Natural Resources & Energy

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A parasitic amoeba that can cause fatal brain infections has been found in Grand Teton National Park. On Monday, the park announced the presence of the parasite in their recent water samplings taken from some of the park’s geothermal features and run-off streams.

Spokeswoman Denise Germann says the infection risk for humans is low, but the amoeba Naegleria Fowleri can be fatal. The amoeba enters humans through the nose and then uses the brain as a food source. For that reason, the park is discouraging activities like diving and swimming in the infected waters.

Stephanie Joyce

The Legislature's Joint Minerals Committee will consider a proposal at its meeting this week to create a state-backed insurance pool that small oil and gas operators could tap into for their cleanup obligations.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

  

Chris Goodwin's pitch opens with the same question every time: “Are you a Colorado voter?”

He has been wandering the streets of Boulder, asking that question over and over. Many people say no or ignore him  until he brings up the f-word: fracking.

Johns Hopkins University Press

Thanks to innovations in camera technology, wildlife biologists are now able to peek into the lives of animals like never before. Now, a new book called Candid Creatures: How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature, compiles the best camera trap photos from around the world. Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards talked with author, Roland Hayes, head of the Biodiversity Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and Professor at North Carolina State University. Hayes starts the conversation by explaining just what a camera trap is.

johnvillella

Not long ago, the bright-orange monarch butterfly was a common sight in Wyoming. Now, not so much. So conservation groups are enlisting Wyomingites to help track down how many are still migrating through.

Nature Conservancy Scientist Amy Pocewicz said the species is in serious decline because the forests where they overwinter in Mexico have been disappearing. The monarch was petitioned for possible listing as an endangered species in 2014 and the federal government is now a year overdue in making that decision. 

Coal giant Peabody Energy is asking a bankruptcy court to approve up to $11.9 million in bonuses for six top executives.

In a new report, the Government Accountability Office criticizes public lands agencies for poor management of grazing permits. The watchdog says conflicts and armed standoffs over grazing rights, like the one in 2014 in Nevada, would be less likely if public land agencies improved their permit tracking methods.

nps.gov

Wyoming’s tribes are skeptical of a Native American wildlife group’s plan to expand the range of grizzly bears onto tribal lands throughout the West. Guardians of Our Ancestor’s Legacy or GOAL has proposed putting any grizzlies Wyoming considers over its population limit on reservations.

Jason Baldes is the director of the Wind River Native Advocacy Center and the son of a longtime wildlife manager on the reservation. He says the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes are lucky to have lots of great habitat for grizzly bears.

Stephanie Joyce

Record heat in much of the country is good news for the struggling coal industry. 

Hotter temperatures mean more people running their air conditioning, which in turn means more power plants burning more coal. 

“The hot start to summer has greatly improved the outlook, after a very slow first half [of the year],” said Colin Marshall, CEO of Cloud Peak Energy, one of the nation’s biggest coal producers, on an earnings call with investors. 

  

When it comes to energy issues, Wyoming's delegates to the Democratic National Convention did not see eye to eye with many Democratic Party leaders or their party's platform. Correspondent Matt Laslo caught up with some of the delegates in Philadelphia and sent us this audio postcard.

Coal Dependent School Budgets In Crisis

Jul 29, 2016
Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

  

This story originally aired on Inside Energy partner station KUNC. 

Colorado's coal country is experiencing the same slump that is gripping the heart of more traditional mining locales, like Wyoming or West Virginia.

"We see the trains and we hear the trains, and they used to be often. Daily," says Darci Mohr, the superintendent for South Routt County School District. "Now we hear one every five to six days."

Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources

After 10 years, Milward Simpson is leaving his post as Director of the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources. Simpson was appointed to the position in July of 2006 by former Governor Dave Freudenthal.

During his time in office, Simpson established a new electronic records management system for the state archives, created programs to get families in the outdoors, and coordinated state and federal land management agencies.

Simpson said he is particularly proud of putting on statewide conferences for things like the arts, culture, and historic preservation.

STEPHANIE JOYCE / WYOMING PUBLIC RADIO

On April 1, 2016, Frank Thompson lost his job as a mechanic at Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle mine. He was one of almost 500 coal miners laid off that day by Peabody and its competitor, Arch Coal. At the time, Thompson, who is a single dad, was most concerned about what being laid off would mean for his son.

"He’s seven years old, so he kind of sees it as some time to hang out," he told Inside Energy's Stephanie Joyce. "But I don’t think he really realizes that this could be us moving away from here."

Leigh Paterson

  

Wind turbines are pretty sleek-looking from a distance, but there’s a lot going on behind those spinning blades.

Bryan Boatright, a wind energy technology instructor at Laramie County Community College, took me up into a deconstructed nacelle. A nacelle is a big rectangular box that holds generation components like the generator and drive train. Each one looks like an RV.

Western Wyoming Fire Prevention and Education Team

A campaign led by the Western Wyoming Fire Prevention and Education Team is working to remind residents and tourists of things they can do to prepare for wildfires. The team is a joint effort of the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Wyoming’s Forestry Division, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Carbon XPrize Website

Forty-seven teams have entered an international competition that seeks ways to turn carbon emissions into useful products.

The X-Prize competition challenges innovators to turn carbon dioxide into useful, valuable, products like carbon nanotubes and concrete.

“Innovators are often the one’s with the bright ideas. They don’t necessarily know how to go out there and raise millions of dollars to turn it into reality,” said Paul Bunje, the principal scientist in charge of the competition.

