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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News
7:10 am
Thu July 24, 2014

New Rules Target Crude Train Safety

An oil train waits to be loaded at the Upton Logistics Center, in Upton, WY.
Credit Stephanie Joyce / WPM

The federal government has released new rules for trains transporting crude oil. They come in response to a number of dramatic crude train derailments over the last year, including one that destroyed the town of Lac Megantic, Quebec. 

The draft rules make a number of recommendations, the biggest of which is phasing out a type of tank car called DOT-111s over the next two years. Those cars have been disparagingly called "Coke cans" because they're thin-walled and often rip open in derailments, but they're the most common way to transport crude oil by rail.

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Open Spaces
6:50 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

July 11th, 2014

Federal Highway Money Remains At Risk

The federal pot of money that’s supposed to keep local roads and bridges intact may soon be empty, yet lawmakers on Capitol Hill are miles apart from each other. It remains unclear if they’ll be able to bridge the gulf. Matt Laslo reports from Washington on how the Wyoming delegation is weighing in on the debate that’s sucking the air out of Washington this summer.

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Open Spaces
5:47 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Booming Oil And Gas Production Taxes Pipeline Network

The "pig trap" for a pipeline at a tank farm in Guernsey, Wyoming.
Stephanie Joyce

In the first quarter of 2014, the United States surpassed both Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer. It already hit that mark for natural gas late last year. All of that oil and gas has to be transported from the fields where it’s drilled to refineries and processing plants, and most of that is done by pipeline, but the nation’s pipeline infrastructure isn’t currently up to the task.

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News
1:26 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

State Will Release Draft And Final Pavillion Reports

The state says it will release both the draft and final versions of reports investigating water contamination in Pavillion. The clarification comes after landowners wrote a letter to Governor Matt Mead protesting the state’s plan to release the draft to Encana, the oil and gas company some accuse of polluting the water, before releasing it to the public.

Mead's spokesperson, Renny MacKay, says by releasing both copies, and the comments provided by Encana, the Environmental Protection Agency and an independent expert, the public will be able to see the evolution of the document.

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News
4:07 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Jury Awards Injured Oil And Gas Worker $5.1M

A Wyoming jury has awarded $5.1 million dollars in damages to an oil and gas worker who was injured on the job in 2011.

Then 22-year-old Horr was part of a crew working on a Merit Energy oil well when built-up pressure escaped, sending a piece of rubber through his left arm and shattering it. Attorney Bryan Ulmer with the Spence Law Firm says Horr has lost use of his arm as a result.

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News
3:53 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Alberta Smoke Creates Wyoming Haze

Credit National Weather Service

Smoke from wildfires in northern Alberta has drifted down into Montana and Wyoming in recent days.

"The smoke has worked pretty hard to reduce visibility in the last couple of days," says Kelly a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton. "It’s not having a whole lot of effects otherwise in terms of particulates in the air or other health effects because the smoke is coming from so far away.”

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News
8:58 am
Sun June 22, 2014

Secrecy Prevails With Crude-By-Rail Data

Railcars carrying crude oil display this placard

Hundreds of thousands of tank cars full of crude oil snake across the nation each year, and the number is only increasing.  In the last five years, the number has jumped 14-fold. Along with that, there’s been an increased number of accidents, derailments and spills.

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News
5:08 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

American Bird Conservancy Files Suit Over Eagle Take Permits

An environmental group is suing the federal government over eagle take permits. The permits allow wind farms to kill a certain number of protected bald and golden eagles annually without penalty. In December, the Fish and Wildlife Service changed the duration of the permits from five to 30 years in response to industry lobbying.  Wind companies said the shorter period didn’t provide enough certainty for investors.

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News
8:37 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Wyoming Senator John Schiffer Remembered For Service, Dedication

Senator John Schiffer

Longtime Wyoming state senator John Schiffer passed away Wednesday at the age of 68. Schiffer, a Republican, had represented District 22 in Sheridan and Johnson counties since 1993. He was diagnosed with liver cancer last month.

State Treasurer Mark Gordon was Schiffer’s long-time friend and business partner. He says the state lost one its best advocates.

“Completely selfless, wanted to make sure the best thing for Wyoming would happen," Gordon says. "It didn’t matter if he got the credit.”

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News
6:10 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Republican Governors Urge EPA To Scrap Carbon Pollution Rule

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead

Governor Matt Mead joined his counterparts in eight other states Monday in asking the Environmental Protection Agency to scrap its new carbon pollution rules. The rules call for a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants by 2030.

