Coal is on its last legs. In the coal capital of the country, in the least-populated state in the union, leaders had to make a move. So, they turned to a silver bullet and brought in a $20 million competition to jumpstart a new era for coal country. Along the way, an unlikely ally emerges: a skateboarding environmentalist.


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In Gillette, Wyoming, the self-declared energy capital of the nation since the 1960s, a community faces another chaotic coal bankruptcy, leaving miners without jobs and, for many, a question of whether to stick around. It’s the latest chapter of a well-known story: the decline of coal.

With a fundamental economic piece on the rocks, state leaders are forced to find answers to solve both a community’s problems and their own. For now, over a decade, leaders have increasingly invested time and energy into an answer to the “what’s next” question: becoming a hub for a thing called carbon capture. One of the first moves to jumpstart the nascent industry: host an international carbon capture competition. In Part 1 of this story, we also meet our main character.


Image: Former Gov. Matt Mead, middle, at the 2016 groundbreaking ceremony for the Integrated Test Center. Wyoming legislators allocated $15 million of state funds alongside $6 million from the private industry for its construction. “A glimmer of hope came for the state’s beleaguered coal industry this week,” read a press release.

Theme music by Mark Guiliana
Blue Dot Sessions

Produced with support from the Society of Environmental Journalists