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Gordon Vetoes Limits On State Rent In Budget Bill

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Limits on the amount the state spends to rent office space proposed by the Legislature are unnecessary because the state has already committed to reducing that cost, Gov. Mark Gordon said.

Gordon, in signing the supplemental budget bill approved by the Legislature last week, also issued eight “line item” vetoes, using his constitutional authority to cut specific items from the budget.

One item he removed is a “footnote” from the Legislature reducing the amount the state Department of Administration and Information can spend on rental space from $24.8 million to $17.9 million.

In his veto message to legislators, Gordon said the Department of A&I is already working to reduce rental costs, so the footnote is unnecessary.

“The Department of A&I has committed to making cuts to the stat leasing program,” he wrote. “I have struck the prescriptive language because, on a practical note, an emergency or unanticipated leasing necessity could require more flexibility. Nevertheless, it remains the intent of the executive branch to reduce our leasing budget by 28%.”

Gordon also vetoed a footnote transferring management of the state Veterans Museum in Casper from the state Military Department to the state Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.

Gordon noted that the museum’s management was given to the Military Department through legislation in 2008 and if the Legislature wants to return management to the Department of State Parks, it should do so with a separate bill, not through a footnote in the budget bill.

“A transfer of responsibility or authority for any particular program is appropriately the subject of a stand-alone bill,” he wrote.

Also vetoed was language requiring the Wyoming Business Council to administer the Wyoming Council for Women’s Issues for the state department of Workforce Services.

The two agencies are already working to give the WBC control over the program, Gordon said, so the legislation just complicates the issue.

The supplemental budget itself, which details more than $430 million in spending cuts to the biennium budget approved by the Legislature in 2020, was signed into law on April 1 by Gordon.

Gordon praised the Legislature for its hard work.

“These are not easy decisions to make, but this discussion on the fundamental question of the role of government has been a necessity,” he wrote. “Now, as more reductions are implemented, the debate will continue.

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Gov Gordon Says No to Vaccination Passports

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Gov Mark Gordon on Friday said Wyoming will not be participating in any vaccination passport program no matter what the federal government says.

“Wyoming has no plans to require vaccine passports or require participation in a vaccine passport program,” Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily.

“While the governor encourages residents to get vaccinated, COVID-19 vaccinations are entirely voluntary in the state of Wyoming,” Pearlman said, noting that there hasn’t been any indication the federal government is pursuing such an idea.

Speculation about a possible federal vaccination passport surfaced last week when the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration would be developing standards for how Americans can show proof that they’ve been vaccinated.

A White House advisor later clarified that there would not be a government-issued vaccine credential nor would the government be storing vaccination information in a database.

If there is some sort of vaccination passport, it would come from the private sector, said Andy Slavitt, acting director for the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We view this as something the private sector is doing and will do,” he said. “What’s important to us, and we’re leading an interagency process right now to go through these details, are that some important criteria be met with these credentials.”

The news of any type of vaccination credential has not set well with many Republican governors.

Leading the way is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who said any type of vaccination passport — whether issued by the government or the private sector — is not ok. He issued an executive order to that effect on Friday.

“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” DeSantis said.

Nebraska Governor Pete Rickets of Nebraska said the idea of any type of medical passport “violates two central tenets of the American system: freedom of movement and health care privacy.”

The Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance on Friday stating that Americans who are vaccinated can travel again without worrying about getting tested or going into quarantine.

“The C.D.C.’s new travel guidance is a major step in the right direction that is supported by the science and will take the brakes off the industry that has been hardest hit by the fallout of Covid by far,” Roger Dow, the chief executive of U.S. Travel, an industry group, said in a statement. “As travel comes back, U.S. jobs come back.”

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Wyoming Launches Lawsuit Challenging Biden’s Energy Lockdown

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The state of Wyoming filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal land issued by President Joe Biden earlier this year.

The suit asserts that Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland’s implementation of the leasing moratorium is invalid under federal law.

“Following a careful review of not only the President’s Executive Order, but its practical effect, it is necessary for Wyoming to protect its citizens and challenge the Secretary’s action,” Gov. Mark Gordon said. “Not only is this federal action overreaching, it was implemented without public input as required under federal law.”

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Wyoming alleges that the administration’s action violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy Management Act.

The lawsuit asks the court to set aside Haaland’s action and require the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to resume quarterly oil and gas lease sales, which have been suspended since the order was signed.

Gordon emphasized that Biden’s de-facto ban on oil and gas leasing will not meet the climate goals of the administration, as production will simply shift to other countries with less stringent emissions standards.

