The Westmoreland Kemmerer mine will be expanding, with WYDOT moving part of Highway 30 in order to access more coal.
State Sen. Dan Dockstader (R- Senate District 16, Lincoln, Sublette and Teton Counties) worked on the bill for this project, which was known as the Lincoln County Coal Road.
“It’s a huge project,” Dockstader said. “Over 19 years it will bring 300 jobs and $305 million in tax revenue to the county.”
State funding for the move and expansion was included in this legislative session’s State-Funded Capital Construction Bill, HB0194, which was passed and signed by Gov. Matt Mead in March.
Westmoreland will fund $7.5 million of the $30 million project. The rest of the money will come from the state funding outlined in the capital construction bill and from federal funding. Other local government representatives agree that securing the funding was no easy task, but it will be a big boost to the economy of the region.
“It was really great of Sen. Dockstader to make sure this happened,” said Lincoln County Commissioner Kent Connelly. “It shows he cares about what happens in south Lincoln County.”
Senator Dan Dockstader
Keith Compton is the WYDOT engineer for District 3, which covers all of southwest Wyoming. WYDOT will be involved in the moving and reconstruction of Highway 30, although it’s unknown whether the work will be completed through a contractor or WYDOT itself.
“We’re still in the preliminary stages,” Compton said. “We want to move forward with a project that works for Westmoreland and the community.”
Compton said WYDOT representatives will meet with Westmoreland this spring to make sure that the scope of the work is clear and to further discuss costs.
“Our target for starting this project is 2022,” Compton said.
The bill says that the funding will be diverted from the “legislative stabilization reserve account to the department of transportation for relocation, construction or improvement of roads and bridges directly impacted by development of coal resources.”
Dockstader said the expansion will open up an additional 67 million tons of coal, which was why he was so persistent for several years to secure the funding.
“This was something I had a passion for,” Dockstader said. “I thought, this is it. No matter what else I do, this is one project I want to go through.”
Dockstader met with legislative leadership and Westmoreland representatives two years ago to discuss the expansion.
“We started looking at what it would take to get this done, because it’s roughly a $30 million project,” Dockstader said. “First it was in the general budget and the capital construction bill. It was taken out of the general budget, but by the end of the session it was moved up to the number one priority on the capital construction bill.”
Dockstader emphasized that the expansion will not only be beneficial to Westmoreland as a company, but to the economy of the Kemmerer- Diamondville community and the region.
“Coal is a key employment for folks not just in Kemmerer but surrounding communities,” Dockstader said. “It is one of the key parts of the economy in southwest Wyoming.”
Gary Kohn, Westmoreland’s Chief Financial Officer who serves as a spokesperson for the company and the Kemmerer mine, had not responded to Gazette inquiries at press time.
“The Kemmerer mine is a key part of the Westmoreland portfolio,” Dockstader said. “We’re also looking at the possibility of partnering with University of Wyoming school of Energy Resources to examine alternative coal uses.”
Dockstader said he wasn’t alone in the legislature in helping secure the funding for this project. Other legislators recognized the importance of the project, he said.
“Senators Baldwin and Simpson and Rep. Crank did a great job of working on this and talking to people to really make it happen,” Dockstader said.
The senator said that the Kemmerer mine is an ideal location for this type of project.
“There’s a railroad near the mine, so there’s already a way to transport the coal out,” Dockstader said. “It’s also great low-sulfur coal that sells for three times the amount that coal from the Powder River Basin gets.”
Although the project won’t begin for a few years, WYDOT and Westmoreland will be busy working out the engineering details in preparation for moving part of Highway 30 in Kemmerer in order to access the additional coal.
“We’re moving a lot of road and a lot of dirt,” Dockstader said. “It’s a huge project, but it will be so worth it.”