Jordan Giese

Part-Time Reporter

Jordan Giese is a political science major currently working on his bachelor's degree. He has lived in Wyoming all his life but has a focus on both local issues and international stories. He moved to Laramie just last year rediscovering Wyoming and all it has to offer in landspaces, opportunities and people. He has listened to WPR for years and is thrilled to contribute to an important state service and NPR.

When he is not writing for WPR or his classes Jordan enjoys reading history, news from around the world and collecting typewriters. He hopes to remain in the state but also hopes to work for public radio in the future.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer could affect health coverage for nearly 21,000 Wyoming residents. The court will decide if subsidies can be provided to low-income individuals in states that don’t have their own health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Wyoming is one of more than 30 states without its own insurance marketplace.

Of the 21,000 citizens enrolled in a health care plan under the federal government run marketplace, 91% receive the premium tax credit, which on average pays for more than 70% of their monthly premiums.

Wikimedia Commons

With oil's recent downturn, the industry is looking for new ways to get more oil out of the ground for less money and is financing research that could help it do that. Monday, the oil field services company Baker Hughes announced a one million dollar grant for the University of Wyoming.

Researchers will use the money to study how to get more oil and gas out of unconventional reservoirs.

Mark Northam is the director of UW’s School of Energy Resources. He says it will hopefully also bring down the costs of extraction.

Wikimedia Commons

Union Pacific Rail Road has announced its investing $51.5 million into Wyoming’s railroad infrastructure. $48 million of that is being spent directly on railroad tracks, with the rest going into signal systems and bridges.

The money is part of a regular investment into the company’s railways, with $430 million being spent in Wyoming between 2010 and 2014. Mark Davis is the Union Pacific spokesman and says that money directly affects safety nationwide.

Seattle Municipal Archives / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Students at the University of Wyoming will hold a demonstration May 8th  protesting Laramie’s lack of a glass recycling program. The students who organized the demonstration are part of a class called ‘Youth in Revolt’ that has been studying youth protest movements this semester. They will be gathering signatures for a petition asking the city to start recycling glass again.  

Laramie lost its glass recycling two years ago, when ARK regional services cut the program citing high costs. The University of Wyoming closed its  own glass recycling program shortly after.

Last week, WyoTech in Laramie laid off more than 40 employees. WyoTech and its parent company, Zenith, declined to comment on the layoffs, but cited falling enrollment in a press release Wednesday. They said there would be about a 30% reduction of staff at the Laramie campus.

Dan Furphy is the President and CEO of the Albany County Chamber of Commerce. He says he’s seen enrollment ebb and flow before, but never such a large layoff.

Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Clinton’s campaign recently announced it will begin organizing in Wyoming. The move is part of the campaign’s goal to bring grassroots campaigning to all states before the 2016 presidential election.

Clinton is the only presidential hopeful with a presence in Wyoming so far. The campaign has hired Laramie local Peter Bishop, who previously worked on Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

Aimee Van Cleave is the Wyoming Democratic Party’s Interim Executive Director. She says Hillary’s campaign is getting off to an early start.  

Several Albany County schools were closed Tuesday due to an early morning power outage. The University of Wyoming Lab School, Slade Elementary, the Laramie Montessori School, and Laramie High School all canceled because of the lack of power. ACT testing at Laramie High School that was planned for today has been postponed to a later date.

More than seven thousand customers in Laramie lost power. David Eskelsen is a Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson, and says the cause of the outage wasn’t weather related.

University of Wyoming

  

The University Of Wyoming Board Of Trustees has formed a committee that will figure out how to conduct the search for the next UW president.  

The decision comes less than two weeks after current President Dick McGinity announced he will be resigning in June of 2016. The board was criticized for holding a closed search when it hired Bob Sternberg who resigned after just a few months on the job.  Laramie Trustee Mike Massie will serve on the committee. He says they want input on how a search should be conducted, and what kind of candidates the board should target.

Yellowstone National Park/Creative Commons

Researchers with the University of Utah have discovered a large magma reservoir underneath the Yellowstone National Park caldera. In a report released Thursday, they say the new area lies 12 miles underground, below a shallower well-known magma chamber.

