Wyoming gas crisis: possible solutions on the horizon

CHEYENNE – Gas prices continue to slowly decline nationwide, however, prices in Wyoming remain above the national average and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon’s Gas Committee panel is expected to present actionable solutions on or around Sept. 1.

Gordon’s Communications Director Michael Pearlman stated in an email to the Telegram, “the (working gas committee) group will be meeting for a (private) working session on August 17 to create a final report (to Gordon).”

The working session on Aug. 17 will not be open to the public or members of the media, however, Pearlman said details from the meeting will be included in the summary to the governor and released to the public.

“We expect that report to be delivered to the governor around September 1,” Pearlman added. “It is likely to include a summary of the testimony and information gathered by the working group, as well as any potential recommendations for (Wyoming) Executive or Legislative branch action.”

Pearlman cautioned that based on the “dialogue in the two (public) working sessions – there may be limited options available to the state for influencing the pricing of a global commodity.”

Gordon announced the Governor’s Gas Committee and working group at the start of June and held two public meetings with industry expert testimony on June 15 and June 22.

While each working meeting explained why Wyoming and the nation were experiencing higher than usual gas prices, very limited solutions were offered that would immediately reduce the price of gasoline in Wyoming. Multiple solutions given pointed to long-term changes that could take upwards of five to seven years before Wyomingites saw relief at the pump.

Some of those solutions included hiring more truck drivers, getting gas from other regions, such as the Gulf region due to Wyoming’s gas coming from Denver’s limited supply, building new refineries in Wyoming, expanding the pipelines in Wyoming to make stops specifically in Wyoming and working with other gas and oil companies to bring more product into the state via freight and other methods.

Wyoming has seen a reduction in refineries and refinery capacity in the last decade, most recently with the closure and conversion to biodiesel of Cheyenne’s HollyFrontier Refinery, which reduced the amount of barrels of crude oil Wyoming could produce a day. Wyoming was not the only state that saw closures, altogether five high-capacity refineries nationwide shutdown in the last two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Those refineries produced about 5%, or about one million barrels of fuel per day, for the fuel market. Participants and presenters at the last Governor Gas Committee meeting detailed how the reduced refinery capacity has crippled the nation’s gas supply and listed regulatory issues and/or concerns as the reasons why refineries closed and/or switched to producing biofuels. They also demonstrated how not only a lack of supply, but a lack in truck drivers were driving up pricing.

The committee also considered possible legislative actions such as fuel tax holidays or reducing the amount of tax charged for fuel in the state. Experts in attendance at both public sessions determined these solutions would harm the state more than help consumers. 

Other solutions offered by members of the committee and those in attendance included gas voucher programs for the elderly, veterans and those at and/or below the poverty line; very few solutions were aimed at the working and middle class Wyoming residents.

The committee disfavored reducing Wyoming’s fuel tax for a few different reasons; however, two major reasons cited by multiple gas committee members included fuel taxes are used to fund many programs in the state, including K-12 education, roads and highways and emergency services; and the reduction would be “mere pennies,” as one member stated, which would require Wyoming Legislature to pass a bill to reduce Wyoming’s current fuel tax rate.

At the time of the first public gas committee meeting on July 15, Wyomingites were paying $4.405 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline; the highest it had ever been since August 2008 when residents were shoveling out $3.972 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. Goshen County residents were paying $4.614 to $4.717 per gallon of unleaded regular gasoline at the time; the middle average for the state. Since then, Goshen County residents have been among the mid to higher end of gas prices in the state – which remains above the national average.

At the time of the second public meeting on July 22, Goshen County residents were paying an average of $4.697 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline and $5.529 per gallon for diesel.

After the two public meetings, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued its landmark 6-3 ruling in West Virginia V. EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) on June 30, against the EPA regarding its lack of statutory legal authority to regulate states as it pertains to the gas and oil industry.

The governor’s office issued a statement declaring the ruling a victory for Wyoming and vowed to continue to find equitable solutions for residents feeling the pressure at the pump. Wyoming was one of 19 states who joined West Virginia in the case against the EPA.

“Wyoming joined this lawsuit to protect Wyoming’s coal-fired plants from federal overreach intent only on curtailing coal-fired electric generation,” Gordon previously wrote in a press release. “Today’s decision recognizes that innovation – not regulation – is a key to a prosperous future and a healthier environment.”

For more information on all three of these prior Telegram stories, visit torringtontelegram.com and search: No end in sight for gas crisis; Higher than normal gas prices could stick around a bit longer, committee discussed issues; and Gov. Gordon, PAW applaud SCOTUS ruling; EPA vows lawful actions. There have been no new updates from the EPA at this time.

The Rocky Mountain Region, where Wyoming gets its oil and gas from currently in Denver, Colorado, is still among the highest regions in the nation. The Rocky Mountain region supplies much of the Midwest and Western states; only Wyoming and Colorado are paying slightly lower than the rest of the Midwest and Western states by roughly $1.248 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. However, Wyomingites are paying roughly .566 cents more per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline than the Gulf Region, which supplies much of the Central and Southern states.

As of Monday, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the national average for regular unleaded gasoline was $3.956 and Wyominites were paying an average of $4.114 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. Goshen County residents were paying between $4.179 and $4.482 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline; about .235 cents per gallon less than exactly a month prior when the first governor’s meeting took place. Monday’s average in Goshen is only down .003 cents per gallon from Sunday and .123 cents per gallon down from Monday of last week, Aug. 8, which is about the daily average decline currently.

Goshen and Platte counties were among the highest on the eastern side of the state, while Niobrara and Laramie counties were among the states lowest.

As of Monday, Aug. 15, Platte County ranks among the highest in the state on the eastern side with gas prices ranging from $4.483 to $5.005 per gallon of regular unleaded gas; Goshen County ranks among the second highest in the state on the eastern side with prices ranging from  $4.179 to $4.482; and both Laramie and Niobrara counties rank among the second lowest in the state on the eastern side with prices ranging from $3.854 to $4.060 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline.

While Wyoming is ranking higher in gas prices on average than neighboring Nebraska by roughly .247 cents per gallon, neighboring Scotts Bluff County in Nebraska is among the highest in the state with prices running from $3.944 to $4.449; about .033 cents per gallon cheaper than Goshen County.

In a press release on Monday, AAA Spokesman Andrew Gross wrote, “Falling pump prices may eventually lead to more drivers hitting the road again – but that hasn’t happened yet. Instead, many drivers are waiting for prices to fall further before reverting to their typical driving habits.”

The agency noted with school resuming in much of the U.S., and on Aug. 23 in Goshen County, there is an expectation that gas demand could be renewed, despite the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) reporting on Monday gas demand rose from 8.54 million b/d to 9.12 million b/d last week, however, the rate is still 307,000 b/d lower than this time last year.

“Today’s national average of $3.95 is .62 cents less than a month ago, but .77 cents more than a year ago,” Gross stated. “The national average for a gallon of regular gas fell .10 cents in the past week – due primarily to stable oil prices and fewer drivers than usual fueling up.”

Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) Vice President and Director of Communications Ryan McConnaughey provided this statement from PAW President Pete Obermueller to the Telegram, “at the beginning of this process, we argued that the principles of supply and demand resulted in high prices and would correct the problem too.”

“The price of gas has fallen each of the last 60 days of supply and demand has begun to rebalance,” Obermueller added. “Even so, the group did identify strategies that could help shore up supply of refined petroleum products closer to Wyoming’s market and I’m interested to see how those ideas progress.”

Peralman said as soon as Gordon receives the last summary report and makes a decision as to what direction Wyoming will take, he would notify media partners to report to residents.


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