9 Wyoming rest areas to reopen for the summer travel season (posted 5/6/2021)
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon
Governor Mark Gordon has directed the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) to partner to temporarily reopen and operate nine previously closed rest areas for at least the duration of the 2021 tourist season.
"With the summer season just around the corner, I’m glad we will be able to reopen these facilities to travelers," Governor Gordon said. "We are glad to have this chance to find a temporary solution."
WYDOT and WOT along with the Governor's office will work together to secure a temporary federal funding source to allow the nine rest areas throughout the state to reopen.
"WYDOT is extremely grateful to Governor Gordon and Director Shober for identifying new federal funds to temporarily reopen our rest areas for the tourist season," said WYDOT Director K. Luke Reiner.
Officials closed the rest areas in June 2020 as a cost-savings measure due to budgetary shortfalls.
The nine rest areas include:
Lusk on US 18
Guernsey on US 26
Greybull on US 16
Moorcroft on I-90
Star Valley on US 89
Sundance on I-25
Upton on US 16
Orin Jct on I-25
Chugwater on I-25
"Each of these nine rest areas are a valuable tourism tool, said Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism. "Certainly, a clean facility is important to the visitor experience, but it is also a powerful marketing platform to distribute travel guides and other trip-planning resources. As travelers are stretching their legs, they are also gathering information on local events, attractions, restaurants, campgrounds and lodging, which all can lead to extended stays and increase visitor spending."
The rest areas should reopen ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
Sublette COVID Briefing: May 6, 2021 (posted 5/6/2021)
Sublette County Public Health
The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) has reported 6 new COVID-19 cases in Sublette County since April 29, 2021.
There are currently 5 active cases in Sublette County, with 770 recoveries, and 7 deaths, for a total of 782 cases since the pandemic began.
As of May 6, Sublette County Public Health has fully vaccinated 2,159 people.
5/6/21 — Moderna Vaccine doses given in Sublette County
1st doses = 2,165
2nd doses = 1,949
Total Doses = 4,114
5/6/21— Janssen Vaccine doses given in Sublette County. Sublette County Public Health has resumed administering the Janssen vaccine.
Total Doses Given = 210
If you missed this week’s video briefing, please take a few minutes to watch at the link below. Robin Carnes and Dr. Fitzsimmons talk about local case counts which are continuing to drop, but encourage us all to not delay in seeking help if you are feeling unwell. Plans to move vaccine clinics to smaller venues at the end of May are announced.
Sublette County Public Health Facebook page
Sign up for your COVID vaccine appointment here
Wyoming continues fight against Biden’s oil and gas leasing ban (posted 5/5/2021)
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon
Governor Mark Gordon worked with the Attorney General to file a lawsuit against the Federal de-facto moratorium on oil and gas leasing. This week, the State of Wyoming filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in its lawsuit.
In the filing, Wyoming asks the Federal District Court of Wyoming for an injunction that orders the Secretary to hold quarterly oil and gas lease sales in Wyoming while the case is being considered, and orders the Secretary to hold the March and June 2021 Wyoming federal oil and gas lease sales as soon as reasonably possible.
"The current de facto leasing moratorium is bad policy for Wyoming and contrary to law," Governor Gordon said. "This is a key action to protect the interests of Wyoming and her people."
Filed March 24, Wyoming’s lawsuit states that the Biden Administration’s Executive Order "pausing" oil and gas leasing on Federal lands violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy Management Act.
The Federal government has until June 1, 2021 to file a response brief. A copy of the motion may be found on the Wyoming Attorney General’s website.
2021 Winter Ozone Season concludes (posted 5/5/2021)
No Ozone Action Days or Ozone Outlooks were issued for the 2021 Winter Ozone season
Wyoming DEQ Air Quality Division
PINEDALE, WYOMING – The 2021 Winter Ozone Season in the Upper Green River Basin (UGRB) concluded March 31 after another year of collaborative partnership in planning and implementing strategies to address the potential formation of winter ozone.
