Natural Resources & Energy

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As lawmakers in Washington consider lifting the decades-old ban on crude oil exports, voices from around the country are weighing in on what the move would mean for the American public.

The oil industry’s top trade group has released a pair of brand new TV ads that tell viewers that lifting the ban would be good for national security and our economy. The American Petroleum Institute is running the ads in 12 states, including Colorado. The group estimates that allowing the foreign sale of US crude could increase domestic production by half a million barrels a day by 2020.

Office of the Governor

People in Wyoming are passionate about wildlife. Just say the word “wolf” in mixed company and see what happens. And it’s the state’s long history of negotiating with the federal government over endangered species like the sage grouse and the grizzly that has prompted Governor Matt Mead this month to announce an initiative to reform the 42-year-old Endangered Species Act. I asked him, what made him decide now was the time for this.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

With oil hovering around $45 a barrel these days, oil workers can go from making a six-figure salary, including overtime, to being unemployed and broke. When business is good, a $60,000 dollar truck, for example, might be a reasonable purchase and maybe even a business expense. But the oil industry isn’t like most businesses. Work can go away overnight.

Andrew Cullen

The high school football game is the center of life for small towns in much of rural America. And one town, in western North Dakota, is celebrating the return of that ritual for the first time in over a quarter century.

The Alexander Comets are a six-man football team (the school is still too small to host the 11-man game). On the day before their home opener, against a small town in eastern Montana, they're going over plays and their warm-up routine.

"I can’t wait for tomorrow to come," says wide receiver Jayy Morgan, "my head’s going to explode right now."

Wyoming Outdoor Council

Next Wednesday, September 16 in Casper, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality will host a public discussion of a decision to downgrade about 87,000 miles of streams in the state. The DEQ argues such waters are too shallow for swimming. Outdoor groups disagree, saying campers and hunters bathe and swim in them and that it could lead to more illness due to higher levels of the bacteria e. coli.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

What is the best way to manage your money if you live in a boom and bust economy?

WPM/NPR Community Discussion Rules

By contributing your comment, you consent to the possibility of having it read on the air. 

Wyoming Workforce Services

Wyoming saw a spike in workplace fatalities in 2014. Thirty-four people died on the job last year, up from 21 in 2013, according to a new report from the state.

 

Transportation-related accidents accounted for almost half of the deaths, and also for the largest increase.

 

The state of Wyoming and bankrupt coal giant Alpha Natural Resources have reached an agreement over the company's reclamation bonding obligations. But as it covers just a small fraction of what the state estimates it would cost to clean up Alpha's mines.

The state projects it would cost $411 million dollars at most for Alpha to clean up its coal mines in Wyoming. Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Quality asked the company to pay up on that obligation, in the form of a bond. But when Alpha declared bankruptcy in August, it still hadn't put up the money. 

Courtesy of Ken Lund, Flickr Creative Commons

It’s no secret that late summer is a great time to visit Yellowstone National Park. And, that means lots of traffic. With many people celebrating the Labor Day holiday, park officials say safety is a big concern. Park spokesman Amy Bartlett says that’s why park rangers and local law enforcement are working together to post traffic safety checkpoints along the park’s hundreds of miles of backroads.

Last week, a judge in North Dakota ruled against an EPA decision that would have imposed stricter water quality regulations for streams and tributaries around the U.S. Wyoming and 12 other Western states sued the federal government over the rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule. Supporters say it would help states comply with the Clean Water Act by protecting wetlands and stopping industrial dumping. But a federal judge sided with those states, agreeing it would place too heavy a burden on the agriculture industry.

A controversial wind project near Glenrock is inching closer to final approval. Wasatch Wind initially proposed the Pioneer Wind Park in 2011, but it faced significant opposition from the get-go and the company ended up spending the last several years defending the project in court and hearings.

Now, a new company has taken over and is hoping to start construction soon. Utah-based s-Power bought the Pioneer wind project in early August. s-Power owns a number of other renewable energy projects across the country.

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Wyoming’s Industrial Siting Council dealt a potentially fatal blow to the Two Elk power plant Monday when it decided not to extend the deadline for the company to begin construction on the project.

The power plant was originally proposed in 1997 to burn “waste" coal from nearby mines. The project developer, North American Power Group, has had its permit extended half a dozen times since then, but almost nothing has been built at the site. By not extending the deadline again, the Council rendered that permit invalid.

WPR/AARON SCHRANK

A company that manufactures scientific and technical instruments will become the second-largest corporate donor in University of Wyoming history.

Oregon-based FEI announced Friday that it will give $12 million to create a new center in UW’s High Bay Research Facility—which is expected to open next year.

FEI will provide imaging equipment and software to support UW’s research into maximizing recovery of oil and gas from conventional and hard-to-reach reservoirs.

Wyoming Public Media

Four years ago Ozone in the Pinedale area was compared to that of Los Angeles. The culprit was enhanced energy development in the Upper Green River basin. The area was listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a non-attainment area for ozone pollution under the federal Clean Air Act. But this week the EPA said that efforts to reduce those levels to healthier standards have worked. Wyoming Outdoor Council Chief Legal Counsel Bruce Pendery has been closely following the issue. He tells Bob Beck that the response to the problem was excellent.  

