Letter details impacts from 'War on Coal'

A letter addressed to Wyoming’s congressional delegation and signed by four Sweetwater County Commissioners addresses impacts the commissioners allege are a result of a war on coal usage.

The letter comes after news that Rocky Mountain Power plans to deactivate four power-generating units at two Wyoming power plants, including two at the Jim Bridger Power Plant. Wally Johnson, chairman of the Sweetwater County Board of County Commissioners, said the letter was inspired by decisions made that will impact the county, state and nation. He said decision makers can’t sit idly by as those decisions are made and hopes the letter will spur a response and action from the congressional delegation.

“The letter speaks for itself,” Johnson said.

The letter both highlights impacts faced locally due to decreased coal demand, as well as impacts that would be felt nationally. The letter argues the ability to reliably and affordably generate electricity is threatened as coal loses prominence in the power generation mix. Citing statistics by the National Mining Association, the commissioners argue power generation is cheaper in states utilizing coal, than states using other means of power generation. They argue weather impacts wind power generation, citing incidents in Texas and Illinois that would have halted wind turbines. The letter also suggests natural gas, a source of power gaining traction nationwide, also faces difficulties because of the limited capacity pipelines naturally have.

Economically, the letter cites people employed by the mining industry earn nearly twice the average annual wage in Wyoming and paid approximately $1.5 billion in wages throughout the state’s economy. The letter also claims mining supports 18,810 jobs statewide, using 2017 statistics from the state. Locally, the commissioners cite 929 direct jobs supported through coal mining and power generation, estimating 5,103 county residents, about 12 percent of the county’s population, are supported through the coal industry.

“Any War on Coal hardship, placed upon our coal mining and power industries, will cause wide ranging economic hardships for Sweetwater County, its cities, towns and residents,” the letter states.

The letter also offers Wyoming’s congressional delegation the commissioners’ aid in fighting the “War on Coal” and thanked them for their support in combatting regulations and unfair market policies, as well as supporting research and implementation of clean coal technologies.


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