Researcher Robert Smith is a co-author of the study and says his team used a geologic CT scan to discover the reservoir that’s filled with a mass of hot porous rock, rather than the typical magma. He says the new finding solves a puzzle of the Yellowstone volcano system.

NORML

Wyoming marijuana advocates filed a petition to put an initiative to legalize medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot.

The Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws filed the paperwork with the secretary of state’s office on Monday.

The group will have to collect more than 25,000 signatures by February 8th to get the initiative on the ballot. To become law, the initiative would have to be approved by a majority of Wyoming voters.

Wikimedia Commons

Judges and attorneys are concerned about how to prosecute possession of edible marijuana products in Wyoming. Under current law, the entire edible, like a cookie or a lollipop is weighed and those in possession of more than three ounces of any marijuana-infused product can be charged with a felony

The Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee is tackling the issue over several meetings after hearing concerns during the last legislative session. Senator Leland Christensen chairs that committee and says the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act is too vague on edibles.

Casper College

Casper College has selected Dr. Darren Divine as its new president. The College’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously for Divine out of four finalists.

The school’s current president Walter Nolte will be retiring at the end of June after eleven years in the job. Devine is currently is Vice President for academic affairs at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas.

He says he has a background in agriculture, and that should be a good fit for the college.

The Wyoming Department of Education is asking Wyoming teachers, parents and science professionals to serve on a Science Standards Review Committee. A survey will be open until April 22 for citizens to express interest.

The committee will form science standards for Wyoming students, a process that was restarted by the State Board of Education after lawmakers voted this session to allow the Next Generation Science Standards to be considered.

University of Wyoming

  

A University of Wyoming Faculty Senate Survey says the school has pressing systemic problems with leadership and hiring practices.

Edward Janak is the chair of the UW faculty Senate. He says more faculty need to step up to voice concerns and faculty input into university decisions need to be taken more seriously by administrators.

He also says the upcoming presidential search is a key concern.

Wyoming Department of Health

The Wyoming Department of Health is reporting its deadliest flu season in at least 15 years. Since the current flu season began in October, 26 people have died of flu in the state.

That’s out a total 5,000 cases of the illness, according to the Department.  Cases are still being reported, as the season typically ends in May.

Kim Deti says the Department only has records on flu seasons back to 2000.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $30 million to a Sierra Club campaign that aims to close half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants by 2017. There are currently just over 500 coal-fired power plants in the US, including 13 in Wyoming. Those supply 90% of the state's power. 

Connie Wilbert is with the Sierra Club of Wyoming. She says while the campaign hopes to see some of state’s coal power shuttered, there are challenges in Wyoming.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Association

A report of a stolen vehicle led the Wyoming Highway Patrol to make a drug bust Tuesday in Casper.

The Highway Patrol says Hertz Rental Company contacted them about a stolen vehicle in the Casper area at nine Tuesday morning.   The Patrol located the vehicle at a Pawn shop in Casper. 

Lieutenant Kleif Guenther with the Highway Patrol says two individuals, Jason Latoskie and Sherry Mehring were arrested and charged with drug possession.

Wyoming has half the snowpack it did at this time that year. That’s according to a report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The state had an average 135% snowpack level in March of 2014, but this March had only a 70% average. The Sweetwater and Belle Fourche saw its lowest levels of snowpack since record-keeping began.  

Daryl Lee Hackleman  is the Water Supply Specialist with the Service’s Wyoming office. He says while the year started out strong, snow just didn’t come.

David Koch

Wyoming’s snowpack is disappearing more than two weeks earlier than it used to. That’s according to NASA, which just wrapped up a study looking at the years 1972 through 2013. The study focused on the Wind River Range and concluded that snowpack is melting 16 days earlier than it did through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Dorothy Hall is a senior scientist with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and was one of the authors of the study. She says less snowpack can put a strain on resources in the West.  

Senate Energy GOP

U.S. Senator John Barrasso will be chairing a congressional hearing on the Wind River Reservation at the end of March that will bring tribal officials and law enforcement together to testify on drugs use on the reservation and different methods to curb use.

The Wind River Reservation was one of four reservations chosen for a law enforcement surge pilot program in 2010 and 2012 to combat substance abuse and violent crime. Barrasso says the hearing was called to find out if it was the surge or some other factors that helped curb crime.

