The board of trustees for Lincoln County School District No. 2 has agreed to support Westmoreland Coal Company in their request to have the Environmental Protection Agency reconsider the impacts of the Clean Air Act Regional Haze Program on mining operations in the county.
A motion by the school board to write a letter to the EPA was passed after Westmoreland officials and Lincoln County Commissioners Deb Wolfley and Paul Jenkins spoke to the trustees at their Aug. 15 meeting.
The motion called for a formal letter encouraging EPA to withdraw the stipulations of the original act clean air act and accept a Wyoming plan proposed by Gov. Matt Mead’s office.
Wyoming presented plan in 2008
In 2008, Wyoming submitted an infrastructure plan for control of small particulate matter to the EPA’s regional administration.
According to a governor’s office report released earlier in August, the original Wyoming plan “complied entirely with EPA’s infrastructure requirements at the time.” The governor’s office recalled, “the EPA found Wyoming’s plan to be complete on October 22, 2008.”
However, according to the governor’s report the EPA failed to take final action on Wyoming’s plan “even though the Clean Air Act required EPA to take such action within one year of finding the plan to be complete.”
The governor’s office noted that while “Wyoming’s plan languished,” the EPA rewrote the requirements. In the meantime, the Sierra Club sued the EPA, according to the governor’s office, and “Wyoming is now having to look at new requirements.”
Governor writes EPA
Earlier in August Gov. Mead wrote to the EPA, emphasizing the state had prepared a plan five years earlier.
The governor advised, “These burdens fall on Wyoming not because of something Wyoming did but because of what EPA failed to do. EPA sat on Wyoming’s plan, which the state submitted over five years ago. While the EPA was sitting on its hands with respect to Wyoming’s plan, the EPA was also changing the requirements for infrastructure plans. This course of conduct – inaction combined with changing the requirements – is detrimental to our state, and it is not proper.”
Governor Mead reminded the federal agency in the letter that “Congress mandated states, not special interest groups, be EPA’s partners in environmental regulation and EPA is skirting this mandate through the ‘sue and settle’ strategy it has fostered.” He warned, “Skirting the law this way is inappropriate and improper, and it should stop.”
Lincoln County tax revenue and jobs
The Westmoreland Kemmerer Mine is a 13,400 acre surface mine complex in Lincoln County. Coal from the Kemmerer facility supplies fuel for PacifiCorp’s adjacent Naughton Power Station.
Jonathan Teichert of the Lincoln County Planning and Engineering Office advised in a county report earlier in August that “Westmoreland’s Mine is the largest taxpayer and the largest private employer in Lincoln County.” He added, “Eighty percent of the coal produced in Kemmerer is consumed by the Naughton Power Plant operated by Rocky Mountain Power.”
Teichert warned, “To comply with current [EPA] regional haze standards, a significant reduction in the mine’s coal production is expected in 2018 and could result in the loss of over 100 jobs and a reduction of $2.5 million dollars in Lincoln County tax revenues.”
Teichert warned, “The loss of a significant highly paid workforce would have a drastic impact upon Kemmerer and the other communities that provide mine and power plant labor including Cokeville, Evanston, Randolph and Montpelier.”
He continued, “The decrease in tax revenues would result in cutbacks to county-provided services such as county road maintenance, landfill hours, library hours, sheriff’s office and so on.”
Teicher urged county residents to become informed about the issues and make comments to the EPA by the Aug. 26, 2013 deadline.
In addition to the meeting with school officials in Star Valley on Aug. 15, Westmoreland held a public meeting in Afton on Aug. 8 to review the problems associated with the EPA mandate.
Other Wyoming power plants impacted by the decision are located in Gillette, Glenrock and Wheatland.