Natural Resources & Energy

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Despite the recent downturn in prices, oil production in the US has continued to climb.

The Energy Information Administration's most recent figures, from April, show production that month reached 9.7 million barrels a day—the most oil the US has produced since 1971.

Stephanie Joyce

New data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, sheds light on the most dangerous areas of oil and gas.

NIOSH started collecting detailed data on oil and gas worker fatalities in 2014. The agency will be issuing a report based on what the data shows later this summer, but Kyla Retzer, a NIOSH epidemiologist, previewed some of it at a recent safety conference in Cheyenne.

Steve Fairbairn / USFWS

Last month, the Bureau of Land Management rolled out several new landscape vision plans that will shape public land protections in the West for the next two decades. But some conservation groups--including the Sierra Club and Western Watersheds Project--say these plans don’t use strict enough science to stop the extinction of the greater sage grouse.

Wildlife biologist Erik Molvar with WildEarth Guardians says that’s why his group decided to join forces in filing an administrative protest against those federal plans.

Leigh Paterson

Today the US Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency in a suit that challenged one of the Obama administrations most ambitious environmental plans. 

The question at the heart of the case was this: should the EPA have considered cost before issuing a rule designed to cut mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. In the 5-4 decision, justices ruled in favor of the states and industry groups that brought the suit essentially saying yes, the EPA should have considered cost. 

Willow Belden

According to a new study from the Environmental Defense Fund, in 2013, Wyoming burned, vented and leaked $76 million worth of natural gas from federal and tribal lands.

“That’s a big waste of what could be going into federal and tribal royalty coffers,” said EDF spokesman Jon Goldstein, pointing out that the money also ends up with states and local communities through royalty sharing.

Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

In an eleventh hour decision, a judge has delayed implementation of new rules regulating fracking on federal lands. The rules were scheduled to go into effect Wednesday.

Among other things, they require the disclosure of fracking chemicals and more tests to ensure wells aren't leaking.

National Park Service

Pine beetles and drought is leaving Wyoming and other states more susceptible to wildfires than at any point in recent memory, yet the federal fire policy doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the new climate. Wyoming lawmakers are trying to solve the problem.

Groups Worry About BLM Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Plan

Jun 19, 2015
Willow Belden

  

Protestors say the BLM office in Montana is trying to wipe out the state’s last herd of wild horses. That herd lives in the Pryor Mountains in Montana and Wyoming. The group marched into the Billings Field office recently, demanding the agency abandon plans to round up horses and use birth control on the mares.

Ben Ramsey

In the small town of Pinedale, people have a lot of opinions about sage grouse. That’s because Pinedale just happens to sit in the middle of some of the best sage grouse habitat in the state. It’s also in the middle of some of the best oil and gas fields in the country. So when a Pinedale math teacher joined forces with a sage grouse conservation project, it started a community conversation.

Shane Reetz / Prairie Public Broadcasting

Across the nation -- and even in Wyoming -- power companies are adding more renewable energy to their systems. That creates new challenges for the electric grid… challenges that this country is just beginning to grapple with. In Denmark, the transition is happening more quickly - by 2030 the country’s power system is supposed to be 100 percent renewable. So already, industry and universities have been trying out potential solutions in the real world -- on a test island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. 

Mark Elbroch

A researcher studying the social behaviors of mountain lions will present his findings on Thursday, June 18, in the first of a series of summer talks co-sponsored by the University of Wyoming and the National Parks.

Mark Elbroch is a wildlife biologist with Panthera, a conservation group studying big cats and their habitats. He says new technology like GPS collars and remote video cameras have given him unprecedented access to the lives of mountain lions.

Stephanie Joyce

The Governor of one of China’s largest coal-producing provinces visited Wyoming Wednesday, meeting with University and State officials. The Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs organized the visit by Li Xiaopeng and other top officials of Shanxi province.

Center President David Wendt says the goal is to foster more cooperation between Wyoming and Shanxi on issues relating to carbon capture.

The Laramie County Board of Commissioners shot down a proposal Tuesday to assert more local control over oil and gas development. The Cheyenne Area Landowners Coalition brought a resolution asking the Commissioners to require more specific mitigation measures for oil and gas drilling than are detailed in state law. It suggested setting limits on light and noise, among other things.

Wikipedia Commons

Like the enormous herds wild of bison that once thundered across the west, in coming years the forests of Yellowstone may, too, become few and far between.

That’s according to the new study The Coming Climate: Ecological Impacts of Climate Change On Teton County, commissioned by the Chartour Institute. Corinna Riginos is a research ecologist and co- authored the report. She tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard the data itself isn’t new – but they’re using it to make predictions about what could happen to the ecosystem and economy in Northwestern Wyoming.

