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Mission bankruptcy underscores coal’s long-term decline

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享CBS News:A Tennessee coal mining company that filed for bankruptcy this week is the second coal company to go bankrupt during Donald Trump’s pro-coal presidency. It’s also the fifth U.S. coal industry bankruptcy in the last three years as competitors in the energy market continue to drive coal into the dust pile.Mission Coal, an operator of three mines in West Virginia and one in Alabama, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sunday listing about $175 million in debt and just $55,000 cash on hand, according to court filings. This small company joins Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal, one of the country’s oldest coal companies, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this month, and Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources, which all have ended up in bankruptcy courts since 2015.Competition from other energy sources—super-cheap natural gas in particular—has been the main culprit. Obama-era “clean coal” regulations scuttled earlier this year by the Trump administration has played just a small role in the industry’s collapse, experts say.“Coal plants have been losing market share just on competitiveness alone, to natural gas, for quite some time–even before the EPA regulations came down that accelerated the shutdown of even more plants,” Greg Reed, director of the Center for Energy and the GRID Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, told CBS MoneyWatch recently.The total stock market value of the country’s four largest coal producers has plunged to $6.3 billion today from $33 billion in 2011. About 62,000 coal miners have lost their jobs during that time. Further job losses will come: More than a quarter of the U.S.’ current fleet of coal plants is projected to shut down over the next 12 years, according to one analysis.More: Mission Coal files for bankruptcy—5th coal company in 3 years Mission bankruptcy underscores coal’s long-term declinelast_img read more

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Clampdown on UP

first_imgFOUR people died in June when two Union Pacific freights collided head-on in ’dark territory’ near Devine, Texas. Had it been an isolated incident, it would have been dismissed as a rare but spectacular smash. But this year UP has been struck by an unusual series of accidents, prompting the Federal Railroad Administration to send in 90 safety inspectors for two weeks from August 23. They interviewed crews, union representatives, managers and contractors and observed dispatchers in 10 cities. The verdict was damning. ’You have people who are working seven days a week, 12 plus hours a day with no time off. When you are that tired it makes top performance and safety assurance impossible’, remarked FRA Administrator Jolene Molitoris.Another derailment in Texas on August 27 did not exactly help, and Molitoris warned on the same day that ’the investigations of the recent collisions on the Union Pacific Railroad have led us to believe there are critical safety deficiencies present at some locations and immediate action across the UP system is necessary.’ She said supervisors were so overloaded with administrative tasks that they were not performing routine safety checks, adding that many problems resulted from last year’s merger with Southern Pacific. On September 3 UP and the FRA announced a package of measures that included establishing a Safety Hotline allowing staff to call a free number to voice concerns anonymously; a review of all training programmes, monitoring of train crew performance and compliance with rules; and setting up a management group to address on-the-job fatigue.Releasing its report on September 10, the FRA announced that it was placing an official in UP’s Omaha headquarters to monitor safety – an unprecedented move. It found crews and dispatchers were indeed suffering from stress and fatigue because of excessive overtime. There was evidence of conflicting instructions, and 57% of locos inspected had faults.UP President Jerry Davis gave a ’personal assurance’ that all problems would be resolved, pointing out that action had already been taken on many of the recommendations. UP will hire 1500 people by the year end to ease the workload, but responding to the SP merger comments, Davis insisted that eliminating administrative jobs did not affect safety. olast_img read more

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