Over 1 million readers this year!

(LETTER) Freedom Caucus letter on governor’s fight for Wyoming energy misleading

Gov. Mark Gordon

County 17 publishes letters, cartoons and opinions as a public service. The content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of County 17 or its employees. Letters to the editor can be submitted by emailing editor@oilcity.news.

Dear Gillette,

To the 16 Honorable Legislators: In response to your letter, published on May 23 on County 17, I ask, is it necessary to circle the wagons only to fire in on ourselves?

I suppose I should be grateful that the Freedom Caucus’s latest sniping gives me a chance to sharpen the Wyoming public’s awareness of my ongoing actions to combat the Biden Administration’s war on our public lands as visited on Wyoming by this Bureau of Land Management.

As usual, with most Freedom Caucus commotion, it is also necessary to dispel misinformation and inaccurate claims made in the letter.

I am acutely aware of the BLM’s Buffalo Field Office Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement prepared upon the order of the U.S. District Court of Montana. Several state agencies and I separately have submitted comment letters in November 2022 during the scoping period, and again in August 2023, for the SEIS draft period of the National Environmental Protection Act process. Somewhat problematically, to my knowledge, none of the signatories of your letter participated in this public comment period, nor were any present at the public meetings hosted by the BLM in Gillette, according to my staff in attendance. Please correct me if I am mistaken.

Having participated throughout the entire SEIS process, by law the state agencies are able to file a protest with the BLM regarding their responses to our comments and their decision to move forward with the “No Leasing Alternative.” If any of the letter’s signatories filed comments, I heartily encourage them to file a protest with the BLM. Otherwise, the only place these signatories will be able to protest is in the media, where your attention could be put to better use targeting the Biden Administration’s effort to drive our nation back into the stone age.

Utilizing Wyoming’s multiple cooperating agencies and my own Governor’s Consistency Review, my administration is building the most favorable administrative record possible for the Attorney General’s Office to make a strong case for Wyoming in any potential future legal actions. Since the legal experts among the 16 Honorable Legislators have become so focused on the timing of case filings, perhaps they might comprehend that no legal action can be taken until a final Record of Decision is signed and the decision finalized by the federal government.

Furthermore, they might appreciate that filing such a suit prematurely would subject it to an easy legal challenge on timeliness that would likely get it dismissed with prejudice. Wyoming, you can be sure, will respond forcefully and strategically when appropriate. We are in the trenches fighting while some seem content to just make noise.

On the topic of timely suits, it is important to remember that Wyoming was engaged in legal efforts to protect the right of our state to export coal through the Longview, Washington terminal well before the suit you erroneously suggest was filed too late. To clarify the facts of the Montana v. Washington case mentioned in the letter, Wyoming filed our motion with Montana before the Supreme Court in January 2020 instead of through a lower court in Washington’s backyard. The Supreme Court subsequently requested the Solicitor General of the U.S. Department of the Interior weigh in on the facts of the case.

Despite persistent efforts on the part of both Wyoming and Montana, the President’s Solicitor did not respond until after the presidential administration changed. A subsequent Solicitor General asserted there was no longer a case in 2021. The Supreme Court agreed. Thus, the statement made in your inaccurate and misleading letter that the timing of Wyoming’s entrance in this case was the cause of the final unfavorable ruling is categorically false.

I shouldn’t have to refute the misstatement about a veto of a bill passed by the State Legislature in 2018. As treasurer at the time, I had no capacity to do so. I was inaugurated as governor in January 2019. If you were there, you will remember my State of the State indicated we would pursue a commerce clause case against Washington State.

In my time as governor, I have provided my reasoning for vetoing 2019 House Bill 251 and 2024 Senate File 13. The $75 million Legislative legal slush fund (more than three times the amount appropriated to the legal work of the Attorney General’s Office) would not have provided the State of Wyoming any additional advantage in an SEIS process.

Using existing funds otherwise generously appropriated by the legislature, on May 20, I authorized the release of $300,000 of Coal Litigation Funds to the Wyoming Energy Authority to assist in Wyoming’s litigation efforts. This will go towards Wyoming’s challenges of President Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency rules.

I am left wondering if the 16 sideline letter writers would hit anything if they did not partake in friendly fire. This is the time for Wyoming, our workers, our counties, our communities, and our families to circle the wagons and work together, taking aim at the Biden Administration’s coordinated effort to kill coal, oil, gas, grazing, and all other forms of productive uses on our public lands. I look forward to working with all legislators in our critical work to defend Wyoming’s way of life.

Let’s remember, Wyoming people cherish freedom from government overreach, not freedom from the facts. When the Freedom Caucus gets that right, maybe they can make a difference for the better.

Gov. Mark Gordon