Ground-level ozone is a harmful air pollutant that forms when precursor pollution emissions react chemically in the sunlight. Winter ozone formation in the UGRB is uniquely influenced by adequate amounts of precursor emissions, snow cover, temperature inversions, low winds and sunlight.
As in previous years, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s (WDEQ) Air Quality Division (AQD) worked with the Wyoming Department of Health, industrial operators, environmental groups and the general public in evaluating, monitoring and communicating information about the potential for elevated ozone formation.
The AQD’s two dedicated meteorologists assessed weather models and forecasted every day during the season to determine if meteorological conditions favored potential elevated ozone formation.
This Winter Ozone Season, there were no Ozone Action Days or Ozone Outlooks issued by the AQD’s Ozone Team indicating the possibility of meteorological conditions that could favor elevated ozone formation.
Snow depth is one meteorological condition that is considered in forecasting for elevated ozone. The UGRB snowpack was low-to-moderate for the 2021 Winter Ozone Season.
The AQD’s Monitoring Section monitored air quality conditions at long-term and seasonal locations throughout the UGRB and determined that ozone levels remained below the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) throughout the 2021 Winter Ozone Season.
"I am pleased with all of the work that our AQD staff undertook during this Winter Ozone Season and the continued dialogues and communication with all of our stakeholders," AQD Administrator Nancy Vehr said.
"Addressing winter ozone in the UGRB is always a collaborative effort."
Although Winter Ozone Season has concluded, the general public can still access near-real-time monitoring conditions not just in the UGRB, but statewide, by visiting WyVisNet (www.wyvisnet.com).
U.S. Dept. of Education issues proposed rule prioritizing Critical Race Theory Curriculum in K-12 schools (posted 5/3/2021)
Public comment on Federal rule accepted until May 19
State Superintendent Jillian Balow
MAY 4, 2021 - Below is a SPECIAL STATEMENT from Wyoming State Superintendent Jillian Balow on Proposed U.S. Department of Education Rule Prioritizing Critical Race Theory Curriculum in K-12 Schools
STATE SUPERINTENDENT JILLIAN BALOW'S STATEMENT ON PROPOSED U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION RULE PRIORITIZING CRITICAL RACE THEORY CURRICULUM IN K-12 SCHOOLS
CHEYENNE - The U.S. Department of Education has proposed priorities for American History and Civics Education grant programs published in the Federal Register. Those priorities include encouraging districts to use curriculum related to divisive author Ibram X. Kendi and the New York Times "1619 Project." This is an alarming move toward federal overreach into district curriculum and should be rebuked across party lines.
The draft rule is an attempt to normalize teaching controversial and politically trendy theories about America’s history. History and civics should not be secondary to political whim. Instead, history and civics instruction should engage students in objective, non-partisan analyses of historical and current events. For good reason, public schools do not promote particular political ideologies or religions over others. This federal rule attempts to break from that practice and use taxpayer dollars to do just that.
America needs to update and renew our expectations for teaching and learning about history and civics. Every school board, state legislature, and state superintendent should be working to build local consensus about what should be taught and what materials to use in classrooms. Every family should be engaged in activities that ensure the rising generation is properly prepared to be informed citizens. Every student deserves a rich and engaging education about America’s triumphs, treacheries, losses, and victories. Our touchstone is our shared principle that all Americans have infinite value and individual freedom and responsibility. We must strive to find common goals and values as a nation, not tear each other and our country apart.
The proposed federal rule is open for public comment until May 19 and can be accessed here Proposed Priorities – American History and Civics Education, or by using the Google search for "Federal Register American history and civics education." I intend to comment, and I urge you to research the issue and comment if compelled.
Editor’s Note: Critical Race Theory asserts that there is broad societal racism due to white supremacy and is supported by the power of law as a social construction. Studies along this line examine social, cultural and legal issues focusing on the belief there is inherent racism in our society and ingrained social injustice problems and cultural assumptions related to alleged white supremacy.
Critical Race Theory Wikepedia
Sublette COVID Briefing: April 30, 2021 (posted 4/30/2021)
Sublette County COVID-19 case count. The county has a 98%+ recovery rate from this disease.
