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:

Wyo File
Pennsylvania
Texas
Oklahoma
Oregon
Harvest Public Media

Additional resources

Genre: 

Pages

Legislative
6:21 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Bill To Take Back Federal Lands Moves Forward

A bill that would set up a committee to look into the possibility of the state transferring, acquiring, and managing federal lands has been given initial approval in the Wyoming Senate.

That's despite questions about the goal of the committee and whether the effort is worthwhile.   Senator John Schiffer wanted more clarification on what the committee is supposed to actually accomplish.

Read more
News
4:54 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

EPA Puts Hold On Wind River Border Decision

The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to put a hold on its decision to grant the tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation status as a state for the purpose of air monitoring.

Read more
Open Spaces
4:22 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Law Professor Discusses Report Claiming Federal Coal Lease System ‘Out Of Date’

Mark Squillace
Credit colorado.edu

The Government Accountability Office released a report earlier this week that outlined problems in the federal coal leasing system. The report called the Bureau of Land Management’s process ‘out of date.’

Read more
News
5:17 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Barrasso Gets Pushback On His Timber Proposal

Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso received pushback from the chief of the U.S. Forest Service on his bill to expand timber harvesting on federal lands. 

Barrasso’s legislation would greatly expand the Forest Service’s timber program throughout western states. The senator says it would create jobs and provide a new funding stream for schools in rural areas. Environmentalists accuse Barrasso of trying to gut environmental laws. At a hearing on the bill Thomas Tidwell, the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, told Barrasso he’s wary of how the bill undoes regulations.  

Read more
News
3:32 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Report Says BLM's Coal Leasing Program 'Out Of Date'

A new report by the Government Accountability Office says the Bureau of Land Management’s coal lease valuation program is ‘out of date.’ The report says BLM offices around the country are not consistent in the way they calculate fair market value, don't always document the rationale behind accepting low bids and do not use independent reviewers to ensure calculations are correct.

It also says the BLM does not properly consider the export potential of coal when calculating fair market value of coal leases.

Read more
News
7:55 am
Mon February 3, 2014

BLM Plan Would Add Sage Grouse Protections

Sage grouse in Wyoming could get new protections, if a Bureau of Land Management plan is adopted.

The agency is proposing to cap the amount of disturbance that can happen on public land where the bird lives, and to impose other rules designed to protect sage grouse habitat.

The BLM’s Lisa Solberg Schwab says part of their plan involves adopting the core area strategy that Wyoming has already established.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.  

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.  

Read more
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. ]

Read more
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.

Read more
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. 

Read more
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.”

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.”

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.”

Read more

Pages