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

Stephen Watt and Mark Farnham are best friends. But it’s a friendship that came out of violent circumstances. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov spoke to both of them at the Torrington Medium Correctional Institution, where Farnham is an inmate. In the first part, Watt and Farnham talk about how they met. In the second, they discuss how their friendship has changed their lives, they say, for the better, and their desire to work towards more restorative justice programs in the criminal justice system. 

This story first aired June 21, 2013 on Wyoming Public Radio.

Wyoming has received the first draft of a study it commissioned to determine whether it would be feasible to regulate uranium exclusively in-state.

Uranium extraction is currently regulated by a number of state and federal agencies. But if Wyoming decides to become what’s called an “agreement state,” it could cut the federal agencies out of the process. That would potentially expedite the permitting process for operators.  

As the state initiates its investigation of water quality issues in Pavillion, two state agencies plan to review existing data before deciding how to proceed. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Quality will look at the well bore integrity of about 50 oil and gas wells within a quarter mile of 14 domestic water wells that had at least one pollutant at levels above drinking water standards. 

Rebecca Martinez

Reviving local saw mills could limit fire danger in the Rocky Mountain Region

Saw mills are re-opening in Wyoming and Colorado after a decade of being shuttered. They’re harvesting and processing trees that have been killed by beetle infestation.  Still, many are suitable for lumber.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez reports that this uptick in the timber business is helping with forest fire management.

Erik Molvar

John Davis is a conservationist and co-founder of the Wildlands Network conservation organization. He’s currently on a 5,000 mile international route from Mexico, through the Western US, and up to Canada, mostly on foot. He’s working with various environmental groups as he makes his way across North America. The idea is to promote an international, continuous area where wildlife can move freely. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov caught up with Davis as he made his way across the Red Desert.

A new study shows that berries, a staple of the grizzly bear diet, are becoming more abundant at Yellowstone National Park. According to the study, over the past three years berry consumption by bears has nearly doubled, something the authors are contributing to the reintroduction of wolves.

Study co-author Bob Beschta says the lack of wolves during the past century led to more elk, which overgrazed plant life in the area for decades. Now, the wolves are helping to re-balance the ecosystem.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County have announced that their joint Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed coal export facility in Washington State will include a broad analysis. The proposed Cherry Point terminal would be able to export 48 million tons of coal each year, mostly of Powder River Basin coal going to Asia.

Demand for coal was higher and supply lower in the first half of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, but prices remained mostly steady. That’s because electric companies burned off their coal inventories instead of buying new supplies.

Executive Director of the Wyoming Mining Association, Marion Loomis, says he expects the second half of the year to be better.

A new report by the environmental group Sierra Club says at least three coal-fired power plants in Wyoming discharge pollution containing metals into streams. According to the report, some plants do not monitor how much waste they discharge or what it contains.

The Environmental Protection Agency says coal plants nationwide contribute more than half of the toxic pollutants discharged to water bodies by regulated industry, but discharge standards have not been updated since 1982. 

A new report released today by the Wilderness Society says Wyoming’s Red Desert and the Wyoming Range are too special to drill for oil and gas. The report – titled Too Wild to Drill – lists a dozen locations across the U.S.   The Wyoming Range was initially opened for leasing in 2005, but the Forest Service canceled those leases in 2011.

Governor Matt Mead says he trusts the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to deliver trustworthy results when it takes over the Pavillion water contamination study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A draft of the study initiated by the EPA was released in 2011 and tentatively linked groundwater contamination with fracking, something industry expressed skepticism about.

Mead says he’s not sure yet whether the state study will be peer reviewed once it’s completed.

National Republican Party Supports Enzi over Cheney

This week Wyoming’s senior senator, Mike Enzi, was surprised to learn he’ll be facing off against Liz Cheney in what’s expected to be one of the most heated Republican primaries in the nation. Matt Laslo reports from Washington that right now, the Republican Party is wrapping its arms around Enzi.

Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov caught up with Governor Matt Mead to check in about some big changes in the state in the coming months. Her first question was about the Environmental Protection Agency’s report on contaminated water in Pavillion and the state’s takeover of the study.

Though the entities involved in the study have previously expressed skepticism over the EPA’s findings, Governor Mead says he has no doubts that the state’s study will be unbiased.

The grazing land of Wyoming is currently filled with young calves out to pasture. Calving season lasts through the spring and early summer in Wyoming and once the calves are born ranchers have to brand them to identify which ranch they belong to. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov attended a branding and found that in the 21st Century, some ranchers are happily keeping up old, social customs during their brandings.

