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State Will Use CARES Act Funds To Give Oil And Gas Industry A Boost

In May of 2020, the Converse County trailer park quickly emptied out after the pandemic hit and oil and gas activity declined.
Cooper McKim

Gov. Mark Gordon will use $15 million in CARES Act funds to create the Energy Rebound Program, a program intended to boost oil and gas activity in Wyoming. At the moment, there are five active rigs in the state compared to 25 at the beginning of the year.

"These funds will have a direct impact on Wyoming's employment rate and put people back to work in our oil and gas sector which was impacted by COVID-19. It will provide opportunities for employees who lost jobs when drilling ceased," Gordon said in a press release. His office estimates the program will help employ hundreds of workers.

Operators are eligible for up to $500,000 to take advantage of three activities: fracking wells that were drilled, but not yet fracked, re-fracking wells where production had slowed down, and plugging and abandoning idle wells. Given the money comes through federal hands, an operator will need to show those activities were interrupted as of March 13, 2020 or thereafter.

Pete Obermueller, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said producers of all sizes will likely be able to take advantage of the program.

"This is not a 'We're sorry for your loss, here's the money to make up for it.' This is a 'We will expend some CARES act money with the express purpose of kickstarting Wyoming based projects, including drilling projects, and also reclamation projects'," he said.

Obermueller said the first category, completing wells, is a particularly profitable activity for the state. If $500,000 is enough to push a company to complete a well, "they'll have to come up with their own, $3.5 to $4.5 million to invest in our economy in Wyoming in order to actually do it."

Randall Luthi, Chief Energy Advisory in the Governor's Office, said the program has come together in the last three weeks. He hopes the final rules will be finished this week and then the Wyoming Business Council will roll them out next week.

The application period for the Energy Rebound Program will likely be fairly quick since the CARES act itself requires expenditure of the money to be complete by December 30, 2020.

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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