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Biggest coal-burning power plant in the West is most likely shutting down

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The biggest coal-burning power plant in the West is fighting for survival — and despite support from the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress, it appears likely to close next year.

The Navajo Generating Station in northern Arizona is a centerpiece of the economy on the largest Native American reservation in the country, providing hundreds of jobs. But the power plant is also struggling to stay open as local utilities that use its power turn to cheaper, greener energy sources, and it would need a new owner if it’s to continue operating.

With the search for an owner stalled and time running short before the plant’s current operating deal expires in December 2019, a crucial tribal leader has joined a chorus of those saying the plant is unlikely to survive.

“Right now all the indicators are this plant is going to shut down. It’s going to be decommissioned,” Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, said in an interview.

The Navajo Generating Station has polluted the skies over the reservation for decades, but it’s also been key to the financial well-being of the Navajo and neighboring Hopi tribes. The two tribes share in the royalties from the Kayenta coal mine, which supplies the power plant, and also faces closure. The Navajo government gets 22 percent of its revenue from the operation, while the Hopi’s budget is more than 85 percent dependent on coal power. The power plant and the mine also provide 725 jobs, most of them filled by Navajos.

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The fate of the power plant is an important test case of President Donald Trump’s promise to preserve coal jobs.

Peabody Energy, the biggest coal miner in the U.S., and its investment banking firm, Lazard, are leading the fight to keep the Navajo Generating Station open. Peabody, which runs the Kayenta mine, has been working with Trump’s Interior Department to try to find utilities or other customers to take the plant’s power, agreements that would make the plant more attractive to a new owner. The Environmental Protection Agency has helped out, too, agreeing to accept a less expensive plan for controlling emissions from the plant, according to a Lazard representative.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 44-year-old power plant, which helps light the Southwest and powers the pumps that send Colorado River water to Tucson and Phoenix, has been the most heavily polluting coal-fired electricity producer in the West. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have been pushing to close it.

 Clyde Sampson has been a Maintenance Mechanic at Navajo Generating Station on and off for five years. Like many of the other workers at the power plant, Sampson says the shutdown might force him to hit the road to find work. Jim Seida / NBC News

Begaye’s comments were noteworthy, first because he had previously spoken with more optimism about keeping the generating station open and second because his remarks broke from the “unified voice” that coal mine representatives have said is needed in their campaign to prolong the life of the power plant.

Begaye says he believes Peabody’s efforts and the federal government’s assistance won’t be enough to reverse the market forces pushing utilities away from coal. He has criticized the Trump administration for failing to do more to save the Navajo Generating Station, saying in an interview with NBC News last year that the administration had created “a lot of thunder, no rain” in their support of the power plant and coal mine. In his more recent remarks, Begaye added that potential operators of the power plant “are not buying what is being said from the White House.”

The tribal leader also flatly rejected another idea designed to make NGS power cheaper and thus more attractive to potential new owners: lowering the royalties that Peabody pays to the Navajo and Hopi for their coal. Begaye said his tribe has been asked too many times in the past to make concessions that allow outsiders to tap its rich natural resources.

 SHIPROCK, NM – AUGUST 14: President of the Navajo Nation Russell Begaye talks on the phone with members of the EPA about the current state of the San Juan River and what he feels needs to be done August 14, 2015 at the Shiprock Chapter of the Navajo Nation. File Brent Lewis / Denver Post via Getty Images

Coal-generated electricity has been in retreat around America, as hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) has lowered the price of natural gas and as utilities increasingly turn to renewable power sources. Doubts about the future of NGS have grown because Peabody has not been able to deliver on its pledge, made six months ago, to line up a new power plant operator by the end of the first quarter of 2018. That date passed last week, without a successor being named.

Peabody, though, says it is still confident about finding a new owner for the power plant. “We are encouraged by the progress Lazard is making to support the transition of the plant to new owners and will continue working with stakeholders to advance all possible steps to keep the plant online well beyond 2019,” the mining company said in a statement.

One reason Lazard and Peabody are hopeful is because of their political allies. They predicted that Arizona state regulators will require that state utilities planning to abandon the coal plant keep getting electricity there. There’s no indication that will happen anytime soon. But the arguments in favor of the plant’s survival will be heard in Washington this week. On Thursday, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing on the benefits of the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station.

