President Trump, along with roundly questioning climate change, has moved quickly to wipe out those measures with the support of coal companies and other commercial interests. Separately, Mr. Trump’s Interior Department is drawing up plans to reduce wilderness and historic areas that are now protected as national monuments, creating even more opportunities for profit.
Richard Reavey, the head of government relations for Cloud Peak Energy, which operates a strip mine here that sends coal to the Midwest and increasingly to coal-burning power plants in Asia said Mr. Trump’s change of course was meant to correct wrongs of the past.
The Obama administration, he said, had become intent on killing the coal industry, and had used federal lands as a cudgel to restrict exports. The only avenues of growth currently, given the shutdown of so many coal-burning power plants in the United States, are markets overseas.
“Their goal, in collusion with the environmentalists, was to drive us out of the export business,” Mr. Reavey said.
Even with the moves so far, the prospect of coal companies operating in a big way on federal land — and for any major job growth — is dim, in part because environmentalists have blocked construction of a coal export terminal, and there is limited capacity at the port the companies use in Vancouver.
Competition from other global suppliers offering coal to Asian power plants is also intense.