By Jim Stanford on February 15, 2011
Not all the news coming out of Cheyenne this legislative session is depressing.
Rep. Jim Roscoe, D-Wilson, succeeded last week in getting the House to approve his bill that would construct a natural gas filling station for vehicles along Interstate 80 and require the Wyoming Department of Transportation to retrofit its fleet to operate on natural gas. Other agencies of state government also could use the facility.
House Bill 235 passed final reading on a 33-26 vote and awaits debate in the Senate, where the Transportation and Highways Committee first will take up the measure.
“I’m a firm believer in natural gas as a transportation fuel,” says Roscoe, whose district encompasses gas fields in Sublette County. “It’s a whole lot cleaner, a whole lot better for the air.”
Implementing the bill would cost about $1 million initially, but that investment would be recouped in about five years because of reduced fuel costs, Roscoe says. The measure also would expand the market for Wyoming’s natural gas.
Roscoe pointed to strides made in other cities around the West; in Salt Lake City, for instance, school bus fleets have been converted to run on natural gas, significantly reducing smog emissions. Utah is testing such buses for transit. Questar and EnCana, two of the major gas producers in Sublette County, already have converted their trucks to run on natural gas, he says.
The lawmaker’s broader hope is that one day natural gas filling stations will line major shipping corridors across the country. The bill directs Wyoming’s first station to be constructed in Rawlins.
“It’s the fastest way off foreign oil, if our country goes for it,” he says.
Roscoe’s newly elected colleague Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson, also has been successful in pushing through legislation, as has been well documented. With the help of Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, her bill to preserve 1,400 acres of state land in Grand Teton National Park passed both chambers of the Legislature and needs only approval of an amendment before being sent to Gov. Matt Mead.
More surprising is the success Petroff has had in advancing a joint resolution that would allow citizens to vote on consolidating town and county governments. HJ 5 passed the House last week and awaits debate in the Senate.
While Teton County lawmakers have talked for years about consolidation, bills that would enable the process repeatedly failed, even with former Sen. Grant Larson, R-Jackson, the one-time Senate president, wielding a lot of clout.
Petroff’s legislation still faces numerous hurdles; the bill proposes amending the Wyoming Constitution and as such requires a two-thirds majority for passage. Citizens then would have to approve the amendment in the next election. It will be up to Sen. Christensen, a cosponsor of the measure, to do some heavy lifting in the Senate and keep the bill moving.
Regardless, political insiders of both parties have been raving about Petroff’s debut. Says one Democratic leader with close ties to Cheyenne: “She has [legislators] eating out of her hands.” Petroff particularly has drawn kudos from women for her opposition to House Bill 251, which would regulate the relationship between a doctor and a woman seeking an abortion.
As usual, Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, has achieved mixed results this legislative session. Gingery has been effective in advancing several bills, but that’s a double-edged sword because his legislation often expands the powers of the state and law enforcement at the expense of citizens’ rights and liberties.
His bill that would force drivers to submit to breath, blood or urine testing for alcohol passed the House but faces resistance in the Senate. Another bill that would make autopsy reports secret also passed the House but has not yet been taken up by a Senate committee.
Update: The Senate has begun considering the controversial abortion ultrasound bill. To contact Sen. Christensen, call (307) 777-7711 during business hours or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; for a list of senators on the Agriculture Committee, which is reviewing the bill, click here.
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