CHEYENNE — The last time Gillette Mayor Tom Murphy was in Washington, D.C., for a conference, he fell easily into conversation with a group of young attendees.
That is, until he mentioned that his town’s primary industry is coal mining.
“It was like they’d been told about the devil, but now he was incarnate!” Murphy said of the looks he got. “It was obvious to me they didn’t have a clue where their electricity comes from.”
Now Murphy’s headed back to D.C. to try to change such perceptions about coal and other natural resources. Only this time, he’ll be making his case on Capitol Hill before several dozen members of Congress.
Murphy will testify Wednesday before the House Natural Resources Committee during a hearing on creating jobs through natural resource extraction.
The first-term mayor was invited to testify after he and other members of the Northeast Wyoming Municipal Leadership Group led several congressional staffers last month on a tour of coal mines, a sawmill and other industrial sites in the region.
“I thought it would be a good idea for those folks that are making policy, or advising the folks that are making policy, to have folks come see for themselves,” Murphy said.
During his five minutes of testimony, Murphy said he plans to explain to lawmakers how important it is to pass a national energy policy, something the nation currently doesn’t have.
“With a national energy policy, you don’t have these tremendous boom-bust cycles that just kill local economies,” he said. “That’s why we have pole-barn construction throughout our community. You don’t get solid, long term investment without a solid national energy policy.”
Murphy also said he would like to point out how many government regulations and rules are drawn up by unelected government workers.
“You have really well-meaning, highly educated, responsible people that are not being held accountable,” he said. “They are well-meaning people without any practical experience.”
Asked if he felt any trepidation testifying before Congress for the first time, Murphy laughed.
“I’m going to be pretty passionate,” he said. “I’m really relishing the opportunity to tell them, ‘We’ve been mining coal and drilling oil for more than 100 years. Come out and look — see how bad things are.’”
Contact capital bureau reporter Jeremy Pelzer at 307-632-1244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.