The 50 Year Underground Coal Mine Fire

By the early 1980s, the mine fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania was growing worse and increasingly threatening the people who lived there. GAI, Inc., a private geotechnical engineering company, was hired to review the situation and propose a solution to finally contain the fire. What they eventually came up with was so drastic, it might easily have been called Centralia’s “Nuclear Option.”

Source: www.centraliapa.org

Additional Information:  Zip Code 00000 (Washington Post) http://wapo.st/1eMhdGq

>” […]

GAI’s review and associated containment plan took months to complete. It analyzed mountains of data about Centralia PA, its abandoned mines, and the geology of the surrounding area. GAI also explored the beginnings of the fire, the current location of the burn, and the previous, failed attempts to stop it.

Finally on July 12, 1983 the findings were announced to the public. At that time, the mine fire was determined to be under 195 acres and burning in the Skidmore, Seven Foot, and Buck Leader coal veins. It was suggested that the fire could eventually grow to a maximum size of 3,700 acres of land.

GAI’s report made it clear that containing the Centralia mine fire would neither be easy nor cheap. The plan to contain the fire would require excavating a trench of massive proportions. This would need to be 3,700 feet long and 450 feet in depth – deep enough to hold a 45 story office building!

Worse yet, the trench would cut through the middle of the town. Although it would eventually be filled in with incombustible material to prevent the mine fire from moving further west, half of the borough of Centralia Pennsylvania would be destroyed while excavating it. The whole project would take years to complete.

If the damage caused by GAI’s plan wasn’t “nuclear” enough, there was always the price tag. GAI estimated it would cost a jaw-dropping $660 million to complete the project. This was over 100 times more expensive than the 1965 rejected plan to contain the mine fire. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, $660 million in 1983 is roughly equivalent to $1.5 billion in 2015. Today these cost estimates are still shocking.

It is no wonder that in August of 1983 the majority of Centralia PA’s residents voted to be relocated. After years of struggling with the mine fire, the “nuclear option” proposed by GAI to stop the fire and level half of the town was more than most could bear.”<

 

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China’s Capital City to Shut Major Coal Power Plants due to Excessive Pollution

(Bloomberg) — Beijing, where pollution averaged more than twice China’s national standard last year, will close the last of its four major coal-fired power plants next year.

Source: www.bloomberg.com

>” […]

The capital city will shutter China Huaneng Group Corp.’s 845-megawatt power plant in 2016, after last week closing plants owned by Guohua Electric Power Corp. and Beijing Energy Investment Holding Co., according to a statement Monday on the website of the city’s economic planning agency. A fourth major power plant, owned by China Datang Corp., was shut last year.

The facilities will be replaced by four gas-fired stations with capacity to supply 2.6 times more electricity than the coal plants.

The closures are part of a broader trend in China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter. Facing pressure at home and abroad, policy makers are racing to address the environmental damage seen as a byproduct of breakneck economic growth. Beijing plans to cut annual coal consumption by 13 million metric tons by 2017 from the 2012 level in a bid to slash the concentration of pollutants.

Shutting all the major coal power plants in the city, equivalent to reducing annual coal use by 9.2 million metric tons, is estimated to cut carbon emissions of about 30 million tons, said Tian Miao, a Beijing-based analyst at North Square Blue Oak Ltd., a London-based research company with a focus on China.  […]

Closing coal-fired power plants is seen as a critical step in addressing pollution in China, which gets about 64 percent of the primary energy it uses from the fossil fuel. Coal accounts for about 30 percent of the U.S.’s electricity mix, while gas comprises 42 percent, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.  […]

Air pollution has attracted more public attention in the past few years as heavy smog envelops swathes of the nation including Beijing and Shanghai. About 90 percent of the 161 cities whose air quality was monitored in 2014 failed to meet official standards, according to a report by China’s National Bureau of Statistics earlier this month.

The level of PM2.5, the small particles that pose the greatest risk to human health, averaged 85.9 micrograms per cubic meter last year in the capital, compared with the national standard of 35.

The city also aims to take other measures such as closing polluted companies and cutting cement production capacity to clear the air this year, according to the Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. […]”<

 

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Duke’s maligned handling of toxic coal ash is claimed typical for industry

Over 200 contaminations and spills document water contamination and deformed fish near coal ash sites.

Source: www.utilitydive.com

>” Duke Energy faces criminal charges and a $100 million fine for a 2014 spill of 39,000 tons of coal ash into North Carolina’s Dan River but environmental activists say its mishandling of coal ash waste is not atypical of the coal industry.  […] EPA released a final ruling on handling coal ash last December but both utility industry and environmental groups were dissatisfied. It creates requirements and standards for the management of coal combustion residuals (CCRs or coal ash) under Subtitle D of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). That subtitle governs solid waste. There is not yet adequate data, the EPA said, to justify managing coal ash under Subtitle C of RCRA, which pertains to hazardous waste.

“Coal ash is a toxic soup of heavy metals,” said NC WARN Energy Expert Nancy LaPlaca. “Pretending it is not hazardous waste is outrageous.”

Utilities are “pleased” that the EPA found it did not have adequate information to regulate coal as hazardous waste, explained Schiff, Hardin Partner/Utilities Counsel Josh More. But “EPA is pretty explicit this is not their final determination.” It failed, he added, because “it is a self-implementing program.”  […]”<

 

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Climate Change, Carbon Reduction and Mitigating Natural Gas Use in the Electricity Sector

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan offers states the opportunity to curb rising natural gas use in the United States and achieve steeper carbon-pollution reductions by investing more aggressively in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Source: www.americanprogress.org

>” […] In the United States, electric utilities are the largest source of carbon pollution. Therefore, the reduction of power-sector emissions needs to be a central component of any meaningful climate mitigation strategy. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, released a landmark proposal to establish the first-ever carbon-pollution standards for the nation’s power plants.

