Natural Resources & Energy

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Oil prices have shot up in the U.S. after Russia and Saudi Arabia announced they would continue limiting supply of petroleum to the global market. They’re the two largest oil exporting nations.

Higher oil prices should increase production temporarily in Wyoming. Right now, production in the state is down 14% compared to last year. 

Tom Koerner/USFWS

In the last legislative session, lawmakers tasked the Wyoming Game and Fish Department with setting up guidelines for how private game bird farms can raise sage grouse. Under the rules, such farms could collect 250 sage grouse eggs to raise and release into the wild. The Sage Grouse Implementation Team appointed by Governor Matt Mead is reviewing those rules over the next couple of weeks. 

pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain

Wildlife in the far western portion of Wyoming did not fare so well this winter. The harsh weather was especially hard on deer.  

Doug Brimeyer with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said the combination of heavy snow accumulation and extreme temperatures took a toll on deer and antelope in the western outreaches of the state. Those conditions ultimately kept animals from accessing good forage, and as a result, Brimeyer said, wildlife quickly used up their fat reserves.

Chris Drury

In late 2010, English sculptor Chris Drury visited the University of Wyoming's campus. The school had commissioned artwork from him, though he still hadn’t decided what to make. As he spoke with locals around Laramie, Drury learned how trees in the Rockies were dying due to warmer winters due to climate change. He wanted to draw a connection between the trees' downfall and the state’s contribution to global warming through the coal, oil and gas industries.

Fatal Home Explosion In Colorado Reignites Setback Debate

May 12, 2017
YouTube channel Cataclysmic

On the afternoon of April 17th, 10-year-old Gillian Chapman and her little sister Kailey were on their front porch. Gillian had on her roller blades; Kailey had her scooter. They had just gotten permission to go visit their friend Jaelynn, across the street and two doors down.

Then, Jaelynn’s house exploded.

“The house just split open,” Gillian said. “You could see the upstairs.”

Jaelynn Martinez was not in her home at the time, but her father Mark and uncle Joey Irwin were in the basement and were killed in the blast. Her mother, Erin Martinez was injured.

Melodie Edwards

Wyoming may be in the middle of an energy bust, but there’s one industry that’s quietly booming: the shed antler business. More and more people are discovering how lucrative picking up deer and elk antlers can be. But that’s led to more out of season poaching of antlers and even serious accidents. Hundreds of people lined up for the season’s opening day May 1 and Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards was there.

Earthworks

The U.S. Senate decided not to overturn the Obama era methane rule, which seeks to limit the venting and flaring of methane by oil and gas drillers on federal land. 

In a tight vote, three Republicans sided with Democrats in rejecting the rollback of the methane regulation.

Supporters of the rule said it keeps the air clean in states like Wyoming with widespread gas development on public lands. Opponents said the rule is redundant with state and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations already in place.

Oil production continues to fall in Wyoming. The first records of the state’s production in 2017 show it’s down about 14% from the same time last year. 

Oil and gas commissioner Tom Fitzsimmons said that decline is likely to continue. To stop it, prices would need to stabilize first around $55 per barrel while they have recently been between $46 and $48 per barrel.

Fitzsimmons said prices are driven up if there's less supply, though that supply keeps on coming. He pointed to the state’s network of ducts

Charles Preston

People taking pictures of themselves doing dangerous things cost lives in Yellowstone last year. One man died in a hot spring. Park officials have found a way to turn things around, with camera phones.

Yellowstone National Park had record visitation for the last two years, and in 2016, several illegal, and deadly incidents. In May, a Canadian tourist picked up a baby bison, that later had to be euthanized. Another group of Canadian tourists took pictures of themselves jumping on Grand Prismatic Spring. They were fined after facing criminal charges.

spglobal.com

S & P global ratings downgraded Wyoming’s credit rating from Triple-A to a Double-A-Plus. That means the next time Wyoming tries to borrow money, it will likely see a higher interest rate.

It’s like applying for a mortgage — if you have a high credit rating, you’ll pay lower interest rates. As Wyoming faces a downgrade in its credit rating, the same idea applies.

This is because there’s less money coming into the government’s coffers due to and low contributions to retirement funds.

Peabody Energy announced a huge increase in revenue for its first quarter of 2017. Many see this as a victory for the struggling energy industry, while some don’t believe it will last.

 

Peabody Energy is the largest coal mining firm in the world. They went bankrupt the first quarter of last year. At their Wyoming complex, the company laid off 15% of their workforce. 

National Wildlife Federation

The first bison calf has been born to the new herd released onto the Wind River Reservation. The herd was released there last fall. For the Eastern Shoshone tribe, it’s a sign of the herd’s health since it was a hard winter on many wildlife.

Eastern Shoshone Tribal Bison Representative Jason Baldes said the herd was brought to Wyoming from a long grass prairie in Iowa, but that the species is hardy and adapted well to Wyoming’s high plains. He says the herd did receive some supplemental feeding though.

Baldes was there right after the calf was born.

CC0 Public Domain

 

Wyoming is taking over wolf management, again. A federal appeals court has entered its final order upholding Wyoming’s wolf management plan. So, the state will pick up where it left off five years ago. And wolves outside a protected area can be shot on site.

