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

Rep. Lummis appointed to US House Subcommittee on Energy
Wyoming’s Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis has been appointed to chair the U.S. House of Representatives’ Science Subcommittee on Energy. The subcommittee will oversee energy research, development and demonstration projects. Lummis spoke with Rebecca Martinez from the Capitol press room in Cheyenne this week.

The Senate Education Committee quickly passed a bill that would create a governor-appointed director position for the education department, and reduce the powers of the current state superintendent. 

Committee Chairman Senator Hank Coe says tension between the Legislature, Superintendent, the Department of Education, and the State Board has been going on since 1985 and it was time to fix it.  

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking state legislators to vote on two bills that would add funding to the agency in 2014. The first bill would raise license fees for hunters and anglers. The second bill would establish a raffle for big game and trophy hunts.

The Department’s Eric Keszler says they’ve already cut down their budget where they could.

The Department of Environmental Quality will start to provide regular updates about ozone levels in the Upper Green River Basin on January 2. The region is designated by the EPA as a non-attainment area because of its high ozone levels in past years. The long term goal is to reduce local industry’s emissions and improve air quality, but for now the DEQ wants to warn residents when elevated ozone levels might occur.

The unemployment rate in Wyoming continues to decrease.

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reports that November’s workless rate was 5-point-one percent, the lowest it’s been since spring of 2009.

Numbers have gone down little by little since the 5-point-seven percent unemployment rate reported at this time last year and Wyoming continues to stay significantly lower than the national average of 7-point-7 percent.

Jackson tourism officials are expecting a busy New Year’s holiday. 

The lodging barometer, which measures lodging bookings for the valley shows occupancy at 72-percent of full for the Saturday before New Year’s.  That’s up significantly from last year’s 59-percent and the 49-percent that was recorded in 2010.

Kate Foster of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce says the turnaround is based on a couple of things.

Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

Meetings about proposals to expand ports for coal exports going to Asia drew strong criticism from residents in the northwestern U.S., mostly environmental concerns. Wyoming wants to increase its exports of coal to markets like Europe and Asia and needs more port capacity in order to do that.

Director of the Wyoming Mining Association, Marion Loomis, says the hearings are part of the process and shouldn't delay the ports’ opening.

Hub Whitt

Wyoming is still a frontier of sorts, a place where many continue to hunt in wide open spaces. And sometimes they sing about it, too. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that Julian Saporiti is collecting those cowboy poets’ songs to share with others.

ZHOROV: Julian Saporiti is not from Wyoming…

JULIAN SAPORITI: Like this how not-Wyoming or Western I am. I’ve never ridden a horse in my life. I’ve been on a pony ride going around in a circle in a grocery store parking lot when I was 6. That’s the extent of my cowboyisms.

Willow Belden

Converse County oil boom draws concerns from residents
In October, we reported that Chesapeake Energy had drilled a series of oil wells near Douglas, very close to people’s houses. Chesapeake says the area will likely continue to be a core drilling region. That has some area residents uneasy. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

UW's concert ensembles will perform an eclectic mix of compositions for this year's gala holiday concert, called Holidays Around the World. Wyoming Public Radio's Irina Zhorov spoke with one of the conductors, Director of Orchestral Activities, Michael Griffith.

Slot Machine Word

Gambling addiction in Fremont County could be on rise, but not on radar

There have been rumors that Fremont County is experiencing a rise in gambling addiction amongst its residents. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that whether the rumors are true or not is still unclear, but some services are popping up to address it regardless.

Slot Machine Word

HOST: There have been rumors that Fremont County is experiencing a rise in gambling addiction amongst its residents. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that whether the rumors are true or not is still unclear, but some services are popping up to address it regardless.

ZHOROV: The Wind River Hotel and Casino in Riverton is full of chirping slot machines, game tables, bright lights, and…gamblers.

There are differing opinions regarding how much good gaming has brought to the county and tribes. But there is also concern about gambling addictions.

Irina Zhorov

J.D. Darnell is a resident of Jeffrey City and has served as Sheriff's Deputy since the 1970s. The town is a lot quieter now than it was during the last uranium boom, which brought miners to the region, and plenty of excitement. That was all over by the mid-80s.Darnell looks back on Jeffrey City then, and now. 

To listen to the entire November 30, 2012 Wyoming Open Spaces program, please click here.

The number of embezzlement cases among Fremont County businesses is down some after the county saw a spike between 2007 and 2010. Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney, Brian Varn, says, historically, embezzlement was treated “lightly” and, accordingly, punishments tended to be lenient. Varn met with local businesses to reevaluate that approach, and the county now takes a more aggressive stance in court. Varn says the worst year was 2009, and even then there were cases that weren’t charged. “In discussion with all the local businesses embezzlement is a huge problem.

The EPA issues water discharge permits on the Wind River Indian Reservation to oil and gas companies bringing up water with their oil. 

