Natural Resources & Energy

Click here for more information on Wyoming Public Media's Natural Resources & Energy.

Leigh Paterson

The Wyoming Democratic Party is praising the President’s clean power plan calling it an attempt to slow the effects of climate change. 

Party Vice Chairman Bruce Palmer says he’s hopeful that industry and state policy leaders will stop fighting solutions to climate change and focus on ways to address carbon emissions and develop renewable energy. 

Flickr Creative Commons

After months of public debate, Governor Mead released a revision of his so-called sage grouse executive order. The plan is required to undergo review every five years.

Brian Rutledge is Vice President of the National Audubon Society and served on the governor’s sage grouse team. He says he’s happy with how many of the team’s recommendations the Governor incorporated in the revision.

Obama's Clean Power Plan Visualized

20 hours ago
Inside Energy

The Obama Administration announced final rules Monday for its plan to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. While some concessions were made to critics, the final rules actually increase the carbon cuts demanded from states and will have long-lasting impacts on the way power is produced.

The White House previewed the announcement on Sunday with a video narrated by President Obama.

The Obama administration released sweeping environmental regulations today. The first-ever nationwide standards to regulate emissions from power plants are even more ambitious than expected.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Amid a devastating industry-wide downturn, one of the largest coal producers in the U.S. has filed for bankruptcy. 

Coal-giant Alpha Natural Resources has been in poor financial health for some time. The company acknowledges contributing factors like increased competition from natural gas and an oversupply in the global coal market. But Alpha puts much of the blame for its bankruptcy on environmental regulations that it says are causing electric utilities to shut down coal-fired power plants.

Wikimedia Commons

Cecil the lion was a favorite and well-known animal in the Zimbabwe Hwange National Park. Earlier this month he was killed by an American hunter and once the internet found out, it wanted justice. Now, a debate is raging on social media over big-game trophy hunting – both illegal and legal. Wyoming doesn’t have African Lions, but it does have mountain lions, elk, moose, bears, and a good number of big-game hunters. Renny MacKay is communications director for Wyoming Game and Fish.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Polar bears are one of the species that’s been hardest hit by climate change. But scientists have long thought the bears might be capable of effectively hibernating in summer, to save energy during a longer open water season. New research from the University of Wyoming disproves that hypothesis though. Merav Ben David is a professor of wildlife ecology and one of the authors of the new study. She told Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce that without hibernation, it’s an increasingly long and hungry summer for the bears.

NASA

If you’ve ever seen the Northern Lights, you’ve seen the most visible evidence of a solar storm. Bursts of electrically charged particles race towards Earth, and when they hit the Earth’s magnetic field, they cause beautiful auroras like the ones seen as far south as Colorado last month.

The aging United States electricity grid is facing an increasing number of threats, ranging from severe weather events, to solar flares, to cyber terrorism.

Inside Energy research found that major power outages have doubled every five years since 2000. It’s something the U.S. military is taking seriously. They're helping to lead the way in the development of smaller and more secure grids – known as microgrids.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The Environmental Protection agency is set to release the first-ever federal limits on carbon emissions from power plants on Monday. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports

The Clean Power Plan is a key part of President Obama’s climate agenda and will likely force a lot more natural gas, wind, and solar to come online. Critics say the plan will raise electricity rates and kill coal mining jobs. But Sarah Propst of the InterWest Energy lliance says it could actually present economic opportunities.

Stephanie Joyce

The losses are continuing to mount as more coal companies report their second quarter earnings.

Cloud Peak Energy announced a $53 million loss for the quarter Wednesday, while Arch Coal reported a $168 million dollar loss Thursday, following on the heels of Peabody Energy's $1 billion loss on Monday.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Peabody Energy suspended its shareholder dividends Tuesday after announcing a $1 billion dollar second quarter loss—the latest in a streak of bad earnings reports.

Peabody is the world’s largest coal miner, with operations in Australia and across the US. Like many of its peers, it's been hammered recently by low natural gas prices, slumping demand for metallurgical coal and uncertainty surrounding new environmental regulations.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Wyoming’s largest utility pledged Monday to cut its carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy.

Wikimedia Commons

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.

Wikimedia Commons

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.

Flickr Creative Commons

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. 

commons.wikimedia.org

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.

Pages