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By James Goodrich, Wyoming State Fair Director

There are many changes on the Wyoming State Fairgrounds for the 2011 Fair! Those attending again this year may not recognize the front of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Building. This time-honored location at the “crossroads” of the fairgrounds has received major renovations inside and out. Visitors will be greeted by a new “patio” setting in front of the building with flowers, split rail fence, tables and chairs with umbrellas overhead and a new surface of  “driveable grass” underneath. The new sidewalk leading up to the entrance of the building has an inlaid outline of the traditional Wyoming bucking horse and rider. All of these things combined create a very inviting new entrance to a traditional cornerstone of the Wyoming State Fair.

Another new addition in the same area is the new Wyoming Mercantile store. This new building constructed by the Wyoming Business Council is the permanent home of the Wyoming First products (all Wyoming-made) program that has been a part of Wyoming State Fair for many years. The new Wyoming Mercantile is located on the midway right next to the Wool Barn. It is designed and built to be just like an old time western general store, and it looks the part!
Right across the midway to the north, repeat visitors will notice a change in the Food Court. The basic configuration is the same, but we have moved it farther east on the midway to allow booth space on the corner and across from the Rotary Club food concession. This move will help the food vendors with their storage areas, as well as improve the appearance in that entire area.

We have added a complete set of new playground equipment on the lawn in front of the Dairy Barn, near the entrance to the new “Pathway to Water Quality,” which was introduced last year.

The first two phases of the project are complete for the 2011 Fair. Phase I, the entrance, is a large part of the renovation of the Agriculture and Natural Resources building. Phase II is the addition of the “EcoGrid” soil stabilization material under the cattle tie-outs along the North Platte River. Phase III will be completed in 2012, and will be the walking pathway along the North Platte River with interpretive areas and demonstration plots terminating in a wetland area near the Equine Center and campground. This joint venture by agriculture, conservation and industry groups will be a lasting improvement to the fairgrounds, utilized by all citizens for many years to come.

Improvements to the campground and grandstand restrooms round out the projects completed prior to the 2011 Wyoming State Fair to make everyone’s visit more enjoyable.

New events for the 2011 Wyoming State Fair include a Monster Truck Night on Aug. 15 and a ranch sorting event Aug. 18. A major schedule change for this year is the ranch horse competition, which has moved to Aug. 19.

Following what is sure to be an exciting and fun-filled 2011 Wyoming State Fair, we will begin to unveil plans for the 100th Wyoming State Fair coming Aug.11-18, 2012. Planning has been underway for nearly a year, and efforts are taking shape and specific projects are coming into focus. Look for news releases and announcements as we work our way toward this historic event… plan to be part of the action!

Once again, come visit us in Douglas at the 99th Wyoming State Fair, Aug. 13-20!!!

By Loyd Drain, Executive Director, Wyoming Infrastructure Authority

The month of July 2011 has produced some renewed attention relative to the power generation and transmission progress in Wyoming. LS Power issued a news release on July 14 relative to the Wyoming Colorado Intertie Project, and on July 22, Power Company of Wyoming (PCW) issued an announcement that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had filed a draft EIS relative to PCW’s large wind generation development in Carbon County.

The amount of new regional transmission infrastructure built in the West in the last quarter-century is negligible, and the current electric infrastructure in Wyoming is at capacity, with little to no transmission space available for new generation. There are currently six transmission projects under various stages of development in the state. In addition to the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority (WIA) being a supporter of all of the transmission projects in the state, it is currently serving as a participating partner in the development of two of the projects – the Wyoming Colorado Intertie and the High Plains Express.

The permitting and siting process for new transmission is a lengthy, costly process. Since all the projects, with one exception, are expected to traverse public lands, an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be secured relative to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The estimated time required to obtain an EIS is four to five years, and some project developers estimate the cost to obtain such will exceed $50 million. The total estimated cost for the projects varies from $300 million to $5 billion. Only three of the projects have initiated the NEPA process, and the WIA is currently working with Governor Mead’s office to explore ways to mitigate the amount of time and cost relative to the NEPA process requirements for transmission.

