Cooper McKim

Natural Resources & Energy Reporter

Phone: 307-766-0809

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

BLM Scoping Meeting at the Little America Hotel in Cheyenne
Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

The state Bureau of Land Management held its first public meeting Monday, November 6, to discuss current sage grouse management plans and potential changes to them.

This “scoping” meeting was held as an open house at the Little America Hotel in Cheyenne. Posters were spread throughout a conference room discussing adaptive management, livestock grazing, resource management plans and more. Specialists were also on hand at each station to help answer any questions.

The BLM explains the purpose of the scoping meeting on their website:

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wyoming’s Bureau of Land Management office is holding two public meetings this week to discuss sage grouse management plan changes. 

Tony Webster from Portland, OR

Rocky Mountain Power is one of many around the country turning up their investment in wind.


Ramaco Logo

On October 31, Ramaco announced they will appeal a decision made this month by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The DEQ denied the company's permit application for a coal mine in Sheridan. The state agency said the company's proposed Brook Mine application was deficient and needed more information on hydrology, subsidence, and blasting schedules, among other concerns.  

Bob LeResche, chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said this appeal shows Ramaco is trying to avoid fixing their application.

Peter Fitzgerald, Wikimedia

A draft of the Interior Department’s five-year strategic plan has been leaked - it was first obtained by The Nation. The 50-page document draws a road map for how the federal agency intends to prioritize energy dominance.

Powder River Basin Province of northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana.

After about an eight-month process of discussion and negotiation, the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources solidified a relationship with a New York-based clean-coal company this week. Clean Coal Technologies Incorporated, or CCTI, has developed technologies focused on making coal cleaner. UW hopes to work with them to help develop their products and make them more commercially viab

Peabody Energy Logo
Peabody Energy

Peabody Energy, the largest privately held coal company in the world, experienced it’s third straight quarter of sizable profits with revenue totaling $1.48 billion this quarter - a 22% increase from last year’s third quarter. Total profit this fiscal year adds up to around $500 million. 

Peabody Energy went into bankruptcy in 2016, weighed down by billions in debt partially due an investment made in Australian metallurgical coal. In 2015, the company also saw $2 billion in losses. This past April, the company came out of bankruptcy.  

Western Values Project

A Montana-based environmental watchdog group is hoping to uncover e-mails from energy lobbyists and the Interior Department.

The Western Values Project is concerned coordination between the federal land management agency and representatives from the energy industry resulted in proposed changes to the sage grouse management plans.  

CC0 License

Jackson's town council made way for more solar investment last week, allowing customers to buy into the soon-to-built solar farm. 

The shared solar system would be based out of a farm at Jackson’s wastewater treatment plant. The solar farm, itself, was approved by the town council this past August. The idea is for new customers to buy solar power from a farm, rather than buying panels themselves. 

Johnny Ziem, Jackson’s wastewater plant superintendent, co-developed the idea for a shared solar farm. He said the next step is to solidify new customers.

Peabody Energy

At the University of Wyoming’s College of Law, Professor Sam Kalen was looking through old case files. His office had law books and binders of cases strewn on chairs and tables as well as computer miscellany, like keyboards and old monitors, sitting on top of them.

At his desk, he rifled through a thick law book, co-authored by him, then switched to his dual-monitor computer screens. He was looking for any mention of climate assessments in old federal leasing cases back to the 1990s. It didn’t take long.

“So for example, here’s an earlier one,” Kalen said.

Center for Western Priorities' Scorecard
Center for Western Priorities

The Center for Western Priorities, a Colorado conservation non-profit, has released a scorecard that ranks states based on their policies on public land, outdoor recreation, and energy issues. The group sought to highlight where western states are doing well and where there’s some room for growth.


Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality has denied a proposal for a new coal mine to be built near Sheridan… for the time being. Ramaco’s proposed Brook Mine has been embroiled in controversy for the last year over what many saw as an insufficient permit application. The Environmental Quality Council, or E.Q.C., an independent board, identified deficiencies in hydrology, a blasting plan, and land subsidence, or sinking, among others.

Well with holes rusted through on John Fenton's property
John Fenton

Pavillion homeowner John Fenton is questioning whether abandoned wells near his home were properly addressed to eliminate contamination. The Fremont County town has been plagued since 2008 with contaminated water from underground natural gas with citizens complaining of discolored and foul smelling water. Since then, gas-producer EnCana has worked to plug abandoned wells and pressure test them to ensure there’s no interaction between gas and water.  

