Gov. Mark Gordon and Wyoming’s congressional delegation allege political prejudice in state’s exclusion from the Build Back Better Challenge.
Wyoming’s exclusion from a list of 60 finalist communities and entities competing for federal grants under the Build Back Better Regional Challenge program is without merit and politically motivated, Gov. Mark Gordon and all three Wyoming congressional delegates said.
Like Wyoming, no applicants were selected from North Dakota or Montana, which also face a transition away from coal — a key determining factor of the federal stimulus program.
Gordon, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis — all Republicans — derided the Biden administration in a press release issued from the governor’s office within hours of the announced finalists on Monday.
“I am furious that this administration has turned its back on the number one coal-producing state, but given their track record to date, I am not surprised,” Gordon said in the release. “These decisions are clearly political and not based on merit.”
The blanket rejection of all Wyoming applications, Barrasso added, “is a slap in the face to our coal communities, energy workers and their families. Either this was a terrible oversight that can be quickly corrected, or it was another direct, intentional assault on Wyoming’s livelihood by an out-of-touch administration.”
The Wyoming Energy Authority, University of Wyoming, Campbell County and City of Cheyenne submitted individual applications to the Build Back Regional Better Challenge program, which solicits regional-scale plans to diversify local economies. Coal communities are among the priority targets in the federal stimulus effort, as well as native and rural communities, according to the Economic Development Administration, which oversees the effort. Greater “economic equity” is also a key goal.
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The program is part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which all three Wyoming congressional delegates voted against.
“This decision further underscores why I voted against the initial $1.9 trillion dollar bill that created this program, because it’s clear that the funding in the legislation would not benefit the people of Wyoming,” Cheney said in the release.
The 60 finalists will compete to be among three to eight regional projects that will each be awarded $100 million, according to EDA.
Several more granting opportunities remain for Wyoming communities under multiple ARPA programs aimed at diversifying local economies. The Wyoming Energy Authority and University of Wyoming have not received feedback from the EDA about why their projects did not make the cut, sources from those entities told WyoFile.
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