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Governor green-lights $1.2M to sue other states for harming Wyoming coal

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CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed House Bill 207 on Tuesday, legislation which will set aside $1.2 million for Wyoming to sue other states for actions which “impermissibly impede Wyoming’s ability to export coal or that cause the early retirement of coal-fired generation facilities located in Wyoming.”

The legislation states that laws enacted by other states transitioning to alternative energy sources hurt Wyoming’s ability to export coal “and disproportionately impact Wyoming’s coal-fired electric generation facilities.”

“These laws may impermissibly burden interstate commerce and may be contrary to federal law regulating the wholesale sale and transmission of electric energy in interstate commerce,” House Bill 207 adds.

The Wyoming House of Representatives amended the legislation to reduce the funding for lawsuits against other states to $500,000, but the Senate restored the full $1.2 million as proposed under the original draft of the bill.

The House concurred with the Senate changes on a vote of 36-24 on April 1. That concurrence vote was as follows:

  • Ayes: ANDREW, BAKER, BEAR, BLACKBURN, CLAUSEN, CRAGO, DUNCAN, EKLUND, EYRE, FORTNER, GRAY, GREEAR, HALLINAN, HAROLDSON, HARSHMAN, HEINER, HUNT, JENNINGS, BARLOW, KNAPP, LAURSEN, D, MACGUIRE, NEIMAN, OAKLEY, O’HEARN, OLSEN, OTTMAN, PAXTON, SIMPSON, STITH, STYVAR, WASHUT, WESTERN, WHARFF, WILLIAMS, WINTER
  • Nays: BANKS, BROWN, BURKHART, BURT, CLIFFORD, CONNOLLY, FLITNER, HENDERSON, KINNER, LARSEN, L, MARTINEZ, NEWSOME, NICHOLAS, OBERMUELLER, PROVENZA, ROSCOE, SCHWARTZ, SHERWOOD, SOMMERS, SWEENEY, WALTERS, WILSON, YIN, ZWONITZER

The Senate passed the bill on a third reading vote of 26-5 on March 31:

  • Ayes: ANDERSON, BALDWIN, BITEMAN, BONER, BOUCHARD, COOPER, DOCKSTADER, DRISKILL, ELLIS, FRENCH, FURPHY, HICKS, HUTCHINGS, JAMES, KINSKEY, KOLB, KOST, LANDEN, MCKEOWN, PAPPAS, PERKINS, SALAZAR, SCHULER, SCOTT, STEINMETZ, WASSERBURGER
  • Nays: CASE, GIERAU, NETHERCOTT, ROTHFUSS

Before the bill moved to the Senate, the House’s third reading vote of 53-7 on March 22 was as follows:

  • Ayes: ANDREW, BAKER, BEAR, BLACKBURN, BROWN, BURKHART, BURT, CLAUSEN, CRAGO, DUNCAN, EKLUND, EYRE, FLITNER, FORTNER, GRAY, GREEAR, HALLINAN, HAROLDSON, HARSHMAN, HEINER, HENDERSON, HUNT, JENNINGS, KINNER, BARLOW, KNAPP, LARSEN, L, LAURSEN, D, MACGUIRE, MARTINEZ, NEIMAN, NEWSOME, NICHOLAS, OAKLEY, OBERMUELLER, O’HEARN, OLSEN, OTTMAN, PAXTON, PROVENZA, SIMPSON, SOMMERS, STITH, STYVAR, SWEENEY, WALTERS, WASHUT, WESTERN, WHARFF, WILLIAMS, WILSON, WINTER, ZWONITZER
  • Nays: BANKS, CLIFFORD, CONNOLLY, ROSCOE, SCHWARTZ, SHERWOOD, YIN

When the bill moved to the Senate, in addition to restoring the $1.2 million, they also adopted an amendment to modify the requirements for the governor and the attorney general to report to Wyoming legislative committees on the status of any litigation using the funding.

Rather than requiring reports every six months, the amendment would require annual reporting of the status of the litigation, expenditures on the litigation and recommendations for future legislation meant to address the topic.

On second reading, Sen. Affie Ellis (Laramie County) offered another amendment which would require that an itemized list of expenditures if the attorney general’s office were to hire outside counsel for litigation using the funds appropriated under the proposed legislation.

She said the amendment would “make sure the legal costs are something the public is aware of.”

But Senate Vice President Larry Hicks (Albany, Carbon, Sweetwater) argued that the amendment was unnecessary as there are already reporting requirements to make information regarding litigation expenditures using public funds available to the public.

“I think that we currently have an adequate system in place,” he said.

Ellis argued that the amendment would provide specificity as to what information needs to be made available to the public, such as the hourly rates attorneys are being paid.

“I just think this clarifies that it is just not some lump sum,” she said.

The Senate defeated this amendment.

The funding under the legislation will come from the state’s General Fund and will be appropriated to the governor’s office “for purposes of commencing and prosecuting lawsuits against other states and other states’ agencies that enact and enforce laws, regulations or other actions” that hamper Wyoming coal exports or which could lead to the early retirement of coal power plants.

The legislation states that Wyoming is “the largest producer of coal in the United States” and that the industry contributes “millions of dollars in taxes and other revenues annually.”

“The State of Wyoming and the coal industry have worked together for years to develop Wyoming’s coal in a safe, clean and responsible manner in order to provide clean and reliable coal that can be exported and utilized for the nation’s energy needs,” the proposed legislation adds. “The export of coal is vital to interstate commerce, the global economy, the economic and proprietary interests of the state of Wyoming and the economic interests of Wyoming citizens”

“Other states in the United States have enacted and enforced laws that have had the result of greatly curtailing the demand for and export of Wyoming coal. As a result, Wyoming’s coal production has decreased, and Wyoming’s coal-fired electric generation facilities are forced into early retirement, harming the state of Wyoming and its citizens.”

House Bill 207 argues that lawsuits challenging laws in other states which restrict the import of Wyoming coal or its use are necessary “to minimize and eliminate further harm of serious magnitude to the economic and proprietary interests of Wyoming and its citizens and to remove barriers preventing Wyoming from engaging in interstate commerce.”

“The economic interests of Wyoming and its citizens will continue to be harmed if other states continue to enact and enforce laws that restrict Wyoming’s ability to engage in interstate commerce and in compliance with federal law concerning the interstate sale and transmission of electricity,” the proposed legislation states.

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