Late last year, the EPA ruled that the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation have “state status” and can perform air quality monitoring. The tribes also may offer input on projects within 50 miles of the reservation’s borders.
This ruling placed Riverton, Kinnear and Pavillion and adjoining areas within the reservation’s boundaries.
Mead opposed the decision when it was announced and continued his criticism during a speech to the Wyoming Press Association during its winter convention in Laramie Friday. The governor said he has asked the agency to review and reverse its decision.
“It’s problematic,” he said. “It’s problematic that the EPA does this.”
The fact that the EPA felt it could expand the reservation also means it could decrease it at some point, Mead said. That would also be wrong. He said the EPA decision is contrary to history, including 1905 congressional action, and established case law.
“To me, what the EPA has done is outrageous,” Mead said.
He said he “respects” the tribes’ position on the issue, but warned there are other areas to consider.
Mead said if the decision is upheld, some people who are behind bars for crimes as serious as murder or rape could ask to have their conviction voided, claiming the court did not have proper jurisdiction. It could also make things difficult for law enforcement officers, who may find their authority challenged.
The governor also touched on other topics during his speech, then took questions from the roomful of journalists.
He said he is very optimistic about the state’s economy, citing studies and reports that show very good times indeed in the state. Mead, a Republican, could have been making a campaign speech as he considers a run for a second term.
“I think Wyoming is in good shape,” Mead said. “If you think of Wyoming as a stock, it’s a good bet.”
He also noted that the state has seen unemployment drop to 4.4 percent, has been labeled a “top five boom state” and is consistently ranked as the first or second best-run state. There is a strong pro-business climate in Wyoming, the governor said, but it also shows compassion, with the state having the fourth-lowest poverty rate and the fewest children in poverty per-capita.
Wyoming also has the cleanest air in the nation, is very affordable for college students, and its fiscally conservative status has resulted in a AAA credit rating. The state has $17 billion in savings and $800 million in a rainy-day fund.
He said he hopes the Legislature approves his proposal to send $175 million to local governments, up from $135 million the last time he asked for local government funding.
Mead said local governments know what potholes to fill, streets to maintain and bridges to fix. In addition, most job creation happens on the local level, so that is an area that deserves support from the state, he said.
“We need to continue to invest in Wyoming,” Mead said. “We need to continue to believe in Wyoming.”
The proposed budget the Legislature will address in February calls for $3.3 billion in spending, almost exactly the same total as it faced for the previous biennium.
Mead said while there is a “question of process” over the manner in which the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees named Dick McGinity president of the university on Thursday, removing the “interim” from the title he was given in November, he has a lot of confidence in McGinity.
“I think he is a stellar guy,” Mead said.
The governor said he feels the legalization of marijuana in Colorado will cause problems in that state and in Wyoming. People who buy pot in Colorado will not stop at the border and throw it out before entering Wyoming, he said.
“I think it will increase the amount of marijuana in Wyoming,” Mead said.
He said he does not favor legalizing the drug in Wyoming. The state has enough problems with substance abuse, Mead said, and it is still against federal law.
“I’m against it,” he said.
Mead said he is often asked when people can start buying lottery tickets in Wyoming. The state has legalized the sale of lottery tickets, and some thought they would go on sale in January.
But he said he has advised the new lottery director to go slow and only start sales when everything is in place. You only get one chance to launch such an enterprise, Mead said, so it may not start until this summer or fall.
“We just don’t know,” the governor said.
He said he has been in contact with the family of Andrew McAdams, the Wyoming National Guard soldier who died in Afghanistan on Jan. 10.
“It’s been a difficult time,” Mead said.