Natural Resources & Energy

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Kenneth W Gerard

It turns out there can be too much of a good thing, even when it comes to snow in a ski town like Jackson.

Earlier this week, a series of winter storms caused the roof of a building that housed three businesses to collapse there. Then, Monday night, winds in excess of 90 miles an hour buckled about ten steel transmission poles, leaving several areas around Jackson without power, including Teton Village. About 3,000 people have been affected by the outage.

The Bureau of Land Management

Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on whether to scrap a Bureau of Land Management plan, known as the BLM Planning 2.0, that was recently adopted under the Obama administration.

Gage Skidmore

From cabinet picks to environmental regulations, there has been a lot of energy news in the first few weeks of the Trump Administration. Inside Energy reporter Leigh Paterson joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard from Denver to talk about some of the changes happening in Washington and how they could affect the West.

Dr. Lawrence Todd

Climate change is revealing Wyoming artifacts hidden by ice for 10,000 years. Scientists are flocking to the melting snow and ice fields. And the world is watching.

The Prince of Monaco, among others, is giving a lot of money to support a science emerging in the mountains of Wyoming.

Prince Albert II talked about climate change, and his foundation’s support of scientific research on climate change when he came to Cody in 2013.

DeVivo Upper Salt

There aren’t many critters crazy enough to live year round on mountaintops. So any that do live there have got to be tough. Like the American pika, an adorable little round-eared — and noisy — animal that lives in the rocks at the highest elevations.

But are pikas tough enough to survive a warming planet? University of Wyoming researcher Embere Hall is trying answer that question.

Bureau of Land Management, Wikimedia Commons

A new public land transfer bill was filed this week by House Majority Floor Leader David Miller. The bill would allow the state to take over management of federal lands, and comes hard on the heels of a recently failed constitutional amendment that would also have given the state control over federal lands, an idea that’s been opposed by many sporting and outdoor recreation groups.

Wyoming Game And Fish Department

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, collisions between wildlife and vehicles have been on the rise in recent months.

Doug Brimeyer is the Deputy Chief of Wildlife for the Game and Fish and he says after so many winter storms, the deep snow is limiting winter forage, and so animals are being forced to look for food at lower elevations. Brimeyer said it’s easier for animals to travel where the snow has been plowed back, but that big snow banks on either side of the road, especially in parts of western Wyoming, can trap them.

Environmental Protection Agency

The Wyoming Department of Education encouraged schools across the state to test for lead.

A memo sent out earlier this month informed superintendents and principals of a program offered by the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s called the 3T Program — for training, testing and telling — and it’s designed to support schools in monitoring and keeping lead in drinking water at minimal levels.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

A Wyoming legislative committee soundly defeated a bill that would have substantially increased the state’s wind tax. 

The bill, which was supported by House Revenue Committee Chairman Mike Madden and others, would have raised Wyoming’s wind tax from a dollar a megawatt hour to five dollars a megawatt hour. 

TYRA OLSTAD- Fossil Butte National Monument

A controversial constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state to take over management of federal lands was killed late Friday afternoon by legislators who realized they did not have enough votes to pass it. 

The Select Committee on Federal Natural Resources said they drafted the proposed amendment as a way to protect public access to federal lands. House Majority Floor Leader David Miller said legal actions by other states could force Wyoming to take over public lands.

Stephanie Joyce

 

The House Revenue Committee killed a bill Friday that would have lowered the coal industry’s severance tax from seven to six percent.

The Coal industry has struggled over the last couple of years and Gillette Representative Tim Hallinan said he hoped that the decrease would spur industry and prevent further bankruptcies, but he said it’s unknown whether or not it would create jobs. For Laramie Representative Dan Furphy that was a deal breaker.

Visit Pinedale

 

In 2015, the town of Pinedale turned off its sodium silicate water treatment--a type of corrosion control that helps prevent lead contamination from old plumbing. The next year, dangerous levels of lead were found in one residence and at the town’s high school. The treatment has been turned back on, but residents want to know why it was shut off in the first place. 

Melodie Edwards

A bill drafted for the legislature that proposed to revise Wyoming's constitution to allow the state to take over management of federal lands, has died. The idea was intensely controversial and today Senator Eli Bebout withdrew the legislation. 

Droves of hunters, anglers and hikers turned out for anti-land transfer rallies in recent months wearing stickers that read, “Keep It Public, Wyoming!” 

https://pixabay.com/en/chemistry-chemical-flask-glass-155121/

After accepting a $15 million dollar loan from the State of Wyoming, Standard Alcohol Inc. is continuing plans for a new facility at Swan Ranch, outside of Cheyenne. The loan is set to be paid back in twenty years, while the rest of the funding for the $76 million dollar plant will come from private investments.

The company will use natural gas, coal, and CO2 to create a gasoline additive that company vice president Robert Johns says is high value.

Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails

The tight economic times have prompted many Wyoming agencies to look at where they can raise more money and Wyoming State Parks is no different.

The legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee is proposing to give the parks program more flexibility to set daily pass and campground fees as they see fit, rather than keeping a cap on fees as it is currently.

Jackson Representative Mike Gierau sits on the committee and says Wyoming State Park Fees are cheaper than other states. 

The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill Monday that clarifies the scope of Wyoming’s relationship with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in hopes of speeding up the process of approving in situ uranium mining projects.

House Floor Leader David Miller said Wyoming has a long history of uranium mining and much of the current technology used to extract it was developed in the state.

Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone National Park; Jim Peaco

A delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear was expected by the first of the year but has been pushed back at least six months after a public comment period brought in thousands of letters of opposition. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director Michael Thabault says over 650,000 comments poured in, and it's going to take them longer than expected to respond. 

Wyoming has seen a higher rig count and more coal production in the last few months, but that doesn’t change much for its financial picture, according to the latest Consensus Revenue Estimating Group or CREG report. It shows that the general fund was up by $900,000 but that isn’t nearly enough to fill the gaping $156 million hole in the two year $3 billion budget.

CREG Co-Chairman Don Richards said while there are signs of a rebounding economy, the numbers still aren’t great.

Coal State Considers Carbon Future Under Trump

Jan 13, 2017
Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

The coal industry is breathing a sigh of relief with Donald Trump about to enter the White House.

He campaigned on an energy platform that would strip away Obama administration regulations on the fossil fuel industry. Chief among them: the Clean Power Plan.

OKINAWA INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

In the University of Wyoming Department of Zoology and Physiology several researchers have been using birds as a means to figure out how to help people communicate better.

Associate Professor Jonathan Prather and graduate students Koedi Lawley, Jeff Dunning, and Karagh Murphy are researching the connection between listening, understanding, and speaking in the brain. Their hope is to gain some insight into human behavior, since birds learn to sing songs the same way people learn to speak – by imitation.

Bureau of Land Management

On Monday night, about 20 legislators met with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation to discuss an alternative to a proposed public land transfer bill. The amendment is scheduled for introduction at the legislature and would allow the state to take over federal land management from agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Wallpaperslot.com

Last week, both Wyoming’s U.S. Congressman Liz Cheney and the new pick for Interior Secretary, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, both voted yes on a bill that would make it easier for congress to hand over federal lands to states. The amendment strips public lands of their value by allowing Congress to ignore the potential revenue those lands might get from timber, grazing, mining or drilling.

Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

It could be a good year for moisture in Wyoming, according to this week’s snow report from the Natural Resource Conservation Service.  

The NRCS has data stations scattered across the state that measure the amount of water in snowpack, and use that to predict how much water will be available in the spring and summer. These measurements are important in a region where most of the water supply comes from snowfall.

National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service

In December, the Northern Arapaho tribe sent a letter to a grizzly bear management subcommittee they sit on, casting their vote against a management plan that would be implemented if the bear is removed from the endangered species list.

By Joe Ravi, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16542775

Prairie dogs can be a source of frustration to livestock producers in Wyoming because they compete with cattle for food. But new research from the University of Wyoming shows that the animals may also improve the quality of grass that is available.

pixabay

An earlier version of this story implied hunting regulations for coyotes are determined by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. This version has been changed to reflect the fact that coyotes are classified as a predatory animal by state law. Therefore, they are managed by the Department of Agriculture. 

The Bureau of Land Management said they will not shut down two upcoming coyote hunting contests in the Rock Springs area. Various conservation groups had asked the agency to halt the hunts, calling them inhumane and dangerous.

Wikimedia Commons

Ski resorts in Wyoming’s western mountains are seeing historic snow depths because of heavy snowfall that first began in early December.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort spokeswoman Anna Cole said the resort is now 100 percent open after a delayed season because there wasn’t enough snow early on. But Cole said the resort has made up for that delay.

Wyoming has become a flash point in the debate over whether hundreds of millions of acres of federal public lands should be turned over to state hands.

From Buzz Hettick's place on the edge of the windswept college town of Laramie, it's a short drive into the heart of these remote lands, vast tracts run by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

On a recent, blustery morning, Hettick was scouting out an elk hunt in the Laramie range, a patchwork of private and public BLM land north of his home.

"A lot of wildlife uses public lands," he says.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Obama administration has released five options for making about 10 million acres of federal sagebrush habitat ineligible for new mining leases in the West in hopes of protecting the imperiled greater sage grouse.

Wikimedia Commons

An updated mitigation policy from the Bureau of Land Management will address inconsistent rules that once created problems for companies trying to operate in western states. Mitigation rules, or how companies are required to lessen or offset negative environmental effects they might cause on public land, will now be the same for all public land.

Eric Holst is the Associate Vice President at the Environmental Defense Fund. He said public land should be able to support both wildlife and energy development, and the new policy addresses the need to create such a balance.

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