What to do about coal jobs has been a major theme this election season, with each side pointing fingers at the other, from the presidential debate stage to local town halls. On Colorado’s western slope, two candidates running for Congress are divided on the issue and are nearly matched in campaign contributions as election day approaches.
During the second Presidential debate, Donald Trump responded to a question about energy policy by saying, “There is a thing called clean coal. Coal will last for a thousand years in this country.” An Inside Energy follower named David asked us, “#CleanCoal: True or false prophecy?” We try to answer that question.
Glance at a satellite image of northeast Wyoming, and you can’t miss the coal mines. Even zoomed out, the square-cornered grey blotches stand out—stretching north to south over more than 70 miles. But if all goes according to plan, someday, when the mining is done, those scars will disappear, erased from the landscape by intensive reclamation efforts. Coal companies are on the hook for that cleanup, but the industry’s recent collapse has raised questions about whether they will actually be able to meet those obligations.
Cheaper natural gas has dealt a blow to the coal industry — and to Routt County school district. Before the district opened an all-day preschool in the small town of Yampa, there wasn’t an affordable day care program for this mostly working class community. When Peabody Energy, owner of Routt County’s Twentymile Mine, went into bankruptcy and failed to pay property taxes, it would have been the first thing to go. But the school district hasn’t let that happen.