Relative to those projects in the NEPA process, the WIA sees significant progress being made, namely for PacifiCorp’s Gateway West (GWW – Wyoming to Idaho and beyond) and Gateway South (GWS – Wyoming to Utah) projects and TransWest Express LLC’s TransWest Express Transmission Project (TWE – Wyoming to southern Nevada). Since the Wyoming Colorado Intertie Project (WCI – Wyoming to Colorado) does not expect to encounter public lands, no EIS is required.

PacifiCorp’s expansive Energy Gateway Project is made up of three distinct segments: Gateway West, Gateway South and Gateway Central (between Idaho and Utah). A draft EIS is expected to be published for the Gateway West Project in the next 60 days and in 2013 for Gateway South. These projects are being developed to serve PacifiCorp’s customers in the West with varying in-service dates of 2016 to 2019. The PacifiCorp projects will serve native-load customers. PacifiCorp, as a utility, has an obligation to serve its customers pursuant to the jurisdiction of state regulators.

TransWest Express LLC’s Project is being developed to serve customers in the Desert Southwest and California with a proposed line from Carbon County to a point south of Las Vegas, Nev., which will interconnect with the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO) System. A draft EIS is expected in 2012, with a projected in-service date of 2015 to 2016. Western Area Power Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, is evaluating owning 50 percent of the TWE Project to help further its mission to facilitate delivery of more renewable energy

In the July 14 news release, an LS Power affiliate, Wyoming Colorado Intertie, LLC, announced that a third party has made application for 100 percent of the WCI Project’s capacity, which will deliver power to the Front Range of Colorado. LS Power and WIA are funding the WCI Project development on a 50/50 basis, with the LS Power affiliate serving as the lead developer.
For the TWE and WCI projects to proceed to the financing and construction stage, commercial arrangement will need to be in place.

The other transmission projects in Wyoming are in various stages of development; however, they have yet to enter the NEPA process. Those include:

Zephyr: TransCanada is developing this project (Wyoming to Idaho to southern Nevada). TransCanada held an Open Season for capacity in 2010, which resulted in the combination of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, a Wyoming-based company, BP Wind and Horizon Wind Energy securing 100 percent of the capacity.

Overland: This project is being developed by Jade Energy Associates, LLC, an affiliate of LS Power Group (Wyoming to Idaho to interconnect with the SWIP Project, which extends into southern Nevada – a portion of the SWIP project is under construction).

High Plains Express: There are a total of 12 developers for this project, including the WIA (Wyoming to Colorado to New Mexico to Arizona).

For more detailed information on all of the transmission projects, visit the WIA website at wyia.org.
Supply/Demand for Renewable Energy in the West

The current demand for electricity in the West is primarily for renewable energy in the form of wind and solar. Despite the fact that Wyoming possesses world-class wind resources, there is a significant oversupply of developable renewable energy in the West compared to forecasted demand through 2025. While states in the West have expressed a desire to develop their renewable energy needs with indigenous resources, the WIA remains optimistic that some transmission developers in Wyoming will be successful in their efforts to deliver Wyoming’s cost-effective renewable energy to the marketplace.

Other Efforts by the WIA

The WIA has funded a number of studies relative to transmission and generation development, including the NREL Study for Wyoming, which further quantifies economic benefits and job creation relative to new transmission infrastructure in the state; the ICF Line Separation Study, which address the spacing between transmission lines; the ICF Phase 1 and 2 Collector System Studies, which examine possible configuration of collector lines between generation and proposed transmission lines, as well as an in-depth study of natural gas-fired generation to address the variability of wind energy; and studies by the University of Wyoming that examine the geographical diversity benefits of blending Wyoming wind from various locations in the state, as well as existing power on the grid of other states. The studies, which are expected to be completed soon, have shown that such blending will mitigate the ramping events of renewable energy on the grid, which reduces the amount of dispatchable energy required to integrate renewables onto the grid. Completed studies can be viewed/downloaded on the WIA website in the Documents Section.
Summary

