Natural Resources & Energy

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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. 

Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

A U.S. District Court judge in Wyoming has struck down a rule that would have governed fracking on federal lands.

Judge Scott Skavdahl concluded in his ruling that the Department of the Interior does not have the authority to regulate fracking and called the attempt to do so an “end-run” around the 2005 Energy Policy Act. That law explicitly exempted fracking from regulation by another arm of the executive branch—the Environmental Protection Agency.

Stephanie Joyce

As Alpha Natural Resources looks to emerge from bankruptcy, the government is opposing the company’s plan to transfer its federal coal leases to a new company. The Department of Justice argues Alpha’s current reorganization plan doesn’t adequately address the company’s cleanup obligations.

Alpha’s plan calls for selling off its most valuable assets to a group of its creditors, who would form a new company with them. Those assets include the company's Wyoming mines, which are on federal land. 

Melodie Edwards

  

On the shore next to the Buford Ranch pond in early June, clear plastic tubs sit in stacks with little ordinary-looking, brown speckled toads visible inside climbing the walls, trying to escape. And escape is exactly what a crowd of people—private landowners, environmental groups and federal and state agencies—have all gathered here today to help the toads do.

 A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate today by Senator Maria Cantwell (D- WA) would ensure coal mine cleanup costs would get more expensive for coal companies. Under current regulations, some companies pay little to nothing to make sure coal mine cleanup – or reclamation – gets done. This bill would change that. Confused? Let me explain!

Arch Coal filed an updated version of its plan to get out of bankruptcy today. This legal wrangling is the company’s latest effort to get everyone to agree on a repayment plan.  

Arch Coal’s new restructuring plan outlines how various creditors would be paid, or not paid, if the plan is approved.

In a statement, Arch Coal wrote that a group of its senior lenders do support the plan. But not all of the company’s creditors are on board. Some have even threatened to sue. 

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The University of Wyoming and nine other institutions have formed a coalition to study how fossil fuels can be used more efficiently and with less environmental impact.

The coalition led by Penn State is being funded by the United States Department of Energy, which recently gave a $20 million grant to the group. The funding will help the schools look further into issues such as carbon storage and natural gas infrastructure.

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

Nebraska-based Kiewit Corporation announced today that 45 positions will be cut from its Gillette mine. In 2015, around 218 workers were employed at Buckskin Mine, Kiewit's only in the state.  

 

In a statement, company spokesperson Tom Janssen wrote:   

 

"Unfortunately, the coal market remains extremely challenging. Low natural gas prices, low overall power demand and high coal stockpiles at utility power plants has significantly reduced our customers’ 2016 coal needs."

 

Tom Koerner/USFWS

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has confirmed the first ever case of Chronic Wasting Disease in Star Valley.

Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD, is a fatal brain disease that affects deer, elk and moose. The disease has mostly been reported in southeastern Wyoming, particularly in Albany and Laramie counties, and cases of CWD are relatively rare west of the continental divide. Two other infected deer were also found near Cody this past April.

Deal Could Finally Sell Grand Teton Land To The Government

Jun 15, 2016
Rebecca Huntington of Wyoming Public Media

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed a deal this week to protect land inside Grand Teton National Park from commercial development. 

Under the agreement, Wyoming would sell 640 acres to the National Park Service in exchange for a payment of $46 million from the federal government. That money would support education in Wyoming.

Stephanie Joyce

The latest attempt to block a federal rule addressing mercury pollution from power plants has failed.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards target mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, which are the largest source of the toxin. Mercury can cause health problems, especially in children.

Last year, the Supreme Court sent the rule back to the lower courts after finding that the Environmental Protection Agency hadn’t adequately considered cost when formulating the rule. The agency has since done that.

Mysterious Gas Leak In A Town Surrounded By Wells

Jun 14, 2016
Leigh Paterson

The search is continuing for the source of a gas leak that shut down a school in Midwest, Wyoming at the end of May.

Fleur de Lis, the company that operates the neighboring Salt Creek oil field, says it has plugged one leaking well near the school, worked on another six and is continuing to monitor as many as 30 other wells in the area. 

The Salt Creek field is the oldest in Wyoming, and an Inside Energy analysis of the state oil and gas database shows there are more than 700 active and abandoned wells in a one-mile radius around the Midwest school.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The company behind the largest proposed wind farm in the country, in Carbon County, says that uncertainty around Wyoming's wind tax policy is making it more difficult to invest in wind. 

Wyoming is the only state in the country that taxes wind energy production and is considering raising that tax, a move which could ultimately deter future wind projects.  

Stephanie Joyce

The price of oil has climbed up from its winter low, but once again fell below $50 a barrel on Friday.

Charles Preston

An Oregon man is killed when he slips into a hot springs hundreds of yard off the boardwalk in Norris Geyser Basin. A Canadian tourist is fined $735 for picking up a bison calf that had to be euthanized. Another group of Canadians faces criminal charges for filming themselves walking on Grand Prismatic Spring. Two visitors have died already this summer season, but the risky behavior continues.

Coal production during in the first quarter of 2016 was the lowest its been since 1981. According to the US Energy Information Administration, coal production in the Power River Basin dropped nearly 30% from the fourth quarter of 2015. That is a bigger drop than in any other region.

