Wyoming is facing a transition to renewable energy that is accelerating across the United States, but now it has devised a novel and controversial plan to protect its mining industry: sue other states that refuse to take its coal.
A new state law has created a $ 1.2 million fund that will be used by the Wyoming Governor to take legal action against other states that choose to run on clean energy, such as solar and wind, in order to meet the goals. to address the climate crisis, rather than burning Wyoming’s coal.
Wyoming is the largest coal-producing state in the United States, mining nearly 40% of the coal produced nationally each year. State is highly dependent on income of mining to run basic services and, as it produces 14 times more energy than it consumesSelling coal to other states is a vital source of income.
The move sends a message that Wyoming is “prepared to pursue litigation to protect its interests,” said a spokesman for Mark Gordon, the deeply conservative Republican governor of the state, who strongly backed Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections.
Trump promised, but could not, revive a deeply declining coal industry in the US, with the Wyoming mining sector. get rid of thousands of jobs In recent years, as utilities switch to cheap gas supplies and states like California move to phase out polluting fuel sources from their power generation.
Joe Biden has promised that the United States will cut its global warming emissions in the middle of this decade to address what he has called “the existential threat of our time” in the climate crisis. But Wyoming’s defiant stance shows that the transition to renewables and electric cars will be, in some quarters, a fierce struggle.
“We’ve seen an increase in states trying to block Wyoming’s access to consumer markets to advance their political agenda,” said Jeremy Haroldson, a Republican state legislator who introduced the new law.
Fellow Republicans Formerly proposed prohibit the closure of any coal plant in the state. Haroldson said phasing out coal would risk the kind of disastrous blackouts that Texas suffered in February. “It’s time we started to really care about the future,” he said.
Legal experts have said the new strategy is on shaky ground.
While the trade clause of the U.S. constitution prevents a state from banning goods and services based on their state of origin, there is nothing to stop you from banning certain things, such as coal, as long as the measure does not is directed to a specific state.
Environmentalists argue that lawmakers should help build alternative industries to make up for the inevitable demise of coal, rather than prop up a sector increasingly seen as polluting and outdated.
“Demand for coal will continue to decline in the US and abroad, now that clean energy is more affordable and keeps pollution out of our air and water,” said Rob Joyce, energy activist at the Sierra Club in Wyoming. “If we want to get out of the boom and bust cycle of this state, we have to focus our investment on a new economic future rather than clinging to a fading industry.”
But while Wyoming’s rural scenery provides you good potential for wind energyAmerica’s least populated state does not have a ready-to-use replacement for a mining industry that has long provided most of its revenue, funding essential services like education.
“In many ways, this legal fund sounds crazy, like a Flat Earth idea,” said Rob Godby, a natural resources expert at the University of Wyoming. “But for the people of Wyoming, there is no other industry. It is not only the people who lose their livelihood, but also their culture; the people here were proud to keep the lights on all over America. It is very difficult to go from hero to villain ”.
Godby said lawmakers privately acknowledge that coal is in a steep decline that will force cuts in services or wildly unpopular tax increases, but that fighting publicly for the industry has become a litmus test for the Republican electorate.
“The demands will comply with that rhetoric because it will appear that the state is putting pressure on the leftists,” he said. “But it is symbolic, the fight is over, even if you win a court case, it is a Pyrrhic victory because nobody really wants the coal. The losses to the state are going to be so great that the reason is to try to postpone that as long as possible. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism