creative commons

Wyoming lawmakers are voting on the state budget this week and are considering proposals to strengthen the energy industry in the state.

15 million dollars is proposed for a facility to study the capture, sequestration, and management of carbon emissions from a coal fired power plant.  Senator Jim Anderson of Glenrock says it’s important to the future of Wyoming Coal.

“Perhaps bring Wyoming into a new era and it would certainly in regard to our reliance on coal and other things that are carbon based be a blessing if in fact we could do this.”

Wyoming Mining Association Executive Director Marion Loomis says coal’s future is bright -- but that there’s a need for continued innovation -- both in extraction technology and emissions control.

“We’ve made such tremendous strides in reducing emission levels. We’ve increased coal production about 170 percent in this country in the last 20 years and reduced pollutants by over 85 percent,” says Loomis.

Port facilities that would export Powder River Basin coal through the Pacific Northwest are continuing to move towards construction.

In separate decisions this week, Washington and Oregon both announced progress on permitting for coal export terminals in their respective states.

Along with much of the country, Wyoming has seen a dramatic spike in propane prices over the last six months, but industry observers say it should be short-lived. Baron Glassgow is executive director of the Rocky Mountain Propane Association.

“You know, in the U-S, we’re actually making more propane than we ever have before. So it’s not like we have a shortage of production. It’s just a combination of factors this year that have been kind of like the perfect storm,” Glassgow says. 

A program that recycled Russian nuclear weapons into fuel-grade uranium has run its course, and Wyoming Mining Association Director Marion Loomis says that may leave more room in the marketplace for Wyoming’s uranium. 

Governor Matt Mead and other elected officials made the case during a Jackson forum Wednesday that Wyoming's future depends on energy. They said that tapping state's energy resources, from coal to natural gas, is what pays the bills when it comes to building schools and other vital infrastructure.

But the governor said that doesn't mean producing energy should come at the cost of the environment. And that impressed Paul Hansen, who moderated
the forum.

Teton County drivers will soon be able to buy compressed natural gas at a filling station in Jackson.  The State Loan and Investment Board granted $766,000 towards the purchase of equipment for the project.  

Governor Matt Mead is committing $400,000 dollars for water delivery to households with cisterns in the Pavillion area. Residents have long complained of unusable well water, which some blame on nearby natural gas development. The money is part of a grant from Encana Oil and Gas, which operates in the Pavillion gas field.

19 cisterns are currently being installed, with another 13 households signed up.

The Governor’s Natural Resources Policy Advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, says residents will meet later this week to discuss how to use the money.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector increased about 2 percent in 2013 from a low point in 2012. The Energy Information Administration did the analysis. The agency attributes the increase to a small comeback by coal from a dramatic market share low in 2012.

The resource curse is real -- and discernible even at the county level -- according to a new study from the non-profit research group Headwater Economics.

Researchers looked at more than 200 counties across six western states, and found that those with above-average oil and gas development over a long period of time had lower per capita incomes, less educational attainment and higher crime rates.

Another proposed coal export terminal has folded. Ambre Energy is asking to be let out of a lease agreement with the Port of Corpus Christi, saying that shipping Powder River Basin coal out of Texas is no longer viable.

The company had planned to ship 1.5 - 2.5 million tons of coal out of the facility every year. Its decision to pull out is latest in a string of roughly half a dozen planned terminals that have been tabled or scrapped in the last year.

The federal government is getting ready to issue its first eagle-take permit for a wind power project in Wyoming. 

Normally, killing eagles is illegal. But the five-year permits allow wind companies to kill a certain number of eagles without penalty.

The Power Company of Wyoming hasn’t actually applied for a permit for its Chokecherry-Sierra Madre wind project in Carbon County yet, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started asking for public input in anticipation that it will.

What if the vast stands of beetle-killed trees in the west could be turned into gasoline? A recently-announced federal project involving several University of Wyoming researchers is trying to answer that question.

Most biofuels are made of crops, like corn and sorghum, but this five-year, $10 million project will study whether dead trees might work just as well -- while avoiding competition with food sources.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is trying to reduce energy consumption on farms in Laramie County.

Jim Pike is the district conservationist for the NRCS. He says many farms in the area have old, inefficient irrigation equipment that uses so much power it can overload the electrical grid.

“In 2012, the rural electric company had to bring portable, truck-mounted generators that were powered by diesel motors to generate additional electricity because they couldn’t keep up with it in their normal infrastructure,” Pike said.

A high-voltage transmission line, known as Gateway West, has been approved by the Department of the Interior.  The power line will stretch 900 miles across Wyoming and into western Idaho and will transport renewable and conventionally-derived energy. 

At today’s energy law conference in Laramie, one Wyoming lawmaker urged the state to be proactive in the discussion about greenhouse gas regulations.

