Natural Resources & Energy Reporting

The Natural Resources / Energy Reporting Initiative is a component of Wyoming Public Media’s News Department. It is funded in part by the George B. Storer Foundation and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).  Content is available to Wyoming residents, and nationally and internationally to National Public Radio (NPR) entities interested in Wyoming natural resources and energy topics.

This initiative provides strong, unbiased and competent journalism content that focuses on natural resources, energy, environment and related topics. In collaboration with partners at NPR and CPB, we provide access to a variety of related public radio content.

Wyoming Public Media's Energy and Natural Resources Reporter is Stephanie Joyce.

StateImpact and Initiative stories can be found at:

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News
6:59 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Sinclair Refinery Is Fined Again

The Sinclair Refinery is being cited with seven safety violations and over 200-thousand dollars in fines for an explosion and fire at its refinery near Rawlins last fall. 

Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA says that two of the violations were willful.  The company has been fined numerous times in the past for a variety of fires, explosions, and other issues. 

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News
8:02 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Setback Rule Review A Priority For Oil And Gas Commission

Interim Oil and Gas Supervisor Mark Watson
Credit Willow Belden

Interim Oil and Gas Supervisor Mark Watson says he's making it a priority to review Wyoming's setback rules.

Setback rules govern how close oil and gas development can be to things like houses and streams. The current limit is 350 feet.

At an Oil and Gas Commission meeting Tuesday night in Casper, several residents said they'd like to see the distance raised to a mile, because of concerns about potential health impacts of energy production. Watson says they're asking a lot.

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News
5:37 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Linc Energy Charged With Causing Environmental Harm In Australia

A company proposing to open an underground coal gasification demonstration site in Wright has been charged with environmental violations in Australia.  The charges could cost the company over two million dollars per violation.

Underground coal gasification involves igniting coal seams deep underground to produce syngas, which can then be processed into various liquid fuels or other chemicals.     

What exactly the environmental harm is has not yet been revealed.

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News
6:23 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

First U.S. Rare Earth Minerals Mine In Decades Could Be In Wyoming

The first rare earth minerals mine to open in the U.S. in decades could be here in Wyoming. Permitting gets underway this week for the Bear Lodge mine, near Sundance. Rare earths are a group of metals that are critical to high tech devices like smartphones and lasers. They’re currently mined almost exclusively in China. Rare Element Resources’ George Byers says the company is hoping to change that.

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Open Spaces
4:21 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Rare Earth Mine Permitting Gets Underway

Rare Element Resources wants to build a processing plant on this site, just outside of Upton.
Stephanie Joyce

They’ve been called the secret ingredient of everything. Rare earths are a group of elements that make much of today’s technology possible, from smartphones to wind turbines to precision-guided missiles. For decades, China has dominated the rare earth market, but amid questions about the wisdom of allowing one country to control the supply chain, a mining project in Wyoming is getting underway. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, if the mine opens, it would be only be the second one in the United States and the first new one in decades.

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Open Spaces
4:10 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Pinedale Air Improves As State Toughens Industry Regs

Drill rigs like this one are one source of emissions that could be contributing to ozone formation in Sublette County.
Credit Willow Belden

Several years ago, there were days when air pollution in Pinedale was worse than in Los Angeles. Residents complained of respiratory problems, and visits to local medical clinics increased.  In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency said the area was violating federal air quality standards, and gave Wyoming three years to fix the problem. Since then, air quality has been better. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports, nobody knows whether the problem is really fixed, and some worry that the state is not doing enough to prevent similar problems from happening elsewhere.

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Open Spaces
4:04 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Frac Sand Poses Potential Health Problem For Workers

Credit Andrew Link | Winona (Minn.) Daily News

It’s been called miner's phthisis, grinder's asthma, potter's rot. Silicosis is a disease of the lungs that’s caused by inhaling tiny particles of crystalline silica dust, basically sand. Those particles cut the lung tissue, causing inflammation and scarring that make it difficult to breathe.

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News
5:38 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Groups Disagree On Implications Of New Federal Energy Production Data

Recently released data compiled by the federal government shows oil production on federal lands is up from last year, while natural gas production is down. Overall, the energy sector is booming, but industry analysts say companies are shifting from natural gas to wetter plays because of low natural gas prices. But even though production is up, some industry groups point out that it's increasing more quickly on private lands and blame the trend on slow permitting by the federal government.

