Natural Resources & Energy

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Stephanie Joyce

Creating a regional electricity grid would save money and allow for integration of more renewables, according to a new report.

 

Earlier this year, PacifiCorp, which provides electricity to a handful of western states like Wyoming, Utah and Oregon, announced that it was looking at merging its grid with California’s. Now, the company has come out with a report showing that could result in savings for the whole region.

 

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

“Coal keeps the lights on” is a popular refrain in Wyoming, and historically, it’s been true. But the Director of the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources says going forward, that may not be the case. 

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan calls for cutting carbon emissions from the power sector 30 percent by 2030.

Mark Northam says he believes it is technically feasible for Wyoming to achieve its required cuts, using a combination of natural gas and renewables.

“It’s doable. Whether it’s economically doable or not is another question,” he said.

 

A federal environmental rule regulating waterways is on hold after a U.S. appeals court issued a nation-wide stay on Friday. 

The controversial Waters Of The United States rule regulates things like streams and wetlands. It was put in place last year to clear up confusion over what is covered under the federal Clean Water Act. But industries like agriculture and energy as well as individual farmers and ranchers argued that the scope of the so-called WOTUS rule made doing business costly and confusing. 

Stereogab / Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

Harvest data is rolling in from around the state, and so far, it appears to have been a bountiful year. A wet summer and dry September were especially helpful for beans, corn and livestock pastures in Wyoming, according to Rhonda Brandt with the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

basinelectric.com

Governor Mead announced that the so-called Integrated Test Center will be built at the Dry Fork Station, a coal-fired powerplant near Gillette. The state has pledged $15 million dollars in funding for the lab. Another $5 million will come from the Denver-based power company Tri-State Generation. The goal is to develop new technology to turn carbon dioxide into useful products, instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.

Rebecca Huntington

The future of coal was the focus of the International Advanced Coal Technologies Conference in Jackson Hole this week.  

Researchers, officials, and advocates came from all over the world to discuss, among other issues, new ways to use coal. 

Imagine if carbon dioxide emissions, instead of being released into the atmosphere could instead be made into useful everyday products. A $20 million dollar prize was unveiled last week aimed at figuring out just that.

The call to submit ideas for how to actually do that came with the official announcement of the Carbon XPRIZE competition at a recent conference in Texas. 

The XPRIZE foundation itself is a non-profit that manages contests in five areas, one of which is energy and the environment. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

After holding a number of meetings to gather public input on an energy strategy for Wyoming, the Governor’s office is now asking people to vote on how to move forward.

The Governor released his first energy strategy in 2013. The administration says it has completed most of the initiatives identified in that document, which is why it’s now looking at a new set.

Beartooth Snowfields Melting

Oct 5, 2015
Dr. James Halfpenny

Snowfields that have topped the Beartooth Mountains for centuries are gone now. A Montana Scientist, Dr. Jim Halfpenny says they melted this summer.

A waterfall near the Beartooth Highway is just part of the beauty this area offers now. The highway brings travelers back and forth from Northwest Wyoming to southern Montana. The colors are brilliant. The sky is clear. The weather is warm and balmy.  

Wallpaperslot.com

More than a million acres of public land are at risk for development after a popular federal conservation program expired Wednesday when the U.S. Congress failed to reauthorize the 50-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Lorne Matalon / Marfa Public Radio

The price of a barrel of U.S. crude oil has plummeted by more than 50 percent since June 2014. U.S. producers claim that they're at a competitive disadvantage because they're restricted to selling their oil domestically at a time when they desperately need new markets to sell their expanding inventories.  

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

A federal judge in Wyoming has temporarily blocked implementation of new rules governing fracking on federal lands.

The new rules would require the disclosure of fracking chemicals and more mechanical integrity testing for wells, among other things. But U.S. District Court judge Scott Skavdahl argues in the injunction that federal agencies cannot regulate fracking.

Flickr Creative Commons

Several organizations have taken Wyoming to court over a law passed last year that made it a criminal offense to cross private property to collect data on public lands. One group that recently joined the lawsuit is the National Press Photographers Association.  The group's attorney, Alicia Calzada, says the new law violates the right to petition by criminalizing the act of collecting data to distribute to the public or to the government. She says that’s something journalists do regularly.

Albany County Public Library

Gardening in Wyoming’s cold, arid climate can be challenging, but using seeds that were raised and collected here could improve the results. So when Albany County Library’s Public Services Specialist Cassandra Hunter heard of a so-called ‘seed library’ in Montana, she decided to start one in Laramie. She says the area falls in one of the most difficult growing zones to garden in.

  

philipwarburg.com

  

In recent years, solar energy has gone from the fringe to mainstream. Solar costs have dropped dramatically while solar installations have similarly increased. Solar still provides less than 1 percent of the nation’s power, and in states like Wyoming, it’s virtually nonexistent. But many predict solar power will play a much larger role in the future.

Bob Beck

  

Last weekend Wyoming’s annual sage grouse hunt began. Many hunters were worried that this could be the last hunt in a while, since the bird was facing the possibility of getting listed as an endangered species. When the chicken-sized bird started seeing declines in the 1990’s, some states stopped sage grouse hunting altogether. Wyoming continued its hunt after changing the start date and limiting the take. That will continue, even as the state continues mandated conservation efforts. 

