Guest Column: Wyoming Mining Industries NOT Headed For Showdown Over Property Rights

Rep. Ben Hornok writes, "I would like to set the record straight about my House Bill 69, 'Mine permit and reclamation plan changes – landowner approval.'"

CS
CSD Staff

February 11, 20244 min read

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When the Biden Administration called to ask me what I can do to shut down our mining industry in pursuit of the Green New Deal, I jumped at the chance. Or not!

I would like to set the record straight about my House Bill 69, “Mine permit and reclamation plan changes – landowner approval.”

In a January 30 Cowboy State Daily article and in online forums since, I have been outlandishly accused of colluding with the Biden Administration. For those readers who value context and truth in legislation, read on.

 A constituent contacted me after I was elected in 2022 to discuss a reoccurring reclamation issue several years in the making involving a mining operation that leases his land.

Under current state statute, mines are allowed to make minor changes, meaning changes that “do not propose significant alterations,” to the reclamation plan. This can be done with only administrative agency approval – and not approval of the landowner. 

If this were surgery, wouldn’t you want to be kept informed of all the minor details?

House Bill 69 is intended to do just that while still allowing mining operations to prosper in Wyoming. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that the reclamation plan does not deviate without the private landowner’s consent.

If the landowner does not approve of the reclamation plan changes, the mine would simply continue to abide by the current reclamation plan. Again, mining operations would continue.

In my constituent’s case, several minor changes that have been approved by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality have resulted in what he considers a major change to the reclamation plan and will leave his property nearly unusable. 

I believe that our mining companies strive for reclamation plans that will satisfy the private landowner and protect the environment. However, there could be some bad apples, so I think it is best to protect private property rights in state statutes. 

House Bill 69 is NOT a conspiracy between me and the co-sponsors of this bill with the federal government and Biden Administration to stop and prevent mining in Wyoming. Far from it.

If this bill is introduced, I plan to work with all stakeholders to ensure the bill will protect private property without imposing restrictions that hamstring mining operations. Both mining and private property rights are cornerstones of Wyoming, and both can thrive together.

I am a strong proponent of the mining industry in Wyoming; the same can be said about the co-sponsors of this bill. We are also strong proponents of private property rights. Wyoming is largely dependent on mining for our economy and revenue, but there is a reason we learn how to build fences. I ran this same bill last year and it received no media attention. But now it’s an election year. 

I am running another important bill that is getting no media attention because it is a strongly supported topic and it aligns with Wyoming’s conservative values. House Bill 68, “Obscenity-impartial conformance” will repeal the exemption for educators and librarians which allow them to distribute obscene materials in the classroom and libraries.

I encourage my fellow Wyomingites to be involved in the legislative process. Become familiar with www.wyoleg.gov. Reach out to your legislators if you have questions or comments on bills.

If there is a bill you are passionate about, testify in committee; we hear from plenty of lobbyists who are paid to be there, but not enough from the public. If you will be in Cheyenne during session, attend committee meetings or sit in the galleries to watch the floor sessions.

You can also watch everything online. I understand this is not how everyone wants to spend their spare time, but to protect our conservative Wyoming values, it is imperative for Wyoming voters to be informed of all the “significant alterations.”

Rep. Ben Hornok represents House District 42 in Cheyenne

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