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Coal

Campbell County, Wyoming

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Map of Campbell County, Wyoming

Most of the coal consumed in the U.S. fuels the country’s electricity needs. Coal constitutes 30% of all electricity generated in the U.S.1 Wyoming leads domestic coal production, accounting for two-fifths of the nation’s output.2 More coal is extracted in Wyoming than in the next four largest coal-producing states combined, with eight of the nation’s ten largest mines located in the state.3 Campbell County, in the northeast corner of the state, supplies more coal for generating electricity than any other county in the nation.4

Geology and history

Campbell County’s geographic position atop the Powder River Basin came with such plentiful coal deposits that early cattle ranchers in the area could dig their own coal.5 Significant mining operations in the region began in the early twentieth century with the Peerless and Wyodak Mines near the city of Gillette. Further coal development and the discovery of oil spurred population growth in the county throughout the decades that followed.

Most Campbell County coal is sub-bituminous, meaning it contains 35% to 45% carbon. Although sub-bituminous coal has the second lowest energy content of the four main types of coal, it is often found in thick deposits near the surface, which results in lower mining costs.6 The low sulfur content of the coal in Campbell County deposits became an advantage in the market after the 1990 revision of the Clean Air Act, which required reduced sulfur emissions from coal-fired power plants.7 Today, the Powder River Basin is estimated to have 25 billion tons of economically recoverable coal resources.8

Production

In 2015, Campbell County produced 328 million tons of coal, accounting for 87% of the state’s total production.9 Wyoming coal mines operate largely on federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management under the U.S. Department of the Interior.10 In fact, Wyoming is the site of more coal mining on federal and Indian lands than any other state in the country, constituting 83% of the total coal production on federal and Indian lands in the fiscal year ending in 2015.11 12

Production levels fluctuated little between 2005 and 2015. For instance, 2015’s levels were 9% below 2005 production, partially due to lower natural gas prices that prompted some power companies to abandon coal use.13 Underground mining no longer exists in Campbell County, but 11 of Wyoming’s 17 open-pit coal mines are located in the county. The Peabody North Antelope Rochelle Mine and Arch Coal’s Black Thunder Mine, both in Campbell County, are the two largest coal mines in the country.

Coal production in Campbell County14

Chart shows coal production in Campbell County from 2006 to 2015 as a line graph. The y-axis represents millions of tons of coal produced, and tops out at 450. Annual coal production, which was between 325 and 425 million tons for all years, went up from 2006 to 2008 then trended downward to just under 350 million tons in 2015.

Employment

The coal mining industry provides employment for 5,227 workers in Campbell County (out of a total population of 48,013), representing approximately 11% of county residents and 23% of total employment.15 16 The chart below shows the county employment trend in the broader mining industry from 2006 through 2015, including mining and mining-support activities.17

Wage and salary employment in Campbell County:
Mining industry vs. all other industries18

Chart shows the number of jobs in Campbell County from 2006 to 2015. The y-axis, which represents the number of wage and salary employees, tops out at 35,000, and each bar compares the number of mining-industry jobs to the total number of jobs for that year. Each bar also identifies the percentage of jobs in the mining industry. The total number of jobs each year ranges from about 25,000 in 2006 to a little under 30,000 in 2008. After 2008, the total number of jobs hovers between 27,500 and 29,000 until 2015, when it drops to under 25,000. The percentage of jobs in the mining industry is between 25% and 27% for all years except 2015, when it rises to 30%.

Revenue

With $125 million in total government revenue for 2015, Campbell County is the second most revenue-rich county in Wyoming.19 20 21 Its wealth is largely due to revenue brought in from coal extraction. More than 50% of the county’s 2015 revenue came from property tax ($62.8 million). The Wyoming Department of Revenue valued all the coal accessible by surface mining in Campbell County at $3.1 billion.22

Campbell County further generates coal-related revenue through a gross products tax, which is an ad valorem property tax based on the taxable value of the coal produced the previous year. Campbell County bills and collects this tax directly, based on the applicable tax district mill levy, and uses the revenue to fund local schools, infrastructure, and public services.23 In 2015, Campbell County collected $62.8 million from this and other property taxes, accounting for 64% of total tax revenue.24 84% of property taxes for the fiscal year ending in 2013 came from natural-resource production taxes.25

The State of Wyoming applies a 7% severance tax on the value of extracted surface coal.26 In 2015 and 2016, Wyoming collected $487 million in severance tax revenue from coal production.27 More than 90% of severance tax revenue goes to the state’s Severance Tax Distribution Account, which allocates 62% of its funding to the General Fund, 9% to cities and towns, 4% to counties, and the rest to various infrastructure development accounts, such as the Water Development Program.28 29 The state Mineral Revenue Report does not specify what percentage of this revenue was directed to Campbell County. In 2015, Campbell County received $445,154 in severance tax.30

Local communities in Wyoming also benefit from federal mineral royalties and coal lease bonuses. In 2015 and 2016, Wyoming collected $1.6 billion in mineral royalties and coal lease bonuses.31 This revenue helped fund public programs such as the state’s school foundation, highway fund, city budgets, and the University of Wyoming. The exact distribution formulas for these funds among the various public programs is outlined in the state’s Mineral Revenue Report, which highlights past revenues as well as future forecasts out to 2020.32

