Cooper McKim

Natural Resources & Energy Reporter

Phone: 307-766-0809
Email: cmckim5@uwyo.edu

Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and now Wyoming. In South Carolina, he covered recovery efforts from a devastating flood in 2015. Throughout his time, he produced breaking news segments and short features for NPR. Cooper recently graduated from Tufts University with degrees in Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.

 

Ways to Connect

Drought monitor outlook of Wyoming
Brian Fuchs / National Drought Mitigation Center

Wyoming is seeing slightly less drought now than this time last year, from 24 percent down to 20. But it’s still having an effect, especially since the state has experienced drought conditions for the last 20 years. Southern Wyoming is getting the worst of it, particularly in parts of Sweetwater and Carbon counties with abnormally dry conditions.

A Wyoming toad about to be released
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A wildlife refuge near Laramie is expanding by nearly 600 acres. The Mortenson Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one home to reintroduction efforts of the endangered Wyoming toad, whose population crashed in the mid-1970s. The amphibians have since been brought back to the area where they are beginning to breed in the wild.

Wyoming Wildlife Federation


It will soon be impossible to get oil and gas leases on 24,000 acres of the Wyoming Range. Conservation non-profit the Trust for Public Land bought out existing leases within the Wyoming Range to maintain the area for wildlife and recreation. It’s the second time the groups have done this in the western part of the state – bringing the total number of retired acres by the trust to 80,000. Chris Deming, a project manager with the Trust for Public Land, who helped lead the way for both acquisitions.

Nathaniel Reed
The Everglades Foundation

Nathaniel Reed, who helped craft the Endangered Species Act and other crucial environmental legislation, passed away Wednesday at age 84. 

Federal Register Banner
National Archives and Records Administration

Wyoming has taken a step towards complete responsibility for the handling of radioactive materials involved in uranium operations. It's been a shared duty, with Wyoming covering the mining operations, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) taking over once the product entered processing. Ryan Schierman, Uranium Recovery Program Manager for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, said that caused discontent within the uranium industry. He’s managed the transition process.

The official banner for the US Senate Committee on Armed Services
US Senate Committee on Armed Services

Congress is set to begin ironing out differences in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week. The bill funds Department of Defense programs and activities. 

Supt. Vela describes the significance of the NPS badge to a 4th grade student from Donald Stalker Elementary before awarding a Jr. Ranger badge to her at the completion of an "Every Kid in a Park" visit, sponsored by Grand Teton Lodge Co. (May, 2015)
National Park Service

The superintendent of Grand Teton National Park is rumored to be President Trump’s nominee for the National Park Service (NPS). The position has been left unfilled for 18 months. David Vela has been with the NPS on and off for 37 years. He’s worked at several historic sites, coordinated operations in Texas, and oversaw the NPS southeast region, covering 66 parks.

Screenshot of a passage Sen. Barrasso's proposed draft legislation
Environment and Public Works Committee

U.S. Senator John Barrasso is leading an effort to overhaul the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed draft legislation would give states more authority over endangered species.

Screenshot, taken from the Campbell County government’s website.


In the second hour of a fluorescent-lit Board of Commissioners meeting in Campbell County, Chairman Mark Christensen introduces "the long-awaited Alpha Natural Resource payment."

Map of the NPL project location
Bureau of Land Management

A 3,500-well natural gas project has taken a step forward. The Bureau of Land Management published the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Jonah Energy's Normally Pressured Lance project in western Wyoming. The project would be on located over 140,000 acres.

Deputy County Attorney Carol Seeger speaking in front of the Campbell County Commissions on the Alpha Bankruptcy
Campbell County

Earlier this month, Campbell County and Alpha Natural Resources have reached a settlement after a lengthy case over unpaid taxes. Alpha is one of the three major coal companies that went bankrupt between 2015 and 2016.

Supreme Court Opinion on South Dakota vs. Wayfair, Inc.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Wyoming will soon enjoy a significant new source of tax revenue — that’s thanks to a Supreme Court decision Thursday. Since 1992, online retailers have not been forced to collect or pay state sales taxes.

