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UW Analysis: Wyoming Could Lose $12.9B From Energy Moratorium

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming could lose $12.9 billion in tax revenue if the energy moratorium implemented by President Joe Biden isn’t lifted in a timely manner, according to a University of Wyoming study.

The UW’s Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute issued a report this week that detailed the impacts of the drilling and leasing moratorium on federal lands, something many Wyoming officials have raised concerns about.

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

Even though gas fields were excluded from the report, it concluded that Wyoming would lose billions of dollars due to the moratorium. According to the report, 67% of Wyoming’s recoverable oil reserves are at risk due to Biden’s executive order.

It also stated 47% of surface and 68% of minerals in Wyoming are found on or under federal lands, as are 60% of the minerals within oil basins in the state.

The report added that its lost tax revenue projection was just an estimate and did not include state mineral royalties, associated gas production, taxes on ancillary industries that support oil production or lost jobs.

Late last month, Gov. Mark Gordon and a number of his fellow Republican governors sent a letter to Biden, asking him to withdraw the order.

The governors were unified in their support for an “all of the above energy approach” that relies on both fossil and renewable energy sources and said that “as governors, we believe that solutions come from innovation, not regulation,” stressing the importance of state primacy for emission standards.

Last month, Gordon informed federal officials that he is prepared to take all necessary actions to protect Wyoming from unilateral actions targeting and crippling its energy industries.

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow also joined four other western state school superintendents in asking Biden to reconsider the energy lockdown.

Their letter specifically noted that in Wyoming, the oil and natural gas industry contributed $740 million in K-12 education funding and $28 million to the state’s higher education system in 2019.

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Wyoming Needs Higher Fuel Tax For Roads, WYDOT Says

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The overwhelming majority of residents in Wyoming support the use of fossil fuels. But more taxes on those fuels? Well, that’s a different matter.

But Wyoming needs the proposed increase in fuel taxes to keep up with its highway maintenance, according to an official with the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

Doug McGee, public affairs manager for WYDOT, told Cowboy State Daily the department is facing a shortfall of about $354 million in unfunded needs per year. “Certainly, this fuel tax is very much needed to maintain our roads and bridges – our transportation system – to the level that Wyoming citizens expect,” McGee said.

House Bill 26, which would increase the state’s fuel tax from 24 cents to 33 cents per gallon for both diesel and gasoline, passed the House Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee last week on a 6-3 vote. The extra 9 cents per gallon would be a 37.5 percent increase in the state’s fuel taxes and would bring Wyoming’s fuel tax to the same level as neighboring Idaho.

The increase would also boost the state’s ranking for fuel taxes from 33rd for gasoline and 34th for diesel to 18th and 19th, respectively, according to a report from the American Petroleum institute.

The Legislative Service Office reports that tax increase would raise almost $61.5 million.

McGee noted that the bill has a larger benefit than just raising money for roads — it would contribute to the economic well-being of the state.

“Wyoming’s economy — indeed, the nation’s economy — travels on Wyoming’s roads,” he pointed out. “We need good, solid infrastructure to keep our economy strong.” McGee added that tourism, the third largest economic sector in the state, relies on the highways and interstates that the bill would help maintain.

McGee said the department would receive a little over $40 million of the $61.47 million the increased tax would generate – and while that is just a fraction of the shortfall WYDOT is facing, every dollar counts.

“There are projects that we’ve had to delay,” he said. “There are very serious maintenance needs across the state. So $40 million dollars would make a big impact, and would be very important to the department.”

WYDOT Director Luke Reiner has said that for every dollar not spent on preventative maintenance on roadways, $4 to $8 will be required for complete highway reconstruction down the road.

The increase has won the support of a number of organizations including the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Wyoming Taxpayers Association, Wyoming County Commissioners Association, Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association, and Wyoming Association of Municipalities. The groups spoke in favor of the tax increase during a hearing on the bill held by the committee on Feb. 23. Many said that although they would not normally support increased taxes, the fuel tax proposal is different.

“The quality of our roads and bridges in Wyoming are in deterioration,” Jim Willox, president of the county commissioners association, was quoted as saying by The Sheridan Press. “Unless we immediately start taking paths to correct that, we will affect the economic well-being of our state in such a way that I don’t think we can recover.”

Rep. Donald Burkhart, R-Rawlins, has proposed an amendment to the bill that would spread the tax increase over three years.

The proposed increase will be considered in the Wyoming House of Representatives in the legislative session this month.

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Cheney: Wyoming Will Lose Jobs By U.S. Rejoining Paris Climate Accord

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney on Monday said Wyoming will lose jobs because the United States has rejoined the Paris Climate Accord.

