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‘Bumbling’ feds blamed in slow energy permitting
Shawn Reese, left, Gov. Matt Mead's policy director, addressed Wyoming legislators June 14. At left is rob Hurless, deputy director of the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Bumbling feds blamed in slow energy permitting

Jun 20, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

A federal energy policy would streamline processes nationwide, a state official said.

There's a flow chart containing myriad energy permitting requirements that Gov. Matt Mead's policy director, Shawn Reese, pointed out to the state Legislature's Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee.

Using the flow chart shown in a consultant's report, Reese called the numerous federal agencies within the national government structure "a bumbling system."

"And lack of coordination getting the federal agencies coordinated is only part of it," he said of immense challenges with energy development permitting in Wyoming. "It's also the state government."

Obstacles standing in the way of ensuring Wyoming's bright but responsible future in the energy industry is one Mead's administration and others are hoping to overcome through the creation of a state energy policy.

"It is important to note we are not operating under a federal energy policy," Reese told the committee meeting at Riverton City Hall on June 14. "We have to ourselves have an energy strategy with a buy-in" from all parties in the state.

Reese said the state energy policy would have a long-range strategy and vision to responsibly develop mineral resources while ensuring conservation and environmental protections for the maximum benefit of citizens.

"It's still very early. All of this is open to discussion. None of it is set in stone," he said.

Earlier in the process the governor selected numerous stakeholders including energy industry companies as well as conservation groups to help develop the plan, Reese told the committee.

The idea was to bring together a "broad enough spectrum of people that don't normally see eye-to-eye," he said. "The governor told the group that he would expect over the next six months this framework would take shape."

He added that Mead is "not interested in a book of policy statements."

Value statements contained in an early draft of the policy include emphasizing Wyoming as a leader in working together to add value to its natural resources while ensuring a sustainable industry and conserving open spaces and wildlife.

Proposed themes include balanced and efficient regulation and administration in Wyoming, marketing and exporting natural resources and education.

"Each one of these themes will become their own planning process," Reese said.

State Rep. James Byrd, D-Cheyenne, asked about the specific stakeholders involved in the policy. Reese said coal, oil and gas companies, land trusts and wildlife groups are integral.

"What we need to do is we need to effectively work through the petroleum association and mining association," Reese said, referring to the state groups.

"The public at large is the biggest stakeholder in this," he said.

State Sen. Stan Cooper, R-Kemmerer, said local government needs to be an active participant in the policy development.

Reese responded that state associations representing county governments and municipalities are active. "It's a huge piece of this puzzle," he said.

Although Mead is a driving force behind the policy's creation, Reese said the plan would extend beyond his administration.

"Yes, it's the governor's desire this would be a long-term framework that would survive past one administration," he said.

State Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, the committee's co-chairman, said the state needs to consider its role within a federal energy policy.

"What I'm hoping you're talking about is how Wyoming fits into that," he said.

Reese said the policy developers have reviewed similar actions by other states, with many of them being "cookie cutter."

The governor said "let's get some diverse stakeholders at the table so we can get the buy-in," Reese said. "Science is going to be key as will technology and education."

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