No Review Of Federal Coal Leasing Program, Following Court Case
Western Organization of Resource Councils

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided not to reassess the federal coal leasing program in a decision this week. 

Logo for Governors' Partnership on Carbon Capture
Matt Fry / Office of Governor Matt Mead

Montana and Wyoming’s Governors Steve Bullock and Matt Mead announced Tuesday the formation of a new group focused on supporting carbon capture policies and projects: the Governors' Partnership on Carbon Capture. While the two will lead the group, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Utah will also be involved.

Gavin Bade

The Trump administration has confirmed a proposed bailout to the coal and nuclear industries. A memo from the Department of Energy was leaked recently outlining the plan. It would force utilities to buy electricity and capacity from retiring coal and nuclear plants to keep them alive for two years. University of Richmond Law Professor Joel Eisen, who has written extensively on matters on administrative law, energy, and the electric grid, helps make sense of what the draft memo means.

Map of the wildfire's current spread as of 6/12 at 4:40 pm.
Incident Information System; U.S. Forest Service; Medicine Bow National Forest

The Badger Creek Fire in southern Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest just north of the Colorado border has spread to over 2300 acres since Sunday. The wildfire has two heads and is moving both north and east causing several communities to evacuate and Highway 230 to close. Also, Highway 10 is closed from Woods Landing to the Colorado state line. It has grown primarily due to wind.

Screenshot of the leaked DOE memo obtained by Bloomberg last week
Gavin Bade

The Trump administration is planning to keep coal and nuclear-fueled power plants alive, according to a 41-page memo acquired by Bloomberg News. The plan would enable the federal government to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants that were planning to retire. If the bailout becomes a reality, it will be the first of its kind.

Peter Kienzler, Wyoming Natural Diversity Database

In mid-May, field technicians with the Wyoming Natural Diversity database went up to the Fort Laramie Historical Site for a week-long survey, looking for white-nose syndrome (WNS) for the first year. They were looking for any species of bat that showed signs of the fungal disease, but ended up evaluating little brown bats.

Bat house shelter on grounds of Fort Laramie National Historic Site, WY, where colony of little brown bats included a bat with the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, May 2018
Ian Abernethy / Wyoming Natural Diversity Database

Wildlife researchers have confirmed a bat in Fort Laramie has fungus that causes white-nose syndrome. The fungal disease has killed millions of bats in parts of the U.S. and Canada since 2006.

Bureau of Land Management

Driving west across Wyoming, there are windmills lined up across bluffs in the distance. Oil and gas rigs dot both sides of the highway. Open-pit coal mines too. What you won’t see on a cross-state trip are any fields of solar panels. In Sweetwater County, that could soon change.

Wyoming Energy Summit logo
Wyoming Business Report

Coal could soon be used to make affordable carbon nanomaterials for mass use. The sci-fi sounding production is already used for things like water-resistant coats, electronic displays, or even dyes and pigments. Though, for now, it’s developed with expensive oil or gas feedstocks.

Elk hunting map divided into each area
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

After 30 years, the way elk hunting licenses are handled for residents and non-residents may change. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department held eight different public meetings around the state last week to determine what could be modified.

Sweetwater Solar Energy Project Project Overview
Bureau of Land Management

A potential solar energy project in southwest Wyoming obtained a permit last week moving it a step closer to construction. The Sweetwater Solar Energy Project, to be located near Green River, would be the largest the state’s ever seen, providing 80 megawatts of generating capacity to the electrical grid. That’s enough to power almost 12,000 homes each year, according to a project description given to the Bureau of Land Management.

Map of Westmoreland's assets from its 10K filing
Westmoreland Coal Company

The Western Organization of Resource Councils, WORC, believes a coal company that could soon face bankruptcy may not have sufficient funds to pay for mine clean-up costs. A spokeswoman for Westmoreland Coal Company said they are, however, in full compliance with bonding and reclamation regulations.

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