With the Paris climate talks just around the corner, environmental groups are asking the Department of the Interior to consider climate change when approving coal mine projects. 

The letter, signed by activists like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club calls on DOI to deny five proposed mine expansion plans in Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah, Montana, and Colorado. 

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

As coal companies struggle to remain afloat, Wyoming regulators are reviewing the state’s rules for how companies put money aside for clean-up. 


Under threat of being held in contempt of court, a Wyoming advocacy group is backing down from its challenge of a bankrupt coal company's mining permits.  

The Powder River Basin Resource Council argues that Alpha Natural Resources shouldn't be allowed to renew its mine permit because it doesn’t have sufficient bonding in place to ensure mine clean-up, which is something that is required by law.


Everyone knows North Dakota is an oil state. But it’s the state’s coal industry that’s feeling the heat from the federal Clean Power Plan, which targets carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Under the final version of the plan, North Dakota will have to cut its emissions by 45 percent – more any other state except Montana.

Google Earth

Standing on a windy stretch of highway with Karla Oksanen, we peer into a vast, dark, open-pit mine near Gillette, Wyo. She and her husband live so close to Eagle Butte Mine that when operators detonate dynamite to clear dirt away from the coal seams, they can feel it.

“The shaking from the blasts, yeah,” Oksanen said with a laugh. “It’s kind of like an earthquake!”


The New York attorney general and Peabody Energy have come to an agreement over the company’s disclosures related to climate change.

The attorney general’s office launched the investigation in 2007. Over the weekend, the office agreed to drop the investigation if Peabody includes certain disclosures about the risks of climate change in its future filings with regulators.

After reporting a $2 billion loss in the third quarter, Arch Coal says it could declare bankruptcy in "the near term."

Amid low prices and weak demand, Peabody Energy has withdrawn an application to lease additional coal on federal land in the Powder River Basin.

Companies nominate coal tracts for leasing and then are invited to bid on them at auction. Peabody expressed interest the Antelope Ridge tracts back in 2011. They contain an estimated one billion tons of coal.

The company withdrew its application last month. The move follows a recent drop-off in federal coal sales in Wyoming—there hasn’t been one since 2012. Arch Coal also pulled one of its applications earlier this year.

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

A bankrupt coal company has proposed cutting a variety of medical benefits for retired workers in order to improve its balance sheet. 

The Sierra Club has filed a citizen complaint with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, asking the agency to suspend permits for bankrupt coal miner Alpha Natural Resources.

The Joint Minerals committee shot down a draft bill Friday that would have required legislative approval for state agencies to comply with the Obama administration’s signature climate change law. 

The Clean Power Plan requires states make significant cuts in carbon emissions from power plants. Wyoming has a targeted reduction of 44 percent.

Representative Norine Kasperik (R-Gillette) drafted the bill. 

"I don't think the stakes could be higher for Wyoming," she said. 

Amy Martin

In south-central Montana, plans are underway to get more coal out of the ground and onto ships headed to Asia. The Crow Tribe of Montana and Cloud Peak Energy of Wyoming are partnering to develop a new coal mine on the reservation and to open a new export terminal in Washington’s Puget Sound. Although coal prices are in decline and a protest movement is growing, the Crow are undeterred. For them, coal equals survival.

Stephanie Joyce

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality says it will not meet with a landowners group that is concerned about Alpha Natural Resources' request to renew one of its mining permits.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council objected to Alpha’s application to renew its permit for the Eagle Butte mine near Gillette. The group says the permit cannot be renewed under state law because Alpha doesn’t have required reclamation bonding to cover clean-up costs. Under federal law, anyone with an objection to a mining permit is entitled to some sort of hearing.

Department of Energy EIA


One of America’s largest coal companies is running out of options after a judge ruled against a move by the company that would have reduced its debt and interest payments. 

Arch Coal had hoped to improve its balance sheet with a debt swap deal. But last week a New York judge denied the company’s request to protect the deal, instead siding with a group of lenders who want to block it.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Wyoming provides nearly 40 percent of the coal we consume in the United States, but demand for coal-fired electricity is shrinking in response to a variety of factors – including low natural gas prices and environmental regulations aimed at slowing climate change.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

How much coal does a Wyoming coal miner mine? Quite a bit less than he used to, it turns out.

Regulations have received most of the blame for coal’s current downturn but that’s not the whole story; it’s also getting more expensive to mine in the nation’s largest coal producing state.

For the past few months, Cloud Peak Energy, one of the biggest coal miners in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, has been in the process of moving a giant machine called a dragline from one mine to another.


