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SCOTUS Coal Decision Prompts Calls for WY to Invest in Transition, Jobs

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Thursday, July 8, 2021   

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - After Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon's legal strategy to export Powder River Basin coal to Asian markets was shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court, conservationists say it's time to face the reality of coal's continued decline and help impacted workers and communities.

Rob Joyce, conservation organizer with the Sierra Club in Wyoming, said the high court's decision underscores that Washington and any other state is well within their rights to take steps to protect residents' access to clean air and water.

"Wyoming can't afford to be spending taxpayer money on these really long-shot legal battles," said Joyce. "That money would be much better spent finding ways to diversify our economy and our tax base, and really helping our communities prepare for this transition."

In 2020 the Wyoming Legislature established a Wyoming coal marketing program, including $1 million to promote exports to Asia. Earlier this year, lawmakers allocated $1.2 million for a legal fund to sue states that block coal exports or retire coal-fired power plants.

Proponents say investing in coal exports will benefit taxpayers since the state budget depends on coal revenues.

Joyce argued that taxpayer investments should be directed toward job training, attracting new businesses to the state, and programs that can help communities that rely on coal remain viable.

He said the days of filling state coffers with coal revenues are waning, and lawmakers need to face the realities of a changing energy marketplace. Joyce noted what's actually driving the downturn in coal is lack of demand.

"Wyoming has been an exporter of this resource for decades, and it's going to communities that no longer want it," said Joyce, "communities that are making decisions to stop burning fossil fuels really because the climate realities that are happening across the globe are that severe."

Washington state denied permits for a proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal project on the Columbia River in 2017, citing the Clean Water Act. Wyoming and Montana sued Washington state, arguing that the decision amounted to a barrier for lawful interstate commerce.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.



Disclosure: Sierra Club, Wyoming Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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