The Pitch

The Pitch is WyoFile’s staff blog designed to serve as a community “water cooler” for behind-the-scenes chatter about what we’re up to. Our editors and contributors use The Pitch to toss out shorter, more timely offerings than what you might read in a regular WyoFile feature. It’s also a place for us to pitch story ideas to readers, and to share with you bits of additional information or insight that may have been pitched out of the published versions you’ve already read.

As always, your comments and feedback are wanted, so pitch in and let us hear from you.

Applications sought for Early Childhood Community Partnership Grants

— August 22, 2014

[Press Release] — The Department of Family Services is excited to announce the release of the Early Childhood Community Partnership Grant application.  These grant funds are available from the Enrolled Act No. 41, 2014 Budget Session, for a period commencing July 1, 2014 and ending June 30, 2016.

This grant opportunity allows school districts or nonprofit organizations the opportunity to apply for one-time funding. Grant funds shall be used for developing, enhancing and sustaining high quality early childhood education programs.

The focus of these grant funds is to make certain Wyoming’s children have the strong, positive foundation they need to be successful in their first year of school and beyond.

DFS has contracted with Wyoming Kids First to provide technical assistance to communities interested in applying.  All questions regarding the grant application should be directed to Becca Steinhoff @ Wyoming Kids First director@wyokidsfirst.org or by calling 307-996-6903.

Grant applications can be found at:   http://www.wyokidsfirst.org/communities/early-childhood-community-partnership-grant/ . Grant applications should be submitted and received no later thanOctober 3, 2014.  Applications should be submitted to:

 Wyoming Department of Family Services
Quality Early Childhood Program Manager
Attention: Jennifer Zook
2300 Capitol Avenue
3rd Floor, Hathaway Building
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002
jennifer.zook@wyo.gov
Posted by on August 22, 2014
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Bighorn National Forest seeks advisory members

— August 15, 2014

(Press release) — The Bighorn National Forest is seeking to fill openings on the Bighorn Resource Advisory Committee.

The committee’s duties include recommending projects and funding to improve forest health, watersheds, roads, and facilities on or adjacent to the Bighorn National Forest.

The committee oversees funding authorized under Title II of the Secure Rural Schools Act. The Act gives states and counties payments to be used for projects that will benefit the natural resources on the Bighorn National Forest. Projects could include road and trail maintenance, watershed restoration, improvement of fish and wildlife habitat, control of invasive weeds, and improvements in forest health.

Committee members will be appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and must represent varied interests and areas of expertise. Members serve four-year terms and must be able to commit the time necessary to carry out membership responsibilities. The Bighorn Resource Advisory Committee meets once or twice a year. Committee members are not compensated. 

Some duties of the committee are proposing and reviewing projects, providing coordination with the Forest Service, providing opportunities for the public to participate in the development of projects, monitoring project implementation, and recommending changes to projects.

“We’re looking for people with energy and commitment,” said district ranger Dave Hogen, “people who are interested in working with the diverse array of interests represented on the committee.”

Any Wyoming resident interested in serving on the Bighorn Resource Advisory Committee must complete an application, including information that will be used for a required background check. Applications are available online. and at Bighorn National Forest offices in Buffalo, Lovell, and Sheridan.

Printed, signed applications should be sent to Bighorn National Forest, attention Christopher D. Jones, 2013 Eastside 2nd Street, Sheridan, WY 82801.

For more information about the Committee, please contact Christopher D. Jones, Resource Advisory Committee Coordinator, at (307) 674-2627 or christopherdjones@fs.fed.us.

Posted by on August 15, 2014
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Three Wyomingites appointed to BLM advisory council

— August 15, 2014

(Press release) — The Bureau of Land Management announced new appointments or reappointments of members to its citizen-based Wyoming Resource Advisory Council (RAC), which advises the Bureau of Land Management on public land issues. The RACs are composed of members with diverse interests and backgrounds.

The newly appointed or newly re-appointed members of the Wyoming RAC, which will meet primarily on a quarterly basis in 2014:

• Marilyn Mackey, Gillette (federal grazing) reappointment

• Julia Stuble, Lander (environmental organizations) 

• Truman Julian, Kemmerer (public-at-large)

“Our Resource Advisory Councils exemplify the BLM’s collaborative approach to public land management,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “I want to welcome our newly appointed RAC members and thank them for their commitment to public service.”

The RACs, composed of citizens chosen for their expertise in natural resource issues, help the BLM carry out its nation-wide stewardship of 245 million acres – the largest land portfolio of any federal agency. The BLM has established 28 RACs across the West, where most BLM-managed land is located. 

