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
4:17 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

EPA Tells DEQ to Host Public Meeting for Aquifer Exemption Request

The Environmental Protection Agency is telling the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality that it has to conduct a public hearing about an aquifer exemption request by Linc Energy. Linc is proposing an underground coal gasification project in Campbell County. The coal is in the Wyodak Aquifer, and the exemption would relieve the company from adhering to the strict protections outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

DEQ already approved the aquifer exemption, but it did so without public input, so EPA, which makes the final decision, is calling for a do-over.

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News
5:47 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

UW Collaborates on Carbon Capture Test Center

A research lab dedicated to finding new ways to collect and use carbon dioxide is a step closer to becoming a reality. 

The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee has recommended that $15 million be set aside for the project, which would be located at one of Wyoming’s coal-fired power plants.  The project would be a collaboration between the state, the University of Wyoming, and a power company.

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News
6:16 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Compressed Natural Gas Station Coming To Teton County

Teton County drivers will soon be able to buy compressed natural gas at a filling station in Jackson.  The State Loan and Investment Board granted $766,000 towards the purchase of equipment for the project.  

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News
5:55 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Pavillion Cistern Program To Receive Money For Water Delivery

Governor Matt Mead is committing $400,000 dollars for water delivery to households with cisterns in the Pavillion area. Residents have long complained of unusable well water, which some blame on nearby natural gas development. The money is part of a grant from Encana Oil and Gas, which operates in the Pavillion gas field.

19 cisterns are currently being installed, with another 13 households signed up.

The Governor’s Natural Resources Policy Advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, says residents will meet later this week to discuss how to use the money.

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Open Spaces
4:46 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Potential for Gas Price Increase If Oil Ban Lifted

For forty years the U-S has banned the export of most all crude oil. Matt Laslo reports a new debate is raging in Washington over whether to end the ban.

MATT LASLO: The U-S banned crude oil exports after the Arab oil embargo of 1973. It’s been in place since, which has negatively impacted global oil prices. Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso says he’s ready to lift the ban.

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News
6:56 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Gov. Mead Proposes Carbon Research Facility

Governor Matt Mead is proposing that Wyoming set aside $15 million to open a research center focused on new uses of carbon captured from coal-fired power plants.

The state already has an institute which looks at the use of captured carbon for enhanced oil recovery, but Mead’s policy director, Shawn Reese, says this facility would be used to develop additional uses of carbon like fertilizers, building materials, biochemical products, and synthetic gases.

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Open Spaces
5:27 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

DEQ Director Todd Parfitt Says Agency Following Its Missions To “Protect, Conserve And Enhance”

Todd Parfitt

We start off today’s show with a look at the agency that’s in charge of protecting the environment in Wyoming. Many of our reporting in the past has led us to conversations with angry landowners, and folks who have concerns about industry’s effects on the environment and human health.

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Open Spaces
5:21 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Growth In Energy Production Prompts Concerns Over Air Monitoring Network

Monitoring stations like this one in Converse County track a range of pollutants in the air.
Credit Willow Belden

We’ve reported often on the effects that energy production can have on air quality. The most obvious example is Pinedale, where federal ambient air quality standards were violated, largely because of emissions from natural gas production. Regulators say the air elsewhere in the state is fine. But some worry that Wyoming doesn’t have a sufficient monitoring network to know for sure. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Open Spaces
5:15 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Small Emission Sources Could Mean Big Pollution, But No One’s Counting

John Fenton stands outside his house in Pavillion, with a small natural gas well nearby.
Credit Irina Zhorov

Some landowners with oil and gas wells on their property complain about emissions affecting their air quality and health. But though there may be a lot of wells, they’re considered small facilities, so their cumulative effects are never counted up and regulations are more lax than for large emitters. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that that could be a problem since in aggregate, their pollution can be significant.  

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Open Spaces
5:07 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Wyoming’s Little Talked About Pollution Source: Trona Mines

FMC

Wyoming’s biggest export is soda ash, which comes from trona mines in Sweetwater County. Last year, the trona industry produced 17 million tons of soda ash for which the state received nearly $90 million in various taxes and royalties. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov report, the industry has a dirty side, too. 

