GILLETTE, Wyo. (NewsNationNow) — The biggest industry in Wyoming is energy and coal, but many residents are concerned that there are no new jobs and the coal mines will continue to close now that President Joe Biden is in office.
Gillette, Wyoming is known as the energy capital of the nation – and residents have emotional reactions to Biden’s energy and climate change plans.
Wyoming produces 39% of the nation’s coal. That is the most of any state. West Virginia comes in at second with 13% produced.
“Coal is never going to go away. Oil is never going to go away. I don’t care what AOC or the Democrats say. It is not,” Tim Hussey said.
Hussey worked in the coal mines for decades and lives on the outskirts of town near several of the mines.
“This place is blue collar. Everyone goes to work and does their job,” Hussey said.
At the Office Saloon, a popular bar for miners after work, the crowd was concerned about the Biden plan.
“It is easy for people to make regulations, when they don’t see the devastation,” Cheri Burkhardt said.
Burkhardt worked at the mines for 16 years.
“I learned to be a driller and a blaster. It was great. It was a good job…when you bash your energy, you don’t have anything else,” Burkhardt said.
Burkhardt and the other people in the bar said they are skeptical of Democrats and worried about what will happen to their industry.
“We used to have 17 coal mines in Gillette for years since the 70s. Now we have about six running. They have shut them all down. People are out of work. That is why they are on edge. There are so many people out of work right now,” Misty Hinnigan said. “Gillette is coal mining and oil producing. That is what we do. My husband works in the oil field. He has been there for 14 or 15 years. He is about to lose his job because of all this stuff going on.”
Wyoming produces more coal than any other state in the country, but coal production and jobs have declined over the last five years in the United States. President Donald Trump promised to revive the industry as a candidate but he didn’t deliver.
“Anytime someone’s livelihood is threatened, people get defensive,” Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King said.
Carter-King said she wants to work with President Biden to help bring jobs to the community.
“For one thing, he did say during his campaign I will work with the blue states and the red states. Well, we are one of the reddest counties in one of the reddest states in the nation. We are ready to talk,” Mayor Louise Carter-King said.
Carter-King says companies in the area are looking at ways to utilize clean coal – and to bring other industries in also.
She’s hopeful that America might care about Gillette, Wyoming, a town that powered the country for decades.
Some of her constituents are not as optimistic.
“America doesn’t care. I’m sorry. Everyone has got all their stuff everyday. If we die, we will be no different than the rust belt when they died. Did America run up there and cry? No. They won’t cry about this either,” Burkhardt said.
In the meantime, several organizations throughout Wyoming are trying to help laid-off coal miners learn new trades and they have seen some success.