It seems that now that President Trump has taken office, he is committed to ridding the White House of talk of climate change. This, unfortunately has encouraged Republicans in Wyoming to propose a new bill which essentially makes it illegal to sell clean energy within the state. The bill is sponsored by Wyoming legislators in the state's House and Senate, all of whom represent pro-coal interests and deny climate change. Following the bill, power providers could continue to generate and sell wind and other clean energies to customers outside of Wyoming without a penalty—but they would be hit with a $10 per megawatt hour of energy fee for selling to in-state residents and businesses.
"I haven't seen anything like this before," Shannon Anderson, director of the local organizing group Powder River Basin Resource Council, told InsideClimate News. "This is essentially a reverse renewable energy standard." Nevertheless, climate activists are in doubt that such a bill would actually pass. "I think there will be a lot of concerns about its workability and whether this is something the state needs to do... it seems to be 'talking-point' legislation at this point," said Anderson.
InsideClimate News reports that the new bill mandates utilities to use "eligible resources" to meet 95 percent of the state's electricity needs in 2018 and then all of its power supply in 2019. Eligible sources would include coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, net metering sources (such as rooftop solar or backyard wind projects for homeowners and small business), nuclear and oil. Using power from utility-scale wind, solar and other renewable projects would be outlawed under this legislation.
This comes as a particular blow to energy companies that have already invested in clean energy in the state because Wyoming holds such potential for wind energy. Although almost 90 percent of electricity generated in the state came from coal in September 2016, the latest month with available data, renewable energy (composed mostly of wind) were the second-biggest source, according to ClimateInside.
Even if this bill isn’t (fingers crossed) passed, it may still have an impact in the energy sector of the state by discouraging wind developers from investing in the state. "It's a clear statement the legislature is supporting the traditional sectors of the economy," said Robert Godby, director of University of Wyoming's Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy. Regardless of whether this bill passes, he added, "the fact that it has been run up the flagpole might have some negative consequences."
Bill sponsor Republican Rep. David Miller from Fremont County said when asked about the motivation for the bill, "Wyoming is a great wind state and we produce a lot of wind energy. We also produce a lot of conventional energy, many times our needs. The electricity generated by coal is amongst the least expensive in the country. We want Wyoming residences to benefit from this inexpensive electrical generation.”
The bill’s other sponsors are Senator Larry Hicks (Larry.Hicks@wyoleg.gov/(307) 383-7192); Senator Ogden Driscoll (Ogden.Driskill@wyoleg.gov/(307) 680-5555); Representative Mark Baker (Mark.Baker@wyoleg.gov/(307) 371-5113); Representative Jim Blackburn (Jim.Blackburn@wyoleg.gov/(307) 275-2647); Representative Scott Clem (Scott.Clem@wyoleg.gov/(307) 660-7141); Representative Roy Edwards (Roy.Edwards@wyoleg.gov/(307) 680-4290); Representative Tyler Lindholm (Tyler.Lindholm@wyoleg.gov/(307) 282-0968); Representative Michael K. Madden (Mike.Madden@wyoleg.gov/(307) 684-9356); and Representative David R. Miller (David.Miller@wyoleg.gov/(307) 857-5789). If you oppose this direct attack on clean energy, make your voice known by calling the bill’s sponsors.