A conservation group has expressed skepticism about a federal grant announced by Ramaco Carbon, LLC, a coal company that intends to build a mine north of Sheridan. Ramaco recently announced a $7 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop low-cost carbon-fiber components made from coal instead of oil.
The Powder River Basin Resource Council calls the company’s announcement misleading. They point to the Department of Energy’s website which shows $3.7 million granted to the Western Research Institute, an organization Ramaco considers a strategic partner.
Bob LeResche, chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council’s board, said the timing is concerning. He notes that a state review board is set to make a permit decision on Ramaco's Brook Mine on August 1.
“Seems like what they’re trying to do is pump that up to get the permit approved even though the application is very deficient,” LeResche said.
Western Research Institute responded to the accusation, saying that the participating research groups, including Ramaco, will contribute the remaining amount to reach the initially announced $7 million. Those groups include the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Southern Research Institute, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technologies Grossman Group.
LeResche also said he’s worried Ramaco will turn into another Two Elk, a proposed coal-fired power plant in Wyoming that received money from the DOE before using the funds fraudulently. The developer of that project now faces criminal charges.
“It’s just more of the same in my cynical old mind,” LeResche said.
The Western Research Institute said that the accusations of fraud don’t dignify a response. More from both sides in press releases below.