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Gordon Says Biden’s Energy Lockdown is “Devastating” to Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

President Joe Biden’s recent moratorium on oil and natural gas leases on federal lands was a “direct attack” on Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon said during an appearance on Fox and Friends Monday.

“Forty-eight percent of our state is federally owned. Anything you do here in the energy space probably has some aspect of federal leasing tied to it,” Gordon told host Steve Doocy. “Losing that revenue is devastating to our schools, our communities, those small businesses that depend on the energy sector.”

Gordon added that the moratorium wasn’t just devastating to Wyoming, but that it will have wide-ranging and “bipartisan impacts.”

Biden issued an executive order in late January halting new oil and gas leasing on federal land to allow the Department of Interior to conduct a comprehensive review of the federal leasing program and existing fossil fuel leases.

Doocy asked Gordon if the federal government had offered to help Wyoming’s coffers in other ways since the moratorium was enacted, but the governor said such an offer wouldn’t make up for all of the impacts of the order.

“I think the wages that are paid in the energy sector are remarkable,” he said. “They’re longstanding jobs. Look at a town like Gillette, which has benefitted from years and years of energy development, it’s established itself as a remarkable town.”

A University of Wyoming study commissioned by the Legislature concluded that a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal land could reduce Wyoming’s production by $872 million per year, costing the state more than $300 million a year in tax revenue.

Last week, Gordon directed state agencies to determine how the state will be affected by a ban on oil and gas leasing on federal land and help him plot legal strategies to battle the ban.

“The president’s decision to halt federal leasing on oil and gas under the guise of a ‘pause’ is beyond misguided,” Gordon previously said. “It is disingenuous, disheartening and a crushing blow to the economies of many Western states, particularly Wyoming. No matter how it is framed, this action is still a ban on leasing.”

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Gordon Announces Steps to Boost Wyoming Energy, Tourism, Ag

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A series of steps aimed at improving Wyoming’s primary economic drivers has been proposed or endorsed by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon on Thursday announced the actions he will take or support to improve conditions in the state’s agriculture, tourism and energy sectors.

In the area of energy production, an industry shaken by recent executive orders halting the leasing of federal land for oil and gas production, Gordon said he will pursue an “all the above” energy industry that encourages the development of new industries such carbon capture technology and rare earth production in addition to oil, gas and coal.

Along those lines, Gordon is backing proposed legislation that would grant several tax reductions to the energy sector.

“Our traditional industries will adapt and continue to provide the reliable, affordable and dispatchable power they always have, only better,” he said in a statement. “Our economic recovery will hinge on the health of these industries and their ability to adapt to changing market demands. Wyoming can continue to grow even as our mix of energy supplies evolve.”

At the same time, Gordon welcomed steps to increase the ability of the new Wyoming Energy Authority to encourage the development of non-traditional resources.

“Carbon capture and the development of carbon byproducts will be part of Wyoming’s energy future,” he said. “So too should be efforts to research extracting the rare earth elements and critical minerals associated with coal that will be needed for the batteries powering the anticipated worldwide build-out of wind and solar power.”

Gordon is also backing measures that help the state’s tourism industry, its largest employer.

He singled out House Bill 85, which would let Wyoming State Parks use money raised through entrance fees to finance a large portion of their operations and outdoor recreation rather than construction projects. The measure is expected to allow for a $1.1 million reduction in money given to the parks from the state’s general fund, its main bank account, without affecting the visitor experience.

A number of bills aimed at bolstering the state’s agriculture committee are also part of Gordon’s initiative, including one that would give the state attorney general the authority to look into antitrust matters.

The measure is a response to consolidation of 80% of the meat packing industry within four major companies. Beef producers in Wyoming have long complained the four companies have kept prices for producers artificially low.

The state now lacks the authority to investigate such charges.

Gordon is also backing HB 52, which would increase Wyoming meat products used by school districts to feed students.

The governor said he is also working with legislators to expand the state’s meat processing capacity.

“This is only a part of an ambitious initiative focused on adding value to products across the entire spectrum of agricultural enterprise,” he said. “This effort is essential to grow this key part of our economy.”

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Gordon Asks State Agencies To Evaluate Oil, Gas Lease Ban Impact

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is directing the state’s agencies to determine how the state will be affected by a ban on oil and gas leasing on federal land and help him plot legal strategies to battle the ban.

Gordon on Friday issued an executive order in direct response to the moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal land put in place last week by President Joe Biden in his own executive order.

