Differing opinions at BLM Federal Coal scoping in Casper

(Casper, Wyo.) - This morning many packed the Casper Events Center to weigh in on Federal coal regulations and voice their opinions to help steer the BLM towards a viable solution to coal production in Wyoming and across the nation. More than fifty citizens from Wyoming and the West attended and took the mic to speak. BLM State Director, Mary Jo Ruggwell, commented before listening to public comments, "It is really important that you all have a chance to speak today. We are hoping to gather as much public feedback as we can to help monitor the Federal Coal Leasing Program." Wyoming rancher from the Powder River Resource Council brought up four major issues he is concerned about and things that he wants the BLM to consider: 1. Forty years of leasing and producing coal in Wyoming has created thousands and thousands of jobs, pensions, healthcare and tax revenue. 2. The new regulations must be mandated and simplified for the public. 3. Reclamation regulations must be revised and enforced. 4. The Department of Interior must give a fair return to the communities producing. Gillette resident, George Dunlap took the mic as a US and Wyoming citizen and commented, "I am here to represent the people of Wyoming and America. We are here because we want to be here. Coal has put money into our communities, and it will continue to put money into our communities. If the federal government wants to end coal mining operations, why aren't they here today? They don't have enough guts to come here and listen to us. We care about this state, our state, and we care about coal. Millions have better lives in Wyoming and across the nation because of coal." Members of Cloud Peak Energy in Wyoming also voiced their opinion and shared the same struggles of the 11,000 others facing layoffs due to the decline in coal production. From Cloud Peak Energy, Penny Russell stated, "It is so important to note that not only have 11,000 people been laid off, but 11,000 families are experiencing the struggle. They are losing food, housing, schools the list continues. We just want to live our lives and pay our bills and now that is being restricted." Another Cloud Peak Energy member stated, "This is a political sham, and is destroying the livelihood of the West. It is a despicable act of political pandering!" Campbell County Senator Michael Von Flatern stood and commented, "I am here representing the thousands of Gillette families and a community founded by coal. Our Wyoming coal pays the highest amount of federal taxes and this state has built numerous schools with coal lease monies. I doubt any other state can say that." From the Sierra Club, Mandy Still took the mic and commented, "The coal industry is not sustainable. It is true that coal has provided resources and jobs for many years, but the fact is, one day we will run out of coal. We are placing ourselves in danger when we stand up, but today I am standing up for my future children and generations to come. The Power Plus Plan has $20 million for green programs and for fair and just good paying jobs. I encourage Wyoming to recognize our dire need for change and to transition away from fossil fuels." Another spoke about the issues and commented, "It is really important to look at this as a transition period. It is not a sham to be taking a look at the federal leasing plan and now we need to consider solar and wind energies that are coming on strong. More is going to be less in the future." Commissioner from Campbell County also spoke, "Shifting to 100% renewable energies is naive and to say we should keep the coal in the ground is naive. In 2014 the coal industry paid 1.1 billion dollars to state and local governments in Wyoming." One commented said that it was purely a 'political move' A woman from the Heart of Coal in Gillette stated, "The opponents of coal continue to make the same tired argument against coal production. The current system has provided and continues to provide stable, federal taxes and provides numerous jobs to boost our economy. We here in Wyoming are proud of our resources and we produce $1.2 billion dollars a year for federal and state taxes/ These opponents will continue with their same arguments and manipulate the media. I stand here today, proud to be a a daughter and a grand daughter of a coal miner." Public comments will continue throughout the day. To stay connected with the BLM Federal Coal scoping meeting, visit the BLM Wyoming website below to watch a live stream: Feature Photo: Campbell County Commissioner/Pitchengine Communities #oilcity #news #couny17 #county10 #dally #reboot #shortgo #springcity #buckrail #bootstrapped