Wyoming Bill Would Outlaw Renewable Energy

A bill filed in the Wyoming legislature would require utility companies within the state to provide electricity to their customers that comes from “eligible resources.” And what are “eligible resources?” Coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, nuclear, and oil. Electricity from renewable energy sources like rooftop solar or backyard wind projects would also be permitted. The bill would require 95% of all electricity in the state to be derived from “qualified resources” by 2018 and 100% by 2019.

renewable energy like Solar and wind go together

But wait, there’s more. Any utility company who violates the proposed new renewable energy law would be fined $10 for every megawatt of non-conforming electricity provided to Wyoming residents.

Wyoming is a large exporter of energy. It  is the nation’s largest producer of coal, fourth largest natural gas producer, and eighth among US states in crude oil production. It also is rated highly as a source of wind power. In fact, several large wind energy installations are in existence in the state or are under construction, but all of their output is scheduled to go to customers in other states. Under the proposed legislation, electricity from wind or solar farms for Wyoming residents would be illegal.

What would anyone propose such a law? To preserve jobs, supposedly, and to strike a blow against the alarmists and kooks who insist global warming is happening. Representative David Miller, a Republican from Fremont County and principal sponsor of the bill, tells InsideClimate News:

“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. We do not want to be averaged into the other states that require a certain [percentage] of more expensive renewable energy.”

Is Miller serious? Does he not know that solar and wind power are now less expensive than coal? Why would any person want to burden his constituents with higher cost electricity, unless it is because his point of view has been influenced by money from major campaign donors? That worn out shibboleth about renewable energy being more expensive is one of the patented talking points from the so-called think tanks funded by money from Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, and other fossil fuel companies.

Representative Scott Clem, another sponsor of the bill, puts his erudition on full public display with this observation. “The controversy of climate change affects our families in Campbell County. Coal = Jobs. The fact of the matter is that man-made climate change is not settled science. Instead, it is hotly disputed by reputable and educated men and women….”

No, Mr. Clem, it is not. It is hotly disputed only by people who are bought and paid for by the same corporations. Clem is apparently blissfully unaware that ExxonMobil is currently being sued by the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts for defrauding the public about climate change for the past 40 years. Fossil fuels have wide ranging negative health implications for the people you represent, sir. With this legislation, you are sentencing the people you represent of shorter lifespans and elevated rates of respiratory and coronary disease. On that subject there is no debate.

Wyoming, like every other state in the US, needs legislators who can see beyond the end of next week and who are committed to representing the best interests of their constituents, not some corporation with offices on Wall Street that stuffs its profits into offshore accounts.

Wyoming is also considering taxing in-state wind farms that export electricity to other states. There seems to be no end to the idiocy of its legislators. Protecting jobs is short sighted and counterproductive if those jobs are killing workers and everyone else in the community. The people of Wyoming would do well to ask why their elected officials are putting them at risk, especially when there are non-polluting renewable energy alternatives that are less expensive.


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writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.
  • Epicurus

    If a federal court holds a law like this constitutional, this business about America being a free country will be revealed to be a farce.

    The test under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is whether the discrimination in this proposed statute is rationally related to a legitimate state interest.

    How could prohibiting utilities from buying electricity from wind and solar producers possibly be a legitimate state interest? If it is, no business in America is safe.

    • Epicurus

      One hundred twenty-five years ago, would a Wyoming law prohibiting people from buying automobiles in order to protect the jobs of blacksmiths, stable boys, and hay and feed sellers meet the requirements of the equal protection clause? I don’t think so.

      This bill reveals what the free market really means to Republican politicians. In contrast to the lip service they pay to it, in reality they are in favor of the free market only when it serves the interests of their corporate overlords.

      Why doesn’t this site use Disqus?

  • Steve Hanley

    Don’t know about Disqus. I always thought it was in use. I’ll bump that up to the Head Honcho.

    Absolutely agree with your comments. Spot on!

    • Epicurus

      Steve, Disqus is the comment or discussion board software used on Cleantechnica and many other sites. Once you register with Disqus, you don’t have to re-enter your name (or screen name) and email address for each comment, and it allows you to edit your comments after posting them too. Very handy. I would guess that you can download the software and drop it into your site. Perhaps there is a fee for it. Don’t know.

      The U.S. is really going crazy. This Wyoming bill is the craziest proposed law I have read about it in a long time. Thanks for the article.

      If I had the time and if the bill might actually be passed into law, I would research the equal protection issue further. I recall that “rational basis” review of a law is very lenient. If a court can merely hypothesize a legitimate state interest for a discriminatory law like this, the law will be deemed constitutional. Nonetheless, I can’t believe protecting jobs in failing industries could be found to be a legitimate state interest, but, then again, strange things happen in a world of “alternative facts.”

      I wish someone would pose my automobile purchase prohibition hypothetical to the bill’s sponsor. I wonder how he would respond.