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CHEYENNE A proposed coal gasification research facility attracted representatives of about a dozen Wyoming cities, counties and economic development associations that are interested in hosting the public-private project.

"We're ready to expand and accept anything that comes along," said Campbell County Commissioner Roy Edwards, who was among the dozens of officials at a meeting of potential bidders Friday.

The University of Wyoming held the meeting to answer questions about the plant, which is being jointly developed by the state of Wyoming and General Electric. The facility, which could cost up to $100 million to build, would research the use of clean-coal gasification technology on the state's vast reserves.

The project's goal is to make sure Wyoming coal remains a viable energy source as conventional coal-burning loses favor because of climate change concerns.

Bill Gern, UW vice president for research and economic development, said the university will accept bids on proposed sites until Feb. 9. The UW Board of Trustees will decide where to build it.

It's hoped that construction could begin in 2011 and be finished in 2012.

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Gern said he did not have an accurate accounting of which towns and counties were expressing interest in the facility, as formal bids still have to be submitted.

The facility will have 15 to 20 permanent employees, depending on the research going on at the time, Gern said.

"So the actual economy impact of the facility per se is moderate," he said. "But the real economic impact to Wyoming is understanding how to gasify Powder River Basin coal. And that has huge economic impact because it will allow us to continue to maintain coal sales during an era of climate legislation."

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