Progress is being made in the effort to add new power transmission infrastructure in Wyoming that will export Wyoming’s abundant resources in the form of electric generation to the marketplace, bringing a significant number of new permanent jobs to the state, as well as significant revenues. The new infrastructure, with a service life of over 50 years, will also result in the opportunity to add natural gas-fired generation to the mix and other Wyoming-based resources in the future.
About the WIA

The WIA, an instrumentality of the state of Wyoming, was established in 2004 by the Wyoming Legislature to diversify and expand the state’s economy through improvements in the electric transmission system and to facilitate the increased utilization of Wyoming’s energy resources. The WIA is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of five members appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President

We in the West, particularly the public lands areas, always have been aware that we are on the cutting edge of efforts to try out the latest and greatest in central planning from that bastion of control, Washington, D.C.

These efforts are led by some in the federal government and others outside of federal government who would like to turn the West into a giant park. Restrictions on utilization of areas through legislation or regulation such as endangered species, wilderness or any other of the enumerable designations can be accomplished with a little ingenuity from an outside, non-governmental organization or a sympathetic government employee. Food producers are well aware of how difficult it becomes to watch the road ahead while keeping an eye out for something creeping up from behind.

The most recent effort by Washington, D.C. that caught everyone’s eye in the West was an order from the Secretary of the Interior to designate areas of the West as “wild lands.” Most federal lands users understood what the impacts could have been if this effort had moved forward.

While some of these issues were happening in our backyard, another agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was busy trying to expand their role in regulating water in the eastern U.S. For once this wasn’t a West-focused effort; however, the agency’s overreach will hit us if it isn’t stopped. Most small businesses, including agricultural producers, have always cast a wary eye towards EPA. After all, the agency is in charge of air and water, and we in the West have always understood the importance of water.

Under a new administration with a firm philosophy of “if a little government is good, than a lot must be better,” the EPA began looking at ways to expand their already considerable authority even more. To do this they cast their eyes towards the Chesapeake Bay and decided that an interpretation of the Clean Water Act that had been utilized by the Agency since 1972 was wrong, and that they could usurp powers that states and local governments had exercised.  

Congress, when they passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, established two types of pollutant control mechanisms. For point sources, such as factories or industries, they required those industries to obtain a permit to discharge, which required pollution control techniques that helped establish the “fishable and swimmable” goal engendered by the Act. For diffuse sources, Congress treated them as non-point sources, which allowed states to regulate them in a fashion that took into account the many unknowns such sources created, as well as the economic impacts.

Now, however, with the Chesapeake Bay, the EPA has decided they should step in with mandated regulations and override state and local efforts all while ignoring the economic impacts. You may ask just how much those costs could be? Most citizens, when buying anything, would at least want to know a ballpark figure of the cost, but EPA declined to analyze costs. However, several of the impacted states have, and the implementation costs will be billions of dollars. For example, the state of Maryland estimated that its implementation costs from 2011 to 2017 could be as high as $10 billion.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the executive order that led to the Chesapeake Bay effort specifically called for strategies that could be replicated in other bodies of water. Given that statement, as well as numerous other disconcerting aspects, it’s no wonder the American Farm Bureau Federation and several other organizations have been forced to spend money to legally challenge this overreach of federal authority. Let’s hope this ever-expanding regulatory creep can be stopped.

To learn more about the EPA’s take-over, visit our website at wyfb.org for a fact sheet.

By Keith Kennedy, Executive Director, Wyoming Ag-Business Association

Have you ever hauled cull cows to the local auction? Sugar beets to the local receiving station? Wheat to the local elevator, or barley to the receiving station?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, your shipment is “interstate commerce,” according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) rules. A court ruling in the 1980s, and FMCSA interpretation since the early 1990s, confirms these shipments are “interstate” commerce. Fortunately, most states, Wyoming included, have for years considered these agriculture activities as “intrastate commerce,” and thus, within well-defined limits, these activities do not require a Commercial Driver’s License, Annual Medical Certificate and an Annual Vehicle Inspection.

It’s true, no one cares more about the safety of our neighbors, and of the equipment we operate every day, more than farmers and ranchers. I also believe this is true of the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the Wyoming Legislature, which have adopted rules that recognize the way we do business here in Wyoming.

