At BLM Meeting, Miners Worry About Job Losses

Aug 17, 2015



The BLM's listening session drew such a large crowd that dozens of people watched on a TV screen set up outside the Campbell County Public Library.
Credit 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. 

The goal of the listening session was to get feedback on how the BLM can make sure that American taxpayers are getting a fair return on coal that is mined on federal land. It is a resource that is owned by the public and recent studies suggest coal companies may be paying less in taxes than what’s required. But most people who stood in line to comment spoke out against proposed changes the program, including Wyoming’s entire delegation to Washington.

Those speakers also included miners like James Reichard, a miner from West Virginia who recently moved to Gillette to work for Alpha Coal West. He said regulations killed the coal industry is his home state.

"If you want to see people that lost their houses, their cars, their four wheelers, they lost their way of life is because of stuff like this. When you see it, then you understand. It's going to happen here if changes aren’t made,” Reichard said.

At the meeting, coal’s struggles were largely blamed on regulations and President Obama’s war on coal.  There were few mentions of other factors like low natural gas prices, bad investments, and growing concern for climate change.