By Bob Beck
Cheyenne, Wyo. – A bill that strips Wyoming's Environmental Quality Council of its ability to declare areas of the state off-limits to non-coal surface mining has been signed into law by the governor.
The bill also allows the designation to be taken away from areas that have already been declared "very rare or uncommon." That includes a number of Wyoming landmarks and historic sites. The Wyoming Outdoor Council is among the groups that are very concerned about the possible long-range impacts of the bill.
Senator Chris Rothfuss of Laramie opposed the measure. But he says he doubts it will lead to a mining rush at state historic sites. "One of the concerns that someone would go back and de-designate one of the areas that has already been designated and that's hard to do and probably is not going to happen," he said. "So this isn't a sky is falling outcome. It is unfortunate, but we have other protections in place."
Senator Eli Bebout - who works in the oil and gas industry - sponsored the bill. He says the Environmental Quality Council has overstepped its authority in the past.