“These orders issued by the new administration are a direct attack on Wyoming and our way of life, Gordon said in a statement. “I am directing members of my cabinet to examine the economic, financial and workforce impacts of the President’s actions. I will continue to fight these misguided and destructive policies by all means necessary. The way to move America forward is not through crushing her Western states.”

On his first day in office, Biden halted oil and gas leases on federal land for 60 days. Last week, he issued a second executive order on the subject extending the moratorium for an unspecified amount of time to allow the Department of Interior to thoroughly review the federal leasing program and existing leases on federal lands.

Gordon’s executive order directs state agencies to determine how their budgets will be affected by the ban and how jobs in the oil and gas industry in Wyoming will be affected.

It also directs the agencies to identify any tools that could be used to challenge Biden’s executive order, along with opportunities for litigation “to protect and preserve the strength, vitality and independence of Wyoming’s energy industry.”

The executive order does not contain a timeline as to when the governor should receive the information.

“We will be communicating with the impacted state agencies over the next several days regarding this,” said Michael Pearlman, a spokesman for the governor’s office.

A University of Wyoming study commissioned by the Legislature has concluded that a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal land could reduce Wyoming’s production by $872 million per year, costing the state more than $300 million a year in tax revenue.

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Gordon Backs Effort To Eliminate Slush Funds

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Consolidating the state’s various accounts into one main “checking” and “savings” account will give Wyoming residents a better idea of how much the state has to spend on the services it provides, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.

As a result, Gordon is backing proposed legislation to eliminate what one legislator called a “slush fund.”

The state puts much of its income into its “general fund,” the main “checking account” used to pay for state operations. Over the years, a number of other accounts have been established to receive part of the money that would otherwise go to the general fund. The money in those accounts is then earmarked for use on special projects.

However, Gordon, the former state treasurer, said having so many separate accounts makes it difficult for the state’s residents to understand exactly how much money the state has available for its main programs, said spokesman Michael Pearlman.“

The governor … has emphasized that there’s a lack of transparency to the state’s finances,” Pearlman said. “He would like the average taxpayer to have a better understanding of how much it costs to provide the services they have come to expect from the state.”

Along those lines, Gordon is backing legislation that would eliminate one special account, the “Strategic Investments and Projects Account,” created in 2013.

The SIPA account received its funding from investment income that would otherwise have gone to the state’s Permanent Mineral Trust Fund.

However, Gordon said the account in recent years has been used to pay for work on items such as the Wyoming State Penitentiary and to fund the Legislature’s deficit control account.“

These are examples of new pots of money being created which deviate from the original purpose of the SIPA and complicate the budgeting process,” Gordon said in a statement.

Senate File 71 is sponsored by the Joint Appropriations Committee.

Senate Vice President Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, a member of the JAC, said the account was used as a place to put money when the state was seeing surpluses in its budget.

“In recent years, it has not been used for what its original purpose was, but rather as a slush fund to pay for programs and projects that should have come out of the state’s general fund,” he said. “We no longer have surplus revenues in Wyoming and it’s time to restore transparency in our budgeting process by eliminating the SIPA account.”

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Gordon Upset With Biden Oil, Gas Lease Suspension

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A plan by President Joe Biden to halt new oil and gas leases on federal land will have severe economic impacts on Wyoming and other western states, Gov. Mark Gordon said Tuesday.

Gordon, responding to reports that the Biden Administration plans a moratorium on leasing on federal land, said the move will put thousands of jobs in danger, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

“The president’s decision to halt federal leasing on oil and gas under the guise of a ‘pause’ is beyond misguided,” Gordon said in a prepared statement. “It is disingenuous, disheartening and a crushing blow to the economies of many Western states, particularly Wyoming. No matter how it is framed, this action is still a ban on leasing.”

According to several media outlets quoting unidentified sources, Biden is preparing to issue an executive order Wednesday that will suspend new oil and gas leasing on federal land to allow the administration to conduct a comprehensive review of the federal leasing program.

The moratorium would not affect existing leases.

Biden in his first day in the Oval Office issued an executive order temporarily halting new oil and gas leases on federal land.

Issuing a moratorium would not unite Americans, a goal Biden has identified, but divide them, Gordon said.

“It is a reinvigoration of top-down, Obama-era policies that only served to divide and alienate the very working-class American communities with whom the Biden administration has pledged to unite,” he said. “It is clear President Biden has caved in to a loud segment of the Democratic Party that is pushing to require all policies and decisions to meet a litmus test of climate change, regardless of consequence.”

