Wyoming is the newest member of a Western energy advocacy group that seeks to promote natural gas production and infrastructure development in the region.
The alliance, called Western States and Tribal Nations, is a collaborative effort to market relatively untapped natural gas resources across the West.
Wyoming formally joined the agreement via a memorandum of understanding at the Utah Governor’s 2019 Energy Development Summit on Thursday in Salt Lake City, which Gov. Mark Gordon attended. The signatory on that agreement is the Wyoming Pipeline Authority.
“This coalition allows us to partner on additional efforts to develop gas responsibly and ensure it is used to meet the energy needs of America and the world,” Gordon said in a press release. “These resources are essential to powering a low-carbon future, and we look forward to the work of this coalition.”
Gordon was a panelist at the Utah Summit. He sat alongside U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to discuss renewable energy’s future and the role of the West in promulgating innovative energy options.
Emily Haggstrom, a spokeswoman for the energy advocacy group Consumer Energy Alliance, said natural gas is part of that future, and the collaboration will help facilitate it.
“The western part of the U.S., from New Mexico to Wyoming to Utah all have substantial energy resources,” she said. “And there is a lot of natural gas stranded in those areas.”
One such area is the Piceance-Uinta basin that spreads across Utah and Colorado. The basin, rich with liquid natural gas, has seen increased drilling in recent years but area governments have struggled to bring it to market. In April, the Colorado and Utah state energy offices, along with the Ute Indian Tribe, which has two reservations in the Uinta basin, commissioned a report through the alliance to research the challenges in making that happen.
With that report, titled “A report on natural gas markets for the Western states and tribal nations,” the coalition was born. The report concluded there is an “abundant energy resource capacity” in the basin that could serve global markets. It recommended building a network of stakeholders to promote expanding natural gas production and infrastructure throughout the West.
Wyoming is part of that, Haggstrom said.
“WSTN recognizes that the state of Wyoming has contributed significantly to past efforts to develop markets for its natural gas producers,” the report reads. “WSTN will solicit membership from the state of Wyoming to join the Board of Directors.”
Gordon’s communication director Michael Pearlman said Wyoming’s involvement gives the state a voice in the ongoing discussions on global natural gas exports.
“Wyoming’s role at this time is to be part of the process of exploring new end markets for natural gas ... and help to develop the framework for facilitating conversations between stakeholders,” Pearlman wrote in an email.
Those stakeholder conversations will focus on three primary goals: education, advocacy and collaboration, Pearlman said.
He added that being part of the group gives Wyoming access to a wider breadth of resources and practices by tying Wyoming’s energy initiatives to that of the group.
The alliance’s chief operating officer Andrew Browning said that’s the goal.
“There’s kind of strength in unity,” Browning said, adding that the collaboration will make it easier for those involved to tackle global markets and political hurdles, where individually they may face more challenges.
The coalition established itself as a nonprofit in May, Browning explained. The next steps are to meet as a whole group and develop a strategic plan. He said the broad goals are to address rural economic development, tribal self-determination and natural gas flaring and other environmental concerns.
Currently, the group is looking to include a wide range of stakeholders, including federal and state government representatives, energy exporters, trade associations, conservation groups and other relevant parties.
Browning said the Consumer Energy Alliance is talking to several Western universities about holding a forum this fall on global natural gas exports. He said they hope to build a broader positive narrative around natural gas.