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Wyoming’s coal communities strategize to transition with Biden’s energy plans

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 3:08 PM CST
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GILLETTE, W.Y. (KOTA) - The Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette is just one of Wyoming’s 16 coal mines still up and running. The state’s coal workforce has significantly shrunk in the past months, and President Joe Biden’s climate change executive order isn’t helping the industry.

“It’s tricky. We’ll we have already seen it here with layoffs and mines closing and that kind of thing,” Matt Walker, owner of Walker Oil and Gas Inspection, said.

By 2035 President Biden wants the United States to reach 100% clean energy. President Biden’s administration has been working on transitioning from coal to renewable energy. What kind of impact is that going to bring here to Gillette? Walker says coal workers will not have a hard time transitioning into new jobs. There just won’t be as many to transition into.

“Railroads, they’ll haul a lot of coal, it will impact them, the miners obviously, the power plants that use the coal,” Walker said. “The government needs to come up with ways to make coal-burning power plants cleaner and not leave the whole burden on the operator.”

The city of Gillette’s communications manager, Geno Palazzari, says they are concerned about the coal mining industry but is confident there will be other opportunities for those leaving the field.

“We have been working on many other different partnerships with University of Wyoming school of energy resources, our local energy capital economic development,” Palazzari said. “The U.S. Department of Energy is now working here and other ways to use carbon, other ways to use coal. both pre-and post-combustion, to try and find ways to utilize the resources in this area.”

Palazzari says he does not think tourism will slow down, and he says growth is happening. In fact. The city has added facilities during the pandemic.

“We are expanding a sports complex just east of town,” Palazzari said. “It started off with four softball baseball fields. We have now a football field for football, lacrosse, those types of things.”

There are 60 coal mines currently open across Wyoming.

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