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

The foreground is reclaimed mine land, with the active coal mine behind.
Wyoming Mining Assocation

Back in 2011, the coal market looked great. Three of the largest coal companies in the world, all with mines in Wyoming, invested big in metallurgical coal, the kind used for infrastructure. Sierra Club Attorney Peter Morgan said, “Each company took on hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of debt."

Oil and gas drilling on Jay Butler's property in Converse County
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A major oil and gas project has taken a step forward with the end of its public comment period last week. The 5,000 well project covers over 1.5 million acres in Converse County, and received 110 comments following the release of its draft environmental impact statement, or EIS. 

WyDOT Photograph of Closed U.S. 287
Wyoming Department of Transportation

Due to heavy snow causing downed trees, nearly 3,000 people in Laramie lost power Thursday evening. Rocky Mountain Power is the town’s electricity provider. Dave Eskelsen, a media relations officer with Rocky Mountain Power, said several outages occurred. 

SF 74, image below Gov. Mead's veto letter
Legislative Service Office

Governor Matt Mead has vetoed a bill aimed to make new criminal classifications for those damaging or slowing down critical infrastructure like oil and gas facilities or pipelines. In a public letter, he said it was imprecisely crafted with some crimes already covered under other statutes. 

DEQ Notice of Public Meeting
Department of Environmental Quality

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has released a final rule proposal that would change how coal companies self-bond. That’s when a company uses an IOU to guarantee clean-up costs based on its financial strength. 

Listen to the full show here. 

2018 Legislative Session Update: Chaos, Critical Infrastructure, And Education Funding

The Wyoming Legislative session is coming to an end and Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck joined Morning Edition host Caroline Ballard to discuss the lawmakers' progress.

Combination of several notices, regulations, and proposed policies
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Club’s Wyoming Chapter

This week, both the state and federal government took steps that will change how coal companies deal with pollution and reclamation.

Sheridan County meeting to discuss rezoning
Robin Bagley / Powder River Basin Resource Council

Sheridan County Commissioners voted three to two in favor of rezoning 114 acres of land from agricultural to industrial. It’s the first regulatory step for Ramaco Wyoming Coal Company LLC, which owns the land, to eventually develop there. 

Senate President Eli Bebout discusses SF-98 with the House Revenue Committee
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill seeking to incentivize more oil and gas production has died in the House Revenue Committee with a 6 to 3 vote. Senate File 98 would have cut the severance tax rate for oil and gas in half after the second year of production until the end of the fourth.

Senate President Eli Bebout Speaks To Full Senate
Cooper McKim

It’s the third of four weeks in the 2018 budget session. With the current revenue crunch, many bills have revolved around spurring new revenue, finding new sources, or cutting back on spending. And for energy, it’s no different. The surviving bills also come down to money. Thirteen bills arose related to energy, with only three still moving through the system. There are others that relate, but are not directly tied to energy.

Powder River Basin Resource Council's Shannon Anderson speaking to the Senate Minerals Committee about SF-98
Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill looking to cut future severance taxes for oil and gas companies was approved by the Senate Minerals Committee. Senate File 98 would cut severance taxes in half during the third year of production until the end of its fourth year.  

Cody Senator Hank Coe said the goal is to attract new energy operations to Wyoming over another mineral producing state. Coe said that it's worked before. 

Digest For SF-98
Wyoming Legislative Service Office

Proposed legislation passed introduction in the State Senate last Friday that would cut the severance tax rate in half for petroleum and natural gas companies for a certain period of time. The reduction from 6 percent to 3 percent would take place during the project's third year until the end of its fourth. 

Oil and gas drilling on Butler’s property.
Cooper McKim

In northern Converse County, a semi-truck is pulling onto a highway from a rig site. It's rocking back and forth as 49 mile an hour sustained winds blow west. Many other trucks are parked in the lot as well, carrying oil, gravel, water and rig supplies. All this oil and gas activity is happening on Jay Butler’s ranch. 

