong start to the year largely on its metallurgical coal successes, while it remains close to guidance on Wyoming coal production. The firm's COO said in an earnings call that his company had a "sober" view of the Powder River Basin, noting challenges for lower heat coal. 

Moratorium end unlawful

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration broke the law in ending an Obama-era coal lease moratorium that had been much criticized in Wyoming though few if any coal firms were seeking new leases. 

The moratorium was instituted as part of a broad look at how coal is taxed and leased by the federal government. 

Ramaco progresses

After years of disagreement, a court has decided in favor of the coal company looking to open the first new mine in Wyoming in decades and against the last coal company to mine in Sheridan County 30 years ago

Oil and raptor nests

The Bureau of Land Management released an addition to its draft study of the environmental impact of the 5,000 well Converse County oil and gas project. 

The project, proposed by some of the state's largest players, would guide development in a large and active section of the Powder River Basin, likely easing the regulatory hurdles for operators within the project area. Development to the scope described in the analysis could generate between $18 and $28 billion in federal revenue, according to the BLM. 

The additional information released Friday considers reprieve for oil and gas companies from limitations on activity due to non-eagle raptor nests within the 1.5 million acre project area. 

The publication of the supplemental study Friday commences the 90-day period when the public can weigh in on the draft analysis. 

Enhancing Wyoming coal 

The company proposing a way to enhance Wyoming coal -- increasing its heat content to better appeal to overseas markets -- has found some financial support from the University of Wyoming. 

Clean Coal Technologies Inc. announced a $1 million development agreement with the University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources in a press release Friday. 

''We are delighted to be associated with this first-of-a-kind and industry-leading technology. We have validated that their technology does what it says on the packet and are honored that CCTI has placed its trust in our researchers to support the important next stage in bringing (the company's technology for treating coal) to market,'' said Richard Horner, director of the School of Energy Resources, in a press release from CCTI.

Oil and gas lease

The Bureau of Land Management announced the parcels up for sale in the summer lease auction, a total of more than 200,000 acres, minus three parcels proposed in the Platte River Valley mule deer migration corridor and part of a parcel proposed in the Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration corridor.  

The public has 30 days to protest the land up for sale to the oil and gas industry. The lease auction will take place June 25 and 26. 

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Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner


Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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