Natural Resources & Energy

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Logo for the Environmental Protection Agency
Public Domain

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday signed a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan — President Obama’s signature climate change legislation. The 2015 rule aims to was meant to move the country’s electric grid away from coal and towards other sources with less greenhouse gas emissions.

Wyoming provides about 40 percent of the country’s coal, and most of that goes towards electricity generation. It’s no surprise the state has opposed the Clean Power Plan — or CPP — from the start.  

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

 

It’s a mixture you wouldn’t usually think of: black suits, pop country music, Japanese officials and the slight smell of manure. All these things came together at the CAM-PLEX event center in Gillette, Wyo., on Sept. 21 for a discussion about coal.

Stotting mule deer. Seen at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada.
Steven Fine

Mule deer can migrate a little bit easier starting this year thanks to new fencing along their migration route. Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department replaced old livestock fencing this summer with the help of several partners including the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund, Upper Green Muley Fanatics, Jonah Energy, and the Conservation Fund.

Mule deer migrate from Hoback, south of Jackson, to the Red Desert every year. It allows them to get the best vegetation and find the safest areas to raise fawns.

A Wyoming rig on federal land used for long directional drilling
BLM Wyoming / Bureau of Land Management

The Department of Interior, or DOI, plans to begin the process of changing the methane rule that’s currently in effect, and possibly end it permanently. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule aims to reduce unnecessary gas and oil emissions by improving technology, reducing flaring, and spotting leaks early.  

Cooper McKim

Experts from around the country gathered Monday to discuss Wyoming’s wind energy future. The free conference was organized by the Ruckelshaus Institute and the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy. Wind is widely considered a growing industry with consistently decreasing price sand Wyoming is considered to have one of the best wind resources in the country with high potential for growth.

U.S. Forest Service

Forest fires have dominated headlines in much of the west this summer. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso chairs the Senate Environment Committee and this week held a hearing on a string of bills that proponents say will help keep those catastrophic wildfires at bay.

To Barrasso and a bipartisan group of senators, the problem is clear: Catastrophic wildfires are manmade, well more precisely, made by the inaction of man and all the red tape of environmentalists.

EPA

  

Since January, President Trump has ordered systematic rollbacks of Obama-era environmental regulations. He’s voiced an intent to focus on energy development and jobs over environmental regulation.

Many of these rules were crafted by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency under Gina McCarthy. She was EPA Administrator during his second term. They focused on taking strong steps against climate change. McCarthy recently visited Wyoming and gave her reaction to these drastic changes.

 

Ghost of the Mountains, Brian Leith Productions with Disneynature Productions and Chuan Films

The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival attracted an international audience this week for what many call the Oscars of nature film. Finalists included Wyoming filmmaker Shane Moore. Moore started making films when he was just 12 and growing up in Granite Creek, 30 miles southeast of Jackson. He met pioneers of nature shows, including the Wild Kingdom and Walt Disney, on his family ranch where they came to film. Moore was a finalist for two films, Born in China and Ghost of the Mountains. Both feature the rarely seen and rarely filmed snow leopard.

Wyoming Women's Antelope Hunt

In 2013, when the Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt was launched, it was the first of its kind in the country. Since then, it has grown and now includes more hunters than ever.

During the second weekend in October, first-time female hunters will pair up with an experienced mentor in hopes of harvesting an antelope on the Ucross Ranch east of Buffalo.

Madelyn Beck / Inside Energy

Laramie sees a lot of wind, but it’s about to see a lot more wind politics. The University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economy and Public Policy and the Ruckelshaus Institute are hosting a wind conference next week called Wyoming’s Wind Energy Future.

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Interior Department is expected to take its first tangible step in making large changes to sage grouse management plans. Ninety-eight of these plans were established in 2015 across 10 western states. They came after more than a decade of collaboration in hopes of avoiding an endangered species listing for the chicken-like bird.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Ranchers have long complained about the amount of red tape required to get grazing permits, and about not being included on land management decisions.

The Bureau of Land Management hopes to resolve some of that tension with a new pilot program that will speed up the permitting process and allow ranchers to determine the best way to make rangelands healthier.

Wyoming BLM spokesperson Kristen Lenhardt said it’s in the best interest of ranchers to improve rangeland quality and their voice needs to be heard.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Washington rejected a key permit for the proposed Millennium Bulk coal terminal Tuesday. The terminal would have allowed coal from Wyoming and Montana to more easily reach other countries like China and Japan.

The Washington Department of Ecology rejected the terminal based on environmental impacts that came from the transportation and storage of coal.  

Earthjustice

The Obama-era “Fracking Rule" that would increase safety and transparency regulations for oil and gas companies is back on the table. A federal appeals court vacated a 2015 decision that stopped the fracking rule, citing government overreach and costliness.

Ghost of the Mountains, Brian Leith Productions with Disneynature Productions and Chuan Films

Hundreds of filmmakers are gathering at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park this week for a biennial film competition that attracts filmmakers from around the globe.

"It's incredible, I mean there's more than 800 people attending this festival from all over the world so it definitely is the Oscars of wildlife filmmaking," said Jackson filmmaker Shane Moore.

Chris DuRoss USGS

Scientists this week closed up a large trench they built to study the Teton Fault, a 40-mile geological feature along the east side of the Teton Range.

The research team affiliated with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Forest Service, the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and many other groups will now take data they collected in the trench and try to evaluate how often large earthquakes hit the Teton Fault.

