Yes, Bob, you can use my article and you can include my name. I actually posted an article that you provided in your newsletter “Fossil Fuels are necessary for Green Energy…it is not a competition” to the Energy Central website with my quick comment. It has received already over 700 views of the article and only two comments.
Since Coal is a major financial player in the State of Wyoming and more importantly in Campbell County/Gillette, I will always stand behind my comments b/c I live here and I see how it affects our wonderful community and State. We have been very lucky as opposed to the underground mines out East. The new liberal agenda of “Climate Change” or “Global warming” has affected those mines more negatively than we have experienced here in the PRB. But if they continue to beat the dead horse of “Fossil Fuels bad & solar/wind good” without anyone sticking up for the burning of fossil fuels, production will continue to decline. I loved the article about Russia you posted last we that they are actually ramping up their production. Putin understands and doesn’t have to deal with the negative opposing party selling their own agenda. Look to the Paris Act in they are trying to limit the carbon footprint of Nations all across the globe. But you know which Nation is not paying attention or listening to their agenda? China!!! They have not cut back production and they have no plans to reduce their carbon footprint at all.
When I worked for Peabody, I had a coal salesman from our town office share a crazy story with me about China and its relationship with Australia. Australia mines the iron ore, ships the ore to China, only to have China turn the iron ore into steel, only to sell the steel back to Australia. But that’s neither here nor there and just a story that paints the picture of how aggressive China is in coal mining. Before I started with Peabody in October 2006, my future boss, Duane Myers (Safety Manager at Caballo mine), and a group of people across Peabody traveled to China to take a tour of some coal mines that Peabody was interested in buying or partnering with. Duane said, obviously, safety rules and regulations were an oversight. He even said many of the pictures they took with miners had to put all the PPE on before the picture was taken as they did not have any PPE before Peabody arrived.
Additionally, you have people who post articles to newspapers like the LA times that don’t even make sense (click here). In the article they claim that the burning of coal is responsible for the haze over their precious national parks and not the overpopulation of people and their vehicles that actually cause more pollution than a coal-fired power plant. But the problem is people, regardless of their knowledge on the subject, take articles like these and PREACH them to anyone and everyone who will listen…even if they are not factually correct. We are fighting an uphill battle but regardless. Until my last breath I will continue to fight this “global warming/climate change” rhetoric that is portrayed in the media. If it bleeds, it leads and fossil-fuel burning has been under attack since Bill Clinton revamped the 1977 Clean Air Act during his two terms in the White House.
It is like all the FBook memes that have shown cities such as LA, and Denver with their smog issues and another picture showing the steam coming out of the Coal-fired plant stacks. It’s just how you explain the process to the population…some people will listen and others won’t believe you.
Just my thoughts as this topic is near and dear to my heart…
The article on Wyoming Coal got me all excited to read more about it. Unfortunately, no one really has an answer to the “war on coal” and I believe the change in political power to a more “climate change” liberal focus when it comes to fossil fuels has been the main issue with the dwindling coal production over the last 10+ years. The abandonment of fossil fuels started with Obama and even under Trump it never really got the help and support that we Wyomingites were hoping for. We held onto hope for Trump’s 2nd term. But when this past election was stolen from Old Joe and his corrupt party we knew the end of coal was more of a serious consequence more so than ever before.
When I first moved to Wyoming in 1994 from Spokane, Washington, I did so to work for EMS, Inc (now known as Sulzer Inc), a small electric motor, weld, machine, Chrome cylinder repair shop with 80% of all our work tied up in the Powder River Basin coal mining companies. I felt the first attack on coal in the winter of 1994 when my future father-in-law came to our apartment to let me know that I was one of the 4-5 people who were being laid off due to the reduction in coal production which led to less work for our (and other vendor’s) shops. Now, my unemployment didn’t last that long b/c in March of 1995 I was hired back by EMS, Inc but in the machine and welding shop as a truck driver. I worked in that department for about a year until I was promoted to Quality Control Coordinator to help create a quality control lab and worked exclusively with P&H to gauge and test our measurement tools in our shop. I worked for EMS for almost 12 years with the last 9 years as the Safety Coordinator before I took a job with Peabody Energy’s Caballo Mine. Over the next ten years, I worked for two coal companies at 3 different mines (Peabody’s Caballo and North Antelope Rochelle Mine and in the end at Alpha Coal West’s Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines). Over those ten years, I was able to see the effects of the “war on coal” firsthand. Production numbers continued to climb from 1995 to 2008 and in fact, Wyoming coal production reached a new record of 4.6 million tonnes produced. However, in 2009, under the leadership of George W. Bush, Wyoming coal saw the largest decline in production (-7.82%) we had ever seen in the history of coal mining in Wyoming since the 1950s. From 2009-2010, we saw an increase but I remember talking to experts in our field who said, “Wyoming Coal will NEVER get back to the peak we’ve seen in 2008, and production numbers will continue to fall based on the Nation’s outlook on coal.”
