NICOLE POLLACK Casper Start-Tribune
With the U.S. on the verge of its first national railroad strike in three decades, Wyoming’s biggest industries are preparing to suffer losses in the coming weeks.
The hope, for all parties, is reaching a deal that resolves stalled contract negotiations between the railroads and their unionized workers before Friday, when a federally mandated cooling-off period times out and the unions become free to strike.
But as the deadline nears, a stoppage is looking increasingly likely. The question, for many, is how long it will last.
“If we don’t have trains, we don’t mine the coal,” said Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association. “Even a day will have ripple effects for weeks.”
Wyoming supplies roughly 40% of the country’s coal. With recent months’ high natural gas prices temporarily slowing the power sector’s shift from coal-fired electricity, utilities’ coal stockpiles have remained lower — and Powder River Basin coal prices higher — over the past year than at any time during the previous decade.
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If the railroads can’t move that coal, however, Wyoming’s mines could be forced to scale back production or even shut