Coal Companies Have Mined An Area The Size Of NYC, Now They Have To Clean It Up

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.

The Wyodak power plant, on the outskirts of Gillette, Wyoming.

Do We Need Coal To Keep The Lights On?

Conventional wisdom has it that without baseload power—coal and nuclear plants running in the background at all times—the grid will become unreliable. After all, how could wind and solar keep the lights on when they are so inherently variable? But now, a growing number of people are challenging that idea. In this interview, Jesse Morris, with the Rocky Mountain Institute, argues baseload power isn’t necessary.

A train carries coal from the Powder River Basin.

A Royal Mess For Public Land Payments

The dispute over royalties paid for coal, natural gas and oil extracted from public lands centers over two issues: Are the royalties too low? Do we know enough about the accounting to assure the American taxpayer is getting a good deal? Amy Martin digs in, with some help from Taylor Swift.