Powder River Basin (PRB) coal producers don’t seem to be in a panic. They’re not rushing to the negotiating table with their adversaries, crafting details of a new carbon tax or cap-and-trade bill, or even attempting a major overall of the Clean Air Act to provide long-term certainty for their core operations in America.
Last month, a Reuters investigation suggested that Powder River Basin coal companies may be under-paying federal royalties — potentially hundreds of millions of dollars — by selling to sister companies overseas. Today, two top U.S. Senators from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee have directed the U.S. Interior Department to investigate the matter.
This year alone, the state has approved some 864 horizontal well permits in the Powder River Basin, spanning portions of Campbell, Johnson and Converse counties. Major operators are chasing oil (and some residual gas) using the continually advancing drilling and hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — technologies that have turned around a decades-long oil production decline in recent years.
In reality, the question we must wrestle with is how much environmental degradation are we willing to accept on our public lands and in the air we breath? It appears that Wyoming’s elected leaders do not want to have that conversation. Instead, Gov. Mead and his fellow Republican governors put out a “state-centric” energy policy for the entire nation — a hubristic approach to energy policy for a nation that the world looks to for leadership.
Protest if you must, but every protester should know that if they harass coal miners they are doing a huge injustice to working class Americans responsible for one of the most amazingly well-operated industries in the world. They’re also doing much more to de-legitimize reasonable criticisms of the industry and our current energy policy than they are driving smart policy.