Natural Resources & Energy

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During this year’s Legislative session, lawmakers proposed a joint resolution known as the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action bill. Tailings are waste left over from mining operations. In this case, the tailings in question are from uranium mining on the Wind River Reservation. The tailings have caused groundwater contamination, which many residents believe has led to health problems.

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Starting next week, the group Trout Unlimited will be screening its new film “Green with Envy” in towns across Wyoming and Colorado. The film focuses on the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline, which would transport 81 billion gallons of water per year from the Flaming Gorge reservoir to the Colorado front range. Recently the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the proposal for lack of sufficient information … but the developer plans to re-apply and move forward with the project.  Colorado has rights to some of the water that flows through the river … but various agencies and environmental groups in Wyoming are adamantly opposed to the plan. I spoke with Charles Card of Trout Unlimited about the film his group will be showing. He says they oppose the pipeline project because it would lower the water level in the reservoir by about 120 feet.

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With only a week to go until the legislative session is over, Wyoming lawmakers are reviewing a number of bills, including a joint resolution requesting Congress to provide for increased monitoring and funding for remediation of the Riverton uranium mill tailings site. Tailings constitute waste left over from mining operations. Last year we brought you a story about the site in which the Department of Energy released data showing that uranium levels in the area had spiked as high as 100 times the legal limit, and while legislative action on the issue may sound good, it’s bringing up a lot of questions, and anger. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone reports.

Irina Zhorov

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The town of Medicine Bow is currently planning for a DKRW proposed coal to liquids conversion facility. The plant would be a financial boom for the state and bring jobs to the county. But this isn’t the first time Wyoming is looking into a project that would add value to its coal so it’s undergoing close scrutiny.

Western Research Institute/credit: Rebecca Martinez

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DKRW Advanced Fuels has licensed technology from GE and Exxon-Mobil to transform coal into gasoline at a proposed plant in Medicine Bow. But theirs is just one system of creating liquid fuel. Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez spoke with some experts about how synthetic gas, or syngas, is made.

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As we’ve just heard, existing coal-to-liquids plants emit a lot of greenhouse gases. But the proposed Medicine Bow plant is being touted as exceptionally green. Still, environmentalists have concerns about the plant’s effect on air quality and water reserves. And even if this plant is comparatively eco-friendly, future facilities may not have any incentive to follow suit.

Sara Hossaini

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Most residents we spoke with seem to be excited about the opportunities DKRW could bring. Wyoming Public Radio's Sara Hossaini heard from some of them.

TONI GEORGE: My name is Toni George, owner of JB stop and shop in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. I’m very much for it.   

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Wyoming has one of the highest rates of workplace fatalities in the nation. Recently, the state epidemiologist issued a report looking at why that’s the case and making recommendations about what should be done. Workers’ rights advocates are pushing for tougher penalties for companies that violate safety regulations. But for now, it seems the state plans to take a softer approach. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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While the Oil and Gas industry has had a number of workplace fatalities, that has not been the case in Wyoming’s Coal Industry. Tim McCreary is Safety Manager for the Thunder Basin Coal Company.  He tells Bob Beck workplace safety is a focus.

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In the class action lawsuit Cobell vs. Salazar, plaintiff Elouise Cobell accused the Federal Government of mismanaging nearly 150-billion dollars in royalties owed to Indian landowners due to the loss and destruction of records. The government agreed to a $3.4 billion dollar settlement – and government data estimates there are up to 8,000 possible beneficiaries here in Wyoming.

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