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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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.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

The New York Stock Exchange is threatening to de-list Arch Coal, one of Wyoming's largest coal companies.

Companies listed on the exchange have to meet certain criteria, including maintaining a market value above $50 million. Arch's value has been below that threshold for more than a month. 

The company has 45 days to submit an appeal, in the form of a plan for how it will return to compliance with the exchange's criteria.

Google Earth

The Secretary of the Interior called coal mine self-bonding “a big issue” in testimony to a Congressional committee Wednesday.

Coal companies typically have to put up money before they mine, to guarantee cleanup, but self-bonding gives companies a pass if they are deemed financially healthy.

  

Four years ago this week, the town of Pavillion, Wyoming was launched into the national debate over fracking when the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft study linking the practice to groundwater contamination in the area. After coming under fire for its conclusions, the agency abandoned its study and turned the investigation over to the state.

 

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Going forward, oil and gas companies in Wyoming will need to pay more upfront to cover the potential costs of clean-up down the road.

Companies have to post a bond before they begin drilling to ensure compliance with regulations and to cover the costs of clean-up if they go bankrupt or abandon their wells. The bonds are returned once wells are properly reclaimed.

Currently, Wyoming requires a bond of $75,000 to cover all of a company’s wells in the state, although many companies were grandfathered in under a previous $25,000 requirement.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Oil prices hit new lows Monday, after the news Friday that OPEC would not cut production. But several proposals for oil and gas projects in Wyoming are moving forward despite the price slump.

The Bureau of Land Management is beginning to assess the environmental impacts of a proposed 1500 well project that would straddle the border between Converse and Campbell counties. EOG Resources is behind the Greater Crossbow project. If it were to move forward, the company would drill the wells over the course of a decade—but that’s a ways off. 

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Proposals to export Wyoming coal through ports on the U.S. West Coast are in limbo, facing environmental opposition and lengthy permitting processes, but an export terminal in British Columbia just got the green light from regional authorities.

Port Metro Vancouver approved the coal facility’s permit on the same day global leaders kicked off climate talks in Paris. The port authority determined that the port would not have a "significant adverse environmental impact." As it’s currently proposed, the facility would be able to ship 4 million tons of Powder River Basin coal a year.

Geof Wilson / Flickr

The likelihood of rising oil prices dimmed after OPEC declined to put a cap on production at its latest meeting in Vienna on Friday.

 

Oil prices fell below $40 a barrel on the news that OPEC couldn’t come to an agreement on a production cap. Led by Saudi Arabia, the oil cartel has declined to cut production in the last year, even in a market flooded with oil. The strategy is intended to squeeze out higher-cost competitors, like U.S. shale producers. And it appears to be working.

 

Flickr Creative Commons

This month, global leaders are gathered in Paris to make a plan to combat climate change. There is broad scientific consensus that climate change is real, serious and caused by humans—but political consensus in this country has been elusive, often clouded by doubt. Over the years, climate denial arguments have changed, but the result has stayed the same: blocking action on climate change.

As an energy reporter in Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state, it’s not uncommon for me to hear climate change denial. For example:

Stephanie Joyce

    

The Wyoming Supreme Court has decided an oil and gas company is liable for paying royalties and the costs of cleanup even though it sold its wells.

Pennaco Energy, a subsidiary of Marathon Oil, had sold its coal-bed methane wells in the Powder River Basin to High Plains Gas. High Plains subsequently went out of business without paying surface owners any royalties and without cleaning up the wells.

Energy Information Administration

Wyoming's total carbon emissions are on the rise, even as the state's per-capita emissions have fallen.

Wyoming’s falling per-capita emissions followed the national trend from 2005 to 2013. Forty-eight states’ per-capita emissions fell, while just three rose, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Stephanie Joyce

There are few places where the connection between energy and food is more obvious than at the Bright Agrotech warehouse in Laramie, Wyoming.

Most of the building is filled floor to ceiling with giant shelves of cardboard boxes and tubing—equipment Bright Agrotech sells to farmers—but in one corner of the warehouse, there’s a small farm: rows and rows of greens and herbs, growing in white vertical towers under dozens of bright LEDs. The hum of electricity is palpable.

Willow Belden

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is proposing changes to its rules for burning or “flaring” natural gas. 

Natural gas is a byproduct of drilling for oil, but when there aren't nearby pipelines or processing facilities to take the gas, companies often burn it for a period of time.

Environmental groups say flaring wastes a valuable, non-renewable resource and creates air quality problems for nearby residents.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is once again considering a proposal to dispose of oil and gas wastewater in the Madison aquifer in Fremont County.

The proposal would allow waste from the Moneta Divide project to be injected into a 15,000 foot aquifer. Encana originally petitioned for the aquifer exemption back in 2013. Aethon Energy has since purchased the field.

The water in the aquifer is considered to be good quality, but the company has argued that because it is so deep, it won’t ever be used as a drinking water source.

  

The New York attorney general and Peabody Energy have come to an agreement over the company’s disclosures related to climate change.

The attorney general’s office launched the investigation in 2007. Over the weekend, the office agreed to drop the investigation if Peabody includes certain disclosures about the risks of climate change in its future filings with regulators.

archcoal.com

After reporting a $2 billion loss in the third quarter, Arch Coal says it could declare bankruptcy in "the near term."

Photo by Henry Patton, Flickr Creative Commons

If the entire Greenland ice cap were to melt, scientists predict sea levels would rise more than 20 feet. Climate change is speeding up melting of the ice sheet, but it’s not clear by how much. The New York Times recently profiled one of the few research projects taking direct measurements to answer that question. One of the researchers is University of Wyoming graduate student Brandon Overstreet.

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