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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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Education Most Pressing Issue Of Session, Gordon Says In State of the State

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Maintaining the state’s quality of education is the most important issue facing the Legislature during its general session, Gov. Mark Gordon said Tuesday.

Gordon, in delivering his “state of the state” address to a joint session of the Legislature, told lawmakers the state could no longer rely on traditional sources of revenue to support education.

“We have relied, for years, on a funding model that is no longer sustainable,” he said. “The handwriting is on the wall. The can we kick down the road every year is broken. We have to deal with this issue.”

With the slump in the state’s mineral industry, particularly in coal production, funding for the state and its schools has dropped sharply. The school funding bill making its way through the Legislature would cut millions of dollars in how much the state gives to its schools and proposes new taxes if necessary to maintain funding.

But Gordon urged lawmakers, as they look at resolving the funding problems facing schools, to look at the issue more broadly than just one of revenue shortfalls.

“This is far more than a budget issue and I want our stakeholders and our communities to be involved in establishing a plan and vision,” he said.

Among the ideas he endorsed was a consolidation of early childhood learning programs, now found in four separate state agencies, into two agencies, the departments of Education and Family Services.

He also discussed the value of the Wyoming Innovation Network, a program launched in January to improve collaboration between the University of Wyoming and the state’s seven community colleges to better prepare students for the workplace.

“Education is changing,” he said. “Work is changing. People want, and need, more opportunities and approaches. Wyoming needs to respond. We know our financial challenges will likely necessitate it.”

Education was one of a number of issues Gordon touched upon during his address, which was delivered on the second day of the Legislature’s one-month in-person session.

Gordon also discussed the state’s financial problems, which forced him to cut state spending by $250 million in 2020 and propose another $500 million in budget cuts in his supplemental budget.

“Undeniably, we are entering more frugal times and we will have to continue to temper wants and emphasize needs,” he told lawmakers. “It is now your turn to consider how best to meet the needs of our people without burdening the generations to come.”

Much of the state’s financial troubles can be traced to slumps in the state’s energy and mineral industries and Gordon said the policies of President Joe Biden could further threaten those industries.

“In just a few weeks, through a series of executive orders, cabinet appointments and policy announcements, we are facing a clear and present threat to our long-term core industries,” he said. “All decisions from D.C. must now pass a superficial, climate litmus test that ignores jobs, cost, reliability and in many cases, real climate solutions. In D.C., they claim to follow the science, but they adopt policies that resemble science fiction.”

Gordon said while he looks forward to the contributions the wind and solar power industries can make to the state, he continues to support a diversified approach to meeting power needs.

“To achieve meaningful climate goals, and provide a resilient affordable energy supply, fossil fuels, coupled with a commitment to improving the ways we utilize them, must remain a substantial supply option,” he said. “I will continue to fight for our state’s future and defend the right to responsibly develop all of our resources.”

Despite financial problems and the continuing coronavirus pandemic, the state is strong, Gordon said, adding that the Legislature will need to remain focused to help move Wyoming past the pandemic with legislation aimed at encouraging existing businesses, economic development and luring new business to the state.

“I am sure there will be temptations to get sidetracked with politically oriented legislation, but this year, we have to keep our eye on the ball,” he said. “Because we are only going to have one chance to turn this welcomed spring into a thriving summer and a bountiful future.”

Gordon thanked the state’s residents, particularly state employees, health care workers and teachers, for their hard to work to keep the state moving during the worst of the past year.

“Today I can say, with pride and confidence, that the state of our state is strong,” he said. “Not because our economy is as robust as it was a year ago, for that’s certainly not the case. Not because we are free of this dreadful virus, because it is still a pain. Not because we have solved all of our budget problems, for we have yet to face that piper.

“It is because we are the people we are: weathered, tested and resilient,” he continued. “We are a stubborn people, unwilling to concede during tough times. It is that resolute spirit that is our greatest asset. That, I believe, will see us through these times.”

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Gordon Keeps Mask Mandate But Relaxes Other Health Orders

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Thursday announced that many of Wyoming’s statewide public health orders would be relaxed on March 1, although the statewide mask mandate will continue until at least March 15.

This is the fourth time the mask order has been continued since it was enacted in December to slow the spread of coronavirus.

However, Gordon announced that beginning Monday, restrictions on the operations of barber shops, nail and hair salons and other personal care service would be eliminated completely, while limits on gatherings would be relaxed.

Gordon cited improvements in the state’s overall coronavirus picture in announcing the relaxation of the rules.

“If we continue on our current trajectory, I expect us to be able to continue to remove orders as we safely return to a new normal,” he said in a news release.

In addition to the elimination of restrictions on personal care service, the rules for attendance limits at events will be relaxed again, as will protocols for restaurant and theater operations.

Facilities hosting indoor gatherings that incorporate social distancing and face coverings will be allowed to admit up to 25% of capacity up to 1,000 people, while outdoor gatherings of up to 2,000 people will be allowed.

Restaurants will also be allowed to seat up to groups of 10 at one table — an increase from previous limits of eight — and open buffets and other self-service options.

In addition, sporting events and artistic performances will see participation limits eased. 

“The efforts made so far have allowed us to maximize attendance safely at larger events like the state high school wrestling championships this weekend and the state high school basketball tournament that was canceled last year,” Gordon said.

Additional changes to statewide protocols are expected to continue as metrics allow, Gordon said.

Vaccination efforts are expected to help accelerate that process.

As of Thursday,  more than 16% of the state’s population has received at least one vaccine dose – one of the highest rates in the country.

All Wyoming counties are now in phase 1B of the phased distribution plan, which includes adults 65 and over, frontline essential workers and individuals with medical conditions that put them at higher risk. 

While the statewide orders have been relaxed, four Wyoming counties have won variances to be exempted entirely from the orders because of improving conditions within their borders.

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