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In Brief: Gordon welcomes executive order on energy export impacts

in Energy/News
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon
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By Cowboy State Daily

A presidential order directing administration officials to study the economic impacts of blocking the export of America’s natural resources is being welcomed by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon, in a news release, said he believes the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Wednesday will help open coal ports on the West Coast so Wyoming coal can be shipped to Asian markets.

“We are excited for the promise of a new day when Wyoming coal will be better able to compete internationally,” Gordon said. “We have cleaner coal and better technologies that we can marry to remove carbon from the atmosphere.”

Wyoming is involved in a lawsuit against the state of Washington over its refusal to grant a permit for a coal export terminal. Washington officials denied the permit on the grounds that the environment of the area around the terminal would be hurt by its construction and operation.

The executive order requires the secretaries of Energy and Transportation to study and report on the economic impacts caused by such limits on energy resource exports.

Gordon said such a review is needed.

“The states along the West Coast have abused their authority … to unfairly discriminate against Wyoming coal,” he said. “In issuing this executive order, President Trump sets the state to help correct the misapplication of the Clean Water Act act has been used inappropriately by some states to stymie the industries and commerce of others and I commend him for that.”

Words Matter: Manipulative Messaging

in Agriculture/Cat Urbigkit/Column/Energy/Range Writing
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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Congressional members DeFazio and Gaetz hosted a “briefing” session in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, aimed at educating their colleagues of the need for policy reform for USDA’s Wildlife Services, the federal agency charged with animal damage control. Invited to give presentations to educate congressional members were a family from Idaho whose dog was killed by a M-44 device, and representatives from the following organizations: Predator Defense, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Western Watersheds Project. The goal of the session was to gain support of a bill that would ban lethal poison devices.

DeFazio and Gaetz call M-44s “cyanide bombs.” But M-44s are not bombs. Rather, they are spring-activated ejector devices that are staked to the ground and deliver a dose of cyanide powder (an EPA restricted-use pesticide) from the capsule holder when the holder cover is triggered by the bite-and-pull motion of a canid. In contrast, a bomb is a device designed to explode on impact, or when detonated by a time mechanism, remote control, or lit fuse.

The renaming of this predator control device as a “cyanide bomb” originated with animal activists, but some members of the media have adopted the term, and members of congress are using the same messaging framework. It’s one in a recent cascade of “reframing” examples I’ve noticed, as marketing tactics have expanded from products to influencing general public opinion in the last few decades, and media organizations become willing participants.

See Image 1: Both Wyoming Public Media and WyoFile use the term “cyanide bombs” in reporting.

Maya Khemlani David, a professor of language and linguistics, has studied the use of rhetoric to maintain political influence, and wrote: “By way of an indirect manipulation of language, skillful speakers have traditionally been able to influence the preconceptions, views, ambitions and fears of the public, to the extent of causing people to accept false statements as true postulates, or even to support policies conflicting with their interests.”

We see manipulative messaging examples every day. In food production it ranges from the use of terms such as factory-farmed animals or organic products, to the clean meat and meatless burgers (which are neither meat nor burger, and by the same token, just as milk comes from an animal with mammary glands, not nuts or beans).

Another recent example comes from people opposed to the winter feeding of elk in western Wyoming. Elk are fed pelleted or loose hay at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, as well as 22 elk feedgrounds operated by the Wyoming Game & Fish Department. Originally established to keep wintering elk from starving to death, and to keep the elk out of ranchers’ stored hay, the state elk feedgrounds were started after the creation of the elk refuge in 1912. Wildlife advocates concerned about disease transmission from congregating elk have called for the closure of the state’s elk feedgrounds, but have taken to calling them “feedlots” in an explicit attempt to cast the feedgrounds on par with livestock feedlots. While feedlots are confined animal feeding operations, elk feedgrounds are not feedlots – the elk come and go at their own desire, and consume native vegetation in addition to the supplemental food provided by wildlife managers.

See Image 2: Wyoming Public Media adopts the use of the term feedlot in reporting.

The introduction of new words or phrases into the public lexicon is nothing new. Linguist George Lakoff writes in the journal Environmental Communications: “Introducing new language is not always possible. The new language must make sense in terms of the existing system of frames. It must work emotionally. And it must be introduced in a communication system that allows for sufficient spread over the population, sufficient repetition, and sufficient trust in the messengers.”

Recently retired from wolf watching for Yellowstone National Park, Rick McIntyre wrote a piece for Outside Online last month that describes the history of a wolf pack. But he cleverly interchanged the word pack with “family”: “He died from the wounds they inflicted, but he had saved his family,” “Her family is carrying on,” and “I did it for her family.”

