Guest Column: Wyoming Senate - No Longer Supportive of Energy Industries?

Guest columnist Rod Hendry writes, "In any event, [defunding the Energy Matching Fund] is a message that the Wyoming Senate no longer cares about the core Wyoming energy industries.

CS
CSD Staff

March 01, 20244 min read

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As long as I have been in the Cowboy State, it has been a sure thing that Wyoming is proud of its energy heritage and supports an all-the-above energy approach – and why not? It has been a good neighbor, paid for our schools, and kept our taxes among the lowest in the nation.

Recent actions of the Wyoming Senate however, have made me question our legislature’s commitment to energy. Wyoming boasts ample supplies of uranium, wind, oil, gas and coal.

We currently export 12 times more energy than we consume. We are an energy producing machine. Thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of economic benefit come to Wyoming citizens. 

Astonishingly, most of these energy sources are under attack, usually from federal policies, but we also have other states making efforts to end their use of fossil fuel sourced energy and compete for wind.

To date we have figuratively shot back, but the Senate’s version of the budget has us shooting at each other.

Just two years ago, the Wyoming legislature, recognizing that we need to work with our industries, established the Energy Matching Fund program.

Over $100 million was set aside for  providing matching funds for private or federal funding for research, demonstration, pilot projects or commercial deployment projects related to Wyoming energy needs, including, but not limited to, carbon capture utilization and storage, carbon dioxide transportation, industrial carbon capture, coal refinery, and hydrogen production, transportation, storage, hydrogen hub development, biomass, biochar, hydropower, lithium processing and separation, battery storage or wind and solar energy.

This broad-based program was primarily designed to take advantage of federal programs when they met the needs of Wyoming people. This program has been prudently used.

To date, $56.6M has been used to leverage $173.0M of private and federal funding for Wyoming projects. These projects support trona, critical minerals, CO2 storage, CO2 capture, small nuclear modules, oil, coal and gas.

More detail can be found about these reports at wyoenergy.org/reports. In the budget submitted to the Wyoming legislature, $200 million was set aside specifically for matching for large projects, which could include the state’s first carbon capture unit on a Wyoming coal fired power plant.

Such a project would be vital to the people of Campbell and Sweetwater Counties, yet many of their Senators voted against the coal and CO2 industries, including oil exploration companies that use CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

The reality is that nine of the top thirteen states that use Wyoming coal have “Renewable Portfolio Standards” which means they want to substantially decrease fossil fuels.

Whether you agree or not with those federal or state decisions, our best argument is that if Wyoming fossil fuel industries are to survive, we must find ways to produce energy with less CO2. This is not limited to coal, but all fossil fuels.

The Wyoming Senate, through a Senator Steinmetz amendment, decided against these types of projects and gutted the entire matching fund program.

Perhaps it was just politics as some senators eye the governorship in a couple of years, perhaps it was a poke at Gov. Gordon, since he has frequently spoken to national audiences about how Wyoming is an all the above energy state and needs to continue to use fossil fuels and develop the new carbon management industry.

Many landowners are also interested in receiving additional income through the lease of their pore space. Perhaps it is an internal political fight among the senators. Perhaps it was thought to be a bargaining chip in the upcoming conference committee negotiations.

In any event, it is a message that the Wyoming Senate no longer cares about the core Wyoming energy industries.

It’s not too late to stop shooting at ourselves, the House and Senate have appointed members to a conference committee to make final recommendations on the budget. Let’s get back on track for our fossil fuel industries. 

Rob Hendry
Chairman, Wyoming Business Alliance

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