News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Bill authorizes state to 'get aggressive' in EPA disputes
Feb 28, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Local legislators say they approve of a bill that would limit the rule-making authority in Wyoming of the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies.
Senate File 75 was approved by the Senate last week and appeared on the general file for the Wyoming House on Monday. It outlines the state's policy in response to actions by the EPA and authorizes Wyoming's Attorney General to take action against the agency when necessary.
"It will empower the (state) to be aggressive with the EPA," State Rep. Dave Miller, R-Riverton, said.
He introduced similar legislation in the House, but Miller's bill missed the cutoff for consideration by the committee of the whole.
"That's exactly why I put mine in," State Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, said. "I wanted to have a backup."
Bebout introduced SF75, which is almost identical to Miller's House Bill 78. He said the legislation "hit the road running" in the Senate. It was received for introduction in the House on Feb. 21 and approved 7-1 by the House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee on Feb. 24. Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, voted for the bill in committee.
"It's a good bill, and for a lot of reasons," Bebout said, pointing to nationwide attempts to push back against EPA regulations. "Twenty states have already sued the EPA."
The agency recently made changes to its carbon pollution standards for new power plants, he said, and the EPA would like to regulate western waterways through the federal Clean Water Act.
"There are at least 134 significant regulations the EPA is working on in terms of rule making," Bebout said. "Our Attorney General feels they're doing things that are unconstitutional. ... It's a very timely issue to come out with this."
The bill includes "strong language" suggesting the state needs to protect its own rights, and it allocates money in Wyoming's Federal Natural Resources Policy Account to fight federal overreach.
Some have asked whether SF75 would jeopardize Wyoming's relationship with the EPA, but Bebout scoffed at the idea.
"What relationship?" he said, recalling the EPA's recent decision to approve Treatment as a State applications from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes through the federal Clean Air Act.
As part of the TAS ruling, the EPA said the Wind River Indian Reservation includes land, like the city of Riverton, that was opened up to homesteading through a 1905 Congressional Act.
Bebout said the EPA didn't even notify Gov. Matt Mead about the decision before it was made public in December.
"He read about it," Bebout said. "Nobody let him know."
The state has requested a stay of the EPA decision and has appealed the ruling in the federal Tenth District Court. Tribal leaders also requested a stay to allow time for local governments to discuss jurisdictional implications of the EPA ruling. The EPA granted the tribal request this month.
Case said SF75 "doesn't necessarily do anything," but he voted for it anyway.
"I also believe the EPA was overreaching," Case said of the boundary decision. "I don't believe what they ruled was appropriate. I think the federal court will undo it."
He encouraged his peers in the Legislature to keep lines of communication with the tribes open in the meantime.
"Let's be peacemakers too, keep the dialogue going," Case said. "That's why I tried to restore the funding for tribal liaisons in the bill."
The legislature's Appropriations Committee eliminated second-year funding for tribal liaisons, Case said. He expressed hope that the money would be restored in the budget developed during the current legislative session.
"It's not the time to cut liaison efforts," he said.
Miller had introduced another bill, House Bill 164, specifying the boundaries of the reservation and requiring state maps to show the boundaries as specified. It did not make the cutoff for consideration by the entire House; Miller said he pulled the bill in favor of language in the state budget.