Wyoming Energy Strategy to include conservation exchange program
Casper – Conservation strategies are a broadly discussed topic across the state and have even been in the forefront for those developing the 2013 Wyoming Energy Strategy.
Nephi Cole, energy and natural resources policy advisory for Governor Mead, noted that the energy strategy will be formally unveiled soon and includes items that are of interest to conservationists across the state. Cole discussed the strategy during the Ruckelshaus Institute’s “Forum on Conservation Finance,” held April 2 in Casper.
“Governor Mead took a different approach to energy policy than you have probably seen leaders take in the past,” said Cole. “Governor Mead wanted to take an approach of developing a dynamic, working framework – more than a document – a business protocol that could be implemented over time, and we could identify whether or not it was functioning over time.”
He continued that the energy strategy is a framework that goes beyond simply listing visions or overarching goals, and instead looks to establish specific actions that are also measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive.
“The Governor’s vision is that Wyoming should achieve excellence in energy development and production and at the same time display excellence in stewardship of its natural resources,” Cole noted. “We strongly believe that it is a false choice to say you can’t have the energy element and natural resource stewardship.”
“We firmly believe that, if you do both the right way, they are compatible,” he added.
Under the guiding principles in the Governor’s document, Cole said, “We think it is critical we conserve our natural resources and heritage. We think it is important that we maintain our western culture and where we are from.”
The principles are further broken down into strategic themes, including natural resource conservation, reclamation and mitigation, which is further broken down into objective areas, or strategic initiatives.
“Rather than just coming out with a statement to say, ‘We’ll manage, utilize, protect and preserve our natural resources in a balanced manner,’ we want to talk about how,” he explained.
By working with the agency with the statutory responsibility and authority to develop action plans for each initiative, Cole mentioned that they can attach performance goals to strategic initiatives to really evaluate if targets of each program were achieved.
“Initiative 11a,” said Cole, “is the development of a Wyoming Offsite Mitigation Program.”
Under the initiative, a statewide mitigation program will be developed to help reclaim those key natural resources in the state.
“The program’s focus will be on reclamation, rehabilitation and conservation efforts that are most likely to be adversely impacted by the government,” he continued.
In developing the mitigation program, Cole mentioned that they are working toward a conservation exchange.
“In order to be successful, we will allow individual groups and companies to act on their own knowledge, guided by defensible baseline data, good science and clear regulations,” he explained. “Next, we need to be able to frame issues and solutions in terms of simple, generic units that can be combined and used in different ways over time to meet needs.”
By developing a flexible program, the strategy looks to also provide a program with longevity.
Additionally, the program aims to create commitments that are credible, understandable and able to endure the test of time. To facilitate those goals, Cole emphasized the need for constant feedback to enable continual improvement.
“So what are we talking about exactly?” asked Cole. “Rather than one conservation bank, we are looking at a conservation exchange where buyers can come to the state of Wyoming looking for sellers.”
While the details of the process aren’t in place yet, Cole noted that they will continue to flesh out the program.
“The purpose of this is to create certainty in conservation with an exchange process with the state stamp on it,” Cole said. “Our expectations are to cooperatively facilitate for banking to occur in the state.”
This year, the Wyoming Energy Strategy will be formally unveiled, according to Governor Matt Mead’s Energy and Natural Resources Policy Advisor Nephi Cole. The strategy will focus on “Leading the Charge” through 2013.
“There will be upcoming meetings through the remainder of the year,” said Cole of the strategy. “Four outreach meetings will concentrate on our strategic themes throughout the year.”
Through forums, panel discussions and public comment sessions, he further added that the Governor’s Office aims to hold the meeting to discuss continually collect feedback and monitor the progress of the 2013 energy strategy.
“It is our hope that this process – this strategy – will become the way we do things in Wyoming,” said Cole.