In fact, it was in those years from 2009-2013, when Wyoming Coal production experienced an overall reduction in coal production by -19.16% when Peabody put a ton of money into a national campaign to talk about the benefits of coal mining because normal American’s had no idea how safe, productive, and clean coal mining was. Unfortunately, most of America still believed that coal mining was the picture of the underground miner coming out with black all over their face and clothes and not the company climate was at the time. The ad did little to sway the American voters and in 2012 America voted in incumbent Obama and the past “war on coal” turned quickly into the “attack on coal” and Wyoming Coal production took the largest hit it had ever seen since the 2008-2009 fall. In 2015, Alpha Coal West, the third-largest coal mine in the PRB, filed for bankruptcy. It was the first time one of the top three (Peabody, Arch, and ACW) had to file for bankruptcy and it set the path for other coal mining companies to follow suit. Even with the election of Donald Trump in 2016, the “attack on coal” was already in full form, and in one year, Wyoming coal production saw its largest decrease since the 1950s when production fell by -26.28%. Here in the PRB and for the entire state of Wyoming, coal production has done so much for our Wyoming communities through the sale of goods and services needed to keep the mines running through the many various vendor companies. It was during the bankruptcy of ACW in 2015 which led me to change careers and leave coal mining and transition as the Safety Manager for the City of Gillette. But don’t get me wrong, I still felt the ramifications of the reduction of coal production as a City of Gillette employee. Although Campbell County earns the most revenue from coal production through taxes and such, the City still receives revenue as well. With the downturn in coal production, it obviously affects the coal mining companies and their employees initially but local businesses and governments also feel the same effects. For instance, sales tax is one of the largest revenue-producing activities, and with coal mines not producing as much coal, they do not need the mining equipment associated with vendors to repair their equipment. Additionally, with the reduction in coal production, coal companies are reducing their workforce by either offering early retirement packages or choosing to use simple layoffs based on protocols created in-house.
Now with all that being said, I was really hoping the article had more ideas or options on how we can turn around the decline in coal production. However, the article really left me with an empty feeling in my gut. I have lived here in Campbell County for over 27 years and I have seen first-hand what the “attack on coal” has meant to our community and local businesses. People who have been displaced have chosen to leave the state and choosing to go where the mining work is in other states such as Colorado, Texas, and Nevada. Businesses who have provided vendor services for the coal mines have closed their shops and relocated their services to areas when mining, whether it is coal or metal/non-metal, can still be utilized. With the largest reduction in coal production in 2016, there were many articles written stating the number of people and businesses fleeing Wyoming was going to be staggering. They listed businesses closing, house market crashes, school closures and the massive numbers of people leaving the state were going to be an ongoing trend for many years to come. Now it has not been as great of a knee jerk as some of the journalists have claimed but we have felt the effects. For the City of Gillette, our annual budgets have been drastically reduced in an effort to stay ahead of the loss of coal production.
One thing the article did mention that we are all fearful of is the abandonment of coal mines if they do not follow through with their reclamation efforts. The fear of these big coal mining companies pulling out and just leaving the empty pits was one of the main focuses of the bankruptcy proceedings when ACW filed in 2015. Even when the new company, Contura, purchased ACW, they never fully made it out the other side of bankruptcy when they sold their Wyoming mines to BlackJewell in 2017. BlackJewell was a huge black eye for the industry in Wyoming and was more or less a bandaid and ended up selling the two Wyoming coal mines back to Contura in 2019. Along with who was going to be ultimately responsible to reclaim the mine if they were to pull out, the federal taxes loomed like a dark cloud that hung over whoever owned these two mines.
The topic of Coal mining in Wyoming is difficult to talk about in our community. Although we really wish we could go back to the heyday of 2008, we know with the current leadership we have in Washington and their focus on “climate change/climate shift” (or whatever terminology they are using currently), the likelihood of us returning to those production numbers is slim to never. I just hope that the “attack on coal” does not leave Wyoming as a ghost town as many of the journalists had mentioned in their previous fearmongering articles.
Thank you for the share, Randy Milliron!