Gov. Gordon Pledges Millions to Put Oil and Gas Workers Back to Work

An oil and gas rig overlooking Wyoming's Wind River Range. (H/t Larry Zuckerman/BLM Wyoming)
An oil and gas rig overlooking Wyoming's Wind River Range. (H/t Larry Zuckerman/BLM Wyoming)

Employment numbers within the oil and gas industry could improve as  Governor Mark Gordon pledges millions of dollars to complete new and sealed off old wells.

The funds, up to $15 million, will come from the newly launched Energy Rebound Program, created with CARES Act funding, to boost employment in the oil and gas industry in addition to assisting Wyoming’s overall economic recovery.

Gordon hopes the funds will serve as a business relief focused on drilled, but otherwise uncompleted oil and gas wells, he stated in a release Wednesday. The funds will also go towards re-completion as well as plugging and abandonment projects that could not be finished due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These funds will have a direct impact on Wyoming’s employment rate and put people back to work in our oil and gas sector which was impacted by COVID-19,” Gordon said. “It will provide opportunities for employees who lost jobs when drilling ceased.”

As the eighth largest oil and gas producing state in the country, Wyoming reportedly felt firsthand the sudden impact of the pandemic across its oil and gas industry. Global demand for oil plummeted, freezing ongoing projects as oil and gas companies reduced their activities to safely halt ongoing drilling and reclamation activities.

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The Energy Rebound Program is expected to provide stimulus to assist Wyoming’s economic recovery, according to the release from the Governor’s office. Under the program, companies will be able to utilize funding to hire crews, order supplies and equipment needed to resume drilling re-completion, plugging, and abandonment projects across the state.

State House Speaker Steve Harshman praised the program as an “excellent use of CARES Act funding,” going on to explain that the act was designed to provide funding to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

“Thank you to the Governor, his staff, and industry leaders for their work on this initiative,” Harshman concluded in a statement. “Working together we can make Wyoming’s future bright.”

Not everyone was thrilled with the announcement of how the funding would be used.

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Although the Powder River Basin Resource Council applauded Governor Gordon’s willingness to use a small amount of Wyoming’s CARE’s funding to put hard-hit oil and gas hands back to work, they suggested Gordon consider plugging and reclaiming orphan wells, for which the state is responsible.

“Completion or re-completion of a few select industry-owned wells is directly interfering in the marketplace and picking winners and losers — things the state should never do,” Powder River Basin Resource Council Board Member Bob LeResche said in an email to County 17 Thursday. “There is no good way or fair way to pick which companies should receive this subsidy of public funds, and which should not.”

Let’s put oil workers back to work on projects with a public purpose, he added, rather than subsidizing select private companies.

Additional details regarding the Energy Rebound Program will be made available by the Wyoming Business Council in the coming days.