Natural Resources & Energy

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An international conference about mining reclamation ended in Laramie today. The American Society of Mining and Reclamation and the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center hosted the event, which featured technical presentations about reclamation issues as well as policy questions and case studies.

UW professor and director of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center, Pete Stahl, says there were many Australian and Chinese stakeholders in attendance.   

Department of Energy EIA

The Sierra Club and partner organizations filed a lawsuit today against BNSF Railways and several coal producers. The suit claims the companies are violating the federal Clean Water Act when they discharge coal dust along railways from the Powder River Basin without permits to do so.

Pacific Northwest Regional Press Secretary for Sierra Club’ Beyond Coal campaign, Krista Collard, says a letter of intent to file the suit was sent to all parties two months ago, but they did little to limit coal dust pollution.

Wyoming hosts mining reclamation conference

Jun 4, 2013

Mining industry representatives and researchers are gathering in Laramie this week for the meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation. The last time Wyoming hosted the American Society of Mining and Reclamation was in 2007. Peter Stahl, director of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center, says the fact that the industry gathering has returned to Wyoming so soon is a testament to the state’s role in the field of land reclamation.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the approval of three major renewable energy projects on public lands. Jewell emphasized her commitment to President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and said one of her top priorities was to continue the work started by her predecessor, Ken Salazar, to expand the nation’s renewable energy portfolio.  

A coalition of Wyoming groups has filed a rulemaking petition to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to address oil and gas development in the state.

The petition focuses on three main issues: increasing the setback of drilling rigs from homes, schools and businesses, adequate enforcement in the case of accidents and spills…and reducing the practice of flaring. Powder River Basin Resource Council’s Jill Morrison says flaring has been a recognized problem for some time.

The U-S Department of Interior released an updated draft proposal of fracking rules for federal and tribal lands on Thursday. The rule-making process started in 2010, and the latest draft incorporates feedback from more than 177-thousand public comments submitted.

The uranium market is slowing after a brief boom in the years after 2005. Increasing costs for the industry and uncertainty are making operators reconsider projects.

Cameco Resources’ President Paul Goranson told the legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee that Cameco will now aim to increase production to about 36 million pounds of yellowcake by 2018…rather than the previously announced 40 million pounds.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has started work on a study to determine the feasibility of regulating a larger share of uranium mining in the state.

Currently the industry is regulated by both federal and state agencies, which some operators say is burdensome, repetitive, and increases the time necessary to receive a permit. The legislature passed a bill this session commissioning the study about becoming what’s called an agreement state.

Encana’s Moneta Divide Natural Gas and Oil Development Project outside of Casper is still waiting for an Environmental Impact Statement, but it is slated to receive a record of decision in 2016. The proposed four thousand well development has brought up questions surrounding water management and air quality. But at the legislature’s Joint Mineral, Business, and Economic Development Interim Committee meeting yesterday, Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry said he wants the project to go ahead.  

A lawsuit filed by Tripower Resources says the energy company is not responsible for about $885,000 in back taxes from 2008 to 2010. Tripower says it did not own the wells from which these production taxes accumulated during the time period in question. But Campbell, Crook, and Converse Counties have listed the company as tax-delinquent. They’re applying taxes from current production to the owed back-taxes. Converse County treasurer Joel Schell says, according to statute, the current owner is responsible for any unpaid taxes.     

Three protesters were arrested yesterday at the Peabody Energy shareholders meeting in Gillette. United Mine Workers of America representatives were demonstrating against pension cuts to retired miners that came about when Peabody unloaded some of its pension responsibilities on a company that has since declared bankruptcy. Other demonstrators were there to protest Peabody projects and conduct. An organizer from Missouri, Arielle Klagsbrun, said the meeting was held at Gillette College and the arrests happened in the parking lot… 

A report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils says the oil and gas industry is using at least seven billion gallons of water per year in just four states: Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota. The report says after industry is done with that water, it turns into a hazardous material, and in some cases cannot be reused for other purposes.

Powder River Basin Resource Council member Robert LeResche says he’s also worried about states’ lack of regulations regarding the quantity of water used.

Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission recently okayed an aquifer exemption that would permit Encana Oil and Gas to pump waste water from their oil and gas projects in the Moneta Divide into the Madison Aquifer, about 60 miles outside of Casper. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that the exemption isn’t exactly a rarity, but it does bring up some big questions.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has been running an Engine Emissions Study for almost two years now. For the most part, Wyoming oil and gas fields are not connected to the grid and so they end up running on engines, which emit pollutants into the air. The study set out to evaluate emissions from these generators around the state. Results from the study show that a large percentage of the engines fail the tests. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov spoke with the DEQ Air Quality Engineer in charge of the study, Jon Walker, about why that is.