25% of Sublette County adults vaccinated
Sublette County Public Health
The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) reported 11 new COVID-19 cases in Sublette County since last Friday’s briefing. There are currently 17 active cases in Sublette County, with 752 recoveries, and 7 deaths, for a total of 776 cases since the pandemic began.
As of April 29, Sublette County Public Health has fully vaccinated 2,059 people. According to data from the Wyoming Department of Health, as of April 26, Sublette County has fully vaccinated 25.52% of our adult population over the age of 18, compared to 64.81% of Teton County’s adult population and 31.04% of Sweetwater County’s adult population.
4/29/21 — Moderna Vaccine Doses given in Sublette County
• 1st doses= 2,135
• 2nd doses= 1,874
• Total Doses = 4,009
4/29/21— Janssen Vaccine doses given in Sublette County. Clinics are being scheduled for next week for Johnson & Johnson vaccine--see sign up information below.
• Total Doses Given = 185
If you missed this week’s video briefing, please take a few minutes to watch at the link below. Janna Lee talks about different vaccines and how they work in our bodies, she also announces the implementation of a new vaccine registration system. Dr. Fitzsimmons explains that mRNA vaccines do not alter or change our DNA. April 28, 2021 Sublette COVID-19 community weekly update
Sign up for your COVID vaccine appointment at https://www.sublettewycovid.com/vaccines
Fraud reports surface related to WDH information breach (posted 4/30/2021)
Wyoming Department of Health
The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) is warning residents about fraudulent calls from people falsely claiming to represent the department in connection to a recently announced WDH health information breach.
WDH recently described a mistaken exposure of laboratory test result data involving more than 164,000 Wyoming residents and others including hundreds from Colorado. The incident involved COVID-19 and influenza test result data and breath alcohol test result files mistakenly uploaded by an employee to private and public online storage locations on servers belonging to GitHub.com.
Jeri Hendricks, Office of Privacy, Security and Contracts administrator with WDH, said the department is hearing reports of Wyoming residents receiving fraudulent calls from people claiming to represent the department in connection with the breach.
"The callers falsely claim to represent us, say they are calling about the breach and then ask the individuals they’ve reached for insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or other financial information. In some instances, it seems they have been able to make it appear as if the calls are coming from state government phone numbers," Hendricks said.
"No one representing the department will ask you for insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or personal financial information. No one representing the department will call you about the breach unless they are returning a call you made to us first," Hendricks said.
Hendricks emphasized the affected files did NOT contain social security numbers, or banking, financial, health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid information but did include name or patient id, address, date of birth, test results and dates of service.
A special WDH information line dedicated to the breach has been established at 1(833) 847-5916. The phone line is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
WDH has advised Wyoming residents who received COVID-19 or influenza tests anywhere in the United States between January 2020 and March 9, 2021 but who do not receive a written notice within the next two weeks to call the information line to learn if their information was involved. In addition, anyone who received a breath alcohol test performed by law enforcement in Wyoming between April 19, 2012 and January 27, 2021 who doesn’t receive a letter should also call.
A year of free IdentityForce protection has been offered by WDH to people affected by the breach. IdentityForce provides advanced credit and dark web monitoring, along with identity theft insurance and medical identity theft coverage. Affected individuals can call the WDH information line at 1(833) 847-5916 for an IdentityForce verification code to allow online enrollment for the service.
Scams related to the health information breach should be reported to the Consumer Protection Unit in the Wyoming Attorney General’s office by calling 307-777-6397, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by submitting formal complaints online.
An official WDH notice about the breach can be found online at https://health.wyo.gov/admin/privacy/.
New Oil and Natural Gas Study published of the Greater Green River Basin's Subsurface Geology (posted 4/30/2021)
Wyoming State Geological Survey
Oil and gas production in the Greater Green River Basin of southwestern Wyoming has historically been from conventional, high-porosity reservoirs within well-defined traps. However, developments in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have shifted the overall focus of exploration in Wyoming toward geographically extensive, low-porosity and permeability unconventional reservoirs.
