Natural Resources & Energy

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Wyoming Public Media

This weekend the Powder River Basin Resource Council will hold its 42nd meeting at 4 p.m.at the Sheridan Holiday Inn. The Keynote speaker is Dr. Jeffrey Lockwood, professor of Natural Sciences and Humanities at the University of Wyoming, who discuss the topic “Living Behind the Carbon Curtain: Wyoming, Energy and Censorship.”  

The energy industry can have an impact on politics in Wyoming, but other states as well. In North Dakota political spending is way up, with 17 million spent this year, more than double what was spent in 2010. Inside Energy’s Emily Guerin reports on why the stakes have suddenly gotten so high.

North Dakota has always been a friendly, easy place to vote. It is the only state in the country without voter registration, and precincts are small enough that poll volunteers often recognize people who come through the door.

The U.S. Energy Secretary has appointed a University of Wyoming professor to serve on the National Coal Council.

Dr. Maohong Fan is a UW School of Energy Resources professor who focuses his research on coal conversion. The National Coal Council advises the Department of Energy on coal issues.

Holly Frontier

The Environmental Protection Agency has fined a Cheyenne refinery $153,000 for allegedly violating several federal regulations. The EPA alleges that Frontier Refining wasn’t properly training its employees in safety practices and that it misreported or didn’t report the presence of certain toxic chemicals on-site. David Cobb works with the EPA’s enforcement office. He says that’s important information.

What would the nation’s energy policy look like if Republicans capture the Senate this November? Matt Laslo caught up with Wyoming lawmakers and energy analysts to find out the potential impact on the state’s energy sector if the GOP gains control of the upper chamber.

Leigh Paterson

Climate change is a controversial topic in this election cycle, especially when it comes to teaching it in school.  So far only 12 states have adopted a new set of science education standards that include the human impacts on global warming  - and Wyoming is not one of them.

Natalia Macker, who is running to represent District 22 in the Wyoming State House, said something shocking during our recent interview:

Coal companies in the Powder River Basin are hiring, and some of those workers will likely come from Central Appalachia.

Companies there have been laying off miners and shuttering operations in recent years. But in Wyoming, companies like Cloud Peak Energy are hiring.

Melodie Edwards

Last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in Pinedale, taking part in a ceremony to sign up Wyoming ranchers to help protect sage grouse. These conservation agreements are called Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances or CCAA’s. They’re supposed to protect the birds on private lands, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards reports, some wildlife advocates question whether the program really has the teeth to make a difference.

Wyoming Game and Fish

The Wyoming Game and Fish will be reaching out for public input about the future of the state’s Game Bird Farm Program. It will hold public meetings until November 18th and an online survey until the 20th. The program stocks several hunting areas across the state and is now under review to gauge hunter’s willingness to help fund the program.

Wyoming Game and Fish Spokesman Robin Kepple Game and Fish says the results from meetings and survey are crucial to the future of the program.

Stephanie Joyce

Wind power is a growing part of the energy mix in the United States. And along with that growth, there are new job opportunities for people to install and repair the 30-story-tall wind turbines. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, a unique skill set is required -- the fearlessness of a pro rock climber along with the know-how of a skilled mechanic.

A Laramie company is testing a device that could help cut the cost of producing shale oil. WellDog announced this month that it’s doing field testing of what’s called a “Raman spectrometer.” The device can help pinpoint oil and gas reservoirs thousands of feet underground. WellDog CEO John Pope says right now, hydraulic fracturing or fracking doesn’t work thirty to fifty percent of the time, but that this technology could dramatically improve that.

A miner was killed at Peabody Energy's North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in the Powder River Basin over the weekend, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The Gillette News Record reports that Darwin Lee Reimer, 51, was driving a haul truck when it went over a highwall. 

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, praised sage grouse conservation efforts in Wyoming during a tour of a ranch outside of Pinedale on Wednesday. The Bousman Ranch is one of nine in Wyoming that have agreed to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service on sage grouse conservation. During the tour Secretary Jewell learned about the ranch’s new strategies for protecting the grouse, such as converting windmill water tanks to solar to eliminate perches for the grouse’s predators like hawks and ravens.

Dan Boyce

For Colorado School of Mines petroleum engineering professor Carrie McClelland, teaching a  seminar of 45 students seems like a bit of relief. Normally her class sizes are closer to 80 or 90.

“It makes it difficult to make sure that they’re still getting a great education,” she said.

Once a day, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields rumbles through Bismarck, N.D., just a stone's throw from a downtown park.

The Bakken fields produce more than 1 million barrels of oil a day, making the state the nation's second-largest oil producer after Texas. But a dearth of pipelines means that most of that oil leaves the state by train — trains that run next to homes and through downtowns.

Melodie Edwards

There are currently over 4,000 abandoned uranium mines in remote corners of the US. Out of sight, but for people living nearby, not out of mind. Uranium produces radon, which is known to cause lung cancer. In 2012, uranium was found in the tap water on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Many say the time has come to clean up the mess. But that could cost billions. The Obama Administration is tackling the job by pushing for new fees on mining companies, but the industry says they’re too punishing. Now, new research could make uranium clean-up significantly cheaper.

