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Advocate for Wyoming coal elected to chair National Coal Council
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Advocate for Wyoming coal elected to chair National Coal Council

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Carbon Capture Tech

Water vapor rises out of a stack at Dry Fork Station in Gillette in 2019. Randall Atkins, chief executive of Ramaco Coal, has been a sustained advocate for coal to carbon products, or the effort to utilize coal beyond just electricity production.

The leader of a coal technology firm with operations in Wyoming was elected to chair the National Coal Council, a federal advisory group providing guidance to the nation’s energy secretary, according to a company announcement published Monday.

Randall Atkins, chief executive and chairman of the company Ramaco Coal, has been a sustained advocate for advancing coal to carbon products research, or the effort to utilize coal beyond just electricity production.

Atkins has already been a member of the national council’s executive committee since being appointed in 2017 by then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry. He served as vice chair for the council.

As a holding company, Atkin’s Ramaco Coal has several other ventures happening around the country. That includes Ramaco Carbon, a private company in the process of building a complex of coal research and production facilities just outside Sheridan.

Wyoming leads the nation in coal production, supplying about 40% of coal used to power the country. But sharp declines in demand for thermal coal has state lawmakers and industry insiders eager to find additional applications and markets for the state’s abundant resource.

Atkins has said he has found a solution to the problem. His dream is to accelerate commercial coal product development by transforming the mineral into carbon fiber, graphite and other marketable materials.

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In August, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit allowing the company to mine for coal at a site outside Sheridan. The company plans to use the coal for research purposes at the adjacent facility, though the project has faced opposition from some surrounding landowners.

“The coming years may be far brighter for the coal industry than many realize, and it’s been my privilege to work with the National Coal Council to help chart a new course toward this stronger future,” Atkins said in a statement.

“Regardless of dated perceptions, there are vast, exciting and innovative developments being made in the use of coal both in the United States and abroad,” Atkins continued. “The NCC has been at the forefront for providing the research, policy analysis, and industry recommendations our country needs to utilize its most abundant national resource.”

The National Coal Council is a federal advisory committee working with the U.S. Department of Energy to help shape the nation’s energy policy. The council provides guidance to the department on how various federal decisions could influence coal production and consumption in the country.

“The NCC is proud to provide the Secretary of Energy with vital strategic guidance to maximize the use of our country’s coal supply,” Janet Gellici, chief executive officer of the National Coal Council, said in a statement. “Particularly in these times of technological advancements around new carbon products and materials from coal, the NCC is focused on providing the Secretary with new ideas to create and commercialize ‘coal to products.’”

This announcement comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by a network of environmental groups against the Energy Department for allegedly failing to harvest public documents related to the coal council.

Plaintiffs in the case have asked the federal court to force the National Coal Council to release meeting materials since 2017 and stop the committee from meeting with or advising the Energy Department until it demonstrates compliance with federal transparency laws.

Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry and the environment at @camillereports

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Energy and Natural Resources Reporter

Camille Erickson covers the state's energy industries. She received her master's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Before moving to Casper in 2019, she reported on business and labor in Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington.

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