Cognitive science and psychology are used to develop effective messaging that is used in political, cultural, and economic contexts. Messaging attempts to influence not just what brand of product you may buy, but how you feel about an object, person, or industry, with the goal of prompting you to take action.

For example, we don’t hear much about “global warming” anymore – it’s been reframed as “climate change.” A group called ecoAmerica is at the forefront of climate-change messaging, identifying our moral foundations, the emotions and virtues associated with those morals, and suggesting messages that apply to each audience.

See Image 3: From Connecting on Climate: A Guide to Effective Climate Change Communication

Robert Brulle is a professor of sociology and environmental science who warns against such widespread messaging efforts to manipulate the public. Brulle writes: “To mobilize broad-based support for social change, citizens cannot be treated as objects for manipulation. Rather, they should be treated as citizens involved in a mutual dialog.”

Instead, we hear anti-fossil fuel advocates calling permits to drill natural gas wells “fracking permits,” oil and gas leases have become “fracking leases,” and drilling rigs are “fracking rigs”– whether hydraulic fracturing technology is used or not.

See Image 4: Environment News Service has renamed gas drilling as fracking.

Language can be used to manipulate, but it can also just be a reflection of personal experience. I’m involved in agriculture, so when you hear me refer to bull markets, and diversified stock, it’s within a completely different context than someone on Wall Street using the same words. Same words, different meaning – but no manipulation.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily.

Gordon vows to make Wyoming a leader in carbon capture

in Energy/News
1206

GBy Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday renewed calls for the state to become a leader in carbon capture and sequestration technology.

Gordon, speaking to the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, said by taking a leadership position in the areas, Wyoming could protect energy producers.

“That is something I’m gong to fight for … every single day,” he said. “We can be a leader in changing the climate, keeping people working, not disenfranchising those people who produce quality energy at a low price for the people around this country.”

Gordon also said the Legislature’s general session, which ended in March, was a productive session despite media reports of disputes between the House and Senate and between the Legislature and the governor’s office.

“The true story of it was it was a very good legislative session and we worked hard all the way to the end,” he said.

Driskill: DC judge’s ruling on Wyoming oil & gas permits “idiotic… a tragedy”

in Energy/News
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By Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Senate Vice President Ogden Driskill for Senate District #1 has strong words on the ruling from Washington, D.C. judge Rudolph Contreras.

The federal district court judge ruled in favor of environmental activists, finding that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to consider climate change when issuing permits on 300,000 acres of federal land in Wyoming.

The ruling blocked further development on those lands until climate change’s impacts are assessed.

Gordon vetoes call for state to sue over coal terminal

in Energy/News
shipping containers at export facility
1124

By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would have allowed the Legislature to sue the state of Washington over the denial of permits for a coal export terminal has been vetoed by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon on Friday vetoed HB 251, saying if legal action was taken by the Legislature, it could interfere with court filings already submitted by the executive branch.

“Giving courts the impression that two branches of Wyoming’s government might be second-guessing one another — in fact potentially litigating over the top of one another — would be counterproductive to our best efforts to protect Wyoming’s interests,” he said in his veto message to Secretary of State Ed Buchanan. “Furthermore, dividing the limited resources of Wyoming’s Attorney General between two potentially contemporaneous cases would do a disservice to both at the expense of Wyoming.”

However, Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, said the measure would have set up a cooperative effort between the legislative and executive branches.

“It’s going to take a team effort between the executive branches for there to be success on this issue,” he said in a prepared statement. “This bill created a framework for this team effort to occur, so that we have the best chance for success on this issue. The veto is detrimental to that effort.”

Washington officials have denied necessary permits to build a coal export terminal to export coal from Wyoming and other states to foreign markets. Lighthouse Resources, the company proposing the export terminal, is suing Washington over the denial, alleging the state is violating the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

Wyoming and several other coal-producing states have filed “friend of the court” briefs in support of Lighthouse’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Gordon wrote that while he supports the Legislature’s desire to protect the state’s economic interests, legal action taken by lawmakers independent of the executive branch could cause confusion.

“This bill … carves an unprecedented path — absent compelling reason — encouraging the Legislature to take a potentially different course from that that the state is already pursuing,” he wrote. “The obvious confusion this could engender is at best problematic and at worst fatal.”

Responsibility for such legal action rests with the executive branch, not the Legislature, Gordon wrote.