 

Methane is flared from a well pad in North Dakota’s Bakken formation in photo taken during a 2014 NOAA research project.
Jeff Peischl / NOAA/CIRES

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a revision to the 2016 venting and flaring rule, or Waste Prevention Rule, meant to limit methane emissions from oil and gas projects. The change would rollback requirements strengthened under President Obama including waste minimization plans, well drilling requirements, and leak

People watching Old Faithful erupt from geyser cone, Yellowstone National Park, 1948
R. Robinson / National Park Service Photo Gallery

Several illegal actions took place within national parks during the three-day government shutdown in January. In Zion National Park, a pregnant elk was poached, in Gettysburg National Military Park, a family brought in a metal detector and a drone — both of which are prohibited—and in Yellowstone, private snowmobilers went past the legal boundary to get close to the geyser Old Faithful.

Peabody Energy logo
Peabody Energy

The largest coal company in the world released its earnings report today, announcing that 2017 was a strong year for its production, revenue, and exports. Peabody Energy operates several of its largest mines in the Powder River Basin, including the North Antelope Rochelle, Rawhide, and Caballo mines. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2016 and re-emerged last year.

Adjacent Property Owners Map, Laramie River Station -- map in emergency plan
Laramie River Station / Basin Electric Power Cooperative

The Sierra Club, a national conservation group, has threatened the Laramie River Station, LRS, a cooperative, coal-fired power plant near Wheatland, with a lawsuit over its failure to follow certain federal guidelines.

Comparison of North Atlantic and global marine-margin temperature reconstructions with our pollen-inferred mean annual temperature reconstruction for North America and Europe.
Jeremiah Marsicek/University of Wyoming / Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature

A paper published by a former University of Wyoming graduate student shows recent temperatures across Europe and North America are at unprecedented highs. The report, titled "Reconciling Divergent Trends and Millennial Variations in Holocene Temperatures” looked at climate patterns over the past 11,000 years.

Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

Winds were gusting over 45 miles per hour on an overcast day at the Dunmire Ranch in southeastern Wyoming. Black cows grazed in the distance with wind turbines lined up on the horizon. At the center of ranch, young colts milled around the corral. Gator, a 14-year-old blind and deaf dog, barked, guarding the home of rancher Les Dunmire. 

 

Inside the house, Dunmire put on his dirt-caked cowboy hat and boots, as he told me how he’s owned this ranch for just over 30 years and that this lifestyle goes back generations.

 

Converse, Wyoming County Map
Sperling's Best Places

An oil and gas project that would develop 5,000 new wells over 1.5 million acres of private, forest service, Bureau of Land Management, and state land in Converse County has taken a step forward. The BLM has released a draft version of the project’s environmental impact statement.

Several orphan sites listed on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality online page
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Factories and dry cleaners used to dump contaminated waste wherever was convenient. Over the past thirty years, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has identified the locations many of these contaminated sites, also known as orphan sites, but the polluting companies are no longer around to pay to clean them up.

Sample of Wildlife Conservation Plate via Muley Fantatic Foundation
Muley Fanatic Foundation / Muley Fanatic Foundation

A state legislator wants to help prevent vehicle collisions with wildlife with the help of new wildlife conservation license plates. Representative Stan Blake of Sweetwater County is sponsoring a bill where individuals could purchase the $100 plates to generate new revenue for conservation efforts along big game migration corridors.

Pinedale, WY at sundown with a rig in the background
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

When you look past the light brown brick courthouse in downtown Pinedale, there are rolling hills dotted with sage brush and thin dark shapes in the distance. Those are oil and gas rigs. They are the largest contributor to revenue out here, but sometimes, when those companies that own those rigs remove resources from the ground, they don’t follow through on paying a key tax to the county. 

Pioneer Cunningham Ranch Historic Cabin Wyoming
CC0 Public Domain

Organizations in the region are encouraging ranchers and farmers to think ahead about how to pass their land on to the next generation so the way of life doesn’t disappear. As property values outpace the potential revenue from agriculture, it’s harder for families to pass down their land or even sell it to another rancher. 

 Logo of the United States Forest Service
US Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service closed its comment period asking the public whether to reopen sage grouse conservation plans. The National Wildlife Federation found that over 120,000 comments were submitted requesting the agency to keep the plans how they are. The organization, along with several other conservation groups, analyzed the comments to come up with the number. 

Holly Copeland / The Nature Conservancy

In the first quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Land Management will place seven times more acres of sage grouse habitat on sale in Wyoming for oil and gas drilling than it did during the same time last year. Holly Copeland, conservation scientist with The Nature Conservancy, crunched the numbers.

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