Natural Resources & Energy

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Rep. Lummis appointed to US House Subcommittee on Energy

Jan 11, 2013

Wyoming’s Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis has been appointed to chair the U.S. House of Representatives’ Science Subcommittee on Energy. The subcommittee will oversee energy research, development and demonstration projects. Lummis spoke with Rebecca Martinez from the Capitol press room in Cheyenne this week.

Tim Considine is a professor at University of Wyoming and director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy. He’s done research on petroleum markets and written about Powder River Basin Coal. He helped organize a roundtable discussion about coal called “Powder River Basin Coal: Domestic Challenges and International Opportunities,” which took place yesterday, in Gillette…He said the industry has been facing challenges like ongoing uncertainty in regulations, yet coal exports are at record levels.

Willow Belden

In October, we reported that Chesapeake Energy had drilled a series of oil wells near Douglas, very close to people’s houses. Chesapeake says the area will likely continue to be a core drilling region. That has some area residents uneasy. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

Wyoming Republicans in Washington are advocating for phasing out the Wind Production Tax Credit, which has helped give the state a robust energy portfolio. Matt Laslo reports on the future of the tax credit in the near and long term.

Irina Zhorov

J.D. Darnell is a resident of Jeffrey City and has served as Sheriff's Deputy since the 1970s. The town is a lot quieter now than it was during the last uranium boom, which brought miners to the region, and plenty of excitement. That was all over by the mid-80s.Darnell looks back on Jeffrey City then, and now. 

To listen to the entire November 30, 2012 Wyoming Open Spaces program, please click here.

Many fossil fuel developers campaigned against President Obama this election season, fearing the effect of regulations and other restrictions on their industry, while environmental activists called for four more years. Now that Mr. Obama has won a second term, Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez spoke with some stakeholders about what that could mean for the energy industry in Wyoming.

Willow Belden

INTRO: This spring, an oil rig blew out near Douglas. Natural gas spewed into the air, and residents from a nearby neighborhood were evacuated for several days. Since the blowout, Chesapeake Energy has drilled several new wells around that same neighborhood, and residents have new concerns. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

A sculpture, called Carbon Sink, installed on the University of Wyoming campus, has generated a lot of controversy in the past couple of years. It was a pin wheel of charred logs that sought to draw a connection between coal, global warming, and increased beetle kill. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that this supposedly anti-carbon message certainly got the attention of law makers, donors, and those in industry.
 

IRINA ZHOROV: The piece was installed in 2011 and was removed in May of 2012, a year earlier than expected.

The Sinclair Refinery near Rawlins has had four fires or explosions since May, and Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has been investigating what went wrong. OSHA has completed its investigation into one of the incidents. It was a fire on May 25, which injured two workers. Wyoming OSHA Administrator John Ysebaert joins us to talk about what they found. He says one of the main problems is that Sinclair wasn’t properly training its workers.

Over the past few years, a growing number of people in Wyoming have been constructing buildings with an eye to making them more energy efficient. But Wyoming still lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to “green” building. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

Bob Beck

Earlier this year we told you about an effort to turn coal into gas in Medicine Bow.  Today DKRW Advanced Fuels has announced that it has secured a contract to its Medicine Bow project with the Sinopec  Engineering Group in based out of China.   Bob Kelly is Executive Chairman and co-founder of DKRW, and he tells Bob Beck that getting an actual bid on the facility puts wheels in motion.  

Irina Zhorov

Coal production and coal prices are down and stakeholders are offering up lots of reasons as the cause, from weather to new policies and competing fuels. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that it’s a combination of all these factors. 

Irina Zhorov: There is no doubt coal is struggling right now. Karim Rahemtulla is the Senior Correspondent for investment blog Wall St. Daily.

Rahemtulla: The predominant trend that’s in the market right now is a slowdown in consumption, directly related to coal, not necessarily other energy sources.

A Bush administration official has been speaking to members of the media this week about his concerns that the Environmental Protection Agency is overstepping its bounds.   Bud Albright is the former undersecretary for the Department of Energy.  Albright’s main point is that the EPA is unfairly making it difficult for energy companies to operate.  He says they are unfairly impacting the energy market.  He speaks with Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck.

Irina Zhorov

In the midst of a coal slowdown nationwide, not all is dark. Wyoming has been investing millions in research that would make coal a clean, viable resource in the future, despite its dirty reputation. The state has also been making strides towards friendship and collaboration with other big coal stakeholders, like China. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports.

Next on the show is the a Wind Energy expert and the author of the book Harvest the Wind:  America’s Journey to jobs, energy independence and climate stability.  Phil Warburg tells Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that while it appears that enthusiasm for Wind Energy has slowed down in Wyoming, that is not the case in the rest of the country.

