Natural Resources & Energy

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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is monitoring Sage Grouse for signs of West Nile Virus. The disease, carried by mosquitos, has a high mortality rate for the bird.

Tom Christiansen, the Department’s Sage Grouse Program Director, says keeping tabs on what kills Sage Grouse is always important, but it’s crucial as the September Deadline approaches for federal officials to decide whether to list Sage Grouse as endangered.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

For Jim and Lyn Schneider, the decision to invest in $50,000 worth of solar panels and battery storage was easy. There were no power lines near their property. After buying land in a remote area near Alcova, Wyoming, their utility company estimated it would cost the couple around $80,000 to get electricity in their new home.

"It's like wow, we’re gonna have to be really primitive! We're gonna be cooking on a campfire! We're gonna have to really like each other," Lyn Schneider said between bursts of laughter.

Dan Boyce

The massive expansion of domestic oil and gas production over the last five or so years is rippling across the economies where that drilling is taking place. More oil workers need more welders, more restaurants, and ... more clothes.

Specifically, workers are required to wear flame resistant clothes, or FR for short, on oil and gas sites everywhere in the country.

pipelineartproject.com

Coal and gas from Wyoming’s mineral-rich land powers much of the nation. Now, the state even has a power switch—the same circle and line button seen on household electronics, tilled into a field in Sublette County. The 100 foot diameter Power Switch is the creation of three artists from the Pinedale area. It’s an example of land art, which uses elements of nature to harmonize with its location. And because it’s natural, it changes with the seasons.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Department of the Interior is proposing new regulations to reduce the impact of coal mining on streams. 

The rule, which has been in the works for six years, creates a buffer zone that restricts mining operations within 100 feet of streams and aquifers.

Joe Pizarchik, the director of the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement says the rule also aims to restore streams.

Stephanie Joyce

The New York Stock Exchange suspended trading of Alpha Natural Resources Thursday amid concerns about bankruptcy. 

Alpha owns the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines in Wyoming, and is one of the nation’s largest coal producers. The company has struggled in recent years because of low coal prices and considerable debt, and the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that it's in talks about bankruptcy financing.

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For millennia, humans have watched animals soar above us, hunt beside us, and burrow below us. We have them in our homes as pets and on our plates as food. But the line between animals and humans might be about to shift.

Some scientists are studying how the human body can copy extraordinary traits expressed by animals in what is called biomimicry. Hank Harlow is the director of the University of Wyoming National Park Service Research Station, and he studies animals living in stressful environments.

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The Pole Mountain area of the Laramie Range between Laramie and Cheyenne is gaining steadily in popularity. And all that heavy recreation traffic is starting to show with many new unapproved roads causing damage to the landscape. That’s a problem since the area is also the source for the city of Cheyenne’s water.

Aaron Voos is a spokesman for the Medicine Bow National Forest and says that’s why the Forest is hosting a series of public meetings about how to best deal with the increased traffic around Pole Mountain. 

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Yellowstone’s grizzlies are unique in the world of bears. That’s according to a grizzly expert scheduled to speak in Jackson this week.

Yale wildlife biologist Dave Mattson spent 13 years in the field studying Yellowstone grizzlies. He says Yellowstone bears eat things like earthworms, pond weeds and pine seeds that no other grizzlies in the world do. And that’s not all.   

Black Hills Corporation

Black Hills Corporation is expanding its footprint in Wyoming. The South Dakota-based company announced Sunday it is purchasing Source Gas, which supplies natural gas to roughly half a million customers in Wyoming, Colorado, Arkansas and Nebraska.

Black Hills already owns several utility companies in Wyoming, including Cheyenne Light Fuel and Power.

“By moving to 1.2 million customers through our service territory, we will do a good job of holding costs down with respect to customers rates and providing great service,” said Black Hills Chief Operating Officer Linn Evans.

In April, for the first time ever, the US got more of its electricity from natural gas than coal, according to new data from the Energy Information Administration. The numbers show 32 percent of electricity generated that month came from natural gas, while just 30 percent came from coal.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

On a 500 square mile ranch in Carbon County, Wyoming, one of the world's largest renewable energy projects is unfolding, backed by an unlikely entrepreneur.

Commons

A plague vaccine might help bring one of the most endangered mammals in North America back to Northwest Wyoming where they were discovered. Black Footed Ferrets may be restored to the Pitchfork Ranch near Meeteetse, because their food, prairie dogs, are coming back.

ecowatch.com

The song is called Paradise. Recorded in 1971 by folks musician John Prine. In it, he criticized Peabody Energy's mining practices in a Kentucky town called Paradise. It's now being used as a protest song in another coal mining town, Gillette Wyoming. In 2013, two Colorado activists were arrested there for demonstrating at Peabody shareholders meeting. That same day thousands of protestors showed up at Peabody's headquarters in St. Louis Missouri. Both groups were accusing the company of denying healthcare benefits to workers.

