CHEYENNE –  Gov. Mark Gordon is taking steps to expand Wyoming’s economic recovery, with a series of proposals and initiatives to further the state’s economic plan by adding value to and bolstering the state’s energy, tourism and agriculture sectors. 

Energy

The governor is redoubling efforts to strengthen Wyoming’s economy and an “all the above” energy industry. Energy and mining are the largest providers of Wyoming’s revenues and have enormous impacts on the state’s wider employment picture as well. The governor’s effort became even more important after last week’s announcement by the Biden administration banning new oil and gas leases. 

The governor supports bills granting severance tax relief to the energy industry  and enhancing the ability of the newly created Wyoming Energy Authority to encourage development of carbon capture technology, trona, rare earth elements and critical minerals. 

“The energy and mining sectors are the major pillars of our economy and they have provided the wherewithal that gives this nation the luxury of looking to new forms of energy,” Gordon said. “Let me be clear: Our traditional industries will adapt and continue to provide the reliable, affordable and dispatchable power they always have, only better. Our economic recovery will hinge on the health of these industries and their ability to adapt to changing market demands. Wyoming can continue to grow even as our mix of energy supplies evolve.” 

“While some are suggesting the early demise of coal – and right now it faces many challenges – we believe that coal coupled with new technologies is an essential part of the solution to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere,” the governor continued. “Carbon capture and the development of carbon byproducts will be part of Wyoming’s energy future. So too, should be efforts to research extracting the rare earth elements and critical minerals associated with coal that will be needed for the batteries powering the anticipated worldwide build-out of wind and solar power.”

Tourism

Tourism continues to be a major driver of the state’s economy and employs the most Wyoming people. 2020 brought in record numbers of visitors, supporting Wyoming businesses and sustaining jobs for residents. HB 58, sponsored by the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources committee, would allow for a $1.1 million general fund reduction to state parks with little to no impact to customer service or safety by allowing them to use self-generated funds (fees) to a greater degree for operations and outdoor recreation, rather than capital construction. This supports our economy and local communities.

“Our state parks provide world-class experiences and opportunities for tourists and residents alike and saw a statewide increase of roughly 36% in visitation last year, a trend that is expected to continue into 2021,” Gordon said. “It’s critical to ensure we continue to properly fund these parks and historic sites, which play a critical role in our state’s economy.”

Agriculture

Multiple bills related to meat processing are being considered at this time and the governor is working with the legislature to expand processing capacity in the state. 

“This is only a part of an ambitious initiative focused on adding value to products across the entire spectrum of agricultural enterprise,” said Gordon. “This effort is essential to grow this key part of our economy.”

Of particular interest to both the governor and the first lady is HB 52, the Wyoming School Protein Enhancement Project, sponsored by the Joint Agriculture Committee. Not only would this bill help school districts increase Wyoming meat products in school nutrition programs, it would provide another opportunity to feed children who do not get enough to eat every day, a major emphasis of the First Lady’s Hunger Initiative. 

The governor welcomed the passage of HB 53, Invasive Plant Species, today. The legislation would implement several of the recommendations made in the final report of the governor’s Invasive Species Initiative and allow local districts more latitude when implementing special management programs for invasive species. 

Senator Tara Nethercott, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Speaker of the House Eric Barlow are developing a bill to improve the attorney general’s civil enforcement authority in antitrust matters, providing a much-needed update to the state statute meant to ensure fair competition within Wyoming’s marketplace. In 2020, Wyoming ranchers were adversely impacted by consolidations and acquisitions within the broader agriculture industry. However, the state was barred from investigating these actions because current state antitrust laws do not allow the attorney general to investigate potential violations.

Barlow and Nethercott’s bill ensures that Wyoming will not need to rely on other states or the federal government to assert our residents’ interests in a competitive market which benefits businesses and consumers alike. The bill will not only benefit our agriculture industry, but will ensure fair competition across all markets in Wyoming, the governor said. 

“Protecting our ranching and agricultural community is more important now than ever with Wyoming’s challenging economic outlook,” Nethercott said. “The market manipulation we have seen this past year highlighting our nation’s meat prices is harmful to Wyoming producers and consumers.  I am proud to sponsor this bill to empower our attorney general to act first in protecting all of Wyoming’s industries and consumers from these unlawful practices.”

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