However, Gray said by taking up the issue, the Legislature would have sent a message to Washington officials.

“This bill shows the state of Washington that we are serious about this issue,” he said. “Also, the Legislature looking into this issue creates the environment where there is the best opportunity for success.”

In Brief: Governor signs emergency order allowing more propane deliveries

in Energy/News
slick snow roads Wyoming
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By Cowboy State Daily

Frigid winter temperatures across the state prompted Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday to sign an executive order allowing drivers of propane delivery trucks to drive extra hours to deliver much-needed fuel.

Gordon’s order suspends limits on the number of hours that drivers can put in on the road if they are bringing propane to Wyoming or making in-state deliveries.

In a news release, Gordon declared a state of emergency, citing propane shortages predicted to occur with higher consumption during the cold weather.

“I didn’t sign this order lightly,” Gordon said in a news release. “I put these emergency rules in place in recognition of how harmful it would be to not be able to heat your home.”

The order, set to expire by March 31, requires that drivers not drive while fatigued. It is similar to rules already put in place in surrounding states facing the same issue.

Governor signs public records, animal cruelty bill

in Criminal justice/Education/Energy/News/Transparency
Wyoming Legislature bills signed by Governor Gordon
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By Cowboy State Daily

Bills creating a felony crime of animal abuse and setting a deadline for the production of public records were among a group signed into law on Friday by Gov. Mark Gordon.

HB 235, one of the last bills to be approved by the Legislature in the closing hours of its general session, makes it a felony for a person to commit aggravated cruelty to animals resulting in the death or euthanasia of an animal or to abuse an animal with an intent to kill it.

The law takes effect July 1. Currently, a person convicted of animal abuse can only be found guilty of a misdemeanor. A felony conviction carries a prison sentence of up to two years.

The public records law, SF 57, sets a 30-day deadline for the release of public documents. It also authorizes the hiring of an ombudsman to help mediate disputes over the release of public documents.

Under existing law, there was no time limit for government agencies to release public documents.

Other bills signed into law Friday included:

  • SF 159, designed to encourage utilities to sell old coal-fired electric plants rather than retire them;
  • HB 103, requiring doctors who perform abortions to report those procedures to the state Office of Vital Records and requiring the the data be compiled into a public report;
  • SF 122, creating the “Wyoming Works Program,” which will provide grants for students attending technical programs at community colleges, and 
  • HB 99, creating a state “Public Lands Day.”

Gordon has until late March to sign bills into law, veto them or allow them to become law without his signature.

Authorization to sue Washington clears Senate

in Energy/News
1013

By Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s Legislature could launch legal action against the state of Washington over its refusal to allow the construction of coal export terminals under legislation approved by the Senate on Monday.

HB 251 was approved in its third reading on a vote of 22-7.

The measure gives the Legislature’s Management Council — lawmakers in leadership positions — the authority to file a lawsuit with or without the governor’s authorization and sets aside $250,000 for legal service.

The dispute stems over Washington’s denial of permits for Lighthouse Resources to build coal export terminals to ship American coal to Asian markets, which the bill maintains is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Wyoming in May joined five other coal-producing states in filing “friend of the court” briefs in support of a lawsuit against Washington filed by Lighthouse.

The bill calls for the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee to study the feasibility of suing Washington for damages and then make a recommendation to the Legislature by Dec. 1. The money set aside to hire legal services could not be used until the Legislature approves the expense.At least one senator said she did not understand why the state needs to hire outside lawyers.

“My preference would be to use the talented lawyers we have working in the Wyoming attorney general’s (office) to do the bulk of that work rather than providing those dollars to outside attorneys,” said Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne.

Ellis said she would also rather see the state team up with coal companies already suing Washington than start separate litigation.

In Brief: Bill to encourage sale of old power plants clears House

in Energy/News
Pile of coal, ALT=Wyoming coal exports
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By Cowboy State Daily

A measure designed to encourage utilities to sell aging coal-fired power plants rather than close them was approved by the House on Tuesday.

Representatives voted 50-8 in favor of SF 159, which would authorize the use of regulations to encourage companies like Rocky Mountain Power to sell old power plants.

The measure is seen as a way to keep aging coal-fired plants in operation —and employing workers — rather than having them closed down by their owners. Among other things, the bill would allow the state to encourage power utilities to buy energy produced by the older power plants. The bill would also reduce the amount of the cost utilities could pass on to their customers for the construction of new power plants if old power plants were simply closed.

The bill now heads to the Senate for a review of amendments added in the House.

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