That water, called produced water, is dirty and often warm even in winter. The permits are issued through an EPA waiver that allows such water to be discharged in the arid West if it’s being used beneficially.  In the drier parts of Wyoming it is sometimes the only source of water for livestock and wildlife.

Ron Feemster / WyoFile

A get-out-the-vote effort on the Wind River Indian Reservation helped get people to the polls, but Fremont County, where the reservation is located, still showed slightly lower numbers of ballots cast this year than in 2008 and 2004.

Voter turnout on reservations has generally been low and often community members take more interest in tribal elections than in state and national races, but Wyofile journalist Ron Feemster, who was on Wind River for Election Day, says that didn’t seem to be an issue.

Democrats in Wyoming are widely outnumbered by to Republicans, and this election they lost another member in the Legislature. 

Republican Mark Baker defeated Democratic Representative Joseph Barbuto for a state Representative seat.

Democrat Chris Henrichsen ran for US House against Cynthia Lummis and lost. He says the keys is not to bolster the party, but to focus on running candidates that can appeal to different kinds of voters on issues, like Democratic governors have done.

Riverton House and Senate Debate Recap
On Thursday night, candidates for U-S House and Senate gathered in Riverton for a set of debates. They answered questions ranging from how to address the Medicare shortfall … to their views on climate change and the energy industry. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck was one of the moderators … and he joins Willow Belden from Riverton to talk about the debate.

Voter mobilization efforts on the Wind River Indian Reservation are targeting young, Native residents to vote in the general election on November sixth.

Voter initiatives on Wind River Indian Reservation include free rides to polling places on Election Day, hanging information leaflets on residents’ doorknobs about where and how to vote, and a celebratory feast for participants. Event Coordinator Jolene Catron says that the last time there was such an effort on the reservation, the number of voters almost doubled.

Gov. Mead reflects on GREG report, promises cuts
The Consensus Revenue estimating group came out with projections that lawmakers will have about 85 million more dollars to spend this session.  The CREG report is main tool government officials use to forecast how much money the state will have.  Governor Matt Mead joins Bob Beck to discuss the report and the impact it has on his budget as he prepares to present it in December.

A new Bureau of Justice Statistics report on tribal crime data says the number of Indian country suspects investigated by U.S. attorneys for violence dropped 3%, while those investigated for property crime increased by 57%.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerry Jacobson says her office in Lander is also looking into more non-violent crimes on Wind River Reservation than in the past.

A public meeting today will present preliminary results of an Environmental Health Initiative study being conducted on Wind River Indian Reservation. The Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center initiative aims to assess environmental risks on the reservation, and develop remediation strategies. Communities on the Wind River Reservation complained of high cancer rates. Folo Akintan directs the Epidemiology Center and says they distributed surveys on the reservation and in communities immediately surrounding it, and reviewed national and local data going back up to fifty years.

A sculpture, called Carbon Sink, installed on the University of Wyoming campus, has generated a lot of controversy in the past couple of years. It was a pin wheel of charred logs that sought to draw a connection between coal, global warming, and increased beetle kill. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that this supposedly anti-carbon message certainly got the attention of law makers, donors, and those in industry.
 

IRINA ZHOROV: The piece was installed in 2011 and was removed in May of 2012, a year earlier than expected.

The Wyoming Livestock Board will help investigate horse hair thefts in four counties around the state.

Almost a hundred horses have been robbed of their tails, so far, but so no suspects have been found.

Law Enforcement Administrator for the Wyoming Livestock Board Jimmy Dean Silersays horse hair theft has not been reported on this scale in the state before, but he can see the motivation.

The Wyoming unemployment rate went up again in August, making it the third consecutive month with an increase in joblessness.  Wyoming’s unemployment increased from 5.6% to 5.7% in August. Senior Economist with the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, David Bullard, says it’s not totally clear what’s responsible for the slight loss of jobs, but the slowdown of the energy sector is likely contributing.  Bullard says Wyoming is still doing better than most other states.

A charter plane crash at Laramie Regional Airport has left one man dead. The crash occurred a little before three p-m on Friday…the plane was on fire after the crash but fire trucks responded quickly. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash and the airport will not release additional information until the investigation is complete.  

Irina Zhorov

Revisions to the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s proposed food safety rules could make it easier to obtain raw milk. Raw milk is unprocessed, unpasteurized milk. The originally proposed food safety rules said that raw milk could only be used by the sole owners of a milk cow and their families or guests.

Manager of Consumer Health Services, Dean Finkenbinder, says the word ‘sole’ was removed after about 130 people spoke out at public meetings and a public hearing.  

Obesity rates in Wyoming could rise from 25% now to 57% of the population by 2030. That's according to a study by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report predicts that most states will see comparable increases.

Chronic Disease Epidemiologist for Wyoming’s Department of Health, Joe Grandpre, says Wyoming doesn't have state-run programs dedicated to obesity prevention, but initiatives like heart and diabetes programs address it.   

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