John Barrasso Official Portrait 112th Congress

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso has been a leading voice calling on Congress to lift a decades-old ban on exporting U.S. natural gas overseas. It really heated up last year when Russia invaded the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea. Senator Barrasso remembers it well.

“There were a bi-partisan group of us actually in Ukraine the day that the Russian helicopters landed at the gas plant just North of the Crimea, which tells you what it was all about. It was about the gas. And Putin uses energy to hold European countries and Ukraine hostage.”

Dan Boyce

Pope Francis made international headlines last month by calling on the world to proactively address human-caused climate change.

The document, a so-called encyclical, is one of the most important statements a pope can issue.

Shortly after its release, Inside Energy reporter Dan Boyce sat down with Paul Etienne, Catholic Bishop of Cheyenne.

His diocese, or jurisdiction, covers the entire state of Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal producer.

Shane Reetz / Prairie Public Broadcasting

From the roof of the Confederation of Danish Industries building in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark’s energy past and future are within view. Smokestacks from several coal-fired power plants share space on the horizon with a fleet of wind turbines.

But most of those smokestacks are coming down soon. Denmark is transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy—the culmination of a decades-long effort that began with the energy crisis of the 1970s.

The federal government is going after a now-defunct Wyoming energy company for failing to document and pay royalties on the gas it had been extracting. 

Stephanie Joyce

 

The Casper-based company responsible for January’s Yellowstone River oil spill has proposed a new pipeline in North Dakota. Labor unions are opposing Bridger Pipeline’s project.

Evan Whiteford of the Laborers International Union of North America is the first to say he’s not opposed to pipelines.

“But we support the pipelines being done correctly and safely.”

Emily Guerin

  

Steve Fischer finished law school in Ohio in 2010 — one of the worst years to graduate in recent memory. Less than 70 percent of law school grads who passed the bar in Ohio that year landed a job as an attorney. He finally called an old friend and asked if he was hiring.

He was — in fact he was desperate for help. Soon, Fischer, “was making better money than most of my law school classmates.”

Philip Brewer / Flickr Creative Commons

Chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning can emit potent greenhouses gases. This week, the Environmental Protection agency passed regulations to curb these emissions. 

Solar Impulse / Rezo.ch

A small, lightweight aircraft landed in Hawaii today, setting a new record for the world’s longest solo flight in a solar-powered plane. 

After spending 118 hours in the air, Swiss Pilot Andre Borschberg landed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, ending the longest leg of a planned trip around the world. The Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi in March but was delayed in China and then Japan due to bad weather. At the end of June, Borschberg finally got the green light. He took off from Japan and landed in Hawaii five days later.   

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National Parks may seems like pristine wilderness, but the truth is park visitors produce a lot of trash. Grand Teton National Park is aiming to change that.

It’s one of three national parks piloting an initiative to reduce the amount of park waste that goes to landfills.

Jackie Skaggs is a spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park. She says while many visitors may think trash is just what gets left behind at a campsite, the full picture of the park’s waste stream is much bigger.

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Wells Fargo has awarded a 100-thousand dollar grant to The Grand Teton National Park Foundation. A quarter of the money will be used for the park’s Youth Conservation Program. The other 75-thousand dollars will be used for restoration work around Jenny Lake.

Kim Mills is a spokeswoman for the foundation. She says Jenny Lake is the most popular destination in the park.

U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service

The Saratoga National Fish Hatchery celebrates its 100th anniversary this weekend.

It is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and attracts around 3-thousand visitors a year. It raises both native and non-native trout species for stocking lakes and rivers and works with conservationists to protect endangered Wyoming Toads.

Ryan Moehring is a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He says the hatchery will be hosting some special events in honor of the centennial.

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After weeks of hot and dry weather, Yellowstone National Park’s fire managers raised the fire danger rating to “high”. The warning comes as the park heads into its busiest season and one of the biggest holiday weekends of the year.

Traci Weaver with Yellowstone National Park says that means visitors to the park this July 4th weekend need to be extra-careful when dealing with fire. She says campfires should be completely put out and cool to the touch, and fireworks are not allowed anywhere in the park. That includes things you might not think of as fireworks.

Luke Anderson

Sometimes there can too much of a good thing, even cute little bunny rabbits.

This year’s wet weather has brought on an explosion in the population of cottontail rabbits. Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Steve Tessmann says lots of grass means more for rabbits to eat and hide in. But he says an increase in prey is often followed by an increase in predators.

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.

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