Natural Resources & Energy

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Williams has identified the worker killed at the company's southwest Wyoming plant Wednesday as 36-year-old Michael Smuin of Kemmerer. The company says he was an operations technician at the Opal natural gas processing plant and had been with the company eight years.

The circumstances surrounding Smuin's death are still unclear. On Thursday, the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration said a burst pipe may have been involved. A spokeswoman for the agency says a worker on-scene also reported seeing a cloud of natural gas.

Wikipedia

The oil and gas company Battalion Resources filed for bankruptcy on September 8. The filing included three of its subsidiaries, including Storm Cat Energy, which owns hundreds of oil and gas wells in Wyoming. Court documents show the company has $83 million in debt and only brought in $8.4 million in revenue in 2015.

Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities

Cheyenne’s drinking water may see an impact in the coming years due to a fire currently burning in Medicine Bow National Forest. The Snake Fire began September 10 and has burned 2,452 acres. Some of the fire is burning near Hog Park Reservoir, a major provider of Cheyenne’s drinking water.

Dena Egenhoff, a spokeswoman for Cheyenne’s Board of Public Utilities, said the water from Hog Park isn’t directly used as drinking water, but is traded with Rob Roy reservoir since that location is easier to transport water from.

Wyoming Outdoor Council

After public outcry over the 2014 decision by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to downgrade the status of 75 percent of the state’s streams, allowing for the presence of more bacteria like e. coli, the agency has revised its decision. But outdoor recreation advocates say the new decision looks a lot like the old one.

The Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration says a burst pipe may have been involved in the death of a worker at the Williams natural gas processing plant in southwest Wyoming Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the agency says a worker on-scene also reported seeing a cloud of natural gas.

 

The as-yet unidentified 36-year-old man’s death is under investigation by the state and the company.

 

Amy Sisk

Opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline continues to grow beyond its North Dakota roots, with solidarity protests Tuesday in dozens of cities across the country and the world.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

A federal judge has confirmed Arch Coal’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy.

Arch declared bankruptcy in January, citing a weak market for coal and a high debt load. The company’s bankruptcy attorney, Marshall Huebner, told the court Tuesday that through restructuring, Arch has positioned itself to emerge as a viable company.

“To make it a lean mean fighting machine for the coming era, which will remain challenging and complicated for the U.S. coal industry,” he said. 

Arch shed $4.7 billion in debt through bankruptcy. 

A federal agency says elevated levels of carbon dioxide and benzene at the Midwest School are an “urgent public health hazard.”

A federal judge will consider Arch Coal's updated plan to get out of bankruptcy Tuesday. As part of that new plan, the company says it will replace its self-bonds in Wyoming with something more secure.

Arch Coal has more than $400 million in estimated cleanup obligations at its Wyoming coal mines. In the past, Arch was allowed to self-bond those obligations—effectively making a promise to clean up, without putting up cash or collateral to insure those obligations.

Wikipedia

More and more, water has become a limited resource in the American West. And now, the Institute for Advanced Study has initiated a new series called Earth, Wind and Water at the University of Wyoming to create open dialogue on water management and other environmental issues. The program “Water at Risk: Managing Life’s Essential Element” will happen September 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Berry Center Auditorium on UW’s campus.

Luke Brown

  

From the beginning, tribes from Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation have been participating in protests to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards interviewed Wind River Native Advocacy Center Director Jason Baldes two weeks ago about how his organization has sent several groups of people to participate in demonstrations.

Andrew Cullen

 

Hundreds of people gathered on the lawn outside the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck Friday afternoon for what was supposed to be a protest over construction of the $3.7-billion Dakota Access pipeline.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein gathered enough signatures to get her name on the November ballot in Wyoming, according to the Secretary of State's office. It is the first time a Green Party candidate has qualified for the ballot in Wyoming. 

Meanwhile, Evan McMullin, who is running as an anti-Trump independent, did not gather enough signatures to make it onto the ballot. Presidential candidates needed 3,302 signatures to qualify in this year’s election.

SKYGLOW

 

 

A man who fell into a hot spring and died at Yellowstone National Park earlier this summer is being remembered by the producers of a nature video series. 

Trevor Houser of the Rhodium Group

Hillary Clinton’s energy strategy would move the U.S. away from fossil fuels. But one of her closest energy advisers has roots in a top fossil fuel producing state. Trevor Houser grew up in coal-rich Wyoming. He's a partner with the Rhodium Group and leads the firm's energy and natural resources practice.

Mike Cline, Public Domain

Two of the four wolves suspected of preying on cattle in northwest Wyoming have been killed. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say that has successfully stopped the livestock depredations in the area, making it unnecessary to kill the other two wolves for now.

The Service’s Wyoming Field Supervisor Tyler Abbott says if it seems like there’s been more lethal control of wolves recently, that’s because there has been.

