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State lawmakers urge Lummis to assist with energy industry issues

Jun 19, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The impact of federal action to Wyoming industry was at the center of discussions between Wyoming legislators, U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and her legislative director, Pete Obermueller, during a meeting of the state's Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee last week in Riverton.

Obermueller talked about "federal intrusions into Wyoming" via telephone during the meeting. He was responding to state Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, who illustrated the impact of federal regulations can have on employment in Wyoming.

"There were 250 jobs at the start of this year in Casper related to the Powder River Basin and activity related to coal bed methane," Bebout said. "That play is essentially over (because of the) inability to get permits to move forward."

He said companies are shifting their focus and leaving Wyoming for states that don't have as many federal issues to overcome. In an interview Bebout talked about environmental impact statements and sage grouse protections among other obstacles.

He asked Obermueller to continue working as an ally for Wyoming at the federal level. Obermueller serves as executive director of the Congressional Western Caucus, a group form to address the "distinctive concerns facing western and rural communities" according to its website.

"We really need to be working in conjunction with you and particularly the Western Caucus on these issues," Bebout said. "It not only affects Wyoming but all western states, and when you throw in the (Environmental Protection Agency) it affects eastern states as well."

Lummis joined the conversation via telephone, assuring Bebout that her efforts in Congress will be "well-coordinated" with other legislators.

"We plan to do informal meetings to pull together some of the most egregious (problems)," Lummis said. "The proliferation of federal issues, over the past five years especially, (that) are affecting Wyoming in a negative way is astounding."

She said she was glad to hear about the select committee, which began meeting more than a year ago to help strengthen communication between the state and its federal representatives on natural resource issues. Bebout said the committee also works to enhance coordination between the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and other federal employees in Wyoming.

Along with Bebout, who serves as chair, the group includes Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock; Sen. Gerald Geis, R-Worland; Rep Stan Blake, D-Green Riverton; Rep. Norine Kasperik, R-Gillette; and Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper.

Obermueller indicated that state representatives could do a lot to combat federal obstacles as well, since the public tends to be more trusting of lower-level politicians.

"You can speak from a position of trust and authority that can really bolster good public policy in the west and in Washington, (D.C.)," Obermueller said. "You guys have the authority and the approval rating to help advance that cause."

He said public opinion has a big impact when it comes to energy regulations at the nation's capital.

"(With) a lot of these initiatives ... particularly related to energy, it's just as much about the court of public opinion as the policy itself," he said. "We can push the best policy in the world, but if we don't have (core) folks back home ... then we're behind the eight-ball."

He invited the committee to stay in touch with him, especially regarding local impacts of federal regulations in their districts.

"The more information the better," he said. "We can regularly communicate about these things so we know what's going on, on the ground. We can also let you guys know ... what's happening up here (in Washington, D.C.)."

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