Over the years, many researchers have looked at a variety of research and economic development projects using Wyoming coal.  The idea is to open up new markets for it and to make it more viable for businesses and the public to use.  Much of this has surrounded coal gasification.   There has been a belief that coal could be used as a form of liquid fuel.  That was especially useful when oil supplies appeared limited in the United States…but as the country entered a technology revolution and opened up more resources…the interest dropped.  Experts say that the other reason interest has waned i

‘Gasland’ is a documentary about the negative effects of natural gas drilling. The narrator in the movie is seeking answers about natural gas development in light of a growing play around his own home in the Delaware River Basin, and his inquiries take him on a road trip to communities around the U.S. that have already been drilled into and have something to say about it. When the movie came out, it made big waves, and ‘Gasland-2’ premiers this weekend. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports on what’s changed since the first movie came out in 2010.

Public interest groups that lost a suit about disclosing fracking chemicals are appealing that decision to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Groups like Earthjustice and the Powder River Basin Resource Council argue that the separate chemicals used in the fracking process should be public information under the Wyoming Public Records Act.  A Wyoming District court Judge sided in March with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as well as industry when it ruled that not disclosing chemical identities when they are deemed a trade secret is permissible.

The University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources is working to forge a relationship with Saudi Arabia’s national oil and gas company, Saudi Aramco, and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. Saudi Aramco is the biggest oil and gas company in the world and invests heavily in research and development. SER Director, Mark Northam, just returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia. He says Wyoming and Saudi Arabia face similar challenges when it comes to unconventional reservoirs and water shortages, and he says they would both benefit by sharing their resources.

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking for more information from Encana Oil and Gas before signing off on the company’s request for an aquifer exemption. Encana wants to pump waste water into the Madison Aquifer from their oil and gas field in the Moneta Divide. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has already approved the request, but the EPA says the modeling of the plume that Encana did is too broad and the agency wants more information about why, according to Encana, the relatively clean water can’t be used for other purposes .

Department of Energy EIA

The Sierra Club says it plans to sue railroad and coal companies in 60 days for spilled coal in the Northwest, and sent out letters of intent to the parties. The environmental group has been testing land and water around railroad tracks, and claims to have found pieces of coal and coal dust that, they say, blows off the train cars from mines in Wyoming and Montana.

The Interstate Mining Compact Commission is recognizing two Wyoming mines for their reclamation efforts. The IMCC represents environmental protection interests and awards one non-coal and one coal project each year. The M-I SWACO Bentonite Mine in Big Horn County won the non-coal award and the Bridger Coal Mine received honorable mention in the coal category.

Department of Environmental Quality spokesman, Keith Guille, says the IMCC only gives two awards each year and it’s significant that Wyoming was recognized for both.

Feedback Sought on Possible Wind Power Line

Mar 28, 2013

A proposed wind power transmission line wants feedback on its proposed route.  The Zephyr Power Transmission Project is an approximately 850-mile transmission line that would deliver wind energy generated in eastern Wyoming to population centers in the southwestern U.S. As proposed, the project will begin at the Pathfinder Wind Energy Development near Chugwater, cross portions of Colorado and Utah, and end up near the Eldorado Valley, just south of Las Vegas.  

Willow Belden

BOB BECK: The Department of Environmental Quality has released a plan for tackling the ozone problem in Sublette County. Emissions from the energy industry there have combined to form a type of pollution called ozone, which can be a health hazard. Ozone levels have been so high that they violate federal standards, and the Environmental Protection Agency has given Wyoming three years to fix the problem.

Willow Belden

Sublette County has an ozone problem. Ozone is produced by emissions from the oil and gas fields and contributes to smog, which can cause health problems.  Several times in the past few years, ozone levels have exceeded federal limits, and the Environmental Protection Agency has given Wyoming three years to fix the problem. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has been working with local residents and industry to come up with a solution. But that’s hard to do, because nobody understands the exact chemistry of ozone formation.

Courtesy of Pinedale Online

Last year, a task force of citizens, energy industry reps, and local leaders got together to tackle the ozone problem in Sublette County. They came up with a list of recommendations for the Department of Environmental Quality. Among other things, they called for tougher regulations on industry and more rigorous air quality monitoring. In January, the Department of Environmental Quality met with the task force to discuss how they would respond to the recommendations. They said nothing was off the table, but that some recommendations could take a long time to implement.

Coal producers in the U.S. are looking to markets abroad to make up for decreasing demand at home. But a recent investigation by Thomson Reuters news service suggests there might be royalty underpayments on those shipments. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that royalty question is still unresolved.

University of Wyoming just initiated a new program out of its burgeoning School of Energy Resources. The professional land management concentration will train landmen. Those are people who look for untapped oil and gas and other resources and negotiate contracts between their owners and companies that want to develop them.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that the program is just in time.

[sound from meeting]

Sublette County violates federal air quality standards, because of high levels of ozone, or smog. The ozone forms when emissions from oil and gas development mix together, under certain weather conditions. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is responsible for fixing the problem, but there are a lot of unknowns about how ozone forms. Now, researchers at the University of Wyoming are trying to find some answers. We’re joined now by Rob Field. He’s an atmospheric scientist, and he’s been monitoring air quality in Sublette County for several years. to find some answers.

The School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming is funded in large part with money from the energy industry. Other universities have gotten heat lately for not being open enough with their funding sources. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that some stakeholders are concerned about too much influence from energy at UW, but SER promises transparency. 

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