CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is pushing forward with development of an energy policy for the state, saying he can't keep criticizing the federal government for failing to chart the nation's energy future without having the state's own house in order.
Energy is the economic lifeblood of Wyoming, a leading producer of coal, uranium and other resources. Taxes on energy production fund the bulk of government operations in the state, which imposes no personal or corporate income tax.
Yet Wyoming also has to deal with the effects of the industry. For example, biologists for years have said drilling and other development have caused sharp declines in the population of sage grouse in Wyoming and elsewhere.
State officials are anxious to avoid seeing the bird listed as an endangered species in coming years, which could crimp energy production.
Mead's staff has been meeting with Wyoming energy companies as well as conservation groups and others since early summer to get development of an energy policy rolling.
Shawn Reese, Mead's policy director, said Monday the planning process has identified four major themes for the policy: Economic competiveness; efficient regulation; natural resource conservation; and development of new technologies.
Reese said the governor's office intends to release a number of draft initiatives in coming weeks to be followed by public meetings in early December.
Mead previously said initiatives must be specific enough for state government to be accountable in executing the strategy.
"I am enthusiastic about the support and interest in this strategy, and I think it can serve as a way for Wyoming to find a true balance," he said.
Reese said one initiative under consideration is development of a geographic decision-making tool. While various Wyoming agencies have a lot of good data, he said it's never been combined into a single map.
An energy policy also will give developers a clearer picture of the process, Reese said.
"I think you'll have better tools that will help you make a better informed decision, so that you're not impacting whatever cultural resource or wildlife, in that you have other options available for development to happen, so that we're preserving things that Wyoming holds dear, tools that you may not have right now," he said.
Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said he's glad to see Mead developing the policy.
"I would like to see the federal government come up with a policy, but for whatever reason, they've failed to do so," Hinchey said.
Marion Loomis, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, also believes it's important for the federal government to develop an energy policy.
"It's fine to promote renewables and new technologies, but you have to recognize how much energy we use in this nation," he said. "If you try to replace half of the coal burned with something new, what are you going to get that can generate 1 trillion kilowatt hours on a reliable, affordable basis? There just isn't anything out there."
Richard Garrett with the Wyoming Outdoor Council said his group has been making the case that a state energy policy ought to recognize that some areas are too important for wildlife or scenic value to be appropriate for energy development.
"I'm not sure we're going to be successful at that, but that's one of our goals," Garrett said.