SENATE FILE NO. SF0071 details the Electricity Production Standard for the state of Wyoming, and it’s a real doozy. It is being sponsored by two state senators and seven state representatives, all Republicans, of course.
Inside Climate News is calling the bill an attack on clean energy in Wyoming, and possibly the nation. And what’s really absurd is that it is coming at a time when the cost of using clean energy sources has plummeted across the country, as we seek to remedy the impacts of climate change.
There are only six permissible resources allowed for the generation of electricity in the state, coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, something called a “net metering” system, nuclear power and oil. Wind and solar are not included with the exception that they are for individual use only, reports the Star Tribune.
Utility companies are mandated to use the approved sources to meet 95 percent of the state’s electricity needs by 2018 and 100 percent of the state’s power needs by 2019. Bottom line — using power from utility-scale wind, solar and other renewable projects would be outlawed under this legislation.
Now utility companies can sell electricity generated by wind or solar power outside the state without paying a penalty. But they will be charged a fine of $10.00 per kilowatt hour if they give any electricity to state residents.
Wyoming’s dependence on coal
You could believe it when I say many of the lawmakers backing the bill are from top coal-producing counties in the state. Coal production has been the backbone of Wyoming’s economy since the 1970s and has provided the most stable source of tax revenues for the state over the past four decades.
And the proposed legislation is a last ditch effort to save a coal industry that has already been crippled because of plummeting oil, gas and coal prices over the past few years. This is one reason it was so important that Donald Trump win the election in November. With Trump, there was a very good chance that regulations would be rolled back, energizing the coal industry in the state.
Trump’s energy platform is primarily about deregulation, including a promise to kill the Clean Power Plan, which is under consideration by the courts. Under the plan, coal production in Western states would fall by 155 million tons between 2015 and 2040. And two-thirds of that coal comes from the Powder River Basin in northern Wyoming and Montana, according to a story in the Star Tribune in October 2016.