Natural Resources & Energy

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News
6:58 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Illegal Wastewater Dumping Grows

As oil production continues to boom in the Powder River Basin, illegal wastewater dumping is a growing problem. Kodiak Oilfield in Converse County was recently cited for illegally dumping produced water, one of 14 water violations in the state so far this year.

Oil fields typically produce about twice as much water as they do oil – water that is high in sodium content and contains hydrocarbons. Dumping this water into streams, rivers, or fields could interfere with natural habitat, soil, and water quality.

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News
7:57 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Project To Burn Deep Coal Gets Green Light

Linc Energy has drilled 44 monitoring wells at its test site near Wright, Wyoming.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

The federal government has given its blessing for an underground coal gasification (UCG) test project in Wyoming. UCG involves gasifying --  basically, incompletely burning -- coal seams deep underground to produce syngas, which can be converted to diesel and other liquid fuels. Linc Energy’s project needed Environmental Protection Agency approval because it will pollute an aquifer (the company says it will restore the aquifer to its original quality after the test burn).

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News
9:14 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Commission Postpones Decision On Drilling Buffer

Credit Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, Wyoming’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission got its first glimpse at a rule that would increase the buffer between houses and drilling. They postponed any final action on the so-called setback rule until next month, but there was plenty of discussion. Ben Storrow of the Casper Star-Tribune covered the Commission’s meeting and joined Wyoming Public Radio’s energy reporter, Stephanie Joyce, to talk about it.

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News
10:36 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Wyoming Appeals Oregon Coal Export Decision

Map of Ambre Energy's planned Morrow Pacific terminal in Oregon.
Credit Ambre Energy

Wyoming isn’t only duking it out with Oregon on the football field this week. On Monday, the state filed an appeal of a recent decision by Oregon to deny permits for Ambre Energy’s proposed coal export terminal.

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News
8:57 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Open Season Starts For Proposed Pipeline

There's a new pipeline project proposed from North Dakota to Oklahoma that would run through Wyoming. On Friday, Enterprise Product Partners LLC announced an "open season" for the Bakken-to-Cushing pipeline. Open seasons are a way to gauge interest and demand for a pipeline.

If built, the line would run from the Williston Basin in North Dakota, and would pass through oil plays in Eastern Wyoming and Northern Colorado. The line would end in the Cushing hub in Oklahoma, where oil is priced.

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Open Spaces
5:03 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

If You Read Only One Story On Health And Fracking, Read This One

Anti-fracking activitists pose with "fracking flavoured" water outside the European Parliament. Image from Greensefa via Flickr, used with a Creative Commons Attribution License.
Credit C European Union 2012

If you live right next to a drilling rig, or your kids go to school beside a fracking site, or your county is suddenly littered with well pads  -- are there health risks? That’s a question that’s been asked from Pennsylvania to North Dakota, from Colorado to Texas as more and more people find themselves and their towns in the midst of an unprecedented energy boom.

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Open Spaces
4:09 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Wyoming Wind Gridlock

High Plains Wind Farm near McFadden, Wyoming on a breezy summer day.
Credit Leigh Paterson

Wyoming has some of the most powerful wind in the country. So, earlier this month, a massive wind farm got the green light from the state. If the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project gets federal approval, it will become the largest in the country. But who’s buying all that wind power? Right now there is no way to get it out of Wyoming, to the other states that really need it. For Inside Energy, Leigh Paterson reports on why transmission gridlocks are keeping Wyoming wind at bay.

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News
7:49 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Draft Rule Proposes Increased Buffer Between Drilling And Homes

A pump jack sits in front of a house and a drilling rig behind it in a housing development in northern Colorado.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will get its first look at a draft rule for oil and gas well setbacks next week.

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News
5:01 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Tenth Circuit Considers New Appeal to Block Wild Horse Roundup

Wild horse advocates continue fighting a planned roundup near the Red Desert.

The Bureau of Land Management plans to gather wild horses in a patchwork of public and private lands near Rock Springs called the Checkerboard. Nearby landowners who graze livestock have requested the horses’ removal.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and others are suing the BLM to block the roundup. Last week, the BLM agreed to voluntarily delay the roundup until at least September 12th , as the Tenth Circuit Court considers an appeal to keep the horses where they are.

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News
2:58 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Cloud Peak Sells Stake In Export Mine

Decker coal mine
Credit Ambre Energy

Wyoming’s largest coal company is selling its stake in a Montana mine for less than its original asking price. In a deal announced Thursday, Cloud Peak will give up its 50 percent ownership of the Decker coal mine in exchange for Ambre Energy taking on $67 million in reclamation and lease bonding. The deal also promises Cloud Peak capacity at Ambre Energy’s proposed Millennium Bulk coal export terminal in Washington state.

