Willow Belden

We’ve reported often on the effects that energy production can have on air quality. The most obvious example is Pinedale, where federal ambient air quality standards were violated, largely because of emissions from natural gas production. Regulators say the air elsewhere in the state is fine. But some worry that Wyoming doesn’t have a sufficient monitoring network to know for sure. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

Willow Belden

The head of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says his agency will consider changing setback rules. Those are the rules that govern how far away oil and gas operations, such as wells, have to be from things like houses.

Grant Black spoke at a public meeting in Douglas last night. He says currently, the setback rule is the same, regardless of whether you’re dealing with a home or something else. But he says that could change.

Despite recent accidents with shipment of crude oil by rail, including a derailment and explosion in North Dakota on Monday, industry analysts say it will continue to be a popular mode of moving oil out of the Bakken.

Trisha Curtis is with the Energy Policy Research Foundation. She says most crude from the Bakken does not travel through Wyoming, but that the state could see a spike in crude-by-rail traffic with new rail loading facilities coming online in the next year.

The Wyoming Supreme Court heard a case Wednesday challenging the state’s process for exempting fracking chemicals from public disclosure. Wyoming was the first state in the nation to adopt a disclosure law, but it included what some say is a massive loophole: companies can petition for what’s called a trade secret exemption. They’ve done that more than a hundred times since the law went into effect in 2010.

Stephanie Joyce

On Tuesday, Wyoming joined the growing list of states that will require groundwater testing at oil and gas wells before and after drilling occurs.  The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted to require three rounds of testing at water wells within a half-mile of the drilling pad.

Companies will have to test for a variety of potential contaminants in the water, from volatile organic compounds to bacteria.
In comments following the vote, Governor Matt Mead praised his fellow commissioners for approving the rules.


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.

For the most part, industry is happy with the new draft rules for baseline water testing near oil and gas wells. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission released its latest draft of them last week.

Petroleum Association of Wyoming Vice President John Robitaille says he continues to hear from association members that baseline testing is necessary.

“In all honesty, I think we probably should have been doing this several years ago,” he says.

Willow Belden

A facility is slated to be built in the town of Fort Laramie that would load oil onto rail cars. Assuming the project gets the necessary permits from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, it’s expected to be completed by the end of the year. Transporting oil by train is becoming increasingly popular, and experts say this facility and others like it will help the energy industry thrive. But local residents fear that a new industrial site could bring problems to their community. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

Willow Belden

Residents of Fort Laramie say they’re concerned about pollution, noise, and safety issues associated with a proposed oil loading terminal.

The facility, which would be built on the northwest end of town, would take oil from pipelines and transfer it to rail cars, to be transported to the east and west coasts.

237 years of independence and energy

Jul 4, 2013

The Energy Information Administration says that in the 237 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence the U.S. has gone from using primarily renewable resources like wood and water to using fossil fuels.

Statistician at the EIA, Tyson Brown, says he compiled the brief just for fun, but says it’s still enlightening to look at the long-term changes.

(Photo by hitchhacking via Creative Commons)

The University of Wyoming is hosting a conference to help energy companies use enhanced oil recovery to increase their yields. That’s a technique in which carbon dioxide is pumped underground to help extract oil.

  Glen Murrell is the Associate Director of UW’s Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute. He says this year’s conference is putting a major emphasis on helping small operators.

Gov. Matt Mead's weeklong trip to Saudi Arabia last week has succeeded in drawing interest to energy research going on at the University of Wyoming.

As a result of the trip, officials from Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil giant will be visiting UW soon to get a closer look at the research.

UW has been doing specialized research that could have application to extracting oil from underground formations that are tough to tap.

Researchers at the University of Wyoming are planning to map out the emissions coming from natural gas fields in Sublette County.

The area violates federal air quality standards because emissions from the energy industry have caused high levels of ozone, which is a type of smog, to form.

Rob Field is leading the project. He says they’ll use high-tech mobile monitors to measure air quality.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council has drawn up a list of recommendations to protect groundwater resources during energy production.

The group’s Jill Morrison says they want the state to document how much water is available in aquifers, and to limit how much water can be used for oil and gas production in certain areas where water resources are scarce.

“Because we know, for example, in the Powder River Basin, we’ve really drawn down our main aquifer that supplies domestic use … through the coalbed methane development,” Morrison said.

Willow Belden

Chesapeake Energy is hosting a community meeting tomorrow about its future energy development plans in Converse County.

Chesapeake has drilled several oil wells around a residential subdivision just outside of Douglas, and one well blew out in the spring, spewing gas into the air.

The Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing a rule that would require workers to wear flame-resistant clothing within 75 feet of an oil and gas well bore.
The agency is taking public comments on the proposal and will hold a public hearing on Oct. 5 in Casper.

John Robitaille, of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, says industry would welcome the rule since many already follow it now.
But Robitaille says some companies would rather use the special clothing on an as-needed basis.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission says that workers from Chesapeake energy are making progress in trying to control a gas leak near Douglas.  Commission Supervisor Tom Doll says that efforts will continue through the weekend.

On Tuesday at the oil rig caused the well to release an unknown quantity of gas into the air,and some residents were evacuated.  Weather conditions hampered containment efforts, but one evacuee, Kristi Mogen,is frustrated that the company is not acting faster. And she’s upset that the wells were drilled so close to her house in the first place.

A new report tracks the amount of oil and gas drilling that’s gone on over the past 10 years in different counties across the Rocky Mountains.

Julia Haggerty, one of the authors of the report, says the pace and scale of drilling has a profound effect on local communities – not only during the height of a boom, but in the time right before and after. Haggerty says more research needs to be done on how counties rebound after a bust.

A federal report possibly linking groundwater pollution to hydraulic fracturing in central Wyoming is not discouraging hopes for the Niobrara oil play in the southeast part of the state.

Many are questioning the scientific conclusions of the Environmental Protection Agency findings on the technique to extract oil and gas.

But both EPA and industry representatives say the specific concerns raised in the report are not applicable to southeast Wyoming. That is because the Niobrara formation is geologically much different than the Pavillion area.

Oil and gas jobs in Wyoming rose sharply in 2011, according to the state Economic Analysis Division.

There were more than 18,000 drilling, mining and support jobs in Wyoming as of November. That’s almost 3,000 more than a year before.

State Senior Economist Jim Robinson says these jobs are a subsector of the mining industry, and this growth is a sign of a thriving energy industry.

The Bureau of Land Management

This week’s Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction in Cheyenne made a record amount of revenue.

The Wyoming BLM generated more than 49 million dollars from lease sales on 74 parcels of land, and an unheard-of 8 million dollars came from a single parcel.

An agency spokeswoman says the number of parcels auction off is determined by the number of nominations submitted from energy companies. In February, BLM auctioned off 31 parcels and in May, only 14.