FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Devin Henry for TheHill.com:Appalachian lawmakers in both parties are pushing a bill called the Reclaim Act, which would release $1 billion in federal funding for distressed coal communities.The money, to be appropriated over five years, would help communities diversify their economies.“The communities are not giving up on coal, the people haven’t, and I’m not, either. But … we are desperate for jobs,” said Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.), a member of the bipartisan group.“They’re survivors, and they’ve been through tough conditions before. Now, this one’s about as tough as we’ve ever seen, and the causes are different than what we’ve seen. But people are fighters … we want to do what we can to create job opportunities.”The legislation is backed by the White House and dozens of local communities. It has a powerful sponsor in House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), whose state — along with Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania — would receive several million dollars under the bill.Money would come from the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) fund, a pool of $2.8 billion meant to help clean up mine sites.Rogers said his bill is designed to expand the scope of that fund, giving cities and local governments the chance to use federal funding to also invest in public infrastructure needed to attract new industries.Local communities have clamored for assistance, said Aaron Wells, who works on economic diversification for the group Appalachian Voices. More than two dozen county commissions in Appalachian states have endorsed either the Reclaim proposal or the Power Plus Plan.“What Power Plus has done — by offering all this federal funding to coal communities — it’s forced our local leaders to engage in a conversation about moving our economies forward,” he said.But political problems have already doomed parts of the proposal.Republicans and the energy industry view Obama’s Clean Power Plan as a major stumbling block for the American coal sector, and anger over that has fueled skepticism about federal efforts to help workers.Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has floated a plan similar to Power Plus, but a recent gaffe — “We’re going to put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business,” she said in March — illustrates the lack of trust coal country has toward Washington.Democrat Jeff Kessler, the minority leader in the West Virginia Senate, said he’s been flummoxed by efforts of his state leaders to deal with the crisis. This session, they passed a plan to lower severance tax rates on coal producers but did little to address the question of modernizing local economies.“I would like to [undertake those efforts], but I’m in the minority,” said Kessler, a gubernatorial candidate.“I would embrace it in a heartbeat, and if I become governor, I will cooperate with it absolutely and entirely. … You can’t just sit back and wring your hands. You have to figure out where you go from here.”Full article: Coal country rages against fall Bipartisan Support in Appalachia for New Investment
Westmoreland Gets New Financing, but Problems Remain FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Casper Star-Tribune:The coal firm that operates the Kemmerer mine in western Wyoming has secured $110 million from a majority of its existing creditors to help ease financial pressure. The cash injection will buy Westmoreland Coal Co. time to plan for long-term viability ahead of a likely bankruptcy filing, some experts said Tuesday.“To me, this looks like the last step before a major debt write-off and/or bankruptcy filing,” said Clark Williams-Derry, director of energy finance for the Sightline Institute, a think tank promoting a transition away from fossil fuels.The Colorado–based firm has coal mines across five states, including Wyoming. Coal watchers have been anticipating a bankruptcy given Westmoreland’s financial straits. Westmoreland faces many of the same pressures irritating the coal sector nationwide, including competition from cheap natural gas and environmental regulations that made some older coal units too expensive to keep running. Kemmerer, for example, is facing uncertainty given that Rocky Mountain Power plans to close one of its coal-fired units at the Naughton power plant – the sole buyer of Kemmerer coal.Westmoreland put out a statement Tuesday saying the new financing would simplify its capital structure and pay off the San Juan loan – about $120 million in debt picked up in 2016 to buy the San Juan coal mine in Arizona. Westmoreland also acquired the idle Haystack Mine outside Evanston in 2016.Williams-Derry, of Sightline, said it would be interesting how the company’s restructuring plays out. A portion of existing lenders did not go along with the new financing, he noted. Those who did will likely receive something significant out of a debt write-off or restructuring should Westmoreland file for Chapter 11. Those sitting on the sidelines are likely holding out for a better deal, he said.More: Indebted Coal Firm that Operates Kemmerer Mine Finds new Financing, still Faces Uncertainty
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Quartz India:The rapid rise of renewable energy is exposing the shortcomings in India’s current power transmission infrastructure.As they increasingly produce and distribute this new kind of power, government agencies and companies—and their infrastructure—are grappling with the technical difficulties this transition ensues. These include frequent switching between conventional and renewable energy and forecasting demand and supply.So a clutch of cleantech startups is tackling these problems using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics. They’re either providing these services themselves or creating and selling software that firms and utilities can customise.The share of renewable energy in India’s overall power capacity has shot up from around 13% in 2015 to around 20% this year. In fact, last year, the country added more renewable capacity than conventional power. While this works well for India’s broader climate goals and financials—renewable energy is now cheaper than thermal power—this is a challenge for the country’s power-transmission infrastructure for multiple reasons.For one, wind and solar power generation can often be erratic and limited in supply, given that they depend entirely on the weather and solar cycle. So transmission firms must find a balance between these and thermal power to ensure uninterrupted supply.“Demand forecast, as well as procurement forecast, is very critical for the power sector both from a financial point of view and from a technical standpoint,” Umakant Panwar, a former power department secretary in the state of Uttarakhand, told Quartz. Utilities are penalised if they underprocure electricity and don’t meet the demand; if they overprocure, they lose money. Earlier, utilities would use simple computing techniques or do it manually. Now they’re adopting technology as it enables the utility to anticipate the power supply load for the day, he added.More: Tech startups are helping India’s creaky power sector cope with the renewable energy boom India looks to tech sector to boost renewables push