Forecasters say drought and wildfire could ravage much of the Western U.S. this summer. To help farmers and ranchers be prepared, the Obama Administration rolled out several programs last week at a press conference for Western governors. Some initiatives could help Wyoming producers.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Robert Bonnie said some short term solutions are necessary. One is to reimburse ranchers who lose livestock because of a lack of grass or water.

Eric Cole / USFWS

North America’s largest shorebird—the Long Billed Curlew--might not be a household name now, but a lot more is about to be discovered about its nesting and migration habits.

New funding this year has allowed researchers to affix satellite transmitters on 7 new curlews in Western Wyoming. Researcher Jay Carlisle with the Intermountain Bird Observatory at Boise State University says last year they tracked a female named AJ that migrated to central Mexico, which is much farther than usual.

Wyoming’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction says the state needs to be doing a better job educating students to meet industry’s needs.

“You will hear me talk a lot about phasing out courses that are not of value to industry, and really scaling up those courses that are of value,” Jillian Balow told the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority at its summer meeting. She said the state’s infrastructure includes its students and that Wyoming needs to keep them in state with better science, technology, engineering and math education. 

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.

Rebecca Huntington / Wyoming Public Radio

During a visit Thursday to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the federal government should not surrender its role managing public lands. That's despite renewed efforts by several Western states to get federally-owned public lands transferred to state control.

"This is an extraordinary treasure, and it is indeed a national treasure. And I think it is incumbent upon the federal government to understand its partnership responsibility, not to abdicate it, not to give it up, not to surrender it."

Ben Ramsey

A Pinedale high school teacher used math to teach kids about the importance of sage grouse conservation last week. Cami Dudrey’s Algebra I class collaborated with the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation to solve real world math problems related to putting reflective tags along fences in a critical sage grouse breeding area outside Pinedale.

“Kids don’t see the application of math ever. The most common question I get is when are we ever going to use this?” Dudrey says. “Math’s everywhere. So just finding something to apply any type of math to helps the students connect.”

Kari Greer, National Interagency Fire Center

With wildfires becoming larger and more expensive every year, the federal government is proposing new ways to fund fighting them. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press conference Tuesday that even though $50 million more has been budgeted this year than last year for wildfires, they’re expecting a shortfall of up to a $1.5 billion if wildfires rage out of control in California and in the northwest like they did last year.

Vilsack says wildfire management has exceeded its budget in half of the last 14 fire seasons.

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.

CREDIT STEPHANIE JOYCE / WPM

Wyoming residents are raising concerns about crude oil transport in the state. Last week, the Powder River Basin Resource Council and residents who live near train tracks testified before the Joint Transportation, Highways, and Military Affairs Committee

Megan Taylor with the Powder River Basin Resource Council says improving safety for crude-by-rail is particularly pressing for Wyoming residents.

Jeff Henry

In 1988 much of Yellowstone National Park was engulfed in flames. At the time a young employee and budding photographer named Jeff Henry was asked to take photos of the fire.

Over 25 years later Henry has written a book about the fires that includes numerous photographs that he took on the front lines. The book is called The Year Yellowstone Burned: A 25 Year Perspective. Henry joins us and recalls how politicians and others were critical of the Parks approach to the fires. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Part 4 of an Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid

The Environmental Protection Agency is putting the finishing touches on its Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions, but warnings against it are getting louder.

Many who deal in the energy sector- grid operators, lawmakers, and especially the coal industry- are piling on to the idea that transitioning away from coal to renewables and natural gas will destabilize our power grid.

Dan Boyce

Part 5 of an Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid

Our electricity system is changing rapidly around us. New sources of renewable power are meeting technologies that can crunch unprecedented amounts of data.  It’s all leading to a major shakeup for how utilities do business.

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.”

A 27 year veteran of the National Park Service has been selected to be the new Superintendent of Devils Tower National Monument. Tim Reid has spent the last six years working as the Chief Ranger at Yellowstone National Park. 

Reid is known as someone who provides a balance of resource protection, while providing an excellent visitor experience. He says the key is communication with stakeholders.

A public protest period is now open for a new resource management plan put forth by the Bureau of Land Management for the Powder River Basin area.

The plan would authorize 10 billion tons of coal production, as well as oil and gas development.

Powder River Basin Resource Council Chair Gillian Malone says the council had hoped there might be limits on energy production.

"Well we would hope that there would be a lot more room to protect Greater Sage Grouse for one thing in the Powder River Basin and they did virtually nothing," says Malone.

Conservation groups are expressing huge concern over the proposed Bureau of Land Management proposed resource management plan for the Powder River Basin.  

The plan authorizes 10 billion tons of coal production along with oil and gas development. With concern being expressed over Sage Grouse habitat, some conservation groups thought the BLM would proposed reduced energy development.

BLM Director Neil Kornze said last week during a trip to Cheyenne that Sage Grouse will be monitored and that the declining coal market will take care of a lot of the carbon dioxide concerns.

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