Wyoming News

Fortification Creek ruling not expected for a year

GILLETTE — Three conservation groups suing over a plan to open the Fortification Creek area to coal-bed methane development expect to wait about a year for a ruling.

The Bureau of Land Management has approved three projects there but drilling hasn't started because low natural gas prices don't make it economical.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council of Lander, the Powder River Basin Resource Council of Sheridan and the National Wildfire Federation filed a lawsuit in June.

Read full text: Wyoming Trib

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Salazar approves massive Wyoming wind farm project

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday authorized what he described as potentially the largest wind energy project in the United States, if not the world: A Wyoming wind farm with up to 1,000 turbines that would provide electricity to some 1 million homes.

Roadwork and groundwork could begin next year for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. After that, turbines could go up over a three-year period within an area covering 350 square miles of the hilly sagebrush country south of Rawlins in south-central Wyoming.

Most of that area is among the 245 million acres nationwide overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management — hence Salazar's role. Salazar highlighted the project as an example of President Barack Obama's "all of the above" strategy for renewable energy development and fossil fuel extraction on BLM and other public lands.

Read full text: CBS News

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roadless Rule Upheld

By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
October 2, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Wyoming’s appeal of the 2001 Clinton roadless rule that bars development in 52 million acres of national forests.

Read full text: Jackson Hole News and Guide

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Grizzly Counts Under Review

Grizzly managers have proposed new ways to count bears and bear deaths in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that could make it easier to end federal protection of the species.

In the absence of accurate grizzly bear demographics, the changes are expected to increase the estimated number of bears in the population while decreasing the estimated number of mortalities, experts say. The idea surfaced at a meeting of Yellowstone area grizzly mangers in Teton Village last week.

Read full text: Jackson Hole News & Guide

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wyoming's AML revenue stream slowing to a trickle: Most AML dollars went to non-mine related facilities

It all started as a way to finance the clean-up of forgotten coal mines, dangerous eyesores that collapsed or leaked acidic sludge into streams. Yet the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund turned into a piece of federal legislation with more lives than a resourceful alley cat.

Originally scheduled to expire in 1992, the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund (or AML) has been reauthorized by Congress seven times; the legislation is scheduled to remain alive until 2021.

But the most adroit – and scrappiest – feline in the AML saga has been the state of Wyoming.

Since 1977, the state of Wyoming has received (or been promised) $1,051,898,067.60 from the AML fund according to Office of Surface Mining, which operates under the auspices of the Department of the Interior.

While disbursements did go towards the original purpose of the fund – Wyoming has reclaimed more than 1,051 coal and non-coal mine sites – hundreds of millions also got funneled into building water systems in Gillette, clean-air research, a hospital addition in Sheridan, maintaining state highways, and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust.

Read full text: Wyo File

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sage grouse on the edge of functional extinction in northeast Wyoming

The greater sage grouse — the West’s best metric for the health of the western prairie ecosystem — is teetering on the edge of an Endangered Species Act listing. Yet just one nasty wildfire in the wrong place, or one more major outbreak of the West Nile Virus, and the greater sage grouse may become functionally extinct in the Powder River Basin, erasing a critical lifeline for genetic diversification between other sage grouse populations in Wyoming and Montana, according to wildlife biologists.

Read Full Text: WyoFile

Friday, March 23, 2012

Yellowstone, Grand Teton visitor studies highlight major economic impacts

It’s no surprise Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks make significant economic impacts on surrounding communities. Just how much of an impact is what has park officials stunned.

Visitors spent more than $424 million in Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding area in 2010, an amount second only to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, according to Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.

A study released by the National Park Service this week showed the economic impact national parks have on communities within a 60-mile radius.

According to the study, Grand Teton had 2.7 million visitors in 2010 while Yellowstone had 3.6 million. Visitors in Yellowstone spent $334 million in the area, the study said.

Read Full text: The Wyoming Trib

Friday, March 2, 2012

EPA official defends Pavillion fracking report

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in no way contends that a draft report on groundwater pollution in Wyoming could apply to hydraulic fracturing in any other part of the U.S., an EPA official told a U.S. House subcommittee.