In response to this shift, the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) has published a new oil and natural gas study about the Greater Green River Basin’s subsurface geology. The study establishes a baseline dataset for the stratigraphy and geometry of potential unconventional reservoirs, including the Lewis Shale, Baxter-Hilliard shales, Niobrara Formation, Mowry Shale, and Phosphoria Formation.
"In 2019, 62 percent of the natural gas and 13 percent of the oil in Wyoming was produced from reservoirs in the Greater Green River Basin (GGRB)," says WSGS Director and State Geologist, Dr. Erin Campbell. "Publicly available data on the distribution and thickness of established and potential reservoirs is essential for guiding future exploration in this important region."
For the study, WSGS geologists interpreted the depths to formations, or "formation tops," in more than 2,650 geophysical well logs for formations ranging in age from the Precambrian to the Eocene. The formation tops were used to define type logs for several subregions of the GGRB, generate contour maps of formation structure and thickness for key stratigraphic intervals, and populate WSGS’s spatial database of subsurface oil and gas geology. The study’s dataset also contains well-header information and downhole temperatures for selected wells.
The database is available on the Interactive Oil and Gas Map of Wyoming, where users can view the formation tops and contour maps alongside other GGRB wells, oil and gas fields, and infrastructure. The well data and formation tops are downloadable in tabular format directly from the interactive map. Any future corrections to the dataset will be entered into the WSGS database and automatically updated in the interactive map.
"The interactive oil and gas map aims to be the central location on the web where the public can readily access our agency’s oil and gas data," says WSGS geologist Derek Lichtner. "Whether you’re interested in geologic structure or oil and gas fields and infrastructure, the online map is a good place to start any basin-scale investigation."
The 31-page Open File Report 2021-1—Greater Green River Basin Formation Tops Database, Structure and Thickness Contour Maps, and Associated Well Data, with a focus on Potential Continuous Reservoirs—is available as a free download from the WSGS website. The WSGS welcomes input and discussion, as its geologists hope to continually refine and expand the dataset.
Restaurant Revitalization Fund applications open May 3 (posted 4/28/2021)
Emergency assistance for eligible restaurants, bars, food-related businesses impacted by COVID-19
The American Rescue Plan Act established the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) to provide funding to help restaurants and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. This program provides emergency assistance for eligible restaurants, bars, and other qualifying businesses impacted by COVID-19. This program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023. Registration for the SBA application portal will begin on Friday, April 30, 2021, at 9 am ET. Applications will open on Monday, May 3, 2021, at noon ET.
Eligible entities who have experienced pandemic-related revenue loss include:
• Food stands, food trucks, food carts
• Bars, saloons, lounges, taverns
• Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars
• Bakeries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Breweries and/or microbreweries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Wineries and distilleries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Inns (onsite sales of food and beverage to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
• Licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products
More info: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/restaurant-revitalization-fund#section-header-7
Wyoming statewide Public Health Orders continued (posted 4/28/2021)
In effect through May 16th
Wyoming Department of Health
Wyoming’s two remaining COVID-19 statewide public health orders are being continued again for two more weeks, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
Mask use and physical distancing requirements related to educational institutions remain. Indoor events of more than 500 people may be held at 50 percent of venue capacity with specific mask protocols for large indoor events.
WDH recommends masks in indoor public places when common-sense physical distancing cannot be maintained among people who don’t live in the same household.
Estimates show nearly 25 percent of Wyoming’s population has been fully vaccinated so far, including 32 percent of adults 18 and over and more than 55 percent of adults 65 and over.
The updated orders, which go into effect May 1 and remain through May 16, can be found online here.
Information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in Wyoming can be found here.
Game and Fish seeks feedback on aquatic invasive species rapid response plans (posted 4/27/2021)
22 plans open for review – public comment accepted until May 16, 2021
Wyoming Game & Fish
For more than a decade the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has prioritized keeping aquatic invasive species (AIS) out of the state’s lakes and reservoirs. But, as the threat of zebra and quagga mussels grow, Game and Fish is taking extra precautions to prepare. This spring, the department is rolling out rapid response plans to help act quickly if AIS are discovered, and wants feedback from the public.
