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Anti-coal group nixes Wyoming protest

Anti-coal group nixes Wyoming protest

  • Updated

CASPER, Wyo. — A anti-global-warming activist group has canceled a coal protest camp slated to take place next month in Wyoming’s massive Powder River Basin coal field.

High Country Rising Tide, the Wyoming affiliate of the national group Rising Tide North America, wasn’t prepared to host the event in Gillette, said Rising Tide North America spokesman Scott Parkin.

“They’re kind of a new group, they’re small, they’re working in a state that’s not exactly friendly to their point of view,” he said. “They were feeling overwhelmed. They didn’t feel they could make the camp happen in any meaningful way.”

Email and Facebook messages to High Country Rising Tide weren’t returned Friday.

The camp, called West By Northwest by its organizers, would have culminated what was to be a busy summer for the local group.

A leader of the Wyoming affiliate told the Star-Tribune in May the group protested a federal coal sale in May and was planning a protest at a coal mine in July.

Activists from Wyoming and around the nation were scheduled to arrive in Gillette from Aug. 2-10 for what an organizer called a “radical change camp.”

Attendees would perform community service projects, receive training in civil disobedience, and interrupt business at the nearby coal mines with “arrestable” activities designed to win publicity for the group’s cause and cut into coal companies’ bottom lines, said Kristen Owenreay, a co-founder of the group and a University of Wyoming student.

The goal, Owenreay told the Star-Tribune: To halt the use of coal, a huge source of global pollution, and fight plans to ship coal from the region to the energy-hungry Asian markets.

Marion Loomis is executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, which represents the state’s coal industry. Loomis said he was pleased with decision to cancel the camp.

“Hopefully they recognized there’s a lot of support of the coal industry in Wyoming and maybe they will recognize we need an affordable, reliable source of electricity supply, and coal certainly provides that, provides so many jobs for Wyoming and even outside of Wyoming,” he said.

“I’m glad they’re not going to do something that would be questionably unsafe,” he continued. “We wanted to be sure everybody was safe, including the protesters, the employees and the public at large. So at least the safety issue shouldn’t be an issue now.”

Rising Tide’s Parkin said the group wasn’t giving up its quest to stop the mining, export or use of coal. The organization is shifting its resources to support opposition against the Montana Land Board in Helena and development of the Otter Creek coal mine in that state.

“Right now there’s a lot of momentum and energy building around the stuff in Helena, so those of us who don’t work in Wyoming thought it would be a better use of our time and resources,” he said.

Wyoming hasn’t seen the last of the group or its local affiliate, he said. High Country Rising Tide is planning a weekend workshop in Laramie to train activists for the upcoming Montana protest, although Parkin said he wasn’t sure when it would take place.

Rising Tide North America will continue to join with other groups to fight against shipment of coal to the Pacific Coast for export to Asia, and Parkin pointed out the importance of growing cooperation between well-organized groups along the rail route and along the coast.

That number of activist groups and organized opposition to coal mining isn’t taking place in Wyoming, he acknowledged.

“I think Wyoming will be the last place it will happen, but it will be a place where these conversations are starting,” he said.

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