Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Karla Pomeroy
Editor 

Interim committee works on gravel, landfills and air services

 

October 28, 2017



WORLAND — The Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee have been tasked with looking at 10 different items during this interim session and Rep. Mike Greear (R-Worland) said the interim work is “not terribly exciting but it is important we get these things cleaned up.”

One of the things they are cleaning up is proposing legislation to provide funding for orphaned contamination sites.

The proposed legislation approved by the committee earlier this week would allow funding that has been set aside for corrective actions at leading underground and aboveground storage tank sites to also be used for orphan site remediation.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality defines an “orphan site” as “a contaminated site where no viable responsible party can be identified.”

All existing funds have been obligated for orphan sites, of which there are 10 still awaiting investigation and 13 in active investigation/remediation of 28 identified since 2000. The DEQ said the proposed change would allow orphan sites to be addressed without the use of general funds.

Greear said, “As storage tanks come out and demand goes away [for the money], money will go to these orphaned sites and the rest to landfills.”

Another cleanup item is regarding loans for large projects approved by the Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board. The current statute puts the responsibility of the interest rates for loans on the state treasurer’s office.

The proposed legislation would state that “Loans under the section shall bear interest at a fixed or adjustable rate. The interest rate shall be: (A) Indexed to the rate of the United States Treasury note that most closely matches the term of the loan, plus any additional premium determined by the treasurer to be reasonably commensurate with the risk profile of the loan; and (B) Approved by the State Loan and Investment Board and the Wyoming Business Council pursuant to this act.”

Greear said State Treasurer Mark Gordon spoke to the committee and said while he has no problems with the responsibility his office isn’t where loan rate decisions should be made.

“This bill tightens up how loans are set and has the SLIB taking over a few more responsibilities,” Greear said.

LANDFILLS

Greear said the annual cease and transfer list for landfills was provided to the committee earlier this week by the Wyoming DEQ.

He said the list was updated to include some increased costs in some projects including the closure of Ten Sleep. Ten Sleep has already moved to a transfer station. Cost of closure was updated from $800,000 to $1.6 million. As landfills move to transfer stations, the overall landfill must eventually be closed. Ten Sleep is listed as 11th in piority. Also on the list, ninth, is the transfer station for north Big Horn County landfill with an estimated cost of $1.5 million, and then closure of that landfill (21st) is at $2.4 million, and transfer of Thermopolis with an estimated cost of $2 million, listed 10th on the priority list.

Closure of the south Big Horn County landfill, which is already a transfer station, is at $1.7 million and listed 22nd on the priority list.

Greear said, “This is not a guarantee these projects are going to move forward. This so we know where DEQ is looking for project funding.”

The committee is also looking into legislation to speed up the permitting process for small gravel quarry permits.

He said the lag time for the Wyoming DEQ on turning around air quality permits, exploratory permits and even issuing permits, far exceed the timeline in the surrounding states by several months.

“The cost to the operators is 10 times more expensive than surrounding states,” Greear said.

“I don’t know where we’ll go with this. It will end up taking this all the way to the session. Many of us, myself included, anytime we can look at a regulatory scheme that isn’t working and put some pressure on DEQ and all of the industry sit down and make it work better, we just as well take that opportunity. That’s why we passed [recommended] that bill.”

AIR SERVICE

One bill the committee opted not to take up at this time is a bill for commercial air service improvement plan and council.

The bill would have created a council to develop four-year action plans and also developed a $37.2 million air service improvement account from the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account.

Greear said several Wyoming airports use the enhanced air service program to guarantee seats on certain flights in order to guarantee reliable air service. He noted Sheridan, Riverton and Rock Springs are “most at risk right now.”

Greear said, “At the end of the day we didn’t vote for it.” He added that the state already has the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission, Select Legislative Committee and the ENDOW Initiative is also looking into air service in Wyoming thus another council was not needed.

There were also questions if the funding would replace or augment the enhanced air service funding.

Ultimately, Greear said the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee opted to let the other committees work on the idea and come back to them later with a proposal.

Greear said everyone understands how important air service is in Wyoming and how important it is going to be for the economic growth in Wyoming.

“We don’t want to go about it foolishly. We need a good, solid plan. We need to be convinced it is going to succeed. What came before us needs more work,” Greear said.

Greear said he didn’t know how such legislation may impact Worland’s ability to bring back commercial air service.

Worland lost their essential air service program designation in September 2016.

According to the Worland Municipal Airport Plan, “The Essential Air Services (EAS) program guaranteed commercial service by an air carrier for remote communities, such as Worland, if such service was provided before the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.”

Worland did look into the Air Service Enhancement Program, which was used to bring back service to Sheridan and Riverton. The program only provides 60 percent of the minimum revenue guarantees required for any commercial service, however according to Worland Municipal Airport Manager Lynn Murdoch, cost to the city would be about $1 million.

 
 

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