Associated Press
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - The United States’ largest coal-producing region, the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, is on pace to produce less than 200 million tons of coal (181 million metric tons) for the first time in three decades, The Gillette News Record reported.

The Powder River Basin has experienced a nearly 25% decrease in production from this time in 2019, according to the Energy Information Association. Last year, the U.S. produced its lowest amount of coal since 1975.

So far this year, 568 jobs have been lost in the basin, or over 12% of the workforce.

Rob Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming, said lower natural gas prices and the coronavirus pandemic are to blame for the decline in coal production.

The coronavirus pandemic in particular has exacerbated a trend of declining demand for coal, Godby said. Public health restrictions and economic concerns from the pandemic have reduced the demand in electricity, which in turn has reduced the demand for coal.

Travis Deti, executive director for the Wyoming Mining Association, adds that the emergence of renewable energies has aided a decline in coal production.

Roughly 10% of jobs in the Powder River Basin depend on coal.

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