Wolves in Wyoming were first protected by the Endangered Species Act in January 1995, when Canadian wolves were brought into Yellowstone by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

GARY KRAMER - U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

Wyoming’s management plan for wolves is back in effect, after a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals reaffirmed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2012 decision to delist wolves. 

Under Wyoming law, wolves fall under a dual-classification system. The first is as trophy game for those wolves living in the northwestern corner of the state. That's where most of them live and where the most suitable habitat is. Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Renny MacKay said in that area, they receive extra protections.

Melodie Edwards / Wyoming Public Radio

The shed antler collecting season opened in the Jackson area on Monday at midnight with fewer cars in line at the forest boundary gate than last year, only about 180 compared to 250 the year before when the opening date fell on the weekend.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has started issuing fines up to $1000 and stepping up enforcement to stop antler poaching on big game winter ranges where people aren’t allowed to enter from January through April.

ecoflight.org

Jonah Energy, a Colorado-based oil and gas company, will soon own nearly 100 percent of natural gas reserves in western Wyoming — the eighth largest natural gas field in the country. The investment is a vote of confidence in an industry that’s seen declining prices in recent years.

Wikipedia

President Donald Trump has just finished his first 100 days in office. When it comes to energy and the environment, he has already taken some aggressive steps toward fulfilling major campaign promises. Inside Energy reporter Leigh Paterson joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to review President Trump’s energy policy in his first few months. 

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

This winter, the Upper Green River Basin has experienced seven high ozone days when the young and elderly are discouraged from spending time outdoors. Elaine Crumpley, the founder of CURED or Citizens United for Responsible Energy Development, said the Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste rule would eventually help reduce that problem of air pollution in her community.

Leigh Paterson

What are your views regarding the increase of wind energy in Wyoming?

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Wikimedia Commons

At a presentation at the University of Wyoming’s Energy Innovation Center, an energy economist argued that the coal industry will likely never recover to previous levels. That’s despite a small rebound in the first quarter of this year because of a cold winter.

Pitchengine Communities

With most of the mountains in western Wyoming still covered in deep snow, communities downstream are bracing for the spring runoff. National Weather Service meteorologist Trevor LaVoie said it’s flooded along the Big and Little Wind Rivers every spring for the last six years. He said people living on the Wind River Reservation and in other communities along those rivers should begin preparing for flooding now.

The Modern West 22: Climate Change In A Fossil-Fuel State

Apr 20, 2017
Ken Koschnitzki

Wyoming’s economy revolves around energy production. But climate change raises questions about what role fossil fuels will play in the state’s future.

Mary Gerty

A set of historic barns outside Jackson and the 27 acres surrounding them have been sold to the Teton Raptor Center. Previously, the Hardeman Barns belonged to the Jackson Hole Land Trust. Laurie Andrews, the trust’s president, said normally her organization doesn’t buy property outright but, back in the 1980s, when a developer wanted to build 70 single family homes there, the community realized the property’s value.

National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service

With the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service debating whether to remove the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the endangered species list this summer, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is hosting a screening of two films on the species.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s Andrea Santarsiere worked on one of the films, “Trophy,” about how trophy hunting has hurt grizzly populations in British Columbia. Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are considering the option of allowing trophy hunting of grizzlies if the species is delisted.

Stephanie Joyce

The $2 million funding for coal workers comes from a U.S. Department of Labor grant meant to aid dislocated workers. Eligible workers can put the money towards training programs in other fields. 

Stephanie Joyce

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he is embarking on a re-evaluation of the system for approving new coal leases. The question of whether the American public is getting fair market value on those leases led the Obama administration to place a moratorium on new leases. Zinke lifted that moratorium two weeks ago.

Stephanie Joyce

Last week, President Trump lifted a short-lived moratorium on new coal leases imposed during the last months of the Obama administration. But the reason for that ban wasn’t just environmental.

Rob Godby is the director at the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming. He said President Obama halted new coal leases primarily to evaluate whether, as owners of federal lands, the American public is getting a fair market value from coal companies.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

A lot happened in the world of coal mining in the last week or so. The biggest coal company is the United States—Peabody Energy—emerged from bankruptcy, and the Interior Secretary lifted an Obama-era ban on new coal leases.

But what does it all mean for Wyoming’s coal future? To figure it out, Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards sat down with Rob Godby, director at the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming.

Filling In The Natural Gas Gaps

Apr 7, 2017
Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

  

With the fracking boom ushering in cheap natural gas prices nationwide, nearly 40 states have adopted or are considering new legislation to expand gas service.

Big gaps exist in rural America where natural gas does not reach. These areas rely heavily on propane, with 12 million homes that use it for heating.

One North Dakota town is looking to make the switch, pushing the Legislature for flexibility to craft its own plan to bring in natural gas service.

Bob Davis

Climbing down in trenches is dangerous work because they often collapse, but now a Pavillion man has invented a product so waterline installers don’t have to climb in. 350 workers were crushed or suffocated when trenches collapsed between 2000 and 2009. Inventor Bob Davis said to install water pipes, workers have long placed a five gallon bucket of gravel over the end of the pipe.

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