Penny Preston

While the National Park Service celebrated its 100th year of existence recently, the beloved federal agency is trying to figure out how to make it through the next century, while protecting the national parks “unimpaired for future generations”. Some people are concerned new funding sources may put corporate logos in the parks.

144 years after Yellowstone National Park was established, people from around the world still gasp and cheer when Old Faithful erupts.

Rebecca Martinez

  

Gas prices are at a 12-year low heading into the Labor Day weekend.

 

Labor Day is often the last road trip of the summer for Americans, and filling up the car for the long weekend will be cheaper this year than it has been in past years. The average U.S. gas price is currently $2.24 a gallon—almost thirty cents lower than it was at this time last year.

 

From Stan Burling’s house at the end of Main Street, it’s a minute walk to downtown Hazen in central North Dakota.

The street sports a thriving business community in this town of 2,400 with amenities like a drug store, an insurance company, a Chevy car dealer.

Power plants surround Hazen, along with the coal mines that feed them.

“They support the local economy,” Burling said.

About half the residents work in the industry, or in a related job.

“They buy their vehicles here, groceries, support the local retail businesses,” he said.

Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

  

Donald Trump is wooing energy-state voters by promising a presidency that will champion coal, promote drilling and free frackers from federal regulations limiting oil and gas development.

If the Republican candidate’s energy platform sounds like it was written specifically for fossil fuel companies, that’s because an Oklahoma oil billionaire helped craft it.

Donald Trump delivered his first major speech on U.S. energy policy at a petroleum conference in the capital city of one the country’s most oil-rich states, Bismark, North Dakota.

Standing Rock Sioux

Both tribes on the Wind River Reservation have submitted letters of support for the Standing Rock Sioux in the Dakotas. That tribe is protesting the development of an oil pipeline under the Missouri River, their main water source.

Bureau of Land Management / Flickr

The Bureau of Land Management has released new documents to guide its sage grouse protection strategy. Last year, the agency announced new sage grouse management plans covering more than 60 million acres across 10 states. Those plans were a major factor in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to list the bird as endangered, but they didn't include many details about how the protections would actually be implemented.

Wikimedia Commons

The number of sage grouse in Wyoming increased for the third year in a row, according the latest Wyoming Game and Fish Department survey. According to Sage Grouse Program Coordinator Tom Christiansen numbers increased this year by 16 percent.

Last year, they grew 66% but that's because Wyoming's sage grouse count fell so sharply in 2012. The bird was even under consideration to be listed as an endangered species. But this year has been wet, which has meant more food for chicks and more cover from predators.

U.S. Forest Service

A Wyoming conservation group has released a report describing what they call a calculated and incremental approach to transferring federal public lands into state control. The Wyoming Outdoor Council’s report says there have been an increasing number of land transfer bills in recent years, not just in Wyoming but around the West.

WOC's Steff Kessler says supporters of the legislation want local control of federal lands, but she says that’s not what would happen.

Stephanie Joyce

In fiscal year 2016, the University of Wyoming’s utility bill was $10.8 million—almost $2 million more than fiscal year 2015. Next year, as new buildings under construction come online, that bill is likely to increase, even as the University faces $41 million in budget cuts. That means there may be hard choices ahead—keep the lights on, or keep people employed.

Aaron Schrank

Amid a wave of historic coal bankruptcies, states like Texas and Colorado have taken proactive steps to make sure coal companies are on the hook for their future cleanup costs while in Wyoming, over $1 billion of these cleanup costs have gotten tied up in bankruptcy court.

Why are there different outcomes in different energy-rich states?

Wikimedia Commons

The fundraising campaign to improve the Jenny Lake area in Grand Teton National Park finished on schedule, just in time for the National Park Service centennial.

The Inspiring Journeys campaign exceeded its goal of $14 million and has already contributed to improvements of backcountry trails, wayfinding paths, and visitor facilities. Construction that began three years ago is scheduled for completion in 2018.

Jeff Gunn, Flickr Creative Commons

Yellowstone National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary of the National Park Service this year, but park officials are also looking to the future. Yellowstone Superintendent, Dan Wenk, says he hopes the next 100 years will continue to see conservation efforts, like working with neighboring areas to provide the best migratory routes for wildlife. 

“The preservation efforts can’t stop at the boundaries of the park,” says Wenk. “Wildlife, for example, does not respect political boundaries and it needs a much greater ecosystem in order to live and to thrive.”

Dan Boyce/Inside Energy

With help from a supercomputer in Cheyenne, researchers have developed a new solar energy forecasting system that could help utilities integrate more renewables and save money.

As part of the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas this weekend, the Bureau of Land Management will host a horse show with all wild horses. The seventh annual Mustang Days aims to show the benefits of adopting wild horses.

The Bureau of Land Management has 16 wild horse herd management areas in Wyoming, and tries to keep the number of wild horses in the state to around 3500. When herds become overpopulated, some animals are put up for adoption.

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