“The Paris Accord is a bad agreement based on flawed science,” Cheney said in a statement. “It subjects the United States to unattainable requirements that will destroy jobs in Wyoming and across the country, while allowing other nations with terrible environmental track records to continue to operate without consequences.”

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 parties in Paris in December 2015 and took effect in November 2016.

Its goal is to limit global warming during this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius — and preferably 1.5 degrees — compared to pre-industrial levels.

Former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement in 2017, a controversial move that received mixed response.

When President Joe Biden was sworn into office in January, he signed an executive order to rejoin the agreement, which became official late last week.

“President Biden’s decision to rejoin this deal is entirely motivated by politics, which provides no comfort to the American people who will lose their jobs or pay higher energy bills as a result of today’s action,” Cheney said.

According to CNN, under the Obama administration, the U.S. had pledged to slash carbon emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

Biden plans to hold a climate summit of world leaders in April, where he will present the nation’s goal for reducing carbon emissions by 2030.

Many of Biden’s executive orders regarding energy in the United States have drawn harsh criticism from Wyoming officials from its congressional delegation to even Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

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Gordon, 16 Republican Governors Ask Biden to Withdraw Energy Moratorium

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is leading a coalition of 17 Republican governors in formally asking President Joe Biden to withdraw the executive order banning new oil and gas development on federal lands.

In a letter sent to Biden, Gordon and his fellow governors stressed the negative economic effect of the ban on western states with large tracts of federal land.

The order has the effect of “chasing away capital investment for long-term economic growth and undermining public services, public conservation, public safety, public education, and more,” the governors said in the letter.

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

Some of the other governors included South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.

Gordon also emphasized the importance of the high-paying jobs created by the energy industry, as well as the impact of the order on energy independence and grid stability.

The governors were unified in their support for an “all of the above energy approach” and said that “as governors, we believe that solutions come from innovation, not regulation,” stressing the importance of state primacy for emission standards.

“You began your presidency with calls for unity, specifically to end the divide that pits urban versus rural, and as Republican leaders, we stand ready to work with your Administration to advance our states and country,” the letter said. “In contrast, the lack of consultation with our states demonstrated by [the order] is alarming, showing disregard for the citizens we serve and the businesses that employ them and keep our country running and our nation secure.”

Last week, Gordon informed federal officials that he is prepared to take all necessary actions to protect Wyoming from unilateral actions targeting and crippling our energy industries.

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.

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Balow, Other State Superintendents Ask Biden to Reconsider Energy Lockdown

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow has joined four other western state school superintendents in asking President Joe Biden to reconsider his recent energy lockdown.

Balow was joined by her colleagues from North Dakota, Montana, Alaska and Utah in sending a letter to the president telling him the moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal lands would decimate school funding in their states.

“It is unusual that state education leaders would be in a position to warrant this letter,” send the letter, which was sent Wednesday. “We write to oppose the actions taken to ban oil and gas leases on federal land and to curtail production and transmission of the commodities.”

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.

But the school chiefs noted that in their states, schools depend on income from energy production.

“As state education chiefs we have appreciated generous access to your education transition team and we had multiple opportunities to discuss schools safely reopening, student well-being, and academic priorities,” the letter said. “It is imperative that we bring to light the arbitrary and inequitable move to shut down oil and gas production on federal lands in our states that depend on revenues from various taxes, royalties, disbursements, and lease payments to fund our schools, community infrastructure and public services.”

The letter specifically noted that in Wyoming, the oil and natural gas industry contributed $740 million in K-12 education funding and $28 million to the state’s higher education system in 2019.

Almost all, 92%, of Wyoming’s natural gas comes from federal lands, as does 51% of the oil produced in the state.

“The ban translates into the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for education and 13,300 direct jobs in a state of 500,000,” the letter said.

For Montana, $30 million in revenue and more than 3,000 jobs are at risk because of the moratorium, the letter said.

In North Dakota, the lease moratorium would result in 13,000 lost jobs over four years, along with $600 million in lost tax revenue and a $750 million loss in personal income. North Dakota’s oil and gas industry accounts for 24,000 direct jobs in the state.

In Utah, $72 million in revenue and 11,000 jobs are at stake. 

In Alaska, over $24 million in state revenue is tied to federal leases for oil and natural gas, along with 3,500 jobs.

“As state education chiefs, we place equity and quality at the forefront of policy making,” the letter said. “We care deeply about clean air and clean water for future generations. And, we advocate fiercely for adequate funding for all students in all schools. Reform of the industry is necessary and can be accomplished, but not by abruptly restricting industries that define our culture and the generate revenue on which so many rely.” 

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.