IRINA ZHOROV: Scott Sims’ ranch in the Rock Creek Valley in Southeast Wyoming branded a batch of their calves at the end of June.

Elizabeth Shogren/NPR

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comments on the extension of several water discharge permits on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The EPA is looking at renewing existing permits that allow companies to pump waste water from oil and gas fields to the surface on the Reservation. The produced water exemption allows this practice only in the arid West. In general, state agencies have tighter regulations than the EPA about what can be pumped to the surface, but tribal land is under the EPA’s jurisdiction.    

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted Tuesday to start the formal rulemaking process to establish baseline water testing in the state. The rule would require oil and gas operators to collect water samples before beginning development.  

The women who were crowned Miss Indian America are reuniting this weekend in Sheridan, Wyo. The Native American pageant ran from 1953 to 1984 and attracted contestants from across the country. Originally, the pageant started as a way to combat prejudices against Native Americans.

Wahleah Lujan, of Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico, who won the title in 1966, was very shy at the time. In one of her appearances right after she was crowned, she told an audience: "The most important thing in my life is the preservation of our ancient pueblo and the Rio Pueblo de Taos."

Julianne Couch is the author of Traveling the Power Line, a book about the many energy sources we tap into for our power needs – from oil and gas, to wind, to solar and uranium.

Couch teaches at the University of Wyoming and has also written Jukeboxes and Jackalopes: A Wyoming Bar Journey and Waking Up Western: Collected Essays. She now lives in Iowa but stopped by the studio to talk to Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov about her book.

Lenz Collection, Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library Wyoming Room

The Sheridan WYO Rodeo in will host the return of some special guests this year. The Miss Indian America pageant was held during the rodeo from 1953 until 1984 and several past winners will reunite this weekend.

ARCHIVAL TAPE: [Drumming] There’s a town out west where the eye can stretch over the plains from mesa to mountains, where the heart warms in the sunshine of friends and the townspeople can see buffalo from their own backyards. Such a place is Sheridan Wyoming!  

The Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center has released an update from an ongoing health study on Wind River Reservation and nearby communities, but cautions that the results are not final.

The environmental health study was initiated because people complained of elevated cancer rates in their communities. Director of the Center, Folo Akintan, says she was hoping to have the study completed by now but since it’s not she wanted to share the results of the community surveys collected over the past two years.

US Department of Energy

The Department of Energy says that the high levels of uranium at a contaminated site on Wind River Reservation might not flush out of the groundwater naturally in 100 years, like they previously thought.  

Tailings from a uranium mill that functioned at the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act site in the 1960s left the area’s groundwater with high levels of uranium and the DOE took over management of the site in the late ‘80s.

Today the Congressional House Sub-Committee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing about coal mining in the Powder River Basin.

Waiting For A Chinook will close out the Snowy Range Summer Theatre season this year. The story follows a reporter from the city who returns to his Western hometown to search for meaning in the writings of his late father.

I spoke to author Gregory Hinton, who, like his hero, returned to Wyoming from California to seek out his own father’s writings in archives of the Cody Enterprise, where G.C. Kip Hinton was an editor. 

Leigh Selting directs the play. Performances will run July 9th to the 13th at the Buchanan Center for Performing Arts Studio Theatre in Laramie, Wyoming.

Wyoming Lawmakers Outraged at Obama’s Climate Plan

This week President Obama announced he's going to attempt to combat climate change from the Oval Office. Wyoming's three Republicans in Congress are none too happy with his plan. As Matt Laslo reports, they say it could cripple the state's economy and hit your pocket.

Sequester effects less painful than expected, but lawmakers still unhappy

The congressionally mandated budget cuts called sequestration continue to have an impact on Wyoming. And while the state’s Republican lawmakers say those cuts aren’t having as big of an impact as predicted by Democrats, Matt Laslo reports from Washington that the delegation still isn’t happy with the sequester.

Landowners in Wyoming are upset that the Environmental Protection Agency is relinquishing its role in a study that could link hydraulic fracturing with groundwater pollution.

The State of Wyoming is taking over an investigation of water quality in Pavillion, from the EPA. Encana Oil and Gas has natural gas wells in the area…and the EPA started testing water wells there after residents complained that the water was becoming polluted. The agency released a draft report in 2011, which tentatively linked the contamination to fracking.

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.

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 has a three part series about restorative justice efforts in Wyoming, starting with a case study. To hear Part 3 of the series, click here.

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