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
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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Topic of the Week
10:52 am
Mon June 2, 2014

What are your thoughts on the Obama administration's new rules targeting power plant emissions?

What are your thoughts on the Obama administration's new rules targeting power plant emissions?

View the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule here.

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

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

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Open Spaces
4:52 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

New Greenhouse Gas Regulations Target Power Plants

Jim Bridger coal fired power plant, Sweetwater County, Rock Springs Wyoming.
Credit www.wanderlustimages.com

The predicted effects of continuing to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at current rates range from dramatic sea level rise to extreme weather to famine and drought. Power plants are among the largest carbon dioxide emitters, and on June 2, the Obama administration is scheduled to release new rules regulating those emissions. Utilities and trade groups are already warning those rules will have some dire consequences of their own.

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Open Spaces
4:45 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Texas Coal Plant May Be Environmental Game Changer

Construction on a coal-fired power plant equipped with Carbon Capture and Storage technology, or CCS is expected to begin here in Penwell, Texas this year. One of two such plants in the U.S., the other is in Kemper, Mississippi.
Jason Lewis - U.S. Dep't of Energy

New EPA rules aimed at cutting carbon emissions are expected to be unveiled June 2nd. Coal generates nearly half of this country’s electricity and is the largest source of air pollution. The new rules are expected to spur the use of clean coal technology. At least that’s the hope of both the coal industry and some environmental groups.

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Open Spaces
4:13 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Shift To Carbon Use Marks New Frontier In Fight Against Climate Change

Scientists at the Western Research Institute in Laramie, Wyoming are looking for new ways to use carbon dioxide.
Stephanie Joyce

The Obama administration wants states to cutback on carbon emissions, but doing that has always been a thorny problem. While carbon is a byproduct of almost everything we do, capturing and storing it is expensive. For years, the goal has been to figure out how to make that process cheaper, but more recent efforts take a different approach, with the focus shifting from storing carbon to using it.

On a recent spring morning, Karen Wawrousek led a tour of her lab at the Western Research Institute, on the outskirts of Laramie.

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News
12:20 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Otters Flee Energy Production, Study Finds

Researchers at the University of Wyoming have found that energy development is scaring off river otters in the Upper Green River Basin.

Scientists counted the number of otters in several waterways throughout the Upper Green River Basin in western Wyoming. The rivers farther away from energy development had dozens of otters, but the New Fork River had only two.

Report co-author Merav Ben-David says research shows that otters don’t like the noise and commotion associated with development, and she says another concern could be water contamination.

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News
5:09 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Tornado Touches Down On Casper Mountain

Credit via National Weather Service

A tornado that touched down on Casper Mountain Friday afternoon caught forecasters by surprise. Trevor LaVoie, with the National Weather Service, says the storm systems moving through Natrona County today didn’t show any signs of producing tornadoes.

“These types of storms are more general thunderstorms in nature," LaVoie says. "We’re not really seeing a lot of heavy rain, they’re short-lived, and their depth is relatively shallow. They’re only about 15,000 feet thick.”

The tornado wasn’t visible on radar, but it was reported by numerous observers.

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News
11:52 am
Thu May 22, 2014

Flooding Could Shed Light On Contaminants At Uranium Tailings Site

The Department of Energy is closely monitoring the potential for flooding this spring at the site of a former uranium mill on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Tailings from the mill contaminated groundwater in the area decades ago. DOE had planned to let the uranium dissipate naturally over the next century, then flooding in 2010 caused an unexpected spike in contamination levels.

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News
6:46 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Wyoming Uranium Producers Bullish About Future

L-R: Mark Wilcox, Wyoming Business Report; Paul Gorenson, Uranerz; Donna Wichers, Uranium One; Wayne Heili, Ur-Energy; Ken Vaughn, Cameco.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

Uranium producers in Wyoming are optimistic about the future, despite a recent slump in prices. The uranium market tanked after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with the indefinite shutdown of Japan’s reactors, but speaking during a panel discussion at the Wyoming Energy Summit this week, uranium mining executives like Donna Wichers of Uranium One said while it’s been a setback, it’s just that.

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News
5:54 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

New Fracking Project Proposed In Sage Grouse Country

A 5000-well oil and gas project proposed for the Powder River Basin is drawing sharp criticism from a wildlife advocacy group.  Erik Molvar with WildEarth Guardians says the drilling would take place right in the middle of critical sage grouse habitat.

