The Obama administration’s coal lease moratorium and cheap natural gas are making life miserable for coal miners in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana, The Associated Press wrote Monday.
“Most of the time it comes back. This time, I don’t know,” Bobbie Garcia, a Wyoming resident, told Associated Press reporters about the coal industry’s troubles.
The pain, AP notes, is in due in part to the antagonistic relationship President Barack Obama has created between the federal government and the coal industry. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced Jan. 15 a three-year halt and review of coal leases following Obama’s urging for mineral royalties reform during his final State of the Union address last month.
“We haven’t undertaken a comprehensive review of the program in more than 30 years,” Jewell said in a press release. “We have an obligation to current and future generations to ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change.”
The call for a moratorium came a week after Missouri-based Arch Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Arch Coal’s downfall comes amid the bankruptcy filings of Virginia-based James River Coal Co. in 2014, as well as that of Utah-based America West Resources Inc.
“This administration is in a full-scale war with coal communities and families,” Sen. [crscore]John Barrasso[/crscore], a Wyoming Republican, said in a statement. “A moratorium on federal coal leasing effectively hands a pink slip to the thousands of people in Wyoming and across the West employed in coal production.”
Strip mines in the Thunder Basin National Grassland, among other regions, have contributed to 40 percent of the country’s oil supply, which has added 7,000 mining industry jobs and helped get families through lean years, Michael Von Flatern, a Republican state senator in Wyoming, told the AP.
“I cannot picture myself in Gillette without a coal mine,” Von Flatern told AP. “That’s a big part of it, the steadiness of it.”
Locals in Wyoming feel the temporary ban on coal leases was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the AP noted.
“All these rules and regulations just make it harder to conduct business,” Susan Doop, a local business owner, told reporters.
She added: “Everything he (Obama) does to make it more costly to do business makes it harder. People are losing their jobs.”
Doop’s husband, Marlin, who suffers from colon cancer, had a $15,000 check from Arch bounce following the company’s bankruptcy.
“Could be one to five years. And then when they settle, they always settle with the biggest companies first. And then the little guy gets stuck,” Marlin Doop told reporters.
Robert Godby, who directs the Center For Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming, told AP reporters the coal moratorium only hammers “more nails in the coffin [of the coal industry]. I don’t want to say they’re already dead, but you get the idea.”
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