Ponds of coal bed methane water cover in the Powder River Basin near Gillette, Wyoming, 2007. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images
The coal mining industry in the top coal-producing region of the U.S. is struggling despite President Trump's efforts to prop up the coal industry nationwide, according to AP.
Why it matters: Many coal producers in the Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana are filing for bankruptcy or consolidating as U.S. coal production has slid 30% since peaking in 2008 and small rural communities across the nation face economic uncertainty.
Context: 3 of 9 coal producers in the Powder River Basin have filed for bankruptcy since March, while 2 others said they would merge.
- Blackjewel, the owner of several mines across the country, in July dismissed most employees and shut down the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines, two of the highest-producing mines in the country. Negotiations to reopen the mines have stagnated.
- Coal has buoyed the communities in the region and Wyoming's and Montana's state budgets for decades, but power companies are phasing out coal-fired power plants and switching to cheaper natural gas furnaces and solar and wind generators amid global concern about climate change.
By the numbers: About half of U.S. electricity came from coal-fired plants a decade ago, but coal now comprises only 30%.
- Yes, but: The Powder River Basin still has a lot of recoverable coal left, and carbon-capturing technology installed in coal-fired power plants could make coal a viable option.
The bottom line: Carbon-capturing tech is still in its infancy, and experts say retrofitting power plants with the technology will be expensive.