That includes the Marcellus Shale, a vast area of booming gas drilling in Pennsylvania and other northeastern states, EPA Regional Administrator James Martin said Wednesday.

“The geologic conditions that exist with the Marcellus Shale are significantly different,” Martin told the House Science Committee’s energy and environment subcommittee, which held a hearing in Washington on the draft EPA report.

The report, released Dec. 8, theorized that gas industry activity including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may have caused groundwater pollution in Pavillion.

Read full text: Wyoming Trib

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Experts: California demand for Wyoming wind is a 'gamble'

JACKSON -- It's no secret that Wyoming wants to sell its wind power to California. But its chances are still up in the air, said some participants at a state Infrastructure Authority meeting here Tuesday.

"It's a big question mark, and a gamble," said Bill Boyd, executive vice president and chief operating officer of TransWest Express LLC, a subsidiary of Denver-based Anschutz Corp. and developer of a high-voltage power line to carry wind power from Wyoming to California.

Yet Boyd and others at the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority meeting, including a top adviser to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, say they're hopeful Wyoming can make a case for its wind energy, arguably cheaper by the megawatt for California customers.

Read full text: Wyoming Trib

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Finding answers for Pavillion residents

Several recent news and opinion pieces in this newspaper have mischaracterized the Environmental Protection Agency’s work in Pavillion. I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify some key facts about our science.

First, the editorial page of this paper wrote that EPA has “poisoned the public debate by releasing its report” and a recent opinion piece claimed that the report release was “rushed.” These assertions do a disservice to the rigorous scientific process EPA conducted and the vital interest in informing the public and scientific community of the results of EPA’s work.

Our investigation of drinking water safety in Pavillion has been under way for three years. We have conducted four rounds of sampling. After the sampling phase, our career scientists conducted a meticulous evaluation of the data. Their conclusions were thoroughly reviewed by EPA career managers and subjected to an initial peer review by independent experts. The draft report exhaustively describes the evidence supporting EPA’s conclusions and how that evidence was evaluated.

Importantly, we have been clear that the report is a draft, that we expect and want public feedback, and that we are asking independent experts to publicly peer review our work, which is the accepted method of resolving questions about scientific validity.

Read full text: Wyoming Trib

Monday, January 23, 2012

Encana asks EPA to suspend Wyoming fracking comment period

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - The owner of a central Wyoming gas field where federal regulators suggested a link between a drilling technique and groundwater pollution asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to suspend public comment on the draft report.

Gov. Matt Mead, meanwhile, was back in Cheyenne on Monday after making a secret trip to Pavillion last week to talk to locals about their well water.

Read the full story on the Billings Gazette

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

EPA moves on ozone regs in western Wyoming, elsewhere

CHEYENNE — The Environmental Protection Agency is moving ahead with a proposed regulatory designation that could increase pressure on the gas industry to limit emissions that have led to severe wintertime ozone pollution in western Wyoming.

The EPA is doing so while it settles a nationwide lawsuit over ozone filed by an environmental group, WildEarth Guardians.

Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal in 2009 recommended that the EPA enact what’s known as “nonattainment status” for ozone in the Upper Green River Basin. In a letter Dec. 8, the EPA told Gov. Matt Mead it is now prepared to support that recommendation.

“The EPA will continue to work with state officials regarding the appropriate boundary for the area in Wyoming,” EPA Region 8 Administrator James Martin wrote.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wyoming golden eagle study considers diet, reproduction in relation to land use

CODY — Golden eagle breeding numbers and nest success rates declined across the eastern edge of the Yellowstone ecosystem in 2011, a trend that researchers believe may be linked to a drop in the rabbit population.

The latest findings mark the third year of an ongoing study looking at habitat quality across a swath of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem and how golden eagles are responding to changes in land use.

Chuck Preston, a research biologist specializing in raptor ecology, said his team has monitored golden eagles during the nesting season, focusing on nesting ecology and how it relates to landscape.

Click here to read the full story on the Trib!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Australian coal co. names Wyo. lawmaker to board

(AP) — A Wyoming state lawmaker has become a director of an Australian coal company that wants to mine Powder River Basin coal.