Game and Fish is taking public comments until May 16 on 22 proposed plans for lakes and reservoirs throughout the state. Plans and an online feedback form are available on the AIS website.
If AIS like zebra or quagga mussels are discovered in a Wyoming waterbody, these plans shift AIS management to contain the mussels while preventing further spread in Wyoming and across the West.
"These plans, if needed, will focus on containment and preventing the further spread of zebra or quagga mussels through coordination, education and monitoring, along with watercraft inspections and decontamination," said Josh Leonard, Game and Fish aquatic invasive species coordinator. "In most locations, if mussels are found, there will be limited access points and opportunities to launch watercraft initially during the first year, and shore launching of watercraft may be prohibited. Check stations will be strategically relocated at highway pinch-points to intercept all watercraft traveling to and from the reservoir."
Rapid response plans were drafted for the bodies of water in Wyoming based on the high likelihood for zebra or quagga mussel introduction. Those criteria include high boater use, particularly by out-of-state boaters, and water with chemical and physical characteristics that favor zebra or quagga mussel survival and colonization.
In all, Game and Fish will have 23 rapid response plans. Flaming Gorge Reservoir was the first of the series, released earlier in 2021.
Kevin Gelwicks, Game and Fish assistant fisheries management coordinator, said department fisheries biologists have spent a considerable amount of time drafting these plans, which detail the equipment, personnel and other resources that will need to be put in place to combat a mussel detection.
"Development of these plans has been a valuable exercise and has heightened our awareness of what is at stake if mussels ever become established in Wyoming. Now, hopefully we can put these plans on the shelf and never have to use them," he said.
To review and provide feedback on, visit the AIS rapid response plan webpage.
Feedback Survey & Fremont Lake plan summary
Barrasso: Energy production on Federal lands is critical to Wyoming, Western States & the Nation (posted 4/21/2021)
‘President Biden’s plan to end oil and gas leasing on federal lands will devastate the economies and communities of Wyoming, New Mexico, and many other states.’
Senator Barrasso media release
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today (April 27, 2021), U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to examine energy development on federal lands, focusing on the current status of the Department of the Interior’s onshore oil and gas leasing program.
The hearing featured testimony from Ms. Nada Culver, deputy director of policy and programs at the Bureau of Land Management at the U.S. Department of the Interior; the Honorable Mark Gordon, governor of the state of Wyoming; the Honorable Brian Vallo, governor of the Pueblo of Acoma; Ms. Vicki Hollub, president and chief executive officer of Occidental Petroleum; and Ms. Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
"Thank you Governor Gordon –great to see you again. Thanks for being here.
"Wyoming is the energy capital of the United States.
"We have it all – oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, renewables.
"Wyoming’s energy has powered this nation for decades.
"Today, Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West is under attack.
"One of President Biden’s first actions was to ban new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.
"Make no mistake – this is not a ‘pause’ or ‘review’ – this is a ban and currently, there is no end in sight.
"Why did the President take this action?
"His administration is intent on ending oil and gas leasing on federal lands.
"How do we know that?
"President Biden picked a secretary of the interior that was on record opposing oil and gas production on federal lands.
"Since her confirmation – she has said that federal oil and gas leasing is ‘fundamentally broken.’
"I completely disagree with her.
"Oil and gas production on federal lands is subject to some of the most stringent regulations in the world.
"That’s the reason oil and gas companies have long favored investing in state and private lands instead of federal lands.
"Oil and gas leasing isn’t broken, but it is harmed by existing regulations that discourage investment in federal lands.
"For decades, oil, natural gas, and coal production on federal lands has brought tremendous benefits to the people of Wyoming and other western states.
"It has provided rural communities tens of thousands of jobs at wages well above the national average.
"Oil, natural gas, and coal production has ended generational poverty for families in the West.
