Five decades after the onset of major strip mining in what became the country’s most productive coal region, the Powder River Basin, coal communities find themselves in the midst of a well-known shift dubbed the “Seneca Effect:” although growth is slow and incremental, collapse is comparatively sudden. Against this backdrop of rapid decline, Sightline has developed an analytical model to assess which coal mines in the region are most at risk of closure.

To understand the local impacts of these broader energy market changes, Sightline’s new model uses publicly available data for individual power plants’ performance and coal purchases to analyze the impacts on every mine in the Powder River Basin. Taken together, the model answers the question, “when the bottom falls out, which mines fall farthest?”

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May 11, 2021