Leigh Paterson/Inside Energy

While states like West Virginia and Kentucky have been hit hard by the coal industry's decline, the picture for coal mining out west has been somewhat brighter. In Wyoming and Montana, it's mostly been business as usual—which is why some coal miners from West Virginia and Kentucky have decided to try their luck in Big Sky country. Here's one of those miners, in his own words.

nps.gov

It might have been a wet spring, but a couple months without rain has put Yellowstone at high risk for fire. Park spokeswoman Amy Bartlett says about 50 acres of forest ignited this week in an area along the southern shore of Yellowstone Lake known as Promontory Peninsula. Bartlett says, although you can see the smoke, there are no trails or roads in the area, only a couple campgrounds usually accessed by boat.

Leigh Paterson

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is starting to look at how to better quantify emissions from oil and gas wastewater disposal facilities. The facilities treat the water that flows up the well along with the oil and gas.

Due to falling gas prices and the end of a Wyoming tax credit, the state’s only ethanol plant is closing its doors. 

The tax credit expired in July, but current gas and corn prices also added to the demise of Goshen County business Wyoming Ethanol.

Goshen County Economic Development Director Ashley Harpstreith said 18 workers will be displaced, but she’s hopeful that this is a temporary shutdown. 

A State Senator said an agreement between the United States and China to share advances in Clean Coal technology is probably ten years too late. The deal was reached this week. Gillette Senator Michael Von Flatern said it’s better late than never.                

Wikimedia Commons

 

The world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide have agreed to share advances in clean coal technology. The terms of that deal were finalized after a meeting between U.S. and Chinese energy officials earlier this week in Billings, Montana. 

Wendy Rumminger

Autumn is the time of year when lots of wildlife like bears, moose and bobcats tend to wander into the streets of Jackson. It often leads to conflicts with humans. That’s why a local coalition of government agencies and non-profits called Wild Neighborhoods has created a website.

The group’s spokesman Stacy Noland says they’re encouraging locals to share tips and stories about how to minimize conflicts with wildlife.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

As part of a series of listening sessions held across the country, representatives from the Bureau of Land Management recently came to Gillette, Wyo., to meet with residents about the agency's federal coal program. The meeting quickly turned into an impassioned discussion about the future of the coal industry.

Janice Schneider, with the Department of the Interior, said the agency was looking for comments on “how the Bureau of Land Management can best manage its coal resources."

US Department of Energy

New sampling could shed light on contamination at the site of a former uranium mill on the Wind River Reservation. The mill operated for less than a decade in the 1950s and 60s, but left behind huge piles of toxic tailings. The tailings were removed in the 1980s and the remaining contaminants were expected to slowly dissipate over the course of a century.

Flickr user mwwile via Creative Commons

  

In North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield, demand for electricity has skyrocketed – unlike much of the rest of country, where demand been flat since the recession. Dale Haugen has seen this first hand as general manager of the Mountrail Williams Electric Cooperative, which serves the heart of the Bakken. In the early 2000s, things were pretty grim at the coop's offices, and in Western North Dakota, in general.

Wyoming Game and Fish

Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department has been awarded $1.3 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That money will help fund the state’s Private Lands Public Wildlife program, where landowners partner with the state to lease hunting rights and manage wildlife on their land.

Renny MacKay is a spokesman for Wyoming Game and Fish. He says it’s been easy to find landowners who want to participate.

Methane is one of the principal components of natural gas. It is also a greenhouse gas that is around 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the first-ever federal regulations to limit those emissions from oil and gas production. 

Wikimedia Commons

After a plummet in sage grouse numbers two years ago, a new report shows signs that the bird is starting to rebound a bit. The Western Alliance of Fish and Wildlife Agencies conducted the study with the help of Cheyenne-based consultants WEST.

It shows that sage grouse have been declining in numbers by almost a full percentage point every year since the study began in 1965. But the group’s Sage Grouse coordinator, San Stiver says, in the last two years, that decline has slowed.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

 

 

People from all over the state met in Gillette last week to comment on the Bureau of Land Management's controversial proposal to update the federal coal program. 

Office of the Governor

Energy has always been an important topic in Wyoming, but it’s increasingly becoming an important global conversation, especially in the context of climate change. Wyoming, as the second-largest energy producing state in the nation, is central to that conversation. Decisions made today will likely affect the state and the country for years and decades to come. In an interview with Wyoming Public Radio’s energy reporter Stephanie Joyce, Governor Matt Mead started by saying he thinks it’s time to move past the debate about climate change.

One of Wyoming’s largest coal producers has purchased a stake in a controversial export terminal in the Pacific Northwest. Cloud Peak Energy announced Thursday that it now owns 49 percent of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal in Washington.

If built, the terminal would be used to ship coal from the Powder River Basin to Asia. It's one of the few remaining terminals proposed; a number of others have been scrapped because of weak international coal prices and local opposition. 

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