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News
11:40 am
Tue September 2, 2014

Forum Highlights Risks Of Owning Land Near Energy Development

Glenrock residents are invited to attend a forum next week that will address the impacts of the oil and gas industry on landowners. The two key speakers for the event will be a private property attorney and a Wyoming resident who was evacuated from her land because of an oil blowout. They will discuss the development of the oil industry around Glenrock, as well as risks to nearby landowners such as emissions, spills, evacuations, and the devaluing of property in the area.

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Open Spaces
5:23 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Landowners Connect To Negotiate With Pipeline Companies

Credit Hiland Crude, LLC.

There’s a huge, mostly invisible web of pipelines crisscrossing the country that make it possible for our stoves to light and our cars to turn on. Those pipelines run from oil and gas producing regions to refineries and processing plants, crossing miles of private property along the way. The people whose land they cross don’t often benefit, but a new strategy may help.

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Open Spaces
5:08 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Why Is It So Hard To Study The Public Health Effects Of Oil And Gas Development?

Fracking the Bakken Shale Formation in North Dakota.
Credit Joshua Doubek, Wikimedia Commons

The current oil and gas boom, fueled by a technique called hydraulic fracturing, has opened massive shale gas and oil formations in states like Texas, Colorado, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania.

But unlike past booms, this time drilling is bumping right up against communities. With oil and gas development now at their doorsteps, people are worried about the health impacts.

But the industry has taken off so quickly that scientific research about those impacts - which is timely, costly, and complex - is playing catch up.

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News
4:09 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Powder River Basin Coal Producers To Increase Exports To Asia

View of Port Metro Vancouver from Canada Place, Vancouver BC Canada.
Credit Totororo.roro via Flickr Creative Commons

The Port of Vancouver approved plans Thursday to build a nearly $14 million-dollar terminal to ship coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming to Asian markets.

The decision came just days after state regulators in Oregon rejected a proposal for such a terminal amid opposition from fisherman and environmentalists.

Coal producers in the Powder River Basin have been looking to sell more coal to Asia, but these ambitions have been restricted by limited port capacity on the West Coast.

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News
10:45 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Investigators Continue To Search For Clues Into Opal Explosion

The Williams Opal natural gas plant exploded in April.
Credit Rachel Anderson

State investigators have ruled out inadequate maintenance as the cause of an explosion at a natural gas plant in southwestern Wyoming in April, but are still looking into what did happen. The explosion at the Williams Company gas plant forced evacuation of the nearby town of Opal.

John Ysebart heads up Wyoming’s Office of Occupational Safety and Health. He says the state sent two investigators to look into the incident, and so did the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. Ysebart says that agency doesn’t normally get involved.

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Open Spaces
4:36 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Wyoming Looks To Exports For Energy Markets

Energy reporter Stephanie Joyce talks with Speaker of the House, Tom Lubnau, Shawn Reese, head of the Wyoming Business Council, and Roger Coupal who’s an economist at the University of Wyoming during the forum on coal and foreign exports.
Credit Leigh Paterson

In the last few years, the United States has undergone a radical transformation, from energy importer to energy exporter. Liquified natural gas terminals that were built to process natural gas from abroad are being converted for export. The first tanker full of unrefined US crude oil to leave our shores in decade set sail from Texas late last month. Coal companies are increasingly relying on foreign markets to pad their balance sheets. Wyoming Public Radio held a forum recently to discuss how increased foreign exports could affect the state.

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Topic of the Week
7:44 am
Tue August 12, 2014

How much more should the state invest in alternative energy?

How much more should the state invest in alternative energy?

For a Wyoming energy use overview click the Energy Information Agency link below.
http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=WY

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

By contributing your comment, you consent to the possibility of having it read on the air.

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Open Spaces
8:13 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

As Pipelines Multiply, Pigs Are Paramount

A "pig launcher" at the Eighty-Eight Oil tank farm in Guernsey, Wyoming.
Credit Stephanie Joyce / WPR

The pipeline tool known as a pig is versatile. In the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, Bond used a pig to blow up a pipeline. In the 1987 Bond film The Living Daylights, defecting Soviet spy Georgi Koskov used a pig as an escape route. In the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, a pig was used to smuggle a nuclear weapon.

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Business
4:18 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

State Approves Largest US Windfarm

The state Industrial Siting Commission gave the Power Company of Wyoming its blessing Wednesday to move ahead with plans to build the largest on-shore wind farm in the United States.

A thousand wind turbines would be erected in Carbon County if the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind farm is built, covering about 2,000 acres of private and public lands. The turbines would produce enough power for a million homes.

But Kara Choquette, with the Power Company of Wyoming, said none of that power will be used in the state.

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News
6:17 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Report Finds No Problems With Pavillion Gas Wells

There’s no link between gas wells and groundwater contamination near Pavillion, according to a draft study out Wednesday from the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. It’s the first of three reports looking into what caused the contamination, which some blame on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The reviewers looked at the gas wells themselves to determine if they were leaking or otherwise damaged.