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Biden Administration Order Halt To New Oil And Gas Drilling On Federal Lands For 60 Days

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By Derek Draplin, The Center Square

President Joe Biden’s administration issued an order temporarily halting leases and permits for oil and gas development on federal land, fulfilling a pledge he made during his campaign, despite pushback from the industry and states that rely on revenue from energy development.

Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega signed an order that suspends approval of new land leases and drilling permits for 60 days. The order also “temporarily elevates review” of other agency decisions for DOI leadership.

“The Order does not impact existing ongoing operations under valid leases and does not preclude the issuance of leases, permits and other authorizations,” DOI said in a statement Thursday.

Biden, whose campaign pledged to ban new leases and reinstate environmental regulations rolled back by the Trump administration, has nominated U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to serve as DOI secretary pending the Senate’s approval.

The order was criticized Thursday by energy industry groups and praised by environmental watchdog organizations.

American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Mike Sommers said in a statement that the move means the U.S. will have to rely on foreign countries for energy development and risks American jobs.

“With this move, the administration is leading us toward more reliance on foreign energy from countries with lower environmental standards and risks to hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in government revenue for education and conservation programs,” he said. “We stand ready to engage with the Biden administration on ways to address America’s energy challenges, but impeding American energy will only serve to hurt local communities and hamper America’s economic recovery.”

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, warned that the temporary ban is “a precursor to a longer-term ban.”

Sgamma added that if the acting secretary does not hold quarterly lease sales as required by law, the Alliance is “prepared to challenge this intended ban in court at the appropriate time.”

Dan Ritzman, the lands, water and wildlife director for the Sierra Club, tweeted that the organization “welcomes this opportunity for the Biden administration to chart a new path for our country’s lands and waters.”

“Pausing new fossil fuel decisions brings us closer to healthier communities, a healthier climate and healthier wild places,” he said.

Several western states rely heavily on tax revenue from energy development that takes place on federal lands, such as Wyoming and New Mexico.

A federal lease moratorium would result in a $639.7 billion hit to gross domestic product (GDP) in Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, California, and Alaska by 2040, according to a report released last month that was commissioned by the Wyoming Legislature.

“The economic predictions are devastating, to be blunt, to Wyoming,” Gov. Mark Gordon said when the study was released.

Gordon’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the DOI’s order.

Conservation projects also rely heavily on revenue from energy development on federal lands. 

DOI disbursed $8 billion from offshore and federal land energy development to the states in 2020, down from $11.69 billion in 2019. 

The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which passed Congress with bipartisan support, relies on oil and gas development royalties to pay off the National Park Service’s $12 billion maintenance backlog. 

The Land Water Conservation Fund, which GAOA requires to be funded with $900 million annually, is funded by federal offshore oil and gas revenue, which in turn is distributed to states for conservation projects.

DOI announced on Tuesday that LWCF’s State and Local Assistance Program will get over $302.3 million for fiscal year 2021 that’s apportioned to states.

Colorado, for instance, is set to receive almost $5.2 million of that apportionment.

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson told The Center square the funding will “help support critical Colorado Parks and Wildlife projects and allow us to provide opportunities for both recreation and resource conservation. This funding helps us to ensure Coloradans will be able to enjoy our resources for generations to come.”

The Bozeman, Mont.-based Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) recommends utilizing user-based funding streams for conservation and recreation instead of relying on oil and gas revenue. 

“Arguably, recreationists and conservationists would benefit the most from unshackling funding from energy revenues. Establishing a federal advisory committee could be an initial step toward finding a user-based model that can provide the resources necessary to steward our public lands for future generations,” PERC said in a recent report. 

Biden also revoked the Keystone XL’s permit and rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, among other orders on his first day in office.

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Gordon Eases Health Restrictions as COVID Hospitalizations Go Down

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Thursday that health orders restricting the size of gatherings will be eased, citing improvement in Wyoming’s coronavirus situation since the beginning of December. 

The latest change is to increase attendance limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings as the state continues to make progress in its fight against the virus.

Beginning Tuesday, indoor gatherings that incorporate social distancing and face coverings are permitted for up to 25% of the facility’s capacity or a maximum of 250 persons, while up to 500 people will be able to attend outdoor gatherings, Gordon said. 

“Wyoming is making progress and coming closer to safely returning to more normal lives, and the steps we have taken are helping us achieve this,” Gordon said. “I am confident that as our vaccination rate increases, the data-driven approach we are taking and our improving circumstances will give us more opportunity to further relax our orders.”