"It has enabled Wyoming, New Mexico, and other states to provide high quality K through 12 public education and a college degree to tens of thousands of young people, whose families would not have been able to afford it.
"These are benefits that solar and wind energy will never be able to replicate.
"In 2019, oil and natural gas leasing and production on federal lands generated about $4.2 billion dollars.
"Half of that money went to the federal treasury.
"Almost half the money went back to western states.
"More than a quarter of all of the money went to New Mexico alone.
"In contrast, wind and solar on federal lands have generated no more than $22 million in any given year.
"President Biden’s plan to end oil and gas leasing on federal lands will devastate the economies and communities of Wyoming, New Mexico, and many other states.
"The Biden administration is represented at today’s hearing.
"I’m afraid we are going to continue to hear the same misleading statements we have heard from the administration in the past.
"One of those statements is that federal lands account for 25 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
"In fact, oil and gas operations on federal land release less than one percent of our nation’s greenhouse gasses.
"Another misleading claim is that taxpayers are not getting their fair share.
"Administration officials say that royalty rates on state and private lands are higher than those on federal land.
"They fail to point out or explain that the permitting requirements and the restrictions on the use of federal land are far more stringent and expensive to comply with than those on state and private land.
"Increasing royalty rates will only further discourage oil and gas companies from investing in federal programs.
"Finally, we may hear that oil and gas companies are stockpiling leases.
"Oil and gas companies cannot just sit on leases.
"They must actively work to develop oil and gas or return their leases to the federal government.
"That process takes years in getting the permitting, and the right of ways needed to actually explore for the energy.
"But it’s well worth the time because energy production on federal lands is critical to local communities, to western states and to the nation.
"Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important meeting."
Wyoming joins 10-State lawsuit against Biden over his Social Cost of Carbon Executive Order (posted 4/22/2021)
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon
Wyoming has joined Louisiana and 8 other states in a lawsuit to prevent the Biden Administration from implementing an act of job-killing executive overreach that threatens to impose more burdens and harms on the American people.
Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are by-products of everyday activities in America today, including the production of electricity, natural gas, farming operations, a wide variety of industrial activities, the production of cement and other construction materials, and waste disposal. They are among the most common and prevalent byproducts of human economic activity.
In a recent Executive Order, President Biden established a "working group" made up of ederal appointees required to establish a damages value based upon global environmental damages from climate changes. These values are referred to as the "social cost of carbon," the "social cost of methane" and the "social cost of nitrous oxide." The methods used to calculate these values are deeply flawed, dramatically inflate the alleged costs associated with these gases, and ignore the corresponding benefits of the underlying economic activity.
Nevertheless, the President is requiring federal agencies to immediately begin quantifying the "global damage" of releasing carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide using these flawed numbers.
"This Executive Order improperly changes how decisions are made by applying a selective and highly biased feel-good rationale that has the potential to significantly harm industries critical to the nation’s and my state’s livelihood," Governor Gordon said. "Arbitrarily justifying any decision to fit political circumstances, including decisions that could be devastating to Wyoming’s energy sector, is not only bad policy, but is unwise."
The executive order has wide-ranging impacts on decisions made by virtually every federal agency, including the Departments of Interior, Commerce, Energy, Agriculture, Transportation, Environmental Protection, Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the U.S. Treasury. It is a very real thumb on the scale against the activities that make Wyoming and the nation’s economy successful. Through this suit Wyoming and its sister states seek to prevent President Biden and the federal government from using these inflated values in their decisions.
In addition to Louisiana and Wyoming, the following states joined in the lawsuit filed this morning in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia.
A copy of the lawsuit may be found here.
BLM decides to not hold lease sales in the 2nd quarter of 2021 (posted 4/21/2021)
Decision does not impact existing operations or permits for valid, existing leases
Bureau of Land Management
(4/21/2021) The Interior Department’s ongoing review of the federal oil and gas program is assessing compliance with applicable laws and, as directed by Executive Order 14008, reviewing whether the current leasing process provides taxpayers with a fair return.
