Wyo. governor blasts climate regulations after mass layoffs

Source: Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, April 4, 2016

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) lashed out at climate regulations following an announcement Thursday that two major Powder River Basin coal companies are laying off hundreds of workers.

“If they were truly concerned about global warming, if they are truly concerned about issues like regional haze, this is not the way to go about addressing those problems,” Mead said during a press conference yesterday evening, referring to federal regulators.

In one of the most significant blows ever to the West’s coal economy, Arch Coal Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp. yesterday announced that 465 positions would be cut at two of the state’s largest mines (E&ENews PM, March 31).

Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy in January; Peabody has also acknowledged that a bankruptcy may be looming.

Wyoming is by far the biggest coal-producing state in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, providing 40 percent of all coal mined in the United States.

“Every citizen in Wyoming has been a beneficiary of coal mining,” Mead said, extending his condolences to the citizens who lost jobs.

“This isn’t a natural disaster, but it certainly is a disaster in terms of the personal lives of those miners,” Mead said.

In addition to an effort to retrain laid-off workers and provide other support, Mead noted that the state is legally challenging a suite of environmental regulations affecting the coal industry and intends to continue pursuing that strategy. Wyoming is among 27 states that challenged U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut back on U.S. carbon emissions 32 percent by 2030.

“We have been very diligent … in trying to address what we view as unreasonable rules and regulations,” the governor said. “We have filed what we believe is a record number of lawsuits trying to address the situation with coal.”

Mead told reporters that the defeat of regulations like the Clean Power Plan could help the state’s coal industry.

“Obviously, we hope that the rules and regulations that we are fighting in court now, that we are able to have success on that as a state — challenging the Clean Power Plan, the regional haze [rule] — if we’re successful on that, that will also lighten the regulatory environment on the coal industry generally and also provide a better outlook,” he said.

Following the Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan, Mead did say the state should continue working on a compliance plan for the Clean Power Plan in case the rule survives. But Wyoming’s Legislature in March passed a measure to prevent the state from funding work to comply with the EPA climate rule (ClimateWire, March 2).