March 1, 2017
By Todd Wilkinson
Jackson Hole, WY – Whether it’s Yellowstone, Grand Teton, our national forests, wildlife refuges or even private ranches, never in the history of America has preserving land, by keeping its conservation values intact, resulted in huge economic hardship over mid to long-term horizons.
In fact, the most thriving, consistent, and sustainable economic sector in the great state of Wyoming is tourism, fueled by the powerful engine of protected public lands in the northwest quadrant of the state.
As Gov. Matt Mead and the legislature struggle to deal with budget shortfalls to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars—the vast majority related to the state’s misguided gamble on coal—you still hear elected officials spreading the unsubstantiated rumor that environmental protection is costing the state.
Recently, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso and Congresswoman Liz Cheney once again claimed the Endangered Species Act, public review requirements as part of the National Environmental Policy Act, and laws enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have hobbled the Wyoming economy.
While such anti-federal rhetoric certainly resonates with Wyoming voters, there is scant evidence to back it up.
Barrasso and Cheney would have their constituents believe that the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, implemented by EPA to control pollution and carbon emissions, was decimating Wyoming’s low sulfur coal industry. But the Clean Power Plan actually didn’t come on line until late last year.
Many months before, four of the major coal companies doing business in the state declared bankruptcy not because of any environmental regulation, but instead owed to a glut of cheap natural gas and oil that became the fuel of choice for power generators. In fact, competition from these other fossil fuels so undercut the commodity value of coal that companies could barely give it away, much less profitably operate coal export terminals to Asia.
Now using Obama as a convenient foil and President Trump vowing to unlock $66 trillion of oil shale, Barrasso and Cheney are hard-pressed to explain how that strategy, which includes gutting environmental regulations, will advance their cause of reviving Wyoming’s coal future....