Irina Zhorov

Reporter

Irina Zhorov is a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She earned her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the University of Wyoming. In between, she worked as a photographer and writer for Philadelphia-area and national publications. Her professional interests revolve around environmental and energy reporting and she's reported on mining issues from Wyoming, Mexico, and Bolivia. She's been supported by the Dick and Lynn Cheney Grant for International Study, the Eleanor K. Kambouris Grant, and the Social Justice Research Center Research Grant for her work on Bolivian mining and Uzbek alpinism. Her work has appeared on Voice of America, National Native News, and in Indian Country Today, among other publications. 

In her off time, Irina is pursuing treasure hunters, leafing through photo books, or planning and executing quests.

Ways To Connect

Sixty years ago a group of women in Casper whose husbands were always leaving them for long shifts out on the oil patch got together to commiserate and lunch. The group became known as the Geowives - wives of geologists - and it’s celebrating its diamond anniversary this spring. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov attended the Geowives’ monthly luncheon and has this story. 

IRINA ZHOROV: Bette Faust is one of the charter members of the Geowives, and a Wyoming native who came to Casper in the 1950s.

Wyo. Lawmakers Reject New Climate Change Report 

The White House is painting a dire picture for every region in the nation - including here at home - if action isn’t taken to combat climate change. But Matt Laslo reports from Washington that Wyoming’s Republican senators still aren’t buying it.

The tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation run their own family services agencies, funded by the tribes themselves, federal grants and contracts with the state. But the Northern Arapaho Department of Family Services and the larger family welfare system on the reservation has some work to do.

Reviews over the years have pointed to big problems and some of them have gone years without being addressed effectively. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov has the story.   

IRINA ZHOROV:  22-month Marcella Yellowbear died on July 2nd, 2004.

This week Wyoming Public Radio reporter Irina Zhorov left Wyoming for a new job in Pittsburgh. When Irina came to Wyoming from Philadelphia in 2010 she had questions about her new state.  When she graduated from her Master’s program in 2012 she wrote us this essay called “Letter to Wyoming.”

USGS

The Sheridan Community Land Trust is partnering with the National Park Service to study and plan for increased water recreation in Sheridan County. The Land Trust has identified about 70 miles on the Tongue River and Little Goose and Big Goose Creeks with recreation potential. The group’s Executive Director, Colin Betzler, says there’s been interest in developing recreational opportunities in the past, but there hasn’t been an organized effort.

Microsoft plans to expand its data center operations in Wyoming. Microsoft opened a data center outside of Cheyenne last year…and this spring plans to grow it with a $274 million addition. Governor Matt Mead met the news with excitement. He says he’s made growing the Wyoming technology sector a priority and sees the expansion as a good sign.

Since 2010, homelessness has gone down in most places in the U.S., but not in Wyoming. A national report found that in 2013 Wyoming had nearly a thousand homeless people, up 64-percent in that time. About a quarter of those people are chronically homeless. Now, Casper wants to try a program focused on helping those individuals. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

WILLOW BELDEN: In 2012, the tribes who share the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho Tribes, came to a settlement with the federal government for a mineral royalties mismanagement case dating back to the 1970’s. The federal government has finally released the money from the settlement, and tribal members on Wind River are anxiously awaiting their checks. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov joins us to talk about the settlement and what it means to the Wind River Community.

To start, could you tell us what this settlement is all about.

Long-awaited money from a settlement on the Wind River Indian Reservation is finally on its way. The 157 million dollar settlement between the tribes and the federal government is for underpayment of royalties on oil and gas development…and improper management of royalties that were paid.

Northern Arapaho spokesman Mark Howell says some people don’t have bank accounts…and there were concerns they would not be able to cash their checks.

Long-awaited money from a settlement on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming is finally on its way.

The federal government is paying the tribes $157 million for underpayment of royalties on oil and gas development and improper management of royalties that were paid. Northern Arapaho spokesman Mark Howell says some people don’t have bank accounts and there were concerns they would not be able to cash their checks.

A company proposing to open an underground coal gasification demonstration site in Wright has been charged with environmental violations in Australia.  The charges could cost the company over two million dollars per violation.

Underground coal gasification involves igniting coal seams deep underground to produce syngas, which can then be processed into various liquid fuels or other chemicals.     

What exactly the environmental harm is has not yet been revealed.

