Natural Resources & Energy

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Stephanie Joyce

In fiscal year 2016, the University of Wyoming’s utility bill was $10.8 million—almost $2 million more than fiscal year 2015. Next year, as new buildings under construction come online, that bill is likely to increase, even as the University faces $41 million in budget cuts. That means there may be hard choices ahead—keep the lights on, or keep people employed.

Aaron Schrank

Amid a wave of historic coal bankruptcies, states like Texas and Colorado have taken proactive steps to make sure coal companies are on the hook for their future cleanup costs while in Wyoming, over $1 billion of these cleanup costs have gotten tied up in bankruptcy court.

Why are there different outcomes in different energy-rich states?

Wikimedia Commons

The fundraising campaign to improve the Jenny Lake area in Grand Teton National Park finished on schedule, just in time for the National Park Service centennial.

The Inspiring Journeys campaign exceeded its goal of $14 million and has already contributed to improvements of backcountry trails, wayfinding paths, and visitor facilities. Construction that began three years ago is scheduled for completion in 2018.

Jeff Gunn, Flickr Creative Commons

Yellowstone National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary of the National Park Service this year, but park officials are also looking to the future. Yellowstone Superintendent, Dan Wenk, says he hopes the next 100 years will continue to see conservation efforts, like working with neighboring areas to provide the best migratory routes for wildlife. 

“The preservation efforts can’t stop at the boundaries of the park,” says Wenk. “Wildlife, for example, does not respect political boundaries and it needs a much greater ecosystem in order to live and to thrive.”

Dan Boyce/Inside Energy

With help from a supercomputer in Cheyenne, researchers have developed a new solar energy forecasting system that could help utilities integrate more renewables and save money.

As part of the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas this weekend, the Bureau of Land Management will host a horse show with all wild horses. The seventh annual Mustang Days aims to show the benefits of adopting wild horses.

The Bureau of Land Management has 16 wild horse herd management areas in Wyoming, and tries to keep the number of wild horses in the state to around 3500. When herds become overpopulated, some animals are put up for adoption.

Carbon emissions from burning natural gas are projected to surpass emissions from coal by around 10 percent this year. 

Wyoming Game and Fish

After sightings of mountain lions around Casper this summer, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department will hold a workshop to educate residents about mountain lion behavior and how to prevent conflicts with the animals.

Janet Milek, a spokeswoman for the Casper region of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said mountain lions have recently been spotted three times in town. 

For the second time in two years, the Bureau of Land Management will round up all the wild horses that roam a controversial area in southwest Wyoming. Known as “the Checkerboard,” it’s an area where wild horses live on federal and private land, but a court decision ruled that the BLM must manage the area's horses as if on private land. The horses collected in this round up will eventually be put up for adoption. 

Bob Beck

Wyoming Pathways, a cycling advocacy group, has been working to engage the public to discuss the future of the Pole Mountain non-motorized trails.

Pole Mountain is a popular recreation area near Laramie. During a recent meeting, Wyoming Pathways, the public and other recreation groups suggested improving signage, developing new loops, and better trail sustainability.

Stephanie Joyce

The federal government is changing its rules for mine reclamation, to ensure there is money available for cleanup even when companies declare bankruptcy. 

Rebecca Jacobson / Inside Energy

The federal government released new standards today aimed at increasing fuel efficiency and reducing carbon emissions from large vehicles like heavy-duty pickup trucks, semis and tractors. 

Stephanie Joyce

 

 

Glance at a satellite image of northeast Wyoming, and you can’t miss the coal mines. Even zoomed out, the square-cornered grey blotches stand out—stretching north to south over more than 70 miles. But if all goes according to plan, someday, when the mining is done, those scars will disappear, erased from the landscape by intensive reclamation efforts.

Carol S. Bock

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department continues to put the finishing touches on the plan for how Wyoming will manage the grizzly bear. This week Game and Fish Commissioners voted to approve a three state agreement concerning how Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana would manage grizzlies when they come off the endangered species list. Wyoming Game and Fish Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik joins us to provide an update on where those delisting efforts stand. 

Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific advisors say the agency did not sufficiently justify its conclusion that fracking has not caused “widespread, systemic” groundwater contamination.

When the EPA released its draft study about fracking and groundwater contamination last year, that was the principal finding, despite specific examples of local contamination. In a review of that draft, the agency’s scientific advisors say that conclusion is not backed up by the data.

Wyoming PBS

        

Wyoming is facing a primary election on Tuesday amid a historic downturn in the state's energy industry. In recent weeks, candidates for a variety of offices, including those running for the U.S. House of Representatives, have weighed in on the current energy situation, and how they would fix it. Our energy reporter, Stephanie Joyce, joins us now to fact-check some of those claims.

Stephanie Joyce

How strongly should Wyoming consider doing away with the practice of allowing coal companies to self-bond when it comes to clean up?   

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By contributing your comment, you consent to the possibility of having it read on the air. 

BHP Imaging

A University of Wyoming trail building program has created a summer work crew specifically for veterans in need of a job. The Wyoming Veterans Trail Crew will be a part of the Wyoming Conservation Corps beginning next May.

Trout Unlimited

Populations of native cutthroat trout appear to be rebounding, thanks to an effort to kill off an invasive species in Yellowstone Lake. More than 40 species, including bears, river otters and eagles, rely on cutthroat trout for food. But Trout Unlimited special project manager Dave Sweet said cutthroat have been under attack.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

With the downturn in the coal market, the federal government is encouraging states to reconsider whether to allow coal companies to self-bond. Self-bonding allows coal companies to avoid putting up cash or other assurances to guarantee their cleanup obligations.

The practice has come under scrutiny in the last year as many of the nation’s largest coal companies have declared bankruptcy with more than $2 billion in self-bonded cleanup on their books.

KQED

Concerns about who would be in charge of an integrated Western grid are delaying a decision on the issue, even though it is expected to increase the use of renewables across the West and save consumers millions of dollars. 

Wallpaperslot.com

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. 

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