Natural Resources & Energy

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The foreground is reclaimed mine land, with the active coal mine behind.
Wyoming Mining Assocation

Back in 2011, the coal market looked great. Three of the largest coal companies in the world, all with mines in Wyoming, invested big in metallurgical coal, the kind used for infrastructure. Sierra Club Attorney Peter Morgan said, “Each company took on hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of debt."

Oil and gas drilling on Jay Butler's property in Converse County
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A major oil and gas project has taken a step forward with the end of its public comment period last week. The 5,000 well project covers over 1.5 million acres in Converse County, and received 110 comments following the release of its draft environmental impact statement, or EIS. 

Stephanie Joyce

  

Advocates for the Wind River tribes say they were relieved to hear that Wyoming Governor Matt Mead vetoed a bill that would have given stiff fines and jail time to protesters that blocked access to or damaged infrastructure like oil and gas facilities. 

For years, Western lawmakers have been trying to change the way we fight wildfires, or at least the way the government funds such work. Now, they may finally get that wish. Congress just passed a measure that would do just that, creating an emergency fund of $20 billion for the Forest Service to fight wildfires over the next decade. It's part of a sweeping new spending deal that the President signed on Friday.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has been pushing for years to make this change.

A landslide in a popular area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming's western mountains has locals worried about the region's economy.

Battle Creek is a tributary of the Yampa River, which flows into the Colorado River.
By Dicklyon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Wyoming House and Senate resolved two water project bills, ultimately agreeing to fund the West Fork Reservoir. The original legislation would have allocated $40 million, but the House eliminated the project completely. The Senate later resurrected it with $10 million in funding, and eventually, lawmakers reached a compromise of $4.7 million. 

Bison in Yellowstone
AMY MARTIN

Two people were arrested Friday morning at the Stephen’s Creek facility in Yellowstone National Park. This is the second arrest in two weeks and the fourth criminal incident at the facility this year.

WyDOT Photograph of Closed U.S. 287
Wyoming Department of Transportation

Due to heavy snow causing downed trees, nearly 3,000 people in Laramie lost power Thursday evening. Rocky Mountain Power is the town’s electricity provider. Dave Eskelsen, a media relations officer with Rocky Mountain Power, said several outages occurred. 

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

A federal district judge cited potential grizzly hunts when denying the federal government’s request to delay lawsuits that challenge the bear's delisting.

SF 74, image below Gov. Mead's veto letter
Legislative Service Office

Governor Matt Mead has vetoed a bill aimed to make new criminal classifications for those damaging or slowing down critical infrastructure like oil and gas facilities or pipelines. In a public letter, he said it was imprecisely crafted with some crimes already covered under other statutes. 

Jeannie Stafford/USFS via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A private landowner-led organization released a report evaluating lessons learned during greater sage-grouse conservation efforts across 11 states between 2010 and 2015.

CC0 Public Domain

An eleven-year-old male grizzly was the first bear sighting of 2018 in Yellowstone National Park. The male was seen in the east-central region of the park.

DEQ Notice of Public Meeting
Department of Environmental Quality

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has released a final rule proposal that would change how coal companies self-bond. That’s when a company uses an IOU to guarantee clean-up costs based on its financial strength. 

Charles Preston

A proposal for a historic grizzly bear hunt this fall has been released to the public. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department drafted it after a series of public meetings where, according to the agency, the majority of Wyomingites expressed support for a potential hunt. It would be the first hunt since 1975 when the bears were placed on the Endangered Species List.

Raspberry deLight Farms

One committee taking on Wyoming Governor Matt Mead’s economic diversification initiative will hold a public forum about agriculture this week.

The Executive Committee on Economically Needed Diversity Options For Wyoming, or ENDOW, has divided into five subcommittees representing different parts of the state’s economy.

Combination of several notices, regulations, and proposed policies
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Club’s Wyoming Chapter

This week, both the state and federal government took steps that will change how coal companies deal with pollution and reclamation.

Yellowstone River
National Park Service

Yellowstone National Park is banning felt sole waders and boots commonly worn by anglers, citing they can carry and introduce aquatic invasive species (AIS). AIS are aquatic animals, plants, and pathogens that rapidly overpopulate, altering natural habitats and making them inhospitable for native aquatic species.

Bison in Yellowstone
AMY MARTIN

Three people were arrested this week at the Stephen’s Creek facility in Yellowstone National Park.

Early Tuesday morning, park officials found two people trying to chain themselves to a structure where bison are held before they leave the facility. Later in the day, park officials said a third individual was found in a restricted area.

