Powder Basin coal mining

Obama Continues War on Coal

Whenever you hear about coal mining, what part of the nation do you think about? Many people think about Pennsylvania and West Virginia and at one time you could say they were the center of the coal mining industry. However, some of the richest coal mining areas in the US are being found in the western part of the nation.

There is a huge coal field in northern Arizona that is being used to power a large electrical generation plant. The utility I worked for in the Phoenix area sent a small crew of workers up to the Coronado Generation Station located near St. Johns. I watched as trainload after trainload of coal pulled into the power plant. It was amazing to watch as each train car full of coal was picked up, turned over to dump the coal and then placed back on the track without being disconnected from the other railcars. I was told that the coal field being mined had enough coal to keep the power plant operating for over 100 years.

Yet, the huge coal field in northern Arizona is small compared to the coal fields that have been discovered in Wyoming. The Powder River Basin coal field is the largest in America and currently produces about 40% of coal used in the nation.

The company mining the coal in the Powder River Basin is Cloud Peak Energy. According to their website:

“Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE:CLD) is headquartered in Wyoming and is one of the largest U.S. coal producers and the only pure-play Powder River Basin (PRB) coal company. As one of the safest coal producers in the nation, Cloud Peak Energy mines low sulfur, subbituminous coal and provides logistics supply services. The company owns and operates three surface coal mines in the PRB, the lowest cost major coal producing region in the nation. The Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines are located in Wyoming and the Spring Creek mine is located in Montana. In 2014, Cloud Peak Energy shipped approximately 86 million tons from its three mines to customers located throughout the U.S. and around the world. Cloud Peak Energy also owns rights to substantial undeveloped coal and complimentary surface assets in the Northern PRB, further building the company’s long-term position to serve Asian export and domestic customers.”

 

“With approximately 1,600 total employees, the company is widely recognized for its exemplary performance in its safety and environmental programs. Cloud Peak Energy is a sustainable fuel supplier for approximately 4 percent of the nation’s electricity.”

Cloud Peak Energy mine the way many coal mines do by starting in one initial location and then expanding as the need and opportunity allows. Up until last Friday, that was standard operating procedure.

On Friday, the Obama administration instituted a freeze on any new coal mining on federal lands and the Powder River Basin coal field just happens to be on federal land. Cloud Peak Energy pays the federal government huge fees to mine on federal lands. That means that as long as the temporary freeze on new mining is in place, it prevents Cloud Peak Energy from expanding their coal mining operations.

Colin Marshall, President and CEO of Cloud Peak Energy commented about the Obama administration announcement, saying:

“The administration has chosen to pander to special interest groups and do their bidding.”

 

“We are disappointed that after a robust set of ‘listening sessions’ on the coal leasing program last summer in which thousands of people across the West, from working class Americans to governors, very clearly explained how important the coal leasing program is to their well-being.”

 

“We urge Western lawmakers at the state and Congressional level to ensure a timely and legitimate review process by the Department of the Interior.”

 

“Cloud Peak Energy paid $354 million in taxes and royalties to federal, state and local governments in 2014. For the same year, we paid an additional $69 million for leases for future production. For the same year, our profit was $79 million.”

Travis Deti, Assistant Director of the Wyoming Mining Association also commented about the freeze on new mining on federal lands, saying:

“This is not about finding a solution that’s best for everybody. That’s just lip service. This is just another attempt to keep coal in the ground.”

 

“There’s no sugar coating it. This is just another attempt to put another nail in the coffin of the industry.”

I whole heartedly agree with Deti’s statement about this being another attempt by Barack Obama to end all coal mining in the US and to put thousands of miners out of a job and out of a home. In an economy that is still floundering far more than Obama will admit, he is also willing to sacrifice hundreds of millions of dollars of tax and fee revenue in trade for spending hundreds of billions of dollars on costly green energy programs and companies, many of which have already failed.

Has Barack Obama ever done anything during his 7-year reign as America’s first dictator, to support and encourage our free enterprise system that is directly responsible for making America the great nation it once was? I don’t consider the Stimulus or bailout of GM to be positive programs as much of the billions of dollars went into the pockets of many undeserving people, including $20 million to open a luxury car dealership in the Ukraine for John Hynansky, one of Biden’s friends. All Obama has done has been negative, further leading to the moral, social, religious, political and economic decay of our once proud and powerful country.

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Dave Jolly

R.L. David Jolly holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Biology – Population Genetics. He has worked in a number of fields, giving him a broad perspective on life, business, economics and politics. He is a very conservative Christian, husband, father and grandfather who cares deeply for his Savior, family and the future of our troubled nation.

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