Logo for the Environmental Protection Agency
Public Domain

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday signed a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan — President Obama’s signature climate change legislation. The 2015 rule aims to was meant to move the country’s electric grid away from coal and towards other sources with less greenhouse gas emissions.

Wyoming provides about 40 percent of the country’s coal, and most of that goes towards electricity generation. It’s no surprise the state has opposed the Clean Power Plan — or CPP — from the start.  

Stotting mule deer. Seen at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada.
Steven Fine

Mule deer can migrate a little bit easier starting this year thanks to new fencing along their migration route. Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department replaced old livestock fencing this summer with the help of several partners including the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund, Upper Green Muley Fanatics, Jonah Energy, and the Conservation Fund.

Mule deer migrate from Hoback, south of Jackson, to the Red Desert every year. It allows them to get the best vegetation and find the safest areas to raise fawns.

A Wyoming rig on federal land used for long directional drilling
BLM Wyoming / Bureau of Land Management

The Department of Interior, or DOI, plans to begin the process of changing the methane rule that’s currently in effect, and possibly end it permanently. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule aims to reduce unnecessary gas and oil emissions by improving technology, reducing flaring, and spotting leaks early.  

Cooper McKim

Experts from around the country gathered Monday to discuss Wyoming’s wind energy future. The free conference was organized by the Ruckelshaus Institute and the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy. Wind is widely considered a growing industry with consistently decreasing price sand Wyoming is considered to have one of the best wind resources in the country with high potential for growth.



Since January, President Trump has ordered systematic rollbacks of Obama-era environmental regulations. He’s voiced an intent to focus on energy development and jobs over environmental regulation.

Many of these rules were crafted by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency under Gina McCarthy. She was EPA Administrator during his second term. They focused on taking strong steps against climate change. McCarthy recently visited Wyoming and gave her reaction to these drastic changes.


A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Interior Department is expected to take its first tangible step in making large changes to sage grouse management plans. Ninety-eight of these plans were established in 2015 across 10 western states. They came after more than a decade of collaboration in hopes of avoiding an endangered species listing for the chicken-like bird.


The Obama-era “Fracking Rule" that would increase safety and transparency regulations for oil and gas companies is back on the table. A federal appeals court vacated a 2015 decision that stopped the fracking rule, citing government overreach and costliness.

Red Desert
Sam Cox / US Department of Agriculture

The Wilderness Society, a national conservation group, has designated the northern Red Desert as one of 15 wildland areas most at-risk of energy development on public lands. The Red Desert in southern Wyoming is home to several hundred wildlife species and numerous wilderness study areas, and up till now, has avoided significant energy development.  

But the Bureau of Land Management is reconsidering its management plan, which could result in renewed oil and gas drilling.

Snake River in the Snake River Canyon of Wyoming near Alpine
Joe Tordiff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allowing a reclassification of nearly 80 percent of Wyoming’s waterways as secondary contact recreation. That means those streams are no longer recommended sites for swimming, tubing, fishing, or recreation in general — unlike the primary contact recreation status.

The DEQ’s Lindsey Paterson said these waters don’t make sense for recreation anyway. They’re shallow with little flow and are in remote areas. The change also means those waterways are allowed to hold five times the level of e. coli, an indicator for pathogens. 

Cooper McKim


Energy companies, environmentalists, ranchers and government officials are getting back together at meetings across the West this fall to talk about the fate of a chicken-like bird.


Many of these so-called stakeholders have sat at this table before. The well-being of the Greater Sage Grouse was the focus of a hard-fought compromise among 11 states, finalized a few years ago.


Sage Grouse Implementation Team meeting, 09/15/17
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

The sage grouse implementation team met for the first time since the Department of Interior announced recommendations to a collaborative state and federal Obama era plan. But early last month, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended changes to the plan that would loosen restrictions on energy development while giving states more flexibility in implementing their own sage grouse protection plans.

Public Lands in Wyoming
Bob Wick, BLM / Bureau of Land Management

Representative Liz Cheney is co-sponsoring a proposed bill that would allow states more power over leasing federal lands for energy development. The majority of Wyoming’s oil and gas development occurs on federal land. She said it could help reverse the decline in lease sales.