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Stalling Coal's Decline

((Banner: Stalling Coal’s Decline))
((Reporter/Camera: Steve Baragona))
((Map: Kemmerer, Wyoming))

((Robert Bowen, Owner, Wyoming Fossils; Kemmerer
City Councilman))
It's one of the fun things about some of the fossils is, they tell
stories. Here's a freshwater stingray and what's fun about
this guy, he's got a bite mark in his disk. So, he got a little
too close to a turtle or possibly an alligator gar. The main
thing being quarried here would be the coal from the coal
mine. But for our section industry, it's fossil fish.
((Robert Bowen, Owner, Wyoming Fossils; Kemmerer
City Councilman))
It's huge for us, as far as our economy. That power plant,
the coal mine, provide a lot of jobs here.
((Dana Ralston, PacifiCorp))
Natural gas prices dropped dramatically in 2016 and it made
a big difference on switching dispatch between gas units and
coal units. Also at that time, you know, renewables have
grown year after year after year, and they're a cheaper
alternative from a market perspective than a coal plant.
((Popup Banner: In 2018, PacifiCorp announced the
closing of the Naughton power plant))
((Dan Dockstader, Wyoming State Senator))
My phone went off, a text came off, and just one quick word
that said, ‘Devastating’. I thought, well, they've got my
attention now. What's devastating? So, I pulled the car off,
made a phone call. I said, ‘What's the problem? What's
devastating?’ They said, ‘Well, we have a new integrated
resource plan that calls for rather quick closure of the power
plant facilities in Kemmerer-Diamondville.’ At that point on,
going into the legislative session in January, February,
March, I was just – it was consuming me. I was up at night
thinking about these people, their jobs. Good, decent
people. I thought, ‘What can we do to keep their
employment going?’
((Robert Godby, Economist, University of Wyoming))
In Wyoming, because coal is so important, you know, the
legislature has, kind of, prided itself on being a coal-friendly
place. The state has also been a little bit slow to
acknowledge what is going on in the world around it.
Honestly, it has been very difficult in this state to talk about a
transition away from coal because it's so politicized right
((Map Graphic w/ banner: Wyoming has the nation’s
lowest rate of acceptance that global warming is mostly
caused by human activities))
((Robert Godby, Economist, University of Wyoming))
You don't talk about it. And so, there's, kind of, been this,
hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil going on, but, in fact,
that's led to just ignoring the problem or avoiding
consideration. We have been reticent or maybe just slow or
maybe we've denied the changes that are going on, and so
we've been slow to react to them. We haven't been
proactive. We've been reactive. We have tried to put into
place rules that, at least in this state, would slow down any
((Dan Dockstader, Wyoming State Senator))
We understand that a change is coming, but we're simply
asking that let's do it with some wisdom. Let's not put the
plane into a nosedive. Let's let it glide down easy and sort
this out. Rather than close it, let's explore opportunities for
selling it first. It's my understanding that there are those in
the mineral industry who may be able to make this situation
((Robert Godby, Economist, University of Wyoming))
If the current owner of a coal-fired power plant can't make
money with that plant, why would somebody else buy it? But
on the other side of the coin, the devil's in the details. If the
state tells the utility you have to buy that electricity at a
certain price that allows a new operator to make money,
then you could see the coal-fired power plant continuing.
((Robert Godby, Economist, University of Wyoming))
We need to start looking at diversifying our economy here.
One of things that we could be pushing a lot harder is paleo-
tourism with the fossil fish we dig here, which is something
that's very unique to this area.
((Robert Bowen, Owner, Wyoming Fossils; Kemmerer
City Councilman))
So, you guys have a pretty busy summer?
((Unidentified man))
((Robert Bowen, Owner, Wyoming Fossils; Kemmerer
City Councilman))
Getting lots of tourists?
((Unidentified man))
It's really, really good for us this year.
((Robert Bowen, Owner, Wyoming Fossils; Kemmerer
City Councilman))
Yeah, that's good.
((Robert Bowen, Owner, Wyoming Fossils; Kemmerer
City Councilman))
So, this is the other half of that fish. So, when it split, you
get the scales and bones on both sides. So, you got two
halves to this fossil.
((Robert Bowen, Owner, Wyoming Fossils; Kemmerer
City Councilman))
The tourism, it can help. But it's not something that will take
the place of those industries.
Oh, I think manufacturing is going to be one of the biggest
areas, that will, that will help us.