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Officials: Obama re-election means more of same

Sat, 11/17/2012 - 6:13am
ADAM VOGE - Casper Star-Tribune - Associated Press

Officials with some of Wyoming's prominent energy-based trade and advocacy groups say President Barack Obama's re-election won't change much about their industries' outlooks.

But, depending on the industry, they said, more of the same is not necessarily welcome news.

Some officials with groups representing the mining and oil and gas industries in Wyoming certainly weren't backing the president in his bid for re-election. Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said the election didn't go the way that would have most benefited the oil and gas industry.

"Well, I'm pretty disappointed," he said. "I don't expect it to get any better, I'll put it that way."

Marion Loomis, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, said the current administration's policies and proposals have been hard on the industries he represents.

"It's been an attack on coal," he said. "We're seeing that play out across the nation."

Both Loomis and Hinchey expressed concern over established practices and proposed regulations dating back to 2008.

Hinchey doesn't think the Obama administration had anything to do with the natural gas price drop, but he said permitting processes have been taking longer and longer lately, and that won't help the industry.

"It's going to be more of the same," he tells the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/PZc8hW). "We will struggle to get leases and permits to drill on federal lands."

Loomis said several emission regulations governing the amount of nitrous oxides, particulate matter, carbon dioxide and other pollutants a coal-fired power plant can emit are likely to bring new coal-plant openings to a screeching halt.

"I think it'll be a continuation of the past efforts to hamper coal development," he said. "That's unfortunate. The new coal plants that have been built are extremely clean."

Hinchey also said a recent Bureau of Land Management rule proposal that would add further regulation to hydraulic fracturing, a production technique used to boost oil and gas production, is likely to hurt the industry.

But not all energy-based industries were disappointed in the results of the election.

Sarah Propst, executive director of Interwest Energy Alliance, a renewable energy trade association, said that the president is likely the best hope for renewables, especially wind.

Obama has indicated support for renewing a soon-to-expire wind tax credit, a key measure which could account for 100,000 new jobs over four years or the loss of 37,000 in one year, according to a study touted by the American Wind Energy Alliance. Gov. Mitt Romney likely would have ended the credits.

Propst said business had already slowed due to uncertainty around the credit's renewal. Having a president who backs the measure could stabilize wind's future.

"To see people re-elected who are supportive of this industry, that gives us hope," she said. "It's much more helpful to have someone signing the bill saying, 'I want this included.'"

Loomis and Hinchey, on the other hand, each said their industries missed an opportunity with Romney's loss.

"Certainly Gov. Romney said he would be supportive of coal," Loomis said. "Whether that meant taking another look at (emissions) rules, I'm not sure. We'll never know."

Both Loomis and Hinchey remain optimistic about their industries' trajectory despite the election results. Hinchey said he expects the price of natural gas to rise each of the next two years, helping to spur more development.

"It's going to be pretty steady unless we see some kind of outright assault by the government to slow things down," he said.

Loomis expects Wyoming coal to remain popular, despite the perceived assault on the resource.

"The coal industry's not going to go away," he said. "We're still going to produce a lot of coal out of Wyoming and the U.S. is going to burn a lot of coal."

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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