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Wyoming officials outraged, horrified by decision to end PRB coal leasing

Trucks haul coal from the pit to be dumped into bays on Aug. 15, 2017, at the Antelope Mine in Converse County, Wyoming. (Dan Cepeda, File)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Wyoming officials banded together Thursday to express discontent with a recent federal decision to end coal leasing in the Powder River Basin. 

The decision was announced by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on May 16, representing a historic shift in federal management of coal in the region to eliminate reported climate, human health and environmental impacts from continuing to lease 6 billion tons of coal in the PRB.  

While a May 16 release announcing the decision contained praise from energy officials —  including a former coal miner from Gillette — Wyoming officials expressed adamant opposition to the decision while vowing to see it overturned.

Mayor Shay Lundvall said he disapproved of the decision, asserting that the federal government failed to provide adequate information or make attempts to reach out to local officials and community members of action with the potential to critically impact the economy of the third-largest city in Wyoming. 

“By pushing for less production and use of our natural resources through rules like these, the federal government will cause us to lose revenue and jobs, and harm our community and others like it,” Lundvall said in a May 16 statement. 

Having worked in the mines, Lundvall says he knows firsthand how Powder River Basin coal is a clean and affordable way to provide affordable energy, good jobs and a low-tax environment for families and businesses. 

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon expressed outrage in a forceful response to the decision, stating it effectively determined coal leasing in the Powder River Basin will not be permitted past 2041. He characterized the decision as an attack by President Joe Biden’s Administration on Wyoming’s coal country ensuring the president’s legacy will be blackouts and energy poverty for Wyoming’s citizens and beyond. 

“As Governor, I am profoundly disappointed that our nation’s highest executive leadership has chosen to ignore innovation and opportunity to grovel at the feet of coastal elites,” Gordon said, adding that the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office is pursuing action against the decision. “I promise that the State of Wyoming will fully utilize the opportunities available to kill or modify this Record of Decision before it is signed and final.”

Heavy equipment operates at Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle mine in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. (Peabody Energy)

Wyoming’s congressional delegation also laid into the decision, stating it negatively impacts 12 of the state’s active coal mines and will put 48 billion short tons of coal off limits for mining.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said the decision is part of Biden’s continued war on Wyoming’s coal communities and families. He said it is a short-sighted decision that will kill future coal leases in the Powder River Basin. 

“This will kill jobs and could cost Wyoming hundreds of millions of dollars used to pay for public schools, roads, and other essential services in our communities,” Barrasso said in a statement. “Cutting off access to our strongest resource surrenders America’s greatest economic advantages — to continue producing affordable, abundant, and reliable American energy.”

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) said she was horrified by what she said is the Biden administration’s latest assault on the nation’s domestic energy production. She said Wyoming has been targeted left and right by the Biden administration as it works to cater to the Democratic Party. 

“The Cowboy State produces some of the cleanest and best coal in the world,” Lummis said in a statement. “This RMP will push our country to rely on foreign adversaries for energy needs at a time when our grid is pushed to the brim and Wyoming coal is needed now more than ever to power our nation and the world.”

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) said the decision will destroy the Wyoming coal industry and negatively impact every American’s access to affordable and reliable energy while weakening the U.S. economy and national security.

“At the same time, it will result in the need to increase coal production in countries with poor environmental and labor standards, thereby causing even more worldwide pollution — the total opposite of what this failed administration claims to be trying to accomplish,” Hageman said in a statement. “The Biden Administration’s war on affordable and reliable energy won’t end until we end his presidency.”

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