Each RAC consists of 10 to 15 members who represent stakeholder interests in public land management, such as conservationists, outdoor recreationists, ranchers, industry officials, tribal leaders, state and local government officers, academics, and others.

The BLM, an agency of the Interior Department, is responsible for managing these various uses – such as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production – while conserving the land’s natural, historical, and cultural resources.

Posted by on August 15, 2014
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Group hosts tour of important historic sites in Red Desert

(Press release) — The Alliance for Historic Wyoming (AHW) will host a tour of historic sites in the Red Desert in Sweetwater County on August 16, 2014. The tour, featuring a variety of local historians and cultural experts, will begin at 8:00 a.m. at Western Wyoming Community College and will conclude at 5:00 p.m. 

The event is part of AHW’s Unbarred series, which provides glimpses into preservation efforts throughout Wyoming. The tour will discuss historic land use and modern issues, concerns, and procedures that come into play with oil, gas, and public land use on both the landscape and cultural resources. “The historic Red Desert is a treasure-trove of unique historical and cultural sites that document how we have interacted with the landscape in a variety of ways,” says Brie Blasi, AHW Board member and local historian. “But many of the best sites in the desert may be hard to access without a tour—and we have gathered a talented team to help interpret these special places.” The tour will span a range of decades and human influences on the desert landscape including American Indian rock art, emigrant trails, coal mining, and ranching. 

Throughout the tour, guides will encourage discussion of—and link together—historic and contemporary land-uses and land management. The event reflects the Alliance for Historic Wyoming’s mission to raise awareness of historic and cultural resources in the state and to empower people to protect them. 

Speakers include Sweetwater County Historical Museum’s Ruth Lauritzen, renowned local historians Ed Varley, and Bureau of Land Management archaeologist Gene Smith, among others. Participants are encouraged to share stories of their interactions with the landscape—or those of their ancestors—and to join in discussions of how we continue to use the landscape and preserve its unique historical setting and cultural sites.

Transportation is provided for the first 20 participants; others may caravan. A lunch inspired by the ethnic diversity of the region is also provided by Donna Toly of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. Participants should be ready to spend the day outside and dress appropriately. Extra water will be available and participants are encouraged to bring their own refillable water bottles. AHW is a nonprofit organization and they are able to provide these educational opportunities thanks to generous sponsors and members; a $25 donation is suggested for the tour.

The preservation workshop and Unbarred event is hosted by the Alliance for Historic Wyoming in partnership with Western Wyoming Community College, Sweetwater County Board of Cooperative Education Services, Humstone Consulting, Wattle and Daub Contractors, the Green River Historic Preservation Commission and Sweetwater County Museum Foundation, Starbucks Coffee, and Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. The Alliance for Historic Wyoming, Wyoming’s only statewide historic preservation nonprofit, is dedicated to protecting our historic and cultural resources in both the built and natural environments. 

To learn more about AHW, the organization’s work, and to register for this event, visit HistoricWyoming.org, email Carly-Ann Anderson at ExecDirector@historicwyoming.org or call (307) 333-3508.

Posted by on August 13, 2014
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Living and Working on the Land conference Sept. 3-4 in Sheridan

(Press release) — Backyard poultry, horse health, beekeeping, growing small fruits and alternative energy are among the topics at a Sept. 3-4 conference in Sheridan that celebrates rural living. Other sessions include making local food systems work, women on the ranch, marketing, small-scale dairies (including cheese-making) and ag of the future.

One of the organizers, University of Wyoming Extension specialist Cole Ehmke, calls the “Living and Working on the Land: Building Blocks of Success” conference a superb networking and learning event for the region’s agriculture community.

“Bring your coffee cups and gather in Sheridan for food, workshops, tours and the best insight from preeminent rural thinkers,” Ehmke said. “The conference is an excellent opportunity for people interested in exploring new ventures on their land, direct-marketing, stewardship and networking with others of similar interests.”

Agricultural producers, land managers, hobby farmers, small-acreage owners, backyard gardeners and local food enthusiasts will all find something to fit their skill level and areas of interest. 

Ehmke said the conference will feature two nationally recognized experts in their fields, Ken Meter, president of the Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, and Fred Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Meter is one of the foremost analysts of food systems in the country. His work with communities on local food systems integrates market analysis, business development, systems thinking and social concerns.

Kirschenmann is a longtime national and international leader in sustainable agriculture. In addition to his work at the Leopold Center, he manages his family’s 2,600-acre certified organic farm in North Dakota.

