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Solar Economics Looking Sunnier, Even In Coal Country

With its big blue skies and high altitude, Wyoming's solar potential is among the best in the nation, but even as residential rooftop solar has boomed recently in places like California, Colorado and New Jersey, it's barely made any inroads in the state. Economics and politics both play a role, but with the price of photovoltaics continuing to drop, some people are starting to ask whether momentum is building for solar in nation's largest coal-producing state. “We have an amazing solar...
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Topic Of The Week

What role should the state play in keeping schools & teachers accountable for educating students?

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Rebecca Martinez

The student population at the University of Wyoming has grown slightly over the past year. UW reports that 162 more students attend the University than did last spring.

The College of Engineering and Applied Science has seen most of the recent growth. Its student population is up 9% or about 150 students from last year.

New Engineering Dean Michael Pishko says despite the downturn in the oil industry, companies are still looking to hire new engineers.

Photo Courtesy Wyoming Catholic College via Facebook

Wyoming Catholic College in Lander has decided not to offer federal grants and loans to its students. It says doing so could threaten the school’s religious liberties.

Last year, the small, 8-year-old college took its first step toward accreditation. The move meant credits earned at W-C-C could be transferred to other schools—and made it eligible for federal loan programs.

But the college’s Board of Director’s voted unanimously last month not to participate in those programs—known as Title IV.

University of Wyoming

Five new members will be joining the University of Wyoming’s Board of Trustees. They will take over for members whose terms have expired and the late Warren Lauer who died last year.

Mel Baldwin, John McKinley, Dick Scarlett, Michelle Sullivan and Mike Massie were appointed by the governor and approved by the senate. All will serve until 2021 except for Massie, who is serving Lauer’s term until 2017. The Next Board of Trustees meeting will be at the end of this month.

University President Dick McGinity says the new members will be key in moving the Board forward.

Wyoming’s largest investor-owned electric utility is asking to raise its rates in 2016. Rocky Mountain Power submitted a request to the Public Service Commission this week for a 4.5 percent overall increase. The company estimates that would translate to roughly an extra $5 charge on residential customers’ monthly bills. Bryce Freeman, administrator of the Wyoming Office of Consumer Advocate, says the request doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

laramiepublicart.org

The city of Laramie has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help create a public art plan. Last week, member organizations hosted the first community meetings to discuss the plan. Residents can also suggest projects and locations on this online survey.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

The Wyoming Senate decided that a bill that would have provided a mechanism for guns to be in schools and gun free zones was not ready for prime time. The Senate voted 25 to 3 to kill that bill with no debate. It ends debate on the issue for the year. 

The bill originally mandated that guns be allowed in schools, colleges, and government meetings, but Senator Hank Coe successfully amended the bill to leave those decisions up to local governing bodies. Lander Republican Cale Case favored the House version of the bill.

The House and Senate will convene a conference committee to try and iron out a piece of legislation that supporters say is key to education reform. 

The bill sets up the next phase of a school accountability program that grades educators and provides help if they aren't meeting expectations. The House voted to remove state oversight from the bill. Pinedale Representative Albert Sommers says it goes too far.

A greater percentage of Wyoming high school students graduated on time last year than the year before. That’s according to data released Wednesday by the Wyoming Department of Education.

The four-year graduation rate for the 2013-2014 school year was 78.6 percent—up from 77.5 percent the year before—and compared with 81 percent nationwide. 

Judge Nancy Freudenthal has ruled on a federal court case concerning concerning a controversial wild horse round-up that took place last year in southwestern Wyoming.

Freudenthal said that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the roundup, which means there was not sufficient study of the potential environmental impacts of the roundup.

Opening arguments were heard Monday in the case.

Dennis Whedbee's crew was rushing to prepare an oil well for pumping on the Sweet Grass Woman lease site, a speck of dusty plains rich with crude in Mandaree, N.D.

It was getting late that September afternoon in 2012. Whedbee, a 50-year-old derrick hand, was helping another worker remove a pipe fitting on top of the well when it suddenly blew.

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