Vice President Mike Pence received a first-hand look at a Montana coal mine on Friday and later declared that the "war on coal is over."
Pence took the opportunity to visit coal country during his trip to Montana. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) joined him in riding horseback at Westmoreland's Absaloka Mine in Sarpy Creek.
The meeting provided the Crow Tribe a platform to speak with the administration.
With 85 employed at the mine, Westmoreland has faced a long battle. Since 2011, coal production has dropped 30% and the number of those employed in the industry has plummeted from 130,000 to 75,000.
Crow officials remained the Pence how important coal country is to the community and region. Pence promised the president believes in American energy.
"And on behalf of the President of the United States, I'm here to announce that the war on coal is over," Pence declared to applause at the Westmoreland's administrative offices following the horseback tour.
Pence sat down with the tribe and the mine assuring them the administration's goal on coal.
"The president truly believes that American energy drives American prosperity and means American jobs and we're going to continue to work with all of you," Pence said.
"I would rather produce energy here than be held hostage over seas and have to go to war overseas," Zinke said.
"There is tremendous potential here, and it's a life blood right now for the Crow Tribe, and without it to say coal keeps the lights on. I'll tell ya it's lights out for the Crow Tribe if we lose these coal jobs here," Daines said.
The coal industry has witnessed the rollback of EPA regulations. But for companies like Westmoreland, who has seen demand for coal lag behind cheaper natural gas, the question becomes how do you shift economic forces?
Nationally, the coal industry has witnessed a surge in activity in recent months.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that U.S. coal production will increase 5% this year and 1% next year — which would be the first back-to-back annual increases in coal output in seven years.