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News
2:29 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Oil Producers Turn Attention To Powder River Basin

Oil well outside of Wright, Wyoming.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

Wyoming’s Powder River Basin is getting renewed attention from oil and gas companies. The region has been producing oil for decades, but now companies are looking to tap some of the Basin’s old reserves using new techniques, like horizontal drilling and fracking.

As analyst Raoul LeBlanc, with IHS Energy, explained in a video blog last week, his firm thinks the Basin could have as much potential as some of the much better-known plays in North Dakota and Texas.

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News
4:37 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Energy Lobby Ad Campaign Targets Endangered Species Act

Credit Wikipedia

The energy industry lobbying organization Western Energy Alliance has begun an ad campaign to highlight the dangers of listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. 

The campaign includes radio and online advertisements that focus on the potential impacts that federal management of the sage grouse presents to Wyoming industry, agriculture, and tourism.

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Open Spaces
12:28 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

In Wyoming, Coal Culture Runs Deep

Several members of Gillette's roller derby team are real coal miner's daughters.
Credit Leigh Paterson

Girls in clunky roller skates whizz past their coach. They're sweaty, rowdy, and covered in tattoos. Gillette's roller derby team proudly represents coal country, as does their name.

"We’re called the Coal Miner’s Daughters, number one because Loretta Lynn rocks!" Katie Buffington, president of the team, explained. "Number two because coal is the main source of income in the area. And we really wanted to get back to our roots, where we come from."

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Open Spaces
5:54 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

Leaky Barrels, German U-Boats And 2.6 Million Miles Of Pipe

Barrels were used in the early days of oil to move it from one place to another. Often, the barrels were loaded onto barges and floated down Pennsylvania's major rivers to refineries in Pittsburgh, where it was turned into kerosene.
Credit American Oil and Gas History Association

There’s an invisible network connecting every corner of the United States. Without it, cars wouldn’t start and lights wouldn’t turn on. At 2.6 million miles, if it were stretched out, it would reach around the Earth more than a hundred times. Chances are, you’ve never noticed it. The nation’s sprawling pipeline network is buried underground, out of sight and out of mind.

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News
6:02 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Effort To Curb Pinedale Ozone Moves Forward

Credit Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has proposed new rules for controlling emissions from oil and gas operations in the Upper Green River Basin, and they're getting push-back from all sides.

The area around Pinedale is out of compliance with federal air quality standards for ozone, a harmful pollutant, because of nearby gas fields. Half a dozen groups have submitted written comments on the proposed rules for cutting emissions from existing oil and gas sites.

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News
11:34 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Hundreds Pack EPA Hearings On Proposed Carbon Rules

About 400 people are expected to provide feedback on the EPA's proposed carbon rules this week in Denver alone.
Credit Dan Boyce

Mark Fix has been ranching outside of Miles City, Montana since the mid-1980s, raising cattle, alfalfa and grain on his 9,700 acre plot of land. But severe weather events have been stacking up in recent years: a tornado tore through his barn, flooding stranded his cows. It’s impacting his bottom line, and he’s convinced it’s from human-caused climate change.

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News
10:04 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Western Wyoming's Water Basins Are Healthy

Credit CocoaBiscuit via flickr

Western Wyoming’s Snake and Salt River Basins are in good shape, according to a new report by the Wyoming State Geological Survey.

Karl Taboga is a hydrologist with the agency. He says the basins’ high rainfall means they should be able to provide water for decades to come.

“Most semi-arid basins in Wyoming receive anywhere from 11 to 15 inches of average annual precipitation and the Snake and Salt river basins receive about 33 inches”

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News
10:27 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Conservationist Expresses Concern Over Sage Grouse Protections

The Western Energy Alliance released a report this week on sage grouse protection measures used by the oil and gas industry. Though the report claims that the industry is doing enough to protect grouse, a local conservationist disagrees.

Erik Molvar is a biologist and campaign director with WildEarth Guardians. He says that the Bureau of Land Management’s own research disputes the WEA findings.

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News
4:11 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Native Bacteria Used To Clean-Up Uranium Mines

A bacteria found naturally in the soil around uranium deposits may become a powerful tool in cleaning up old mine sites. A group of University of Wyoming scientists are collaborating with Cameco, a uranium mining company in Converse County. They’re experimenting with the bacteria’s ability to convert soluble uranium that can contaminate groundwater into less harmful solid form.

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News
7:10 am
Thu July 24, 2014

New Rules Target Crude Train Safety

An oil train waits to be loaded at the Upton Logistics Center, in Upton, WY.
Credit Stephanie Joyce / WPM

The federal government has released new rules for trains transporting crude oil. They come in response to a number of dramatic crude train derailments over the last year, including one that destroyed the town of Lac Megantic, Quebec. 

The draft rules make a number of recommendations, the biggest of which is phasing out a type of tank car called DOT-111s over the next two years. Those cars have been disparagingly called "Coke cans" because they're thin-walled and often rip open in derailments, but they're the most common way to transport crude oil by rail.

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