M.E. - I'm here and ready to go and I'll just start off with a brief statement and then open it up to any questions that you might have. He mentioned the vote but we've got a little while before I absolutely have to cast my vote. Then I preside immediately after that so it's one of those afternoons, but it's nothing unusual. I thought I'd start off today by giving a little bit of a status report on the coal bed methane issue. You may be aware that the court decision struck down 90 years of precedent that said that gas was gas and coal was coal. Now they say that some gas belongs to the coal and that makes it a federal government property. It's kind of devastating to those areas of the state that have coal and gas and particularly the property owners that have both of those. We have drafted a bill that could go through a normal legislative stage. It's a delegation bill that clarifies the court decision up to the point of the court decision. It should continue the capability to handle the coal bed methane. What we're finding back here of course is that it is a tremendous educational effort. We're having to educate those members of the other states on both sides of the aisle on what gas is and what coal is and what coal bed methane is. It's a very basic process. We are having a lot of success with that. We'll be dropping the bill in as soon as the timing is exactly appropriate on it and as we've gotten as many of the people educated that can help from both sides of the aisle. We are encouraged by the interest and help we are getting from both sides of the aisle. Once we get the necessary support we will add it to one of the spending bills that's now being considered. Most likely it will be the Interior bill in order for us to get it done in this session of the Congress. To continue the economy rolling along in natural gas and methane and coal in our state it will be necessary to have unanimous consent on it. Of course at this point in any legislative session that's a near miracle, but we're encouraged. With those brief comments, I'll throw it open to any other questions or more on that one.
Carole Cloudwalker (C.C.) This is Carole Cloudwalker at KODI in Cody. I have one main question that concerns airline service. On September 2, you had an interesting news release and in that news release you hinted at return to regulation of airline service to help the West. It seems like Wyoming's airlines are on a bungee cord. The service comes and goes. I wondered how viable a possibility it is to return to regulation of some kind?
M.E. We are extremely concerned that we have air service in Wyoming and in fact increased air service in Wyoming. What we are seeing is a national economy and an industry that probably because of (de-regulation) is now finding out that some of the longer routes are more profitable than some of the feeder routes. We are seeing them pulling out airlines not because they aren't used, because they are used virtually to the maximum, but they are being pulled out because they can put them on longer flights where their accounting systems show they are more profitable. Now we've raised questions about their accounting systems, ways that they allocate more money to the longer runs rather than on a mile by mile basis and mechanisms whereby probably the frequent flyer miles are not given any credibility in the mix. Since Wyoming is a tourist destination and people use frequent flyer miles for tourist destination cases we may not be getting full accounting for that. They are showing some revenue differences because of accounting methods perhaps. What I'm suggesting first of all is that we need to be forming better alliances with the surrounding major airports, like Salt Lake City, Rapid City and Billings that have some value in being feeder lines to Wyoming and also in our helping to protect their airlines. They are talking about perhaps pulling the Delta service out of Salt Lake. They are saying it in a very underhanded way and they're not owning up to it. We may have to help some of those other towns in the same process and thorough that mechanism get our airlines. Falling short of that if what deregulation is going to mean is that rural areas do not have air transportation, we'll have to look at re-regulation. Every state has rural areas.
C.C. Senator, how would you encourage towns such as Billings, Montana to fly into Cody once again as they used to do? What would you do?
M.E. What it will require is the towns of Wyoming getting together with the potential feeder cities that surround us. I can use Salt Lake as a better example right now because they are talking about a direct flight to Jackson Hole instead of coming out of Salt Lake bringing it out of Houston and another one coming out of Atlanta, Georgia. Now it looks to me like those are routes that are destined to fail. They won't be able to fill up a direct flight from either of those cities to Jackson. Then they will be able to say 'We don't have enough requests so we'll just pull that route.' But the immediate effect is that Salt Lake City loses some routes. Salt Lake City becomes less of a viable airport. So, Salt Lake City and Jackson Hole ought to be a viable coalition for maintaining air service into Jackson with Salt Lake recognizing that it affects them as well. We are more inter-related than we ever were before. It's up to Wyoming to promote that inter-relationship to protect our air service.
C.C. If regulation were re-applied, how would it function? What would be the way it would work?
M.E. We are a long way from re-regulation. But, it's a threat that the airlines are paying attention to.
Linda Savel (L.S.) My name is Linda Savel I'm from the Platte County Record Times in Wheatland. I have a question for you concerning the recent decision on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on federal grazing regulations. I was just wondering what your opinion of their opinion is concerning those regulations?
M.E. Well, I've got to tell you that I was kind of disappointed in the way that that came out. I think that it will have a dramatic effect again on the economy and particularly an economy that is down at the moment. The ranching and the ag communities are really suffering in our state and this is one more blow that pulls them down a little bit more. I was just a little disappointed. I thought sure that Judge Brimmer's decision would fare better than what it did in their opinion.
L.S. It was definitely devastating, that's for sure. What are some areas that you see given this decision that the ranchers and farmers in Wyoming can kind of not really get around it but can benefit or recover from it?
M.E. I don't think it will have a real short term application. It will take a while for the process to digest which will give us a little time to work on it. It will be a priority after the first of the year and I'm sure that the committee that deals with that will be gathering solutions as will I during the remainder of this year to see what the best possible mechanism is. We'll be talking to all of the groups that are involved too to see if we can't get some agreement and get everybody pulling towards a common goal of being sure we have enough food to eat.
L.S. That's the big issue that's been concerning a lot of our area farmers. Something else we've been looking at is the regulation of livestock processing. What are your feelings on those type of operations?
M.E. It's raised considerably as I travel around the state. There's a lot of concern about all the beef that's coming in from Canada. There's concern about the beef from Australia that's being held in Mexico and being requested to be brought into the United States. It violates agreements that we have at the present time but there is still that effort to do that. Then on top of that there is the packer concentration that's given us some problems. One of the places that that kind of manifests itself is Canada, which gets to bring its beef into the United States under an inspection system that is approval of a plan. But local packing places have to have more of a requirement than that and even if they meet the extensive requirements they are not allowed to ship over state lines. I've got a bill I am cosponsoring with Senator Burns from Montana that will allow people with the same kind of plan that the Canadian packers have, to be able to ship across state lines. That's interstate commerce. That's something we ought to be able to handle through Congress to get the same break for American producers that there are for foreign producers. We are also working of course on some country of origin labeling and a number of other measures that we think will help out.
L.S. Okay, those were the only issues that I saw that were facing our community right now at this time.
C.C. I had one other question, Senator. I understand that you support the Emergency Financial Relief Act. I understand that is $7.5 million in financial hardship money. Is that earmarked specifically? How does that get distributed?
M.E. There are two bills that deal with that. One of them we passed before we left in July. I don't know that it has been signed by the President. The other one hasn't come up yet. It's fairly complicated in the distribution. There are actually about five different bills that we'll be talking about with aid to farmers to take care of some of the present things. I'm going to have to go vote right now. I've run out of time on my vote. I really appreciate both of you being with me today and the great questions that you've asked. This really helps me to get a reflection of what's going on in Wyoming, even though I am there every weekend.