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
11:46 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Proposed Fishing Regulations Would Relax Rules

Credit Fishthefly.com

Thanks to a bill passed in the last budget session, it may soon be legal to use artificial light and out-of-state live bait when fishing in Wyoming.  Dave Zafft with Wyoming Game and Fish says its long been against the rules to use lights to draw fish to the lure.  Now it could be allowed for nearly all kinds of fishing.

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Open Spaces
6:04 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

A Plan of Firsts: Lander Resource Management Plan Tackles Big Picture

Sage Grouse
commons.wikimedia.org

The clock is ticking about whether to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species.  Such a listing could all but shut down mineral development in the bird’s habitat.  The state has already tackled sage grouse protections.  Now it’s the federal government’s turn.  It’s been 30 years since the Lander Resource Management Plan was revised.  And so the Bureau of Land Management took the opportunity to put more protections in place for the grouse while they were at it. 

The Lander Resource Management Plan is hundreds of pages and covers a lot of ground. 

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Open Spaces
5:47 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Booming Oil And Gas Production Taxes Pipeline Network

The "pig trap" for a pipeline at a tank farm in Guernsey, Wyoming.
Stephanie Joyce

In the first quarter of 2014, the United States surpassed both Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer. It already hit that mark for natural gas late last year. All of that oil and gas has to be transported from the fields where it’s drilled to refineries and processing plants, and most of that is done by pipeline, but the nation’s pipeline infrastructure isn’t currently up to the task.

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News
1:26 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

State Will Release Draft And Final Pavillion Reports

The state says it will release both the draft and final versions of reports investigating water contamination in Pavillion. The clarification comes after landowners wrote a letter to Governor Matt Mead protesting the state’s plan to release the draft to Encana, the oil and gas company some accuse of polluting the water, before releasing it to the public.

Mead's spokesperson, Renny MacKay, says by releasing both copies, and the comments provided by Encana, the Environmental Protection Agency and an independent expert, the public will be able to see the evolution of the document.

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News
4:07 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Jury Awards Injured Oil And Gas Worker $5.1M

A Wyoming jury has awarded $5.1 million dollars in damages to an oil and gas worker who was injured on the job in 2011.

Then 22-year-old Horr was part of a crew working on a Merit Energy oil well when built-up pressure escaped, sending a piece of rubber through his left arm and shattering it. Attorney Bryan Ulmer with the Spence Law Firm says Horr has lost use of his arm as a result.

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News
10:57 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Lake Owen Fire Update: 80% Contained

Credit Aaron Voos, U.S. Forest Service

The Lake Owen forest fire, in the Medicine Bow National Forest area, is now 80% contained the U.S. Forest service reports. 

The fire covers approximately 500 acres and has caused the evacuation of nearby campers. Residents along Fox Creek Road and in Woods Landing, Jelm, and Albany are still being urged to shelter in place. Three heavy air tankers and 150 personnel are currently working on the fire.

Favorable weather conditions on Tuesday helped firefighters secure much of the blaze, and today crews expect to continue securing the line as well as assessing spot fires. 

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News
10:57 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Wyoming Energy Program Wins National Award

Credit Jeremy Buckingham via Flickr

A Wyoming program that incentivizes businesses’ use of green energy has won a national innovation award.

The Wyoming Renewable Energy Credit program was named the 2014 Economic Development Award Recipient by Business Facilities Magazine, a national publication on business expansion.

The initiative is a partnership between the Powder River Energy Corporation and the Wyoming Business Council. It offers a discount on energy costs for Wyoming businesses interested in using green power.

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News
3:53 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Alberta Smoke Creates Wyoming Haze

Credit National Weather Service

Smoke from wildfires in northern Alberta has drifted down into Montana and Wyoming in recent days.

"The smoke has worked pretty hard to reduce visibility in the last couple of days," says Kelly a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton. "It’s not having a whole lot of effects otherwise in terms of particulates in the air or other health effects because the smoke is coming from so far away.”

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Open Spaces
6:05 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Wyoming Coal Versus The Courts

This week’s Supreme Court ruling on the EPA and its ability to regulate carbon is a mixed bag for Wyoming officials and energy producers. It sets the stakes even higher for Republicans in the state who are determined to derail a pending EPA rule on climate change.  

Like most all things here in Washington these days, the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of the EPA is being read along party lines. But Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi says it’s not just partisanship. He says your opinion also hinges on where you’re reading.

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Open Spaces
5:55 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Wyoming Does Not Officially Track Health Impacts From Energy

As energy development increases across the country many states are starting to look into whether or not it would be a good idea to set up data bases to track possible health impacts directly attributed to energy development.  Colorado has developed an extensive system within its Department of Health to track and investigate health care impacts.  The State of Wyoming has not developed such a data base. Doctor Tracy Murphy is the state epidemiologist. He says the Department of Health rare fields calls of that nature.

