By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
The Wyoming Republican Party wants an investigation of Gov. Mark Gordon’s alleged involvement with the planned TerraPower nuclear plant in Kemmerer.
In a resolution passed over the weekend, the party speculates without evidence that there may be a relationship between Gordon and billionaire financiers George Soros, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
The resolution was passed during Saturday’s Wyoming GOP Central Committee meeting in Casper with a large majority of the 66 members present supporting it.
Michael Pearlman, spokesman for Gordon, issued a response on behalf of the governor Monday afternoon.
“The Central Committee’s resolution is confusing,” Pearlman said. “The governor will continue his efforts to ensure Wyoming’s coal miners keep working, its energy industries remain healthy and strong, and continue to push back against a Biden Administration intent on damaging the industries that are the backbone of our state’s economy.”
Representatives from TerraPower declined to comment.
Gates, Buffett And Soros
Gordon has spoken on behalf of the TerraPower project on numerous occasions, touting it as a benefit for Wyoming’s economy and a replacement for local jobs lost in the coal industry. A PacifiCorp-owned coal-fueled power plant in Kemmerer is slated for retirement soon.
“Lincoln County has its own coal mine, which is being threatened,” said Marti Halverson, chairperson of the Lincoln County Republican Party.
The resolution accuses former President Barack Obama of “unilaterally” crashing the coal market during his presidency, which led to “some suspicious characters” buying up “much” of Wyoming’s coal industry.
Soros invested more than $2 million in Peabody Energy and Arch Coal in 2015 and another $4.7 million in Peabody in 2017. Peabody and Arch are Wyoming’s two largest coal producers.
In July, the companies reported significant revenues, each touting year-over-year quarterly increases of more than $1 billion thanks to high market prices spurred by increasing global demand. Soros does not own these companies.
No Evidence, But ‘Seems Very Likely’
The resolution was initially put forward by the Lincoln County Republican Party. Halverson provided no evidence behind any of the resolution’s insinuations, but said she trusts the member of her party who originally drafted the resolution.
“It seems very likely that this was planned amongst these subversive enemies of freedom,” one piece of the resolution reads.
When Cowboy State Daily asked Halverson to clarify her stance on the TerraPower nuclear project, she said she is unsure how she feels about it and needs to do more research.
Bill Gates founded TerraPower and has spoken on behalf of the project on a number of occasions. TerraPower is partnering with PacifiCorp to bring the Natrium demonstration plant to Kemmerer.
The resolution also claims the nuclear facility is “China made.” Natrium will depend on a higher enriched nuclear fuel called HALEU, which is only currently made in China and Russia. Within President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is $700 million for research and development of HALEU fuel in America.
“That establishes that we’re going to have U.S.-based fuel for Natrium,” TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque said in a September Wyoming Public Radio interview.
Congress and the Department of Energy under the Biden Administration have taken steps to continue supporting the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies as part of a suite of solutions aimed at achieving carbon-free goals.
One of the inspirations behind the resolution may be a $5,000 donation the PacifiCorp/Rocky Mountain political action committee made to Gordon during his reelection campaign. Rocky Mountain Power is a division of PacifiCorp.
“I think it’s always appropriate to investigate campaign finance from out-of-state money,” said Doug Brickman, a committeeman from Platte County.
PacificCorp is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, a holdings company which Buffett is the CEO and chairman of.
Once the Natrium project in Kemmerer is finished, which TerraPower aims to complete by 2028 with backing from the federal government, it will be handed off to PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power unit.
Resolutions put forward by the state GOP hold no legal authority and are merely an assertion of the party’s position.
The party also passed resolutions Saturday demanding the Bureau of Land Management turn over management of all its federal lands in Wyoming to the state and the release of those still in custody awaiting a trial for their actions in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The party stopped short of demanding they be exonerated or have all charges dropped against them.
“A resolution is just a position statement,” Interim Secretary of State and Uinta County Committeeman Karl Allred said later in the meeting when discussing the BLM topic. “We’re not changing the world by passing this resolution. I wish we could, but we’re not.”
Dani Olsen, chairperson of the Laramie County Republican Party, said she agrees with sentiment within the resolution advocating for keeping coal industry jobs, but spoke against its last two lines, which specifically demand Gordon explain his relationship with the companies.
“They are attacking our Republican governor,” Olsen said. “I find that a little inappropriate for the body to be specifically attacking a leader of our party.”
Martin Kimmet, chairman of the Park County Republican Party, and the majority of the party disagreed.
“We have to question what these people do,” Kimmet said. “If we give them a carte-blanch pass and there’s no questioning them, then they can do whatever they want.”
In an original draft of the resolution, the word “suspiciously” was used multiple times, but Bryan Miller, Sheridan County Republican Party chairman, recommended taking the word out “because that just makes us sound crazy.”
The party agreed and it was taken it out.
The resolution inquires as to “why these Soros-owned entities are chief supporters of Gordon’s campaign.”
The alleged Soros connection to Gordon wasn’t made clear in the resolution or during the committee meeting, and it’s unknown which entities allegedly owned by Soros are what the statement refers to. Neither Peabody, Arch or any other coal companies directly donated to Gordon’s campaign.
Mary Martin, chairman of the Teton County Republican Party, spoke against trying to connect Gordon with Peabody in the resolution because the company is not owned by Soros.
“I’m not sure it’s factually accurate,” she said.
The party’s resolution demands a thorough investigation be made and that antitrust lawsuits “be filed accordingly.”
The resolution sets a Jan. 2 deadline for Gordon to explain his “inaction in these matters.”