IRINA ZHOROV: Wyoming is used to superlatives. The biggest coal bed, the largest mine, the most wind! Here’s another:

[VIDEO PLAYING: The silver retreats of Wyoming, USA is home to the largest reserve of trona. ]

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Open Spaces
5:02 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Wyoming Doesn’t Often Fine Industry For Spills

Credit Credit Wyoming Associated Press

Wyoming regulators recorded hundreds of spills by the oil and gas industry last year, but issued just a handful of fines. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, that’s actually not unusual.

STEPHANIE JOYCE: ‘Genie McMullan knows when there’s been an oil spill from the production wells on her goat farm in the Big Horn Basin.

'GENIE McMULLAN: When there’s a spill there’s a sharp smell, it’s a burning smell to my senses, my nose, my eyes, my lungs.

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Open Spaces
4:58 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Economist Discusses Whether Regulations Scare Off Industry

Credit University of Wyoming

For many years, Wyoming lawmakers have been reluctant to impose new regulations on industry.  At the national level, the congressional delegation has been highly critical anytime the Environmental Protection Agency proposes new regulations on energy production, saying that it costs jobs. 

State leaders have echoed those statements, and over the years many legislators have even expressed concern about adding staff to the Department of Environmental Quality, fearing that it could lead to over regulation. 

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News
5:10 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Laramie County water study shows varied rates of drawdown

Draft results of a hydrogeologic study in Laramie County indicate that water is being used at different rates, in different parts of the county.

The State Engineer’s office undertook the study because of water shortages in the area. They wanted to find out why water levels have been declining, and whether the drawdowns are equally bad everywhere.

State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says what they’ve found so far is somewhat reassuring.

“It does appear that most of the drawdown issues are localized,” Tyrrell said. “And that’s a good result to know.”

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News
5:31 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

CO2 emissions from energy sector up slightly from 2012

Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector increased about 2 percent in 2013 from a low point in 2012. The Energy Information Administration did the analysis. The agency attributes the increase to a small comeback by coal from a dramatic market share low in 2012.

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News
5:52 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Air monitor stays in Converse County

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has decided to keep an air quality monitor in Converse County for another year.

DEQ placed a mobile monitor near Douglas after residents voiced concerns about emissions from new energy development in the area. So far, there’s no indication that air quality standards have been violated, but there were several days with high pollution levels.

Typically, DEQ moves their mobile air quality monitors to new locations each year, but the agency’s Cara Keslar says they want to keep a close eye on this area.

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News
8:04 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Wyoming could see more crude-by-rail shipments in the future

Despite recent accidents with shipment of crude oil by rail, including a derailment and explosion in North Dakota on Monday, industry analysts say it will continue to be a popular mode of moving oil out of the Bakken.

Trisha Curtis is with the Energy Policy Research Foundation. She says most crude from the Bakken does not travel through Wyoming, but that the state could see a spike in crude-by-rail traffic with new rail loading facilities coming online in the next year.

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News
6:38 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Successes seen in Wyoming on 40th anniversary of Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act turned 40 this week, and two birds from Wyoming are ranked among the biggest successes of the law.  The Endangered Species Coalition says the peregrine falcon and bald eagle made their top-ten list. Derek Goldman of the Coalition says bald eagles can be seen regularly in some parts of Wyoming, but he adds that it didn’t happen by accident.

“We can see bald eagles almost everywhere now, but at one point 30 years ago, DDT and killing of eagles had really dwindled their numbers.”

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News
6:28 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Railroads attempt to reduce coal dust emissions

Coal dust emissions from trains could be cut following a recent ruling by the federal Surface Transportation Board. The Board ruled earlier this month that rail companies can require use of dust suppressants or ‘toppers’ on coal cars.

BNSF was one of the companies pushing for the rule. Spokeswoman Courtney Wallace says coal dust has been shown to foul the tracks and lead to accidents.

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News
10:49 am
Mon December 30, 2013

State to regulate greenhouse gases

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s permitting team will now have another pollutant to consider when writing permits: greenhouse gases.

The Environmental Protection Agency handed over its authority for greenhouse gas permitting to the state of Wyoming on December 23rd. D-E-Q’s Cole Anderson says his department will add pollutants like methane and carbon dioxide to the list of contaminants it reviews.

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News
4:55 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

Federal sage grouse protection plan draws criticism

The federal government released a new plan for managing sage grouse habitat in Wyoming on Friday. The Bureau of Land Management says the plan will allow for consistent policies across federal and state lands, while protecting the bird from an endangered species listing.