Begaye, though, believes the Navajo’s dependence on industries like coal will ultimately come to an end. “We will make a shift away from natural resource dependency,” said Begaye, noting the tribe hopes to turn to technology instead. “We are in a very exciting time for [the] Navajo.”

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Netherlands: Thief jailed for stealing van Gogh and Frans Hals paintings worth millions of pounds from museums | World News

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A man has been convicted of stealing a painting by Vincent van Gogh worth several million pounds from a museum in the Netherlands.

The 59-year-old was also found guilty of snatching a Frans Hals piece from another museum in the country, again worth millions of pounds, and neither of the works have been recovered.

Described as an “incorrigible and calculating criminal”, he was sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison.

The man, whose identity has been kept anonymous under Dutch privacy laws, was found guilty of taking Van Gogh’s “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884” from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam.

He later stole the 17th century Frans Hals’ “Two Laughing Boys” from the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam, 60km (35 miles) south of the Dutch capital.

The Central Netherlands Court said the Hans painting was valued at €16m (£13.7m), but did not give a value for Van Gogh’s painting.

Both were stolen by a man who broke into the museums at night and fled on a scooter driven by an accomplice.

The Vincent van Gogh painting was stolen from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam. Pic AP
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The Vincent van Gogh painting was stolen from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam. Pic AP

The defendant, who has a previous conviction for a similar heist, denied any involvement.

“The court doesn’t believe this,” the court said in a statement. “His DNA was found at both crime scenes, and the man can’t explain how that is possible.”

The paintings were described as “part of the national cultural heritage, they are important for present and future generations”.

“That is why and given the criminal record of the suspect who is, according to the court, an incorrigible and calculating criminal, the court considers the maximum sentence to be appropriate,” the court added.

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La Palma volcano: What caused it to explode and how long could the eruption last? | World News

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A volcano that erupted on the Spanish island of La Palma in the Canary Islands is continuing to explode and spew out lava five days after it erupted.

Unstoppable lava flows have destroyed nearly 400 buildings on the western side of the volcanic island of 85,000 people and the authorities have warned of new dangers including toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain.

Where is the volcano in La Palma?

A map shows the location of the Cumbre Vieja eruption and the flow of lava
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A map shows the location of the Cumbre Vieja eruption and the flow of lava
LA PALMA Canary Islands  MAP
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A map of the volcanic activity on La Palma. Credit: Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System

The volcano erupted along the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge in La Palma, one of eight volcanic islands in Spain’s Canary Islands archipelago, which sit off the northwestern coast of Africa.

The Canary Islands are popular with European tourists and the nearby island of Tenerife has one of the world’s tallest volcanoes, Mount Teide.

La Palma island itself is made up of two main volcanic complexes: a large one to the north and a smaller one to the south, which erupted on Sunday. The island last saw an eruption in 1971.

How did scientists know the eruption was coming?

More on La Palma Volcano Eruption

Scientists had been monitoring a build-up of underground magma beneath La Palma for a week before the eruption and were able to warn of a possible eruption, allowing nearly 7,000 people to evacuate.

They had detected more than 20,000 earthquakes in an “earthquake swarm” which can indicate a coming eruption.

What caused the volcano to erupt?

Copernicus Sentinel-2 image shows the eruption of a volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park, on the Canary Island of La Palma
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Copernicus Sentinel-2 image shows the eruption of the volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park
Lava spews from the Cumbre Vieja volcano in La Palma, Spain
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Lava spews from the Cumbre Vieja volcano

Three days before the volcano erupted, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute reported that 11 million cubic metres (388 million cubic feet) of molten rock had been pushed into the volcano.

Professor David Pyle, a volcanologist at the University of Oxford, told Sky News: “Magma is generated within Earth’s mantle and below La Palma that magma is probably being generated continuously at depths of 100km or so. Every now and then those magmas will collect and break through, pushing up into the shallow parts of the Earth’s crust.

“When the latest swarm of earthquakes started a week before the eruption began, scientists recognised they were happening at a shallower depth than they had seen in previous years.

“They were able to look at satellite images which showed deformation of the surface and they were very confident that from these they could recognise the movement of magma towards the surface.”

