Green River Star -

Our view: Middle Baxter project is a worthy gamble

 

January 29, 2020



The Wyoming Public Services Commission is hosting a hearing today to receive public comment regarding Rocky Mountain Power’s plan to retire two of the four Jim Bridger Power Plant Units in the next decade.

While it’s easy for us to focus on how plant closures will impact this area for years to come, another question about the area’s economy is this: What will we do if coal goes away?

While the trona industry continues to thrive, with Ciner and Genesis Alkali poised for expansions in the coming years, reducing the role natural gas and coal play in the local economy would still spell trouble for many residents. Sweetwater County, in conjunction with the two cities, has placed an increased emphasis on what’s become known as the Middle Baxter Road Project, which aims to create an industrial complex near the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport.

Once the site is ready to build, it will represent a multi-million dollar investment into an idea that might never be. However, we’re included to side with Rep. John Freeman (D-Green River) and his thoughts on the issue. Freeman describes the investment as a bet, but not a blind bet.

Freeman has had the opportunity to tour massive industrial complexes in China and Canada as a member of the Wyoming Legislature. While he doesn’t deny the fact that there is no guarantee that the project will succeed, the county and Middle Baxter Road offer a number of benefits that could spur development.

Obviously, we have the raw materials in abundant supply. Even coal, which has fallen by 9 percent since last year, can still be utilized in small-scale plants to power industrial facilities.

If not coal, we have ample supplies of natural gas to get the job done. Many of Sweetwater County’s residents already know the multitude of products trona and soda ash can be fashioned into.

We should also pay attention to the fact the area is located near to one of the country’s most important interstate highways.

Interstate 80 stretches from California to New Jersey, which opens up quick and easy transport of finished goods to a multitude of major markets within the U.S., as well as international markets through San Francisco.

While the project isn’t a sure deal, we think the project offers hope to the area after the Jim Bridger Power Plant’s full decommission.

 

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