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Opinion by Senator John Barrasso

Washington Issues Impact Wyo Jobs and Economy by Senator John Barrasso

Environmental, energy and natural resource policies have a huge impact on Wyoming jobs, energy production and the overall health of our state’s economy. As a member of both the Senate Energy and Senate Environment and Public Works Committees, I participated in two very important hearings last month that have the potential to change the way energy is developed in Wyoming and throughout the country. 

 The Senate heard from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator nominee Gina McCarthy, held a hearing on a bill to increase hydropower development in Wyoming and voted on several gun control related measures. 

EPA Administrator

On April 11, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to be our next EPA Administrator. As head of the EPA’s office on air quality since 2009, Ms. McCarthy has been a leader in the administration’s war on fossil fuels. EPA regulations have led to the closing of dozens of power plants in the U.S., including some in Wyoming, costing our country thousands of jobs.

When I mentioned the EPA’s dismal record on jobs, she failed to assure me that her vision for the EPA would be any different. Until Ms. McCarthy can commit to truly reforming the agency, I will withhold my support for her nomination.

Hydropower development

On April 23, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on my bill that cuts red tape and makes it easier to install small hydropower units on Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) canals. Since Wyoming has the most BOR canal sites in the country, this bill has the potential to create new jobs and lower electricity prices for Wyoming families. 

On April 10, the House of Representatives passed their version of this hydropower legislation with significant bipartisan support by a vote of 416-7. 

Senate on gun control

This month, the Senate debated and voted on several gun control related measures. All of the proposed amendments that restrict law abiding gun owners from exercising their constitutionally protected right to bear arms, failed to pass the Senate. 

In Wyoming, we all agree that we must find ways to control violent crime and keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Congress must not infringe on our Second Amendment rights to do so.

On April 18, the Senate passed my amendment that would penalize state or local governments for releasing private gun ownership information to the public, with an exception for criminal investigations and court proceedings. 

Wyoming in Washington

 This month, members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association representing Casper, Cheyenne, Chugwater, Lander, Laramie, Powell, Rawlins, Shoshoni and Thermopolis were in town for the annual Public Lands Council Legislative Conference. We talked about grazing policies, wilderness designations and other important public lands issues. I also met with some dental students from Cheyenne, Newcastle and Thermopolis. We hope to see them return to Wyoming after graduation to practice dentistry in communities across the state.

Looking Ahead to May

Next month, the Senate will likely hold key confirmation votes for a new Secretary of Energy, EPA Administrator and Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – all very important to our economy and Wyoming’s seniors. We will also begin debate on comprehensive immigration reform. 

If you are in Washington during the week, please stop by the office. If you can’t make it to the office in person, please don’t hesitate to call or email. We are here to listen to your ideas, answer your questions and help in any way we can.