Natural Resources & Energy

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Stephanie Joyce

Industry groups are already fighting back against a federal rule released Tuesday that would curb methane emissions from oil and gas wells on public lands. 

The rule would restrict venting and flaring from roughly 100,000 wells and the Department of the Interior says it could cut oil and gas emissions by up to 35 percent.

Wyoming Citizen Science Conference

The University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute will host the first Wyoming Citizen Science Conference in Lander December 1.

Citizen Science programs give regular people the chance to work alongside trained scientists on larger research projects in their own natural areas. Conference organizer Brenna Marsicek said biology and astronomy are especially good fits for citizen scientists, since they can easily gather data by simply looking around their own environment

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The Keepers of the Fire, a Native American organization at the University of Wyoming, is hosting a rally and dance performance on campus Tuesday to educate the community about the pipeline protest in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been blocking the completion of the pipeline for months because of fears that leaks would contaminate their water source.

Taylor Albert is the co-chair of the United Multicultural Council, another university group collaborating on the rally. She says Wyomingites could learn a lot from the Standing Rock protests.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Coal country is celebrating Donald Trump’s election victory. Support for Trump was strong from Appalachia to Wyoming, and people have high hopes he can reverse coal’s recent downturn. But can he?

Like most of his co-workers, Jeremy Murphy listened to the election results on the radio in his pickup truck as he worked the overnight shift at the country’s largest coal mine, in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

“The two-way radios at work were really quiet,” he said. “Really, really quiet.”

Melodie Edwards

The idea of turning public lands over to the state has raised the hackles of a very diverse group of people. At a recent anti-land transfer rally in Casper, hundreds of hunters and outfitters crowded together with environmentalists and bird watchers. Then on Wednesday, people turned out in droves at a Federal Natural Resources Management Committee meeting in Riverton too.

“They kept bringing in chairs,” said Dan Smitherman, the Wyoming representative for the Wilderness Society. “In fact, there was still standing room only when they got down to business.”

Wikimedia Commons

  

Donald Trump promised sweeping reforms to the energy industry during the campaign. He vowed to bring back coal jobs, boost domestic oil and gas production, back out of international climate change agreements and gut the Environmental Protection Agency.

Photo by Hannah Dunn

Farmers and gardeners will gather in Cheyenne this weekend for a new local food gathering called the Farm to Market Conference, where they will learn how to grow, sell, and process their produce.

Wyoming Department of Agriculture grants manager Ted Craig is helping organize the event. In recent years, he has noticed increasing demand, but also increasing options for selling local food in Wyoming. Craig gives credit to the widespread use of hoop houses, which help producers push the season into the early winter.

Public Domain

A new rule from the U.S. Department of Interior is aimed to spur renewable energy development in areas that have ample wind and solar resources as well as low conflict with wildlife. With the new rule, 700,000 acres of public lands could be used for renewable energy development through a competitive leasing process. 

Alex Daue is the Assistant Director of Energy and Climate for the Wilderness Society. He said public lands should be part of the solution to climate change. 

After a three year, $900,000 investigation, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has concluded fracking did not cause water contamination in Pavillion. But the agency has not ruled out contamination from oil and gas development in general.

Pixabay

A new economic study could help the State Board of Land Commissioners decide on a proposed exchange that could affect as many as 8,000 acres of public lands in Albany County.

Under the Bonander Ranches Exchange, the state would swap 1,000 acres of state trust land in the Laramie Range to a private landowner for less than 300 acres in Crook County. These areas are valued at the same amount, and the smaller parcel could bring revenue to the state in the form of leases and timber sales. 

UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

This week, a survey will begin to map the underground hydrothermal features of Yellowstone National Park for the first time.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in collaboration with the Aarhus University in Denmark and the University of Wyoming, will use a helicopter carrying electromagnetic technology that resembles a giant hula hoop to record tiny voltage signals.

JAY JOHNSON / ADVENTUREJAY

The public comment period is open on a draft report, which discusses improvements to cycling and pedestrian paths throughout Wyoming.

The Wyoming Bicycle and Pedestrian System Task Force, was appointed by Governor Matt Mead earlier this year, and will rely the public’s input as a guide for the final draft of the report.

Tim Young, the chairman for the task force, said the goal is to hear Wyomingites’ opinions on the different types of trails and paths they would like to see.

Stephanie Joyce

For months, it has been eerily quiet at the Midwest School. Other than the skittering of leaves across the cordoned-off parking lot, the only sounds are the clink of the flagpole and the dog barking across the street.

It’s been this way since May, when health officials closed down the 120-student K-12 school after detecting dangerous levels of toxic gases inside.

Alexis Bonogofsky

For the first time in 130 years, wild bison left their hoof prints on the land on the Wind River Indian Reservation last Thursday.

It’s a goal the Eastern Shoshone tribe say they’ve been working toward for over 70 years. And Wind River Native Advocacy Center Director Jason Baldes has been working toward it his entire career. He said, while only ten young bison were released this time around, the goal is to breed them and eventually grow a larger herd.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

With a record increase in U.S. crude stockpiles this week as well as increased production from OPEC, it is looking more and more unlikely oil prices will rebound in the near future.