As we have reported recently, Wyoming has started looking for new ways to use coal, beyond simply burning it for power. The state is also starting to look at new ways to use a coal byproduct that has become a serious liability: carbon dioxide. The recently announced $20 million Carbon XPrize is intended to spur innovators to address that very problem. Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce sat down with Paul Bunje of the XPrize Foundation to learn more.

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

“Coal keeps the lights on” is a popular refrain in Wyoming, and historically, it’s been true. But the Director of the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources says going forward, that may not be the case. 

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan calls for cutting carbon emissions from the power sector 30 percent by 2030.

Mark Northam says he believes it is technically feasible for Wyoming to achieve its required cuts, using a combination of natural gas and renewables.

“It’s doable. Whether it’s economically doable or not is another question,” he said.

Governor Mead announced that the so-called Integrated Test Center will be built at the Dry Fork Station, a coal-fired powerplant near Gillette. The state has pledged $15 million dollars in funding for the lab. Another $5 million will come from the Denver-based power company Tri-State Generation. The goal is to develop new technology to turn carbon dioxide into useful products, instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.

Rebecca Huntington

The future of coal was the focus of the International Advanced Coal Technologies Conference in Jackson Hole this week.  

Researchers, officials, and advocates came from all over the world to discuss, among other issues, new ways to use coal. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

In Chinese cities like Taiyuan and Beijing, smog hangs heavy, blocking skyscrapers from view. It irritates your lungs and eyes. On a recent trip to China’s largest coal producing province, I even felt like I could taste the pollution.

A delegation from Wyoming had front row seats at the Low Carbon Development Forum on Wednesday in China’s main coal producing province. 

In advance of Chinese President Xi's upcoming visit to Washington DC, researchers from the University of Wyoming and advocates for low carbon technology are in China this week. Members of the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs are meeting with local officials and power company executives in Shanxi, China's main coal producing province.

The state of Wyoming and bankrupt coal giant Alpha Natural Resources have reached an agreement over the company's reclamation bonding obligations. But as it covers just a small fraction of what the state estimates it would cost to clean up Alpha's mines.

The state projects it would cost $411 million dollars at most for Alpha to clean up its coal mines in Wyoming. Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Quality asked the company to pay up on that obligation, in the form of a bond. But when Alpha declared bankruptcy in August, it still hadn't put up the money. 

Leigh Paterson/Inside Energy

While states like West Virginia and Kentucky have been hit hard by the coal industry's decline, the picture for coal mining out west has been somewhat brighter. In Wyoming and Montana, it's mostly been business as usual—which is why some coal miners from West Virginia and Kentucky have decided to try their luck in Big Sky country. Here's one of those miners, in his own words.

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Wyoming students are heading back to school—and many will be welcomed into brand new buildings. The state is kicking off the school year with about $70 million in new education facilities—from a new elementary school in Casper to a new high school in Rock Springs.

Since 2002, Wyoming has put more than $3.5 billion into building and maintaining schools

School Facilities Department Director Bill Panos says this is the highest level of spending on school construction in Wyoming’s history.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

As part of a series of listening sessions held across the country, representatives from the Bureau of Land Management recently came to Gillette, Wyo., to meet with residents about the agency's federal coal program. The meeting quickly turned into an impassioned discussion about the future of the coal industry.

Janice Schneider, with the Department of the Interior, said the agency was looking for comments on “how the Bureau of Land Management can best manage its coal resources."

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy



People from all over the state met in Gillette last week to comment on the Bureau of Land Management's controversial proposal to update the federal coal program. 

Office of the Governor

Energy has always been an important topic in Wyoming, but it’s increasingly becoming an important global conversation, especially in the context of climate change. Wyoming, as the second-largest energy producing state in the nation, is central to that conversation. Decisions made today will likely affect the state and the country for years and decades to come. In an interview with Wyoming Public Radio’s energy reporter Stephanie Joyce, Governor Matt Mead started by saying he thinks it’s time to move past the debate about climate change.

Aaron Schrank

Tonight’s class on the new papal encyclical at St. Paul’s Newman Center Catholic church in Laramie begins, well, in the beginning. Before parishioners dive into the Pope’s message, they read aloud from the creation story in Genesis.

The Pope’s letter began drawing a flurry of praise and condemnation before it was officially published. The teacher here, Father Rob Spaulding, points out that a draft was leaked to the press a few days early.

“So clearly it was something there was great interest about,” Spaulding says.