Coal is One of America’s Greatest National Treasures

By Rep. Liz Cheney (R‐WY), Member of Congress

Wyoming is America’s largest coal producing state, mining close to 40 percent of the coal consumed by our nation every year. Common estimates give Wyoming close to 145 billion tons of recoverable coal and 1.4 trillion tons in total coal reserves. This coal is a national treasure.

Tens of millions of American homes and businesses rely on coal every day to provide electricity because it generates some of the most affordable energy in America. According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), the national average price for electricity is around 10.42 cents per kilowatt hour. States which generate a majority of their electricity from coal pay on average 13 percent less than this national average. Conversely, states that generate less than 8 percent of their electricity from coal pay 24 percent more than the national average. Despite coal’s abundance and affordability to American consumers, the Obama administration spent eight years trying to destroy the industry.

In 2016, Wyoming’s Powder River Basin produced 285.2 million tons of coal compared to the previous year’s total of 363.4 million tons. In addition to the decline in production, according to ACCCE, 37 states have seen coal fired unit retirements and conversions caused by Obama‐era EPA policies. The American Action Forum estimates that the Obama war on coal imposed $312 million in regulatory costs to the coal industry and cost 180,000 jobs. This has amounted to more than $9.7 million in lost wages.

This deliberate War on Coal has certainly done significant damage to Wyoming’s state economy, impacting every community, and putting thousands of our neighbors out of work. Early last year, our state witnessed the loss of hundreds of jobs at Wyoming mines in the Powder River Basin. These mass layoffs were heartbreaking for those who lost their jobs and heartbreaking for their families. The federal government had no right to target an industry in this way and destroy the jobs connected with it.

My family’s involvement in the Wyoming energy industry reaches back a hundred years. My great‐grandfather began working in the Salt Creek Oil Fields in the early 20th century. My grandmother and her siblings were raised there in a hard‐sided tent on the edge of the oil fields. We have seen the cycles of boom and bust that have long characterized Wyoming’s energy economy. Sadly, for the last eight years, we have been living through something altogether different – an all‐out assault on our nation’s vital fossil fuels industry. With no regard for our economy, our security, or our livelihoods, a select few over the past eight years were determined to kill the coal industry at any cost.