From the Casper Star-Tribune

Westmoreland Coal’s path in Wyoming

The bankruptcy judge in the Westmoreland case ruled in favor of the coal firm Friday, which had sought to eliminate retiree health benefits and break the Kemmerer coal mine’s union contract.

Miners lost on both counts, though now the buyer of the Kemmerer mine will be obligated to bargain a new contract with the union.

Westmoreland released the name of the likely buyer earlier in the week. Tom Clarke — a Virginia businessman who got into coal during the recent downturn — is the stalking horse bidder for the Kemmerer mine. He has said that he sympathizes with miners but would not take on the retiree liabilities at Kemmerer for former miners and their dependents.

Energy bankruptcy bills mounting in legislature

A bill that attempts to force utilities like Rocky Mountain Power to try and sell their coal-fired plants instead of closing them keeps advancing in the Wyoming Legislature. It’s an idea that’s not just popular among some lawmakers, but one that has been floated in Kemmerer where the future of the Naughton power plant is tied to the fate of the local coal mine.

The utility has been restrained in its public response to Senate File 159. Others have been more critical. The Sierra Club has been pressing Rocky Mountain Power to choose renewables over coal on the basis that coal has become too expensive, as well as a contributor to climate change. This bill has not found favor with the group, which sees it a risk of reclamation disaster.

Meanwhile, a bill that would give counties a greater chance of recouping taxes in the case of energy bankruptcies and insolvencies is also chugging along, despite banks looking for some changes. The idea has been pushed by a northern Wyoming landowner group as a compromise after repeated tries to force companies to pay local taxes monthly fell through.

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