News

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The report by the Rhodium Group and the National Committee on US-China Relations, details Chinese commercial investment in the US by congressional district. Wyoming, with just one congressional district, has seen around $770 million in Chinese investment state-wide.  According to Shawn Reese of the Wyoming Business Council, this is largely the result of two joint ventures between Chinese and American oil and gas companies in the DJ Basin and Powder River Basin.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Fair has announced that this year the event will be moved from Jackson to Casper.

Fair General Manager Dave Hutton says rising costs in Jackson was a major factor in the change of venue. But even with lower costs, Casper has fewer direct flights than Jackson, potentially making it more difficult for people to attend. Hutton says he does think this year’s turnout will be slightly lower in previous years.

For the first time, Wyoming now has two cities with a population of 60-thousand or more as Casper has gone over the 60-thousand mark. Economist Wenlin Liu says Natrona County is the fastest growing county in the state.

“It grew over eight percent from 2010 to 2014. It was mainly driven by oil exploration in the Powder River Basin. You know Casper has a service center for lots of these training activities, so that’s why they attracted so many workers.”

David Koch

For some Wyoming residents, Memorial Day weekend means enjoying the season’s first drive over a mountain pass that’s been closed all winter. Barring any major snow storms, Wyoming Department of Transportation says most seasonal closures over the state’s mountain passes should re-open in time for Memorial Day weekend.

District engineer Pat Persson manages snow removal on the Snowy Range between Laramie and Saratoga. He says it’s been an easier job this year than year’s past because the snow pack isn’t as deep. But he says, a snowstorm could still quickly move in and slow progress.

Jackson’s bottleneck traffic may be getting some relief in the form of the Community Streets Plan.

The plan was created by Colorado firm Charlier Associates, and it aims to make walking, biking, and taking public transport more feasible for Jackson’s residents and visitors, which would hopefully make them less likely to use cars to get around. It looks to do this by installing more sidewalks, better bike lanes, and easier access to bus stops.

Abhi Sharma, Flickr Creative Commons

Hundreds of parents, students, and teachers showed up for a contentious school board meeting about reading curriculum in Cody Tuesday night. 

Cody teachers, administrators, and parents spent nearly three years selecting reading and language materials for the school district. They chose Houghton and Mifflin’s Journey curriculum books.

School Superintendent Ray Schulte says 8 or 9 people filed 40 complaints against the selection. Newly elected school board member Scott Weber had problems with some of the content.

“There’s junk science in there.”

This week a group of legislators will be deciding how much money Wyoming schools will receive over the next five years. The process is called re-calibration and it looks at all the elements of the school funding model. 

The review comes at a time when the state is looking at a possible financial downturn and Senate Education Chairman Hank Coe says that will enter into their discussions. He says they may need to be more frugal than in the past.

Wyoming PBS will air a program tonight that will examine the challenges facing the sage grouse that may land the bird on the endangered species act this year. 

Called The Sagebrush Sea, the program will take a close look at why sage grouse numbers are in decline. Producer Marc Dantzler says he has been impressed by efforts made by the state of Wyoming to improve conditions for the sage grouse, but he says the bird’s condition in other states could cause it to be listed.

Wikimedia Commons

The director of the Wyoming’s chapter of the Conservation Fund, Luke Lynch, was killed in an avalanche on Sunday. Lynch and three others had ascended Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park when a wet slab swept them off the mountain. One other man was seriously injured but two others survived to make a rescue call.

Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs says it was the accumulation of fresh snow on top of winter snowpack that created the dangerous conditions.

A Montana company called Health Management Services will step in and take over operations of a nursing home in Saratoga that was slated to shut down. 

The Deseret Health group had planned to close the nursing home in Saratoga and another one in Rock Springs that was sold last week. Both facilities will remain open after the Wyoming Department of Health stepped in and brokered the deals for both facilities. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

On Tuesday, Wyoming's Environmental Quality Council approved a significant new rule that will regulate oil and gas emissions in the Upper Green River Basin, an area that has been plagued by air pollution. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports.

Huge Magma Reservoir Under Yellowstone

May 19, 2015
Hsin Hua Huang, University of Utah

Scientists say a mammoth magma reservoir lies under Yellowstone. It’s four times the size of the magma pool that fuels the super volcano. They say it holds enough hot rock to fill the Grand Canyon 11 times… but you shouldn’t worry.

Dr. Robert Smith is considered the world’s foremost expert on the Yellowstone super volcano system. His publication last year drew attention worldwide, when it declared the magma body under the park was two and a half times larger than previously thought. 

Photo by Wendy Shattil/Bob Rozinksi under Creative Commons licensing

On Friday, two groups of oil and gas producers, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance, filed an injunction in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming against the first-ever federal rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing.  

Western Sugar Cooperative

The Western Sugar Cooperative has announced that it will slowly be phasing out its Torrington sugar beet factory, leaving about 70 people in the area out of work.

Jenny Pragnell is with the Goshen County Economic Development Corporation. She says she has lived in Goshen County her whole life and this is probably the biggest layoff she has seen.