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News
9:59 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Task Force On Forests Makes Progress

A group tasked with making recommendations about forest policy in Wyoming is meeting this week in Saratoga.

Originally called the Governor’s Forest Health Task Force, the group dropped that name after members couldn’t agree on what constitutes forest health. Jessica Crowder, with the Governor’s office, says the new name, Task Force on Forests, better reflects the broad range of management ideas the group is considering.

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News
5:58 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Orphaned Well Meeting Draws Crowd

The state held its first-ever public meeting about the issue of orphaned and idle gas wells Wednesday in Gillette. 

The coal bed methane boom left more than a thousand potentially hazardous, abandoned wells on state and private lands in Wyoming, and landowners turned out in droves to learn about the Governor’s plan for plugging them.

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News
10:17 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Oil And Gas Producer Fined For Late Production Reports

The federal Office of Natural Resources Revenue, or ONRR, has fined a Wyoming oil and gas producer $204,362 for not submitting timely production reports for its federal leases. Matrix Production Company was issued two notices of noncompliance before ONRR levied the penalties. ONRR spokesman, Patrick Etchart, says the production reports are used to keep companies in check.   

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News
3:53 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Wyoming Oil And Gas Supervisor Resigns

Grant Black
Credit LinkedIn

After less than a year on the job, Wyoming’s oil and gas supervisor is resigning, effective Tuesday. Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Chair Bridget Hill declined to comment on Grant Black’s sudden resignation other than to say the Commission accepted it unanimously and thanked him for his service. Black didn’t return a call for comment.

The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is scheduled to begin a major review of rules dealing with setbacks, flaring and bonding in April. Hill says that process will continue.

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News
3:15 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Encana Sells Wyoming Natural Gas Field

In the latest sign of an industry-wide move away from natural gas, Encana is selling its Jonah Field properties. For more than a decade, Encana has been one of the largest natural gas producers in Wyoming thanks to the field near Pinedale, but company spokesperson Doug Hock says moving forward, Encana is trying to diversify its assets.

“So that we’re not tied to one particular commodity. Or we’ve got more flexibility in terms of oil versus natural gas,” Hock says.

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News
10:02 am
Mon March 31, 2014

UW Students And Gov. Mead Learn About Coal Technologies in Australia

Governor Matt Mead recently attended an Advanced Coal Technology Conference in Australia.  Eight students from the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources joined him.

Graduate student Mary Kate McCarney is a geochemist who attended the coal conference.  She said she appreciated the fact that students were included in the conversation at the conference.

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News
2:25 pm
Sat March 29, 2014

Barrasso Wants To Use Wyo. Gas As Weapon Against Russia

Lawmakers in Washington are debating whether to export more natural gas to combat Russian threats to cut off its gas supplies to Europe. Our D-C reporter  Matt Laslo has a look at what that could mean for Wyoming’s economy – and environment.

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News
12:40 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Wright Residents Wary Of Proposed Coal Gasification Project

It was standing room only at the Wright Public Library last night as residents packed into a hearing about a nearby project that would burn coal seams underground to produce synthesis gas or syngas.

Linc Energy’s proposed underground coal gasification project has been in the works for years, but from the public testimony, many Wright residents were hearing about it for the first time. And they had lots of questions about the process, which has never been developed commercially.

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Open Spaces
4:33 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Legislators Halt Consideration Of Controversial Science Standards

Goshen County Representative Matt Teeters

Right before the close of the session, the Wyoming Legislature slipped a small amendment into the budget bill that’s proving to have some big implications.

The footnote prohibits the State Board of Education from considering a set of national science education standards that it had been reviewing for more than a year, and as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, it raises questions about whose role it is to establish those standards.

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Open Spaces
4:23 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Wyoming Looks To Do More Than Transport Minerals

Governor Matt Mead and a handful of Wyoming legislators are excited about an idea that they hope will create more jobs in the state and finally do something locally with the minerals and other sources of energy that the state harvests.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck reports.

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News
5:03 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

DEQ Drafts Rules To Limit Emissions Near Pinedale

Credit Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

Energy companies operating near Pinedale will soon have to retrofit their older equipment to curb emissions.

Natural gas development in the Pinedale Anticline gas field has caused air pollution, to the extent that the area violates federal air quality standards. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has already imposed limits on emissions from new equipment. But until now, older equipment that was already in place was exempt from those standards. DEQ Air Quality Administrator Steve Dietrich says that needs to change.