“The world will continue to need and use oil and gas for the foreseeable future,” Gordon said. “The question is whether it will be produced under the environmental safeguards in place on federal lands in Wyoming, or overseas without equally stringent regulations.”

A recent economic study indicated that a moratorium on oil and gas development on federal land will cost the state thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of state revenue.

Gordon said he anticipated other states will consider intervening after Wyoming’s action is filed.

Wyoming recently also joined a multi-state lawsuit in an attempt to block Biden’s ban of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Once the Keystone pipeline was completed, the project was expected to help free up pipeline space in Wyoming, increasing oil export capacity. The project is projected to create 42,100 jobs with $2 billion in associated earnings throughout the United States.

Biden on Jan. 20 issued an executive order revoking the permits for the pipeline.

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Gordon Joins Bipartisan Group Of Governors In Support Of Carbon Capture Legislation

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By The Center Square For Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon joined other governors in writing a letter of support to Congress on the Storing CO2 and Lowering Emissions (SCALE) Act.

The act, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, promotes the buildout of necessary infrastructure to transport carbon dioxide from its source to manufacturers or be safely stored underground.

The letter is co-signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana and Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania.

The goal of the legislation is “to develop an interconnected CO2 transport and storage infrastructure to help the U.S. reach net-zero emissions and meet mid century climate goals,” according to a news release from Gordon’s office.

“We urge Congress to prioritize the inclusion of this critical legislation in any broader infrastructure package, given its essential role in helping to achieve net-zero emissions economywide,” the letter reads. “As a group of collective states with a shared interest, we stand ready to work with you to implement policies that scale up the regional and national CO2 transport infrastructure to achieve net-zero emissions goals.”

In a statement, Gordon said, “Wyoming has always been a leader in Carbon Capture, Utilization and Sequestration (CCUS) and we are committed to making Wyoming the next state to have a CCUS facility. I recently set the goal for Wyoming to not only be carbon neutral, but actually carbon negative while continuing to use fossil fuels.”

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Colorado Gov Declares Meat-Free Holiday; Wyoming Gov Declares Eat More Meat Holiday

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

What a coincidence.

The governors of Wyoming and Colorado have each designated Saturday, March 20 as a holiday of sorts. And both holidays have something to do with meat.

But that’s where the similarity ends.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, whose partner is a longtime vegan, declared Saturday “MeatOut Day” to promote meatless diets to his constituents.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, whose partner is a longtime not-vegan, declared Saturday “Hearty Meat Day” to promote the consumption of meat products to his constituents.

Gordon went a step further, however, as he encouraged citizens of Colorado to join in on the Hearty Meat Day celebration.

“I don’t know what those folks are doing down south, but a good barbecue is a great way to enjoy a Saturday,” Gordon said.

It’s certainly safe to speculate that citizens of Weld County, a Colorado district that borders Wyoming, might follow Gordon’s lead.

A group of citizens from the county have been organizing to secede from Colorado and join Wyoming.

In fact, the group of more than 6,200 people calls itself “Weld County, Wyoming” on its Facebook page.

The Polis “no-meat” holiday has been brought up many times on its page — never in a very positive light.

Like when the Weld County Board of Commissioners proclaimed Saturday “Meat-IN” Day in response to Polis’ proclamation.

“When Governor Polis declared March 20 as MeatOUT day, it was a slap in the face to the thousands of ranching and farm families across this state,” Weld County Commissioner Steve Moreno said. “It was yet another hit against rural Colorado.”

Moreno said Weld County has long been the state’s leading county in agricultural products sold, bringing in $2 billion dollars annually. Approximately 85% of that revenue comes from the sale of livestock, poultry and products alone, he said.

Gordon said he hoped Wyoming citizens (and beyond) would purchase and eat beef, lamb, and other meat products on Saturday.

“Our Wyoming farmers and ranchers are amazing stewards of our environment. The meat they ethically produce is the best, and part of a healthy, balanced diet. It’s just downright good to eat,” Governor Gordon said. “Folks here know how important our ranching heritage is.”

Incidentally, Cowboy State Daily reader Ed McCarthy deserves a round of applause for his observation.

On our Facebook page, McCarthy asks: “When a vegan governor gets into an argument like this, can it still be called ‘a beef’?”.

LOL.

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Wyoming Joins Multi-State Lawsuit Blocking Biden’s Keystone Pipeline Ban

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming has joined a multi-state lawsuit in an attempt to block President Joe Biden’s ban of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Wyoming has joined 20 other states in the lawsuit, according to a release from Gov. Mark Gordon’s office on Thursday.

