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Gov. Gordon promises to continue fighting for coal at Gillette town hall

A man seated at a table speaks to someone off frame left.
David Dudley
Wyoming Public Media
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon answers questions from the press after his town hall in Gillette, Wyoming, on June 25 2024.

Three hundred people packed Gillette College's Technical Education Center on June 25 for a town hall hosted by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon and a group of five panelists, including U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis, spoke about a plethora of lawsuits Wyoming has brought against the federal government. Gordon touted Wyoming's work against several Biden administration initiatives, which he likened to "throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks."

"Since January, we've seen a blizzard of new regulations," Gordon said. "Our job is to fight all of it."

The common theme of the lawsuits, which currently number 58 and largely deal with land use and coal production, is alleged federal overreach.

The conversation quickly turned to funding for lawsuits to protect the coal industry. Not only is Wyoming the top coal producing state in the nation, but coal is Campbell County's lifeblood. Del Shelstad, who chairs the Board of County Commissioners, asked Gordon why he vetoed a fund that would've given the state $75 million dollars for such litigation.

"This county feels like it's been belittled," Shelstad said, "because we put a lot of money into the coffer, and then when we asked for money for the county back, it was vetoed. And that's the way I see it."

Gordon assured Shelstad that the veto would not mean less funding for litigation to protect the coal industry.

"I want you to know we are 100 percent there," said Gordon. "We're well funded and we're going to take every action we can to protect that."

Gordon announced that he'd recently added $800,000 to fund ongoing litigation. He added that the energy industry is the reason Wyoming's kids have traditionally been among the best educated in the nation. According to another study, only 31 percent of Wyoming's eighth graders are proficient in math.

A pending lawsuit, in which the Wyoming Education Association alleges that the state has underfunded education for at least a decade, may complicate matters. Much of the funding for statewide K-12 education comes from taxes paid by the energy sector. If energy production in Wyoming takes a hit, the education system will be impacted significantly.

"But the mainstream media doesn't talk about that when they talk about how these regulations will impact us," Gordon said. "Washington is broken. I'm working across the spectrum to find solutions."

Sen. Lummis agreed. Then she urged the audience to join the fight.

"The best way to fight these yay-hoos, is to go to the ballot box this November," she said, drawing a round of applause.

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

David Dudley is an award-winning journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Christian Science Monitor, High Country News, WyoFile, and the Wyoming Truth, among many others. David was a Guggenheim Crime in America Fellow at John Jay College from 2020-2023. During the past 10 years, David has covered city and state government, business, economics and public safety beats for various publications. He lives in Cheyenne with his family.

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