Update from Representative Albert Sommers
by Representative Albert Sommers, House District #20, State of Wyoming Legislature
November 2, 2015
November 1, 2015
Hello Sublette County, on October 22 and 23, I participated in the Joint Minerals, Business, and Economic Development Committee meeting in Cheyenne. We had discussions around outreach to Asia, the Integrated Test Center, landfill remediation, and the President’s Clean Power Plan. We received reports from the University of Wyoming’s School of Engineering, the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Pipeline Authority, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission, and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
David Wendt, President of the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs gave an interesting presentation. His organization wants to be a liaison between Wyoming and the Shanxi Province of China in creating a clean-energy partnership. Wyoming and Shanxi are the two largest coal-producing states in the two largest carbon-emitting nations in the world, and combined they produce 17.7% of the world’s coal supplies. Wendt stated, "Shanxi has comparative advantages in coal gasification, coal conversion, and carbon capture, which they have been doing for years. Wyoming has expertise in geological site characterization, carbon sequestration, and enhanced oil recovery, which it has also been doing for years. In addition, Shanxi has experience building large-scale energy complexes, while Wyoming knows how to combine multiple technologies in smaller-scale hybrid systems." Wyoming is developing an Integrated Test Center that will capture carbon dioxide from Basin Electric’s Dry Fork Station coal-fired power plant and seek ways to transform it into productive new uses. Shanxi could participate in this experimental process and join with Wyoming in conducting feasibility studies to explore the full-scale deployment of its results. I support Mr. Wendt’s efforts, because he is trying to find workable solutions that recognize the importance of coal as an energy resource.
We also heard from Rob Hurless of the University of Wyoming’s Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute on the Integrated Test Center mentioned above. The first tenant in this facility after its completion will be the X-Prize foundation, which has created a multi-million dollar prize for a competition to reduce the carbon footprint of a coal-fired power plant.
The Wyoming Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer Program at the University of Wyoming works with small business entrepreneurs to formulate grant proposals to the Federal Small Business Innovative Research program. The Wyoming Business Council provides assistance to participants in this federal program through the Wyoming Phase 0 Initiative, designed for start-up entrepreneurs. The Subcommittee on Economic Development’s number one recommendation to our committee was a bill to create a small business innovation research matching funds, and this would be accomplished by transferring money from an already existing program. Our committee moved this bill forward. Wyoming is trying to find ways to create new economic development in the state, but not supplant the free market.
We heard from Brian Jeffries of the Wyoming Pipeline Authority, about opportunities for Wyoming to export natural gas abroad. The most talked about route was through the Ruby Pipeline, and then to a potential export facility at Jordan Cove, Oregon.
One of the primary tasks of our committee during my three-year tenure has been to refine landfill remediation programs in Wyoming. We recognize that some communities simply do not have the resources to pay for the 25% match the state has required on landfill cease and transfer projects. We are forwarding a bill that will require the State Loan and Investment Board to evaluate the needs of requesting communities and then determine what level of match the community can afford in developing Cease and Transfer operations.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality gave us several updates, including one on the leakage of TCE (trichloroethylene) into eastern Wyoming’s ground water from former Atlas Missile Sites. Even though the federal government has known about these contamination plumes for several years, they have been very slow to remediate this contamination. TCE was used as a solvent to clean these missile sites, and then was found to be a carcinogen.
Mark Watson of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission updated us on the rules they have out for public comment on bonding for oil and gas activities. One part of the proposed rule would allow the Commission to evaluate the "performance and viability of the new operator" for up to six months after a sale of oil and gas facilities, before releasing the sellers bond. As wells are sold they are often transferred to operators with less capital than the one prior, and this has been one of the biggest failings of the current bonding process. In the coal-bed methane play in NE Wyoming this scenario happened extensively, and the bonds were not sufficient to cover the reclamation and closure of wells. The Commission is making good strides towards providing a balanced solution to this issue.