Natural Resources & Energy

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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.

Wikimedia Commons

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.

Melodie Edwards

For years, no one could figure out why birds of prey were turning up with extremely high levels of lead poisoning. The issue made headlines when the newly reintroduced condor in California began dying off from lead exposure. Craighead Beringia South is a group of wildlife researchers in Kelly, Wyoming who were among the scientists who started studying the problem in other species, back in the early 2000’s.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Historically, electricity pricing has been relatively straightforward: the more you use, the more you pay. But today, that simple equation is not so simple. Increasingly, the time of day when you use electricity factors into the cost as well. It’s called time-of-use pricing, and while it can save money and energy, it’s not always popular.

SCOTT DETROW / STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA

  

The U.S. oil and gas industry was shocked on Wednesday by the sudden death of one of its most influential executives. Aubrey McClendon was killed after driving his SUV into a concrete embankment, a day after being indicted on bid rigging and price fixing charges. He was the former CEO of Chesapeake Energy, a major producer now floundering under low oil and gas prices.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced its proposal to remove the Yellowstone area grizzly bear from the endangered species list.

In his announcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe called the plan a triumph.

“This population of bears has increased by more than 500% since efforts to conserve the bear began in 1981 from as few as 136 bears to probably over 1000 today.”

nps.gov

Wyoming experts were cautiously optimistic Thursday when they learned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that Yellowstone Grizzly Bears be removed from the endangered species list.

Grizzly bears were listed for decades, before they were removed from the list in 2007. A judge put them back under federal protection in 2009.  Now, just as grizzly bears are starting to emerge from their dens, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it’s recommending delisting again.

flickr: Old Man Travels

When Community Naturalist Zach Hutchinson moved to Wyoming three years ago, he had trouble finding updated guide books for where to find the best places in the state to view birds. So in his spare time, he started creating a map. This summer, in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain chapter of the Audubon Society, he plans to release an app called the Great Wyoming Birding Trail.

“Let’s say you’re coming to the National Parks in the northwest corner to see the great grey owl, but you have no idea where to start. This is going to put you in the place to see that great grey owl.”

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Hunters who use lead bullets may be contributing to the lead poisoning of eagles and ravens. But a voluntary non-lead ammunition program on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson is helping to curb the problem.             

Back in 2010, the non-profit Craighead Beringia South gave away copper bullets to prove to hunters that the quality was as good or better than lead. Research biologist Ross Crandall says, hunters are natural conservationists and don’t want to contribute to the illness or death of scavengers feeding on their gut piles anyway.

Bob Beck

The Wyoming House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow the state to sell two parcels of state-owned land located inside Grand Teton National Park to the federal government. 

Lawmakers would like 92 million dollars for the two 640 acre parcels.  During final debate the House added an amendment that would also allow the state to lease the land to the federal government if a sale falls through. 

Despite the fact that previous attempts to sell or trade the land haven’t worked out, Jackson Representative Ruth Ann Petroff said she is optimistic.

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Peabody Energy, one of Wyoming’s largest coal producers, appears to be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Emily Guerin

Dustin Bergsing was a young, fit, bull rider from Montana. On a cold night in January 2012, he climbed to the catwalk on top of a 20 foot tall crude oil storage tank on an oil well pad in North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield. His job was to pop open the small hatch on top and drop a rope inside to measure the level of oil.

Just after midnight, he was found dead by a co-worker, slumped on the catwalk.

Last week, a federal bankruptcy judge approved a loan that will help Arch Coal stay afloat while it works its way through bankruptcy.

Wyoming Wildlife Federation

The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering two bills that could put up millions of acres of National Forest lands for state control. The bills are being debated by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

Dan Boyce

Bruce Friest asks himself if he would have done it again, knowing what he knows now – move from Minnesota to start a small trucking company during the peak of North Dakota’s oil boom.

