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

Stephanie Joyce

  

Historically, electricity pricing has been relatively straightforward: the more you use, the more you pay. But today, that simple equation is not so simple. Increasingly, the time of day when you use electricity factors into the cost as well. It’s called time-of-use pricing, and while it can save money and energy, it’s not always popular.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Peabody Energy, one of Wyoming’s largest coal producers, appears to be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

With Industry In Turmoil, Energy Players Meet In Houston

Feb 26, 2016
IHS Energy/CERAWeek

  

The energy industry is in turmoil. Coal and oil prices are way down, there are big changes to environmental regulations in the works, and more and more renewables are coming online. Some of the biggest players in the industry met at a conference in Houston this week to weigh in on what it all means. Inside Energy reporter Jordan Wirfs-Brock was at IHS CERAWeek. She spoke to Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce from the conference about the biggest issues on the table for the energy industry.  

TRANSCRIPT:

Emily Guerin / Inside Energy

BNSF Railway has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle alleged environmental violations in Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota.

The settlement covers several oil spills as well as compliance violations. The largest spill was in 2010, when a train derailed and leaked 7,400 gallons of diesel into the Wind River in central Wyoming. The other violations also involved trains spilling diesel into various bodies of water.

“The fine is a deterrent, to say ‘don’t do this again,’” said Donna Inman, a compliance and enforcement officer with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Earthworks

The oil and gas industry may be emitting more methane, a potent greenhouse gas, than previously thought, according to new estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Methane can leak from wells, pipelines and compressor stations, among other things.

At an energy conference in Houston, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the administration is not planning to turn a blind eye to the oil and gas industry's increased contributions.

"The data confirm that we can and must do more on methane reductions in the oil and gas sector," she said. 

Recent coal company bankruptcies pose a significant risk to taxpayers, the Secretary of the Interior told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday.

Some of the largest coal companies in the country were never required to put up cash or obtain third-party insurance to cover their reclamation costs.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the federal government is concerned there is little cleanup money set aside as the coal industry slides deeper into financial trouble.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Cloud Peak Energy, one of Wyoming’s largest coal producers, reported a $205 million loss in 2015. 

"Clearly 2015 was a tough year for domestic coal producers with demand being driven down by anti-coal regulations and very low gas prices. Unfortunately, 2016 looks like it's going to be even tougher," Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall told investors on a conference call. 

Stephanie Joyce

A pipeline spilled an estimated 1200 gallons of crude oil into a dry creek bed near Gillette over the weekend.

The Belle Fourche Pipeline Company, a True Company subsidiary, owns the gathering line responsible for the spill into Donkey Creek. 

It’s not clear how long the line was leaking before the company shut it down. The Department of Environmental Quality says it may have been a few days.

In Wyoming, gathering lines are largely unregulated and are not monitored for spills. The company’s report about the spill lists internal corrosion as the cause. 

Wikimedia Commons

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem isn’t likely to forget the phone call he got Tuesday night, from a colleague in Washington D.C.

“5pm. It was 5pm exactly,” he recalled in an interview with Inside Energy.

Willow Belden

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has finalized new rules governing the flaring and venting of natural gas from oil wells.

Natural gas is a byproduct of drilling for oil, but when there aren't pipelines or processing facilities nearby to collect the gas, companies sometimes end up burning it off.

The new rules formalize requirements for operators to submit reports so that the state can keep track of how much gas is being flared.

Stephanie Joyce

The Supreme Court has put the Obama administration’s signature climate change rule on hold while lower courts consider legal challenges.

Stephanie Joyce

Bankrupt coal miner Alpha Natural Resources is hoping to put its core assets on the auction block, including its mines in Wyoming. 

A group of the company’s lenders have placed a so-called “stalking horse bid” of $500 million, effectively setting the floor for what the company would accept. Pending approval by a bankruptcy judge, Alpha could start taking bids from other interested buyers later this month.

The company doesn’t have to go through with the sale of the assets, but could if it gets a high enough bid.

Stephanie Joyce

It came as news to Jeff Parsek that state records show there is an abandoned oil and gas well in his driveway. Parsek lives in a large, brown ranch house, right across the street from an elementary school, in a subdivision on the south side of Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s a nice neighborhood, with the new feeling of many Colorado suburbs.

When Parsek bought the house in 2004, he didn’t ask about oil and gas wells on the property.

Stephanie Joyce

A panel that makes recommendations on whether new federal coal projects should move forward has given the green light to two proposals in Montana and Wyoming.

