Wyoming gov disappointed for coal after election

Associated Press Modified: November 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm •  Published: November 7, 2012

Mead credited Interior Secretary Ken Salazar with releasing some coal leases in Wyoming in recent years, resulting in increased sales. But Mead said he doesn't believe the administration has done enough.

"The fact is, it's a fuel source that allows us to produce electricity at a very competitive rate," Mead said. "That is not only good for manufacturing within this country, and the jobs that are attached to it, but also it helps keep us globally competitive when a major cost driver for industry is energy costs."

The Sierra Club and other groups have pushed to try to block federal coal leases in the Powder River Basin on the grounds that burning coal mined there would contribute to global warming. The groups have failed to get traction in the courts so far.

Connie Wilbert, field organizer for the Sierra Club in Wyoming, said Wednesday her group fundamentally supports Obama's approach.

"We certainly recognize here in Wyoming the role that fossil fuels, and the extraction of those fuels, coal and oil, play and how important they are to our state economy right now," Wilbert said. "We live here, we understand that.

"But we also think that these extractive industries need to be carefully regulated to protect our environment, our clean water, clean air and wildlife and the safety of our workers," Wilbert said. "And we believe that President Obama is more likely to help us gain and maintain those kinds of important regulations over these industries."

Mead also said he disagrees with Obama's signature health care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act. Mead led Wyoming to join other states in a federal lawsuit challenging the law that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling this summer upholding most of the law.

Mead says he intends to decide by next month whether to recommend to state lawmakers that the state expand eligibility for Medicaid, a joint state-federal health program.

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