Based on our ongoing review, the Bureau of Land Management is exercising its discretion to not hold lease sales in the 2nd quarter of Calendar Year 2021. This decision does not impact existing operations or permits for valid, existing leases, which continue to be reviewed and approved. The BLM remains committed to managing our programs in a way that restores balance on public lands, creates jobs, and provides a path to align the management of America's public lands with our nation's climate, conservation, and clean energy priorities.
On January 27, 2020, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crises at Home and Abroad (E.O. 14008). Section 208 of E.O. 14008 mandates that "the Secretary of the Interior shall pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands . . . pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices in light of [her] broad stewardship responsibilities over the public lands . . . , including potential climate and other impacts" and to "consider whether to adjust royalties." The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 provides the Secretary of the Interior discretion regarding whether to lease Federal lands and, as a result, whether to identify eligible lands that are available to be included in quarterly lease sales. This discretion has been delegated to the Bureau of Land Management.
The ongoing review is assessing, among other issues, whether the current leasing process provides taxpayers with a fair return for extraction of the Nation’s oil and gas resources; how to ensure it complies with applicable laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, and the United States’ trust responsibilities; and how it will take into account climate change and environmental justice. In recent years, courts have found the current leasing process in violation of various governing laws, invalidating both the BLM’s guidance and a number of lease sales. In connection with the review, the BLM will analyze and ensure that any future leasing complies with applicable law— including requirements for evaluating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts—to better withstand administrative and judicial review. The comprehensive review required by E.O. 14008 has the potential to identify and recommend solutions for serious deficiencies in the leasing regime.
The Trump administration conducted a fire sale of public lands and waters, offering more than 25 million acres onshore during the past four years, 5.6 million of which were purchased. Offshore, more than 78 million acres were offered for lease to oil, gas, and mineral development offshore, and only 5 million acres were purchased.
Governor Gordon comments on BLM announcement to not hold 2nd Quarter lease sale (posted 4/21/2021)
The Governor will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 27
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon
(4/21/2021) Governor Mark Gordon issued a statement in response to an announcement today (Wednesday, April 21, 2021) from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to not hold its second quarter oil and gas lease sale.
"The announcement by the Bureau of Land Management "to not hold" the second quarter oil and gas lease sale due to an ongoing review ordered by President Biden is disappointing, disheartening and not surprising. Federal reviews of anything typically take months, and sometimes years.
What is most disappointing is that the Department of Interior could have chosen to review the federal oil and gas leasing program while conducting quarterly sales. Instead they chose to tighten the financial choke of revenue that would normally flow to the state from lease sales, all the while refraining from consulting with the very states and communities that are directly impacted by these decisions.
Over the past eight years, Wyoming has received, on average, $35 million annually from oil and gas lease sales on federal lands. This year, we have received zero, because the first and second quarter lease sales have been indefinitely postponed.
Wyoming recently filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Wyoming stating that the postponement is actually a leasing moratorium and is contrary to law. Next week I will testify before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the impacts of this action, and why an oil and gas leasing "moratorium" is unnecessary."
Bridger-Teton National Forest seeks public comment on proposed Forest Plan Amendment (posted 4/21/2021)
45-Day comment period for management of bighorn sheep and domestic sheep & goat grazing
Bridger-Teton National Forest
(4/21/2021) - The Bridger-Teton National Forest is proposing to amend the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan, 1990) concerning the management of bighorn sheep. The Forest Plan currently contains one "standard" specific to bighorn sheep, which focuses entirely on the Darby Herd, reintroduced in 1981; however, this standard does not provide landscape scale protections for the Forest’s bighorn sheep population.
The Forest is beginning scoping for the proposed amendment to the Forest Plan. Scoping is the phase where public input is most influential to the design and development of this proposal. Comments concerning this proposal must be postmarked or received within 45 calendar days after publication of the legal notice, and all comments received will be part of the official record.