Cloud Peak Energy and Lighthouse Resources want to mine a combined 644 million tons of coal from government reserves. The Powder River regional coal team recommended that the Bureau of Land Management begin the environmental review process for both projects.

A bankruptcy judge has authorized up to $12 million dollars in bonuses for executives of the bankrupt coal mining company Alpha Natural Resources.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

The Forest Service has issued a draft environmental impact statement for a proposed rare earth metals mine in northeastern Wyoming. 

The Bear Lodge project near Sundance would be the first new rare earth mine in the United States in decades.

Rare earth elements are used in various high-tech applications, from smartphones to precision-guided missiles. Currently, most of the world’s supply comes from China. The only U.S. rare earth mine, in California, shut down last year after its parent company, Molycorp, declared bankruptcy.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

The federal government has come out strongly against a proposal by bankrupt coal miner Alpha Natural Resources to pay its executives up to $12 million in bonuses. 

In filings with the bankruptcy court, the United States Trustee, an arm of the Department of Justice, excoriates the proposed bonuses, saying they are completely unjustified.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

  

In President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, there was a line that caught the ear of people in the energy industry.

“I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet,” he said.

White House

President Obama called for an overhaul of the nation’s energy system in his final State of the Union address. 

Obama criticized climate change deniers in the speech, saying it’s time to stop debating and start innovating. He praised investments in wind and solar energy and called for moving away from “dirty” energy sources.

“And that’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet,” he said.

Wyoming’s largest utility is backing an initiative that would make Oregon “coal-free” by 2030. 

Oregon currently gets a third of its power from coal, even though it has only one coal plant in the state. The rest comes from power plants in the region, including Wyoming’s Jim Bridger plant. Under the proposed bill, Oregon ratepayers wouldn’t pay for any electricity from coal plants after 2030.

Pacificorp, the parent company of Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain Power, is supporting the initiative. 

Melodie Edwards

U.S. natural gas prices in 2015 were at their lowest since 1999, despite a dramatic increase in use of the fuel in the power sector.

The U.S. benchmark natural gas price averaged just $2.61 per MMBtu, although it dropped considerably lower than that at points during the year. 

A new paper in the journal Science argues current wolf management policies in the northern Rockies are unsustainable. The region’s grey wolves were removed from the endangered species list in recent years, and each state manages wolf hunting independently.

The paper argues states allow hunters to over-harvest because there is no clear target population level.

Stephanie Joyce

Companies are shutting down pipelines in the Midwest in response to record flooding.

There are dozens of oil and gas pipelines running under the Mississippi River. Several companies have proactively shut down those lines, in order to avoid accidents.

Spectra Energy has shut down its Platte pipeline, which runs from Guernsey, Wyoming to Wood River Illinois.
"Obviously there will be some delays in deliveries," said Spectra spokesman Devon Hotzel. "But any December volumes that were affected by the shutdown will be delivered in January."

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has concluded groundwater contamination in the Pavillion area is unlikely to have been caused by hydraulic fracturing.

In the budget deal announced Tuesday night, Congress agreed to lift the decades-old crude export ban.

The export ban dates back to the 1970s, when there were fears about oil shortages, but in the last few years, producers in North Dakota, the Rockies and Texas have been pumping huge amounts of oil. That, in turn, has driven down prices.

Although few expect to see significant exports in the short-term, lifting the ban could help reverse that price trend—and keep some struggling companies in business.  

Google Earth

After failing to make an interest payment Tuesday, industry analysts say one of Wyoming’s largest coal companies is one step closer to potentially declaring bankruptcy. Arch Coal invoked the 30-day grace period on its $90 million payment, saying it will use that time to continue "constructive discussions with various creditors."

Bob Beck

Listen to the full show here.   

Wyo. Lawmakers Send Power Over Education To State

It took Congress eight years and countless hours of listening to angry teachers and parents, but No Child Left Behind is soon to be a thing of the past. Matt Laslo reports from Washington that Congress and the White House agreed to scrap the hated Bush-era law.

uwyo.edu

Wyoming has long considered itself a leader in carbon management... how to capture and store carbon. And with the world's attention focused on the climate talks in Paris, the question of how to keep carbon out of the atmosphere has never been more pertinent. 

Kipp Coddington is the new head of the University of Wyoming's Carbon Management Institute, and he sat down with Wyoming Public Radio's Stephanie Joyce to talk about the future of carbon storage technologies.

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