Gov. Matt Mead accused the Obama administration of orchestrating an onslaught against the coal mining and coal-fired electric generation industries in his State of the State address Wednesday, and vowed to “work with bulldogged determination” to promote coal.
“We don’t need to let up, we need to double-down” on coal, Gov. Mead said before the 2015 Legislature Wednesday morning at the Capitol Building in Cheyenne.
Mead’s administration has battled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on several fronts when it comes to regulations aimed at mining and curbing emissions from coal-fired power. Mead, who won a second term in November, has repeatedly said he doubts the science behind the consensus that man’s activities — carbon emissions — are the main contributor to accelerated climate change.
Wyoming provides about 40 percent of the nation’s coal supply, with a mining industry that is a major revenue workhorse for state and local budgets. Under Mead’s administration, Wyoming is engaged in several legal battles with EPA, from fighting conditions of the regional haze initiative to EPA’s rule to cut carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“In coming years, we will work on coal initiatives — port expansions, new technology, and value-added products. In the coming years, we need to double down,” Mead wrote in his State of the State transcript, which WyoFile obtained prior to Wednesday’s speech. “We must assure coal’s continuity. There are legitimate opportunities, such as the Integrated Test Center project, and we must seize them.
“We fight for coal as we will fight for oil and gas and other resources if they are targeted by oppressive federal regulations.”
While Mead pinned most of the blame on the EPA and the Obama administration for pressures on coal and coal-fired utility industries, some advocacy groups note that volatile markets, the proliferation of natural gas and regional efforts to address climate change are major forces that have worked against coal. There’s not much Wyoming can do to turn those tides, they say.
“It’s a heads-in-the-sand approach that ignores the the marketplace,” said Shannon Anderson of the Sheridan-based landowner advocacy group Powder River Basin Resource Council. “Regulations are not causing the coal industry to collapse, there’s nothing Wyoming can do alone to save these guys.”
Shannon noted the lack of mention in Mead’s State of the State address of climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Of Mead’s promise to “double-down” on coal, Anderson said, “You wonder, at the end of the day, where that gets us?”
Richard Garrett of the Wyoming Outdoor Council said Wyoming must plan for the future. “Wyoming is competing in a global market. And unless there is an important innovation or technological breakthrough for coal-based energy, the rest of the United States and other countries are likely to continue making decisions that will diminish demand for coal, leaving the Wyoming coal industry with fewer buyers.
“The urgency of addressing climate change is clear. My hope is that legislators and the governor will embrace it as a challenge and an opportunity to innovate and reinvent our economy for whatever is coming next.”
Meanwhile, some state of the state addresses elsewhere in the country underscored the need to address climate change, directing attention to carbon emissions.
“We face many challenges, but it is the growing threat of carbon pollution that can permanently change the nature of Washington as we know it,” Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) stated in the transcript of his 2015 State of the State address. “It’s already increasing the acidity of our waters, increasing wildfires and increasing asthma rates in our children, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color.”
One of the chief initiatives put forth by Gov. Mead and the Wyoming Legislature to promote coal, energy and other resources in the state is seed money for an industrial complex that would be modeled after the Heartland industrial complex in Canada.
State leaders also intend to continue support for more coal exports, with hundreds of thousands of dollars going to promote infrastructure for coal ports. The Wyoming Infrastructure Authority is seeking a supplemental budget request of $500,000 to continue Wyoming’s support of coal exports and carbon capture and utilization initiatives.
For more on these topics, read these WyoFile stories:
Wyoming, China dream of a coal-chemical bridge to future energy, August 2014
Reasons differ, but Wyo and China agree on cutting CO2 from coal, August 2014