This week, an Idaho environmental surveying company was issued several citations and a $15,000 dollar fine by the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Officials say the company, Nature’s Capital, failed to provide safety equipment or training to an employee who was killed by a bear in Teton National Forest last fall.

OSHA administrator John Ysebaert says Nature’s Capital should have provided bear spray, noise makers and required a trip itinerary. He says while $15,000  isn’t a steep fine, the amount is based on the violation, not on whether it was a fatality.

Some parents in Cody are raising concerns about a reading curriculum that the local school board will vote to approve or deny next week.

The proposed resources are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and were suggested by a committee of educators in Park County School District 6 after years of discussion.

But critics don’t like the way some the reading materials address topics like war, slavery, global climate change and the treatment of indigenous people.

The Wyoming Democratic Party has chosen a new Executive Director.  22-year-old Laramie native Aimee Van Cleave will be the youngest political party director in the nation. Despite her age she has already worked as a legislative aide, worked on a political campaign, and has worked as a lobbyist.

Some landowners are expressing concern about how expanded sage grouse protections could affect their private property rights. At a state sage grouse meeting last week in Douglas, two ranchers requested that their property be removed from the grouse’s current protected areas or be left out of proposed additions.

Last week, Utah representative Rob Bishop added a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act that would delay the listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. The bill says listing the bird could endanger the country by placing restrictions  on how military property can be used. 

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted Thursday keep the search for the next UW President open.  

The trustees voted to release the names of the finalists and also voted to bring them to campus and possibly other places in the state sometime before March. The goal is to have them meet members of the campus community and the public. 

A U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer could affect health coverage for nearly 21,000 Wyoming residents. The court will decide if subsidies can be provided to low-income individuals in states that don’t have their own health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Wyoming is one of more than 30 states without its own insurance marketplace.

Of the 21,000 citizens enrolled in a health care plan under the federal government run marketplace, 91% receive the premium tax credit, which on average pays for more than 70% of their monthly premiums.

Aaron Schrank

 

Laramie made history last night when the city council passed Wyoming’s first broad ordinance banning discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

 

The ordinance, which passed by a vote of 7-2,  covers public or private employment, housing, and public accommodations like bars or restaurants. The town of Jackson also has an LGBT anti discrimination ordinance on the books, but it only covers public employees.

 

The state of Wyoming paid a school district in Montana $438,000 this year to educate 35 children who live on the Wyoming side of the border in Yellowstone National Park.

Administrators in both states say the arrangement has worked well.

The federal government had paid for these students for decades—but it stopped last year due to budget cuts.

Students in the Mammoth Hot Springs area previously did not belong to any school district. Now, they attend school in Gardiner, Montana, but live within the expanded boundary of Wyoming’s Park County School District One.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

This week, an opinion piece published on Slate.com claimed that a new Wyoming law makes it illegal to collect data on federal lands.

The Wyoming Farm Bureau and the Office of State Lands and Investments says that is not accurate. Wyoming State Lands Assistant Director Jason Crowder says Wyoming has no jurisdiction over federal lands, but the law could impact state lands on a case by case basis. 

EmpRes Healthcare

Washington-based EmpRes Healthcare Management has committed to a lease on Rock Spring’s troubled nursing home.

The home’s former owner, Deseret Health Group, abruptly announced its closure and cut off its access to funds last week. Nursing Home Director of Nursing Karen Muto says they got the call that EmpRes was stepping in Tuesday afternoon.

"Right away we called the staff together as well as the residents to make the announcement," she said by phone. "You could not believe how happy everyone was. Everybody was crying, they were so happy."

Federal Reserve Bank

The "breakeven" price for oil has fallen in step with oil prices, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The "breakeven" price is when producing oil is no longer profitable for companies. 

The Bank periodically surveys oil and gas companies in seven Western and Midwestern states. When oil prices started to slide, those companies reported an average breakeven price of $79. Now, those same companies report it's down to an average of $62. 

Stephanie Joyce

Citing recent decisions by financial companies like Bank of America to withdraw funding from coal operations, Governor Matt Mead says Wyoming needs to innovate in order to stay an energy leader.

During his keynote address at the Wyoming Business Report's Energy Summit, Mead said that he has and will continue to fight against federal regulations, but added that more will be needed.  

The Lander-Based media company Pitch Engine will take its community news website platform to at least three new Wyoming cities in the next few months.

 

Cody, Gillette, and Jackson will all get new Pitch Engine backed news sites based on County10.com, which has operated in Fremont County for the last few years.

 

Pitch Engine’s sites publish a stream of press releases, police reports, community, and local ads.

Wikimedia Commons

With oil's recent downturn, the industry is looking for new ways to get more oil out of the ground for less money and is financing research that could help it do that. Monday, the oil field services company Baker Hughes announced a one million dollar grant for the University of Wyoming.

Researchers will use the money to study how to get more oil and gas out of unconventional reservoirs.

Mark Northam is the director of UW’s School of Energy Resources. He says it will hopefully also bring down the costs of extraction.

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