Natural Resources & Energy

Click here for more information on Wyoming Public Media's Natural Resources & Energy.

In a strongly-worded letter sent Friday, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality accuses the federal government of “political theater.”

Will Stone / KJZZ


Julie and Jim Powell’s air conditioner has been fending off the summertime heat since they bought their traditional Sun City home two decades ago.

“It’s been a workhorse. It’s probably twenty years old, but it does the job,” Julie Powell said, peering at the noisy unit from the shade of her back porch. It’s only midmorning, but her graveled backyard is already too hot to venture across.

Bob Beck


Most moose herds in Wyoming are in decline, but the Snowy Range Moose herd appears to be an exception. After a moose re-introduction in northern Colorado, they started showing up in the Snowy Range Mountains west of Laramie in the 1980s.

They’re commonly spotted throughout southeast Wyoming, but there is little data concerning their exact numbers. Now a joint research project by the University of Wyoming and Wyoming Game and Fish is trying to change that.   

Stephanie Joyce

Officials have identified the oil and gas worker who died at a well site near Midwest, Wyoming Thursday as 28-year-old Dennis McColloch, of Casper. According to the Natrona County sheriff’s department, McColloch fell from approximately 80 feet while working on the rig.

The county coroner says he appears to have died instantly. Initial reports that McColloch had been crushed by falling equipment were inaccurate.


With hotter summer temperatures in the forecast, natural gas consumption is expected to increase in coming months, and prices along with it. 

Electricity demand is at its highest across much of the U.S. in the summertime because of air conditioning. The Energy Information Administration predicts this year, natural gas will provide a majority of that power, overtaking coal as the largest source of electricity for the first time.

According to federal regulators, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality did not take appropriate action against Alpha Natural Resources when it was in violation of coal mining regulations. 

The issue, outlined in a letter sent by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) to DEQ, was that the bankrupt company was mining coal without enough reclamation bonding in place to cover its hundreds of millions dollars in reclamation liabilities.  

National Digital Library of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Two grizzlies that were raiding trash cans east of the town Dubois along the Wind River have been euthanized.

Brian Debolt, the large carnivore conflict manager for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said the bears were displaying bold behavior around people.

“In the last week I’ve probably had 50 reports of people either seeing the bears or knowing the bears have been through their property. You know, their trash cans tipped over, a bag of trash pulled out of their pickup, or picture on their trail cam, bird feeder torn down, those types of situations,” said Debolt.

If new carbon regulations go into effect, U.S. coal production will fall by around 25% by 2040, according to updated projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The Clean Power Plan is the first-ever federal rule that would limit carbon emissions from power plants. The rule is now on hold while legal challenges against it are resolved. 

A judge in Richmond, VA approved coal giant Alpha Natural Resources' plan to get out of bankruptcy Thursday. The approval went through, in part, because Alpha agreed to put up real financial assurances to cover future reclamation costs, which totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. 

"The terms of the settlement provide a managed route for the company to restructure and continue operating, while also taking responsibility for mine land reclamation as a result of former disturbances of private and federal lands," a Department of the Interior representative wrote in a statement. 

Lauren Connell


A University of Wyoming study is looking for non-lethal approaches to relocating prairie dogs colonies off ranchlands where they can cause problems for livestock grazing and onto public lands. The prairie dog study is the brainchild of UW Rangeland Ecology student Lauren Connell.  

Hatches Magazine

Streams in the Bighorn Basin are seeing low water levels earlier than usual this summer, which could lead to trout die-offs.

Local anglers near Sheridan and Buffalo first reported unusually low water levels in Little Goose Creek and Clear Creek to Wyoming Game and Fish. Shallow water raises water temperatures, which can fatally stress trout. 

A combination of low rainfall, little snowpack and high spring temperatures are all factors in the low water levels. Game and Fish is projecting the trend could continue in the Bighorn Basin if the summer continues to grow hotter.

Flicker Creative Commons

The U.S. Geological Survey is tracking the spread of an invasive species, the American bullfrog, in Montana and Grand Teton National Park. They’re using genetics to determine where the species originated so they can manage their numbers.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services is applying for a federal grant to help retrain workers affected by coal’s downturn. 

The $2 million dollar Department of Labor grant would be available to anyone laid off in seven affected Wyoming counties. It is part of a larger Obama administration initiative to help retrain workers in coal country.

One of the great hopes for saving the coal industry is the development of a cheap, efficient way to permanently store the carbon emitted from it, but so far, carbon capture and storage has struggled to live up to expectations.



Just before midnight on a recent evening, Chris Loman was still busy checking people in and out of the Oak Tree Inn in Gillette, Wyoming. She asked one guest about his wife and ribbed another about a past visit.

“They’re like family to me,” Loman said. “And I am to them.”

The Oak Tree Inn is not a typical hotel. It has private rooms, key cards, and fresh towels, but most of its guests work for BNSF, one of the nation’s largest railroads. Until recently, the entire hotel was under contract to the railroad.