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Cheney Estimates 1 Million Jobs Will be Lost Due to Energy Lockdown

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney estimated that 1 million jobs will be lost due to President Joe Biden’s moratorium on energy and natural gas leases on federal property.

Cheney predicted Wyoming would lose around 18,000 jobs due to the lockdown.

“The negative ramifications from the #BidenBan will be felt all across the country,” Cheney said. “Our nation will be more dependent on our adversaries, families will face higher energy bills, and an estimated million jobs will be lost — including 18,000 here in Wyoming.”

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.

Many Wyoming officials, from Cheney to Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow and U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso, have spoken out against the moratorium.

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.

“This is significant,” Balow previously said. “What we know in Wyoming is that this could be, by modest estimates, about $150 million a year in lost revenue within just a couple of years.”

Last week, Gov. Mark 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.

“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 said on Fox earlier this week. “Losing that revenue is devastating to our schools, our communities, those small businesses that depend on the energy sector.”

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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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Wyoming Energy Sector Strategizing Response To Biden Ban On New Drilling

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By Sarah Downey, The Center Square

Wyoming energy producers are preparing to fight the Biden administration’s recent halt to new energy exploration leases on federal lands.

The ban is part of a slew of executive actions President Joe Biden has undertaken as part of a new climate policy.

“The Biden administration’s energy policies will do nothing to combat climate change while shifting oil and natural gas production from domestic sources to foreign countries,” Ryan McConnaughey, communications director at the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, told The Center Square by email.

“These actions will dampen the economy, harm national security, lessen environmental standards, and destroy good-paying jobs for the middle class,” he said.

The ban on leasing is a precursor to the Biden administration’s stated goal of ending all natural gas and oil production on federal lands, McConnaughey said.

“It will have immediate impacts on where companies invest for future production,” McConnaughey said.

Half of the state of Wyoming is federally owned. McConnaughey said that a recent study by University of Wyoming economist Tim Considine found that a leasing ban would result in the state losing $300 million in tax revenue annually.

“Experts tell us that a long-term ban could cost us 33,000 jobs in Wyoming, for a state of only half a million people,” U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-WY, said on the Senate floor.

Without robust oil and gas production, stakeholders predict Wyoming won’t be able to economically recover from the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We hope that cooler heads within the Biden administration will prevail,” McConnaughey said. “Should these misguided policies be enacted it will result in devastating impacts to Wyoming’s economy.

“The Petroleum Association of Wyoming is committed to protecting the livelihoods of the hard-working men and women of the natural gas and oil industry. We will use all legal means at our disposal to fight any attempts on our way of life.”

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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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Wyoming Delegation Proposes Bills To Halt Biden Lease Moratorium

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation have introduced legislation aimed at stopping the Biden administration’s efforts to halt mineral leasing on federal land.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, have both introduced legislation that would require congressional approval for any executive branch effort to stop energy or mineral leasing and permitting on federal land.

Lummis’ bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and 24 other members of the Senate, is called the “Protecting Our Wealth of Energy Resources Act” and would require congressional approval for mineral and energy leases on federal land.

Cheney actually introduced two bills, one dealing with oil and gas leases and the second with coal leases. Both would require a joint resolution from Congress to approve any moratorium on leasing on federal land.

Cheney’s bill on oil and gas leases is co-sponsored by 21 other representatives, while her bill on coal leases is co-sponsored by 14 others.

The bills were introduced in response to President Joe Biden’s executive order on Wednesday halting all mineral leases on federal land until the Department of Interior can conduct a thorough review of federal leasing programs.

“The Biden Ban would be nothing short of catastrophic for western states that are already reeling from the decline in energy usage brought on by the pandemic and continued volatility in energy markets,” Lummis said in a statement. “Through the POWER Act, Congress would reiterate that federal lands should serve not the whims of a radical progressive minority, but the needs of all Americans.” 

“The executive actions from the Biden Administration banning new leasing and permitting on federal land endanger our economy and threaten our national security,” Cheney said. “The legislation I am introducing today would safeguard against these damaging orders, and prevent the job loss, higher energy costs, and loss of revenue that promises to come with them.”

Gov. Mark Gordon expressed support for all three measures, citing the economic impacts of a long-term moratorium on mineral leases on federal lands.

“Oil and gas industries across the West are hit hard by the Biden administration’s executive action — eight western states … could lose $8 billion in (gross domestic product) and over $2 billion in tax revenue per year,” he said. “This is a bipartisan issue.“

Since federal laws provide for the leasing of fossil fuels and minerals, it is appropriate that Congress would have to agree to such a departure from the intent of federal law,” he continued. “It is disappointing that such a law is necessary, but it is.”

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