By Richard Garrett, Jr.

THE WYOMING LEGISLATURE IS WELL INTO ITS THIRD WEEK and although some trends are clear others have yet to come into focus.

While this is a legislature that certainly has social activists, it is also one that has bipartisan interest in exploring environmental issues, including those related to wind energy, resource extraction, and even greenhouse gases.

While there are many bills that are important, some that are of particular interest to the Wyoming Outdoor Council and its members include the following.

The Bills Related to Wind Energy:

  • Senate File 22, dealing with wind energy property rights: Click here to read it.
  • House Bill 48, dealing with the placement of wind energy facilities: Click here to read it.
  • House Bill 191, dealing with wind power taxation: Click here to read it.
  • Senate File 58, dealing with landowner rights in wind energy development: Click here to read it.

Each of these bills is designed to deal with some of the thorniest issues related to wind energy development in Wyoming including siting, property rights, and taxation.

All of these bills are important, but perhaps the one of greatest interest to Outdoor Council members is the one that has yet to be introduced: This is a bill that would—if an excise tax on wind-energy production is extended—require that a portion of the tax be directed to the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust.

The practicality of this idea seems apparent: wind-energy development can do substantial harm to wildlife so it is fitting that resources from that development be directed to offset its impacts.

We will continue to remind lawmakers and industry officials that they have an obligation to conserve and protect Wyoming’s wildlife as they develop and improve the regulatory framework for wind energy development in this state.

Natural Resources:

  • Senate File 116, dealing with oil and gas enhanced recovery via microbial conversion: Click here to read it.

This is a bill that would allow two state agencies—the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission and/or the Department of Environmental Quality—to undertake rule-making for a new technology that would stimulate methane production in otherwise depleted coal-bed methane formations.

The process is called microbial stimulation and involves injecting nutrients and microbes into underground coal structures with the expectation that the natural processes that have created methane in coal seams over hundreds of thousands of years can be revived.

It is believed that the way producers have been extracting coal-bed methane—which has included pumping water from the aquifer up to the surface in order to draw down the water level to release the methane—has had the result of reducing or perhaps even ending the natural processes that created the methane in the first place.

A visual explanation of this microbial stimulation process can be found here.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council is particularly concerned with how this process might impact groundwater resources for future generations, and therefore we will work to influence this bill’s progress in the Legislature and, if it passes, we’ll work to influence the rule-making process at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission and DEQ.

Greenhouse Gases:

  • Senate Joint Resolution 6, requesting Congress to limit air quality regulation by the United States Environmental Protection Agency: Click here to read it.

This is a resolution that is intended to influence Washington, D.C. decision makers by requesting that they force the Environmental Protection Agency into additional delays on plans to regulate greenhouse gases.

The resolution cleared its first hurdle in the Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development committee where it was approved by a vote of 4 to 1.

While we expect similar results on the floor of the Senate and in the House, too, we were encouraged when the Senate committee supported our initiative to sponsor an interim study that would evaluate the state’s opportunity to take the initiative and regulate and permit greenhouse gases, instead of leaving it up to the federal government.

This proposal is consistent with an idea first advanced by Rocky Mountain Power during last year’s interim meeting of the joint Minerals committee.

While we acknowledge that the state is less qualified than the EPA to establish rules for greenhouse gas emissions, we also believe that the state is well advised to seize an initiative and retain state primacy in this regulatory arena.

These and other issues are on deck in Cheyenne.

We are always on hand, active, and involved at the Legislature on behalf of the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s 1400-plus members. If you are in Cheyenne and would like to meet, or you would like to help influence legislation, please be in touch.

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

West Edge