Copyright by Dennis Kunzel and James T. Staley

Cutting edge science is discovering that billions of species of microscopic bacteria live everywhere... on our bodies and in nature.

Now, the National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Wyoming $20 million to learn more about those microbes. Scientists plan to sample and catalog microscopic life in the extreme ecosystems of Wyoming: from glaciers to oil pads to the bison rangelands of the Wind River Reservation.

UW Molecular Biology Professor Naomi Ward said the study will add greatly to human understanding of the role of microbes in nature.

Red Desert
Sam Cox / US Department of Agriculture

The Wilderness Society, a national conservation group, has designated the northern Red Desert as one of 15 wildland areas most at-risk of energy development on public lands. The Red Desert in southern Wyoming is home to several hundred wildlife species and numerous wilderness study areas, and up till now, has avoided significant energy development.  

But the Bureau of Land Management is reconsidering its management plan, which could result in renewed oil and gas drilling.

Constance Baltuck / NPS Photo

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is partnering with the National Elk Refuge and several other outdoor and hunting organizations to distribute 100 cans of bear spray to hunters and anglers in Jackson.

Dusty Lasseter, the Bear Wise Wyoming Coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said, as bears prepare for winter, human-bear conflicts become more likely.

“Because [the bears] are really bold and they’re trying to do whatever they can to get on some needed calories before they go into hibernation,” said Lasseter.

Snake River in the Snake River Canyon of Wyoming near Alpine
Joe Tordiff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allowing a reclassification of nearly 80 percent of Wyoming’s waterways as secondary contact recreation. That means those streams are no longer recommended sites for swimming, tubing, fishing, or recreation in general — unlike the primary contact recreation status.

The DEQ’s Lindsey Paterson said these waters don’t make sense for recreation anyway. They’re shallow with little flow and are in remote areas. The change also means those waterways are allowed to hold five times the level of e. coli, an indicator for pathogens. 

Cooper McKim

  

Energy companies, environmentalists, ranchers and government officials are getting back together at meetings across the West this fall to talk about the fate of a chicken-like bird.

 

Many of these so-called stakeholders have sat at this table before. The well-being of the Greater Sage Grouse was the focus of a hard-fought compromise among 11 states, finalized a few years ago.

 

facebook.com/pg/replizcheney/

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney is a part of a controversial new GOP push to loosen the nation’s gun regulations. Cheney and other Republicans say it’s an effort to restore second amendment rights.

It’s called the “Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act,” or SHARE Act. Not only does the bill deal with guns, Cheney added a provision that prevents the courts from revisiting the delisting of grey wolves from Endangered Species protection.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

Over 80 percent of new wind power last year went up in states that voted for President Donald Trump. It may sound strange when Trump’s aim is to bolster coal, not wind, but what red states usually promote is individual choice and a smart use of money. Now, wind power large and small is literally changing Wyoming’s energy landscape.  

Wind Farmer and Rancher

Some of that changing landscape will be around Chugwater, Wyo., population 212. Chugwater claims the state’s oldest operating soda fountain. But finding farmer Gregor Goertz was more of a challenge.

Kate Foster

It’s another day of hazy skies at the airport outside Laramie. A team of atmospheric scientists from the University of Wyoming are busy unloading from a recent trip to Montana to study the fires where all this smoke originated. For weeks, skies across the west have been filled with this billowing white smoke. Many scientists agree that the warming climate is causing more extreme fires, but it’s hazy whether all that smoke is generating even more global warming as part of a self-perpetuating cycle. Scientists like these guys are scrambling to find out.

Sage Grouse Implementation Team meeting, 09/15/17
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

The sage grouse implementation team met for the first time since the Department of Interior announced recommendations to a collaborative state and federal Obama era plan. But early last month, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended changes to the plan that would loosen restrictions on energy development while giving states more flexibility in implementing their own sage grouse protection plans.

CC0 Public Domain

Wyoming Hunters will be able to take wolves again. October first will start the first wolf hunting season in the Cowboy state since 2013.

Hunters took 43 wolves in the state’s first modern wolf hunt in 2012. Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department cut the next year’s quota. Only 23 wolves were killed then.

The state’s large carnivore biologist Dan Thompson said the upcoming wolf season will be a lot like the 2012-2013 seasons.

Public Lands in Wyoming
Bob Wick, BLM / Bureau of Land Management

Representative Liz Cheney is co-sponsoring a proposed bill that would allow states more power over leasing federal lands for energy development. The majority of Wyoming’s oil and gas development occurs on federal land. She said it could help reverse the decline in lease sales.

Black-footed Ferret
J. Michael Lockhart / USFWS

Wyoming biologists have spotted the first wild-born black-footed ferrets in over 35 years. They were found this week at a ranch outside of Meeteetse. The Game and Fish Department introduced a large number of black-footed ferrets at two ranches there last summer in hopes of developing self-sustaining populations.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

  

The U.S. used to be the world’s number one uranium producer, and most of it came from Wyoming. But since the 1980s, production has fallen off a cliff. Prices are at rock bottom. That may be about to change — uranium’s biggest customer is the nuclear energy industry. In coming years, hundreds of new nuclear reactors are planned for China and India. Uranium companies in the U.S. are hoping to gear up for a boom.

Elements of the Market

Dan Boyce

  

Superfund cleanups are a priority for Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He wants to cut through red tape that has left more than a thousand sites still contaminated with everything from radioactive waste to lead.

He also wants to remove sites that have already been cleaned up from the so-called National Priority List, which has more than 1300 sites. One of those sites is the town of Uravan.

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