Washington, D.C. --The August home work period has given U.S. Senator Mike Enzi plenty more to work on now that he is back in Washington, D.C.
Throughout his travels he heard from people worried about air service in the state. Others asked Enzi to do something about a court decision concerning coal bed methane, which they said threatens their livelihood. Still others were concerned imports of products from Canada and Mexico are harming Wyoming's agricultural industry, among other issues.
"The delegation expects to introduce legislation later this week or early next week we put together with help from Governor Geringer that would "grandfather" lease agreements in effect at the time of a July court decision," said Enzi. "The fallout from this decision affects Wyoming more drastically than any other state. We're educating other senators and representatives and gathering cosponsors for the bill. Time is tight before the end of the session, but we are working to get this protection into law through any means we can."
The July court decision if upheld would give the government, not private lease holders mineral rights for and royalties from the methane. This is contrary to the nearly 90-year practice of treating the gas as a separate mineral from the coal.
Enzi and other Wyoming leaders also met with officials from Delta Airlines in August. Earlier in the year Wyoming's congressional delegation met with United Airlines representatives. Wyoming is suffering from cutbacks in air service.
"I think what's happening is airlines are realizing a profit serving Wyoming, but want to concentrate in the more urban areas of the country where the profits are greater," Enzi said. "There are a few things we can do in Congress, such as take another look at deregulation of the industry. We can't allow rural communities to suffer irreparable harm for lack of air service."
Enzi also said it was important for the people of Salt Lake City, Utah, Rapid City, South Dakota and Billings, Montana to realize air routes from those cities into Wyoming are important. He encouraged airport managers in those areas to work with each other in addition to working with the airlines to keep planes flying. Enzi believes the trend of decreasing air service to Wyoming will begin to negatively affect the more populace areas in neighboring states.
"These cities should be looking at Wyoming connections if they want to remain viable hubs for the airlines," said Enzi.
Among the many problems being faced by the Wyoming agricultural community is an imbalance in meat labeling and inspecting practices. Currently producers in Wyoming and other states are not allowed to ship state-inspected meat across their borders, yet Canadian and Mexican beef can be transported anywhere in the country. Also, when consumers go to the stores and purchase beef or lamb they have no idea where the meat came from.
"One way to help Wyoming farmers and ranchers cope with foreign imports is by giving them equal footing with those outside our borders," said Enzi. "We recognize Canadian meat to be safe, so we should recognize our own meat to be safe. I'm pushing for more fairness in our food inspection equivalency system so that our nation is not flooded with agricultural imports from Canada and Mexico that may not be up to the high quality standards that American consumers expect."
He is cosponsoring a bill that would require the labeling of beef and lamb as "imported" or "United States". Enzi also supports legislation introduced that would allow states to ship state-inspected meat to any state in the Union, just like Canadian and Mexican meat.
Another bill he is cosponsoring, the Family Investment and Rural Savings Tax Act (FIRST) would allow farmers to deposit up to 20 percent of their income in interest-bearing, tax-deferred accounts for up to five years. It would give agricultural producers the ability to average their income over a three-year period, which would stabilize their income and moderate their tax liability. Enzi was also a supporter of the Emergency Financial Relief Act before it passed the Senate and House. The bill would make $7.5 million in financial hardship money available to the Wyoming ag community starting in October.
Enzi and his wife Diana met with Wyomingites from Pinedale to Pine Haven, logging nearly 5,000 miles between stops during the month. He held meetings in Sundance, Sheridan, Aladdin, Pine Haven, Moorcroft, Upton, Pinedale and Big Piney with residents. He also participated in an oil royalty forum in Casper, took in the state fair in Douglas and toured reconstruction of the Dunraven Pass road near Jackson in Yellowstone Park and viewed a burn area near Devil's Tower.
"One of the most exciting meetings I had was with people from the Aladdin area," said Enzi. "The Wyoming map lists the population as zero, but 15 people showed up at the town's general store to visit with me. That's a pretty good percentage of the population."