Day 7, Wyoming State Legislature, 60th session

By Richard Garrett, Jr.

APPROPRIATIONS SEEKS TO TIGHTEN DEQ’S BELT — WE RESIST

As Wyoming Outdoor Council members know, we’ve been tracking (and engaging in) several wind-energy-related bills.

One of these is HB 0072, sponsored by Rep. Tim Stubson of Casper.

This bill, which can be seen here: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2010/Titles/HB0072.htm, is a direct result of the efforts of the state’s Wind Energy Task Force.

Its official description is as follows:

AN ACT relating to siting and regulation of wind energy facilities; requiring permitting by boards of county commissioners; establishing minimum standards for wind energy facilities; providing for the review of county permitting decisions; allowing counties to adopt requirements; providing for referrals to the Industrial Siting Council; amending the Industrial Siting Council’s jurisdiction; requiring rulemaking; providing penalties; requiring fees; requiring financial assurances; and providing for an effective date.

Simply by reading the bill’s description one can see that the wind energy task force did a fine job of identifying a variety of issues regarding wind energy development, many of which must be subject to review and oversight by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.

One important implication of the bill is to require staffing at the Department of Environmental Quality and within the Industrial Siting Council to oversee this development.

And for the appropriations committee, there is the rub.

As everyone knows by now, state revenues are down (dramatically) and the expected pace of recovery is uncertain. In response to this, Gov. Dave Freudenthal ordered a hiring freeze in 2009 coupled with across-the-board budget reductions.

The Legislature, during this budget session, is determined to toe that line and perhaps make deeper cuts. Meanwhile, if there is one growth sector in the Wyoming energy economy it is industrial wind farm development.

So there is tension — the DEQ must have capable and expert personnel to make sure that wind development conforms to the Legislature’s intent, and yet the Legislature seems equally intent on reducing staffing levels at the DEQ.

It’s within that context that the House Appropriations Committee heard from DEQ Director John Corra at this morning’s hearing.

Director Corra made it clear to the committee that environmental concerns from ozone, to refineries, to produced water, to landfills, mean that the DEQ must have the resources to match these challenges.

Meanwhile, some on the committee seem determined to not allow the DEQ to add even one person to its staff.

UNDERFUNDED DEQ

The Wyoming Outdoor Council believes that the DEQ is underfunded and under-resourced. I have communicated these concerns to appropriations committee members, the DEQ and the governor’s office.

The environmental challenges that our state faces mean that the state must affirm its commitment to responsible and well-managed energy development and environmental oversight.

If you agree, please go to the Legislature’s website at this link: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/LEGINFO/participate.htm … And let the Legislature hear your concerns.

Alternatively, and if you’d prefer, contact me either by email or phone call and I will be sure to pass your thoughts along to legislators. I’d love to hear from you.

Contact: Richard Garrett, Jr., energy and legislative advocate, Wyoming Outdoor Council, 307-332-7031 x18; 307-438-9516; richard@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org.

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