Category Archives: Coal

Closure of Four Coal-Burning Power Plants in Illinois: Unsustainable

Four Illinois Coal-Burning Power Plants Closing

AUG 21, 2019
Vistra Energy coal power plant in Newton, IL
Vistra Energy coal power plant in Newton, IL. This Nov. 13, 2013 file photo shows the Ameren Corp. Power Plant outside of the Southern Illinois town of Newton. / AP PHOTO/JIM SUHR

Vistra Energy announced Wednesday it is closing its coal burning power plants in Canton, Havana, Hennepin and Coffeen.

The company said in a statement it will retire the four power plants in order to meet new revisions to the Multi-Pollutant Standard Rule introduced by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

About 300 people will lose their jobs in the closures. The company is working to provide support services for those workers.

Vistra said it was closing the four power plants to save the other four plants it operates in Illinois. The company’s emissions in Illinois will be driven down 57 to 61 percent by the closures, getting it under the new cap, the company said.

“Even though today’s retirement announcements were inevitable due to the changing regulatory environment and unfavorable economic conditions in the MISO market, they are nonetheless difficult to make,” said Curt Morgan, Vistra’s president and chief executive officer in a statement. “By far, the hardest decisions we make in our business are those that significantly impact our people. As always, we will do right by those who are impacted by this announcement. Our employees take pride in the work they do, and we appreciate their decades of service providing reliable and affordable power to Illinois, particularly in years like this one with periods of extreme cold and heat.”

State Rep. Mike Unes (R-East Peoria), who represents the area where Canton’s Duck Creek Power Station is based, pinned the blame for the closures on former Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Future Energy Jobs Act he signed into law in 2016.

“It’s unfortunate that our former Governor and legislative leaders pushed a bill that causes the taxpayers of Illinois to subsidize other energy plants in Illinois while self-sufficient plants, like Duck Creek, are shuttered,” said Unes. “This is the outcome that I feared when this passed in 2016. The bill has now cost us head-of-household, IBEW union jobs at Duck Creek and also at nearby Havana Power Station.”

Unes said there is a group of “hard-core environmentalists” who won’t rest until every coal-burning power plant in Illinois has shuttered. He said that is costing his district desperately needed, well-paying jobs.

State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) said he is “incredibly saddened” by the announcement and the hardships it will bring for Fulton County. He called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to help those impacted.

“The fact is the current business market for coal-based energy is simply no longer sustainable. As we transition to an energy economy that focuses on limiting emissions, we must be proactive in helping those communities that this will adversely effect,” Koehler said.

“The governor’s primary concerns are to support workers at these locations and assist the impacted communities,” said Pritzker spokesperson Emily Bittner. “In particular, the governor directed agency heads to focus on developing potential short-term opportunities connected to work on the state’s major infrastructure investments, as well as addressing broader impacts and ripple effects in these communities.”

The governor’s office noted Vistra began signaling potential power plant closures as early as February 2018. The new rules were issued on Aug. 13.

Vistra said it plans to close all four plants by the end of the year if it is determined they aren’t needed to continue providing reliable power sources by federal regulators.

Duck Creek employs 60 people. 75 people work at Havana, and 60 at Hennepin. About 95 people work at the Coffeen plant.

Editor’s note: The photo above depicts the Newton Power Plant in southern Illinois, not the Duck Creek Power Station in Canton as originally labeled. 

Major Bank Ends New Investment in Arctic Drilling, Tar Sands/Oil Sands, and (Most) Coal Projects

Repost from The Globe and Mail

HSBC to stop funding most new fossil fuel developments

The HSBC bank logo is seen at their offices in the Canary Wharf financial district in London on March 3, 2016. | REINHARD KRAUSE/REUTERS

Europe’s largest bank, HSBC, said on Friday it would mostly stop funding new coal power plants, oil sands and arctic drilling, becoming the latest in a long line of investors to shun the fossil fuels.

Other large banks such as ING and BNP Paribas have made similar pledges in recent months as investors have mounted pressure to make sure bank’s actions align with the Paris agreement, a global pact to limit greenhouse gas emissions and curb rising temperatures.

“We recognise the need to reduce emissions rapidly to achieve the target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement … and our responsibility to support the communities in which we operate,” Daniel Klier, group head of strategy and global head of sustainable finance, said in a statement.

HSBC said it would make an exception for coal-fired power plants in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“There’s a very significant number of people in those three countries who have no access to any electricity,” HSBC chief John Flint told HSBC shareholders at the bank’s annual general meeting in London on Friday.

