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."

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.

Emily Guerin


Steve Fischer finished law school in Ohio in 2010 — one of the worst years to graduate in recent memory. Less than 70 percent of law school grads who passed the bar in Ohio that year landed a job as an attorney. He finally called an old friend and asked if he was hiring.

He was — in fact he was desperate for help. Soon, Fischer, “was making better money than most of my law school classmates.”

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. 

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.

Wikimedia Commons

The budgets of oil states are going to be hard hit by the recent slide in oil prices. Measured in dollars, Texas is the clear loser, but in terms of actual on-the-ground impacts, it isn't quite so simple. In the country’s number two oil-producing state, North Dakota, falling prices have barely caused a ripple, while in Alaska (ranked fourth), lawmakers are calling it a “fiscal apocalypse.” In Wyoming (ranked eighth), reaction has been subdued, but that may not last.

Emily Guerin

The pipeline that burst earlier this month and spewed oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana made headlines. But just across the border in North Dakota another pipeline was quietly leaking a potentially more disastrous substance: wastewater from oil wells.

A Laramie company is testing a device that could help cut the cost of producing shale oil. WellDog announced this month that it’s doing field testing of what’s called a “Raman spectrometer.” The device can help pinpoint oil and gas reservoirs thousands of feet underground. WellDog CEO John Pope says right now, hydraulic fracturing or fracking doesn’t work thirty to fifty percent of the time, but that this technology could dramatically improve that.

Rebecca Martinez / Wyoming Public Media

Lifting the ban on crude oil exports would lead to lower gas prices and more oil production in the US, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

US oil exports were banned after the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. With increasing domestic oil production, industry has said the ban is outdated and has been asking Congress to lift it. University of Wyoming economics professor Charles Mason says especially with falling global oil prices, that would help Wyoming producers.

Jack Holt / AP Photo/Kemmerer Gazette

A worker has died after an explosion at a natural gas storage tank in western Wyoming. Jared Loftiss, 35, of Marbleton, Wyoming was working for Hughes Enterprises, an oilfield services company based out of Marbleton.


This week, Wyoming Public Radio aired a series of stories on workplace fatalities in the oil and gas industry. The series looked North Dakota’s high oil and gas fatality rate, Wyoming’s response to its own rising death toll, and whether there are lessons to be learned from the commercial fishing industry in Alaska, which has cut fatalities in half in the last decade. Emily Guerin of Prairie Public Radio and Stephanie Joyce of Wyoming Public Radio share some of their takeaways after reporting the series.

Lauren Rosenthal / KUCB

Click here to read Part 3 of the Dark Side Of The Boom series.

The dangers of the Bering Sea crab fishery have been made famous by the reality TV show Deadliest Catch. But, in the last 15 years, that industry has become much safer, in large part thanks to collaboration between industry, scientists and regulators. We wondered: are there lessons that the oil and gas industry could learn from the crab industry’s safety gains?

Flickr user Lindsey G

Click here to read Part 1 of the Dark Side Of The Boom series.

North Dakota is the most dangerous state in the country for oil and gas workers.

But that fact hasn't gotten a lot of attention until now. Governor Jack Dalrymple announced to Inside Energy this week that he's planning to bring together the state’s top safety officials to look into fatalities in the industry, and to see what they can do better.

An oil and gas worker pours a defoaming agent into the drill string.

Glenrock residents are invited to attend a forum next week that will address the impacts of the oil and gas industry on landowners. The two key speakers for the event will be a private property attorney and a Wyoming resident who was evacuated from her land because of an oil blowout. They will discuss the development of the oil industry around Glenrock, as well as risks to nearby landowners such as emissions, spills, evacuations, and the devaluing of property in the area.

American Oil and Gas History Association

There’s an invisible network connecting every corner of the United States. Without it, cars wouldn’t start and lights wouldn’t turn on. At 2.6 million miles, if it were stretched out, it would reach around the Earth more than a hundred times. Chances are, you’ve never noticed it. The nation’s sprawling pipeline network is buried underground, out of sight and out of mind.

Stephanie Joyce

In the first quarter of 2014, the United States surpassed both Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer. It already hit that mark for natural gas late last year. All of that oil and gas has to be transported from the fields where it’s drilled to refineries and processing plants, and most of that is done by pipeline, but the nation’s pipeline infrastructure isn’t currently up to the task.

A Wyoming jury has awarded $5.1 million dollars in damages to an oil and gas worker who was injured on the job in 2011.

