Natural Resources & Energy

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Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has unveiled several new federal plans for western states to preserve the habitat for the Greater Sage Grouse in an effort to keep the bird from being added to the endangered species list. The plans would keep energy development from occurring in sensitive areas.

Michael Berman's "Fence Line"

Coming up May 29 and 30 in Sheridan County, a pair of events will celebrate Wyoming grassland ecology. 20 artists and scientists will come together to present their work about a landscape many Wyomingites often take for granted: the prairie.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The report by the Rhodium Group and the National Committee on US-China Relations, details Chinese commercial investment in the US by congressional district. Wyoming, with just one congressional district, has seen around $770 million in Chinese investment state-wide.  According to Shawn Reese of the Wyoming Business Council, this is largely the result of two joint ventures between Chinese and American oil and gas companies in the DJ Basin and Powder River Basin.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Fair has announced that this year the event will be moved from Jackson to Casper.

Fair General Manager Dave Hutton says rising costs in Jackson was a major factor in the change of venue. But even with lower costs, Casper has fewer direct flights than Jackson, potentially making it more difficult for people to attend. Hutton says he does think this year’s turnout will be slightly lower in previous years.

Wyoming PBS will air a program tonight that will examine the challenges facing the sage grouse that may land the bird on the endangered species act this year. 

Called The Sagebrush Sea, the program will take a close look at why sage grouse numbers are in decline. Producer Marc Dantzler says he has been impressed by efforts made by the state of Wyoming to improve conditions for the sage grouse, but he says the bird’s condition in other states could cause it to be listed.

Wikimedia Commons

The director of the Wyoming’s chapter of the Conservation Fund, Luke Lynch, was killed in an avalanche on Sunday. Lynch and three others had ascended Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park when a wet slab swept them off the mountain. One other man was seriously injured but two others survived to make a rescue call.

Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs says it was the accumulation of fresh snow on top of winter snowpack that created the dangerous conditions.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

On Tuesday, Wyoming's Environmental Quality Council approved a significant new rule that will regulate oil and gas emissions in the Upper Green River Basin, an area that has been plagued by air pollution. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports.

Huge Magma Reservoir Under Yellowstone

May 19, 2015
Hsin Hua Huang, University of Utah

Scientists say a mammoth magma reservoir lies under Yellowstone. It’s four times the size of the magma pool that fuels the super volcano. They say it holds enough hot rock to fill the Grand Canyon 11 times… but you shouldn’t worry.

Dr. Robert Smith is considered the world’s foremost expert on the Yellowstone super volcano system. His publication last year drew attention worldwide, when it declared the magma body under the park was two and a half times larger than previously thought. 

Photo by Wendy Shattil/Bob Rozinksi under Creative Commons licensing

On Friday, two groups of oil and gas producers, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Western Energy Alliance, filed an injunction in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming against the first-ever federal rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing.  

This week, an Idaho environmental surveying company was issued several citations and a $15,000 dollar fine by the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Officials say the company, Nature’s Capital, failed to provide safety equipment or training to an employee who was killed by a bear in Teton National Forest last fall.

OSHA administrator John Ysebaert says Nature’s Capital should have provided bear spray, noise makers and required a trip itinerary. He says while $15,000  isn’t a steep fine, the amount is based on the violation, not on whether it was a fatality.

Some landowners are expressing concern about how expanded sage grouse protections could affect their private property rights. At a state sage grouse meeting last week in Douglas, two ranchers requested that their property be removed from the grouse’s current protected areas or be left out of proposed additions.

Last week, Utah representative Rob Bishop added a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act that would delay the listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. The bill says listing the bird could endanger the country by placing restrictions  on how military property can be used. 

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

This week, an opinion piece published on claimed that a new Wyoming law makes it illegal to collect data on federal lands.

The Wyoming Farm Bureau and the Office of State Lands and Investments says that is not accurate. Wyoming State Lands Assistant Director Jason Crowder says Wyoming has no jurisdiction over federal lands, but the law could impact state lands on a case by case basis. 

Federal Reserve Bank

The "breakeven" price for oil has fallen in step with oil prices, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The "breakeven" price is when producing oil is no longer profitable for companies. 

The Bank periodically surveys oil and gas companies in seven Western and Midwestern states. When oil prices started to slide, those companies reported an average breakeven price of $79. Now, those same companies report it's down to an average of $62. 

Stephanie Joyce

Citing recent decisions by financial companies like Bank of America to withdraw funding from coal operations, Governor Matt Mead says Wyoming needs to innovate in order to stay an energy leader.

During his keynote address at the Wyoming Business Report's Energy Summit, Mead said that he has and will continue to fight against federal regulations, but added that more will be needed.  

Wikimedia Commons

With oil's recent downturn, the industry is looking for new ways to get more oil out of the ground for less money and is financing research that could help it do that. Monday, the oil field services company Baker Hughes announced a one million dollar grant for the University of Wyoming.

Researchers will use the money to study how to get more oil and gas out of unconventional reservoirs.

