SHERIDAN — Coal may have hit rock bottom last year, but it’s on its way up.
That was the theme of Gov. Matt Mead’s address to members of the Wyoming Mining Association Friday during the organization’s annual convention.
Mead spoke to the association concerning the future of mining for approximately 20 minutes at the Sheridan Holiday Inn Convention Center.
“It was a tough, tough year last year — there is just no way around it,” Mead said. “Our sense is that Wyoming and the mining industry hit bottom, and we are on the way back.”
In 2016, plummeting coal prices led to large-scale layoffs at mines in Gillette and caused financial troubles at the state level, especially for the education system, which now faces a massive deficit.
However, many at the meeting said optimism around the future of the coal industry has grown. Travis Deti, the executive director of WMA, said the convention focused on the future of coal.
“We have a general good feeling of where things are going at this time,” Deti said.
Mead praised President Donald Trump’s administration for its policies supporting the coal industry, citing the Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.
Mead also said Trump’s policies have relaxed rules and regulations that were imposed by former President Barack Obama.
With a coal-friendly White House, Mead said this is an opportunity for the Wyoming coal industry to not just thrive economically but to lead the nation in innovation and safety.
“This a time for the state of Wyoming and other states where we have a rollback of regulations,” Mead said. “Now it’s time for this state to take a leadership role.”
Mead also talked about sage grouse and the Endangered Species Act.
He added that Wyoming “can’t be a zoo for endangered species” and said the Endangered Species Act is not just bad for Wyoming, but the country.
“It’s not good industry, it’s not good for business and, quite frankly, it’s not good for the species,” Mead said.
Deti was pleased with Mead’s appearance and his participation in handing out safety awards to coal-related companies at the convention.
“We are just grateful for Gov. Mead to come and recognize the work these companies do,” Deti said at the event.
Mead said he still believes coal can be an economic driver in Wyoming and said he hopes the state can be a leader in the industry.
“With the estimates on coal, we have 100 more years of coal left,” Mead said. “I want every one of those drops of coal out of the ground.”