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Driving around the Powder River Basin in northeast Wyoming with Jeff Gillum and Jeff Campbell is like playing an extended game of “Where’s Waldo?”

Where most people would see a yard full of heavy machinery or an unassuming patch of prairie, Campbell and Gillum are constantly spotting coal bed methane wells. They point out the signature tan well houses everywhere as we drive around Gillette: in people’s front yards, in a storage company’s parking lot, even at the end of the driving range at the golf course.

Melodie Edwards

  

You might have heard a strange sound this last Tuesday morning around 10 a.m. It was a sigh of relief from ranchers, oil and gas workers and miners all over the West at the announcement that the greater sage grouse won't be listed as an endangered species. But you probably also heard the slapping of foreheads from wildlife advocates who say the grouse needs full federal protections if it’s going to survive.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

In Chinese cities like Taiyuan and Beijing, smog hangs heavy, blocking skyscrapers from view. It irritates your lungs and eyes. On a recent trip to China’s largest coal producing province, I even felt like I could taste the pollution.

NOLS

  

The National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS, turns 50 years old this Fall. The organization teaches outdoor safety and wilderness medicine and also has programs for leadership, networking, and general adventure in the outdoors.

NOLS was founded in Wyoming and is still headquartered in Lander, where it serves tens of thousands of students each year. Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard caught up with John Gans, the executive director at NOLS, to hear his take on the school’s 50-year legacy.

nols.edu

The National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS, turns 50 years old this fall.

The organization was founded in Wyoming in 1965 and is still headquartered in Lander. But in its fifty-year history, the school has offered courses on all seven continents. NOLS teaches outdoor safety and wilderness medicine, and it also has programs for leadership, networking, and general adventure in the outdoors.

John Gans, the executive director at NOLS, says what sets the school apart from other programs is its staff.

In Tuesday’s announcement that the greater sage grouse will not be listed as an endangered species, the state of Wyoming got a lot of the credit by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe who said the state's strategy for bringing the bird back from the brink showed long range vision.

“I have to point out singularly the leadership from the state of Wyoming in designing the Core Area Strategy back in 2008. Because it was Wyoming’s leadership that showed us what was possible for sage grouse conservation.”

Ladder Ranch

Wyoming Ranchers are among those who are pleased with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision not to list the Greater Sage Grouse as an endangered species.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in her announcement that one of the main reasons the bird wasn’t listed was the cooperation among individuals, industry, and government in conservation efforts.

Pat O’toole runs the Ladder Ranch in Savery, Wyoming. He says his ranch took several steps to help Sage Grouse – from putting land in conservation easements to creating more sage brush habitat.

Wikimedia Commons

Yellowstone is heading for a record tourist season.

At every Yellowstone attraction, there were crowds this summer. There were lines of people with cameras and spotting scopes roadside, and miles long traffic jams when motorists failed to pull over for the iconic park wildlife.

More than 3 million visitors were in the Park by the end of August. Records were set every summer month. Gateway communities like Cody benefited. The owner of the Proud Cut Saloon, Del Nose, said it was busy.

Wikimedia Commons

With the decision not to list sage grouse as an endangered species, a new federal report says the current approach is effectively isolating the birds from each other like animals in a zoo.

U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Steven Knick worked on the report, and he says many of the sage grouse protected areas are like small islands scattered around the 11 Western states of its range.

Wyoming Department of Workforce Services

Wyoming saw a large year-over-year increase in worker deaths in 2014. Thirty-seven workers died on the job last year, according to newly released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up from 26 in 2013, and is also higher than the three-year average.

The numbers are preliminary, so the Bureau did not calculate fatality rates that could be used to compare Wyoming to other states.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

As the list of orphaned wells in Wyoming continues to grow, state regulators are looking to strengthen oil and gas bonding requirements.

Oil and gas companies are required to post bonds before they begin drilling, in order to ensure compliance with regulations during drilling and cleanup. But current bonding requirements have been criticized for failing to discourage abandonment, and for not being sufficient to cover the costs of plugging orphaned wells.

Melodie Edwards

It was standing room only in Casper Wednesday night at a public meeting addressing the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality's decision to downgrade 87,000 miles of the state's streams.

Christine Lictenfells is a longtime guide and outdoor educator. She says the DEQ's decision wasn't based on a clear understanding of how people use high mountain waters. She says  backpackers and horsepackers bathe there and expect clean waters. She had a suggestion for the DEQ.

Wyoming Workforce Services

A change in reporting requirements means Wyoming employers will have to notify the state’s workplace safety regulators after the hospitalization of any worker.

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services is currently only notified about fatalities and catastrophes—incidents when three or more workers are hospitalized—but new rules from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration now require employers to report when anyone gets hurt on the job and lands in the hospital.

Crews managed to extinguish a fire at a Chesapeake Energy well site near Douglas after it burned for more than a week.

The fire started Sunday, September 6 and quickly spread to all six wells on the site. Chesapeake brought in Boots and Coots, a firm that specializes in well control, to fight the fire and cap the wells. The final well was capped on Tuesday.

While the fire was burning, some residents of Douglas reported an oily residue coating houses and cars. The company Chesapeake contracted to monitor air quality says the residue doesn’t pose a public health threat.

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