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Wyoming DEQ Looks To Legislature To Help Solve Resource Suck

Joint Minerals, Business, and Economic Development Meeting At UW
Cooper McKim
Wyoming Public Radio

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is looking for a way to deal with idle limiting mining operations (LMOs). Those are small aggregate, or gravel, pits used by ranches or oil companies, among other entities, to build roads.

Right now, the DEQ has no way to terminate LMOs that are left unused. That’s a problem because the department says it’s wasting resources by sending employees out to analyze the sites and develop reports on them every year. Kyle Wendtland, DEQ Land Quality Division administrator, went to the Joint Minerals, Business, and Economic Development committee in Laramie on Monday to ask for statutory authority to change those rules. Specifically, it would require operators to prove its need for the LMO every five years. Wendtland said there are over a hundred unused sites around the state and it’s a waste of resources.

“That’s 130 sites that I’m sending personnel to once a year that I’m having to review an annual report and those are resources that could be dedicated to active or developing permits,” he said.

Wendtland said there a lot of reasons an operator could have for not developing long-term, but that needs to be in writing. Otherwise, the land should be immediately reclaimed. Sundance Representative Tyler Lindholm did not vote to put together a bill draft. He said requiring operators to prove its need every five years would just be extra paperwork.

“All the operators out there will say here’s a project we’ll use it for, and even if they have to ship one truckload of gravel from that pit, that’s what they’ll do in order to keep that LMO instead of going through the process again of getting that LMO,” he said.

Worland Representative Mike Greear disagrees calling this a positive step forward. The committee voted 9 to 5 in favor of putting together a draft bill.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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