In the United States, utilities are moving away from fossil fuels amid growing concern about climate change and falling renewable energy costs. Wyoming’s coal industry has been in decline for more than a decade; oil and gas producers are now facing increasing pressure to reduce their emissions. But the state relies on its fossil fuel dollars to fund public services and keep taxes low.
In recent years, Wyoming lawmakers have passed a number of bills intended to help the state defend its economy. Several impose restrictions on retirements from coal-fired power plants. Another, signed into law last year, gives the governor $1.2 million to sue other states that obstruct Wyoming’s ability to export its coal.
With the 2022 budget session came a new round of fossil fuel protection bills. One has been removed. Two others have obtained the necessary two-thirds majority for the introduction and are heading to the committee for consideration.
Senate File 64
Another attempt to keep Wyoming’s coal-fired plants from shutting down died in the Senate on Friday — at the behest of its sponsor.
Senate Docket 64, sponsored by R-Natrona County Sen. Charles Scott, would have mandated the installation of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technology in one or more power plant units at the coal for retirement.
He added to the requirements set by Senate Docket 159 (2019), requiring utilities to attempt to sell facilities before removing them; House Bill 200 (2020), allowing them to pass on some of the CCUS installation costs to taxpayers; and House Bill 166 (2021), directing them to prove that coal shutdowns will not harm ratepayers or grid reliability.
The 2022 bill specifically targeted the Dave Johnston Power Plant, which was slated for retirement in 2027, and the two Jim Bridger Power Plant units slated for early retirement. Both facilities are operated by Rocky Mountain Power.
Scott told the Senate on Friday that he chose to withdraw the bill for several reasons, including ongoing negotiations between the state and the Environmental Protection Agency over air quality regulations. to Jim Bridger. But he is unhappy with existing limitations on retiring coal-fired power plants.
“I will be back next year with an improved bill,” he said, “because the need and the opportunity for the State of Wyoming will always be there.”
House Bill 141
A year ago, House Bill 207 allocated $1.2 million to the governor’s office for coal lawsuits. Its sponsor, R-Platte and Converse Counties Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, now wants to expand the scope of possible litigation through the passage of House Bill 141.
“The verbiage of this bill would open it up to where that $1.2 million could be used to protect our coal industry from the excesses of the federal government, or also from special interest groups that seek to harming our economy through our coal-fired power,” Haroldson told the House ahead of Friday’s introductory vote.
The existing law allows the governor to sue other states that “enact and enforce laws, regulations, or other actions that impermissibly interfere with Wyoming’s ability to export coal or that result in the early retirement of coal-fired power plants.” located in Wyoming”.
This year’s bill would allow existing funds to be used to intervene and defend against lawsuits, and to sue the federal government, not just other states. And it would allow the governor to use the money to sue any action that “results in a decrease in the use of Wyoming coal or the closure of coal-fired power generation facilities that use Wyoming coal.” .
The bill passed its introduction with a 56-4 vote and was referred to the House Minerals, Business, and Economic Development Committee.
Senate File 84
Signs that the federal government may consider raising the royalty rate in the next sale of oil and gas leases have drawn attention to a bill that could mitigate the effects of a rise in royalties in Wyoming. .
Senate Docket 84 would tap into half of the state’s federal mineral royalties to pay back part of the increase to producers. It’s a controversial idea. Funders hope the refunds will keep operators interested in Wyoming, even as the federal government increases costs. Opponents argue that the operators are going nowhere and that Wyoming is unnecessarily turning its back on needed revenue.
The bill, sponsored by the Federal Special Committee on Natural Resources Management, was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday and arrived at the Senate Committee on Minerals, Business and Economic Development on Friday. The committee had a lot of questions — so many that they ran out of time. He is expected to take additional public comments and vote on the bill on Monday.
Sen. Chris Rothfuss of D-Albany County asked about the merits of donating revenue from a royalty increase that would affect new drilling on federal lands nationwide.
“We’ve struggled to find additional revenue for the state for at least the last five years, if not longer,” Rothfuss said. “I would be more comfortable with this concept of trying to strike a balance if the legislature was able to pass additional revenue streams here while we try to balance things out in the minerals sector.”
Sen. Brian Boner, of R-Converse and Platte counties and chairman of the select committee sponsoring the bill, acknowledged Rothfuss’ concerns, but noted that additional royalties would ultimately increase Wyoming’s reliance on extractive industries at a time when the state is seeking to diversify its economy.