Then 22-year-old Horr was part of a crew working on a Merit Energy oil well when built-up pressure escaped, sending a piece of rubber through his left arm and shattering it. Attorney Bryan Ulmer with the Spence Law Firm says Horr has lost use of his arm as a result.

credit Andrew Goodson via Flickr

Another rail loading facility for crude oil opened in Wyoming last week, bringing the total to at least seven.

Seventy- thousand barrels of Wyoming oil rolled out of the Black Thunder terminal in the Powder River Basin, headed for a refinery on the East Coast.

“We believe that the location of this particular terminal may be a little more unique to the business as it is in the heart of the basin," says  Steven Huckaby, CEO of Meritage Midstream, the company behind the crude loading facility. "It has a great location advantage to some other terminals."

The federal government is trying to create a better system for pricing oil and gas on Indian reservations. The Office of Natural Resource Revenue brought together government, tribes and the energy industry to write the new rule. 

Claire Ware is the Director of the Shoshone-Arapahoe Tribes Minerals Compliance Program and sat on the committee.  She says the old rules put tribes at a disadvantage.   

Robert Flaherty

For years, southeastern Wyoming has been expecting an oil boom that’s never arrived. Just across the border in Colorado, drilling has reached breakneck pace, but Wyoming has been relatively quiet -- until now. The discovery of a new, more promising oil reserve has led to a surge of interest in oil and gas development in Laramie County over the last few months.

In May of 2013, oil and gas companies applied for nine permits to drill in Laramie County. In May of 2014, companies applied for 132.

Grace Hood / KUNC

The transport of crude oil by rail has spiked dramatically in recent years. From 2012 to 2013 the amount carried by the country's major freight railroads increased nearly 75 percent, according to the American Association of Railroads.  Even though crude oil accounted for just over 1 percent of overall rail traffic last year, there's growing public concern about the potential oil spills and other hazards.

Irina Zhorov

Sixty years ago a group of women in Casper whose husbands were always leaving them for long shifts out on the oil patch got together to commiserate and lunch. The group became known as the Geowives - wives of geologists - and it’s celebrating its diamond anniversary this spring. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov attended the Geowives’ monthly luncheon and has this story. 

IRINA ZHOROV: Bette Faust is one of the charter members of the Geowives, and a Wyoming native who came to Casper in the 1950s.

Jordan Giese

As the Oil City Casper has seen its fate is closely tied with the energy industry and the recent boom in production is seeing Casper's population expand at an astounding rate. One thing not expanding fast enough however is affordable housing. Wyoming Public Radio's Jordan Giese reports.

JORDAN GIESE: Despite new commercial development one thing in Casper you'll struggle to find are for-sale and rent signs. With all the new energy work, people have poured into Casper, sometimes leaving little for the residents already there.

Jordan Wirfs-Brock

A continuing energy boom in the Rocky Mountains and Northern Great Plains is reshaping the future of what’s powering America, and we’re launching a new reporting project to keep track of that.

Through Inside Energy, we’re teaming up with public radio and television stations in Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota to explore the complex energy issues affecting our lives.

The three states are feeling this new energy economy differently, and it’s changing political realities in different ways.


Micah Schweizer

Marla Brown is a fifth generation Wyomingite who grew up helping run her parents’ various businesses during some of Rawlins’ booms and busts.

Recently released data compiled by the federal government shows oil production on federal lands is up from last year, while natural gas production is down. Overall, the energy sector is booming, but industry analysts say companies are shifting from natural gas to wetter plays because of low natural gas prices. But even though production is up, some industry groups point out that it's increasing more quickly on private lands and blame the trend on slow permitting by the federal government.

Lawmakers in Washington are debating whether to export more natural gas to combat Russian threats to cut off its gas supplies to Europe. Our D-C reporter  Matt Laslo has a look at what that could mean for Wyoming’s economy – and environment.

Wyoming crude oil production is on the upswing.

The state produced more crude oil last year than it has in any year since 1999.  That's in line with a nationwide trend; last year the country produced more crude oil than it has in any year since 1989.

State geologist Tom Drean says the increase can be attributed to more drilling activity in unconventional plays like shale and tight sands, made possible because of technologies like fracking, and horizontal and extended reach drilling.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming is getting a major donation for its new energy and engineering research complex.  Halliburton is giving $2 million to be applied towards a 'high bay' research facility.  

The facility's size will allow for large scale experiments.  Halliburton is also giving UW an additional $1 million for research into unconventional oil and gas reservoirs.  The gift will be matched by the state.  Governor Matt Mead says it was an exciting discussion with Halliburton.