Happy to see two bills vetoed

By Richard Garrett, Jr.

GOV. DAVE FREUDENTHAL HAS VETOED two bills: Senate File 13, called “Economic Analysis” and House Bill 97, the nuclear energy production study.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council was happy to hear of these two decisions, and is grateful to the governor for his careful stewardship.

While we did ask the governor to consider vetoing “Economic Analysis,” and sought several improvements for the nuclear energy bill, we believe that some ideas as presented in these bills are worthy of broad public discussion and we look forward to engaging in that process during interim committee meetings and at the next legislative session.

While citing specific reasons for each veto, the governor articulated his underlying concern about growth in state government and the use of taxpayer resources to investigate topics about which we, as a state, are already quite familiar.

The Outdoor Council followed both bills closely throughout this legislative session. As did so many others, we offered comments on each bill and are grateful that our concerns were listened to carefully by many legislators and that some of those concerns were shared by the governor.

A DESCRIPTION OF EACH BILL

SF 13, Economic Analysis. This bill was perhaps at the top of our list of concerns during this legislative session. Its intent was to task the state with compiling and recording economic information on behalf of counties, which could then use that data in closed co-operator meetings with federal agencies, including the BLM, in its planning processes. Supporters of the bill portrayed it as a benefit to every Wyoming county, but we believe it would probably have proved useful, at best, to a very limited number of counties.

As I wrote in a previous post, the original bill would have tasked the State Division of Economic Analysis with determining the “optimum use” for all land in the state (private, state and federal). The proposed modeling process would have created a bias towards finding so-called optimum uses for Wyoming lands that would almost always have involved resource development and extraction.

In other words, the determined “optimum use” would likely never be open space, important wildlife habitat, historical preservation, ecotourism, iconic view-sheds or conservation.

In the bill’s final form, the data compiled would not match up well with the National Environmental Policy Act, which calls for a socioeconomic analysis that is much more detailed — and costly — than a simple economic analysis. Thus, the bill, in practice, would have been underfunded and would not have given counties the kind of data they would need to be effective participants in federal land use planning.

HB 97, Nuclear Energy Production Study. As the governor said on Wednesday, at best this bill would only produce information on topics about which the state is already familiar. Wyoming has a long track record on uranium production and a history that can’t be ignored related to counties vying to store nuclear waste as an income source. The study would have been an attempt to begin finding ways that nuclear power could be generated in the state.

While many would argue that nuclear power is an inevitable component of the national energy portfolio, we agree with the governor that spending $18,000 on a task force study does not represent the best use of taxpayer’s dollars.

We were also very concerned that the task force study might prove a springboard to renewing the notion that Wyoming should become a dumping ground for radioactive waste.

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

Posted in *All posts, Activities, Capitol blog

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