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.

Ways to Connect

Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

A U.S. District Court judge in Wyoming has struck down a rule that would have governed fracking on federal lands.

Judge Scott Skavdahl concluded in his ruling that the Department of the Interior does not have the authority to regulate fracking and called the attempt to do so an “end-run” around the 2005 Energy Policy Act. That law explicitly exempted fracking from regulation by another arm of the executive branch—the Environmental Protection Agency.

Stephanie Joyce

As Alpha Natural Resources looks to emerge from bankruptcy, the government is opposing the company’s plan to transfer its federal coal leases to a new company. The Department of Justice argues Alpha’s current reorganization plan doesn’t adequately address the company’s cleanup obligations.

Alpha’s plan calls for selling off its most valuable assets to a group of its creditors, who would form a new company with them. Those assets include the company's Wyoming mines, which are on federal land. 

Stephanie Joyce

The latest attempt to block a federal rule addressing mercury pollution from power plants has failed.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards target mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, which are the largest source of the toxin. Mercury can cause health problems, especially in children.

Last year, the Supreme Court sent the rule back to the lower courts after finding that the Environmental Protection Agency hadn’t adequately considered cost when formulating the rule. The agency has since done that.

Mysterious Gas Leak In A Town Surrounded By Wells

Jun 14, 2016
Leigh Paterson

The search is continuing for the source of a gas leak that shut down a school in Midwest, Wyoming at the end of May.

Fleur de Lis, the company that operates the neighboring Salt Creek oil field, says it has plugged one leaking well near the school, worked on another six and is continuing to monitor as many as 30 other wells in the area. 

The Salt Creek field is the oldest in Wyoming, and an Inside Energy analysis of the state oil and gas database shows there are more than 700 active and abandoned wells in a one-mile radius around the Midwest school.

Stephanie Joyce

Earlier this year, on a conference call with investors, the head of one of the nation's largest coal companies shocked those tuned in with a frank admission.  Colin Marshall is CEO of Cloud Peak Energy:

"As we look forward, it is clear that the dynamics of the coal industry have permanently changed," he said. “Where coal used to provide baseload generation, it is now much more variable depending on power demand, renewable output, and the price of natural gas."

Stephanie Joyce

Inside the secured vault at Green House Data are rows and rows of glass and metal cabinets, chock-full of humming electronics and colorful cables.

“This is the cloud,” said Art Salazar, the company’s director of operations, as he led a tour of the building. “You're standing right in front of the cloud.”

The cloud, where you upload photos and stream video, is real, physical infrastructure, housed in data centers across the country.

Juerg Matter

In what could prove to be a major step forward for carbon capture and storage, a group of researchers in Iceland have discovered how to turn carbon dioxide emissions from a power plant into stone.

Carbon capture and storage is considered an important tool in the fight against global climate change, but the storage part of the equation has proved challenging—most work has focused on injecting the carbon dioxide into deep saline aquifers, which then need to be monitored for centuries for potential leaks.

The largest consumer of Wyoming coal is projecting a shift to solar in the next 15 years.

Texas consumed 58 million tons of Wyoming coal in 2014, more than any other state, but many of that state’s coal fired power plants are headed for retirement, and Texas’ grid operator anticipates those will be replaced with solar power.

In California, there is so much solar energy that grid operators have to switch off solar farms. One solution of dealing with the additional power generated is to share the renewable wealth across state borders – but in the West, it's sparking some not-so-neighborly opposition.

Nancy Traweek's job is to balance California's electrical grid at the California Independent System Operator, keeping the lights on for 30 million people. She relies on huge natural gas power plants that put out a steady stream of electricity.

University of Wyoming

As Wyoming faces tough choices about how to balance its budget, a new survey from the University of Wyoming looks at what the public would choose. 

It's the first scientific look at citizen opinion on the budget.

“Effectively we have three choices to face a budget deficit: Raise revenue, that’s increase taxes, cut services or agency budgets, or thirdly take money out of our savings account, the rainy day fund," said Rob Godby, one of the organizers of the survey. "And we were trying to figure out what combination or single action was most popular with people.”

Stephanie Joyce

The company that had proposed an experimental underground coal gasification project in northeast Wyoming has declared bankruptcy. Linc Energy wanted to use a process that involves igniting deep coal seams to produce syngas, which can then be processed into various liquid fuels or other chemicals.

