Stephanie Joyce

Energy and Natural Resources Reporter

Phone: 307-766-0809
Email: sjoyce3@uwyo.edu

Stephanie Joyce reports on energy and natural resources for Wyoming Public Radio. Before joining WPR, she was the news director at a public radio station in the Aleutian Islands, where she covered oil, fish and sometimes pirates. She's also an alumni of the Metcalf Institute Science Reporting Fellowship. When not reporting, she's listening to public radio, often while running or skiing.

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Wyoming Economic Analysis Division

The effects of low oil and natural gas prices are apparent in this month’s jobs numbers for Wyoming. Although overall employment in Wyoming grew, the oil and gas sector shed more than a thousand jobs from this time last year.

“The job losses have still been concentrated in the mining industry. We just haven’t seen the spillover into other industries,” said Jim Robinson, the state economist, although he cautioned that that job losses in oil and gas support sectors could take longer to show up.  

The largest proposed coal export terminal on the West Coast is facing additional delays.

The Gateway Pacific terminal in Washington State would ship up to 54 million tons of coal a year, mostly from the Powder River Basin. It's currently under environmental review. A draft of that review was expected to be published this year, but changes to the project have pushed that back until at least 2016.

Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

With oil prices hovering at multi-year lows, many companies are choosing to store, rather than sell their oil. In addition to conventional storage in tanks and tankers, companies are also choosing to store the oil in the ground. 

Bob Beck

Governor Mead Says The Legislative Session Had Some Disappointments

A few weeks ago the Wyoming legislative session came to a close and Governor Matt Mead admitted that he had a number of concerns. The biggest was the failure of the legislature to pass Medicaid Expansion. The governor tells us that he knew it would be a tough sell, but it was tougher than he thought.

Dan Boyce

The federal government has released its first set of rules addressing fracking on public lands, and they’re already getting pushback—in Congress and in court.

Stephanie Joyce

When it comes to oil and gas drilling in urban and suburban areas, the question is often ‘how close is too close?’ That’s been the major point of contention in Wyoming, where the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is currently considering a rule to increase the setback distance between oil and gas wells and houses from 350 to 500 feet. Many homeowners would like it to be even further. Distance is only one part of the issue though, as Brad Brooks would attest.

Wyoming is now home to the largest conservation bank in the country. The conservation bank program allows private landowners to permanently protect a critical habitat area in exchange for credits that can be sold to developers who plan to disturb critical habitat elsewhere.

The Department of the Interior will finalize new rules for fracking on federal lands in coming days, Secretary Sally Jewell said Tuesday during a speech outlining her energy agenda for the next two years. She quipped that the rules governing oil and gas haven’t changed much since she was a petroleum engineer 30 years ago and that it’s time for an update.

Wyo. Republicans Now Fighting To Preserve Obamacare Funding

One of the biggest Supreme Court cases of this term could wipe away the insurance subsidies that tens of thousands of Wyoming residents now rely on under so-called Obamacare. Matt Laslo has the story from Washington on how Wyoming Senator John Barrasso is now scrambling to find a Plan B for a law he's staked his name as a doctor opposing.  

Willow Belden

Wyoming regulators have backtracked on a threat that Cirque Resources would face severe consequences if it didn’t figure out a way to curb the burning off of natural gas from the company’s oil wells in Laramie County.

Stephanie Joyce

People packed into a public hearing Monday about proposed changes to the rules governing how far oil and gas drilling has to be from homes and schools. The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is proposing to increase the "setback" distance from 350 feet to 500 feet. 

But Chuck White, who lives east of Cheyenne, told the Commission that 500 feet simply isn’t far enough for modern drilling operations.

Wyoming’s largest investor-owned electric utility is asking to raise its rates in 2016. Rocky Mountain Power submitted a request to the Public Service Commission this week for a 4.5 percent overall increase. The company estimates that would translate to roughly an extra $5 charge on residential customers’ monthly bills. Bryce Freeman, administrator of the Wyoming Office of Consumer Advocate, says the request doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

The State of Wyoming is moving forward with plans to take over regulation of the uranium industry from the federal government. Governor Matt Mead signed legislation on Friday that starts the process of transferring oversight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality. The transfer is expected to cost the state $4.2 million, which industry will pay back over the course of roughly 12 years by taking on the expense of several positions currently paid for out of the general fund.

  

Some Call It A Disappointing Legislative Session

The Wyoming legislative session is coming up on its last week. It’s a session that’s seen the defeat of Medicaid Expansion and some other key issues. Because of that, critics say they really haven’t accomplished much, and some legislators agree.  

Creative Energies

    

With its big blue skies and high altitude, Wyoming's solar potential is among the best in the nation, but even as residential rooftop solar has boomed recently in places like California, Colorado and New Jersey, it's barely made any inroads in the state. Economics and politics both play a role, but with the price of photovoltaics continuing to drop, some people are starting to ask whether momentum is building for solar in nation's largest coal-producing state. 

Stephanie Joyce

A year ago, a petroleum engineering degree seemed like the ticket to a bright and well-paid future. With six-figure starting salaries for a bachelor’s degree and endless optimism about the shale revolution, enrollment climbed rapidly in petroleum engineering programs across the country. But now that the oil price slide has turned to an oil price slump, the luster is wearing off.