Once the Keystone pipeline was completed, the project was expected to help free up pipeline space in Wyoming, increasing oil export capacity. The project is projected to create 42,100 jobs with $2 billion in associated earnings throughout the United States.

Biden on Jan. 20 issued an executive order revoking the permits for the pipeline.

“The Keystone project was authorized by Congress and would provide economic benefits to multiple states, including Wyoming,” Gordon said. “It’s foolish to think cancelling this pipeline does anything good for the country or climate.

“It will merely shift production offshore to places with lower environmental standards, worse safety records and laxer workforce protections, while at the same time undermining our own domestic energy security,” Gordon said. “Let’s put America first because we do it right.”

The lawsuit states that the decision to provide or withhold permission to construct and operate an oil pipeline across the international border with Canada is an international and interstate commerce regulation.

Essentially, the power to ban the pipeline construction would lie with Congress, not Biden, according to the lawsuit.

Wyoming joined attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Gordon also issued an executive order asking Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill to evaluate all presidential and executive orders for constitutionality and to take actions needed to protect the rights of Wyoming citizens.

Gordon’s order was issued in conjunction with an earlier order that directed state agencies to examine the financial impacts of Biden’s ban on new sales of federal oil and gas leases and the potential legal options available to Wyoming.

“Wyoming must not allow the Federal Government to continue to harm the State and its citizens through Federal Orders,” Gordon said. “We will use all means necessary to ensure we can continue to fund critical services through the responsible development of our oil and gas and other natural resources.”

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Gordon Declares State of Emergency Due to Historic Blizzard

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Three days after a major snowstorm hit southeast Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.

The emergency declaration allows the director of the Wyoming Office of Homeland Security to mobilize state and federal personnel and resources and to help get the state back up and running after the storm that dropped more than 30 inches of snow on some areas.

It also directs the Adjutant General, in consultation with WOHS and Gordon, to deploy, if needed, the Wyoming National Guard to areas of the state that have been identified for emergency assistance.

No Guard members had been activated as of Wednesday morning.

“The scale and intensity of this storm have caused severe impacts to our transportation infrastructure and agriculture producers,” Gordon said. “As the scope of the situation unfolds and with the possibility of flooding as temperatures warm, it’s imperative we make all our resources available to respond to the needs in our communities.”

The snowstorm over the weekend delivered more than 30 inches of wet, heavy snow to southeast Wyoming, closing Interstates 25 and 80, causing power outages and leading to the closure of city, county and state offices and school districts for multiple days.

The impacts of the storm prompted several counties to ask Gordon for the emergency declaration, he said.

While Interstate 25 opened Wednesday morning, Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie remained closed, as did state and city offices in Cheyenne. Many secondary roads in southeastern Wyoming remained closed Wednesday.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins urged patience from residents who were ready to leave their homes after being trapped for days.

“I know that a lot are restless today,” Collins said via videoconference. “We’ve been stuck for three days now and we all want to get out. But our police department would ask you not to get out in your cars and become part of the problem.”

Collins said Interim Fire Chief John Kopper compared the community to a zombie apocalypse, with people walking to supermarkets in the middle of the street because there’s no other place to walk.

“Please be patient,” Collins said. “We’re doing our best and we’re gonna get there, I promise. We’re using everything and every available asset that we have to get the streets cleared, and try to get the city back to normal.”

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Gordon Closes State Offices Again on Tuesday; City Continues To Dig-Out From Blizzard

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday praised Wyoming’s response to the major snowstorm that left much of the state’s shut down.

Gordon said state offices in Cheyenne would again be closed on Tuesday due to record-breaking snowfall in Cheyenne, nearly 31 inches.

“I want to thank our first responders, public safety employees and hospital workers, as well as the plow drivers who have been working long stretches without relief during this storm,” Gordon said. “Throughout the state we’ve heard numerous stories of neighbors helping neighbors. I couldn’t be more proud of how our Wyoming people have responded to this storm.”

The Wyoming Department of Transportation and Wyoming Highway Patrol have each had their hands full with helping clear roads and save stranded motorists since the storm that hit the state Saturday and Sunday.

In Cheyenne, the snow was so deep that the Cheyenne-Laramie County Emergency Management Department even had to call in for citizen help, something else Gordon praised.

“In Laramie County, we’ve seen an army of snowmobile volunteers step up to shuttle doctors and nurses to the hospital and public safety workers to their jobs,” he said.

Additionally, the governor asked people to continue staying off the roads and avoid non-essential travel, due to several feet of wet, heavy snow impacting the interstates and local roads across much of the southeastern portion of the state.

