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Wyoming enacts new protection against coal-targeting lawsuits

Gov. Mark Gordon gestures to the balcony during introductions at the State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

By Chris Woodward | The Center Square contributor, Feb 20, 2023

(The Center Square) – Governor Mark Gordon has signed legislation to bolster the ability to protect the coal industry.

House Bill 69 provides the governor “flexibility” to utilize an account dedicated to funding litigation against entities that he says “impede Wyoming’s ability to export coal, cause the early retirement of coal-fired electric generation facilities located in Wyoming, and result in the decreased use of Wyoming coal or the closure of coal-fired electric generation facilities that use Wyoming coal.”

The vast majority of electricity in Wyoming comes from coal. ChooseEnergy.org’s January Electricity Generation By State report puts the percentage at 75.9%. However, the Biden administration continues pushing for less fossil fuel use and more alternative energy sources to help the environment. Still, Gordon is not turning his back on coal. 

“Coal has a future in Wyoming,” said the governor in a press release. “Thank you to the Legislature for helping to make a broader use of these funds, so we can be much more proactive in protecting our coal industries’ future.” 

In January, during his State of the State address, Gordon highlighted the state’s innovations when it comes to energy and the environment. 

“Change and innovation are inevitable, they always have been,” Gordon said. “Second, carbon capture is essential if we are to address climate change and provide a catalyst and a path forward for fossil fuel production.”

Pointing to Wyoming’s eight coal-fired power plants, as well as the Wyoming coal that provides a source of electricity to approximately one-quarter of all U.S. households, Gordon said carbon capture could help not only coal but other traditional sources. 

“For those who would suggest carbon capture is too expensive and the others who think the discussion is simply foolish, I say things are changing,” the governor said.