Naughton Power Plant

Coal, the main economic driver of Kemmerer, is brought into PacifiCorp's Naughton Plant from the adjacent Westmoreland coal mine in 2014. The city of Kemmerer received a federal grant to transition its economy in the wake of coal's decline.

CASPER, Wyo. — For the residents who call the city of Kemmerer home, coal is everything.

But demand for the mineral continues to topple, as utilities shift to cheaper natural gas and renewable options, leaving lawmakers looking toward an uncertain future for the town of roughly 3,000. Kemmerer is home to not only a coal mine, but also a nearby coal-fired power plant.

But the southwestern Wyoming town received a jolt of hope when the federal government awarded the city nearly $139,000 to boost new development and catalyze economic diversification over the next two years. Announced by Gov. Mark Gordon Thursday, the grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration comes at a crucial time for the county.

Last week, Wyoming's largest utility, PacifiCorp, unveiled a preliminary plan to accelerate the retirement of its coal fleet, including units in the Naughton coal-fired power plant located in Kemmerer.

This news comes on the heels of last year's bankruptcy involving Westmoreland Coal Co., the operator of the Kemmerer mine, one of few major employers in the rural area.

“Our focus is on the workers and communities that will be impacted by these announced closures,” Gordon said in a statement. “I’m glad to see that the community is taking a proactive role in charting its future.”

According to the governor’s office, the city of Kemmerer collaborated across multiple parties to secure the grant and match federal funding — from Rocky Mountain Power and the Wyoming Business Council to Lincoln County. The grant will help the city hire an impact manager for two years and implement an economic diversification plan.

“It’s crucial to have close partnerships with private industry, the county and the state as we move Kemmerer toward some really successful ventures,” Mayor Anthony Tomassi, of Kemmerer, said in a statement. “We have a really good team.”

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