Mark Northam is the director of UW’s School of Energy Resources. He says it will hopefully also bring down the costs of extraction.

Charles Cook via Flickr Creative Commons


There’s no doubt Wyoming is an energy state. With its low population most of the energy produced from fossil fuels and now increasingly from wind are sent to other states, here’s a fun fact: roughly two-thirds of all the state’s energy production gets consumed in other states.

There’s a problem though: the nation’s energy transmission system, whether pipes, wires or train tracks, are rapidly aging. In a new report, the Obama administration calls for updating the grid, which is bringing cheers from Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis.

Stephanie Joyce

The energy futures of Wyoming and California are becoming increasingly intertwined. Late last month, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that he’s speeding up the state’s transition to renewable energy, with a goal of reducing emissions 40 percent by 2030. Just days later, a major transmission project to carry Wyoming wind power to California received its final environmental review.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture is putting up 235 million dollars in grants for innovative conservation projects around the country.

The grants will support efforts like improving water and soil quality, wildlife habitat, and farmland. The grant was part of last year’s Farm Bill.

Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust director Bob Budd says the grants will tackle big issues.

After a decade of work the new Shoshone National Forest plan has been signed. The plan lays out how the forest will be managed in years to come.

Forest officials says it provides multiple use opportunities such as biking and camping while also providing protections for Grizzlies and other key species. 

Conservation groups had wanted Oil and Gas development to be banned, but Lisa McGee of the Wyoming Outdoor Council says she is satisfied with the compromise.                 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Over the last few years, Wyoming's African American population has grown faster than in any other state. According to census data, between 2010 and 2013, the number of black residents doubled. In some counties, especially those with a lot of energy development or tourism, that increase was more like 300, 500 or even 800 percent. Other rural Western states, all with unemployment rates well below the national average, are experiencing a similar trend.

Flickr Creative Commons

A report commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts predicts that sage grouse will be extinct in 100 years and could be gone from the Powder River Basin in 30 years, if their decline continues at its current rate. The Garton report, as it’s known, was released last week in the “Environment and Energy Daily,” an online magazine. Wyoming Sage Grouse Coordinator Tom Christiansen says he has concerns with the study--not the method or the analysis, but its conclusion that conservation efforts aren’t working.

Stephanie Joyce / WPM

After more than a dozen major crude oil train derailments in the last few years, the Department of Transportation is updating its shipping rules.

The new rules phase out the easily-punctured tank cars known as DOT-111s over the next three years. They also set a 50 mile per hour speed limits for crude oil trains, and require trains carrying more than 70 cars of crude oil to have better brakes so they don’t crunch accordion-style during a derailment.

Jeannie Stafford/USFWS & US Energy Dept

A chicken-sized game bird native to western sagebrush has become the subject of the biggest conservation project in U.S. history.

Efforts to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list stretch across 11 states from North Dakota to California. It is a complex balancing act between saving critical ecosystems while at the same time protecting the region’s key industries.

Department Of Wildlife

It’s been five years since Governor Matt Mead signed an executive order giving special protections to the state’s greater sage grouse populations. Now that order says it’s time to re-evaluate the plan and make sure it’s actually doing its job. The goal is to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife not to list the grouse as an endangered species come September 30.

Flickr user Geof Wilson

The oil and gas industry pays a ton of money in severance taxes to energy producing states like Colorado, Wyoming and especially North Dakota. When oil prices were high, North Dakota took in about $10.5 million a day. But as prices have fallen, so has revenue. In the midst of this, North Dakota lawmakers have passed a bill to stabilize and lower the state’s oil and gas tax rate.


Very few people in the state capitol of Bismarck support the state's current tax system. Representative Al Carlson, the House Majority Leader, put it this way:

Wikimedia Commons

For years, Wyoming has been the leader in Coal Production. Production has dipped slightly in the state, but Wyoming still produces 40% of the nation’s coal – far more than any other state. As part of Inside Energy’s series on the Future of Coal, Reporter Clay Scott visited the state and found the industry’s imprint on the West runs deep.


At a public meeting this week in Buffalo, the state’s sage grouse team heard ideas for increasing the Powder River Basin grouse populations. A new Pew Charitable Trust report shows that the area’s sage grouse are close to extinction with a 98 percent chance that in 30 years there will be less than 50 birds left there. Wildlife biologist Erik Molvar with the environmental group WildEarth Guardians says the coalbed methane industry played a role in the decline.

An Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed transmission line that would carry electricity from Sinclair to the Western U.S. is now available for review. 

Beverly Gorny with the Bureau of Land Management says the company Transwest Express, LLC, first proposed the 730-mile long transmission line in 2007.  Her agency will be accepting written concerns for the next month.

Shoshone National Forest

The long awaited Shoshone Forest Plan will be signed into law soon. The Shoshone Forest is the nation’s first national forest. The plan for the forest has been more than ten years in the making.

After forest managers presented a plan last year, that would allow off road vehicles and bicycles to expand in areas that had previously been off limits, several parties objected.

Forest Supervisor Joe Alexander said, “We had 72 objections to our plan.”