Clean Or Contaminated? Residents Fear Tainted Water Post Fracking

Jul 1, 2016
Maryam Jameel / Center for Public Integrity


Sixty years after his service in the Army, Jesse Eakin still completes his outfits with a pin that bears a lesson from the Korean War: Never Impossible.

That maxim has been tested by a low-grade but persistent threat far different than the kind Eakin encountered in Korea: well water that’s too dangerous to drink. It gives off a strange odor and bears a yellow tint. It carries sand that clogs faucets in the home Eakin shares with his wife, Shirley, here in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Will Taggart and Aaron Pruzan

It wasn’t until the 1980’s that kayakers successfully descended the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River in northwest Wyoming, one of the wildest rivers in the U.S. But it was also around then that the state of Wyoming drew up plans to dam the canyon. A new documentary called Our Local Epic by kayakers Will Taggart and Aaron Pruzan explore how the Clark’s Fork became Wyoming's first wild and scenic river.


When we talk about energy efficiencies, we’re usually talking about efficiencies at home – turning off the lights, unplugging appliances. But power plants have efficiency issues as well – a LOT of energy is lost when we burn fossil fuels to make electricity.

We’re thinking about this because we received a question from a student, as part of our IE Questions project. Garrett Bess is 14, and he just finished up eighth grade at Wellington Middle School in northern Colorado. Here’s his question:

Maggie Mullen

Bright Agrotech, an indoor farming technology company based in Laramie, introduced a first-of-its-kind lighting system on Thursday.

CEO Nate Storey says indoor farmers depend on artificial light in the grow houses. But where there is light, there is also heat.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

New rules from the Department of the Interior aim to close what many have called a loophole in how federal coal resources are valued.

Most of the coal mined in Wyoming is owned by the federal government. Companies pay royalties for the right to mine that coal—in theory, 12.5 percent of the sale price.

At a House Energy and Natural Resources Committee meeting in Washington last week, Republican lawmakers criticized the Bureau of Land Management for its plans to research new sterilization methods for wild horses. Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert said there has been enough research and that it's time to start acting. 

“We don’t have time for a lot more studies. This has been an issue for years. It seems like we need a bill to end the studies and start the implementation.”

Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming Game and Fish officials report the state’s mule deer population is growing because of good moisture during the spring and early summer the past three years. Officials said this moisture helps grow the grasses mule deer need to eat coming out of winter.

Ian Tator of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said because of good rainfall, the number of fawns born the past two years is more than enough to help the mule deer population grow.

BLM Wyoming

New fire restrictions for public lands in Sheridan, Johnson, and Campbell counties will go into effect Friday. Those counties been dry and hot in recent weeks, and lightning strikes have caused two fires in the area.

The new Bureau of Land Management restrictions will prohibit things like building fires outside of designated fire grates and smoking on public lands. 


A fire near Sundance that burned one home and several outbuildings is now 75 percent contained and an evacuation order for the area has been lifted. 

A lightning strike ignited the Kara Creek Fire on Friday, and strong winds over the weekend propelled its growth to more than 12,000 acres.

Smoke from the fire briefly shut down I-90 on Saturday, as crews built a fire break. In a statement, the fire incident commander said there has been an outpouring of support from nearby communities.

In a reversal of its previous position, Arch Coal now says it would likely be able to obtain third-party insurance for its clean-up obligations in Wyoming, if necessary. 

Arch is currently allowed to self-bond its more than $400 million in reclamation obligations in the state, meaning it has promised to pay for future clean-up, but has not been asked to guarantee that promise with third-party insurance or cash. 

Wikimedia Commons

University of Wyoming researchers found 70 acres of land near Sheridan infested with Ventenata, an invasive grass species that’s been hurting hay production in nearby states.

A single plant of Ventenata was first found near the Sheridan area in 1997. Since then, the grass has spread unchecked. Ventenata is known to be a low-quality biomass grass–it doesn’t add a lot of nutritional content for hay production or livestock foraging. Ventenata can reduce hay production yields by up to 50 percent according to the United States Forest Service.

Kari Greer, National Interagency Fire Center

Dry winds and a lack of rain kept the Beaver Creek fire burning hot over the weekend. The blaze is located in Colorado two miles south of the Wyoming border. It’s now grown to over 6200 acres and the local sheriff’s office says two outbuildings have been consumed in the flames.

While no homes have been lost, about 60 cabins are still in the fire’s path. Firefighters have been using sprinklers and other prevention methods to prepare the buildings in case the fire moves closer.

the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Blue

The Beaver Creek fire in the Routt National Forest has grown to more than 5,300 acres and 40 homes are now threatened by the blaze in Northern Colorado, just two miles south of the Wyoming-Colorado border.

Michelle Kelly, Public Information Officer with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Blue, said containment has been difficult because of windy conditions and beetle kill trees.

The Bureau of Land Management


Regulators heard from all sorts of people, from firefighters to business owners to coal miners, at a meeting in Grand Junction, CO today on potential reforms to the federal coal program. 

American taxpayers are receiving less than they should from the sale of publicly-owned coal according to a report released by the White House today.

When coal companies mine federal coal, they pay a fee on each ton, a royalty payment.