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Wyoming forgoes federal funds to help reduce pollution

A metal sign that reads 'United States Environmental Protection Agency' outside of a large, concrete building.
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Wyoming has chosen to forgo its application for a multi-million dollar federal grant aimed at reducing pollution, as the state felt the rules around the funding were too stringent.

The $4.6 billion was available to states, tribes and territories as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grants program. The idea is to provide funding to reduce harmful emissions that are warming the climate. The money could’ve been used for a lot of different projects, including, managing forests, building bike paths, building electric vehicle infrastructure, etc.

Margie Lynch, the board chairperson for the Jackson Hole Climate Action Collective, said she thinks it could’ve really helped Wyoming out.

“From our transportation sector, to our industrial sector, there's also water projects, where appropriate the agricultural sector, and even carbon removal removal measures,” Lynch said.

But, the state backed out of the program this week. Governor Mark Gordon wrote a letter to the EPA saying the rules attached to the grant money are too stringent.

“In contemplating whether to enter into a grant agreement, it is important to consider what is in the best interests of Wyoming,” Gordon said. “EPA has repeatedly shown an unwillingness to work with the State in advance of proposing multiple new federal rules, and given Wyoming unreasonable time frames to comment on the impacts of those rules.”

Gordon added that he thinks by accepting the money the EPA could change Wyoming’s “all of the above” energy approach to climate change. This includes attempting to commercially produce “cleaner” coal through carbon capture, which remains untested on a large scale.

“Wyoming will continue to direct its resources toward removing federal roadblocks that stand in the way of common-sense, lower cost solutions that use innovations tailored to meet the needs of Wyoming’s citizens and industry, across the entire energy spectrum,” Gordon said.

But, Lynch said the opposite, adding that it’s a missed opportunity.

“We all pay taxes to the federal government, that are then distributed across the country,” she said. “And, you know, now we're going to be missing out on receiving money back that we've paid in.”

All but four other states, including South Dakota, are enrolled in the grant program.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.

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