Since December, in the wake of a spike in coronavirus cases, Gordon and state Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist issued health orders restricting gatherings to 10 people or fewer. The move was seen as one way to slow the spread of the illness.

Counties can still ask for permission to opt out of the new restrictions if local conditions move to safer levels in accordance with White House metrics. Health officials will continue to consider exemption requests for specific events on a case-by-case basis.

As of Thursday, Wyoming hospitals reported 81 hospitalized coronavirus patients, down from a peak of 247 on Nov. 30.

Health officials remain concerned about the new, more transmissible “UK variant” of the virus identified in Teton County last week. Currently authorized virus vaccines are believed to be effective against the UK variant strain.

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Gordon Congratulates Biden, Harris on Inauguration

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon followed in the footsteps of other elected Wyoming officials on Wednesday morning, congratulating new President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in a post on Twitter.

“Congratulations to President Biden and Vice President Harris on their inauguration,” he wrote. “I look forward to working with you on the important issues facing our nation, the West and Wyoming.”

The governor added that he and First Lady Jennie Gordon would be praying for the United States and the success of Biden’s administration, echoing sentiments from U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis in her remarks about the new president.

“Luke 12:48 says, ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked,'” Gordon wrote in a second tweet.

Gordon, Lummis and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney all sent good wishes to the Biden administration Wednesday morning.

It should be noted that the governor didn’t congratulate Biden on his win in the presidential election in November, but also didn’t sign onto a multi-state lawsuit that contested many of the ballots cast in the election.

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Gordon On Pandemic: “Our State Has Been Resilient”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s resiliency through the coronavirus pandemic has allowed the state to fare better than most, Gov. Mark Gordon said Tuesday.

During his address to the Legislature, Gordon praised Wyoming’s willingness to do what was needed to reduce the impact of the virus as much as possible.

“We undertook actions to protect public health,” he said in his remarks. “But unlike other states, we have been able to maintain our way of life and liberty and have striven to keep businesses open and kids in schools.”

Gordon added that there was a “light at the end of the tunnel” of the pandemic, since two coronavirus vaccines have been introduced and are already being distributed across the state and country.

However, he still grieved for the 489 people who have died in Wyoming due to complications from the virus, as well as the 190 people who have died by suicide in the state during the pandemic.

The governor applauded Wyoming’s response to the pandemic from the local level to the federal.

He pointed out that despite the pandemic, tourism in Wyoming still was prosperous, with Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks both seeing record-breaking numbers throughout the late summer and fall months.

“I will add that hunting and fishing in Wyoming remained at near record levels this year and our state parks never had more visitors,” Gordon said.

He thanked Wyoming’s Congressional delegation, U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, for helping the state secure $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding, which has almost completely been distributed throughout communities across Wyoming.

“This [money] was a tremendous help in keeping our state and citizens afloat during this pandemic,” he said.

Gordon also touted Wyoming’s low unemployment rate of 5.1% as one of the lowest in the nation.

He added that he would introduce “several policy initiatives” over the next few weeks to help Wyoming stay on its positive path.

“These will make sure we live within our means, simplify our budgeting process, revitalize our education, protect our opportunity and energize our economy,” he said.

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Capitol Invasion Dishonors American Legacy, Gordon Says

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The storming of the U.S. Capitol by people unhappy with the outcome of November’s presidential election dishonors the legacy of America, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday.

Gordon joined members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation in criticizing the actions of the group that broke into the Capitol earlier in the day, forcing the evacuation of the building.

“Interfering with the peaceful transfer of power is an affront to the very Constitution that has made our country what it is,” he said in a statement. “I believe America will not — cannot — stand for this assault on our democracy. I am heartbroken.”

An undetermined number of people described as supporters of President Donald Trump breached the security measures in place around the Capitol on Wednesday as members of Congress discussed certifying the results of the Electoral College vote from November’s presidential election.

The vote verifies the victory of Democrat Joe Biden, but Trump has raised allegations of voter fraud in six states.

The storming of the Capitol occurred after a rally where Trump spoke and encouraged Republican members of Congress to reject the Electoral College’s votes.

Gordon said he hoped the rest of the country would follow the example set by Wyoming in terms of peaceful political debate.

“I encourage the entire country to follow the example that we have demonstrated here in Wyoming, a proper and peaceful expression of dissent — the cornerstone of free speech,” his statement said.

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