The Powder River Basin

April 19, 2019

Wyoming Energy History

The Powder River Basin has been a massive part of Wyoming’s energy infrastructure since coal was discovered in the area. Northeast Wyoming produces about 40% of the nation’s coal which is used to generate electricity. The industry has powered a substantial portion of Wyoming’s economy, directly employing 6,800 workers in 2008 and producing nearly $4.5 billion worth of taxable minerals in 2010.

The Powder River Basin boom started in the 1970’s, with the biggest production mine opening in 1977. 13 coal mines were being operated in 2012, with trains carrying the coal to power plants in Washington, New York, and Texas. Eventually, energy producers in the area began to produce and transport coalbed methane and expand the energy economy in the state.

Today, the Powder River Basin is most well-known for its energy development, but many people in the area still practice agriculture and ranching, relying on the Powder River grass to fatten their livestock.

This article was provided through our partnership with the Wyoming State Historical Society. 

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