In a letter to the agency, the governors say that effectively bans coal-fired power. The EPA disagrees, projecting that coal will still provide 30 percent of the nation’s electricity after the rules are implemented, down from almost 40 percent today.

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Open Spaces
5:08 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Laramie County Sees Surge In Oil And Gas Development

A Patterson drilling rig set alone against the Wind River Mountain range.
Credit Robert Flaherty

For years, southeastern Wyoming has been expecting an oil boom that’s never arrived. Just across the border in Colorado, drilling has reached breakneck pace, but Wyoming has been relatively quiet -- until now. The discovery of a new, more promising oil reserve has led to a surge of interest in oil and gas development in Laramie County over the last few months.

In May of 2013, oil and gas companies applied for nine permits to drill in Laramie County. In May of 2014, companies applied for 132.

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News
3:11 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

State Begins Plugging Orphaned Wells

Credit NETL/DOE

The state has started plugging some of the thousand-plus orphaned wells in the Powder River Basin. The wells are relics of the coal-bed methane bust, when many companies went bankrupt and walked away without closing their wells. The state has taken on responsibility for plugging them, using a combination of revoked bonds and funds from a production tax.

Oil and Gas Supervisor Mark Watson says they had hoped to start plugging wells a little bit sooner, but that there were scheduling conflicts to take into account.

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News
10:03 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Wyoming Regulators Evaluating EPA Carbon Rule

Jim Bridger Power Plant near Rock Springs, WY

In the week since the Obama administration unveiled new rules to curb carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants, Wyoming regulators have been digging in, trying to figure out exactly what they’ll mean for the Cowboy State. So far, they have more questions than answers.

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News
6:54 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

State Promises Union Pacific Confidentiality For Crude Train Data

Credit Nat Hamilton/WHYY

In the wake of recent derailments and explosions of crude oil trains, state officials will start receiving information about when those trains are moving through their states. The federal Department of Transportation issued an emergency order in early May, requiring the railroads to share information with states about the routing of any shipments of Bakken crude oil over a million gallons. It goes into effect Saturday.

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Open Spaces
6:15 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

June 6th, 2014

Democrats Try To Improve Their Legislative Numbers 

Wyoming Democrats have been in the legislative minority for a long time, but it’s been really tough lately.  Only eight of the 60 Wyoming Representatives are Democrats and only four reside in the Senate.  While the party has hopes of grabbing a few more seats this year, there are not enough candidates to make serious gains.  The problem started back in 1991.

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Open Spaces
5:28 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

EPA Carbon Regs Leave Wyoming Out In The Cold...Or Do They?

Coal coming from mines like the one pictured here in Gillete, Wyo., have been a significant source of revenue for the state.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

It didn't take long after the Obama administration unveiled new rules this week regulating carbon emissions from power plants for people to start naming winners and losers. Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state, and a huge coal consumer, was immediately billed as a loser.

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News
9:20 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Governor's Office Begins Narrowing Water Strategy

There are more than fifty potential projects being considered for inclusion in Wyoming’s Water Strategy. The strategy, which is being spearheaded by Governor Matt Mead, is intended to guide state investment in water development, management and conservation. The list of projects was developed through of a series of statewide public hearings and covers everything from building dams to clouding seeding to developing better public water databases.

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News
6:20 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

New Rule Aims To Cut Carbon Emissions By 30 Percent

Jim Bridger Power Plant near Rock Springs, Wyoming

In an effort to curb climate change, the Obama administration has proposed a rule to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation by 30 percent. The rule is the first to target power plants, the nation’s largest carbon emitters.

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Open Spaces
4:52 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

New Greenhouse Gas Regulations Target Power Plants

Jim Bridger coal fired power plant, Sweetwater County, Rock Springs Wyoming.
Credit www.wanderlustimages.com

The predicted effects of continuing to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at current rates range from dramatic sea level rise to extreme weather to famine and drought. Power plants are among the largest carbon dioxide emitters, and on June 2, the Obama administration is scheduled to release new rules regulating those emissions. Utilities and trade groups are already warning those rules will have some dire consequences of their own.

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Open Spaces
4:13 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Shift To Carbon Use Marks New Frontier In Fight Against Climate Change

Scientists at the Western Research Institute in Laramie, Wyoming are looking for new ways to use carbon dioxide.
Stephanie Joyce

The Obama administration wants states to cutback on carbon emissions, but doing that has always been a thorny problem. While carbon is a byproduct of almost everything we do, capturing and storing it is expensive. For years, the goal has been to figure out how to make that process cheaper, but more recent efforts take a different approach, with the focus shifting from storing carbon to using it.