FERC chairman vows fuel neutrality on grid resilience FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):A rapid decline in costs and growing customer demand will continue to drive the expansion of renewable energy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Neil Chatterjee said Sept. 26. As FERC looks at ways to define and value grid resilience, the Republican commissioner vowed that any new FERC policy will be “fuel-neutral,” even as nuclear and coal power advocates seek financial support for those plants.Chatterjee delivered his comments at the National Clean Energy Week Policy Makers Symposium in Washington, D.C. He repeated estimates from Bloomberg New Energy Finance that onshore wind and solar energy costs fell 18% in the first half alone, fueling the swift expansion in U.S. renewable-based power. He also highlighted the results of an Xcel Energy Inc. resource solicitation in 2017 in which median offers for wind and solar power were $18/MWh and $29/MWh, respectively, for contracts starting in 2023.The federal wind production tax credit expires before that year, yet Chatterjee said the offers Xcel received were still at or below the Midcontinent ISO’s average locational marginal price of energy in 2017. “This means that we are on the cusp of a future where renewables can compete on cost and make money on the open market even without subsidies.”For its part, FERC has worked to “level the playing field” for renewables, including through the commission’s Order 841issued in February and various proposals FERC has approved from regional grid operators to better integrate renewable power, Chatterjee said. Order 841 requires regional market operators to facilitate the participation of energy storage in competitive markets.Chatterjee said his past in coal country and support of nuclear power do not play a role in his decisionmaking at FERC. The GOP commissioner joined four other FERC members in unanimously rejecting a September 2017 proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perry that sought to require regional grid operators to ensure full cost recovery for plants in wholesale markets that stored at least 90 days of fuel on-site. Perry said the rule was needed to ensure grid resilience and reliability, but critics said it would force consumers to pay for uncompetitive and unneeded coal and nuclear plants.More ($): US Republican policymakers tout clean energy progress
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bond Buyer ($):A Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority union has offered the appointment of an inspector general to the PREPA bankruptcy judge as an alternative to a bond insurer proposal for a receiver.The union, Unión de Trabajadores de la Industria Eléctrica y Riego, filed the suggestion in the PREPA bankruptcy Friday morning. In the same document UTIER objected to National Public Finance Guarantee Corp., Assured Guaranty Corp., Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp., and Syncora Guarantee Inc.’s motion for relief from the bankruptcy’s automatic stay, which is a necessary step on the way to appointing a receiver.The appointment of an independent private sector inspector general, as UTIER requested, would be a good idea, said Gustavo Vélez, chairman of Puerto Rico consulting firm Inteligencía Económica. However, Vélez said that appointing a receiver for PREPA would be even better. Puerto Rico’s governor has too much influence on the authority and there is too much corruption in it, Vélez said. While the insurers have asked to be allowed to name the receiver, he said that decision should be made by Judge Laura Taylor Swain.Under UTIER’s suggestion, the inspector general would monitor, audit, and investigate the authority’s activities. It would cover personnel practices and hiring regulations, procurements, fiscal and accounting issues, capital and energy planning, and regulatory oversight. It would report its results to the Puerto Rico Oversight Board, Puerto Rico’s governor, the court, the United States Attorney’s Office for Puerto Rico, and other entities. Reports would be ongoing.Tom Sanzillo, PREPA analyst and director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, helped to write the union’s motion. He told The Bond Buyer, “I have seen many plans for PREPA, most well intended. What they all miss is this: no bondholder will be paid, no debt agreement honored, no contract fairly negotiated, no employee treated decently, no legal agreement binding, no law complied with, no budget initiative credible, no commitment to 100% renewable energy kept, and no privatization scheme successful so long as PREPA is driven by a culture of political expediency. This move by UTIER offers an opportunity to bring professional utility standards into the day-to-day operation of PREPA.”More ($): PREPA union suggests inspector general as alternative to receiver Union pushes for inspector general in Puerto Rico utility bankruptcy case
