Natural Resources & Energy

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Renewable energy organizations who signed a letter opposing certain provisions in the Congressional tax reform bills
ACORE, AWEA, CRES, SEIA

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have both passed a tax reform bill, and both bills have the renewable energy industry nervous. That includes four organizations 

Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

Wyoming’s Republicans in Washington are hoping to pass broad energy policy in this congressional session after inter-party squabbling in the GOP derailed the effort last year.

In the last Congress, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan energy bill that included Wyoming Senator John Barrasso’s push to expedite the export of Liquefied Natural Gas. That bill garnered support from 85 out of 100 senators but was never sent to the desk of former President Obama. Barrasso was upset that the bill died after negotiations with House Republicans fell apart.

House Committee on Natural Resources

It’s been a busy week for energy in Washington D.C. While you may only be hearing about the tax debate in Congress, new bills are moving forward that relate to energy development out west. Dylan Brown, a reporter for E & E news covering coal and mining, gives background on what’s being discussed and what it means.  

 

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

Clean coal is a term President Donald Trump has used a lot, both before and after he was elected.

But what is clean coal? Congress first used the term in the late 70’s early 80’s when discussions about acid rain became a bit more heated. Along came some big changes to the Clean Air Act in 1990 which cracked down on the emissions that cause acid rain, such as sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide.

Kamila Kudelska

More than 150 members of the public attended a Wyoming Game and Fish Department meeting in Cody on the future management of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The group broke out into ten discussion groups to address different areas of management and research.

Mainly, the public expressed concern on how to manage the increasing population of grizzly bears in the area and how to manage problem bears. A proposed solution throughout the groups was to allow the public to hunt problem grizzlies under the supervision of Game and Fish personnel.

USFWS Mountain Prairie

The elusive swift fox is gaining in numbers on the western half of the state, according to recent surveys by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

Swift foxes and are much smaller than the red fox and hunt small mammals on the prairie, usually at night. That’s why wildlife biologists have been surprised to hear more reports of the animal closer to the mountains. Non-game biologist Nichole Bjornlie said they’ve been seen as far west as Lander.

Scott Copeland-The Nature Conservancy

There are thousands of abandoned mines in Wyoming. But recently Lander middle schoolers helped plant sage brush to help reclaim one mine near Jeffrey City.

The Bureau of Land Management teamed up with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, The Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups to teach kids about the value of the sage brush steppe ecosystem. BLM archeologist Gina Clingerman said you can’t just toss sage brush seeds out and expect them to thrive. That’s why she taught kids to plant seedlings.

Penny Preston

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality held a public meeting in Cody Tuesday to update the public on the operation of the Willwood Dam and efforts to protect the Shoshone River fishery.

 

(NPS Photo/ Tim Rains)

The National Rifle Association and the Safari Club International - a sport hunting group - joined forces this week to intervene in a lawsuit. The groups want to make sure their members are allowed to hunt grizzly bears in the three-state region around Yellowstone National Park but not within the park itself.

New Wyoming Game and Fish Department Website Page
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has released a new section of its website devoted to wetlands. Information has long been sprinkled around the website, but until now there has never been a one-stop shop to learn about the ecosystem. A team has been working on putting together the webpage for about a year. 

Ian Tator, statewide terrestrial habitat manager for the Game and Fish Department, said wetlands are critical to Wyoming’s wildlife even though they only comprise 2 percent of the state.

Wyoming Department of Workforce Services

The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services has released a report analyzing occupational fatalities in the state between 2012 and 2016. The report breaks down the numbers into industry and cause, while showing broader patterns as well.

WildEarth Guardians Logo
WildEarth Guardians

Conservation groups WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club recently filed a complaint with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, OSMRE, over two coal leases approved in 2012.

The groups say Peabody Energy’s North and South Porcupine leases, which expanded the North Antelope Rochelle mine in the Powder River Basin, were improperly approved and that the company should no longer be allowed to mine there. 

Grizzly bear
Credit Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone National Park; Jim Peaco

As the Wyoming Fish and Game Department hosts public meetings statewide on grizzly bear management  — some organizations are citing economic detriment as a reason not to allow trophy hunting of grizzly bears.

Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, a Jackson Hole-based organization, released a statement last week urging the fish and game department to not allow trophy hunting of grizzly bears in Teton County and near any national parks. Roger Hayden, the executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, said trophy hunting of grizzly bears would cause economic detriment to the county.

Stephanie Joyce

Every four years the federal government is required to release a report on the world’s changing climate and this year's was the most comprehensive report since Congress mandated it. It states there’s “no convincing alternative explanation” to climate change other than that humans are the cause. The report is the work of more than a dozen federal agencies, but Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse says the political appointees in the Trump administration have buried their heads in tar sands.

Cooper McKim/WPR

On an overcast day, an old golden retriever named Ruby walks around the edge of a warehouse in Casper. She’s stops and looks out, standing in the square light where a truck might pull in. Behind her is a large room stacked high with boxes full of rock, some of which have gold inside.

