By Tracee Davis

The Sheridan Press

SHERIDAN — Sheridan’s Economic Development Task Force hosted the Director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority Loyd Drain at an extended meeting Tuesday. Along with a brief overview of various ongoing energy projects around the state, the panel extensively discussed the future of coal and how it impacts the state’s economy.

“There’s a war on coal that’s going on that’s going to hurt production, like it or not,” Drain said. “The way to deal with that, to offset that lost revenue, is to raise our coal exports.”

Drain referred to his new department initiative funded by the Wyoming Legislature to focus efforts on establishing an export terminal to facilitate coal from the state reaching foreign markets in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

“There are still 1.4 billion people in the world that don’t have power, and they’re going to get power no matter what we do as a country,” he said.

Drain also added that less than 1 percent of Wyoming coal is presently being exported overseas.

“Our coal is so preferred from an environmental standpoint that we haven’t even had to worry about that,” Drain explained. “People are knocking down doors here in the states to buy it.”

Drain said that in addition to identifying specific foreign markets, another primary goal of his department is to target West Coast communities to accept the economic opportunity a shipping port may bring to their community.

“We’re not going to put all our eggs in the Washington state basket,” Drain said. “We’re going to look at the possible sites, from Canada all the way down to Mexico.”

Drain also said he believes the environmental impact of shipping coal and using it as a source of power is unavoidable.

“You hear a lot of flack,” he said. “Boeing (aircraft company) is big in Washington state, and if you look at how much greenhouse gas one of those Boeing jets puts into the atmosphere during its 50-year life, it’s a lot. I don’t care if you’re exporting washing machines — there’s still a carbon footprint with that.”

In addition to receiving updates on the group’s financial status and upcoming projects, the EDTF also briefly heard from Ady Voltedge President and CEO Janet Ady, who is in the preliminary phase of developing a regional marketing strategy for northeastern Wyoming that encompasses Sheridan, Buffalo and Gillette.