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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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Petroleum Association of Wyoming Joins Lawsuit Against Biden’s Energy Lockdown

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming is joining a lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden’s moratorium on new oil and natural gas leasing on federal lands.

PAW is joining the lawsuit originally filed by Western Energy Alliance, the organization announced Wednesday.

The WEA filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne in January, shortly after Biden issued his executive order halting new oil and gas leases, claiming the action exceeded presidential authority and violated the federal Mineral Leasing Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Lands Policy and Management Act.

The PAW, a trade group for Wyoming’s oil and gas producers, filed as a joint petitioner in the lawsuit after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management did not hold its regular first quarter sale of federal leases this week.

“While many have tried to spin President Biden’s Executive Order as harmless, that narrative is simply false” said Pete Obermueller, president of PAW. “On average, Wyoming schools could have expected $4 million from this week’s lease sale – enough money to educate 220 Wyoming school children for an entire year. We join this lawsuit to show that the president’s leasing ban has resulted in real harm to Wyoming and those consequences will continue if this ill-advised EO is not overturned.”

Wyoming ranks first nationally for natural gas production on public lands and second for oil. In 2020, 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 43.5 million barrels of oil were produced on public lands, according to data from the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

“We’re pleased to have PAW join our litigation,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance. “We filed in Wyoming because it has the largest amount of federal acreage under lease, and now we have the home team assembled. Because of the interlocking land ownership in Wyoming, it’s nearly impossible to develop oil and natural gas in the state without touching some federal lands or minerals.

“President Biden’s ban is a direct threat to one of Wyoming’s largest employers,” she continued. “The decree might make sense to someone sitting in Washington, D.C., but makes no sense in Wyoming and across the West.”

On Feb. 12, BLM canceled all oil and natural gas lease sales previously scheduled for spring 2021 in order to “confirm the adequacy of underlying environmental analysis.”

According to PAW, BLM is in violation of the Mineral Leasing Act’s requirement to hold lease sales “for each State where eligible lands are available at least quarterly” for failing to hold lease sales this week.

The area nominated in Wyoming for the March sale consisted of 426 parcels totaling 160,821 acres.

Since 2015, leasing revenues in Wyoming have totaled $474 million and averaged $79 million annually. The federal government shares 48% with the state, making Wyoming’s share over the past six years $227 million and averaging $37.9 million annually.

PAW estimated the potential loss to Wyoming of the canceled lease sale this quarter is $9.5 million.

Wyoming’s share of the sale directly supports education, infrastructure projects, and other vital government services. Based on the state’s funding formulas, the losses to the state and communities from the canceled first quarter lease sale include:

  • General Fund – $3.7 million
  • K-12 Education – $4.3 million
  • Public Infrastructure – $1.2 million
  • Cities and Towns – $275,000
  • The University of Wyoming – $198,000.

According to a recent study from the Wyoming Energy Authority, the economic costs of the Biden ban will hit Wyoming hard.

By the end of his first term, the ban will decrease Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $8.3 billion, 15,269 jobs will be cut annually, wages will drop $3.8 billion, and state tax revenue will plummet $1.8 billion.

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Wyoming Senate Backs Request to Biden to Reverse Energy Moratorium

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A request to President Joe Biden to rescind his blocks on mineral leasing on federal lands may not convince the president to do so, but it will show him how seriously the state takes the issue, a state senator said Thursday.

Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, urged members of the Senate to approve Senate Joint Resolution 3, which has the Legislature express its opposition to the moratorium because of its impacts on the state.

The resolution was approved on a voice vote in its first full Senate floor review.

Cooper admitted that generally, joint resolutions have little impact. But he said SJR3 came in response to a request from Gov. Mark Gordon.

“This reiterates our support for our governor in his letter to the president regarding our position on oil and gas in the state of Wyoming,” said Cooper, a co-sponsor of the bill. “It reiterates that we strongly support our (congressional) delegation in their efforts to curtail some of these executive orders.”

In his first seven days in office, Biden issued two executive orders that have halted oil and gas leasing on federal lands pending a review of the federal government’s leasing programs. Gordon and a number of western governors wrote letters protesting the moratorium and members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation have also expressed their opposition.

The resolution noted that in addition to owning almost than half of Wyoming’s land, the federal government has direct control over another 42 million acres of mineral rights in the state and some influence on more than 90% of the state’s minerals.

In addition to the immediate impact of reduced income for the state, the move will drive oil and gas producers to other countries where the restrictions are not as stringent, Cooper said.

Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, suggested the resolution be amended to point out how many jobs will be lost because of the moratorium.

“We don’t have anything on how it affects the workforce,” he said. “It’s not just what it does to the coffers of this state, but it has a direct effect on the people as a whole.”

However, Perkins also questioned the value of such resolutions.

“I appreciate the sentiments, but I just continue to feel that (resolutions) usually end up in ‘File 13’ and that’s the end of it,” he said. “They make us feel good that we’re doing something, even though we’re not.”

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Wyoming Gas Prices Skyrocket; Up 23% From Last Year

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Gas prices in Wyoming have gone up by more than 39 cents per gallon in the last month, due largely to cold conditions in Texas and gas supply issues, according to a company that tracks gasoline prices across the country.

Daily figures from GasBuddy showed that the average price for a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline on Friday morning was about $2.65 per gallon, an increase of 39.3 cents from one month ago. The price increased by 22.8 cents from one year ago.

The increase in the last month would add about $6.79 to the cost of a trip from Cheyenne to Jackson in a car averaging 25 miles per gallon.

Wyoming’s gas price increase is higher than the national average of 29.5 cents seen nationally in the last month. The national average price of gas is about $2.76 per gallon, according to to the GasBuddy.

Gas prices across the country were affected for about eight weeks by cold weather that shut off power to large parts of Texas, the GasBuddy said.

Company analyst Patrick De Haan, in a news release, said the impact of the cold weather should be wearing off, but added a drop in gas supplies is now forcing prices up.

He noted that the demand for gasoline has increased with growth in travel as coronavirus cases decline.

“On the supply side, the number of oil rigs active in the U.S. stands nearly 50% lower than a year ago, which is a large factor driving prices up,” he said. “To put it simply, demand is recovering much, much faster than oil production levels, which is why oil prices have soared.”

Wyoming’s average price of gasoline increased from about $2.21 on Jan. 1 to $2.62 on March 1.

As of Friday, the lowest price of gas in the state was found in Weston County at $2.51 per gallon, followed by Albany County at almost $2.55.

Sublette County had the state’s highest gas price on Friday, nearly $2.90 per gallon, followed by Campbell County at almost $2.74.

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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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