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Mark Gordon

Gov. Mark Gordon talks with staff members Dec. 17 at his transition office in Cheyenne.

Gov. Mark Gordon explained in his official notice to the Secretary of State on Friday why he vetoed a coal export terminal bill that would have allowed the Wyoming Legislature to sue Washington state.

The bill would have funded a potentially $250,000 lawsuit by Wyoming, through private attorneys, against Washington and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee for refusing to grant a water permit to a proposed coal export terminal, which essentially killed the proposal.

Under former Gov. Matt Mead, Wyoming filed a friend of the court brief in an existing lawsuit against Washington over the port. The vetoed bill would have given the Legislature the authority to pursue a stronger course: new and independent litigation.

Gordon noted in the letter that the Legislature acting apart from the state’s attorney general’s office could be problematic.

“Giving courts the impression that two branches of Wyoming government might be second-guessing one another -- in fact potentially litigating over the top of one another -- would be counterproductive to our best efforts to protect Wyoming’s interests,” the governor wrote.

As in previous comments, the governor noted that he supported the bill’s intent to support coal exports, but raised concerns that the legislative power to litigate would have set “an unprecedented path -- absent compelling reason -- encouraging the legislature to take a potentially different course from that the state is already pursuing.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, noted after the governor’s veto announcement Friday that given the governor’s late decision lawmakers no longer had the opportunity to overturn the veto. Gray said he would continue to pursue the bill. He first introduced a coal export litigation measure in the 2018 session, which failed.

Gray said Monday that he felt like criticisms of the bill missed its point. The bill would not overlap with the current legal battle, he said. It would provide a second, stronger option for Wyoming to sue should the current litigation fail, which Gray believes it is likely to do. 

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Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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