Wyoming is a largely rural state with limited diversity. But as the population grows and the state attracts all sorts of newcomers. Wyoming is learning to accommodate the changing population. One of the areas where the state is making headway is interpretation services in its courts. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

Recently released data compiled by the federal government shows oil production on federal lands is up from last year, while natural gas production is down. Overall, the energy sector is booming, but industry analysts say companies are shifting from natural gas to wetter plays because of low natural gas prices. But even though production is up, some industry groups point out that it's increasing more quickly on private lands and blame the trend on slow permitting by the federal government.

On Saturday, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe's General Council dismissed two elected tribal officials.

As Wyoming’s appeal to an Environmental Protection Agency decision about the Wind River Indian Reservation’s borders waits for its day in court, U.S. Senators Enzi and Barrasso have drafted a bill “to clarify” those borders.

Wind River Reservation

A report by the Government Accountability Office says some things need to change in order for Indian tribes to be able to effectively carry out affordable housing activities under the Indian Housing Block Grant program. The program provides grants to tribes to build affordable housing. Remoteness of reservations and lack of infrastructure was one major challenge the report identified. But lack of coordination among federal agencies also delays initiatives and makes it harder to lump funds from various agencies for one project.

The federal Office of Natural Resources Revenue, or ONRR, has fined a Wyoming oil and gas producer $204,362 for not submitting timely production reports for its federal leases. Matrix Production Company was issued two notices of noncompliance before ONRR levied the penalties. ONRR spokesman, Patrick Etchart, says the production reports are used to keep companies in check.   

A host of recreation and conservation organizations from around the nation, including some local Wyoming groups, have asked Congress to address inadequate trail maintenance in the National Forest system. According to a 2013 study requested by Representative Cynthia Lummis the Forest Service’s trail maintenance backlog was $314 million in 2012. The study said poorly maintained trails inhibit trail use, could harm natural resources, and maintenance costs will only grow the longer the backlog remains unaddressed.

A new study says energy generated from Wyoming wind could help California residents save up to one billion dollars annually in electricity costs. California’s renewable portfolio standard – or RPS – requires the state to get 33-percent of its energy from renewables by 2020. The Wyoming Infrastructure Authority commissioned the economic analysis.

A recent report assessing policies on charter schools throughout the nation says Wyoming has a lot of work to do to make charter schools more accessible and successful. The Executive Director of the Wyoming Association of Public Charter Schools is not surprised.  Kari Cline says Wyoming’s rules are bad and stagnant. 

Snowpack around the state is above average this year. Tony Bergantino, a climatologist with the Wyoming State Climate Office, says it’s the highest snowpack on record in five of Wyoming's basins. 

“They’re all above normal, and up in the upper northwest and southwest and in the central part of the state, they’re at the lowest,” se says. “And that’s still about 114-115 percent of normal.”

Bergantino says the snowy winter has brought most of the state out of drought conditions.  

Patrick Goggles has been serving in the Wyoming House of Representatives since 2005. But at the end of the recent budget session, he announced that he won’t be seeking reelection in 2014. Goggles is a democrat from House District 33, which includes a piece of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County.

Ice jams in the Bighorn River have caused flooding, which in turn caused damage to several homes and businesses in northern Wyoming. High snowpack could bring more floods this spring. Troy Staples is the business preparedness manager for the Red Cross in Wyoming and Colorado. He teaches business owners how to be prepared in case natural disasters or other catastrophes strike their businesses. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov spoke with him. She asked why it’s so hard to re-open after a disaster.

Some businesses have been damaged by the flooding of the Bighorn River in northern Wyoming, and the Red Cross is encouraging other companies to develop plans in case more flooding comes with spring snow melt.

Troy Staples is the Red Cross Business Preparedness Manager for Wyoming and Colorado. He says up to 40-percent of businesses don’t re-open after a disaster.  

Rebecca Martinez

The tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County will start hauling their waste to a Casper landfill soon. Fremont County has been transporting the reservation's waste to nearby landfills, but an agreement signed between the tribes and the county last summer transferred those duties to the tribes. Executive Director of the Wind River Environmental Quality Commission, Ryan Ortiz says the hold-up has been getting a truck, which is now scheduled to arrive in April.

U.S. Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi have introduced a bill to reduce permitting timelines for natural gas pipelines on federal and Indian lands.

Barrasso says the Natural Gas Gathering Enhancement Act will help reduce flaring of natural gas at well sites not currently connected to pipelines.  He notes that North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming flare a lot of natural gas because well sites often are not connected to pipelines 

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