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Know the West

Latest: Coal continues to decline in Wyoming

Recent indicators don’t bode well for the state.


Wyoming produces more than 40 percent of the nation’s coal, and mining contributes more than $1 billion annually to state and local budgets. But production has been declining for several years now as cheaper, cleaner energy takes its place. Despite President Trump’s promises to bring back coal, Wyoming miners saw a net loss in jobs during 2017 (“Can coal remain the bedrock of Wyoming’s economy?HCN, 9/18/17).


The future of Wyoming coal looks bleak: In late March, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that demand will stay flat for several decades. Last year, companies withdrew applications for 901 million tons of coal in the Powder River Basin. In December, Contura Energy sold two Powder River Basin mines for just $21 million, the amount of taxes it owes the state. And this winter, power-plant owners in Colstrip, facing eventual plant closure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promised the coal-dependent town $13 million to help its economy transition beyond coal.