“Well, the 5000 wells are projected in an area of over a million acres to the north of Douglas, stretching all the way up in the Thunder Basin National Grassland and including several core areas that have been proposed priority habitat for sage grouse,” Molvar says.

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News
11:18 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Industry Is Concerned About New EPA Standards

L-R: Steve Dietrich, Administrator, Air Quality Division, Department of Environmental Quality; Dan Byers, senior director for policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy ; Tim Rogers, environmental manager, Black Hills Corp
Credit Stephanie Joyce

New regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants are due out at the beginning of next month and industry is warning that they could have a devastating impact on the economy.
 
Speaking at the Wyoming Business Report’s Energy Summit in Casper, Dan Byers, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the cost of the regulations will likely significantly outweigh the climate benefits, pointing out that developing nations are emitting more than ever. Byers says he’s skeptical of how the Environmental Protection Agency will calculate cost-benefit.
 

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News
11:14 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Mead Urges Support For Carbon Capture Innovation

It’s time to stop looking at carbon as a liability and time to start figuring out ways to turn into an asset, Governor Matt Mead told attendees at the Wyoming Business Report’s Energy Summit Monday. He said carbon capture and utilization technology is not ready for prime-time, but that innovation is possible if the government and others invest in it.

“Everything is crazy until you figure it out. And this issue on coal in particular is an issue that I think we can figure out, and that we need to figure out,” Mead said.

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Open Spaces
12:29 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Casper Geowives Celebrate 60 Years

Joanie Dunlap and Liz King have been friends and members of Geowives for decades.
Irina Zhorov

Sixty years ago a group of women in Casper whose husbands were always leaving them for long shifts out on the oil patch got together to commiserate and lunch. The group became known as the Geowives - wives of geologists - and it’s celebrating its diamond anniversary this spring. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov attended the Geowives’ monthly luncheon and has this story. 

IRINA ZHOROV: Bette Faust is one of the charter members of the Geowives, and a Wyoming native who came to Casper in the 1950s.

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Open Spaces
5:14 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Wyo. Lawmakers Reject New Climate Change Report

Credit www.hsdl.org

The White House is painting a dire picture for every region in the nation - including here at home - if action isn’t taken to combat climate change. But Matt Laslo reports from Washington that Wyoming’s Republican senators still aren’t buying it.

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Open Spaces
5:08 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Amid Boom, Regulators Struggle With Staffing

The newly discovered abundance of domestic oil and gas is creating a shortage of something else: the petroleum engineers who regulate drilling activities. Government petroleum engineers approve companies’ drilling plans and inspect wells after they’re completed to make sure they’re not at risk of contaminating water or blowing out, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, there just aren’t enough petroleum engineers to go around.  

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Open Spaces
4:42 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Inside Energy Production And Politics

Credit Jordan Wirfs-Brock

A continuing energy boom in the Rocky Mountains and Northern Great Plains is reshaping the future of what’s powering America, and we’re launching a new reporting project to keep track of that.

Through Inside Energy, we’re teaming up with public radio and television stations in Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota to explore the complex energy issues affecting our lives.

The three states are feeling this new energy economy differently, and it’s changing political realities in different ways.

WYOMING

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Open Spaces
4:30 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Auction Revives History Of Scandal At Teapot Dome

Clarke Turner, Director of the Rocky Mountain Oil Field Testing Center at Teapot Dome oil field, shows off the inside of a heater-treater.
Stephanie Joyce

If you were paying close attention during the latest season of Downton Abbey, you might remember this exchange:

PENELOPE WILTON (as Isobel Crawley): Is it really called the Teapot Dome scandal? It seems so unlikely. What’s it about?

MAGGIE SMITH (as Lady Violet Crawley): What’s it always about? Bribery and corruption. Taking money to allow private companies to drill for oil on government land.”

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News
10:28 am
Thu May 15, 2014

Mead Urges Shift In Conversation About Carbon

Governor Matt Mead speaking at the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority meeting on May 14, 2014.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

Governor Matt Mead says it’s time to move past the argument over climate change, and start finding solutions that will allow the continued use of fossil fuels, including coal. Answering questions after a speech at the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority board meeting Wednesday the governor reiterated that he remains skeptical about the science behind climate change, but said that’s besides the point.

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News
6:16 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

New Coal Export Terminal Proposed In Mexico

The latest proposal for getting coal from the Powder River Basin to world markets involves a port on the west coast of Mexico. According to a report from SNL Financial, a Mexican company is in the process of securing permits for a $700 million export terminal. MEXPORT’s CEO Daniel Suarez told SNL there’s been interest from Powder River Basin coal producers, and if the company is able to raise sufficient capital, it could start exporting by 2017. The company's consultant didn't return calls for comment.

