By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
Gov. Mark Gordon is proud of the work his administration has performed over the past four years, he said.
Gordon, speaking to Cowboy State Daily during the state Republican Party’s convention in Sheridan last weekend, said his toughest task since taking office in 2019 was helping the state navigate the problems posed by COVID-19. And while the state’s response to the pandemic wasn’t perfect, it had its high points, he said.
Gordon noted Wyoming had one of the highest rates in the nation of students able to attend classes in person during the 2020-21 school year, along with relatively low case numbers.
“I’d love to take credit for that but that’s really thanks to the Wyoming people,” he said.
Gordon does take credit for the state’s media campaign aimed at promoting the use of face masks and convincing people to get the coronavirus vaccine.
The state is now much better prepared for the next public health emergency and is better equipped with the tools to give people the information they need for informed decision-making, he said.
He said he does have regrets with the way Wyoming shut down its public schools and businesses in the early days of the pandemic.
“Nobody took the time to recognize those challenges,” he said. “But to our credit we rebounded quickly.”
“Work In Progress”
On other topics, Gordon said he considers many of the projects he has undertaken to still be “a work in progress.”
He said the effort to diversify Wyoming’s economy has strong momentum, particularly when it comes to the energy sector and specifically wind energy.
He cited the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project near Rawlins which is projected to be the biggest wind farm in the U.S. and one of the biggest in the world, producing enough energy to power more than 220,000 homes.
Within the renewable sphere, he also included carbon capture, which he considers a crucial aspect of Wyoming’s future as well. Even though Wyoming leads the nation in carbon capture research, it has not yet been determined how it can be accomplished efficiently.
“Wind, solar, they all leave gaps,” he said in regards to becoming too dependent on renewable energy. “We need a dependable electricity source.”
Committed To Coal
Gordon said he is fully committed to continuing coal production in the state and is proud of the work that has been made on the Jim Bridger power plant.
The state lobbied the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow the continued use of a coal-burning unit at the facility. Gordon said as a result, the EPA does not plan to shut down the unit even though it missed a January deadline to install regional haze pollution controls The agency also plans to accept state’s Regional Haze State Implementation Plan.
“We’re going to continue to show leadership on the energy front,” he said.
Gordon also said he took a different approach to using $200 million in federal COVID response funds the state received, using it to help better position the state for the future. He set up a “Strategy to Survive, Drive and Thrive” to explore the best ways to spend the federal funds, a project which is still ongoing.
Gordon’s opponent, Brent Bien, has criticized him for lack of leadership and his handling of the pandemic. Bien, who was also at the convention, said he wants to reduce Wyoming’s ties to the federal government and increase fossil fuel production.
The Wyoming primary election will be on Aug. 16. No Democrats have announced their intention of running against Gordon at this time, but Rex Rammell, a member of the Constitution Party, is running.