Oil opened November back below $50 a barrel, after spending much of October above that threshold, and analysts are increasingly forecasting the coming year will not bring much improvement.

Surprises In Oil And Gas Campaign Spending

Nov 4, 2016
Jordan Wirfs-Brock / Inside Energy

This chart shows oil/gas and coal company contributions to presidential candidate committees. It includes contributions from company PACs as well as individuals employed by the companies who donated at least $200. While coal interests have retained their strong preference for Republican presidential candidates, oil and gas interests have shifted their spending to Clinton in the general election.

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission recently acquired a key area in the upper Green River Valley. It will remove a bottleneck that could have harmed mule deer migration.  

It was donated by the Conservation Fund who worked with others to purchase the property. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck spoke with Mark Elsbree, the senior vice president for the western region with the conservation fund, about why this is so important.

jacdupree via Flickr

Vehicle collisions with bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are up this year. A total of eight grizzlies have been hit by cars in 2016, more than records from 2012 through 2015 combined.

Most recently, a 260 pound grizzly bear was killed on Highway 89 in Grand Teton National Park.

The National Park Service received a call Sunday that a driver had seen the carcass on the side of the road. Park Rangers found the vehicle involved in the crash a mile up the road, and did not cite the driver.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency says it could take two years to develop an accurate method for measuring the impact of its regulations on coal jobs.

In October, in response to a lawsuit from Murray Energy, one of the nation's largest coal companies, a federal district court judge in West Virginia ordered the EPA to start quantifying the impact of its air quality regulations on jobs.

Wyoming’s first utility-scale solar farm is being proposed in Sweetwater County. 

Wyoming currently has less than 2 megawatts of installed solar in the entire state. If built, the Sweetwater project would be 80 megawatts—enough to power roughly 24,000 homes.

Jeannie Stafford / USFWS

A new scientific study suggests as wildfires become more frequent, sage grouse populations in the West will decline because of a loss of habitat. 

The study was published in the scientific journal PNAS and shows that if sagebrush continues to burn at the rate it has in recent decades, sage grouse populations will be halved in 30 years. 

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Things are looking up in the coal market, but 2017 is still going to be a tough year—that was the message from Cloud Peak Energy’s CEO during the company’s latest earnings calls.

Colin Marshall said a hot summer helped boost demand for coal domestically, as power plants ramped up to meet electricity demand for air conditioning. But the company’s coal shipments are still down by 26 percent from the same period last year.

Public Domain

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reevaluating a previous decision not to extend endangered species protections to wolverines. The agency decided against listing wolverines as an endangered species in 2014, but was then sued by environmental groups. Under court order, the agency will undertake a two-year review of whether the wolverine should in fact be listed, and will reopen the public comment period. 

U.S. Forest Service

A study requested by the Wyoming Legislature has found that transferring management of public lands from the federal government to the state would not be revenue positive. Those who support state management of public lands have argued it would increase revenue for the state by encouraging resource development. 

The state paid the Jackson-based Y-2 Consultants $75,000 to examine land management practices, costs and revenues. Almost half of Wyoming is federal land and resource development and recreation on that land is critical to Wyoming’s economy.

Penny Preston

The Shoshone River east of Cody is choked with mud for miles. Wyoming’s Game and Fish fisheries biologist is investigating for massive fish kills. The sediment release apparently happened when Willwood Irrigation workers flushed water from the Willwood Dam between Cody and Powell.

Willwood Irrigation District Manager Todd Singbeil would not comment Sunday on the mud flow.

State fisheries biologist Jason Burkhardt was not available for an interview either, but did confirm he is investigating the issue.

Tom Koerner/USFWS / Flickr

A new case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was found in a harvested mule deer buck 12 miles outside of Dubois this week. It was found in hunting area 128 and neighbors area 171 where CWD had been found earlier this year. According to Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife supervisor in Lander, Jason Hunter, it’s not surprising that the disease has spread. 

Leigh Paterson/Inside Energy

  

In a hotel ballroom, at the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort, candidates for the US House and Senate, and their surrogates, tick through talking points.

“There are two issues I know of Scott Tipton cares very, very deeply about. One of them is water. The other one is energy,” Chuck McConnell, of the Routt County Republicans, said.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Here’s a simple recipe for ozone: mix hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide chemical compounds in the air, and add sunlight.

“The sun comes out and cooks this mixture and the outcome of that is ozone,” said Steve Brown, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder.

Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

The fight over the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota has brought to the fore tensions over whether tribes are adequately consulted about development that could affect them. Now, the Secretary of the Interior has issued an order addressing that.

Secretary Sally Jewell’s order directs agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to collaborate more with tribes on resource management.

Stephanie Joyce

A federal judge has ruled the Environmental Protection Agency has two weeks to figure out how to quantify coal jobs lost because of regulation.

The EPA currently analyzes potential economic impacts from proposed regulations, but the court said those measures aren’t detailed enough. Judge John Preston Bailey found the Clean Air Act requires the agency to specifically analyze the potential job impacts and to continue that analysis once the regulation is implemented.

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