Los Angeles City Council delays action on two anti-coal measures

The Los Angeles City Council has delayed until its June 27 meeting two resolutions having to do with coal production and coal-fired power.

One resolution would urge the U.S. Department of Interior, which oversees the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, to select the “No Action” alternative identified in the draft environmental impact statement on leasing of new coal reserves to Alton Coal Development for the new Coal Hollow strip mine in Utah, and withdraw the site for coal leasing permanently. The resolution was up for a June 22 vote, but that vote was pushed back to a June 27 council meeting.

The city of Los Angeles is peripherally involved in Utah coal production because the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has in interest in taking power from the coal-fired, 1,800-MW Intermountain power plant in Utah of the Intermountain Power Agency. Alton is a possible coal supplier to that plant.

The council was also considering June 22 a resolution to support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to control mercury and other emissions from coal-fired power plants through the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, to support EPA efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and to oppose any efforts by the American Public Power Association, which represents city utilities like LADWP, to halt those emissions reductions. That resolution was also pushed back to June 27.

In response to both resolutions, LADWP said in a June 23 statement: “The LADWP is 100% committed to eliminating coal, and complying with other environmental mandates that will result in the LADWP increasing its renewable energy level to 33% by 2020, further reducing CO2 emissions, eliminating the use of ocean water to cool our three coastal power plants, and increasing energy efficiency to between 10% and 15% by 2020.”

LADWP’s said its CO2 emissions are 23% below 1990 levels. It has accelerated its renewable energy program and achieved 20% renewables delivered to customers by 2010, faster than any other California utility. LADWP is currently spending $700m to rebuild two generating units at the gas-fired Haynes power plant in Long Beach to eliminate ocean cooling from those units, the first of nine units that will cost customers an estimated $2.3bn over the next 17 years. LADWP said it is also committed to divesting its share of the coal-fired Navajo power plant by 2015, four years ahead of the legally-mandated deadline.

“The LADWP supports the Clean Air Act standards, provided they are implemented according to a timeframe that is physically and technically achievable,” the utility said. “With respect to privately held Alton Mine in Southern Utah, there is a regulatory permitting process underway in Utah and at the federal level where all environmental factors will be considered and evaluated.”

Alton trying to add new federal coal to Utah mine

BLM is working on a final environmental impact statement covering an Alton Coal application for unleased federal coal. A November 2011 draft EIS said the applied-for tract, as reconfigured by BLM, contains about 3,581 surface acres and 44.9 million to 49.1 million tons of recoverable coal reserves.

“Under the Proposed Action, recoverable portions of in-place coal reserves would be mined over approximately 25 years using 1) surface-mining methods where the depth of overburden would be approximately 200 to 300 feet, and 2) underground methods (development mining, auger mining, highwall mining, longwall mining, and/or room and pillar mining) where the depth of overburden exceeds approximately 200 to 300 feet,” said the draft EIS. “The choice of mining method, however, can vary from the 200- to 300-foot overburden threshold depending on the coal thickness, overburden type, overburden (highwall) stability, underground mining techniques available, operating and capital costs, and coal market economics.”

The draft EIA added: “The analysis considers surface disturbance for approximately 200 to 300 feet of overburden removal. These are generally referred to as overburden removal scenarios in the text. Approximately 2 million tons of coal per year would be mined once topsoil stockpiling and initial overburden removal has occurred. Reclamation would be concurrent with mining over the course of the estimated 25-year mine life and would be followed by a potential 10-year reclamation and revegetation monitoring period.”

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data shows the Coal Hollow operation, located in Kane County, as active, but with no coal production through the first quarter of this year. Alton Coal is controlled by several parties, including James Wayland, Robert Nead Jr. and Ohio-based coal operators Thomas and Charles Ungurean.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.