This warehouse is home to GFG (Go For Gold) Resources, a Canadian company that set up camp in Casper back in 2015. They explore and drill for gold out in the Rattlesnake Hills – a unique geologic region in the center of Wyoming. The company’s project area is 33,500 acres.

Charles Preston

Seven grizzlies have been shot and killed by hunters in Wyoming, since the state took over grizzly bear management. That compares to two grizzlies killed last fall.

Four grizzlies were killed in Park County alone this year, including one that Game and Fish put down, after it was shot. And, four people were injured in bear attacks. The question is how can those conflicts be reduced?

Boulder Basin Outfitter Carl Sauerwein described what happened when a grizzly mauled his guide and client this October, as they field dressed an elk south of Cody.

Statewide Chronic Wasting Disease Distribution in Wyoming
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

A case of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, was found in a deer outside Meeteetse. The white-tailed buck was legally harvested by a hunter southwest of the town, and was later sampled by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Testing confirmed the buck positive for CWD.

United States Capitol in daylight
Kevin McCoy

The U.S. House and Senate disagree over whether to slash subsidies for the wind industry.

In 2015, Congress agreed to five more years of a tax credits for wind production. If a company could make headway or finish development of a new project by 2020, they would receive a tax break called a production tax credit, or PTC. It’s helped launch investment in new projects around the country, including Wyoming. The surge in development is expected to add 38 new megawatts of wind energy by 2020 in the states, according to a Bloomberg-related research group.

Mark R. / Flickr

U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney has sponsored an amendment that would weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 on the eve of its 100-year anniversary.

National Audubon Society Policy Advisor Erik Schneider said the Act shouldn’t be changed because for 100 years, it has protected North American birds effectively. It was adopted in the early 1900s when bird plumes were fashionable on lady's hats and clothing.

Schneider also said the amendment gives an advantage to the energy industry.

Joe Giersch of USGS

As climate change melts away glaciers, it’s also drying up the habitat of two insects who live in the cold mountain streams that flow out of those glaciers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to list them as endangered. According to the Fish and Wildlife biologist James Boyd, warming temperatures are causing the glacier stonefly and the meltwater lednian stonefly’s habitat to shrink and what’s left of it to become too hot.

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality logo
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is changing how coal companies secure clean-up costs. For years, the department has accepted a kind of IOU based on a company’s financial strength. That’s called self-bonding.

Issues with self-bonding were highlighted in 2015 when several large coal companies went bankrupt, and were left without funds to cover reclamation costs.

Stephanie Joyce

At the site of Wyoming’s fraudulent Two Elk coal research project, another advanced coal facility wants to move in.

Wyoming New Power, Inc. is a company that plans on bringing clean coal technology to the state and selling that cleaner coal. That technology involves taking coal and removing moisture and pollutants to make it easier to ship and cleaner and more efficient to burn. This has been tried before in the state, but with little success.

(NPS Photo/ Tim Rains)

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is beginning a series of public meetings Wednesday, November 8, to discuss state management of grizzly bears. The Interior Department announced in June of this year that Yellowstone-area grizzly bears would be taken off the endangered species list.

BLM Scoping Meeting at the Little America Hotel in Cheyenne
Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

The state Bureau of Land Management held its first public meeting Monday, November 6, to discuss current sage grouse management plans and potential changes to them.

This “scoping” meeting was held as an open house at the Little America Hotel in Cheyenne. Posters were spread throughout a conference room discussing adaptive management, livestock grazing, resource management plans and more. Specialists were also on hand at each station to help answer any questions.

The BLM explains the purpose of the scoping meeting on their website:

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wyoming’s Bureau of Land Management office is holding two public meetings this week to discuss sage grouse management plan changes. 

Tony Webster from Portland, OR

Rocky Mountain Power is one of many around the country turning up their investment in wind.

 

The Department of the Interior is outlining steps aimed at increasing energy production on federal lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says boosting production of resources like oil and gas creates jobs and enhances the nation’s energy security.

Bob Beck

The EPA’s announcement that it’s rolling back an Obama-era rule to expand regulations on the nation’s waters and streams is being cheered by Wyoming lawmakers who now are offering input on how to rewrite it.

Farmers and ranchers across Wyoming were up in arms over the regulation commonly referred to as the Waters of the U.S. rule. It would have expanded the scope of what the EPA and other federal agencies regulate, which had many fearing the government would be monitoring dry stream beds and puddles. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso praised the move.

Ramaco Logo
Ramaco

On October 31, Ramaco announced they will appeal a decision made this month by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The DEQ denied the company's permit application for a coal mine in Sheridan. The state agency said the company's proposed Brook Mine application was deficient and needed more information on hydrology, subsidence, and blasting schedules, among other concerns.  

Bob LeResche, chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said this appeal shows Ramaco is trying to avoid fixing their application.

Jackson Hole’s annual SHIFT Festival kicked off this week with Native American leaders defending Bears Ears National Monument. Each year, SHIFT gathers outdoor enthusiasts from around the nation. This year, Native American leaders took center stage.

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