New rules for baseline water testing, off-site mitigation and reclamation are among the hallmarks of Gov. Matt Mead’s official strategy for energy management in Wyoming.
Mead unveiled the final list Monday, pared down and a few months later than expected. The list included 47 new measures to be taken, down from the 74 initiatives listed in November. Implementation of each of the 47 will in some way begin this year.
Mead said he expects the document – crafted in close cooperation with energy groups, conservation groups and the public — to be a jumping-off point for his and future administrations.
“We knew at the start that we were never going to put together a document that says, ‘Here it is, and it’s never going to change,’” he said. “It’s a living document.”
The strategy, much like its preliminary predecessor, breaks down energy policy into four basic subgroups – economic competitiveness, expansion and diversification; efficient, effective regulation; natural resource conservation, reclamation and mitigation; and education, innovation and new technologies. Each group contains several steps toward Mead’s ultimate goal for the state.
Among Mead’s planned steps to expand and diversify the state’s economy is an increased emphasis placed on international exports. Mead said his initiative could include coal, oil and natural gas, uranium and other resources.
In the same subsection, Mead also lays out plans to develop recommendations for the expansion of liquefied natural gas production and export, increased supply and demand for compressed natural gas as a vehicle fuel and the permitting of a statewide carbon dioxide pipeline corridor system.
Nearly half the measures in Mead’s plan are aimed at streamlining state regulations.
The second subtopic – related to state rules – includes 21 initiatives. The planned steps cover everything from baseline water testing before oil and gas development to revisiting eminent domain, a law which allows developers to
condemn private land for projects fitting certain criteria. When asked, Mead declined to identify a planned date for groundwater baseline testing, but told reporters he’d like to see a new rule “sooner rather than later.”
The plan also sets into motion a review of state rules relating to flaring – the burning of excess gases during oil and gas development – and other oil and gas environmental rules.
Wyoming’s first mitigation bank – Sweetwater River Conservancy, featured in Saturday’s Star-Tribune – could benefit from the strategy. In its third section, relating to conservation and mitigation, the plan includes the development of a framework for off-site mitigation, a technique in which conservation in one place can offset environmental impacts in another.
The same subtopic also includes possible incentives for developers to work outside core sage grouse areas, development of a state site reclamation standard and further study of the sage grouse.
The fourth and final area sets forth 11 initiatives for energy education, innovation and exploration of new technologies. Among the initiatives identified by Mead’s office were development of a K-12 energy literacy program, development of a refinery safety program and further study of hybrid energy systems, which utilize several resources at once during generation.
Mead said Monday that progress on the initiatives and opportunities to comment on each will be afforded to the public as each is implemented.
Several initiatives are likely to be driven by state agencies, while others may require a legislative change or financial allocation. When asked if 47 may be too many new rules or initiatives, Mead said he thinks the state is capable of accomplishing them all.
“It’s a heavy lift, but we think it’s doable,” he said. “If 47 is too much, we will work on what we can, address what we can, and keep moving forward.”