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News
11:14 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Legislators Halt Consideration Of Controversial Science Standards

Right before the close of the session, the Wyoming Legislature slipped a small amendment into the budget bill that’s proving to have some big implications. The footnote prohibits the State Board of Education from considering a set of national science education standards that it had been reviewing for more than a year, and as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, it raises questions about whose role it is to establish those standards.

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News
6:22 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Scientists Launch Campaign To Sway Climate Change Debate

The country’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is launching a public awareness campaign about climate change.

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News
6:51 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Surge in Crude Oil Production

Wyoming crude oil production is on the upswing.

The state produced more crude oil last year than it has in any year since 1999.  That's in line with a nationwide trend; last year the country produced more crude oil than it has in any year since 1989.

State geologist Tom Drean says the increase can be attributed to more drilling activity in unconventional plays like shale and tight sands, made possible because of technologies like fracking, and horizontal and extended reach drilling.

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News
3:49 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Exemptions to Fracking Chemical Disclosure Law To Receive Renewed Scrutiny

Environmental and landowner groups are celebrating after the Wyoming Supreme Court found a lower court had ruled in error regarding disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

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News
6:55 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Ukraine Crisis Reignites Debate Over Natural Gas Exports

Liquefied Natural Gas Tanker
Credit Shell

The crisis in Ukraine has rekindled calls for the US to export more of its newfound glut of natural gas overseas, but not everyone thinks that’s a good idea.

In recent days a number of Congressmen, including Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, have called for the Department of Energy to expedite its approval of natural gas export terminals.  Barrasso says it would give the US more foreign policy leverage.

“The approval of contracts by the federal government, to say ‘this is going to go’ will undermine Russia’s pricing ability in the Ukraine and in Europe,” Barrasso says.

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News
6:42 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Legislature Passes Grand Teton Land Swap Bill

Credit Wallpaperslot.com

After considerable discussion, the Wyoming legislature approved a bill that would let the state and the federal government move forward with finalizing a deal to swap state owned land in Grand Teton National Park with the federal government.  Some senators expressed concern that the federal mineral land won't match the estimated $100 million value of the state's park land, but Jackson Senator Leland Christensen says the bill was changed to ensure the trade will be fair.

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News
6:22 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

President's Budget Calls for Cutting Fossil Fuel Tax Breaks

Repealing tax credits for fossil fuel producers and strengthening the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas program are the among the energy proposals in President Obama’s 2015 budget.

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News
4:44 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Rocky Mountain Power Requests Rate Increase

Rocky Mountain Power is asking regulators for permission to raise rates by an average of 5.3 percent starting in January 2015. That would translate to an extra $4.50 a month for average residential customers. Company spokesman Jeff Hymas says the rate increase is necessary for a number of reasons, but mostly because of recent infrastructure investments totaling over $2 billion. Those include projects in Wyoming and out of state, but Wyoming’s growing electricity use factors into how much it has to pay.

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News
5:45 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Halliburton Donates $3M To University Of Wyoming

A conceptual drawing of the University's proposed 'high bay' research facility.
Credit University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming is getting a major donation for its new energy and engineering research complex.  Halliburton is giving $2 million to be applied towards a 'high bay' research facility.  

The facility's size will allow for large scale experiments.  Halliburton is also giving UW an additional $1 million for research into unconventional oil and gas reservoirs.  The gift will be matched by the state.  Governor Matt Mead says it was an exciting discussion with Halliburton.

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News
4:58 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Bonding Bill Gets Final Approval In The Wyoming House

The Wyoming House of Representatives has given final approval to a bill that would raise the bond from $2,000 to $10,000 for oil and gas drillers seeking access to privately owned land. 

The bond is used to repair damage to surface land when a use agreement can't be reached between the landowner and the energy company.  Opponents says that the increase is too high.  

Casper Republican Tom Walters said increasing the bond wages war on industry.

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News
4:15 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Wyoming-Based Environmental Group Disbands

One of Wyoming's most outspoken environmental groups is disbanding.

The board of the Laramie-based Biodiversity Conservation Alliance voted Thursday to call it quits. Board President Ken Driese said Monday the group has been having fundraising difficulties and that four staff members are losing their jobs.

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