"We know that disease outbreak is a threat to bighorn sheep herds and separation of bighorn sheep from domestic sheep and goats as an important management tool for the Forest," said Deputy Forest Supervisor Kevin Khung. "The Forest is initiating the development of a plan amendment based on the need to change the Forest Plan to promote separation for core, native herds and to ensure the viability of bighorn sheep on the Forest," he said.
The Jackson North, Jackson South, Whiskey Mountain, Targhee, and Absaroka herds occur on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. These herds are all considered core, native herds and their protection is emphasized by the state. The Darby Herd also exists on the Forest and it is a reintroduced herd of bighorn sheep. Currently, the Forest Plan direction for bighorn sheep management only addresses the Darby herd and the Forest Plan standard is vague and open to interpretation since there is no geographic delineation of where this standard applies. Additionally, the standard does not apply to core, native bighorn sheep herds which are the State’s highest priority areas for bighorn sheep management.
The BTNF proposes to delete the 1990 Forest Plan standard that states: Reintroduction Areas of Bighorn Sheep Range Standard- On Darby Mountain and Fish Creek in the Big Piney Ranger District where bighorn sheep have been reintroduced, all development activities will be excluded and domestic sheep will not be restocked.
The current Forest Plan standard would be replaced with the Bighorn Sheep Conservation Standard – Domestic sheep and goats will not be restocked on allotments that overlap core, native bighorn sheep home ranges as delineated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
This plan amendment is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 40 CFR 1500), the National Environmental Policy Act Compliance (36 CFR 220) and the National Forest System Land Management Planning and the Pre-decisional Administrative Review Process (2012 Planning Rule, 36 CFR 219 Subpart A and B). The BTNF anticipates preparing an environmental assessment (EA), including the release of a draft EA and an associated designated opportunity to comment. While comments will be accepted at any time during the planning process, to establish standing for eligibility to object, substantive comments must be received during a designated opportunity to comment (36 CFR 219.53(a)).
Electronic comments should be submitted online on the Forest webpage at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58509. Click on the "Comment/Object on Project" link located in the right column.
Written comments may be submitted to:
Forest Supervisor Patricia O’Connor
Bridger-Teton National Forest
P.O. Box 1888
Jackson, Wyoming 83001
The Bridger-Teton NF is not accepting hand-delivered comments currently due to limited office functions as part of precautions in response to the coronavirus. Those who respond to this request for comments will remain on the mailing list for this planning effort.
For information on the Forest, please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/btnf/. Follow the Bridger-Teton National Forest on Facebook @BridgerTetonNF or on Twitter @BridgerTetonNF.
Emergency Rental Assistance Program begins (posted 4/21/2021)
Governor Mark Gordon signed legislation today (Wednesday, April 21, 2021) that officially launches the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) in Wyoming. The program will utilize $200 million in federal funding to cover rent and utility costs for Wyomingites struggling financially due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governor Gordon signed an Executive Order in February directing the Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS) to create the administrative infrastructure for the program so that funds could be distributed quickly upon passage of this authorizing legislation.
"We have seen the need for this stabilizing relief since the federal government created this program in December," Governor Gordon said. "I’m pleased to sign this important legislation, which follows my Executive Order, authorizing the state to responsibly and efficiently administer these funds to Wyoming renters and landlords."
Senate File 118 authorizes DFS to administer the program, which is open to Wyoming renters who meet income eligibility requirements, are struggling to pay rent and/or utilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and can demonstrate they are experiencing housing instability. Applications are scheduled to open online at 8 a.m. on Thursday, April 29 at dfs.wyo.gov/erap.
DFS has created a platform that will quickly process household applications and eligible payments. Local nonprofits will also receive program funding from DFS, so that eligible households can receive help with their applications, as well as a range of other housing stability services. DFS, along with the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, is administering the program, which is managed by a multi-agency Steering Committee.
"We are very thankful to Governor Gordon and the Wyoming Legislature for giving us the opportunity to help families who rent their home to avoid homelessness while recovering from the impacts of the pandemic," Department of Family Services Director Korin Schmidt said. "The program also will help landlords, many of whom are small businesses, avoid financial difficulties when their renters cannot pay."