State candidates: We need diverse energy
But Wyoming needs to exert more influence over energy extraction, they say.
By Noah Brenner, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 6, 2008
Candidates for the state Legislature called for Wyoming to do more to diversify its energy resources, though some said a lack of transmission capacity was hindering such efforts today.
Candidates for the four seats that represent part of Teton County – House Districts 16, 22 and 23 and Senate District 16 – answered questions Thursday night at Snow King during a forum on environmental issues sponsored by the Wyoming Conservation Voters Education Fund.
“Wyoming’s future regarding energy development has to be broad-based — not only carbon-based resources but also renewables,” said Republican House District 22 candidate Charles Stough of Pinedale. “We need to realize that carbon and extractive-based industries are not going to be as viable and lucrative as they are now in the future and we need to be prepared.”
District 22 includes most of northern Sublette County, Wilson and Hoback Junction in Teton County and Alpine in Lincoln County.
Joe Schloss – a Jackson resident and Republican candidate for House District 16, which includes much of Jackson and Teton Village – said conservation needs to be a part of the state’s energy plan as well as wind.
“We are experimenting with wind energy in various parts of the state, but we are not doing enough,” he said. “Anyone who travels the southern part of the state sees an abundance of wind, and we are just not doing enough to harness it.”
A lack of available transmission capacity is crimping new, renewable energy projects and the state needs to ensure that new transmission projects leave space for sources like solar and wind, said Democratic Rep. Pete Jorgensen, who is seeking re-election to House District 16.
“The state has established a Transmission Authority that is working with other states on permitting for new lines, so I think the apparatus is there,” he said. “One of the challenges on existing infrastructure is the present energy generators don’t want anything on the wires except coal-fired electricity.”
While candidates called for more energy diversification, they also said the federal government is not doing enough to protect the environment during the current oil and gas boom, and it is time for the state to take on a greater role.
“As state legislator, I would fund the Wyoming [Department of Environmental Quality] as much as I could so we could be monitoring these environmental impacts,” said Jim Roscoe, a Wilson resident and Democratic candidate for House District 22. “I would also try to get money for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department so they can also be tracking our wildlife. Those agencies have not been funded as much as they could be.”
State Rep. Dan Dockstader said environmental impacts from energy development affect more than just the animals living near the fields. Dockstader, a Republican from Afton, represents House District 21 and is the only candidate who filed to run for Senate District 16, made up of northern Sublette County, northern Lincoln County and Wilson.
“It’s not only the problems and issue of wildlife; it’s the quality of life for people,” he said. “The state has to ensure and work with the DEQ to make sure emission standards are not surpassed. We need to not only work with DEQ but Game and Fish as well to make sure wildlife corridors are taken care of.”
Schloss said blame for the burgeoning environmental impacts of drilling lie with both the state and federal governments.
“I don’t think the state is doing enough,” he said. “But clearly both the state and federal government have a role in wildlife and natural resources, and I think they both can do a better job in that regard.”
Stough said he thought the state could begin by requiring better reclamation in the energy fields after companies are done drilling.
“Mitigating the impacts of oil and gas starts with effective reclamation, and that is an issue we have not done as good a job as we can,” he said. “The state needs and must insist on effective reclamation no matter who the landowner is.”
Candidates largely dodged a question asking if they supported a main stem dam on the Green River south of Jackson in Sublette County, a plan that the state has studied for more than 50 years.
“Back in the ’70s, Governor Herschler set up the Wyoming Water Development Commission,” Roscoe said. “They have the facilities to analyze and study all our water problems. I would take their advice and analysis into consideration before I made a determination on that dam.”
Dockstader and Schloss also said they were undecided on the issue.
Jorgensen said the plan was completely based on demand for water in the eastern part of the state and he did not support it. Stough did not address the issue during the forum but afterward said he opposed the proposal.
In his opening statement, Schloss said he supported reforming the state property tax system.
Jorgensen said he agreed, but his record on that issue doesn’t necessarily back that up.
Jorgensen has long opposed broad-based property-tax reform and voted against a host of bills introduced in the 2008 Legislature that would have offered across-the-board cuts to property-tax bills.
He voted in favor of a handful of successful bills that changed existing property-tax-assistance programs or expanded them.
When asked about his comments and his voting record, Jorgensen said he has consistently supported property-tax relief that is targeted toward certain groups of people that can show their income is low enough to qualify for assistance.
Donn Wooden of Alpine, who is running against Stough for the Republican nomination for House District 22, and Republican incumbent Rep. Keith Gingery of Jackson, who is the only person who filed to run for House District 23, which includes much of the Town of Jackson as well as Dubois, did not participate in the forum.
To read more about how each candidate views conservation issues, go the Wyoming Conservation Voters Education Fund voters guide at http://wcvedfund.org.