May 14, 2018 Read More →

Naughton Closure Likely To Undercut Demand At Westmoreland’s Kemmerer Mine

Casper Star Tribune:

Fossil fuel critics are questioning a Wyoming plan to spend up to $22.5 million in public funds to expand a coal mine even as its owner appears headed for bankruptcy and a key customer prepares to curtail consumption.

State lawmakers earlier this year approved a measure that earmarked $15 million to relocate a highway north of the Kemmerer Mine, a move that would allow mining to expand. The legislature made its appropriation in the face of diminishing demand for the mine’s coal at a neighboring power plant. The measure calls for another $15 million contribution from “county or private funding,” expected to be a 50/50 split with Westmoreland Coal, the Kemmerer Gazette reported.

Naughton Plant operators will shut down one of three generating units by Jan. 30, 2019, a PacifiCorp official said last week. “It’s a hard closure date for operations,” spokesman David Eskelsen told WyoFile. On top of that closure, Westmoreland Coal Company, which owns and operates the Kemmerer Mine, said a month ago it is considering reorganization—widely reported as bankruptcy reorganization—amid a troubled nationwide coal market.

The developments regarding the mine and power plant raise questions about the economic future of Kemmerer, population 2,771, and surrounding communities. The circumstances also raise questions regarding the wisdom of Wyoming’s pending $22.5 million expenditure of taxpayer money.

It’s another worrisome story from Wyoming’s energy sector, this time playing out in the state’s southwest corner, far from the better-known eastern Wyoming coal mines and power plants near Gillette. Despite criticism, the lawmaker who championed the road-relocation legislation doesn’t think his measure is either misguided or a waste.

More: Tied To Coal, Kemmerer’s Future Looks Uncertain

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