Stephanie Joyce

A bankruptcy judge has given Alpha Natural Resources approval to move its restructuring plan to a vote, over the objections of the federal government.

The government had argued Alpha didn’t provide enough detail about various parts of the plan, including how the company plans to pay for mine reclamation, for creditors to fully evaluate it, but the bankruptcy judge disagreed.

Stephanie Joyce

The federal government has filed an objection to Alpha Natural Resources’ plan for emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

A Wyoming legislative committee is moving forward with proposals to increase the tax on wind energy. Wyoming is currently the only state that taxes wind energy production. The Revenue Committee decided at its meeting on Wednesday to draft two possible bills. One would raise the production tax on wind beyond the current one dollar per megawatt hour. The other would force wind companies to hand over some part of the federal wind energy production tax credit to the state.

archcoal.com

Arch Coal has filed its initial plan for how it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy, but doesn't contain many details when it comes to reclamation and worker benefits.

Arch Coal filed for Chapter 11 in January, in the hopes of shedding some of its $4.5 billion in debt. The company’s restructuring plan outlines how various creditors would be paid—or not paid—if the plan is approved.

Leigh Paterson

As Wyoming faces a growing budget shortfall, the state is looking at ways to generate additional revenue, including possibly raising the state's wind tax. The Joint Revenue Committee will consider a proposed tax hike at its meeting this week.

Wyoming Public Media

It’s election season, which means politicians are busy promising lots of things, including when it comes to energy. Hillary Clinton has pledged to give $30 billion to coal communities if elected; Donald Trump has promised energy independence. We wondered, if these policies actually came to pass, what would the world look like? Are they good ideas or bad ideas?

Ultra Petroleum filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday evening, after warning it was likely headed toward bankruptcy in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company is Wyoming's largest gas producer, by volume, but has struggled with high debt loads and low natural gas prices in recent months. In April, Wyoming's benchmark natural gas price was just $1.71 per thousand cubic feet, compared to $2.32 at the same time last year. 

Wyoming’s largest gas producer said Friday it may file for bankruptcy.

Ultra Petroleum disclosed the possibility of bankruptcy in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ultra has substantial debts from large purchases of oil and gas reserves in recent years and is struggling to pay back those debts with current low natural gas and crude oil prices.

Wyoming Business Council

Officials broke ground Wednesday on a new facility that will house carbon conversion experiments. The Integrated Test Center or ITC will be attached to the coal-fired Dry Fork power plant near Gillette. 

The first tenants will be teams competing for the $20 million Carbon XPrize, a competition to turn carbon dioxide emissions into useful products.

“What you’re going to see is the nexus, the very kernel of what I anticipate will be a multi-billion dollar a year industry,” said Paul Bunje, with the XPrize Foundation.

The State of Wyoming is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its rejection of an Oregon project that would export liquefied natural gas.

FERC rejected the Jordan Cove permit application in March because the project’s backers didn’t have any confirmed buyers for the LNG. The project would require running a new, 230-mile pipeline across Oregon and the Commission said without buyers, the harm to landowners couldn’t be justified.

Leigh Paterson

A new analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project would kill 10 to 14 golden eagles a year, if built. The proposed project south of Rawlins would be the largest onshore wind farm in North America, sending power to up to a million homes in California. 

Taylor Brorby and Ice Cube Press

Fracking: the technique for boosting oil and gas production has been around for decades, but chances are you didn’t hear about it until recently. In just a few short years, the fracking boom has transformed communities across the country… and elicited plenty of emotions from all sides. Fracture is a new book of essays, poems and short fiction on the topic of fracking.

Wikipedia Creative Commons

What does bankruptcy actually mean on the ground?

For now, not very much. In Chapter 11 bankruptcy a company reorganizes but doesn’t shut down. In a statement, Peabody said it plans to continue operating its mines as usual while it restructures.

GOOGLE EARTH

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday. The filing comes on the heels of several other bankruptcy declarations from major coal companies, including Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.

KQED

 

Solar energy records are falling left and right in California these days, as the state steams ahead toward its ambitious renewable energy goals.

But the success of solar has brought about a hidden downside: on some perfectly sunny days, solar farms are being told to turn off.

That’s because in the spring and fall, when Californians aren’t using much air conditioning and demand for electricity is low, the surge of midday solar power is more than the state can use.

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