Inside Energy

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.

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.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

 

It’s a mixture you wouldn’t usually think of: black suits, pop country music, Japanese officials and the slight smell of manure. All these things came together at the CAM-PLEX event center in Gillette, Wyo., on Sept. 21 for a discussion about coal.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

Washington rejected a key permit for the proposed Millennium Bulk coal terminal Tuesday. The terminal would have allowed coal from Wyoming and Montana to more easily reach other countries like China and Japan.

The Washington Department of Ecology rejected the terminal based on environmental impacts that came from the transportation and storage of coal.  

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

Over 80 percent of new wind power last year went up in states that voted for President Donald Trump. It may sound strange when Trump’s aim is to bolster coal, not wind, but what red states usually promote is individual choice and a smart use of money. Now, wind power large and small is literally changing Wyoming’s energy landscape.  

Wind Farmer and Rancher

Some of that changing landscape will be around Chugwater, Wyo., population 212. Chugwater claims the state’s oldest operating soda fountain. But finding farmer Gregor Goertz was more of a challenge.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

  

The U.S. used to be the world’s number one uranium producer, and most of it came from Wyoming. But since the 1980s, production has fallen off a cliff. Prices are at rock bottom. That may be about to change — uranium’s biggest customer is the nuclear energy industry. In coming years, hundreds of new nuclear reactors are planned for China and India. Uranium companies in the U.S. are hoping to gear up for a boom.

Elements of the Market

Dan Boyce

  

Superfund cleanups are a priority for Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He wants to cut through red tape that has left more than a thousand sites still contaminated with everything from radioactive waste to lead.

He also wants to remove sites that have already been cleaned up from the so-called National Priority List, which has more than 1300 sites. One of those sites is the town of Uravan.

Dan Boyce

At 11 p.m. on a recent Friday night, the West Elk Mine outside Somerset opened its gates. Cars and trucks started rolling out, signaling the end of a coal mining shift in this rural pocket of Colorado.

Workers had been opening up a new section of the mine four or five miles underground, a tough job made tougher considering that the current economics of the coal industry means fewer workers at the mine.

Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

West Virginia wants to use federal dollars to subsidize Appalachian coal. Some think that’s picking favorites — not just over natural gas and renewables, but over other coal states. 

Madelyn Beck

When Alpha Natural Resources went into bankruptcy in 2015, it formed a new company called Contura Energy with some of Alpha’s best coal assets - mines in Wyoming and Appalachia.

Earlier this summer, Contura announced it was going to go public, hoping to expand in the U.S. and beyond. Usually, companies go public and sell shares to raise money and grow their business.  

Now, Contura is backing out of that plan.

The company said it’s because of "capital market conditions."

Madelyn Beck

An accident in Colorado brings the total coal mine deaths this year to 11: more than in all of 2016.

Blue Mountain Energy, Inc. released a statement Aug. 3 saying a worker at their Deserado Mine died the night before. 

"The accident occurred above ground inside the coal processing building, as the worker was attempting to remove a portion of a steel beam," it said.

The employee's name had not been released as of August 4. That accident is now under investigation.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

A changing climate may be bad PR for fossil fuels, but it could help their bottom line.

Two major coal companies released earnings reports in late July stating how higher temperatures mean coal stockpiles are being eaten up. Both Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy are hoping for a long, hot summer so that trend continues.

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

Wind energy projects are being built all over the U.S. and a new report shows just how fast they're cropping up. 

The American Wind Energy Association found that, since last year, the amount of wind energy under construction or nearly under construction increased 40 percent. That increase is enough to power more than 1.6 million homes on average.

Now, not all of the wind energy planned last year has come online this year, but more than half of it has.

Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

Way up in northern North Dakota lies an old oilfield with a problem 60 years in the making.

It’s noticeable on farmers’ land, like the fields harvested by Clarke Stevens near the small town of Glenburn.

His wheat fields span far across the prairie. In the middle is a 3-acre patch of barren soil.

“We’re always farming around areas like this, and every year they continue to grow,” Stevens said.

 

This is the site of an old brine pit. Decades ago, trucks took this salty wastewater — produced alongside oil from nearby wells — and dumped it into this pit.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

Millions of gallons of salty wastewater are produced each day wherever there’s oil and gas production. Most states inject wastewater deep underground.  In Wyoming, above-ground wastewater ponds are still used.

They aren’t what people would expect, though — especially the fountains. A little larger and they’d be perfect to put in front of Las Vegas casino, fanning out in all directions.

The fountains aren’t just for looks, though. They help evaporate the water and hold off bacteria, keeping the smell down.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR

Wyoming legislators killed a proposal June 29 that could have given a tax break to the state’s uranium industry. The vote wasn’t close.

Eleven of 12 present lawmakers voted no to a tax break during a meeting by the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee.