Albany County, Wyoming

HOST INTRO: The Casper Aquifer provides fresh groundwater to Laramie and a portion of Albany County. The water is in great condition, and the city and county have traditionally worked in tandem to keep it that way, but their paths diverged a few years ago. Now, Albany County’s most recent Casper Aquifer Protection Plan resolution is open for public comment, and the public has had a lot to say about it. Rebecca Martinez reports.

(water faucet ambi)

USGS

The U-S Geological Survey released a study examining how coalbed natural gas production affects water quality in nearby streams and rivers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with Melanie Clark, the author of the report.

HOST: In December, the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft report tentatively linking water contamination in the town of Pavillion to hydraulic fracturing activities in the area. The release of the draft report caused a spectacle, and state, federal and tribal agencies have now caught in a bureaucratic holding pattern, while residents affected by contaminated water wait in a form of investigative limbo. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone attended a recent Pavillion Work Group meeting to get updates on the investigation.

Sage grouse have been dying out in Wyoming and across the west for years, and the bird is being considered for endangered species listing. As a result, Wyoming has made a major push to preserve prime sage grouse habitat. But recently, scientists have been warning that conservation may not be enough. Studies have recommended that in addition to protecting habitat that’s still intact, the state needs to restore areas that have been disturbed. So now, a variety of agencies are working to come up with a plan for large-scale restoration. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

As we’ve just heard, there’s a lot of concern over declining sage grouse numbers. And a lot of effort is going into keeping the birds from being included on the endangered species list. Part of that effort involves studying which aspects of human activity are most problematic. A new study published in the journal Conservation Biology examines how human-made noise – particularly the noise associated with gas development – affects sage grouse. We’re joined now by Jessica Blickley, one of the authors of the report.

Courtesy of Cameco

Intro:    For the last several years a number of companies and politicians have expressed interest in getting more actively involved in Wyoming’s Uranium industry.  Currently a task force of lawmakers is studying nuclear energy production and companies are testing the waters before they jump into the marketplace.  The upside is that Wyoming has a lot of Uranium, the downside is cost and regulations.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck has more.

Irina Zhorov

HOST: Everyone is predicting a uranium boom internationally and Wyoming has the largest deposits in the U.S. The state has a legacy of uranium mining, as well. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov looks at the boom and its history.

Dean Fitzgerald

HOST: When the Cold War caused a uranium boom in the 1950s, soil and water in the state suffered contamination. Reclamation has improved the landscape, and regulation is catching up with the industry  but it’s not perfect yet. Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez reports.

REBECCA MARTINEZ: Ore from Wyoming’s rich uranium deposits was refined and concentrated into yellowcake at mills in the state before being sent to processing and enrichment facilities elsewhere. The mills produced large amounts of sandy waste called tailings, which still contained uranium.

Tristan Ahtone

HOST: As we just heard, the uranium industry may have a long way to go in earning back the public’s trust, especially on the Wind River Reservation. In 2010, the Department of Energy released well monitoring data from the Wind River Reservation. What they found was that uranium levels in a number of their wells had spiked up to 100 times the legal limit. In early May the Department of Energy released tap test results showing uranium levels nearly twice the legal limit, but later said the results were anomalies.

Willow Belden

Sublette County is home to two of Wyoming’s major oil and gas fields … and emissions from the energy production have caused smog to form – a type of smog called ozone. Ground-level ozone can cause and exacerbate respiratory problems. It’s also a problem for legal reasons: ozone levels in Sublette County have exceeded federal limits several times in the past few years. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency is stepping in. It’s designating Sublette County a “nonattainment area,” which means Wyoming is obligated to fix the problem.

Last week, the Department of Energy announced that uranium at nearly twice the legal limit had been found in the tap water of four households on the Wind River Reservation. The event marks another incident in a long and troubled history in the area.  Wyoming Public Radio's Tristan Ahtone brings us this report on the find.

This week, there was an explosion at an oil rig near Douglas. Natural gas spewed from the well, and about 50 people were evacuated from their homes. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden visited Douglas shortly after the accident and put together this montage of residents’ reactions.

U-S Senator from Wyoming John Barrasso has been very critical of the Obama administration because of its position on such things as new air standards as it applies to the coal industry… and a number of other EPA-led provisions that, he says, will just kill jobs.  Senator Barrasso joins Bob Beck from the cloak room just outside of the U-S Senate.

There are more new ports designed for coal export being proposed in the U.S. and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coal producers are training their eye on the developments. With some of the most efficient economies of scale in the world, a larger percentage of PRB coal could be making its way across the ocean soon. What would that mean for Wyoming and the global community? Irina Zhorov reports.  

A new report by researchers at the University of Montana warns that unless energy development slows down, sage grouse populations in the Powder River Basin could die out. The study, which was commissioned by the BLM, was meant to determine whether the sage grouse population there can survive, given current oil and gas drilling activities, and what would happen to the birds if more drilling occurred or if there were new West Nile Virus outbreaks. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with Dave Naugle, who co-authored the report. He says the sage grouse population in the Powder River Basin has already declined by 82 percent as a result of energy development.

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