- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Two groups on Monday asked Wyoming’s state environmental regulatory agency to begin accepting comments from the public by email, not just by fax or postal mail, as part of the process of considering rule changes or whether to issue permits.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council landowners group and the Citizens United for Responsible Energy Development filed the request with the Environmental Quality Council, the citizen review panel for the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Accepting comments electronically would improve decision-making by making it easier for the public to interact with the department, council attorney Shannon Anderson wrote in the petition. “DEQ is fast becoming the last remaining agency in Wyoming that does not accept electronic comments from the public,” Anderson wrote.

The council often weighs in on issues before the department and Environmental Quality Council, especially when those issues might affect landowners in northeast Wyoming. The council has opposed plans by an Australian company to experiment with producing methane and other gases by oxidizing coal in the ground, for example.

Council representatives first asked the department to consider taking email comments in 2010.

If the department were to begin taking electronic comments, it would need to make sure the comments get to the right people and aren’t blocked by email spam filters, department spokesman Keith Guille said.

“We are working on a way to accept electronic comments through our website,” Guille said. “But we have to make sure we do it right and we take the right steps forward.”

The department complies with all state rules for soliciting public comment, he said.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas drilling, already accepts emailed comments. So too do federal agencies in Wyoming, such as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Federal agencies sometimes get thousands or even tens of thousands of electronic public comments on contentious matters in Wyoming. Often many of the comments are form letters written by advocacy groups.

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Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

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