WyoFile Energy Report

Mead, Freudenthal and Al Simpson stump for UW College of Engineering project in Dallas

— February 22, 2013
— Updated February 25, 2013

On Thursday, Gov. Matt Mead, former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and former Wyoming U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson will attend the University of Wyoming Foundation’s winter board meeting at the Ritz Carlton in Dallas, Texas.

Dustin Bleizeffer
Dustin Bleizeffer

Aside from board business, the foundation will use the occasion to promote its effort to remake the UW College of Engineering into a “Tier 1” research institution, with a fundraising goal of $115 million.

UW Foundation president and CEO Ben Blalock said Dallas is a prime location for the event, given the large number of UW alumni in Texas’ oil and gas industry. “So the focus of the event will be a dinner, primarily with key energy leaders in the Dallas area,” Blalock told WyoFile.

The foundation held a similar event two years ago in Houston, Texas. The Dallas event this week is invitation-only, with an invitation list of about 150 attendees, said Blalock.

Several members of Gov. Mead’s task force for College of Engineering project will also be in attendance. Former Gov. Freudenthal is chairman of the task force. Other members of the task force include a list of energy executives who are also UW alumni:

Chad Deaton, executive chairman of Baker-Hughes Inc., a UW geology graduate

Dick Agee, founder and chairman of Wapiti Energy, and a UW petroleum engineering graduate

Tom Botts, executive vice president, global manufacturing, Shell Downstream Inc., a UW civil engineering graduate

Greg Hill, executive vice president and president of exploration and production for Hess Corp., a UW mechanical engineering graduate

Eric Marsh, executive vice president and senior vice president for EnCana Corp., a UW petroleum engineering graduate

Phil Nicholas, a state senator representing Laramie, a Laramie attorney and UW College of Law graduate

UW and the foundation have already landed sizeable donations from key energy companies for the College of Engineering project. So far, the university has secured some $10.9 million in donations from energy companies, plus a recent $2.5 million donation from Exxon Mobil for the project. Corporate donations are matched by the UW Academic Facilities Challenge Fund, bringing nearly $27 million toward the $115 million goal.

Wyoming lawmakers have committed nearly $100 million for the College of Engineering Tier 1 project.

It’s easy to understand the Wyoming-Texas connection when it comes to energy development, particularly in oil and natural gas. Companies like EnCana and Shell have big operations in both states. Of course, Texas is more attractive for big corporate headquarters.

And other key Wyoming players are tapping into donors in Texas as well.

WyoFile recently published a feature, “A Compounding Connection; Texas pharmacy leads Barrasso donors,” by Rone Tempest. The investigation found that in 2012 U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) received $54,800 from owners, employees and spouses of Richie’s Specialty Pharmacy — Barrasso’s top campaign contributor ahead of Berkshire Hathaway, Chevron Corp, Anadarko Petroleum, and Marathon Oil.

“Taken alone, the contributions flowing from an obscure Texas business are a revealing case study of influence-shopping in the nation’s capital,” Tempest reported. “From a broader perspective, however, they illustrate the remarkable ability of a Wyoming politician not named Cheney to open the checkbooks of conservative Texas donors, notably in the health and energy sectors.”

— Dustin Bleizeffer is WyoFile editor-in-chief. You can reach him at (307) 577-6069 or email dustin@wyofile.com. Follow Dustin on Twitter at @DBleizeffer

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Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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