“I don’t know if I would, I really don’t,” he said. “It was hard on me, it was hard on my kids, I was married and my marriage fell apart.”

A couple of years ago, his trucks were sub-contracted to haul oil by a larger trucking company. Then that company, Montana Midwest, went bankrupt, still owing Friest more than $200,000.

With Industry In Turmoil, Energy Players Meet In Houston

Feb 26, 2016
IHS Energy/CERAWeek

  

The energy industry is in turmoil. Coal and oil prices are way down, there are big changes to environmental regulations in the works, and more and more renewables are coming online. Some of the biggest players in the industry met at a conference in Houston this week to weigh in on what it all means. Inside Energy reporter Jordan Wirfs-Brock was at IHS CERAWeek. She spoke to Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce from the conference about the biggest issues on the table for the energy industry.  

TRANSCRIPT:

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Last fall, many groups celebrated when the federal government decided not to list the sage grouse as an endangered species and rolled out plans to ensure the bird’s populations didn’t continue to dwindle. But now a group of wildlife advocacy organizations is suing the federal government for not making those plans strong enough. 

Emily Guerin / Inside Energy

BNSF Railway has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle alleged environmental violations in Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota.

The settlement covers several oil spills as well as compliance violations. The largest spill was in 2010, when a train derailed and leaked 7,400 gallons of diesel into the Wind River in central Wyoming. The other violations also involved trains spilling diesel into various bodies of water.

“The fine is a deterrent, to say ‘don’t do this again,’” said Donna Inman, a compliance and enforcement officer with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mark Jenkins

This week, National Geographic adventure writer Mark Jenkins embarks on what he calls his World-to-Wyoming Tour. Every year, he visits the state’s community colleges and talks about his latest expedition. This year he says he’ll tell a bittersweet story about twice failing to climb the highest peak in Burma. But he says, he won’t just be telling stories.

Earthworks

The oil and gas industry may be emitting more methane, a potent greenhouse gas, than previously thought, according to new estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Methane can leak from wells, pipelines and compressor stations, among other things.

At an energy conference in Houston, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the administration is not planning to turn a blind eye to the oil and gas industry's increased contributions.

"The data confirm that we can and must do more on methane reductions in the oil and gas sector," she said. 

Recent coal company bankruptcies pose a significant risk to taxpayers, the Secretary of the Interior told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday.

Some of the largest coal companies in the country were never required to put up cash or obtain third-party insurance to cover their reclamation costs.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the federal government is concerned there is little cleanup money set aside as the coal industry slides deeper into financial trouble.

Tom Koerner

A first-of-its-kind study shows that wind farms do have a slight effect on the nesting and chick raising of female sage grouse. The six-year study was recently completed by Western Ecosystem Technology (WEST), a research firm in Laramie. Biologist Chad LeBeau says that the wind turbines didn’t effect where female sage grouse chose to build nests, but once chicks hatched, they did tend to move farther away from them.

In January, the federal government notified the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality that bankrupt coal company Arch Coal could be in violation of mining regulations. On Monday, DEQ responded to the notice, writing that it has already dealt with the alleged violation which relates to Arch Coal's reclamation bonding.

Regulators cited an agreement that would require Arch to put aside some funds for future coal mine clean up as one of the steps it has taken to ensure the company's reclamation obligations are covered. 

Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails

The Wyoming State Parks division is looking to rebrand itself and fuel more Wyoming tourism.

The division's new media strategy will start with redesigned logos. Research shows visitors often confuse state parks with federal sites like National Parks.

State Parks Administrator Domenic Bravo says the goal is to establish a memorable "look and feel" for the State Parks brand. "We need to tell our story and we need to tell it in a way that lasts for centuries," he says.

In a surprise move earlier this month, the Supreme Court put the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan on hold while legal challenges are resolved.

On Thursday, speaking at a conference in Cheyenne, an official with the Environmental Protection Agency suggested that the delay may give states more time to comply with the rule if it is ultimately upheld. 

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