NBC News / via Twitchy

The recent use of the acronym BLM in national conversation has left some Westerners confused. 

At this week’s Democratic National Convention, the Wyoming delegation wore t-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter, or in shorthand, BLM. Nina McConigley is a writer who lives Laramie. She posted about the show of support on her Facebook page, writing "Wyoming delegation - all wearing BLM shirts! As a POC [Person of Color] in Wyo, this makes me so so happy." She says that elicited a lot of confused comments in response. 

Wyoming Legislature Service

A Wyoming legislator is hoping to change some minds during this week’s Democratic National Convention.  

House Minority Leader Mary Throne said energy is important to Wyoming and she is concerned that the Democratic platform is anti-fossil fuels. Throne added that Democrats from non-energy producing states don’t seem to understand the role oil, natural gas, and coal play in the national economy. 

 

Rhodium Group

President Obama called for Democrats to offer aid to miners in coal country during his speech to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday. It was just one of several recent attempts by Democratic party leaders to reach out to voters in largely conservative coal states. 

Earlier in the day, Hillary Clinton’s energy policy advisor told the audience at an event hosted by the news organization Politico that Democrats cannot forget coal country.

U.S. FOREST SERVICE-BRIDGER-TETON NATIONAL FOREST FACEBOOK PAGE

The Cliff Creek Fire north of Bondurant in Sublette County has increased to 21,483 acres. Almost 700 firefighters are fighting the blaze on the ground, in the air, as well as with some controlled burning. Crews have been working to protect about 23 summer homes and the Granite Creek drainage area.

Flickr via Creative Commons

Despite the major layoffs in the coal industry this year, the unemployment rate in Wyoming rose slightly in June, up by .1% to 5.7% since May. Although that rise isn’t significant, it is a serious increase from last June when it was only 4.2%.

A report from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services says almost every county in Wyoming has seen increases in unemployment since last summer. Senior Economist David Ballard says the largest of these increases were seen in the more energy dependent counties. Natrona, Converse, and Campbell County all increased by over 3%.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Alpha Natural Resources emerged from bankruptcy Tuesday as a much smaller company. 

As part of the bankruptcy deal, Alpha sold its core assets, including its mines in Wyoming, to a new company, Contura. Alpha will continue to operate a handful of mines in Appalachia, while Contura will take over the company's more lucrative mining operations in the Powder River Basin and elsewhere.

Contura is majority-owned by a group of Alpha’s former senior lenders. Employees of Alpha in Wyoming are now employed by Contura, which is being headed up by Alpha’s former CEO.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Peabody Energy has reached a deal with regulators in several states over its outstanding cleanup obligations. 

Peabody declared bankruptcy in April with more than $1 billion in self-bonded reclamation obligations at its mines in Wyoming, Indiana, New Mexico and Illinois. Self-bonding means the company has promised that it will meet its future clean-up obligations, but has not put up any financial guarantees to secure that promise. Peabody has more than $700 million in self-bonded reclamation in Wyoming alone. 

Carol S. Bock

A national Native American conservation group says grizzly bears shouldn’t be removed from the Endangered Species List, but instead should expand the bear’s range onto tribal lands.

Ben Nuvamsa is a former Hopi councilman and a spokesman for Guardians of Our Ancestor’s Legacy or GOAL. He said the grizzly plays an intricate role in the belief systems of many tribes.

National Interagency Fire Center

Teton County health officials are warning people living in communities near wildfires about lower air quality.

Wildfire smoke has particles in it from burning material that when inhaled can be harmful on the body, especially during exercise. These particles can irritate an individual’s eyes, lungs and throat.

“You know, it’s not a good time when it’s really smoky out to go run to the top of the mountain,” Rachael Wheeler of Teton County Public Health said. “You don’t really want to aggravate your body when the air isn’t clean.”

U.S. Forest Service-Bridger-Teton National Forest Facebook Page

Bondurant residents who were evacuated due to the Cliff Creek Fire have been allowed to return home, although some residents in the Granite Creek area remained displaced as firefighters are still working to prevent damage to about 30 structures in that area.

Some Granite Creek Residents were escorted to their homes to collect valuables and perishables.

A federal bankruptcy court judge gave Peabody Energy the go-ahead on Wednesday to pay nearly $30 million in property taxes in four states while the company makes its way through bankruptcy.

Peabody Energy can now make payments to counties in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Indiana. One missed payment of around $1 million hit a small Colorado school district particularly hard. The state had to dip into its emergency fund to bail out the South Routt School District after taxes were not paid in June.

Eric Barnes

In the 1960’s, Fontanelle Reservoir in southwest Wyoming was partially built to store water from the Green River for irrigation and industrial use in Western Wyoming. It was never completed, but now a bill has passed the U.S. House that would allow the state of Wyoming to finish the job.

Since the Green River is a major tributary of the Colorado, expanding the reservoir could allow as much as 100,000 more acre feet of water to be diverted from the Colorado River system.

U.S. Forest Service

Climate change is hurting certain fish species in North American streams and lakes, according to the July issue of Fisheries Magazine.

Abigail Lynch, a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, is one of the guest editors for the special issue. She said she looked at several previous scientific studies when compiling the July issue and found worrisome trends, like how prolonged droughts impact fish that are normally used to having a lot of space in their habitat.

Stephanie Joyce

Senators from Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota are among those asking the government to suspend its review of the federal coal program.

In January, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced a comprehensive review of the federal coal program, and a moratorium on new coal leasing while that review is underway.

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