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Governor Gordon Convenes Invasive Mussel Emergency Response Team

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Governor Mark Gordon has convened an emergency response team to mitigate impacts and seek solutions to the discovery of invasive zebra mussels in Wyoming.

The team, led by Director Brian Nesvik of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Director Doug Miyamoto of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, is working to remove the products that carry zebra mussels and contain their potential spread.

Last week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, for the first time in the state, found zebra mussels in aquatic algae products sold primarily in pet stores — known as moss balls.

The mussels may be live and viable and have been on the market for an undetermined period of time. Subsequently, these mussels were found in over two dozen other states’ pet stores.

“This is an urgent and serious matter that potentially affects Wyoming’s water infrastructure, lakes and rivers,” Governor Gordon said. “This mussel is a vicious aquatic invasive species from South Russia and the Ukraine with the potential to wreak havoc on domestic water supplies and our irrigation infrastructure and ruin some of our best fishing.”

A recent study from Montana estimates hundreds of millions of dollars worth of impacts in the form of lost revenue, property damage, and mitigation costs if the mussel became established there. Similar impacts could be seen in Wyoming.

The response team includes representatives from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, Wyoming Energy Authority, Wyoming Department of Tourism, Wyoming Water Development Commission and Wyoming Office of Homeland Security. Together, these state agencies along with Game and Fish and the Department of Agriculture are working to learn more about the issue and seeking containment and mitigation solutions. The main priorities of the team are to remove and analyze the products that carry zebra mussels, contain them if found in systems and educate the public. 

Game and Fish and the Department of Agriculture are also reviewing existing laws and regulations that may be used to further limit importation and to quarantine any other products that contain this invasive species. The Department of Agriculture recently signed a quarantine order banning the importation, sale and distribution of green filamentous algae (Aegagropila linnaei) — the species of algae moss most commonly used in moss balls. Game and Fish and Agriculture inspectors are also assisting with the ongoing federal investigations. 

“Our main goal is to come together quickly to remove the invasives and coordinate our efforts to mitigate any potential impacts,” Governor Gordon said. 

The emergency response team and the Governor’s Office are working with the Legislature to determine if emergency funds can be made available for water testing, outreach and other costs associated with the discovery of zebra mussels.

Game and Fish is offering recommendations on how to dispose of moss balls and aquarium water at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Get-Involved/AIS-moss-balls.

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Gordon Removes Wyoming Mask Mandate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming statewide mask mandate and all restrictions on bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms will be lifted on March 16, Gov. Mark Gordon announced Monday.

Gordon said his decision to lift the public health orders in place for months reflects the state’s continually improving health metrics and is consistent with his approach of balancing public health with protecting livelihoods.

Wyoming has seen a declining number of active coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, and has seen significant success in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine, with the state’s most vulnerable residents now having access to the shot, he said.

“I thank the people of Wyoming for their commitment to keeping one another safe throughout this pandemic,” Gordon said. “It is through their efforts that we have kept our schools and businesses operating and our economy moving forward. I ask all Wyoming citizens to continue to take personal responsibility for their actions and stay diligent as we look ahead to the warmer months and to the safe resumption of our traditional spring and summer activities.” 

The governor encouraged Wyomingites to continue wearing face coverings in indoor public spaces and to follow the best practices adopted by any business they visit to slow the spread of the virus.

Gordon emphasized the success the state has had in managing the virus while keeping businesses and schools open.

“Wyoming is one of the few states in the country that kept students learning in the classroom for the entire school year. We made sacrifices, but the earlier orders saved lives. We persevered,” Gordon said. “With this approach we can have graduations, proms and a great end to the school year by keeping schools open. Especially since our children will not have the chance to be vaccinated this spring.” 

The significant changes to the health orders will be released later this week, Gordon wanted to make sure the public knew of this important change today. 

The face covering requirement will remain in place in K-12 schools as a safety measure to ensure that classroom learning and all student activities can continue to occur safely, Gordon said. 

The details of the changes to the health orders will be released later this week. But Gordon said he wanted to make sure the public knew of this important change immediately. 

Wyoming’s vaccination efforts are among the most efficient in the country. Nearly 100,000 first doses have been administered and 19% of the state’s residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Almost all counties in the state are now entering the newest vaccination phase phase, which includes restaurant, bar, gym and theater workers.

The order requiring the use of face masks took effect in December, after the number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming swelled to more than 11,000.

Orders restricting the operations of bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms have been in place since mid-2020. Public health orders forced the temporary closure of such businesses early in the pandemic, but they re-opened with seating and hour restrictions in the middle of the year.

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