Arch Coal and Peabody Energy recently announced it would consolidate seven of their mines; five of which are located in the Powder River Basin. If the venture passes regulatory hurdles, the move will create the largest coal producer in the country controlling a significant percentage of national coal production.
In a press conference Thursday, Governor Mark Gordon said it's a good move for several reasons. One, it will help coal markets stay competitive and even stabilize.
"I think it's good for Wyoming. It provides a stronger opportunity for bonding. I think it makes coal coming out of the Powder River Basin more competitive with renewables and gas," he said.
Gordon said he also spoke to Peabody which said it plans to keep its employees and benefits in place. Some analysts have argued the move could hurt the smaller coal companies in the region by creating one huge competitor.
The Governor also discussed a pollution issue underway in the Upper Green River Basin. One air quality monitor in the western Wyoming region repeatedly surpassed federal health standards from January through March. Ozone is caused by weather conditions and oil and gas emissions.
Gordon pointed to late-season snow and cold temperatures contributing to the ozone problem. He also said collecting more information could help Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
"We need to emphasize enforcement but we also need better modeling. We need to have better understanding of what's going on there," Gordon said.
A local citizen and advocate for better air Quality attended the DEQ's public hearing. She said the agency acknowledged there was a problem and committed to doing more. That includes seeking more compliance and issuing more notice of violations as things progress. The situation wasn't bad enough for federal regulators to issue a penalty or revoke the state's primacy in overseeing air quality.