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

Irina Zhorov

Some landowners with oil and gas wells on their property complain about emissions affecting their air quality and health. But though there may be a lot of wells, they’re considered small facilities, so their cumulative effects are never counted up and regulations are more lax than for large emitters. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that that could be a problem since in aggregate, their pollution can be significant.  

FMC

Wyoming’s biggest export is soda ash, which comes from trona mines in Sweetwater County. Last year, the trona industry produced 17 million tons of soda ash for which the state received nearly $90 million in various taxes and royalties. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov report, the industry has a dirty side, too. 

IRINA ZHOROV: Wyoming is used to superlatives. The biggest coal bed, the largest mine, the most wind! Here’s another:

[VIDEO PLAYING: The silver retreats of Wyoming, USA is home to the largest reserve of trona. ]

As eligible Native Americans in Fremont County await checks owed them as part of a settlement with the federal government, law enforcement is preparing to institute extra security measures to protect tribal members.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector increased about 2 percent in 2013 from a low point in 2012. The Energy Information Administration did the analysis. The agency attributes the increase to a small comeback by coal from a dramatic market share low in 2012.

Last year, 13 companies received grants from a Wyoming initiative which they then used to apply for larger, federal grants. The Wyoming Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer Program was established to help small businesses in the state get more federal grants that could be beneficial to their businesses. Each award is for up to $5,000 and can be used for any purpose that would improve a federal grant proposal.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s permitting team will now have another pollutant to consider when writing permits: greenhouse gases.

The Environmental Protection Agency handed over its authority for greenhouse gas permitting to the state of Wyoming on December 23rd. D-E-Q’s Cole Anderson says his department will add pollutants like methane and carbon dioxide to the list of contaminants it reviews.

A crime victim and perpetrator talk about how their unlikely friendship came to be

Restorative justice is an approach to dealing with crime that put the victim of the crime front and center and considers how the offense affected the community, rather than looking at it as an isolated incident. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov has a three part series about restorative justice efforts in Wyoming, starting with a case study.

Wyoming Democratic Party leaders have criticized Governor Matt Mead for opposing a full Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. There are over 17,000 low-income adults in the state and State Democratic Party Chairman Pete Gosar says it's not right to oppose the expansion, since Mead isn’t proposing another option.

At a press conference last week, Mead said that on that count, Gosar is right.

A cistern installation project for Pavillion-area residents may need more funds from the legislature. The state allocated $750,000 dollars to install clean water cisterns for households with polluted groundwater. All but $100,000 dollars is already contracted out and 9 additional applications are underway.

But Governor Matt Mead’s natural resource policy advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, says the true budget won’t be known until the first round of cisterns is installed.

Governor Matt Mead says the number of highway fatalities has been decreasing. 

"Wyoming began tracking highway fatalities in 1967 and if we finish the year up well we will have had 82 highway fatalities, which will be the lowest number since 1967," Mead said.

At this time last year, there were already 112 fatalities.

However, Mead warned that the holiday season tends to be the deadliest in Wyoming and drivers can expect a lot of enforcement out on the roads to help keep that number from growing.

In a letter signed by 16 senators and himself, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi has asked the federal Committee on Appropriations to continue funding the Payments in Lieu of Taxes – or PILT - program. The program contributes money to counties with federal lands within their borders. The payments help make up for what counties lose by not being able to collect taxes on those lands.

Governor Matt Mead is unhappy with the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent drawing of the Wind River Indian Reservation’s boundary and is appealing the ruling.

The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes asked the EPA for state-like status for the purpose of air monitoring, and the EPA gave them that. But as part of the decision, the agency also drew the reservation’s borders to include Riverton.

Wyoming has long considered Riverton to be outside of the reservation’s borders and a Wyoming Supreme Court case affirmed the state’s stance in 2008.

UW Interim President prepares for the Legislative Session

Following the resignation of Bob Sternberg, Dick McGinity has taken over reins at the University of Wyoming as Interim President.  McGinity was simply a faculty member at UW until Sternberg promoted him to be part of the administration and now he’s running the show.  Among his first duties is getting UW priorities through the legislature.  He tells Bob Beck that includes pay raises.

Irina Zhorov

The U.S. cow herd is small right now because of the extended drought that’s plagued large swathes of the country. But though dry conditions have driven ranchers to sell off animals they would have otherwise kept, the decreasing size of the national herd is a trend decades in the making. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports on how livestock producers in Wyoming are turning out more meat with fewer animals.

Viktor Vasnetsov

This holiday season, the Wyoming Public Radio news team is sharing stories about memories and traditions that stand out to them. Reporter Irina Zhorov’s family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but there’s still a tree and a Santa, sort of. She writes about her family’s tradition of celebrating the New Year the way they did in the Soviet Union.

