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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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Polar bears are one of the species that’s been hardest hit by climate change. But scientists have long thought the bears might be capable of effectively hibernating in summer, to save energy during a longer open water season. New research from the University of Wyoming disproves that hypothesis though. Merav Ben David is a professor of wildlife ecology and one of the authors of the new study. She told Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce that without hibernation, it’s an increasingly long and hungry summer for the bears.

Stephanie Joyce

The losses are continuing to mount as more coal companies report their second quarter earnings.

Cloud Peak Energy announced a $53 million loss for the quarter Wednesday, while Arch Coal reported a $168 million dollar loss Thursday, following on the heels of Peabody Energy's $1 billion loss on Monday.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Peabody Energy suspended its shareholder dividends Tuesday after announcing a $1 billion dollar second quarter loss—the latest in a streak of bad earnings reports.

Peabody is the world’s largest coal miner, with operations in Australia and across the US. Like many of its peers, it's been hammered recently by low natural gas prices, slumping demand for metallurgical coal and uncertainty surrounding new environmental regulations.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Wyoming’s largest utility pledged Monday to cut its carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy.

pipelineartproject.com

Coal and gas from Wyoming’s mineral-rich land powers much of the nation. Now, the state even has a power switch—the same circle and line button seen on household electronics, tilled into a field in Sublette County. The 100 foot diameter Power Switch is the creation of three artists from the Pinedale area. It’s an example of land art, which uses elements of nature to harmonize with its location. And because it’s natural, it changes with the seasons.

Stephanie Joyce

The New York Stock Exchange suspended trading of Alpha Natural Resources Thursday amid concerns about bankruptcy. 

Alpha owns the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines in Wyoming, and is one of the nation’s largest coal producers. The company has struggled in recent years because of low coal prices and considerable debt, and the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that it's in talks about bankruptcy financing.

Black Hills Corporation

Black Hills Corporation is expanding its footprint in Wyoming. The South Dakota-based company announced Sunday it is purchasing Source Gas, which supplies natural gas to roughly half a million customers in Wyoming, Colorado, Arkansas and Nebraska.

Black Hills already owns several utility companies in Wyoming, including Cheyenne Light Fuel and Power.

“By moving to 1.2 million customers through our service territory, we will do a good job of holding costs down with respect to customers rates and providing great service,” said Black Hills Chief Operating Officer Linn Evans.

In April, for the first time ever, the US got more of its electricity from natural gas than coal, according to new data from the Energy Information Administration. The numbers show 32 percent of electricity generated that month came from natural gas, while just 30 percent came from coal.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

On a 500 square mile ranch in Carbon County, Wyoming, one of the world's largest renewable energy projects is unfolding, backed by an unlikely entrepreneur.

Commons

Plague Vaccine Could Bring Black Footed Ferrets Back To Meeteetse

A plague vaccine might help bring one of the most endangered mammals in North America back to Northwest Wyoming where they were discovered. Black Footed Ferrets may be restored to the Pitchfork Ranch near Meeteetse, because their food, prairie dogs, are coming back.

Shane Reetz / Prairie Public Broadcasting

From the roof of the Confederation of Danish Industries building in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark’s energy past and future are within view. Smokestacks from several coal-fired power plants share space on the horizon with a fleet of wind turbines.

But most of those smokestacks are coming down soon. Denmark is transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy—the culmination of a decades-long effort that began with the energy crisis of the 1970s.

Despite the recent downturn in prices, oil production in the US has continued to climb.

The Energy Information Administration's most recent figures, from April, show production that month reached 9.7 million barrels a day—the most oil the US has produced since 1971.

Stephanie Joyce

New data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, sheds light on the most dangerous areas of oil and gas.

NIOSH started collecting detailed data on oil and gas worker fatalities in 2014. The agency will be issuing a report based on what the data shows later this summer, but Kyla Retzer, a NIOSH epidemiologist, previewed some of it at a recent safety conference in Cheyenne.

Willow Belden

According to a new study from the Environmental Defense Fund, in 2013, Wyoming burned, vented and leaked $76 million worth of natural gas from federal and tribal lands.

“That’s a big waste of what could be going into federal and tribal royalty coffers,” said EDF spokesman Jon Goldstein, pointing out that the money also ends up with states and local communities through royalty sharing.

Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

In an eleventh hour decision, a judge has delayed implementation of new rules regulating fracking on federal lands. The rules were scheduled to go into effect Wednesday.

Among other things, they require the disclosure of fracking chemicals and more tests to ensure wells aren't leaking.

National Park Service

Fire Reforms Heat Up Congress

Pine beetles and drought is leaving Wyoming and other states more susceptible to wildfires than at any point in recent memory, yet the federal fire policy doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the new climate. Wyoming lawmakers are trying to solve the problem.

Shane Reetz / Prairie Public Broadcasting

Across the nation -- and even in Wyoming -- power companies are adding more renewable energy to their systems. That creates new challenges for the electric grid… challenges that this country is just beginning to grapple with. In Denmark, the transition is happening more quickly - by 2030 the country’s power system is supposed to be 100 percent renewable. So already, industry and universities have been trying out potential solutions in the real world -- on a test island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. 

Stephanie Joyce

The Governor of one of China’s largest coal-producing provinces visited Wyoming Wednesday, meeting with University and State officials. The Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs organized the visit by Li Xiaopeng and other top officials of Shanxi province.

Center President David Wendt says the goal is to foster more cooperation between Wyoming and Shanxi on issues relating to carbon capture.

The Laramie County Board of Commissioners shot down a proposal Tuesday to assert more local control over oil and gas development. The Cheyenne Area Landowners Coalition brought a resolution asking the Commissioners to require more specific mitigation measures for oil and gas drilling than are detailed in state law. It suggested setting limits on light and noise, among other things.

Wyoming’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction says the state needs to be doing a better job educating students to meet industry’s needs.

“You will hear me talk a lot about phasing out courses that are not of value to industry, and really scaling up those courses that are of value,” Jillian Balow told the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority at its summer meeting. She said the state’s infrastructure includes its students and that Wyoming needs to keep them in state with better science, technology, engineering and math education. 

EIA

Despite a spate of bad news recently, companies trying to export coal to Asia remain bullish on the future. Backers of all the proposed West Coast coal terminals were at the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority's summer meeting.

The projects were originally proposed in 2011 and 2012, when Asian coal prices were well above $100, but they’ve fallen by almost half since then.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

In an effort to cut costs amid weak coal prices, St. Louis-based Peabody Energy is laying off 250 corporate workers, including 20 in Gillette. 

“While we regret the impact that these actions have on employees, their families and communities, today’s announcement represents another necessary step to drive the company lower on the cost curve,” CEO Glenn Kellow said in a statement.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

The grid control room at Østkraft, on the Danish island of Bornholm, is a mix of old and new. On one side of the room, huge computer monitors detail the flow of electricity throughout the system. On the other, printed circuit diagrams hang on 60s-era control boards with dancing needles. Lounging at a desk in a grey jumpsuit and thick eyeglasses, engineer Erik Malmkvist jams to early 90s dance music, while explaining that his job is to do as little as possible.

“When I shall do anything, it costs us money," he says. "So, I do as little as possible.”

Stephanie Joyce

In the latest sign of a struggling US coal market, one of Wyoming’s largest coal producers has failed a financial test from the state.

Alpha Natural Resources owns several large coal mines in the Powder River Basin. Mining companies in Wyoming are typically required to post bonds assuring regulators they can reclaim or clean up the mines when they’re abandoned. But under a provision called “self-bonding,” companies meeting certain financial criteria don’t actually have to put up the money. 

Bill Stevenson / Creative Commons

Part 1 in our Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid.

It was a blustery, cold January day in 1998 when the rain turned to ice. I was nine years old at the time, living in a town called Canton in upstate New York, near the Canadian border. The storm started early, but didn’t get serious until well after dark.

“I remember waking up in the night and hearing explosions outside,” my mom, Lynn Shepherd, recalled recently. “When the top of a tree comes off and it just splinters, the snapping is really an explosion. It’s like a gunshot.”  

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Part 3 of an Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid

On an overcast Florida afternoon five years ago, standing in front of a vast array of solar panels, President Obama pledged to modernize the nation’s power grid. He compared its current state to the road system before interstate highways. “It was a tangled maze of poorly maintained back roads that were rarely the fastest or the most efficient way to get from point A to point B,” he said.

Stephanie Joyce

With the final draft of the federal Clean Power Plan due out later this summer, the Wyoming Legislature’s Minerals Committee took its first look at the proposal during a meeting in Casper Thursday.

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