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News
6:09 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Price Of Beef Impacted By Nation-Wide Drought

The price of beef hit an all-time record this quarter at $5.55 a pound—a full 25 cents higher than last year at this time.  Ann Wittmann, Director of the Wyoming Beef Council, says it’s a case of supply and demand.  A nation-wide drought has reduced herd sizes to the lowest they’ve been in 60 years and that is driving up the price for both consumers and producers.

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News
4:17 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Oil And Gas Commission Denies Citizen Rulemaking Petition

A Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission hearing. File photo.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission has denied a rulemaking petition from a landowner’s group. The Powder River Basin Resource Council submitted the petition a year ago, asking the Commission to consider new rules for flaring, setbacks -- the distance rig should be from a house -- and violations such as spills. Tuesday, the Commission denied the petition, saying it wants to propose its own rules on those issues, rather than starting with the citizen’s language.

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News
1:16 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Commissioners Appoint New Oil And Gas Supervisor

Mark Watson, WOGCC's new supervisor
Credit Willow Belden

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has a new permanent supervisor. Mark Watson received a unanimous vote from the commissioners.

Watson was a runner-up in the last search for a supervisor and had been serving as the Commission’s interim supervisor after Grant Black’s sudden resignation in March. He's been with the Commission for almost thirty years in various positions, most recently as the principal petroleum engineer.

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News
9:31 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Wyoming Looks To Be An LNG Leader

A report says that Wyoming is well positioned to be a leader in the liquefied natural gas industry or LNG for what are called high horsepower industries.   

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News
9:22 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Gov Mead: EPA Focus Should Be On Clean Coal

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says the plan by the Environmental Protection Agency to require carbon pollution limits on new power plants is too limited and hurts the state’s economy.  During a news conference, Mead was critical of the E-P-A for not following Wyoming’s lead and look at ways to develop clean coal technology.

“I think everybody should have an interest in how we do it in the most environmentally friendly way possible, but when you set a standard that nobody has done yet…to me it looks like you are just shutting off coal completely.”

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Topic of the Week
9:20 am
Mon May 12, 2014

What are your thoughts on recent discussions about Climate Change?

What are your thoughts on recent discussions about Climate Change? 

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

A link to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change can be found on this page: http://ipcc.ch/.

A link to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan can be found on this page: http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan .

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News
9:30 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Report Says Wyoming Is Getting Hotter And Drier

Wyoming is getting hotter and drier, according to the latest National Climate Assessment. The report says by mid-century, the number of extremely hot days Wyoming experiences will increase considerably.

Mark Shafer is with the Oklahoma Climatological Survey and was one of the lead authors of the report. He said that the impacts will be wide-ranging, from changes in growing seasons to stress on the region’s water supply.

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News
5:24 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Wyoming Utilities Diverge In Response To Climate Change

The Jim Bridger Power Plant, one of Rocky Mountain Power's generation sources.

The National Climate Assessment says Wyoming’s energy sector could find itself squeezed for water in the future. Both energy production and generation consume large amounts of water, but changes in precipitation patterns mean there will be less of it to go around. The report points out that across the nation, water shortages already threaten power generation for more than a million homes. That's expected to increase.

Rocky Mountain Power’s Jeff Hymas says climate change is definitely something the utility takes into account when planning for the future.

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News
6:24 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Water Deliveries Begin To Pavillion

A program to provide clean water to residents of Pavillion will get underway in the next week. The town has problems with contaminated well water, which some attribute to nearby oil and gas development. An investigation into the source of the contamination is ongoing, but the governor’s natural resources policy advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, says the state felt it had a responsibility to take action -- not only for residents’ health, but also their assets.

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Open Spaces
4:25 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Crude-By-Rail Accidents Spark Concern In Wyoming

Credit Alan Rogers, trib.com

BOB BECK: When a crude oil train derailed and exploded in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia this week, it wasn’t the first or even the second time that’s happened this year. As growing domestic production of oil strains pipeline capacity, railroads have been picking up the slack. Crude-by-rail, as it’s known, has grown 500 percent since 2011. But a recent string of accidents has led to concern about its safety. Wyoming Public Radio energy reporter Stephanie Joyce joins us now to talk about how those concerns are playing out in Wyoming, and what’s being done about them.

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