Demand for coal is down because of low natural gas prices, competition from renewables, and environmental regulations. An unusually warm winter also reduced demand, so companies cut production.

Stephanie Joyce

Earlier this year, on a conference call with investors, the head of one of the nation's largest coal companies shocked those tuned in with a frank admission.  Colin Marshall is CEO of Cloud Peak Energy:

"As we look forward, it is clear that the dynamics of the coal industry have permanently changed," he said. “Where coal used to provide baseload generation, it is now much more variable depending on power demand, renewable output, and the price of natural gas."

Stephanie Joyce

Inside the secured vault at Green House Data are rows and rows of glass and metal cabinets, chock-full of humming electronics and colorful cables.

“This is the cloud,” said Art Salazar, the company’s director of operations, as he led a tour of the building. “You're standing right in front of the cloud.”

The cloud, where you upload photos and stream video, is real, physical infrastructure, housed in data centers across the country.

Juerg Matter

In what could prove to be a major step forward for carbon capture and storage, a group of researchers in Iceland have discovered how to turn carbon dioxide emissions from a power plant into stone.

Carbon capture and storage is considered an important tool in the fight against global climate change, but the storage part of the equation has proved challenging—most work has focused on injecting the carbon dioxide into deep saline aquifers, which then need to be monitored for centuries for potential leaks.

Wikimedia Commons

According to the Wyoming Department of Health, the Zika Virus should have little to no presence in Wyoming this summer.

There have been 618 cases of Zika in the United States reported to the Centers for Disease Control over the past year.

The virus is linked to the birth defect microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with smaller-than-average heads and underdeveloped brains.

The largest consumer of Wyoming coal is projecting a shift to solar in the next 15 years.

Texas consumed 58 million tons of Wyoming coal in 2014, more than any other state, but many of that state’s coal fired power plants are headed for retirement, and Texas’ grid operator anticipates those will be replaced with solar power.

In California, there is so much solar energy that grid operators have to switch off solar farms. One solution of dealing with the additional power generated is to share the renewable wealth across state borders – but in the West, it's sparking some not-so-neighborly opposition.

Nancy Traweek's job is to balance California's electrical grid at the California Independent System Operator, keeping the lights on for 30 million people. She relies on huge natural gas power plants that put out a steady stream of electricity.

CC0 Public Domain

With more people eating gluten-free diets and more countries growing their own wheat, Wyoming growers are getting stuck with more product than they can sell.

Weather conditions in the last few years have allowed Wyoming wheat producers to grow lots of wheat they used to be able sell to around the world. But Wyoming Wheat Market Commission Director Keith Kennedy says many countries, like those in Eastern Europe, are now growing their own wheat. He says the ratio of how much wheat the state has to how much can be sold is the highest it’s been since the farm crisis of the 80’s.

Stephanie Joyce

The company that had proposed an experimental underground coal gasification project in northeast Wyoming has declared bankruptcy. Linc Energy wanted to use a process that involves igniting deep coal seams to produce syngas, which can then be processed into various liquid fuels or other chemicals.

An energy company has not yet found the source of a gas-like odor that shut down a school near its oil field in Natrona County.

Students and staff at Midwest School first smelled what they thought was natural gas last Wednesday. The school was closed on Thursday. Fleur De Lis Energy, which runs the nearby Salt Creek oil field, says employees have been working around the clock trying to find the source of the smell since.

Wikipedia Creative Commons

With only a few hundred in existence, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to release over 900 adult Wyoming toads onto land west of Laramie on Wednesday. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Coordinator Doug Keinath says there’s a lot riding on the release because of how rare this toad is.

“It’s extremely rare. It’s considered one of the most endangered amphibians in North America, if not the most endangered amphibian in North America. It only occurs within the Laramie Basin. So within 30 miles or so of Laramie is the entire global range of the Wyoming Toad.”

StoryCorps Facebook

An upcoming agriculture conference will look at how to entice younger Wyomingites to work in ranching.

This year’s Wyoming Cattle Industry Convention is titled Educating for Ranching Success in the 21st Century. The average age of a U.S. rancher today is 57. Wyoming Stockgrower’s Association Vice President Jim Magagna would like to see that number go down.

Collecting antlers is not allowed west of the Continental Divide between January and April, but South Pinedale Game Warden Jordan Kraft says that doesn’t stop people. He says the growing popularity of antler collecting is disturbing wildlife, just when the animals need to gain weight in the winter.

More and more people are making money by collecting antlers dropped by mule deer and elk and selling them for $14 to $18 a pound. The antlers are made into furniture, or ground into medicinal teas to sell on Asian markets. 

Stephanie Joyce

A bankruptcy judge has given Alpha Natural Resources approval to move its restructuring plan to a vote, over the objections of the federal government.

The government had argued Alpha didn’t provide enough detail about various parts of the plan, including how the company plans to pay for mine reclamation, for creditors to fully evaluate it, but the bankruptcy judge disagreed.

Donald Trump laid out his thoughts on U.S. energy policy during a speech today at an oil industry conference in Bismarck, North Dakota.  

Trump spent much of his time bashing what he referred to as Hillary Clinton's "extremist agenda."

 

As for his agenda, Trump wants to bring back jobs in coal, oil, and gas by rolling back what he called an onslaught of federal regulations and also by producing more fossil fuels.

 

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