“The reasonable position for us is to allow a short window for us to continue to get involved in financing coal there … if we think there is not a reasonable alternative,” he said.

Aside from the coal exemptions environmental campaigners Greenpeace welcomed the move and said HSBC’s new energy strategy would prevent it from providing project finance for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed $8-billion Keystone XL oil pipeline to Nebraska.

“This latest vote of no-confidence from a major financial institution shows that tar sands are becoming an increasingly toxic business proposition,” John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said in a statement.

LATEST DERAILMENT: 26 coal cars derail, 5 end up in creek north of Fort Worth TX

Repost from Fox4, Fort Worth TX
[Editor: See also for more video and images.  – RS]

Train derailment causes major delays north of Fort Worth

By: Josiah Sage, Aug 21 2016 07:50PM CDT, updated Aug 22 2016 08:59AM CDT

Crewmembers believe a bridge failure caused more than 26 rail cars on a Union Pacific freight train to derail north of Fort Worth Sunday night.

It happened around 6 p.m. as the train was traveling over a bridge near Highway 377 in Roanoke. No one was hurt, but five of the train cars ended up in Denton Creek.

Union Pacific said the train was carrying coal, so nothing hazardous spilled into the creek. But it will still take some time to clean up the mess.

“There’s a lot of work that’s been done, a lot of work that’s been done since overnight. When I went on scene just moments ago you could see the big construction equipment tearing apart the rail cars. I guess instead of lifting and removing them they just crushed them and they are in pieces,” said Det. Sandy Pettigrew with the Roanoke Police Department.

The derailment is still causing some traffic problems on Hwy. 377 between FM 1171 and Bobcat Boulevard. The highway is expected to be closed most of the day and that will likely affect traffic heading to the nearby Byron Nelson High School.

Oakland: Utah scraps $53 million plan to ship coal to city

Repost from the East Bay Times

Oakland: Utah scraps $53 million plan to ship coal to city

By David DeBolt, 08/19/2016 06:11:11 PM PDT

OAKLAND — Four Utah counties have withdrawn their plan to spend $53 million in state money to ship coal to Oakland, an official said this week.

Carbon County Commissioner Jae Potter’s announcement Wednesday comes less than two months after the Oakland City Council voted 7-0 to ban the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke in its city.

Potter said the four coal-producing counties will reapply in about a year with a more detailed application. The rural counties continue to support the project and may ask to ship other products like potash through Oakland, Potter said.

File photo: Anti-coal demonstrators rally in front of City Hall before a special council meeting on the shipping and storage of coal on Monday, June 27,
File photo: Anti-coal demonstrators rally in front of City Hall before a special council meeting on the shipping and storage of coal on Monday, June 27, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Utah lawmakers in March approved a bill to invest $53 million of state money to ship coal to the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal. The $250 million export terminal and logistics center located on the Outer Harbor at the former Oakland Army Base is being built by developer Phil Tagami. Terminal Logistic Solutions, run by Jerry Bridges, has the exclusive option to operate the terminal.

Bridges has said coal would be one of several commodities shipped there; others include soda ash, potash, limestone, soybeans and other produce.

While shipments of coal had support from lawmakers and coal-producing counties in Utah, Oakland residents, activists and city leaders strongly objected to the proposal. The Oakland council vote was the only way to stop the coal trains because the council approved the project in 2013. Leaders claimed coal was not part of the conversation then, but the agreement did not specify what could and couldn’t be shipped at the terminal.

Environmental groups argued West Oakland residents would be exposed to greater risks of respiratory illness.

“Polling shows Utahns don’t want public money spent on a terminal in Oakland that will never ship coal,” Brittany King, an organizer with the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, said in a statement. “Oakland residents and decision makers fought so hard to keep coal out of their backyard, so we are happy that Utah withdrew a proposal that is not worth money, time or the risk to public health and safety.”

Longtime West Oakland activist Margaret Gordon expressed some skepticism over what would be included in Utah’s new application.

“That economy in that state is built around coal,” said Gordon, who supports the Oakland terminal but opposes coal. “I’m optimistically cautious about the whole thing.”

A spokesman for Tagami did not return a phone call Friday afternoon. A day before the council’s vote in June, Tagami’s attorney wrote in a letter to city leaders that legal action would be imminent if coal were blocked. Attorney David Smith called the council’s position “irrational” and “legally indefensible.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. David DeBolt covers Oakland.