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Wyoming launches economic stimulus program to bring oil and gas workforce back

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By: Camille Erickson – The Fairfield Sun Times – Gov. Mark Gordon launched an economic stimulus program on Wednesday to help the state’s ailing oil and gas industry recover from the economic collapse of energy markets fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $15 million stimulus available to operators will come from federal CARES Act dollars. The program aims to pump resources into well cleanup and finishing uncompleted oil and gas wells. Uncompleted wells have already been drilled, but have some remaining oil and gas that can still be extracted using other recovery methods. Operators can also use the funding to restart drilling at an idle well.

Wyoming operators will be eligible for up to $500,000 in stimulus aid.

“These funds will have a direct impact on Wyoming’s employment rate and put people back to work in our oil and gas sector which was impacted by COVID-19,” Gordon said. “It will provide opportunities for employees who lost jobs when drilling ceased. The oil and gas industry is a huge contributor to Wyoming revenues, employment, and its overall economy. These dollars will assist in our state’s economic rebound.”

In March, a global oil price war broke out between Russia and Saudi Arabia, sending prices tumbling. Simultaneously, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the economy to a near standstill, chilling demand for fuel. By April, the glut in supply and drought in demand caused oil prices to go negative. West Texas Intermediate contracts for May sold at negative $40 per barrel, plummeting roughly 300% a day before the deadline to purchase them. In June, Wyoming’s oil and gas rig count sank to zero for the first time in over 136 years. The series of events this year have devastated the U.S. oil and gas business.

Measures taken to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections slashed petroleum consumption to the lowest levels the U.S. Energy Information Administration has recorded since it began collecting this data in the early 1990s.

“The Energy Rebound Program is an excellent use of the CARES Act stimulus,” Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, said in a statement. “CARES funding was designed to address many of the disastrous economic effects stemming from the COVID and the collapse of much of Wyoming’s economy. The program will provide immediate jobs and long-term revenue for Wyoming.”

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming also praised the economic stimulus program.

“The Energy Rebound Program is very welcome news to our members and the industry as a whole,” Pete Obermueller, president of the association, said in a statement. “This program means immediate jobs in Wyoming’s natural gas and oil industry during this challenging time. Governor Gordon and his staff should be applauded for their strategic approach. Rather than a simple payment, the Governor has ensured that every dollar spent in this program will create jobs, leverage revenue returns to the state, accelerate important reclamation activities or all of the above.”

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