Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has been busy in the past few weeks signing a long list of bills into law, including a half-dozen energy measures dealing with a state energy improvement program, microbes use in natural gas drilling, natural gas vehicles (NGV), wind project property owners' rights, and even a nuclear energy production study.

Despite some local property owners' and environmental groups' concerns, Mead signed state Senate Bill SFO116 regulating the use of microbes as an innovative means of creating methane gas from coal seams. Two firms in the Powder River Basin, Luca Technologies and Ciris Energy Inc., use different techniques that involve injecting the microorganisms to feast on coal to produce natural gas.

While some ranching interests have questioned the safety of the process, which is applied underground and in one case aboveground also, the two companies assured legislators that either process can be done safely and the new regulations will help ensure that is the case.

A spokesperson for the governor said he was aware of some opponents to the bill that creates a regulatory framework for the oil/gas enhanced recovery with microbial conversion, but it was not a significant issue.

Another bill (HB 179) established an energy improvement program, offering financing, procedures and effective dates for local governments to offer energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements through a city, county or multi-county joint powers agreement. The new law will apply to residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Regarding NGVs, a new law (HB 235) authorizes the state transportation department to construct and operate NGV fueling stations that would be open to the general public, while setting regulations for the retrofit of NGVs. It also allows for the conversion to natural gas of state vehicles.

Under the new law, the state is to provide 75% of the fueling station costs and the rest would be paid for by the station operator, who will also be limited to putting no more than a 10% markup on natural gas sold for NGVs, compared to the prevailing wholesale price of gas. The law is effective July 1.

Action on undergoing the nuclear study (HB 1229) is effective immediately, and it will begin with the naming of a seven-member task force appointed by state legislators and the governor: two members each from the Senate and House and three members appointed by the governor representing the energy industry, geological survey sector and public at large. One of the senators and House members will be selected as cochairs.

The task force and its eventual report will examine a number of areas, including the potential incentives to encourage nuclear power production in the state, regulatory provisions, federal statutes, storage/reprocessing technologies, the role of higher education in future potential nuclear production and other related issues identified by the eventual task force members.

For the state's burgeoning wind sector, Mead signed two bills -- SFO 58 regarding landowner rights in wind developments and HB 223 covering property disclosure in wind estates.

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