Republican Rep. David Miller, of Riverton, sold his Campbell County mineral rights to Sydney-based County Coal Ltd. for $200,000 on March 11. Miller, a geologist, became a director of the company on April 29, the Gillette News Record (http://bit.ly/rrhxjt ) reported Sunday.

He now holds 1 million shares in the company and will get 3 percent royalty payments on coal mined in the basin, one of the richest coal sources in the United States.

"They asked me if I would be a director of the company," Miller said. "I said 'I think I can.'"

Miller said he will recuse himself from any votes in the Legislature that directly affect County Coal projects, but he said votes on coal issues in general aren't as clear cut.

County Coal didn't respond to the newspaper's request for more information about its Powder River Basin plans.

Click here to read the full story by the Gillette News Record

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Interior Secretary to talk sage grouse in Wyo.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has scheduled a Friday meeting with representatives from 10 western states to discuss development of a comprehensive strategy intended to protect sage grouse while maintaining a strong economy, a spokesman said Thursday.

Adam Fetcher, a spokesman for Salazar in Washington, said the meeting will include Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. Renny MacKay, a Mead spokesman, said the governor and Salazar plan a press conference on the sage grouse issue on Friday.

Click here to read the full story on the Denver Post

Thursday, December 8, 2011

EPA report: Pavillion well water tainted with chemicals consistent with fracking

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released draft findings in its ongoing investigation of contaminated well water near natural gas drilling in Pavillion, Wyo. The draft report “indicates detection of synthetic chemicals … consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids.”

The EPA is publishing the draft findings in order to obtain public comment and independent scientific review, but the report is sure to be used as the most solid piece of evidence to date that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” can taint groundwater. The oil and gas industry maintains the process has never been proven to communicate with drinking water supplies.

Click here to read the full story on the Colorado Independent

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wildlife officials update public on Wyoming mule deer herd

PINEDALE — Dozens of people gathered Tuesday and Wednesday nights in southwest Wyoming to hear updates on the Wyoming Range mule deer herd.

It was the first round of annual meetings since the Wyoming Range mule deer herd plan was unveiled in June.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials told people about new habitat projects, possible new research and changes in hunting seasons that are happening as part of the Wyoming Mule Deer Initiative.

Click here to read the full story on the Wyoming Trib

Friday, December 2, 2011

BLM fast-tracks three Wyoming wind energy projects

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says it will fast-track three Wyoming wind energy projects in 2012, although representatives from the BLM’s state office say the projects were already considered priorities.

The BLM named the Sand Hills Ranch, Chokecherry/Sierra Madre and White Mountain projects among 17 renewable energy priority projects in four states due to receive increased focus next year.

The BLM’s 2012 priority list also includes solar, wind and hydropower projects in Arizona, Nevada and California.

The 1,000-turbine Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project is proposed by Denver-based Anschutz Corp. subsidiary Power Co. of Wyoming for south of Rawlins. It is the largest wind farm on the BLM’s list.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No sale of Wyo. gas field with polluted well water

A company has called off its purchase of a central Wyoming gas field where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been investigating groundwater pollution and is preparing to release a report soon on the possible sources.

Midland, Texas-based Legacy Reserves LP announced earlier this month it was buying an undisclosed number of gas wells and related assets in the Pavillion area in Fremont County from Calgary, Alberta-based Encana Corp. for $45 million.

The week after the sale announcement, the EPA said it had found high levels of benzene and other contaminants in two wells drilled to test for groundwater pollution in the Pavillion area. Previous EPA investigations found hydrocarbons in 17 local water wells.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The quest for elk forage

In August, a nearly decade-long analysis of wildlife management on the National Elk Refuge finally concluded.

In a sweeping environmental study, officials decided they would reduce the elk population wintering on the refuge from roughly 7,000 to 5,000. The move is designed to bring the herd more in balance with the available habitat and let the animals spread out — helpful in stemming the spread of diseases.

Click here to read the full story on the Jackson Hole News and Guide

Wednesday, November 16, 2011