When Evan Lowry first enrolled at the University of Wyoming, his plan was to be a chemical engineer, like his dad, but the oil industry was booming and he quickly changed his mind.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Energy storage will be a key part of the grid of the future, according to industry experts speaking at this month’s Wyoming Infrastructure Authority conference. Currently, power generation and consumption are balanced in real-time, but storage would allow power generated now to be consumed later.

“You know, I can envision a day when right next to your hot water heater you have a battery," said Mark Lauby, vice president of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the agency that oversees the power grid. "You store it up during the day and use it at night.”

Wyoming is planning to send a delegation to Washington State later this year to lobby on behalf of coal export terminals. Last year, the state invited members of eight Pacific Northwest tribes to visit Wyoming on an all-expenses paid tour of the region’s coal mines, but only one tribe accepted the invitation. Now, the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority is hoping to take the tour to them. According to Loyd Drain, the agency's director, WIA will host two meetings in Washington later this year in an effort to convince tribes that coal exports are a good thing.

February 6th, 2015

Feb 6, 2015
Jeremy Wilburn, Flickr Creative Commons

Climate Change In The Classroom: The Debate Continues In Wyoming

Nearly a year after Wyoming lawmakers blocked the State Board of Education from considering a set of science standards that include climate change, a bill to put the standards back on the table is up for debate. When the dust settles, it could mean a change in classroom conversations about climate.

Wikimedia Commons

In recent years there’s been plenty of discussion and a lot of worry in Wyoming about the future of coal. Politicians have blamed the federal government for the coal industry's struggles and pushed for coal export terminals to save it. But until now, there’s been very little data to back up the talk. This week, economists at the University of Wyoming previewed a study looking at coal’s role in the state economy as well as its prospects for the future. Rob Godby is the Director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy and lead author of the report.

A senior executive at one of the nation’s largest power companies says Wyoming needs to be working on solutions for compliance with the Clean Power Plan. The plan calls for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from the power sector nationwide by 2030.

FMC

A Connecticut-based company has purchased Wyoming’s largest trona mine for $1.6 billion.

The multinational company FMC has owned the Green River trona mine for more than 60 years, but last fall, it announced that it would sell off the business to pay down debt. Tronox, a company that’s primarily involved in titanium mining, appears to have been the highest bidder.

In a conference call with investors, Tronox CEO Tom Casey indicated that the company is not planning major changes to operations at the mine, which is the largest employer in southwest Wyoming.

Wyoming Lawmakers Spar With Obama On Middle Class Agenda

Republicans now control the gavels on Capitol Hill, but last week they were given a stark reminder of how limited their power is here in the nation’s capital when President Obama delivered his State of the Union address where he touted recent economic gains.

Senate Energy GOP

A bill sponsored by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso that would speed up processing of applications to export natural gas internationally/to international markets is making its way through Congress.

Stephanie Joyce

 

A hundred years after it embroiled the Harding administration in scandal, the government has sold Wyoming’s Teapot Dome oilfield to a private company.

Teapot Dome was set aside by Congress in 1915 as a strategic petroleum reserve for the Navy, but in the 1920s, Interior Secretary Albert Fall secretly sold parts of the field to private oil companies in exchange for bribes, earning the dubious distinction of being the first Cabinet-level official to be jailed for corruption. In the decades since, the oilfield has mostly been used for government testing.

Wikimedia Commons

The budgets of oil states are going to be hard hit by the recent slide in oil prices. Measured in dollars, Texas is the clear loser, but in terms of actual on-the-ground impacts, it isn't quite so simple. In the country’s number two oil-producing state, North Dakota, falling prices have barely caused a ripple, while in Alaska (ranked fourth), lawmakers are calling it a “fiscal apocalypse.” In Wyoming (ranked eighth), reaction has been subdued, but that may not last.

Stephanie Joyce

A coalition of environmental and landowner groups have reached a settlement with the State of Wyoming and Halliburton in a lawsuit over fracking chemical disclosure.

Wyoming was the first state in the nation to require public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking, but the state has also granted more than a hundred exemptions to that rule to companies concerned that disclosure would reveal trade secrets.

State support is critical to getting value-added mineral processing facilities to set up shop in Wyoming, backers told a legislative committee Monday. A bill currently under consideration by the Legislature would set up a mechanism for the state to invest in value-added projects. The governor’s office, which sponsored the bill, says it’s particularly targeted towards projects that would convert natural gas to liquids, like diesel, although it could apply to any of the state’s minerals.

Stephanie Joyce

Legislators had lots of questions for oil company representatives at a special seminar convened Monday to discuss the recent oil price slide. Oil prices are down more than 60 percent since June. The State of Wyoming gets roughly 20 percent of its revenue from oil, so prices have been a hot topic in the halls of the Legislature.

Devon Energy representative Aaron Ketter said his company’s best-case scenario has oil prices rising in as little as 6 months. The worst-case scenario is for 24 months. But he cautioned, rising doesn’t mean returning to previous levels. 

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