The Wyoming Mining Association was hoping to secure a tax break for uranium companies. The industry has been struggling, seeing layoffs and an 85 percent price drop since 2007.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

 

The Gillette Workforce Center had a front row seat for the town’s coal woes.

The office has cream-colored walls, decorated with motivational posters and pictures of coal mines. Vermona Petersen is the manager of the center, which helps people find a new job.

“At the height of the layoffs last year, we were seeing between 250 and 300 people a day,” she said. 

Wyoming coal mines laid off more than 450 workers last March amid financial troubles exacerbated by low natural gas prices and debt.

Fatal Home Explosion In Colorado Reignites Setback Debate

May 12, 2017
YouTube channel Cataclysmic

On the afternoon of April 17th, 10-year-old Gillian Chapman and her little sister Kailey were on their front porch. Gillian had on her roller blades; Kailey had her scooter. They had just gotten permission to go visit their friend Jaelynn, across the street and two doors down.

Then, Jaelynn’s house exploded.

“The house just split open,” Gillian said. “You could see the upstairs.”

Jaelynn Martinez was not in her home at the time, but her father Mark and uncle Joey Irwin were in the basement and were killed in the blast. Her mother, Erin Martinez was injured.

Filling In The Natural Gas Gaps

Apr 7, 2017
Amy Sisk/Inside Energy

  

With the fracking boom ushering in cheap natural gas prices nationwide, nearly 40 states have adopted or are considering new legislation to expand gas service.

Big gaps exist in rural America where natural gas does not reach. These areas rely heavily on propane, with 12 million homes that use it for heating.

One North Dakota town is looking to make the switch, pushing the Legislature for flexibility to craft its own plan to bring in natural gas service.

Gage Skidmore

From cabinet picks to environmental regulations, there has been a lot of energy news in the first few weeks of the Trump Administration. Inside Energy reporter Leigh Paterson joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard from Denver to talk about some of the changes happening in Washington and how they could affect the West.

Celia Talbot Tobin / Inside Energy

  

Protesters have been camped out on federal land at the Dakota Access construction site in North Dakota for months, and now winter has arrived, dumping almost two feet of snow on the encampment the last week of November. The winter storm hit just before news that president-elect Donald Trump indicated he supports completion of the pipeline.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Coal country is celebrating Donald Trump’s election victory. Support for Trump was strong from Appalachia to Wyoming, and people have high hopes he can reverse coal’s recent downturn. But can he?

Like most of his co-workers, Jeremy Murphy listened to the election results on the radio in his pickup truck as he worked the overnight shift at the country’s largest coal mine, in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

“The two-way radios at work were really quiet,” he said. “Really, really quiet.”

Stephanie Joyce

For months, it has been eerily quiet at the Midwest School. Other than the skittering of leaves across the cordoned-off parking lot, the only sounds are the clink of the flagpole and the dog barking across the street.

It’s been this way since May, when health officials closed down the 120-student K-12 school after detecting dangerous levels of toxic gases inside.

Surprises In Oil And Gas Campaign Spending

Nov 4, 2016
Jordan Wirfs-Brock / Inside Energy

This chart shows oil/gas and coal company contributions to presidential candidate committees. It includes contributions from company PACs as well as individuals employed by the companies who donated at least $200. While coal interests have retained their strong preference for Republican presidential candidates, oil and gas interests have shifted their spending to Clinton in the general election.

Leigh Paterson/Inside Energy

  

In a hotel ballroom, at the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort, candidates for the US House and Senate, and their surrogates, tick through talking points.

“There are two issues I know of Scott Tipton cares very, very deeply about. One of them is water. The other one is energy,” Chuck McConnell, of the Routt County Republicans, said.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Here’s a simple recipe for ozone: mix hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide chemical compounds in the air, and add sunlight.

“The sun comes out and cooks this mixture and the outcome of that is ozone,” said Steve Brown, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder.

Stephanie Joyce

 

The future is looking up for Wyoming’s wind industry.

There are few places in the country with more wind energy potential than Wyoming, but the state has seen almost no new wind turbines built in six years, even while wind has boomed in the rest of the country.

Depending on who you ask, the challenges have been political, technical or both. But now, the outlook is improving on all fronts.

Pipeline Drama Casts Shadow Over Oil Industry

Sep 30, 2016
Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

The Obama Administration’s decision to temporarily halt construction on part of the 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline has the oil industry on edge.

It was evident at the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s annual meeting, where the pipeline protests cast a shadow over an industry struggling amid low oil prices.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

  

For the poorest amongst us, paying every bill can be a struggle, including the power bill. Solar power hasn’t really been a go-to option for those at the bottom, but that’s starting to change. Colorado’s largest utility – Xcel energy –  recently announced an expansion of a program to provide solar energy to low income residents. Its part of a proposed settlement agreement with the state’s public utility commission.

Pages