Natural Resources & Energy

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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.

Emily Guerin

The pipeline that burst earlier this month and spewed oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana made headlines. But just across the border in North Dakota another pipeline was quietly leaking a potentially more disastrous substance: wastewater from oil wells.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The experimental Microsoft Data Plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming is the first data center in the country to be powered solely by the wastewater treatment plant next door. Or more specifically, off of the methane that is emitted when what goes down our toilets and sinks is processed.

The American public lost out on $850 million dollars in potential coal royalty revenue between 2008 and 2012, according to a new study from Headwaters Economics. 

The study says the federal coal royalty system is in need of reform. The group's analysis shows that coal companies pay a much lower royalty rate on public lands than other extractive industries -- roughly five percent of market price. By comparison, oil and gas companies pay roughly 12 percent. Mark Haggerty says that's partly because of the complex marketing system for coal. 

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has fired back at a federal provision banning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from placing the sage grouse on the endangered species list for one year. The provision was a rider in the omnibus spending bill, passed last month.

Patricia Lavin

Scientists at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center are analyzing 250 tissue samples of elk, wild bison, and livestock in an effort to better understand how the disease brucellosis spreads.

Brucellosis sickens large mammals like elk and cattle, and can cause them to abort their young.  U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Pauline Kamath says a commonly held theory has been that Yellowstone’s wild animals have been infected with brucellosis by elk on Wyoming feed grounds. But her data shows that may not be as common as previously thought.

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.

Emily Carpeaux for Inside Energy

We’ve been hearing a lot about crashing oil prices lately. Crude oil is selling for $46 barrel today compared to over $90 a year ago. The price drop is great news for consumers and terrible for oil companies. But not all oil companies -- or oil fields -- are created equal. When oil prices drop, size and location matters.

Inside Energy

Companies have been borrowing more and more to drill in America’s oil fields, with some estimates having oil and gas industry debt jumping more than 50 percent over the last five years.

This trend was occurring long before the dramatic slide in oil prices of the last six months, which hit a new lows this week at $46/barrel. The price dive is now making it a lot harder to pay off those mounting debts.

Wyoming's U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis is one of several lawmakers sponsoring a bill that would delist wolves in Wyoming and the Midwest. The bill comes just months after a federal judge found Wyoming’s management plan unfit to protect the species.

Wyoming’s management plan protected 100 wolves and ten breeding pairs, but also allowed them to be shot on sight. Attorney Rebecca Riley with the Natural Resources Defense Council says it’s not the job of politicians to decide whether a species should be protected or not.

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. 

Willow Belden

 

A new data analysis by the Casper Star-Tribune shows last year, Wyoming oil companies flared $11 million dollars worth of natural gas. Ben Storrow reports on energy for the Casper Star Tribune and he wrote the story about wasted gas. He joined Wyoming Public Radio's Caroline Ballard to talk about it.

Mixed Reaction To Shoshone Forest Plan

Jan 12, 2015

If you hike, hunt, ride on horseback, snowmobile, or ATV, the new revisions to the Shoshone National Forest Plan may affect you. The U.S. Forest Service announced those changes for the nation’s first national forest recently.  Some people are very happy, and some very unhappy about the changes.

The Shoshone National Forest borders Yellowstone to the east and the south.  It is the nation’s first National Forest.   

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.

INSIDE ENERGY: Energy Efficiency May Be Bipartisan Winner

Jan 9, 2015
Anna Boiko-Weyrauch / Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

When it comes to U.S. energy consumption, transportation and power plants leap to mind as top power users. Buildings, though, are not far behind. Commercial buildings account for one-fifth of our energy use. Much of that is pure waste, leaking from poorly-insulated walls or lights left on when no one is around. Energy efficiency is one of the few issues with support from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as private industry.

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. 

Penny Preston

Chronic Wasting Disease spread into seven new hunting areas around the state in 2014. The slow-spreading neurological disease affects deer, elk and moose and causes weight loss, abnormal behavior and, eventually, death. Game and Fish tested more than 1500 animals this year. 

Communications Director Renny MacKay says although the disease continues to move into almost every county in the state, the new areas were no surprise.

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.

Greg Goebel / Wikimedia Commons

 

 

    

On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency released the first national guidelines to regulate the disposal of coal ash. This dust-like substance is what is leftover when power plans burn coal for electricity and can contain toxins like arsenic, lead, and mercury.  Coal ash is usually collected and then buried in a disposal pond or landfill. In some cases, it can be recycled.

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?

In Wyoming the energy industry accounts for nearly 70 to 80 percent of the state’s wealth. Wyoming builds its budget around energy prices and sales taxes that are connected to energy. When commodity prices fall, it’s difficult to fund government services.

After the oil downturn of the 1980’s funding the government was a challenge and Wyoming’s incoming Speaker of the House Kermit Brown remembers that it got especially bad in the late 90’s. 

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.

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