Natural Resources & Energy

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Hydraulic fracturing or fracking has contaminated water resources in the Pavillion area, according to a new study from Stanford University. Dominic DiGiulio, the lead author of the study, also wrote the 2011 Environmental Protection Agency draft report that first linked fracking to groundwater contamination in the Pavillion area.

Alpha Natural Resources is asking a bankruptcy judge for permission to cancel certain labor union agreements and to cut retiree benefits. 

 

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A new mule deer migration route has been discovered crossing 45 miles over the Teton Range into Idaho. The discovery of the new migration route was confirmed this year when Grand Teton National Park collared and tracked several deer using GPS technology. Grand Teton Wildlife Biologist Sarah Dewey says they were amazed to see what lengths one doe went to get to her winter range.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced a new rule this week that aims to better protect workers from something called silica dust. It replaces standards that were more than 40 years old.

Silica is found in materials like sand, granite, and concrete. Breathing in too much of the dust that results from working with these materials can cause a lung disease called Silicosis and lung cancer.

The Department of Labor estimates that around 2.3 million workers like sandblasters and brick makers are exposed to silica at work.

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Several environmental groups filed a petition Wednesday with the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to overhaul a program that exempts underground aquifers from protection under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In a December report, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality concluded that fracking is likely not to blame for water problems in the Pavillion area. The Environmental Protection Agency, in public comments on the report, questions that conclusion.

EIA

The ratings agency Standard and Poor's has dropped its credit rating for coal giant Peabody Energy to the lowest possible level, after the company failed to make a major interest payment last week.

Peabody has said it is in talks with its creditors and hopes to restructure its debt, but Standard and Poor's writes that it doesn't see a sustainable future for Peabody absent "comprehensive restructuring." In other words: bankruptcy.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest is changing some of its rules for this year’s antler rush to make it safer by giving people a head start.

Recent court documents show that Arch Coal paid executives more than $8 million in bonuses just days before the company declared bankruptcy. 

Arch Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early January. In the days leading up to that filing, the company gave its CEO John Eaves, a bonus of $2.7 million and made payments to other top executives.

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In an effort to strengthen Bighorn Sheep herds in the Seminoe-Ferris Mountains near Rawlins, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has relocated 24 sheep from Devils Canyon. Transplants from Oregon in 2009 and 2010 and from Devils Canyon near Lovell in 2010 helped establish the Seminoe-Ferris Herd, but blizzards and years of wildfires reduced the herd. Game and Fish Wildlife Biologist Gregg Hiatt joined Bob Beck to explain that the previous transplant has been a success, but they want to build on that.

Melodie Edwards

Listen to our summer podcasts. 

We trek through knee-deep snow along the banks of the Gros Ventre River near Jackson until we come to a heap of bones and grass. It's what remains of an elk calf.

“Here you go,” he says. “This is what it looks like. And I can tell you on Friday, we were standing in a foot of snow. I tracked the whole attack.”

WDGF

Recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service announced that it was moving forward with a delisting of the Grizzly Bear. As part of that delisting Wyoming is to come up with a management plan that could include the hunting of Grizzly Bears.

The Game and Fish Commission will soon be holding hearings across the state to discuss that issue. Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott joined Bob Beck to discuss that option. 

Wyoming Outdoor Council

This May, the University of Wyoming will award an honorary doctoral degree to Tom Bell. Bell is 92 years old, a writer, World War II Veteran, and renowned conservationist. In 1967 he founded the Wyoming Outdoor Council and in 1970 started High Country News. He joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to talk about how conservation has changed since he first came to Wyoming.

Wyoming Outdoor Council

Longtime conservationist Tom Bell will be awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Wyoming. Bell is 92 years old and founded both the Wyoming Outdoor Council and High Country News.

Bell says when he founded the council in 1967, no one was paying attention to the health of the planet. Over time, he says people have slowly changed their minds about conservation for a few reasons.

In 2016, for the first time ever, natural gas could overtake coal as the main source of electricity in the U.S.

A decade ago, coal accounted for almost 50 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. but in 2015, it was down to 33 percent. The dramatic decline has been fueled largely by utilities switching from coal to natural gas, as gas prices have fallen in recent years because of the fracking boom.

Now, the Energy Information Administration is predicting that in 2016, natural gas will surpass coal as the country’s leading power source, although only by a narrow margin.

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In financial documents filed this week, one of the largest coal companies in the world warned that it may file for bankruptcy, in part, because the company may not be able to make upcoming debt payments.

Just this week, Peabody Energy missed around $70 million dollars worth of interest payments and instead chose to take advantage of a 30-day grace period. 