The state of Wyoming does not impose a sales tax on the production of minerals itself, but it does tax supplies and equipment used in extraction. Services rendered under contract for mineral extraction are also taxed. Wyoming sales tax is 4%, with counties being able to collect up to 2% of additional taxes. In 2016, Campbell County collected $32.6 million in sales tax from the mining industry (which includes solid minerals such as coal and ore, as well as liquid minerals such as oil), down from $75 million in 2015.33

Costs

Campbell County and the Wyoming Department of Transportation (DOT) published the Campbell County Coal Belt Transportation Study (PDF) in 2010. The report documents recommendations for roadway network improvements in the near and long term, discusses coal industry impacts to the system, and identifies funding options. While Campbell County is expected to be the primary funding source for new transportation improvements, the study includes a wide variety of collaborative funding efforts, including the Bureau of Land Management’s Abandoned Mine Lands program funds, road impact fees, a sinking fund account, and direct state and federal appropriations.34 The study estimates that it would require $43.9 million in investment in county roads between 2010 and 2015 to support coal extraction.35

No publicly available government data discussing emergency services, reclamation, or water-infrastructure costs of coal mining in Campbell County was found.

Data availability

The table below highlights the data sources used to compile this narrative, as well as any gaps in publicly available data.

This case study is current as of June 2017. Many data sources are updated regularly, and may show more recent figures than are included here.

Measure Data availability Data gaps
Production The U.S. Energy Information Administration published county-level 2016 coal production data, while the Wyoming State Geological Survey produced the historical production-trend data from 2005–2015.
Employment The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published Campbell County mining industry employment data for 2005 through 2016. Neither BLS nor the U.S. Census Bureau has ten-year employment-trend data for the coal-mining industry specifically at the Campbell County level.
Revenue Revenue information was gathered from a range of Wyoming state government sources for 2010–2016, including the Wyoming Department of Revenue, Wyoming Legislative Service Office and Wyoming Department of Administration and Information. Revenue information was also gathered from the Campbell County 2015 Financial Report. All of these sources operate on fiscal years which run from July 1 to June 30. Data on how sales and use taxes relate to extractive activities in the county was not found. Additionally, the Campbell County 2016 Financial Report and the 2016 Mineral Revenue Report was not found, and was instead supplemented by the Wyoming State Government Revenue Forecast from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group which includes actuals for years prior to 2017.
Costs Data on connections between county transportation, emergency services, reclamation, and water-infrastructure investments and extractive industries was not found.

Notes

  1. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Use of Coal 

  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Where Our Coal Comes From 

  3. Ibid. 

  4. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Coal Report (PDF), 2015, table 2 

  5. Wyoming State Historical Society, Campbell County 

  6. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Subbituminous and bituminous coal dominate U.S. coal production 

  7. Wyoming State Historical Society, Campbell County 

  8. U.S. Geological Survey, Assessment of Coal Geology, Resources, and Reserve Base in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming and Montana (PDF), 2013 

  9. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Coal Report (PDF), 2015, table 2 

  10. U.S. Department of the Interior, Wyoming Powder River Basin Coal 

  11. U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Statistical Information 

  12. The federal fiscal year spans from October 1 through September 30 of the next year. 

  13. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Coal Production Data 2004–2015 

  14. Ibid. 

  15. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages: QCEW Data Files: See NAICS Codes 2121 (Coal Mining) and 213113 (Support Activities for Coal Mining), 2006-2015 

  16. U.S. Census Bureau, Quick Facts, Campbell County, Wyoming 

  17. Ibid. 

  18. Ibid. 

  19. Campbell County 2015 Financial Report (PDF), p. 4 

  20. State of Wyoming Department of Revenue, 2016 Annual Report (PDF), p. 58 

  21. Wealthiest county by gross revenue distribution. 

  22. State of Wyoming Department of Revenue, 2016 Annual Report (PDF), p. 46 

  23. Wyoming Legislative Service Office, Wyoming Severance Taxes and Federal Mineral Royalties (PDF), 2010, p. 20 

  24. Campbell County 2015 Financial Report (PDF), p. 5, table 1 

  25. Ibid., p. 38 

  26. Wyoming Legislative Service Office, Wyoming Severance Taxes and Federal Mineral Royalties (PDF), 2010, p. 5 

  27. State of Wyoming Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, Wyoming State Government Revenue Forecast (PDF), p. 13, table 6 

  28. Ibid. 

  29. Wyoming Legislature, Wyoming’s Water Development Program (PDF), 2015 

  30. Campbell County 2015 Financial Report (PDF), p. 38 

  31. State of Wyoming Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, Wyoming State Government Revenue Forecast (PDF), p. 14, table 7 

  32. Ibid., p. 3 

  33. State of Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, Wyoming Sales, Use, and Lodging Tax Revenue Report (PDF), 2016, p. 19 

  34. Campbell County and Wyoming Department of Transportation, Campbell County Coal Belt Transportation Study (PDF), 2010 

  35. Ibid, p. 5