Governor’s energy strategy to ‘Lead the Charge’
Cheyenne – On May 13, Governor Matt Mead unveiled the long-awaited final 2013 Wyoming Energy Strategy.
“We are pleased to announce our energy strategy,” said Mead during the release. “It has taken much longer than we thought, but is well-worth the wait and well-worth the effort.”
As the top energy exporting state in the nation, Mead said, “I started thinking about how important energy is to our country. It seems to me like the federal government does not have a sound energy policy or energy strategy and that is problematic, but before we threw too many stones, I started thinking that we, in Wyoming, need to have an energy strategy.”
Developing a strategy
Mead’s energy strategy, titled “Leading the Charge: Wyoming’s Action Plan for Energy, Environment and Economy,” recognizes Wyoming’s leadership role in setting the standard for energy policy and addressing the interface between energy, the environment and the economy.
“We produce 10.5 quadrillion BTUs (British thermal units) of energy each year in Wyoming. These resources are vitally needed to fuel America’s economy. At the same time our treasures of nature are so important to all who live, work and find inspiration here,” Mead said.
Mead continued, “We cannot sit back and hope for the best. We need a strategy to strike the balance between energy development and environmental stewardship.”
As a result, he began cooperatively working with agriculture, conservation and energy groups, as well as members of the legislature and public officials, to determine what is important related to energy development.
“When you start breaking it down, the strategy highlights the fact that, whether it is water issues, endangered species or habitats for endangered species, so much of this is touched by energy,” said Mead.
Mead also emphasized that the strategy must continue to stand the test of time and is a living document.
“It will continually be added on to and changed,” he continued.
Themes and initiatives
The energy strategy is divided into four themes: economic competitiveness, expansion and diversification; efficient, effective regulation; natural resources conservation, mitigation and reclamation; and education, innovation and new technologies.
Each theme is subdivided into initiatives, which are specific action items. There are 47 total initiatives in the strategy.
“Many of the initiatives are simply good government proposals in that we are asking agencies to clearly define and map their permitting processes or to collectively put together a centralized geographic information system so we can make more informed decisions, recognizing the constraints in opportunities that we have,” commented Shawn Reece, a policy advisor to the Governor.
Reece added that they have developed a number of initiatives to further Wyoming’s energy industry and further develop its potential.
“We think there are a number of hallmark initiatives within this strategy, such as development of international trade for Wyoming’s industry, the development of baseline water standards and the development of an approach for hybrid energy solutions,” he explained.
Wyoming’s agriculture interest groups have responded favorably to the strategy, noting that reclamation and working with landowners are particularly important in the strategy.
“I think it has the potential to be good for ag in a couple of ways,” commented Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna.
Bobbie Frank, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, noted, “It is a good strategy and is going in a good direction.”
Magagna further noted that the strategy strengthens and focuses reclamation.
“While some companies have taken reclamation very seriously, other have not, and I think it needs some added focus,” he noted.
“Right now, they are analyzing to see what we need to do in developing reclamation standards,” added Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton, “whether we can accomplish it in rules or we need to do it through legislation.”
Frank commented, “A lot of our districts have a lot of interest in the reclamation portion, so we will be involved as they start to hash out the specifics further down the road.”
She also noted that consistent statewide reclamation standards are top priority for conservation districts across the state.
Hamilton said, “The other aspect of the strategy is in making sure there are landowners agreements in place.”
“I think it has the potential to diminish some of the conflicts that we see today, to the extent that it puts more focus on a more collaborative process of having landowners involved and having their needs considered,” commented Magagna.
“The broader themes in the strategy that include conservation will provide a good platform for which to have more meaningful discussions between our ag and energy industries to addresses that are of mutual concern, but haven’t gotten the attention they need,” he added.
“It is nice to see the leadership pulling all of this together, looking at the big picture and breaking it down to specifics to make sure we have solid energy strategy, combined with good resource management and good influence in land planning,” commented Frank.
Each year, the energy strategy will be amended to reflect the latest in concerns for each theme. This year, to obtain feedback, Reece states that energy roundtables will be held throughout the state to collect feedback and discuss the progress of the strategy.
“We look forward to working closely with the legislature to make sure we are in concert and this energy strategy is a collective strategy through the entire state,” added Reece.
“I look forward to working with legislators, local officials and the public on executing this year’s initiatives, refining our process and making this an even more useful tool next year,” Mead said.