Smith’s Food and Drug Store in Jackson honored firefighters who helped save the store from a propane fire last November.

Jackson Hole Fire put out the blaze which started inside at propane store and was spreading towards an eleven-thousand gallon propane tanker.

More than fifty firefighters were on the scene. Smith’s Grocery Store is donating $5,000 of gift-cards to the Department and  hosted a dinner Thursday.

Kathy Clay is the Jackson Hole Fire Marshall and says the Grocery Store wasn’t the only business in harm’s way.

The number of people in Wyoming who have purchased health insurance through the federal health insurance marketplace has nearly doubled since last year. More than 21,000 consumers signed up for plans in 2015 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Last year, nearly 12,000 people signed up for a plan.

Monica Jennings is a Marketplace Navigator with Enroll Wyoming. She says despite many Wyomingites enrolling, there are still many in the state without health coverage who would have benefited from Medicaid expansion.

Jordan Giese

The Casper Housing Authority is wrapping up the first year of its Housing First Program. It was designed to give the chronically homeless places to live before tackling other issues like addiction and illness.

The program was started last March with 10 homes and 14 participants. Four of them have dropped out of the program, but nine people now have permanent housing and one has completely graduated from the program, and has moved into housing without assistance from the state.

The Jackson elk herd is not wintering in locations that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say can support such high numbers. While the overall population of 11,000 is healthy, several locations have more elk than they can support.

The National Elk Refuge and the Snake River Corridor areas are both bursting at the seams with elk this winter. Game and Fish Spokesman Mark Gocke says two issues are to blame animals are migrating down from better range to the north and they have unusually high birth rates this year. He says hunting could help the problem.

Rebecca Martinez

The student population at the University of Wyoming has grown slightly over the past year. UW reports that 162 more students attend the University than did last spring.

The College of Engineering and Applied Science has seen most of the recent growth. Its student population is up 9% or about 150 students from last year.

New Engineering Dean Michael Pishko says despite the downturn in the oil industry, companies are still looking to hire new engineers.

University of Wyoming

Five new members will be joining the University of Wyoming’s Board of Trustees. They will take over for members whose terms have expired and the late Warren Lauer who died last year.

Mel Baldwin, John McKinley, Dick Scarlett, Michelle Sullivan and Mike Massie were appointed by the governor and approved by the senate. All will serve until 2021 except for Massie, who is serving Lauer’s term until 2017. The Next Board of Trustees meeting will be at the end of this month.

University President Dick McGinity says the new members will be key in moving the Board forward.

Star Valley Chamber of Commerce

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will break ground on its first Wyoming temple this April. The new Star Valley Mormon Temple will be built just south of Afton near the Idaho border.

Unlike other church buildings, temples perform special services for members of the Mormon faith, like marriage and baptism ceremonies.

Jerry Hansen is an LDS spokesman for the Afton area. He says the temple is highly anticipated by local members.

outdoorcentral.com

The invasive species Quagga  mussels have been discovered in Deer Creek Reservoir in Utah. That poses a special risk to Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which is only 200 miles away.

Quagga mussels are an invasive aquatic species which have been spreading across the United States since 1989. They can clog power-plant intakes and starve  local species of food.

Wes Gordon is an Aquatic Invasive Species specialist with the Wyoming’s  Game and Fish Department, and says while Wyoming is currently mussel free, the risk of infestation is growing.

The National Elk Refuge in Jackson has completed their annual classification count. For the second year in a row more than 8,000 wintering elk were counted, well over the refuge’s 5,000 elk goal.

That goal comes from the refuge’s 15 year management plan which began in 2007. The plan outlines sustainable elk and bison populations for habitat conservation and disease management in the Jackson area. The refuge has been trying to reduce the animal’s reliance on winter feeding at the refuge.

Wyoming Department of Corrections

Casper’s District Attorney will be allowed again to seek the death penalty in the case of a Wyoming inmate convicted of killing a Montana woman. That’s after District Judge Alan Johnson denied a request from Dale Wayne Eaton’s defense team to let him serve life in prison without parole. 

Eaton was convicted of killing Lisa Marie Kimmell in 2004, but his death sentence was overturned last year after Judge Johnson ruled he did not receive a proper defense. The judge said Eaton’s history as a victim of abuse should have been discussed.

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