Gillette – A delegation of Wyoming legislators and municipal officials met with several local government leaders from the northwest in Seattle on Wednesday, as part of ongoing efforts to promote export of Wyoming coal and other commodities to foreign markets.
The meeting was hosted by the Northeast Wyoming Municipal Leaders Group, in conjunction with the National League of Cities meeting. Mayors from cities and towns in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon that could be impacted by rail traffic to transport Wyoming coal to ports attended the meeting.
The Wyoming delegation took the opportunity to explain Wyoming’s efforts to expand markets for Wyoming coal, while learning about potential impacts on local communities. Regarding impacts of rail transport of coal, Senator John Hines told meeting attendees, “They have been hauling coal through my ranch for 112 years and there hasn’t been a bit of coal dust.”
The Wyoming Legislature is concerned about the recent decline in coal sales, because of the importance of coal and other commodities to the Wyoming economy. As noted by the Wyoming Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG), for the first time in more than a decade and a half, the assessed value for coal declined. The 2012 surface coal production in Wyoming amounted to just under 397 million tons, the lowest amount of production in the last eight years and a reduction of 38 million tons from the 2011 levels. Through the first half of 2013, surface coal production in Wyoming is on pace to decline by another 3.7 percent, year-over-year.
Wyoming Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau noted of the trip, “This is another step in a sustained battle to protect Wyoming jobs and quality of life. Coal has funded the building of schools in every community in Wyoming. Our goal in opening dialogue is to clear up misconceptions about the impact of coal. Our experience in Wyoming is that it can be used in a responsible and environmentally sound manner.”
As an indication of its contribution toward K-12 education funding, which is largely funded through federal mineral royalties and property taxes, coal production accounts for more than 18 percent of Wyoming’s assessed valuation. Over 90 percent of state-funded schools constructed in Wyoming are funded through the production of coal in the form of royalties and bonus payments.
Gillette Mayor Tom Murphy said, “The necessity for dialogue with municipal leaders from the northwest about what exporting coal will do for them has never been more necessary, and I am proud of the teamwork displayed by the Northeast Wyoming Municipal Leaders Group, our state legislators and Governor Mead. Exporting Powder River Basin coal to Asia makes sense on so many levels, and we need to make the case to our counterparts in the northwest.”
The Wyoming Legislature appropriated funds during the 2013 General Session to help improve Wyoming’s access to, and growth in, domestic and international markets for natural gas, oil, coal, uranium, power manufacturing, tourism and other commodities and products. Wyoming Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, Sens. Jim Anderson (S.D. 02), Bruce Burns, John Hines and Michael Von Flatern, and Reps. Gregg Blikre, James Byrd, Sue Wilson and Dan Zwonitzer attended the meeting.