The Department of Interior’s oil and gas royalty program has been examined repeatedly in the past for weaknesses and high risk of mismanagement and a new Government Accountability Office study suggests more can be done to guarantee a fair return on extracted natural resources. The study says one of the biggest issues is that the DOI does not have set procedures for reviewing the royalty program.

Wyoming has the fifth lowest average debt in the nation for students who graduated from college in 2012. That’s according to a recently published study by the Institute for College Access and Success. In Wyoming the average debt was just over $21,000.

Director of Student Financial Aid at the University of Wyoming, Joanna Carter, says there are several things that keep borrowing relatively low at UW.

A study by the Government Accountability Office – or GAO - shows that it takes over one year for the Indian Health Service to process payments to contractors in 8-percent of claims.

The Indian Health Service provides limited medical services to tribal members and outsources other treatments through the contract health services program. The GAO’s Kathleen King says some payments are delayed because decisions about whether IHS will pay for a service are made on a case-by-case basis. 

An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity gave the Wyoming Supreme Court’s financial disclosure rules an ‘F.’

After five years of deliberation, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared the Wind River Indian Reservation its own state for the purpose of air quality monitoring. The decision, made under the Clean Air Act, will allow the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to apply for grants to support air monitoring programs, but it doesn’t give the tribes regulatory powers.

FMC Corporation

Wyoming’s biggest export is soda ash, which comes from trona mines in Sweetwater County. Last year, the trona industry produced 17 million tons of soda ash for which the state received nearly $90 million in various taxes and royalties. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov report, the industry has a dirty side, too. 

IRINA ZHOROV: Wyoming is used to superlatives. The biggest coal bed, the largest mine, the most wind! Here’s another:

[VIDEO PLAYING: The silver retreats of Wyoming, USA is home to the largest reserve of trona. ]

The federal royalty rate for trona was recently reduced from 6-percent to 4%. Industry has been pushing for royalty reductions for over a decade. But Powder River Basin Resource Council’s Jill Morrison says if anything, the royalty should be increased.

“Our position has always been that minerals are a finite resource. Once they’re removed they’re gone and we have that one chance to tax those minerals and get that fair market value because that’s what’s going to help balance our budget, both at the state and national level,” says Morrison.

The co-ownership of a parcel of land, or land fractionation, on a dozen Indian reservations has doubled from 1992 to 2010. That’s according to a recent study which compared 2010 statistics on land fractionation to a government study from 1992, the only publicly available study of fractionation.

Fractionation happens when several heirs inherit undivided interests in the same allotment of land. Over generations, allotments can end up being shared between dozens of owners.  

Almost five years ago, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes submitted an application to the federal government asking for the Wind River Indian Reservation to be treated as a separate state for monitoring air quality. They're still waiting on a response. 

Eastern Shoshone tribe chairman Darwin St. Clair says it’s a matter of tribal sovereignty as well as stewardship of their land. He says with a coal power plant and oil and gas fields nearby, air quality is a high priority.

The White House recently hosted its fifth Tribal Nations Conference in Washington D.C. This was the first time that Darwin St. Clair, Chairman of the Eastern Shoshone Business Council, attended the conference. He says it “felt like we were actually making progress. It may not have been big steps, but we’re making steps forward.”

St. Clair said a highlight of the trip was a consultation he had with administrators from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior.  

The University of Wyoming has received a grant to expand the research capabilities of its King Air research airplane.

The National Science Foundation awarded the Department of Atmospheric Science $1.2 million and UW matched the grant with an additional $515,000 to develop and build an advanced remote sensing instrument.

Professor Zhien Wang is part of the team that will work with the instrumentation. He says the first project will be to study night storms, for better weather forecasting.

Park County saw an increase of 144-percent in newly reported Hepatitis-C cases from 2011 to 2012

The Adult Viral Hepatitis Prevention Coordinator with the Wyoming Department of Health, Ashley Grajczyk, says right now Park County has about double the state rate of cases.

“What that means is we have an outbreak in that county,” she says.  

Grajczyk says the health department is “attributing the majority on newly reported cases to injection drug use. 41% of cases reported in 2012 indicated that they had either been currently, recently, or formerly injecting drugs.”

A national, bi-partisan commission has released a report about safety in Indian Country. Tribal communities are often more dangerous than non-Native communities. The report - A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer - looks at Native American communities nationwide and makes recommendations for closing those gaps in public safety. Affie Ellis is from Wyoming and she sits on the Indian Law and Order Commission, which put out the report. She spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov about the Commission’s findings.

Pages