Bob Beck

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has unveiled a new energy plan that still pays a lot of attention to coal, but also looks to boost renewable energy. Mead says Wyoming needs to diversify its energy economy, but denies that the decline of coal did not lead to that choice.

“It was never, hey, coal is having a tough time now and so we are going to move away from coal and to renewables. In fact in some ways I’d say it’s a doubling down on coal and a very good start on renewables.”

Federal regulators have rejected a proposed pipeline that would have carried Wyoming and Colorado gas to an export terminal in Oregon. The 230-mile Pacific Connector pipeline would have linked an existing pipeline to the proposed Jordan Cove terminal, where the gas would have been liquefied and loaded onto ships bound for Asia.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found the public benefits of the project did not justify the potential negative impacts on landowners whose properties the pipeline would cross.

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Seven dead elk were found in the Great Divide Basin of the Red Desert last week. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Green River suspect the deaths were a result of the elk ingesting toxic lichen.

Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Supervisor Steve DeCecco said this is not the first time elk have died from lichen toxicosis in Wyoming. During the winters of 2004 and 2008, more than 500 elk died in the Red Rim area south of Rawlins from eating the stuff. DeCecco said the lichen itself doesn’t kill the elk.

Coal giant Peabody Energy announced plans to cut jobs at its Caballo and Rawhide mines near Gillette Thursday.

The company won't say how many people will lose their jobs. It released this statement: “In response to market conditions and customer needs, Peabody has implemented a small number of job reductions at its Caballo and Rawhide Mines. We regret the effect of these actions on employees and their families, and the company is taking steps to ease the transition through severance and outplacement support for those impacted.”

Todd Guenther

Researchers at Central Wyoming College in Riverton are studying the possibility that prehistoric people may have lived year round above timberline in the Wind River Range.      

Anthropology Professor Todd Guenther says until recently the conventional wisdom was that prehistoric hunters spent most of their time at low elevation and only summered at high altitudes where they hunted bighorn sheep. 

Arch Coal will not develop a massive coal mine in southeastern Montana.

The company based Thursday’s decision on a weakened global coal market and an uncertain permitting process.

Coal advocates say the decision will cost Montana thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue and wages.

They blame the project’s failure on environmentalists and political heel-dragging on behalf of Governor Steve Bullock’s administration.

Leigh Paterson

A massive wind energy project that will spread from Rawlins to Saratoga received another positive assessment from the Bureau of Land Management Wednesday. 

The Chokecherry Sierra-Madre wind farm is the nation’s largest wind project. It’s expected to power up to a million homes. The BLM says the goal is to mitigate potential impacts and ensure that species needs are met along with along with renewable energy goals. BLM spokesman Dan Purdy adds that it should have a major economic impact.

Alpha Natural Resources filed a plan today outlining how it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy. At the heart of the plan is a proposal to sell the company's core assets, including its Wyoming mines.

For the first time in at least three decades, the number of rigs drilling for gas in the U.S. has dropped below 100.

As of Friday, there were just 97 natural gas rigs operating in the U.S., including nine in Wyoming. The number of rigs has been falling since 2008, when it reached a high of more than 1600.

But despite the falling rig count, production has continued to climb. The U.S. produced more natural gas in 2015 than ever before.

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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says it'll take most of a year to complete the process of delisting grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List.

Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik says not only will the feds require a 60 day comment period but the state will need to complete a management plan and collect its own public input. He says a hunting season would be part of that plan.

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As spring approaches, Yellowstone National Park’s grizzly bear population is starting to wake up. The first grizzly was spotted out of hibernation February 22nd.

Amy Bartlett is a spokeswoman for Yellowstone National Park. She says the bears are coming out of hibernation on schedule, even though it still feels like winter.

Google Earth

Peabody Energy is one of the largest coal companies in the world and operates mines all over the United States. But some of its senior lenders are now recommending bankruptcy, as the company faces potential defaults on several loans.

Bob Beck

A bill that would lead to the sale of two state-owned 640 acre parcels of land inside Grand Teton National Park has failed after a conference committee could not agree to the details in the bill.

The state has been trying to get rid of the land for many years, and the bill would have required the state to sell both parcels at once. Sen. Eli Bebout wanted the federal government to get the deal done this year or pay 500-thousand dollars to extend the deadline, but the House and Senate could not reach agreement on the sale guidelines.  

Oregon Says No To Coal-Fired Electricity

Mar 4, 2016
David Hanson

Oregon lawmakers have passed a landmark clean-energy bill that lays out a timeline for Oregonians to stop paying for electricity from coal-fired power plants through its two largest utilities, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric.

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