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Lava from the volcano is destroying and burying homes, leaving thousands devastated

A 4.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded before the eruption, which saw two fissures open up and bright red magma bubble up into the air.

How has the eruption developed?

Earthquakes have continued and a new fissure opened on Monday following a 3.8-magnitude quake. Scientists have warned that new lava vents and cracks could emerge, putting new areas at risk.

Lava covers more than 180 hectares on the island of La Palma and destroys 390 buildings
PIC:AP
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Lava erupts from the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge. Pic: AP

Prof Pyle said scientists will now be measuring the amount of gas escaping from the volcano, checking whether the composition of magma changes over time and measuring the quantity of material that is being expelled to see how quickly the volcano is erupting.

“With these they will be forming an expert judgement in terms of what the trajectory is looking like in terms of the eruption, whether it is waxing or waning,” he said.

“In this crisis they are deploying all the tools they can to try and work out what is changing during the eruption. And that will give them the clues in terms of whether or not to expect the activity to last for days, or weeks, or months.”

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Scientists say the volcanic eruption could continue until December

Officials in La Palma have recorded 1,130 tremors in the area over the past week as the volcano blasted molten lava into the air.

The explosions have propelled ash almost 15,000ft into the air, according to the Guardia Civil police force. Two rivers of lava have flowed slowly down the hillside, consuming houses, banana farms and infrastructure.

How long could the eruption last?

Residents look from a hill as the lava from a volcano eruption flows on the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Spain
PIC:AP
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Residents look on from a hill as lava from the volcano flows. Pic: AP

Scientists are unclear about how long the eruption could last, with estimates ranging between weeks and even months.

The previous eruption in 1971 lasted for just over three weeks. The last eruption in the Canary Islands happened underwater off the coast of El Hierro island in 2011 and lasted for five months.

Professor Mike Burton, a volcanologist at the University of Manchester, told Sky News that while scientists were able to predict the eruption, knowing how long it could last was “the tricky bit”.

Lava from a volcano eruption flows in El Paso, on the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain, September 23, 2021.
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Lava has surrounded houses in El Paso

“It’s great that we can see when something like this is coming, but once it has started it is quite hard to be clear about how it is going to evolve.

“I think the best thing we can do is watch and look for signs of waxing and waning, increasing and decreasing activity.

“The last eruption went on for about three months, but every eruption is different. This one appears to have started with a higher lava eruption rate than the 1971 eruption, so already it seems to be more powerfully supplied.

“That might mean it goes on much longer, but you have to be cautious about making any deterministic predictions. We really need to wait and see what nature does.”

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Elon Musk and Grimes split up after three years together but ‘remain on great terms’ | Ents & Arts News

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Elon Musk and Grimes have split up after three years together, according to reports.

Musk, who is the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, confirmed to Page Six that he and the Canadian singer are semi-separate but on good terms.

The 50-year-old added that they will continue to co-parent their one-year-old son, X Æ A-Xii Musk.

Elon Musk and his newborn. Pic: @elonmusk/Twitter
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Elon Musk and Grimes welcomed their first child in May 2020. Pic: @elonmusk/Twitter

“We are semi-separated but still love each other, see each other frequently and are on great terms,” Musk told Page Six.

“It’s mostly that my work at SpaceX and Tesla requires me to be primarily in Texas or travelling overseas, and her work is primarily in LA. She’s staying with me now, and Baby X is in the adjacent room.”

The pair started dated in May 2018 and welcomed their first son two years later.

They were last seen together at the Met Gala on 13 September, when Grimes, 33, walked on the red carpet alone and Musk joined her inside.

Grimes joined Musk at a Met Gala after-party, which he was hosting, and the duo were seen leaving New York together the next day.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala - Met Gala - In America: A Lexicon of Fashion - Arrivals - New York City, U.S. - September 13, 2021. Grimes. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
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Grimes walked on the red carpet alone at the Met Gala on 13 September but was joined by Elon Musk inside

Musk was previously married to author Justine Wilson, with whom he has five sons – 17-year-old twins Griffin and Xavier, and triplets Damian, Saxon and Kai, aged 15.

He has also been married twice to Westworld actress Talulah Riley, and dated Amber Heard for a year.

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