Listen to the Dan Tyminski Band here.When Alison Krauss decided to take some time off from bluegrass and tour with rocker Robert Plant, Dan Tyminski was faced with some downtime. Instead of cooling his heels, Tyminski—best known as the voice of “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack—called on some old friends, including Union Station mate and bassist Barry Bales, Mountain Heart mandolin picker Adam Steffey, banjo stalwart Ron Stewart, and Blue Moon Rising’s Justin Moses, to cut a record and hit the road. Wheels, the Dan Tyminski Band’s June release, entered the Billboard Bluegrass charts at #1, and the band has been getting rave reviews for their live performances.———-BRO: How does a boy from Vermont get hooked on Appalachian music?DT: I had parents who were music enthusiasts. My parents went to a lot of fiddle contests and square dances, so any time there was live bluegrass or country music around, I got to go with them to hear it. And I spent a lot of my youth traveling from festival to festival throughout the summer. I made new friends and played music. I got to do that from the time I was six years old, and I still do it when I can now.BRO: You have been an integral member of Union Station for over a decade and now you are on the road leading your own band. How are those roles different?DT: The biggest difference is that off the stage there is a lot more responsibility with caring for band members, logistics, and making sure everyone goes to where they need to be. Once I take the stage, the roles are very similar. I want to make great music with the people I am on stage with.BRO: Compared to what you do with Union Station, are you flexing any different musical muscles with your band?DT: The stuff that this band does really focuses on the heart of what bluegrass is to us. We venture in more directions than Union Station, which has lot more pop flavor there and is not quite so centered in traditional bluegrass.BRO: Tell me about recording Wheels.DT: This record was born out of the opportunity to play with these guys. It wasn’t done with any particular theme in mind; we didn’t gather songs to express any certain views or opinions. The five of us just wanted to make music. With that in mind, we tried to find songs that suited us as a combination of players that were album worthy. If we are trying to say anything, it is that this is what we think bluegrass music is to us.BRO: I know that you are an avid golfer. What is more difficult—writing a classic bluegrass tune or sticking a five iron pin high?DT: That’s funny, because I’m at the golf course right now. I’ll be teeing off in about an hour. Both of those things are very difficult, but both are immensely rewarding as well.Catch the Dan Tyminski Band at the Three Sisters Music Festival in Chattanooga, Tenn., on October 4 and at the Richmond Folk Festival in Richmond, Va., on October 10-11.Listen to the Dan Tyminski Band here.
Chattanooga, Tennessee was our readers’ pick as the Best Mountain City in the Blue Ridge. Check out the video below to find out what Chattanooga is all about and all the city has to offer.Read the full article on Chattanooga, and the rest of our Best Mountain Town poll winners here.Best Mountain Town – Chattanooga from Summit Publishing on Vimeo.
With the holidays behind us, it’s time to get cracking on improving in the new year and so far, 2013 is shaping up to be a good one with snow in the mountains, excitement in the air, and a lot of winter left to get your kicks. Though you may have already broken your New Year’s Resolution, that does not mean you have permission to let cabin fever set in. Old routines are comforting, but getting out and experiencing new things is what makes us human. Many people set goals for the New Year that are unrealistic and unattainable, but making a commitment to yourself to get out of your comfort zone on a regular basis is easy and anyone can do it. Challenging yourself to learn and grow is much easier than committing to going to the gym four times a week, and is also much more fun. Do something different in 2013: instead of empty promises involving waistlines and vices go existential and pledge to put yourself out there. The only chance of failure is if you don’t attempt it, and you’ll be much happier with the results.Jump in this weekend at Sugar Mountain outside Banner Elk, North Carolina, where you can try snowshoeing for free on Saturday. Snowshoeing is a fun, vigorous winter activity that is fun for the whole family. As part of the nationwide, 18th Annual Winter Trail Days, Sugar will host guided snowshoe tours and rentals for children and adults. The tours are available on the hour from 9am to 4pm and you can signup at the Ski/Snowboard School.View Larger Map
Keen continues to expand its non-sandal footwear styles. My favorite for summer has been the Keen Catalina canvas boat shoes. These shoes first accompanied me on a week at Folly Beach during spring break and have been keeping my feet feeling good ever since then. I love that the classic style and design pairs well with skirts, dresses or jeans. The Catalina boat shoes are exceptionally lightweight (6.5 oz.) and provide the sole and toe comfort you have come to expect from Keen. The boat shoe soles are non-marking meaning you can wear them out on the boat without scuffing any surfaces.Pick up a pair today for late summer weekends at the lake, your next beach trip or a casual cookout with friends. Even after wearing them to a couple of muddy concerts these shoes look as good as new with a brush and a little water. Consider the Catalina canvas boat shoes to round out your summer wardrobe.MSRP $90.00; keenfootwear.com
This tiny town of 430 may well be one of the Blue Ridge’s most unique and best-kept secrets. In the late 1960s, after realizing that Helen’s logging industry was in rapid decline, town officials completely re-branded their city with hopes of attracting more tourism. The modern result of this re-branding is an authentic American version of a German alpine town. In Helen, all structures—even the Wendy’s—are mandated by local zoning laws to exhibit architectural traits more common to southern Bavaria than southern Appalachia.But authentic German architecture isn’t Helen’s only claim to fame. It’s also the home of the Chattahoochee River Headwaters, Smithgall Woods and Unicoi State Parks, and provides quick access to the Chattahoochee National Forest. Unlike the Chattahoochee further south, the headwaters are pristine and free-flowing, offering incredible fishing and rafting. The Appalachian Trail is just outside of town, and road cyclists train on the winding mountain roads surrounding Helen. And each winter, runners flock to Helen for the Hogpen Hill Climb, a 10.7-mile climb up steep mountain roads to Hogpen Gap.DID YOU KNOW? Helen is also home to some of the best ice climbing in Georgia. A forty-foot road cut near Helen provides prime ice climbing opportunities in the winter.Vote now at blueridgeoutdoors.com!