SHERIDAN — Gov. Matt Mead’s ongoing visit to Canada to speak with business and energy leaders has proved worthwhile, a Governor’s Office spokesman recently told The Sheridan Press.
With Canada firmly entrenched as Wyoming’s largest international trade partner, the trip is part of the governor’s recently released statewide energy strategy; specifically its goal of strengthening bonds with foreign states.
“Wyoming is seeing some significant growth in its foreign export opportunities, and Gov. Mead wants to continue to see that grow,” spokesman Renny MacKay said.
Mead’s visit to the commonwealth came the same week that a representative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told a congressional committee her organization would not pursue a broad environmental impact study to better understand the potential climate change effects of increasing coal exports via shipping terminals in the Pacific Northwest.
That move — one which has been praised by coal industry insiders and lamented by environmental groups — means a potentially more streamlined process of constructing new ports and expanding existing ones.
While currently in Alberta, Mead spent the first leg of the trip in British Columbia visiting some of the terminals which specialize primarily in shipping U.S. and Canadian coal to Asia.
In addition to a stop at the Westshore Terminal, Mead met with officials from Port Metro Vancouver, which operates and regulates one of largest ports in North America.
“Whether it is Powder River Basin coal for electricity, Canadian coal for metallurgy or any number of agricultural products, manufactured goods or commodities, we must remember that the U.S. and Canada are trade partners in a global economy,” Mead said in a media release. “Access to all markets helps our economies and improves the standard of living across the world.”
Still, not everyone is on board with plans to increase exports.
Some landowner groups in Wyoming, Montana and parts of Canada have raised concerns that increased shipping infrastructure would result in negative environmental impacts and a reduced capacity for ranchers and farmers to make their living off the land.
Groups such as the Montana-based Northern Plains Resource Council claim that the refusal of the Army Corps to more seriously consider the potential health and environmental effects of rail development and increased exports stands to seriously harm their communities.
In regard to those concerns, MacKay said the governor’s trip included meetings with Canadian citizens who shared similar concerns.
During those sessions, Mead said that while it’s not his place to become involved in local land planning activities, he hopes that a growing body of analytical data will help pave the way for railroad construction and a future of increased exports.
Now in Alberta, Mead is devoting his time to meeting with officials from Canada’s oil sands industry in addition to visiting one of the country’s largest hydrocarbon processing centers.
He is scheduled to return to Wyoming today.
Mead has been accompanied on his trip by representatives of several companies that are based in or have interests in Wyoming and Canada.
“(This trip is) part of the governor’s energy strategy to try to expand energy opportunities for Wyoming,” MacKay said. “There are opportunities to expand energy markets for Wyoming companies overseas and in Canada and I think this trip is helping to do that.”