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

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.

Federal Reserve Bank

The "breakeven" price for oil has fallen in step with oil prices, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The "breakeven" price is when producing oil is no longer profitable for companies. 

The Bank periodically surveys oil and gas companies in seven Western and Midwestern states. When oil prices started to slide, those companies reported an average breakeven price of $79. Now, those same companies report it's down to an average of $62. 

Stephanie Joyce

Citing recent decisions by financial companies like Bank of America to withdraw funding from coal operations, Governor Matt Mead says Wyoming needs to innovate in order to stay an energy leader.

During his keynote address at the Wyoming Business Report's Energy Summit, Mead said that he has and will continue to fight against federal regulations, but added that more will be needed.  

Stephanie Joyce

The energy futures of Wyoming and California are becoming increasingly intertwined. Late last month, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that he’s speeding up the state’s transition to renewable energy, with a goal of reducing emissions 40 percent by 2030. Just days later, a major transmission project to carry Wyoming wind power to California received its final environmental review.

Stephanie Joyce / WPM

After more than a dozen major crude oil train derailments in the last few years, the Department of Transportation is updating its shipping rules.

The new rules phase out the easily-punctured tank cars known as DOT-111s over the next three years. They also set a 50 mile per hour speed limits for crude oil trains, and require trains carrying more than 70 cars of crude oil to have better brakes so they don’t crunch accordion-style during a derailment.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

 After months of deliberation, Wyoming has increased the so-called setback distance for oil and gas wells--how far they have to be from occupied structures like houses and schools.

The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted unanimously and without debate Tuesday to increase the setback from 350 to 500 feet.

In the lead-up to the vote, the state and industry called the increase a compromise, but many landowners argued that 500 feet was not nearly far enough, and asked for a quarter-mile (1320ft) or more. 

Richard Martin

The “war on coal” is a catchphrase typically used by industry-backers to rally against the Obama administration, but in his new book, "Coal Wars," author Richard Martin, comes at the issue from the other side. In addition to being an author, Martin works for Navigant Research, one of the world’s leading clean energy consulting firms, and as he explained in an interview with Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce, while he sees coal’s decline as inevitable, the book is his attempt to understand what that means for people in coal country.

Stephanie Joyce

A company that wants to test underground coal gasification in Wyoming is facing charges in Australia for allegedly polluting air and groundwater and exposing workers to dangerous gases.

Leigh Paterson

Emissions from facilities that treat oil and gas wastewater could contribute to ozone formation, according to a new study from the University of Wyoming. 

It’s not news that under the right conditions, oil and gas development can lead to more ground-level ozone, but oil and gas wastewater treatment hasn't previously been identified as a potential contributor.

Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

Just over half of people in Wyoming believe the climate is changing, according to a new study from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. 

The study examines climate change beliefs on a county and state level, including whether global warming is caused by humans, whether it will harm future generations and whether there should be policies in place to curb carbon emissions.

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.

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