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Open Spaces
4:51 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Montana Crude Rail Routes Revealed

Credit insideenergy.org

A dozen or more trains carrying crude oil from the Bakken region are moving across northern Montana every week, skirting the edge of Glacier National Park. More trains -- far fewer in number - pass through populated regions farther south.

Governor Steve Bullock released the route information this week, making Montana the latest state after Washington to buck railroads’ requests to keep the information out of public hands.

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News
4:35 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

First Crude Oil Train Rolls Out of Black Thunder Terminal

Credit credit Andrew Goodson via Flickr

Another rail loading facility for crude oil opened in Wyoming last week, bringing the total to at least seven.

Seventy- thousand barrels of Wyoming oil rolled out of the Black Thunder terminal in the Powder River Basin, headed for a refinery on the East Coast.

“We believe that the location of this particular terminal may be a little more unique to the business as it is in the heart of the basin," says  Steven Huckaby, CEO of Meritage Midstream, the company behind the crude loading facility. "It has a great location advantage to some other terminals."

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News
2:20 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Proposed Rule To Make Tribal Oil Pricing Fairer

The federal government is trying to create a better system for pricing oil and gas on Indian reservations. The Office of Natural Resource Revenue brought together government, tribes and the energy industry to write the new rule. 

Claire Ware is the Director of the Shoshone-Arapahoe Tribes Minerals Compliance Program and sat on the committee.  She says the old rules put tribes at a disadvantage.   

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News
8:58 am
Sun June 22, 2014

Secrecy Prevails With Crude-By-Rail Data

Railcars carrying crude oil display this placard

Hundreds of thousands of tank cars full of crude oil snake across the nation each year, and the number is only increasing.  In the last five years, the number has jumped 14-fold. Along with that, there’s been an increased number of accidents, derailments and spills.

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News
5:08 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

American Bird Conservancy Files Suit Over Eagle Take Permits

An environmental group is suing the federal government over eagle take permits. The permits allow wind farms to kill a certain number of protected bald and golden eagles annually without penalty. In December, the Fish and Wildlife Service changed the duration of the permits from five to 30 years in response to industry lobbying.  Wind companies said the shorter period didn’t provide enough certainty for investors.

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News
6:10 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Republican Governors Urge EPA To Scrap Carbon Pollution Rule

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead

Governor Matt Mead joined his counterparts in eight other states Monday in asking the Environmental Protection Agency to scrap its new carbon pollution rules. The rules call for a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants by 2030.

In a letter to the agency, the governors say that effectively bans coal-fired power. The EPA disagrees, projecting that coal will still provide 30 percent of the nation’s electricity after the rules are implemented, down from almost 40 percent today.

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News
4:22 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

USDA Pays To Turn Dead Trees Into Biofuel

Credit biorootenergy.com

The U.S. Department of Agriculture starting a program that pays people to deliver dead trees to power plants that can convert them to biomass fuel.  Large swaths of Wyoming’s forests have been killed by pine beetle infestations and some say they pose a fire danger. Todd Atkinson with the Farm Service Agency says he hopes money will give people the incentive to harvest from more remote areas.

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Open Spaces
5:08 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Laramie County Sees Surge In Oil And Gas Development

A Patterson drilling rig set alone against the Wind River Mountain range.
Credit Robert Flaherty

For years, southeastern Wyoming has been expecting an oil boom that’s never arrived. Just across the border in Colorado, drilling has reached breakneck pace, but Wyoming has been relatively quiet -- until now. The discovery of a new, more promising oil reserve has led to a surge of interest in oil and gas development in Laramie County over the last few months.

In May of 2013, oil and gas companies applied for nine permits to drill in Laramie County. In May of 2014, companies applied for 132.

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Open Spaces
4:58 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Crude Oil By Rail: On The Rise In Colorado And Everywhere

Workers are in the midst of clean-up efforts at the site of a train derailment and crude oil spill located south of Greeley, Colorado on May 12, 2014.
Credit Grace Hood / KUNC

The transport of crude oil by rail has spiked dramatically in recent years. From 2012 to 2013 the amount carried by the country's major freight railroads increased nearly 75 percent, according to the American Association of Railroads.  Even though crude oil accounted for just over 1 percent of overall rail traffic last year, there's growing public concern about the potential oil spills and other hazards.

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News
3:11 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

State Begins Plugging Orphaned Wells

Credit NETL/DOE

The state has started plugging some of the thousand-plus orphaned wells in the Powder River Basin. The wells are relics of the coal-bed methane bust, when many companies went bankrupt and walked away without closing their wells. The state has taken on responsibility for plugging them, using a combination of revoked bonds and funds from a production tax.