There’s disagreement over whether industry should pay for the state to take over regulation of uranium mining. The Legislature’s Joint Minerals Committee reviewed a draft bill Thursday that would start the transfer of regulatory power from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Zachary Wheeler

Today marks the first day of the Wyoming Women’s annual Antelope Hunt.

The three-day event is sponsored by the Wyoming Women’s Foundation and brings together 40 women hunters, including guest hunter Ashlee Lundvall, this year’s Ms. Wheelchair USA.

In addition to her pageant title, Lundvall is a stay at home mom and she says that means she contributes to her family’s economic self-sufficiency because it saves them money on childcare.

INSIDE ENERGY: Wyoming Governor Offers Coal Country Tour

Oct 8, 2014
Michael Werner

Treaty fishing rights give Northwest tribes extra clout when it comes to the future of proposed coal terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound.

That’s not lost on the governor of Wyoming, a big proponent of coal exports.

Gov. Matt Mead is inviting Northwest tribal leaders on an all-expenses-paid trip to coal country in Northeastern Wyoming, according to an email obtained by EarthFix.

A National Park Service report about a moose death in Gros Ventre Campground last month is facing some criticism from campers and photographers who were at the scene. The original Park Service report says crowding photographers were the main cause for the Bull Moose charging.

Anna Sullivan is a professional photographer who took several photos and videos of the scene showing that, actually there was no one directly around the moose. Sullivan says her video shows a passing diesel truck was more likely to have spooked the moose.  

Scott Sandberg / NOAA

Ozone pollution has been a problem in western Wyoming for years because of oil and gas development, but the chemistry behind it has been a mystery, until now.

A study published this month in the journal Nature looks at how wintertime ozone pollution in rural areas with oil and gas development is chemically different from summertime ozone pollution in big cities. In the Uinta Basin in Utah the researchers found levels of the two main components of ozone were opposite of what they would be in cities.

INSIDE ENERGY: Millions Of Tons Oil And Gas Waste: Hazardous Or Not?

Oct 3, 2014
David Martin Davies

The United States is on the verge of becoming the world’s top producer of oil – that’s according to the International Energy Agency.  But the oil boom is also leading to a boom in toxic oil field waste that can end up in open pit disposal sites.  There are increasing concerns over the dangers these disposal sites pose for air quality.

Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

Every day, more than 2 billion gallons of water are produced in the U.S. by the oil and gas industry. The water comes up with the oil and gas, and can contain hydrocarbons like benzene and toluene as well as the chemicals that are injected into the well to produce the oil and gas. But the federal government doesn’t treat waste from the energy industry as hazardous, and much of that polluted wastewater is allowed to simply evaporate. That, as others have reported, could could be a problem.

Ambre Energy

Oregon has shut down Wyoming’s attempt to force the permitting of a coal export terminal in that state.

The Oregon Department of State Lands rejected Ambre Energy’s application for a permit to build a coal transfer terminal in August, citing concerns about the impact on nearby tribal fisheries. The terminal would allow Powder River Basin coal to be shipped to Asia.

Charles Cook via Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a $4.2 million grant to the University of Wyoming for wind energy research.

Six different University departments will collaborate on the project.

UW professor Jonathan Naughton is the director of the Wind Energy Research Center and the principal investigator for the grant. He says the goal is to address barriers to rolling out renewable energy in the state—and research will focus on three key aspects.

Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/15778088@N00/6144251104/">manyfires</a> via <a href="http://compfight.com">Compfight</a> <a href="https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147">cc</a>

A new report by the Western Values Project shows that sagebrush lands create millions in recreation income for the state. The report looked at eleven Western states with large amounts of sage brush. 

Senior Economist Kristin Lee with ECONorthWest-- the firm that calculated the data--says Wyoming brought in the fourth highest revenues after Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

“What we found for Wyoming is that there were almost two million visitors to the sagebrush lands in 2013.  And those visitors spent approximately 87 million within 50 miles of those recreation sites.”

biorootenergy.com

Forests affected by the bark beetle epidemic are just as capable of recovering from wildfire as unaffected forests, according to new research from the University of Wisconsin. Brian Harvey, one of the co-authors of the paper, said they looked at areas throughout the Northern Rockies in various stages of tree death.

Despite an emergency rule that put Wyoming’s wolf management plan firmly into law, a federal judge refused to change an earlier ruling that placed Wyoming wolves back on the endangered species list.   

Washington D.C. based U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with environmental groups who argued that Wyoming’s management plan, which allows wolves to be shot on sight in most of the state, failed to adequately protect wolves. 

A federal judge has denied requests from the state of Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and pro-hunting groups to change a decision last week that reinstates federal protections for wolves in the state.
 
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday denied requests to change her ruling.

Dan Boyce/Inside Energy

Following backlash from customers, South Dakota-based Black Hills Power has dropped a proposed rate increase for solar users. 

The surcharge would have applied to customers in South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Although the company has withdrawn the proposal for now, it hasn't ruled out bringing it back in the future. Deb Theriault of Casper-based Range Solar & Wind said even a surcharge of $5 to $20 could be a real disincentive.

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