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Biden’s Goal To Eliminate Oil Industry Jeopardizes Nearly $2 Billion For National Parks

in Energy/Yellowstone/News
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

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By Kevin Killough, State Energy Reporter

Biden’s war on fossil fuels may reduce funding for America’s national parks, according to the Western Energy Alliance, a nonprofit energy industry association for the U.S. West. 

The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which was passed in August 2020, provides $1.9 billion for public lands and national park restoration, primarily from onshore oil and gas development on federal lands. 

The act combined the restoration and Land and Water Conservation funds, which supplies $900 million in matching grant money for state and local parks. 

No Federal Oil

Biden campaigned on a promise that he was going to eliminate the oil industry, and since taking office he has taken more than 100 steps to make good on that promise. Net-zero goals, if achieved, will replace all coal, oil and gas with wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy. 

If that happens, the alliance claims, the royalties from renewable industries operating on federal lands would only generate $11.5 million for the restoration fund. 

Biden “promised no federal oil at all. That was his campaign pledge,” Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, told Cowboy State Daily. “Now, he ran into this nasty thing called the law.

“But if his policies were taken to their logical conclusion – no more federal oil and gas would be allowed – then there would be no funding for the Great American Outdoors Act.” 

Biden had placed a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing, but a judge in the Western District of Louisiana issued a permanent injunction against the Biden administration. The ruling concluded that the moratorium took steps reserved for Congress and violated the Mineral Leasing Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. 

Basically Nothing

Of the $1.9 billion in funding for the GAOA, 70% goes to the National Park Service to reduce deferred maintenance in national parks. The rest goes to various agencies that manage federal lands. 

The GAOA provided $204 million in funding for projects in Yellowstone National Park, including repairs to historic buildings and roads to the Old Faithful geyser. The fund may also support repair projects from last summer’s floods. 

The fund also provided $145 million for projects in California’s Yosemite, and $219 million for projects in Blue Ridge, which straddles the North Carolina and Virginia border. 

Sgamma said royalties from oil and gas production on federal land will support the restoration fund for some time. Existing leases will continue to produce for a while, but as production at those wells decline, the royalties will evaporate. 

“The president’s preferred wind and solar contributes basically nothing to conservation,” Sgamma said. 

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Republican House Speaker Eric Barlow Wins Gillette State Senate Seat

in elections/News/Legislature/politics

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

State Rep. Eric Barlow glided from the Wyoming House of Representatives to the Senate in Tuesday’s general election.

Barlow, of Gillette and the Republican nominee for the Senate District 23 seat in the same region, beat Independent challenger Patricia Junek with more than twice the vote. 

Barlow could not be reached by phone for comment Tuesday.  

He served in the House for nearly a decade, attaining the highest possible rank for the chamber: Speaker of the House. He announced toward the end of his term he was leaving the chamber and moving on to “whatever comes next.”  

The next thing for Barlow is a Senate term in the Gillette seat now held by resigning Sen. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette.   

Primary First, General Second 

The win marks Barlow’s second victory over Junek, who ran a failed write-in campaign against him in the Aug. 16 primary election.  

At the time, Junek said Barlow wasn’t conservative enough and that he’d voted against the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.  

Other legislators, however, said Barlow shut the bill down because it came in after the deadline for Senate bills to be heard in the House.  

Multiple legislators, including Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, faced backlash for their votes not to introduce the bill after deadline in the cramped budget session.  

Larsen told Cowboy State Daily that he believes the bill will surface again, and he plans to vote in favor of it.  

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Wyoming GOP Loses Registered Voters In Lead Up To General Election

in elections/News/politics
Trump rally, Casper. Photo by Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily.

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By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter

Although Wyoming has shown to be one of the most conservative states in the country, the Republican Party has lost registered voters in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 general election.

There were 1,335 fewer registered Republicans on Nov. 1 than compared to Oct. 1, a 0.4% drop.

Many people will likely point to the trend of Democrats crossing back to register with their own party for the General Election as a reason for the loss of GOP registered voters.

During the August primary, there were 8,201 Democratic ballots cast, compared to the 25,526 that were tabulated for Democrats in the 2020 primary and 19,459 counted in the 2018 primary.

Many Democrats in Wyoming openly admitted to changing party affiliation so they could vote in the Republican primary and vote for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a practice Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman Joe Barbuto also said he saw happen.

Conversely, the Democratic Party gained 1,702 voters in October a 5.2% increase. Unaffiliated voters also grew by 579.

The Crossover Effect

The 2018 election was the last time major allegations of crossover voting were levied in a Wyoming primary. 

In the lead up to that election, the Republican Party gained 641 voters from October to November. Few people made claims about crossover voting in the 2020 election, but there were 12,761 people who affiliated as Republicans between Oct. 1, 2020, and the Nov. 3 general election, while the Democratic Party also gained 3,142 people.

In terms of practicality, party registration has no bearing on voting in a general election, as voters can vote for candidates of any party they choose. It’s in Wyoming’s primary elections where voters must register with a particular party to participate in partisan elections.

There are 21,598 more registered voters in Wyoming than on Nov. 1, 2018. In the six days that followed before that year’s general election, 1,387 more people registered to vote in the state. 

Numbers Game

Not everyone who is registered will vote in elections. For example, in 2018 there were 71,421 registered voters who didn’t show up at the polls for the general election, 25% of the registered voter pool. 

Most of Wyoming’s highly contested races are traditionally decided in the primary because of the overwhelming Republican majority in the state. This year is no different for statewide races, which could cool voter interest in the general election. However, there are a number of competitive Wyoming Legislature races and a statewide amendment that will be asked of voters on the ballot.

Presidential election years typically draw more voters than non-presidential elections, but there are 30,978 more people registered to vote now in Wyoming than there were Nov. 1, 2020.

A total of 182,232 people voted in this year’s primary election, a record for a state primary, up from 139,809 in 2018. In 2020, 278,503 people voted in the general election, an increase of 73,228 from the general election in 2018.

The Secretary of State’s office will provide updated voter registration numbers at the beginning of election day Nov. 8.

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