Wyoming’s coal mining industry was secure until the early 1950s, when the Union Pacific switched to diesel-powered locomotives. Laid-off miners and their families struggled; little company towns disappeared. Eventually, trona mining expanded and replaced many of the coal jobs—and in the 1970s, coal came roaring back.
Browse Articles about Energy
|Alcova Dam and Reservoir||Annette Hein|
|Bell, Tom, High Country News editor and publisher||Marjane Ambler|
|Big Muddy Oil Field||Rebecca Hein|
|Boysen Dam, History of||Annette Hein|
|Burlington Railroad in Wyoming||Gregory Nickerson|
|Casper Star-Tribune, Northern Utilities and||Kerry Drake|
|Cheyenne's 100-Octane Airplane Fuel Plant||Mike Mackey|
|Coal Bust, Wyoming’s First||Dustin Bleizeffer|
|Coal Camps in Sheridan County||Kevin Knapp|
|Coal mine safety, history of||Phil Roberts|
A short line with a short life, the 40-mile-long Wyoming North and South Railroad began quietly during the oil-boom years of the 1920s. It helped the Salt Creek area thrive for a time, but unsound construction, better roads for cars and trucks, bad weather and the Great Depression sealed its demise.
In August 1922, five U.S. Marines “invaded” the U.S. Naval Petroleum Reserve at Teapot Dome in central Wyoming to evict oil drillers the government had determined were there illegally. Bribery connected with acquiring those drilling rights eventually led to the Teapot Dome scandal—one of the worst in U.S. politics.
Wyoming’s mineral taxes make a story of personalities. Democrat Ernest Wilkerson reintroduced mineral severance taxes to Wyoming politics when he ran for governor in 1966. Republican Stan Hathaway defeated Wilkerson, but eventually presided over enactment of a severance tax and a permanent minerals fund, vastly stabilizing Wyoming’s financial future.
The Powder River Basin coal-bed methane boom in the early 2000s stirred controversies over land rights, mineral rights, environmental stewardship, the disposal of water and—at every turn—politics. Now, few of the 29,000 wells drilled produce much gas and around 3,000 wells are abandoned and left to the state to clean up.