On a recent spring morning, Karen Wawrousek led a tour of her lab at the Western Research Institute, on the outskirts of Laramie.

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News
5:09 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Tornado Touches Down On Casper Mountain

Credit via National Weather Service

A tornado that touched down on Casper Mountain Friday afternoon caught forecasters by surprise. Trevor LaVoie, with the National Weather Service, says the storm systems moving through Natrona County today didn’t show any signs of producing tornadoes.

“These types of storms are more general thunderstorms in nature," LaVoie says. "We’re not really seeing a lot of heavy rain, they’re short-lived, and their depth is relatively shallow. They’re only about 15,000 feet thick.”

The tornado wasn’t visible on radar, but it was reported by numerous observers.

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News
11:52 am
Thu May 22, 2014

Flooding Could Shed Light On Contaminants At Uranium Tailings Site

The Department of Energy is closely monitoring the potential for flooding this spring at the site of a former uranium mill on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Tailings from the mill contaminated groundwater in the area decades ago. DOE had planned to let the uranium dissipate naturally over the next century, then flooding in 2010 caused an unexpected spike in contamination levels.

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News
6:46 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Wyoming Uranium Producers Bullish About Future

L-R: Mark Wilcox, Wyoming Business Report; Paul Gorenson, Uranerz; Donna Wichers, Uranium One; Wayne Heili, Ur-Energy; Ken Vaughn, Cameco.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

Uranium producers in Wyoming are optimistic about the future, despite a recent slump in prices. The uranium market tanked after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with the indefinite shutdown of Japan’s reactors, but speaking during a panel discussion at the Wyoming Energy Summit this week, uranium mining executives like Donna Wichers of Uranium One said while it’s been a setback, it’s just that.

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News
11:18 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Industry Is Concerned About New EPA Standards

L-R: Steve Dietrich, Administrator, Air Quality Division, Department of Environmental Quality; Dan Byers, senior director for policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy ; Tim Rogers, environmental manager, Black Hills Corp
Credit Stephanie Joyce

New regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants are due out at the beginning of next month and industry is warning that they could have a devastating impact on the economy.
 
Speaking at the Wyoming Business Report’s Energy Summit in Casper, Dan Byers, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the cost of the regulations will likely significantly outweigh the climate benefits, pointing out that developing nations are emitting more than ever. Byers says he’s skeptical of how the Environmental Protection Agency will calculate cost-benefit.
 

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News
11:14 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Mead Urges Support For Carbon Capture Innovation

It’s time to stop looking at carbon as a liability and time to start figuring out ways to turn into an asset, Governor Matt Mead told attendees at the Wyoming Business Report’s Energy Summit Monday. He said carbon capture and utilization technology is not ready for prime-time, but that innovation is possible if the government and others invest in it.

“Everything is crazy until you figure it out. And this issue on coal in particular is an issue that I think we can figure out, and that we need to figure out,” Mead said.

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Open Spaces
5:27 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

May 16th, 2014

Wyo. Lawmakers Reject New Climate Change Report 

The White House is painting a dire picture for every region in the nation - including here at home - if action isn’t taken to combat climate change. But Matt Laslo reports from Washington that Wyoming’s Republican senators still aren’t buying it.

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Open Spaces
5:08 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Amid Boom, Regulators Struggle With Staffing

The newly discovered abundance of domestic oil and gas is creating a shortage of something else: the petroleum engineers who regulate drilling activities. Government petroleum engineers approve companies’ drilling plans and inspect wells after they’re completed to make sure they’re not at risk of contaminating water or blowing out, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, there just aren’t enough petroleum engineers to go around.  

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Open Spaces
4:30 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Auction Revives History Of Scandal At Teapot Dome

Clarke Turner, Director of the Rocky Mountain Oil Field Testing Center at Teapot Dome oil field, shows off the inside of a heater-treater.
Stephanie Joyce

If you were paying close attention during the latest season of Downton Abbey, you might remember this exchange:

PENELOPE WILTON (as Isobel Crawley): Is it really called the Teapot Dome scandal? It seems so unlikely. What’s it about?

MAGGIE SMITH (as Lady Violet Crawley): What’s it always about? Bribery and corruption. Taking money to allow private companies to drill for oil on government land.”

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