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News
5:32 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Fire at compressor station sends 1 to hospital

A Christmas Day fire at a natural gas compressor station south of Riverton sent one worker to the hospital.

The East Alkali Butte station belongs to Texas-based Legacy Reserves. The company’s safety coordinator, Randy Williams, says the injured worker was a contractor. He was flown to a hospital in Salt Lake City for treatment.

Fremont County Fire Protection deputy chief Dan Oakley says by the time the department got on scene, the fire had been mostly extinguished. He says the building was still standing, but that the windows and doors had been blown out.

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News
5:21 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Cistern program for Pavillion may need additional funds

A cistern installation project for Pavillion-area residents may need more funds from the legislature. The state allocated $750,000 dollars to install clean water cisterns for households with polluted groundwater. All but $100,000 dollars is already contracted out and 9 additional applications are underway.

But Governor Matt Mead’s natural resource policy advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, says the true budget won’t be known until the first round of cisterns is installed.

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News
7:27 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Sublette County ozone forecasting resumes

Ozone forecasting in Sublette County will begin again in January. Ozone is a hazardous gas that’s formed under certain conditions by the combination of volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides. In recent years Sublette County has seen spikes in ozone during wintertime, particularly on days with no wind, lots of sunlight and snow on the ground.

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News
6:52 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Forest health task force gets underway

The Governor’s new Forest Health Task Force met for the first time last week, and faced some challenges right off the bat -- namely, defining what forest health means.

Jessica Crowder is with the governor’s policy office. She says the 19-person group struggled to come to an agreement on the subject.

“There’s a lot of different viewpoints on what a healthy forest actually looks like, and how you actually get there," Crowder says. "What we found is that the term ‘forest health’ is a very value-laden term.”

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DKRW
1:48 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

More delays for coal conversion facility

It could be another three years before construction begins on a coal-to-liquid fuel facility in Medicine Bow -- if it begins at all.

DKRW has struggled with financing for the $2 billion project since it was first permitted in 2008.

On Wednesday, the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council granted DKRW a 30-month extension on its construction permits. That’s the third time the company has been granted an extension, but this one comes with a special caveat. If the company doesn’t start building the conversion facility by the end of that period, it’s agreed to give up its permit.

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News
5:24 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Oil and gas development hurts local economies in long-run, study says

The resource curse is real -- and discernible even at the county level -- according to a new study from the non-profit research group Headwater Economics.

Researchers looked at more than 200 counties across six western states, and found that those with above-average oil and gas development over a long period of time had lower per capita incomes, less educational attainment and higher crime rates.

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News
5:46 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Dept. of Interior needs to make changes to guarantee fair return on oil and gas, study finds

The Department of Interior’s oil and gas royalty program has been examined repeatedly in the past for weaknesses and high risk of mismanagement and a new Government Accountability Office study suggests more can be done to guarantee a fair return on extracted natural resources. The study says one of the biggest issues is that the DOI does not have set procedures for reviewing the royalty program.

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News
5:02 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Feds predict coal-fired electricity on the decline

The federal government is predicting that despite a recent uptick in consumption, coal will lose its dominance of the electricity market by 2030.

Natural gas will slowly edge out coal as the country’s leading source of electricity generation, according to the Energy Information Administration’s latest forecast.

In a press conference announcing the outlook, Coal and Electric Power Division Director Alan Beamon said coal is expected to make a rebound in the short-term, but that it won’t last.

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News
7:48 am
Mon December 16, 2013

WY lawmakers concerned that budget agreement reduces money for mineral development

Wyoming lawmakers are concerned with a provision in the bipartisan budget agreement that would cost the state money for mineral development.

Wyoming stands to lose around twenty million dollars annually from the budget deal that overwhelmingly passed the House. It includes a provision that makes permanent a law that charges states like Wyoming for costs associated with their mineral leases. The state hasn’t received that money since 2008, but Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis and other officials thought that was just temporary. 

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News
6:57 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Abandoned well plugging plan moves forward

The legislature’s Joint Minerals Committee is mostly onboard with a new plan to plug abandoned oil and gas wells in the state. The committee discussed the Governor’s plan at a meeting on Thursday. Senator Chris Rothfuss says while the committee had questions about some of the details, like the cost and timeline, there was a general agreement that the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission should move forward with the plugging.

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