Lack of energy policy ‘delays’ Wyoming gasification project

A partnership between GE Energy and the University of Wyoming to build a coal-gasification research center to ensure the future viability of Wyoming coal has been “delayed” due to the lack of a federal energy policy. For the past year, utilities have told Wyoming officials that they can no longer include new coal facilities in their planning until the federal government decides exactly how it will regulate greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

The coal industry has lobbied hard against the regulation of greenhouse gases.

Now with little to no growth for coal in the U.S. market, Wyoming coal producers are focused on shipping the domestic energy resource to China.

At a funding level of $100 million, the UW-GE High Plains Coal Gasification project was a relatively modest attempt to change the dynamic and to begin to add value to Wyoming coal by reducing its carbon footprint, said Richard Garrett of the Wyoming Outdoor Council.

“It was something that former Governor Freudenthal, now a board member of Arch Coal, thought was crucial to the state’s future and our state legislature agreed,” Garrett told WyoFile via email. “I would like to see our current governor and the state legislature step back up to the plate and tell GE — and Washington D.C. — that we do things differently in Wyoming.”

Garrett added that Wyoming committed to a long-term effort in pursuing coal-gasification technology for Wyoming coal, and it ought to stick to that commitment.

“I think our congressional delegation needs to do the same thing,” Garrett added.

Here’s Gov. Matt Mead’s press release in its entirety:

GE Energy and the University of Wyoming have announced that the joint work on the High Plains Gasification-Advanced Technology Center has been delayed. The original project investment plan anticipated more progress toward certainty in the future of federal energy policy. Future investments will be paced by the development of clear federal energy policy.

Governor Mead is disappointed about GE Energy’s decision to pause development of the High Plains Gasification-Advanced Technology Center project until uncertainty around coal utilization is reduced. However, Governor Mead feels this decision and possibly other energy sector decisions to delay projects are not unexpected given the lack of a federal energy policy.

“Capital from the private sector only flows to large and ambitious projects when there is reasonable regulatory, legal and financial certainty,” Governor Mead said. “This is a real world example of the local impact of the federal government’s failure to provide a policy path forward for energy use in America. An energy policy must include the responsible use of our coal resources. Without a clear policy, investors and developers do not have certainty and cannot plan for risk, which is critical in making decisions to build modern, efficient plants.”

“GE technology is ready to provide a cleaner coal solution for America and for the world.  When government policy and economic realities are aligned in the U.S., we plan to be a leader in cleaner coal technologies,” said Keith White, General Manager of GE Energy’s gasification business.  “We value our partnership with the University of Wyoming and we will reassess the environment in 18 to 24 months.”

UW President Tom Buchanan said, “The University of Wyoming (UW) stands ready to proceed with continued work to advance the HPG-ATC. In any business relationship, we acknowledge the need for all parties to be comfortable prior to moving forward.  The agreement between the State of Wyoming, GE Energy and UW contemplates significant milestones in the project development.”

The High Plains Gasification-Advanced Technology Center is a research and technology center focused on looking at coal gasification solutions for coal from the Powder River Basin and other parts of Wyoming. Wyoming produces 40% of the nation’s coal and the state provides about 10% of the nation’s energy.

“America and Wyoming have the leadership capacity, the technology prowess and the private capital availability to wisely put our energy resources to productive use but we are strangled by uncertainty created by the energy policy vacuum in Washington DC,” Governor Mead said.

— Contact Dustin Bleizeffer at 307-577-6069 or

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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