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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The White House released a new plan to curb methane emissions Wednesday. Methane is the main component of natural gas and a major contributor to climate change. The proposed rules target new oil and gas development and aim to reduce methane emissions 45 percent by 2025. In a press call, Jeremy Symons, climate director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said that reducing methane emissions is a cost-effective way to prevent climate change.

Stephanie Joyce

An oil worker died last week on a rig in Johnson County. Twenty-five year old Joshua Adam was killed Thursday at an Anschutz Corporation well site near Gillette. He was working for Texas-based contractor Basic Energy Services.

Hayley McKee, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, writes in an email that the incident happened during a well servicing operation. Adam’s death was caused by “an unexpected vertical movement of an oil derrick.” He died on site.

biorootenergy.com

Roughly a year after its first meeting, the Wyoming Task Force on Forests has released its recommendations.

Governor Matt Mead convened the task force to offer forest management recommendations in response to recent forest ecosystems changes such as bark beetle infestations and more severe wildfires. The group’s report offers 12 key recommendations and numerous sub-recommendations on topics ranging from roadless areas to biomass plants to fire management. 

In an interview with Wyoming PBS Thursday night, Governor Matt Mead questioned scientific studies that have shown a link between oil and gas activities and earthquakes.

Center for American Progress

Proposed changes to the way coal royalties are calculated are proving controversial, with coal companies coming out strongly against them and taxpayer advocacy groups saying they don't go far enough.

Stephanie Joyce

Coal mining deaths in 2014 hit a record low, according to new data from the Department of Labor. Sixteen coal miners died on the job in 2014, two fewer than the previous record low in 2009. Joseph Main, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, says it’s a sign that the agency’s work in the last few decades has been successful.

“If you look at the distance we’ve came since 1977 and where we’re at now, I always say that the distance we have to go is shorter,” he says. 

Chuck Abbe / Wikimedia Commons

The utility giant PacifiCorp has agreed to a $2.5 million dollar settlement over bird deaths at two of its wind farms in Wyoming.

PacifiCorp pleaded guilty to killing more than 300 birds, including 38 golden eagles. The Department of Justice says the company knew that its turbine siting at the farms outside of Glenrock would result in bird deaths. PacifiCorp spokesman David Eskelsen says the company disputes that characterization, but not the fine. 

“The law is the law and we’re committed to abide by the regulations,”  he said. 

Stephanie Joyce

Coal companies could have to pay royalties on the sale price of exported coal if the Department of the Interior adopts new regulations next year. The draft rules released on Friday address a loophole first identified by the Reuters news service.

The Boom: Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

In case you hadn’t heard, the United States has been experiencing an oil boom for the last five years. The boom has helped the country’s economic recovery and created thousands of jobs for people in states like North Dakota, Wyoming and Texas. But although booms are often heralded for the economic opportunities they provide…they also have a darker side.

Rebecca Martinez

Oil prices have been in freefall in recent months, dropping by more than half since June. For energy states like Wyoming, that’s bad news. As Governor Matt Mead pointed out recently, the state has a lot of money riding on oil.

This is not the first time Wyoming has weathered a downturn. In fact, for those who can remember all the way back to 2009 and crashing natural gas prices, today’s news may seem like deja vu. Booms and busts are part of the state’s economy. But do they have to be?

Stephanie Joyce

In case you hadn’t heard, the United States has been experiencing an oil boom for the last five years. The boom has helped the country’s economic recovery and created thousands of jobs for people in states like North Dakota, Wyoming and Texas. But although booms are often heralded for the economic opportunities they provide…they also have a darker side.

It’s almost two o’clock in the afternoon and the lunch rush at The Depot restaurant in Douglas, Wyoming is just beginning to taper off.

The State of Wyoming may be getting into the coal export business.

Stephanie Joyce

As oil prices continue to plummet, energy-producing states are starting to feel the squeeze. Wyoming crude is selling for half what it was in June. That price drop means companies are making less money -- and so is the state.

This year, for the first time in decades, severance taxes from oil surpassed coal and came close to knocking natural gas out of its number one spot, but now, with oil prices falling, Governor Matt Mead says the state is losing out on a lot of money.

Stephanie Joyce

Oil prices continued their months-long freefall this week. The US benchmark crude price dropped below $60 a barrel for the first time in five years on Thursday. In Wyoming and other oil producing states, those lower prices are starting to take a toll on companies. 

Cyclone Drilling is one of Wyoming's largest drilling contractors. Manager Patrick Hladky says if prices don’t rebound quickly, he’s expecting to idle at least two of the company’s 27 rigs by the end of the month and even more in the first quarter of next year.

