Mead addresses miners
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
June 25, 2012
Speaking to a room full of miners in Teton County on Friday, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said he believes profit, not regulation, is the key to safe, environmentally sound mining practices.
Mead spoke at 1 p.m. at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, capping the closing luncheon to the Wyoming Mining Association’s 57th annual convention. His 25-minute talk hit on the importance of mining to the state’s economy, Mead’s recent trip to China and worker safety. A good portion of the speech was devoted to finding a “balance” between preservation of the environment and industry development.
“We have all these resources, and yet we have a battle,” Mead said. “The argument is: ‘Do you want development or do you want to preserve the environment?’ I reject that choice. It’s a false choice in a number of ways. The fact is we want both and we need both.”
Mead said the industry’s devotion to the environment “was not just lip service,” and he commended recent achievements in the reclamation of mined lands. The governor then outlined his belief that environmental regulations were crippling innovation by diminishing profit.
“In order for us to continue that balance, we have to have profit in the industry,” Mead said. “The way you get to innovation and the way you get to new technology is to make sure profit remains. ... Profit is what makes for better performance.”
Regulations such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s source performance air quality standards are a “brick wall” that “take the profit out of the industry,” Mead said.
The EPA’s new standard, approved last year, does not directly regulate coal mining but rather downstream coal consumption. By setting stricter limits on emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and other heavy metals, the standard will require costly retrofits for aging coal- and oil-fired power plants.
“We continue to challenge the EPA on their new source performance standard,” Mead said.
The governor spoke enthusiastically about the prospect of selling Wyoming coal to China. During the first week of June, Mead traveled to China’s Shaanxi Province to attend the International Advanced Coal Technologies Conference and to meet with Chinese delegates.
“I talked about the abundance of coal in Wyoming, the quality of our coal and the low cost of our coal,” Mead said.
“China’s demands for coal are currently greater than what they can produce,” he added. “You cannot assume that is going to always be the case. I think there is a window of opportunity to export coal from Wyoming to China. I think we have to move on that as rapidly as we can.”
The governor said a tour of a massive energy-oriented Chinese industrial park made him realize that “we have to do more in this state and this country.”
The United States is falling behind China in some advanced fossil fuel technologies, Mead said.
“There’s no way to perfume the pig on this one,” he said. “The fact of the matter is ... they’re ahead of us.”