Coal Exec: We're Headed For A Lower Carbon Future

Apr 6, 2016

Cathy Woollums, senior vice president and chief environmental counsel for Berkshire Hathaway Energy speaks about the Clean Power Plan at the University of Wyoming on April 4, 2016.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

Wyoming needs to start planning for a lower-carbon future, according to panelists at a University of Wyoming discussion about the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration rule that would cut carbon emissions from power plants.

The panel of coal and utility industry representatives and academics was largely critical of the rule, calling it a clumsy vehicle for carbon reduction. But at the same time, the panelists all agreed that with or without the rule, carbon reduction will happen. 

“Whether you like it, whether you don’t like it, whether you believe it’s important for climate, whether you imagine somehow it doesn’t matter—it's irrelevant because that’s where we’re headed,” said Richard Reavey, vice president of government and public affairs for Cloud Peak Energy, one of the country’s largest coal producers.

Cathy Woollums directs environmental policy for Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which owns Rocky Mountain Power, Wyoming’s largest utility. She compared the changes happening in the energy industry to the advent of cell phones.

“And how many of you who have cell phones still have a home phone, a landline?" she asked.

A few hands went up in the audience. 

"Not very many.” Wyoming leads the nation in per capita carbon emissions, with each resident responsible for the equivalent of 117 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2013.   In February, the Supreme Court put the Clean Power Plan on hold until litigation over it is resolved. Wyoming has halted work on compliance until the stay is lifted.