Posted at 3 p.m. Jan. 13, 2017

Lawmakers, mineral's industry hopeful Trump's energy policies will benefit Wyoming

With the inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump, sweeping reforms of legislation are expected to take place. The Affordable Care Act, the Dream Act and even the state of the United States’ involvement in NAFTA are all expected to undergo major changes. However, Trump made promises during his presidential campaign that involve a major industry in Wyoming: minerals.

While running for president, Trump explained that he planned to overturn many of the Environmental Protection Agency standards that were created during the Obama administration. These standards — most notably the Clean Power Plan, which was implemented to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. — have imposed higher regulations on the mining industry, which is a major boom for the Wyoming state economy. This, in turn, has caused many of these businesses to downsize.

The EPA and the Obama administration have pursued these measures in an attempt to reduce, if not eventually eliminate, the use of coal as a power source in the United States. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, coal has made up 24.5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012.

When it comes to these regulations, however, Wyoming was one of the most impacted states, since its economy is so reliant on the industries, according to Sen. Ogden Driskill. “We are very hopeful that Trump will help the economy and bring jobs back to the state,” he said.

If these businesses and jobs are brought back to the state, then many of the recent issues with the Legislature and balancing the budget may be resolved, as well. As Sen. Tony Ross, chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the Wyoming legislature, puts it, “There’s a number of executive orders that drastically affect the mineral industry and, of course, Wyoming’s economy is heavily dependent on the mineral industry. Oil, gas, coal — all of the above are vital to the sustainability of our current budget.”

Travis Deti, the interim executive director for the Wyoming Mining Association, warns that the industry has “cautious optimism” as to the Trump presidency. While Trump will be unable to get rid of every one of these mandates on his own, Deti adds, he will be able to overturn at least some of Obama’s executive orders on his first day in office. However, if President Trump is able to work with Congress on the issue, he may be able to affect much of the legislation involving these issues.

Trump’s cabinet decisions may also indicate the future of Wyoming’s economy. His recent selection of Scott Pruitt, former Attorney General of Oklahoma, to the position of head of the EPA may help Trump in shaping policy, with respect to the minerals industry and climate change. Pruitt has been known for his actions in opposing many of the EPA regulations put in place, but as Ross points out, he may be instrumental in relaxing many of these regulations and helping many fossil fuel industries to get back on their feet.

While Trump has vowed to help the mining industry recover from many of the regulations, it is yet to be seen whether he will follow through or not. If he does, it may prove to help the mining industry, consequently helping bring back jobs to Wyoming and additional revenue to the state budget, a trying issue for many of the legislators in office. If he doesn’t, then Wyoming can expect to look for different businesses to try to bank on the absence of a dominant industry in the state, such as internet service providers, as broadband throughout Wyoming is still in need of enhancement. In either case, Wyoming can expect serious changes in the upcoming year.