Oil and Gas Supervisor Mark Watson says they had hoped to start plugging wells a little bit sooner, but that there were scheduling conflicts to take into account.

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News
4:08 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Colorado Ground Zero For Political Wars Over Fracking

A screenshot of an ad by the industry-funded group Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development.
Credit Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development

Political spending both for and against potential anti-fracking ballot measures is already washing over Colorado.

Colorado is quickly becoming ground zero for a political war over the future of hydraulic fracturing. Drill operations are pushing deeper into populated areas these days and some local governments and activists are supporting ballot measures that would give communities greater control over the industry.

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News
10:03 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Wyoming Regulators Evaluating EPA Carbon Rule

Jim Bridger Power Plant near Rock Springs, WY

In the week since the Obama administration unveiled new rules to curb carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants, Wyoming regulators have been digging in, trying to figure out exactly what they’ll mean for the Cowboy State. So far, they have more questions than answers.

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News
3:15 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

BLM And Citizens' Group Plan To Clean Up Rogers Canyon

Photo by Teri Lund

Rogers Canyon north of Laramie has long been a favorite destination for cyclists. But also for off-road vehicle riders, gun enthusiasts and people with a trunk full of garbage unwilling to pay the dump fee.  Conflicts between the groups have been mounting, and the Bureau of Land Management wants to set new guidelines to make the area safer and cleaner.  

The Rogers Canyon Coalition is working with the BLM to find a solution.  Coalition member Teri Lund says they’ve come up with a few ideas.

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News
9:34 am
Tue June 10, 2014

New Ammonia Plant Approved In Rock Springs

The new ammonia plant will be built 4 miles outside of Rock Springs

The Wyoming Industrial Siting Council has approved a plan for a new ammonia plant about four miles outside Rock Springs.  Simplot currently operates a phosphorous fertilizer plant on the site, and ammonia is one of the raw materials they need for production.  With the cost of shipping it long distances by rail, Simplot decided to start producing their own.   

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News
6:54 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

State Promises Union Pacific Confidentiality For Crude Train Data

Credit Nat Hamilton/WHYY

In the wake of recent derailments and explosions of crude oil trains, state officials will start receiving information about when those trains are moving through their states. The federal Department of Transportation issued an emergency order in early May, requiring the railroads to share information with states about the routing of any shipments of Bakken crude oil over a million gallons. It goes into effect Saturday.

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Open Spaces
5:38 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Wyoming's Congressional Delegation Believes New EPA Rules Will Devastate The Economy

This week the EPA unveiled a new rule to drastically cut carbon emissions from the nation's power plants. While Wyoming Republicans say it will devastate the economy, Matt Laslo reports from Washington that some experts say their outdated thinking has set the state back in the new energy economy. 

The White House isn't waiting around for this Congress to help it tackle climate change. The new EPA rule will require Wyoming to slash it's carbon emissions by 19 percent. Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis says the state's energy producers are worried. 

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Open Spaces
5:28 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

EPA Carbon Regs Leave Wyoming Out In The Cold...Or Do They?

Coal coming from mines like the one pictured here in Gillete, Wyo., have been a significant source of revenue for the state.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

It didn't take long after the Obama administration unveiled new rules this week regulating carbon emissions from power plants for people to start naming winners and losers. Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state, and a huge coal consumer, was immediately billed as a loser.

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News
9:13 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Mead Visits Washington To Promote Coal Exports

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead talks with Millennium Bulk Terminals general manager Bob Steward about the loading dock at the proposed coal export terminal site in Longview, Washington.
Credit Cassandra Profita / OPB

A controversial coal export terminal proposed for this Columbia River town has a big supporter from Wyoming.

Governor Matt Mead was in Longview Tuesday to tour the old aluminum smelter where the The Millennium Bulk coal export terminal would move up to 44 million tons a year of Wyoming coal off trains and onto ships bound for Asia.

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News
12:28 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

How Will New EPA Rules Affect You? It's Complicated

A newly announced crackdown on carbon emissions raises lots of questions.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The Obama administration said Monday that it intends to aggressively reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, or greenhouse gas pollution, produced in the United States. To boost these ambitions, the White House will partner with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce varying rules state-by-state to be carried out by power plants that produce the gases.

If successfully implemented, the regulations will deliver a 30 percent decrease in carbon emissions by 2030.

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News
6:20 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

New Rule Aims To Cut Carbon Emissions By 30 Percent

Jim Bridger Power Plant near Rock Springs, Wyoming

In an effort to curb climate change, the Obama administration has proposed a rule to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation by 30 percent. The rule is the first to target power plants, the nation’s largest carbon emitters.

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