Colorado River Water Users Association

The House last week removed the West Fork Reservoir from a bill that includes a number of water projects proposed around the state. On Wednesday, the Senate returned $10 million in funding for the dam near Baggs. Originally, state water developers asked for $40 million for the project, and estimated that it would cost twice that. 

http://legisweb.state.wy.us/LegislatorSummary/LegDetail.aspx?LegID=1241

After a late night debate, the Wyoming House of Representatives gave initial support for a controversial bill that intends to punish people who damage or tamper with infrastructure such as pipelines or oil and gas facilities. The House amended the measure to narrow what would be declared a felony and reduced the fine for someone convicted, down from $1 million to $100,000.

Mayor Grace Miller, third from left, and the Jackson Town Council, 1921.
Wyoming Tales and Trails.

The National Elk Refuge is commemorating the role of women in American conservation for Women’s History Month with an exhibit at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center. The temporary exhibit includes a timeline of Jackson Hole women who played a vital role in the area, including Grace Miller, the town's mayor who presided over an all-female town council from 1920 to 1923. 

Airman 1st Class Alexis Visser, 90th Munitions Squadron, and Senior Airman Rachel Silverberg, 90th Force Support Squadron, hike the Hidden Falls trail in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo., July 3, 2015.
Credit U.S. Air Force photo by Lan Kim

The federal government conducted its first economic analysis on outdoor recreation. It has a bigger impact on the country’s GDP than previously thought.

The new study by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that outdoor recreation accounted for two percent of the entire U.S. economy in 2016. 

Sheridan County meeting to discuss rezoning
Robin Bagley / Powder River Basin Resource Council

Sheridan County Commissioners voted three to two in favor of rezoning 114 acres of land from agricultural to industrial. It’s the first regulatory step for Ramaco Wyoming Coal Company LLC, which owns the land, to eventually develop there. 

Stephanie Joyce

A Wyoming House Committee killed and then said it would resurrect a controversial bill aimed at delaying the construction or operation of an infrastructure facility, like that at Standing Rock in North Dakota. 

The bill provides for prison time and a million dollar fine for someone interfering with something like a pipeline or a power plant. 

Senate President Eli Bebout discusses SF-98 with the House Revenue Committee
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill seeking to incentivize more oil and gas production has died in the House Revenue Committee with a 6 to 3 vote. Senate File 98 would have cut the severance tax rate for oil and gas in half after the second year of production until the end of the fourth.

Laramie Range where it borders Medicine Bow National Forest
Robert Kirkwood

Five minutes from downtown Laramie, Melanie Arnett unlocks a gate. She pulls a truck through and we’re inside the 5,500-acre parcel of land that Laramie folks have been drooling to explore for years. I’m feeling pretty smug about my VIP pass.

“Right now, we’re looking right at Pilot Peak,” says Melanie Arnett, who was recently hired to serve as the Pilot Hill Land Project’s director. A local businessman, John Pope with Blue Sky Group, volunteered to pay her salary for now.

Joe Riis

Wyoming and most of the Western landscape are part of big game animal migrations. Migratory herd of elk, deer, pronghorn, bison or bighorn sheep travel aggregated routes between their season ranges. Recently thanks to the research of scientists - including Arthur Middleton of the University of California, Berkeley, it has been found these corridors contain important stopover habitats where the animals rest and find food. So - if these routes are blocked it would stop these animals ability to recover after a winter season.

Senate President Eli Bebout Speaks To Full Senate
Cooper McKim

It’s the third of four weeks in the 2018 budget session. With the current revenue crunch, many bills have revolved around spurring new revenue, finding new sources, or cutting back on spending. And for energy, it’s no different. The surviving bills also come down to money. Thirteen bills arose related to energy, with only three still moving through the system. There are others that relate, but are not directly tied to energy.

Life’s been tough on Chris Marchion. There was the high school football injury and the knee replacement.

“Unfortunately I got a hip that’s wore out,” he says.

We’re standing alongside a gravel road near a cow pasture. Nowadays, this is about as close as Marchion can get to the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area. It’s a clump of rolling, grey mountains in the distance.

Pexels

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department held a Facebook Live chat Tuesday to recap how public input will be used for grizzly bear management in the state.

During the Facebook live event Dan Thompson, the Large Carnivore Section Supervisor, covered the five major themes of public meetings throughout Wyoming in November. These included population monitoring, research, conflict management, education, and hunting. 

Thompson said overall the public expressed the need for a more accurate grizzly bear population estimate, which is currently very conservative. 

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