November 18, 2018 Read More →

Panel of speakers talk coal, Colstrip at Northern Plains Resource Council annual meeting in Billings

Billings Gazette:

Growing market shares for natural gas and renewable energies, increased energy efficiency, a “less energy intensive” economy and fickle world markets are some of the many factors contributing to a decreasing demand for coal energy in America, according to a presentation delivered Saturday afternoon in Billings by Seth Feaster, a data analyst for the Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Feaster spoke as part of a Northern Plains Resource Council panel of speakers discussing coal and the Montana coal community of Colstrip. The Billings-based environmentalist group’s series of speakers included Rosebud Protective Association member Brad Sauer, Northern Plains researcher Kate French, and Colstrip power plant control room operator and International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Local 1638 union registrar Ted Stimac.

For communities affected by declining coal revenue, Feaster said concerns should be focused less on bankruptcy and more toward the “drip-drip-drip” of a process he called “financial extraction.”

Corporate behavior visible during financial extraction, per Feaster’s description, can include companies doing things like loading themselves with debt to redistribute to investors before bankruptcy, cutting worker benefits, and displaying a declining interest in supporting communities or the health of their landscape. During a question and answer session afterwards, Feaster described how preparing for transitions ahead of closures is one way to “remove that fear (of the unknown) as a weapon companies can hold over communities and workers.”

Companies providing worker benefits enter into a social contract with their workers, Feaster said.

“And I think one of the things that bothers me most as an observer of this process is how companies at the end of that period of time suddenly take that social contract and rip it up. And that is devastating for communities,” Feaster said.

Panel of speakers talk coal, Colstrip at Northern Plains Resource Council annual meeting in Billings

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