After just two years on the job, Wyoming’s occupational epidemiologist is leaving. Mack Sewell is the second person to hold the position. His predecessor, Timothy Ryan, quit amid frustration over what he saw as Wyoming’s lack of desire to improve workplace safety. Sewell, on the other hand, is retiring.

The occupational epidemiologist position was created to address Wyoming’s high rate of workplace injuries and fatalities. Sewell says the state has taken steps in the right direction, but that it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions from the limited amount of data available.

Stephanie Joyce

So far, Wyoming has largely managed to avoid the tensions over oil and gas development that have cropped up in other states. It’s not hard to imagine that it’s just a matter of time though, as companies have filed for hundreds of drilling permits in recent months in the vicinity of the state’s largest city, Cheyenne.

At an April meeting hosted by the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Cathy Moriarty, of Torrington, said landowners needed better protections.

Stephanie Joyce

A month ago, something happened that many never imagined possible: Voters in Denton, Texas passed a ban on fracking.

In New York and even in Colorado, fracking bans weren't particularly shocking. But Texas? As the oil and gas industry navigates this latest energy boom, it’s facing a new and sometimes fraught relationship with the American public.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Relationships 101: Oil And Gas Looks For A Social License To Operate

A month ago, something happened that many never imagined possible: Voters in Denton, Texas passed a ban on fracking.

INSIDE ENERGY: Energy Job Corps Focus On Safety

Stephanie Joyce

The State has released the second of three reports into the cause of groundwater contamination outside the town of Pavillion, in Fremont County. Many suspect that nearby oil and gas development is responsible. The state released its first report in August. That one looked at whether there were problems with the natural gas wells themselves that could explain the contamination and concluded that more study is necessary.

Stephanie Joyce

If there were ever uncertainty about how Wyoming policymakers would feel about the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants, now we can say for sure:  they hate it. The comment period for the so-called Clean Power Plan ended Monday. Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard spoke with energy reporter Stephanie Joyce about what the state had to say and where things go from here.

CAROLINE BALLARD: Stephanie, to start, refresh our memories about what exactly the Clean Power Plan is. 

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

New regulations designed to combat smog could leave hundreds of counties in the United States out of compliance with federal air quality standards, including up to eight in Wyoming.

Stephanie Joyce

With backing from the co-founder of Microsoft, two environmental groups filed suit Tuesday over the federal government’s coal leasing program.

Wyoming’s uranium industry moved closer to its goal of being regulated by the state instead of the federal government on Monday.

The Legislature’s Joint Minerals Committee voted to introduce a bill that would allow the Department of Environmental Quality to take over from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Transferring the regulatory responsibilities is estimated to cost 4 million dollars. Shannon Anderson with the Powder River Basin Resource Council told the committee that the industry should have to pay for that.

A Legislative Committee had lots of questions during its meeting this week for Linc Energy. That company has plans for an underground coal gasification test project near the town of Wright. If it moves forward, it would be the first such project in the United States in decades. 

Many of the legislators’ questions echoed those that have been raised before, from the impacts of the process on water quality to the possibility of sinkholes.

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission introduced a rule this week designed to head off conflict between landowners and companies as drilling activity moves into populated areas of the state. But so far, reaction to the proposal has been less-than-positive. Wyoming Public Radio’s energy reporter, Stephanie Joyce, joins Bob Beck to talk about what’s been proposed and why landowners aren’t happy with it.

Bob Beck: At the center of this debate are something called “setbacks” – what is a setback and why is it so important?

Willow Belden

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission gave a company permission to continue burning off large volumes of natural gas from its oil wells in Laramie County this week, but not before expressing its disapproval. Cirque Resources asked the Commission for permission to continue flaring more than 1.4 million cubic feet of natural gas per day -- enough to heat more than 7000 homes.

NETL/DOE

A deeply in-debt company that wanted to revive the coal bed methane industry in Wyoming had its wells seized by the state Tuesday after failing to post an overdue reclamation bond. The seizure follows years of back and forth with High Plains Gas. Wells that aren’t producing need to be bonded, in order to cover the cost of reclamation and High Plains owed almost $7 million.

Stephanie Joyce

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has proposed increasing the buffer, or “setback,” between oil and gas wells and places like schools, hospitals and homes.

The current setback distance is 350 feet. Under the proposal that would increase to 500 feet. Companies would also have to comply with a new requirement to notify people living within 1000 feet of a well of any planned drilling activity and come up with a plan to mitigate potential impacts.

Wikipedia

A number of migrating horned grebes found themselves grounded in southwestern Wyoming last week. The small waterbirds spend summers in Canada and Alaska and winters in the southeastern United States, but a handful of them almost didn’t make it this year, after they ended up stranded on lawns, tennis courts and streets in Green River. As Green River Game and Fish office manager Regina Dickson explained, the birds can only take off from water.

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