State lawmakers Canada-bound to tour energy complex as model for Wyoming

by Geoff O’Gara, Wyoming PBS (published with permission)
— February 26, 2014

Geoff O'Gara, Wyoming PBS
Geoff O’Gara, Wyoming PBS
Geoff O’Gara, Wyoming PBS

CHEYENNE – Nine Wyoming legislators are flying Saturday on a state plane to Alberta, Canada, to look at a giant industrial complex that could be a model for a similar enterprise in southwest Wyoming.

Legislative leaders say the group will depart on a two-hour flight early Saturday morning and return late that night. The cost of the state plane runs roughly $1,000/hour, and the expenses will be covered by the Governor’s international trade office account.

Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau (R-Gillette) mentioned the idea of a big new Wyoming industrial complex at a press conference early in the session, but since it involved no major expenditure in this year’s biennium budget, the proposal provoked little discussion. However, the so-called “Heartland” complex in Alberta that legislator’s will tour suggests a sizable price tag may face Wyoming if a similar project happens here: the Canadian site houses a $40 billion assemblage of industrial facilities, funded by a mixture of government funds, private investment and tax incentives.

The idea in Wyoming, according to Lubnau and Senate President Tony Ross (R-Cheyenne), would be to take advantage of Wyoming’s abundant natural resources including natural gas, trona, and water, and create incentives for industries to locate here and transform those raw materials into products including plastics, glass screens, and other goods.

Wyoming’s economy, Lubnau said, has changed little from the 1880s, when the state produced raw materials and cattle and shipped them away, often suffering busts when distant markets fluctuated. “This kind of development,” said Lubnau, “could change Wyoming from a colonial economy to a value-added economy.”

The trip to Alberta is meant to give legislators a view of the kind of industrial complex that could be built in Wyoming. Invited on the trip are Reps. Steve Harshman (R-Casper), Michael Greear (R-Worland), Bob Nicholas (R-Cheyenne), and John Freeman (D-Green River). From the opposite side of the Capitol, Sens. Eli Bebout (R-Riverton), Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower), Larry Hicks (R-Baggs), and Jim Anderson (R-Glenrock).

A location in southwest Wyoming is considered likely because the region has available water, state lands, and fuel supplies. Lubnau suggested that lands already mined for coal in the area would provide suitable and inexpensive sites, and the state could offer industries inexpensive energy with a capped price.

Presently, there is no price tag on the still-speculative Wyoming project. Industrial partners would be expected to pick up a sizable portion of the cost. Discussions with private investors have not been made public.

Geoffrey O’Gara is a writer and documentary producer based in Lander, Wyoming. He works for The Content Lab, LLC and serves on WyoFile's board of directors. His column, Weed Draw, is named for a remote...

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  1. Hey, think of the up-side: (1) Lubnau recognizes that Wyoming’s economy is “colonial,” and (2) a Democrat is going along on the trip. Progress galore!

  2. GREAT!!!
    Apparently incremental steps on the road to the destruction of the planet aren’t enough, let’s just go full-out sprint!!

  3. this is just a ruse. they are going to study how alberta can have quality health care at much more affordable costs.

  4. OK…so our peerless leaders are flying up to Canada to observe the planet’s most egregious single source of environmental ailment, the disease that is the Alberta tar sands.

    Wyoming happens to have these large reserves of oil shale/sands down in the southwest corner . Those Green River oil shales have been speculated to be the world’s single largest reserve of any petroleum-like geologic substance.

    Is that the ” similar project” these guys are going to “inspect” ? Am I connecting the dots correctly here ?

    If so, we are s-o-o-o-o-o-o-o screwed…..

  5. The Province of Alberta has perpetrated one the great environmental crimes of human history–tar sands development. And our legislators want to follow that despicable model? Figures.