December 9th, 2011

Listen to the Whole Show

A listing of today's stories:

EPA links water contamination with ‘fracking'
A few years ago, residents of the town of Pavilion began complaining of health problems that they blamed on water contamination.  Many in the town wondered if local oil and gas development, as well as hydraulic fracturing – was to blame.  This week, the Environmental Protection Agency released draft analysis of data on its ground water investigation in the town of Pavillion. The report indicates that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds that are “likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.”

It’s the first time the EPA has ever said fracking could be responsible for contamination.  Governor Matt Mead and those in industry say that the E-P-A is leaping to conclusions with limited study. But others see it differently.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone interviewed John Fenton – a pavilion resident and chair of Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens.  Fenton began by talking about how the EPA ended up in Pavillion: with the help of residents and organizers, those in the community were able to get the EPA to listen after the state turned a deaf ear. Bob Beck talks with Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone.

Mercury pollution compromises “clean coal” efforts
Last week we began a three part series on coal in America.  Today we have the final two parts of the series.  Experts say that Half of the airborne mercury pollution in the US comes from coal-fired power plants. After years of study and debate, the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to announce new limits on mercury from coal plants this month.  Meanwhile, utilities are scrambling to meet other new federal regulations and industry groups are asking the government to slow down. Grant Gerlock reports.

Coal communities: More than one side to the story
Coal produces nearly half the electricity in the U.S., but the mercury, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide it emits also make it one of the most controversial energy sources. New EPA regulations and a national Sierra Club campaign to try to shutter the industry have added to rising anti-coal sentiment. For many environmental activists, coal represents an old, dirty source of power, but for coal-mining communities around the country, the story is different. Carolyn Beeler of WHYY reports.

Wyoming rearranges voting districts
Every ten years the Wyoming legislature looks at population changes in the state and redraws legislative districts.  But with huge population swings due to the energy boom, that task has proven difficult this year.  Bob Beck talks with Lander Republican Cale Case, the co-chair of the committee redrawing those districts.  Case starts by saying that the western part of the state is a challenge due to major population growth.

Legislature pursues healthcare exchange on its own schedule

School board insurance trust comes under fire
Earlier this year, Wyoming Public Radio obtained internal documents on the Wyoming School Board Association Insurance Trust, which showed the trust – otherwise known as WSBAIT– was in bad financial shape. WSBAIT provides insurance plans for more than 4,000 public school teachers and staff across the state. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone offers an update on where the trust stands now.

Laramie’s L-G-B-T-Q community celebrates the Pink Prom.
Laramie, Wyoming bears a painful heritage when it comes to gay rights for its residents. Yet it recently hosted its first Pink Prom – a prom for the LGBTQ community and their allies – and participated in the international staging of Standing on Ceremony, plays about marriage equality. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports on the changing attitudes.

Sheep ranchers: “The best of times… the worst of times”
With soaring lamb and wool prices, raising sheep has recently become more lucrative than ever for Wyoming ranchers. Even with the payoff, raising sheep is a tough job, and poses the same challenges it has for thousands of years… And the number of sheep ranchers in Wyoming has been on the decline for years. Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez reports.