The Faces of Carbon Valley: Rusty Bell

Rusty Bell is Campbell County commissioner, was born and raised in Gillette, Wyoming. Bell currently serves on the Wyoming County Commissioners Association (WCCA) Executive Board, chairs the WCCA’s Revenue Committee and is chair-elect of the Business Advocacy Committee for Campbell County Chamber of Commerce. Bell is a proud alumnus of the Leadership Wyoming program, Class of 2018. Bell works to help procure grant funding and create partnerships to build the foundation for furthering the Carbon Valley concept.

Q: What is your role and area of focus? 

Bell: I have served on the board of Campbell County Commissioners since January 2015. I was part of the initiative that wanted to promote the acceptance of “all things carbon.” We could see the markets moving towards decarbonization, and we knew we needed to have a seat at the table. My role as commissioner has been to be a spokesperson for our community and its message of fully supporting the thermal coal market. We want to see the continuation of reliable coal-fired energy while also embracing other carbon markets and technology, including carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) demonstrations and scale-ups, carbon products, rare earth elements and critical minerals. My focus is to ensure that Campbell County is receptive to carbon and to influence policy that creates an open environment for research and scale-up technology.

Q: How does your work benefit the Carbon Valley region in Campbell County and Gillette?

Bell: I work to help procure grant funding and create partnerships to build the foundation for furthering the Carbon Valley concept. I do this in various ways, such as traveling to the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh and developing and constructing the Wyoming Innovation Center, Pronghorn Industrial Park and Office of Transformation. I also help strengthen relationships with the U.S. Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Wyoming Energy Authority and the University of Wyoming School of Energy Research.

Q: How do you believe the work coming out of the Carbon Valley will benefit the nation as a whole?

Bell: I am hopeful that as thermal coal decreases, we can create good, high-paying jobs that would backfill those positions lost through that transition. Hopefully, we can continue to mine rare earth elements and critical minerals (REE-CM) and process them locally to keep the mining industry viable in our area. It will take much research and scale-up until this is economically feasible. The nation would greatly benefit from REE-CM being mined and processed in our country. I also believe that research and development in CCUS are going to be critical in the U.S., and much of that can, and hopefully will, be developed in Wyoming.

Q: Where do you see the Carbon Valley 10 years from now?

Bell: I see great success for Carbon Valley. I believe we will have at least one full-scale carbon capture facility in operation. I hope that we can increase the infrastructure to offer CO2 storage as a service to at least one industrial park in our area. I also see the scale-up and commercialization of the REE processing from coal fly ash. I hope to see continued research in carbon products and some small commercialization of carbon products being implemented locally.  I know we will have the cooperation of Gillette College to offer the workforce education needed for the new needs of the industries. I see the growth in Campbell County continuing, with mining of not only thermal coal use for the nation (at whatever level that is) and mining of waste streams and ash for REE-CM processing and carbon products.

Q: What do you do during your free time?

Bell: In my free time, I love bowfishing and hunting.  My wife and I like to travel as much as we can and enjoy spending time at a lake.

Q: What is your favorite part about living and working in Wyoming and Gillette/Campbell County specifically?

Bell: First and foremost, it’s our “can do” attitude! There are also many wonderful open natural spaces in Wyoming to explore, hunt and fish. It is the best place in the world to raise a family.  We have unmatched amenities in Campbell County for all people to use.