(Wyoming Business Report, February 26) – Wyoming will soon be a fully fledged member of the Interstate Mining Compact Commission, a move that gives Wyoming a greater voice.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” said Travis Deti, assistant director of the Wyoming Mining Association. “We as the biggest coal-producing state now have a vote at the table.”
For a number of years which Deti didn’t pinpoint, Wyoming has been an associate member of the IMCC. The commission is a “multi-state governmental agency/organization that represents the natural resource and related environmental protection interests of its member states.” It started in 1970 with only four member states and has since grown to 22 states that have enacted legislation to join the compact. Wyoming was one of only four associate member states along with Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
Deti said the state as an associate member paid dues to the compact without getting its own vote on mining and reclamation concerns. The dues won’t change as a full member, but the vote will.
“We voted on the vote,” Deti said.
The bill had wide support, receiving 57 “ayes” and only two “nays” from Reps. Marti Halverson (R-Lincoln, Sublette, Teton counties) and Gerald Gay (R-Natrona County). Neither of the legislators returned requests for comment on the dissent prior to press time, but the legislature is still in session. The bill went on to gather Gov. Matt Mead’s signature Wednesday and went into effect immediately.
Deti said in the past, the state has used its associate member status to make its views and interests known through aligned member states, but that system is imperfect and relies on other states to wedge in Wyoming’s opinion.
“One of the concerns that came up is that mining issues are getting a little more divisive on certain issues,” Deti said, particularly on coal. “You can’t always count on the support of others. We have to stand up for Wyoming’s interests.”
He said the decision indicates forethought into issues that could occur that may benefit from Wyoming having a voice at the compact.
Each state is officially represented by its governor as the voting member, but the governor can appoint someone to go in his stead.
As far as opposition goes, Deti said it probably comes down to accepting the compact as a whole and submitting the state to another set of official mining rules.
“States may not automatically think it’s a great deal to become a part of an interstate compact,” he said. “It’s kind of like signing a treaty.”
The compact exercises some study, recommendatory and consultative powers on behalf of the states, though is given no regulatory powers. The compact says it acts as a form for interstate action and communication on issues of concern to member states.
“It is the potential to stimulate the development and production of each state’s mineral wealth through effective regulatory programs that draws many of the states together in the prosecution of the commission’s work,” the compact’s website stated. “Given the environmental sensitivities associated with this objective, a significant portion of the commission’s work is dedicated to the environmental protection issues naturally associated with this mineral development.”
It goes on to list various issues it is involved with, including underground mine mapping, technology transfer and reform of the 1872 mining law.
The push for the change came from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, and is something Deti said the governor could “get behind.”