CASPER, Wyo. — The looming federal government shutdown would affect the development of many of Wyoming’s energy resources, but it likely wouldn’t hurt the energy industry here unless it were to drag on.
The closure of the government would stop federal oversight and regulation of surface coal mining and halt permitting of oil and gas leases, according to a Department of the Interior contingency plan fact sheet.
“We still believe that there is the opportunity for Congress to avoid a government shutdown but are working to prepare for all possible scenarios,” Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said in a media release.
A shutdown would also halt onshore oil and gas inspection and enforcement, abandoned-mine land restoration oversight and the issuance of permits and approvals for onshore renewable energy rights of way, as well as other clearances.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees federal lands, manages more than 16,808 federal oil and gas leases covering nearly 12 million acres in Wyoming.
The agency announced last week that it’s nearly done clearing a two-year backlog of 1,501 unissued leases in the state.
Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, is relatively unconcerned about the impact of a shutdown on the industries he represents — as long as it doesn’t drag on too long.
“What’s another month after two years?” he said. “I don’t know if not getting issued a few leases right now is going to make a big difference in the scheme of things.”
It can take years to get federal permission to drill, and more years afterward to get permission to develop leases worth drilling, he said.
If the government shuts down, production will continue on the wells already approved.
“The government doesn’t drill wells and the government doesn’t produce the wells — companies do,” he said. “So that’s not going to change.”
Hinchey said he wasn’t sure how shutting down enforcement and inspection would affect the industry.
Marion Loomis, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, which represents the mining industry in the state, didn’t immediately answer a request for comment.
Approximately 52,500 of the Interior Department’s 68,900 employees would be furloughed, and that number would climb to 55,000 if the shutdown continued, according to the department.
It’s unclear how many Interior employees in Wyoming are due to be furloughed in a government shutdown, but it’s likely many of them would be sent home because of the types of activities halted because of a shutdown.