Wyoming comes in just about dead last in the nation when it comes to energy efficiency. That’s according to the latest annual report from The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The Legislature’s Revenue Committee strongly supported a bill Tuesday that would lower interest rates on unpaid mineral taxes.

Currently, if a state audit finds that companies have incorrectly reported their production, counties can levy interest of up to 18 percent on back taxes.

The bill changes that, pegging interest to current rates, with a minimum of 12 percent and a maximum of 18 percent. Interest rates for companies that discover the discrepancy on their own would remain the same – at 18 percent.

Disposing of oil’s biggest byproduct is going to be a challenge for Wyoming in coming years. That was the takeaway from a panel discussion Wednesday about water use and energy development.


A deal to allow oil and gas development in a sage grouse conservation area near Douglas met considerable resistance when it was announced last month. Environmental groups said it set a dangerous precedent, and showed the state isn’t serious about keeping the bird off the endangered species list. The state said it was a necessary compromise that protects sage grouse while respecting private mineral rights.

Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce takes a look at tensions in the state’s sage grouse conservation strategy, five years after its implementation.

Willow Belden

There are fewer companies flaring off natural gas today than there were six months ago. In March, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had 65 flaring authorizations.  Members of the Legislatures Minerals Committee were told by Commission Supervisor Grant Black that now there is about half that number. He also said that companies generally request flaring permits when a compressor is down or there is no pipeline to get the gas to market and they’re seeing much less of the latter.

DKRW Advanced Fuels, the company that’s proposing to build a coal-to-liquids conversion facility near Medicine Bow, has submitted yet another request to delay construction. The company announced its latest construction schedule in June. It's now asking to place that schedule on hold for up to 30 months. At the end of that period it would either provide all necessary information – including a new construction schedule, socioeconomic analysis, and updated housing plan – or lose its permit.   

The US Environmental Protection Agency has released a set of rules that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas power plants. If finalized, the rules would be the first to set such a national standard. The rule caps carbon emissions from natural gas power plants at 1,000 pounds/megawatt hour and from coal power plants at 1,100 pounds.


Former Vice President Dick Cheney addressed attendees at the 17th annual Wyoming Oil and Gas Fair Thursday.

During his speech he praised the industry for helping reduce U.S. reliance on foreign energy, while condemning the Obama administration’s withdrawal from the Middle East.

Discussing hydraulic fracturing and other advances in oil and gas extraction, Cheney said he was impressed by how far the industry has come since he was at Halliburton, but warned it will continue to contend with a “war on fossil fuels.”

The Bureau of Land Management received a single bid at today’s coal lease sale, and it has rejected the offer.  Kiewit Mining Properties bid 21cents/ton on the Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II tract. The tract has about 167 million tons of mineable coal and is adjacent to the Buckskin mine, which Kiewit operates.

However, the bid is the lowest the BLM has received since 2001.

BLM spokeswoman, Beverly Gorny, says ultimately the bid did not meet the BLM’s secret calculations of what’s considered fair market value.

The Bureau of Land Management’s coal lease sale today coal lease sale received one bid. The Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II tract is adjacent to the operating Buckskin Mine in Campbell County. The bid came from Buckskin Mine’s operator, Kiewit Mining Properties, and amounted to 21 cents/ton for the estimated 167 million tons of mineable coal in the tract. If accepted, the tract could extend the mine’s life by about eight years.

A bill in Congress that would give states the exclusive right to regulate hydraulic fracturing has raised the ire of a national sportsmen’s advocacy group.  Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development has released a statement supporting federal regulation.  U-S Representative for Wyoming, Cynthia Lummis is a member of the Natural Resources Committee, which sponsored House Bill 2728 against federal regulation. 

Last week the Congressional House Sub-Committee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing focusing on the benefits of Powder River Basin coal production for local communities and national energy security.  Campbell County Commissioner Dan Coolidge testified that when he moved to Gillette, he never expected to stay. But, he said he was surprised by the impact of coal tax revenues on quality of life there.    

Julianne Couch is the author of Traveling the Power Line, a book about the many energy sources we tap into for our power needs – from oil and gas, to wind, to solar and uranium.

Couch teaches at the University of Wyoming and has also written Jukeboxes and Jackalopes: A Wyoming Bar Journey and Waking Up Western: Collected Essays. She now lives in Iowa but stopped by the studio to talk to Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov about her book.

The Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming is taking public comments on a long awaited 725 mile long transmission project.  The Trans West Express transmission project was started in 2008 and is intended to take renewable energy from south central Wyoming to Nevada.  Wyoming B-L-M Spokeswoman Beverly Gorney says they’ve had to consider a number of environmental and other issues in the draft environmental impact statement.