Governor off to Australia for coal confab

Mar 14, 2014 The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead heads to Australia next week to participate in a conference on advanced coal technology. He will also evaluate how the Australians export coal to Asia, a market Wyoming is hungry to tap despite opposition from other states.

Mead and researchers from the University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources will participate in the 2014 International Advanced Coal Technology Conference in Brisbane, a city on Australia's eastern coast.

Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said the governor will leave Wyoming on Saturday, tour a coal port on Monday and speak at the conference on Tuesday. He said Mead's family will accompany him at their own expense.

The conference, which has been held in Wyoming and China in the past, focuses on how to capture, store and utilize the carbon released by burning coal.

"Those involved in this research are looking at technologies to add value to coal and its use now and in the future," Mead said in a prepared statement.

"We in Wyoming have much to offer to this work and much to gain from it. The advancement of coal research will benefit Wyoming, its people and the coal industry. I fully support it."

Wyoming is the leading coal-producer in the United States but has seen its production dwindle in recent years. Mead and other state officials blame the decline on the federal government's enacting tougher standards on emissions from coal-fired power plants. Federal officials say the standards are aimed at reducing global warming.

Wyoming's coal production dropped from more than 430 million tons in 2011 to 385 million tons last year, according to a recent state report. The state relies on coal revenues to fund education programs.

Wyoming didn't see any successful federal coal lease sales last year. One scheduled sale received no bids, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management rejected the highest bid it received for another sale, saying it was below market value.

"Australia exports millions of tons of coal each year to Asian markets," Mead said Thursday. "These same countries are interested in Wyoming coal. I look forward to visiting and seeing a vibrant coal port to better understand the benefits and challenges associated with this method of export."

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