Apparently, FMCSA does not believe that the states are diligent in this effort, and has requested comment on three issues: distinguishing between intra- and interstate commerce; applicability of the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) rules to farm vehicle drivers operating under a crop share farm lease agreement; and implements of husbandry.

Originally, comments were due June 30, 2011, but on June 28 the deadline was extended to Aug. 1, 2011. After some discussion, I’ll let you know how to comment on these issues.

First, it seems clear that if you deliver an agricultural good, within 150 air-miles of your home base, and within Wyoming, this is an intrastate shipment, regardless of where the product travels after you make delivery. When one delivers a load of cull cows to the auction barn, there is no way of knowing when the cattle will enter interstate commerce.  The feedlot across the county could purchase these cattle as easily as a packer from Texas. Likewise, if I deliver sugar beets to the local receiving station, I do not know if they will be processed in Lovell or Billings, Torrington or Scottsbluff; that decision is in the hands of the processor. In similar fashion, if I deliver corn to the local elevator, I cannot tell if the corn will be sold to my neighbor, the ethanol plant or shipped by rail for export to China. FMCSA apparently doesn’t realize we’re out to maximize profit by seeking the best price at the closest market.

Secondly, crop-share agreements are anything but standardized. Over the years, localities generally have similar crop-share arrangements, but agreements for irrigated cropland in Goshen and Platte counties are likely different than those in Park and Big Horn counties. Dryland crop-share agreements will differ from Laramie to Campbell counties, as do the motivations for such agreements, whether the motivation is risk-sharing, profit-sharing or customary within that area. FMCSA doesn’t seem to recognize that we don’t have scales by the side of every field to divide the crop as it’s harvested. If FMCSA proceeds to consider crop-share farmers as “contract carriers,” farmers will likely forego crop-share leasing, thus eliminating a tool that offers landlords profit potential, and renters a tool that mitigates risk.

Finally, I do not believe that FMCSA needs to have a uniform definition of an implement of husbandry. Wyoming’s definition includes “sheep wagons, portable livestock loading chutes…” (W.S. 31-1-101 (a)(x)). It seems apparent to me that this definition isn’t necessary in Delaware or Massachusetts, but they likely have a definition that includes poultry hauling or cranberry equipment, equipment Wyoming producers are unlikely to need or use. The point here is, one size does not fit all, nor should it. Wyoming, as have all other states, has defined “implements of husbandry” to fit agriculture as it occurs in each state.

While I mentioned delivering farm/ranch production earlier in this column, what about farm/ranch inputs? If I pick up a fertilizer cart from the local ag retailer, is this an interstate shipment by virtue of the fact that some of the fertilizer was delivered to the retailer from outside Wyoming? Is the load of mineral I hauled from the local feed dealer to my ranch an interstate shipment because the salt in the blocks came from Utah, the phosphate from a Canadian mine and the iodine from Texas? Wyoming law is clear: “‘intrastate’ means the transportation of persons or property between points within Wyoming.” I only wish FMCSA could be as clear.
I realize this is just one more item in a long list of the regulatory morass we’re in, along with the usual set of acronyms – USEPA, APHIS, GIPSA, BLM, FWS, USFS… but, I believe it is high time for us to demonstrate that local control of issues makes for common-sense rules that protect the public and make sense, both for producers and consumers.

How can you affect the decision FMCSA makes on these issues? You can offer your comments several ways. First, you can mail a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building, Ground Floor, Room 12-140, Washington, DC, 20590-0001. You may fax the Department of Transportation at 202-493-2251, or you can file comments on the Federal eRulemaking Portal at regulations.gov. Be sure to note the docket number FMCSA-2011-0146; you need to mention the docket number in the subject line of your comments, or to file your comments via the web.
Thanks for your time, and stay safe.

Keith Kennedy lives in Laramie and is the executive director of the Wyoming Ag-Business Association and the Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission, and lobbies for the Ag-Business Association, Wyoming Crop Improvement Association and the Wyoming Wheat Growers Association.