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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In recent years there’s been plenty of discussion and a lot of worry in Wyoming about the future of coal. Politicians have blamed the federal government for the coal industry's struggles and pushed for coal export terminals to save it. But until now, there’s been very little data to back up the talk. This week, economists at the University of Wyoming previewed a study looking at coal’s role in the state economy as well as its prospects for the future. Rob Godby is the Director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy and lead author of the report.

A senior executive at one of the nation’s largest power companies says Wyoming needs to be working on solutions for compliance with the Clean Power Plan. The plan calls for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from the power sector nationwide by 2030.

FMC

A Connecticut-based company has purchased Wyoming’s largest trona mine for $1.6 billion.

The multinational company FMC has owned the Green River trona mine for more than 60 years, but last fall, it announced that it would sell off the business to pay down debt. Tronox, a company that’s primarily involved in titanium mining, appears to have been the highest bidder.

In a conference call with investors, Tronox CEO Tom Casey indicated that the company is not planning major changes to operations at the mine, which is the largest employer in southwest Wyoming.

Wyoming Lawmakers Spar With Obama On Middle Class Agenda

Republicans now control the gavels on Capitol Hill, but last week they were given a stark reminder of how limited their power is here in the nation’s capital when President Obama delivered his State of the Union address where he touted recent economic gains.

Senate Energy GOP

A bill sponsored by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso that would speed up processing of applications to export natural gas internationally/to international markets is making its way through Congress.

Stephanie Joyce

 

A hundred years after it embroiled the Harding administration in scandal, the government has sold Wyoming’s Teapot Dome oilfield to a private company.

Teapot Dome was set aside by Congress in 1915 as a strategic petroleum reserve for the Navy, but in the 1920s, Interior Secretary Albert Fall secretly sold parts of the field to private oil companies in exchange for bribes, earning the dubious distinction of being the first Cabinet-level official to be jailed for corruption. In the decades since, the oilfield has mostly been used for government testing.

Wikimedia Commons

The budgets of oil states are going to be hard hit by the recent slide in oil prices. Measured in dollars, Texas is the clear loser, but in terms of actual on-the-ground impacts, it isn't quite so simple. In the country’s number two oil-producing state, North Dakota, falling prices have barely caused a ripple, while in Alaska (ranked fourth), lawmakers are calling it a “fiscal apocalypse.” In Wyoming (ranked eighth), reaction has been subdued, but that may not last.

Stephanie Joyce

A coalition of environmental and landowner groups have reached a settlement with the State of Wyoming and Halliburton in a lawsuit over fracking chemical disclosure.

Wyoming was the first state in the nation to require public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking, but the state has also granted more than a hundred exemptions to that rule to companies concerned that disclosure would reveal trade secrets.

State support is critical to getting value-added mineral processing facilities to set up shop in Wyoming, backers told a legislative committee Monday. A bill currently under consideration by the Legislature would set up a mechanism for the state to invest in value-added projects. The governor’s office, which sponsored the bill, says it’s particularly targeted towards projects that would convert natural gas to liquids, like diesel, although it could apply to any of the state’s minerals.

Stephanie Joyce

Legislators had lots of questions for oil company representatives at a special seminar convened Monday to discuss the recent oil price slide. Oil prices are down more than 60 percent since June. The State of Wyoming gets roughly 20 percent of its revenue from oil, so prices have been a hot topic in the halls of the Legislature.

Devon Energy representative Aaron Ketter said his company’s best-case scenario has oil prices rising in as little as 6 months. The worst-case scenario is for 24 months. But he cautioned, rising doesn’t mean returning to previous levels. 

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

 

 

 

Last week, we brought you what falling oil prices mean for North Dakota, in five numbers. This week, we bring you Wyoming’s outlook, again in five numbers.

1) $37.90 per barrel.

University of Wyoming

Better data, more reservoir capacity and river restoration are among the priorities outlined in Wyoming’s new water strategy. Governor Matt Mead’s office developed the strategy, with input from the public. It focuses on ten projects in three areas: water development, water conservation and water restoration. Policy advisor Nephi Cole says more than 7000 people commented on the draft strategy, which included dozens of projects.

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.

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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.

EIA

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

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