This proposal, the Clean Power Plan, establishes a “best system of emissions reduction” based on four building blocks that combine to make the nation’s electricity system more efficient and less reliant on carbon-heavy coal-burning power plants. […]

One of the Clean Power Plan’s central elements is increasing the use of lower-carbon natural gas combined cycle, or NGCC, units to generate some of the electricity now produced by higher-carbon coal-fired power plants. States can use this approach to achieve relatively quick carbon-pollution reductions starting in 2020 while ramping up the deployment of programs that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The EPA modeled two compliance scenarios to understand the costs, benefits, and potential energy-related impacts of the Clean Power Plan. This modeling suggests that the electricity sector’s natural gas consumption will increase sharply at the beginning of the Clean Power Plan’s implementation period as states shift power generation from dirtier coal-fired plants to cleaner-burning NGCC plants. The EPA also predicts that states will build new NGCC plants to replace retiring coal plants and to help meet their carbon-reduction targets.

By 2030, however, the EPA’s models forecast that more renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs will come online as states continue to implement the Clean Power Plan. Electricity generation from renewable sources will displace some generation from NGCC and coal-fired power plants. Energy-efficiency programs, meanwhile, will reduce electricity demand, slowing generation and curbing carbon pollution from the power sector as a whole. […]

While natural gas burns cleaner than coal, it is still a fossil fuel that releases carbon pollution. In addition, methane, a potent greenhouse gas, can escape throughout the natural gas production and supply cycle. For these reasons, several recent studies by prominent researchers have questioned whether natural gas can form the core of an effective climate mitigation strategy. […]

By acting decisively to implement ambitious renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs, states can help ensure that the United States does not overcommit to natural gas and that it continues on a path toward decarbonization of the economy. […]”<

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Coal Power Plants Get Repowered With Natural Gas

Old U.S. coal-fired power plants, the target of new anti-pollution rules, aren’t necessarily shutting down. Many are getting a second life as they’re “repowered” with natural gas.

Source: news.nationalgeographic.com

>” […] In the past four years, at least 29 coal units in 10 states have switched to natural gas or biomass, according to SNL Financial, a market data firm. Another 54 units, mostly in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest, are slated to be converted over the next nine years. The future and completed conversions represent more than 12,000 megawatts of power capacity, enough to power all the homes in New England for one year.

By switching to natural gas, plant operators can take advantage of a relatively cheap and plentiful U.S. supply. The change can also help them meet proposed federal rules to limit heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, given that electricity generation from natural gas emits about half as much carbon as electricity from coal does. […]

While conversion advocates say natural gas is a “bridge” fuel that buys time for a transition to clean energy, others argue its use is hindering renewables by delaying them. Many of the planned repowering projects will extend the already long service of fossil-fuel facilities. (Related: “Switch to Natural Gas Won’t Reduce Carbon Emissions Much, Study Finds.”)

“Do you pump a whole bunch of the public’s money into outdated, inefficient infrastructure, or do you say it’s time to move forward and invest in renewable energy and upgraded transmission to move that renewable energy around?” said Kim Teplitsky, deputy secretary of the Northeast Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. Teplitsky’s group is opposed to the revivals of New York’s Dunkirk, Danskammer, and Cayuga power plants.

Power providers and regulators, on the other hand, point to the need for reliability, especially in extreme weather conditions. “The system requires a certain amount of megawatts and a certain amount of reserve margin to ensure that the system will be stable and reliable at all times,” said Gaier of NRG, which operates both renewable and fossil-fuel units. “The number of megawatts is simply not replaceable in the short term with renewables.” […]”<

 

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Coal opposes Senate Energy Commission Nomination

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Ronald J. Binz, nominated to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is opposed by the coal industry because of his efforts to promote renewable energy.

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

>At the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, which represents large industrial customers, Marc Yacker, a vice president, said that the coal industry had some reason to be worried. The industry believes, he said, that “the whole idea of socializing the cost of new transmission necessary to get wind to population centers is anti-coal.”<

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Coal Power Plants to be retired – Duke Energy Settles Edwardsport air permit Dispute

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Duke Energy Corp. said it reached a settlement with the a handful of environmental and activist organizations over outstanding issues with the.

Duane Tilden‘s insight:

>The Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued the new Knox County, Ind., plant’s air permits in 2008, and- -under the settlement with the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Save the Valley and Valley Watch–they remain approved with no changes. The dispute centered on technical issues surrounding the permits that enabled the company to build and operate the plant, the company said.

The settlement also addresses deadlines for retiring units at Duke’s Wabash River Station in Vigo County, Ind. Prior to the settlement, the company had said it planned to retire four, 1950s-vintage units totaling 350 megawatts at the station by the 2015 federal mercury rule deadline. In the agreement, the company agreed to finish the retirements by the compliance deadline or, if the mercury rule is vacated or delayed, by June 1, 2018, whichever comes first.

Duke also had been exploring converting another unit at the Wabash station to natural gas, and, under the settlement, the company agreed to cease burning coal at that 318-megawatt unit by June 1, 2018. The deadline won’t prevent Duke Energy from converting the unit to natural gas earlier.

The settlement also includes a commitment to pursue additional green energy sources.<

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