By Richard Garrett, Jr.
Your voice for conservation at the Wyoming State Legislature

I TESTIFIED YESTERDAY MORNING AND ASKED THE WYOMING SENATE CORPORATIONS COMMITTEE TO PASS HOUSE BILL 179, which would establish a statewide program for encouraging residential energy efficiency improvements that could help reduce costs for Wyoming consumers and reduce harmful pollution and waste.

The committee passed the bill on a 4-1 vote.

The full Senate will debate and vote on this proposed program next week. Since the bill has already passed the House, passage in the Senate would send it to Gov. Matt Mead for his signature.

This energy efficiency bill is important because it would allow electric power producers to conduct, at the request of consumers, residential no-cost energy audits.

The power company could then suggest improvements, finance those improvements, and then bill the costs to consumers on their monthly residential electric bills.

Click here to read the House energy efficiency bill.

The bill was introduced in the Wyoming State House by Reps. Keith Gingery and Ruth Ann Petroff, with the hopes of enabling this program to be implemented in Teton County where the availability of power is capped at 85 megawatts.

The power company has informed Teton County that without an energy efficiency program the residents of the county (its customers) might be subject to a tripling of their energy costs and/or rolling brown-outs in the coming years.

House Bill 179 makes good environmental sense and serves the public good. Here’s why:

  1. By establishing an energy efficiency program, one that can be adopted statewide, the House energy efficiency bill will be part of the solution to reducing the need for new coal-fired power plants. It can also reduce or cap loads on existing plants and help to avoid the installation of new and costly energy transmission corridors, which disrupt open space and wildlife habitats. Meanwhile it can be part of the effort to reduce the human health impacts of burning coal for energy. Power plant emissions are known to cause human health problems (a just-released study by the Harvard Medical School estimates human health costs in the Appalachian region of the United States alone to be $74.6 billion).
  2. Wyoming is obligated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s 1999 regional haze rule to create and implement a plan to manage industrial air pollutants that cause regional haze. Power plant emissions are significant contributors to regional haze. The state will inevitably have to grapple with this issue—one benefit of this House energy efficiency bill is that it can make the state’s implementation task easier.
  3. Yet another public benefit of House Bill 179 is that it may help to reduce the likelihood of brown-outs in an area that drives tourism, one of Wyoming’s primary economic engines. The Greater Yellowstone region attracts tourists from around the world. Last year Yellowstone National Park attracted a record number of visitors—drawing upwards of 3.6 million tourists. By implementing a plan for energy efficiency, the region expects to be able to provide consistent and uninterrupted services to residents and tourists while using no additional energy. Visitors will not be subjected to the effects of restricted energy availability and will continue to find the area to be an attractive place to spend their time. In 2009 the tourism industry contributed $2.5 billion to the state’s economy. Thus it is a crucial part of the region’s and the state’s economy and economic stability. An added benefit is that with cleaner air (reduced regional haze), residents and visitors will continue to enjoy the area’s unrivaled viewsheds.

Now that the House energy efficiency bill has passed in committee it will have to survive three votes in the full Senate. Assuming it does pass the Senate we will encourage the governor to sign it into law.

If you agree that this is an important issue, we urge you to be in touch with your senator and ask for his or her vote.

Click here for a list of Wyoming State senators, with their contact information.

If you have any questions about this or any other bill, please be in touch with the Wyoming Outdoor Council’s legislative advocate, Richard Garrett at richard@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org; 307-438-9516.

West Edge