Talks by the two keynote speakers and others will help participants who want to accomplish more with their properties, and the event is also designed for those interested in the future of rural areas. 

Early registration by Aug. 15 is $50, while the fee after that date is $65. This includes meals and tours. The first 50 agricultural producers to register for the conference will be eligible for a full refund of the registration fee. A limited number of scholarships for lodging are also available to producers.

The conference begins at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, at the Sheridan Holiday Inn Convention Center. The day includes talks and concurrent sessions on practical homestead and rural enterprise management followed by dinner at 5 p.m. and entertainment at 6.

After the morning sessions and lunch on Thursday, Sept. 4, participants can choose from three tour/workshop options, including trips to an apiary, community-supported agriculture operation or fiber mill, or a food preservation workshop.

Sponsors include the University of Wyoming Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, Wyoming Business Council’s Agribusiness Division and Audubon Rockies.

To register, contact Kacy Atkinson with the WBC’s Agribusiness Division at (307) 777-6319, or email her at kacy.atkinson@wyo.gov.

For additional information, visit www.blocksofsuccess.org, or contact Cole Ehmke at 307-766-3782 or cehmke@uwyo.edu. 

Posted by on August 13, 2014
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University of Wyoming among federal grant recipients for CO2 storage efforts

— August 7, 2014

(Press release) — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of 13 projects to develop technologies and methodologies for geologic storage of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) research is focused on developing technologies to capture industrially generated CO2, and safely and permanently store it in underground geologic formations, in order to reduce the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere.

The projects selected by DOE will develop technologies, methodologies, and characterization tools to improve our ability to predict geologic storage capacity, understand geomechanical processes, and add to the safety of geologic storage.

The total value of the projects is approximately $17.6 million over three years, with $13.8 million of DOE funding and $3.8 million of non-federal cost sharing.

Managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, the selected projects have been awarded in two areas of interest: “Geomechanical Research” and “Fractured Reservoir and Seal Behavior.”

Geomechanical research

University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyo. — The project will study the effects of CO2 storage on geomechanical, petrophysical, and other reservoir properties through rock experiments, analyses of existing data sets, and simulations representing conditions and processes at the Rocks Springs Uplift, Wyoming.  A geomechanical workflow will be developed to predict changes that could affect geomechanical properties and reservoir responses during injection and post injection. (DOE share: $1,091,187; recipient share: $309,068; duration: 36 months)

Clemson University, Clemson, S.C. — This research will evaluate the feasibility of measuring and interpreting, the physical state and properties of rock formations under stress to assess geomechanical processes. Additionally, Clemson researchers will develop and test a removable borehole tool to measure geomechanical properties in wells. (DOE share: $1,244,738; recipient share: $311,185; duration: 36 months)

The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas — The study aims to develop a geomechanical screening tool for reservoirs to assess geomechanical processes and conditions related to CO2 storage including faults, fractures, and caprock flaws.  Geomechanical rock experiments and computational methods using modeling, simulations, history matching, and uncertainty quantification will be conducted for two field demonstration sites to generate and validate a geomechnical screening tool. (DOE share: $1,035,354; recipient share: $258,848; duration: 36 months)

Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Ill. — The project will develop a risk assessment for a simulated industrial-scale CCS injection project at the Big Sky Regional Partnership Phase II, Wallula basalt project site.  This includes a study of pressure-induced fracture expansion, fracture propagation, and the formation of new fractures. (DOE share: $433,497; recipient share: $119,485; duration: 24 months)

Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio — This research will evaluate the stress-strain setting of the midwestern United States using regional geologic and laboratory data. Methodologies will also be developed to evaluate and predict stress at CO2storage sites based on rock cores, geophysical logs, and modeling. (DOE share: $1,171,266; recipient share: $300,000; duration: 36 months)

The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. — The project will study the geophysical and mineralogical controls on fracture failure in induced seismic events. Relationships between permeability changes and the potential for caprock breaching will be investigated. (DOE share: $1,068,962; recipient share: $267,310; duration: 36 months)

Sandia Technologies, LLC, Houston, Texas — The study aims to develop geomechanical characterization methodologies by combining laboratory rock core testing with downhole tools that determine the strength of rock formations. Data from these tests will be used to model the behavior of caprocks encountered in the Newark Basin in New York. (DOE share: $1,386,261; recipient share: $446,661; duration: 26 months)

Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont. — Researchers will study the geomechanical conditions at the Big Sky Regional Partnership Phase III Kevin Dome large-scale field project to develop and validate an integrated monitoring approach using data from satellites and microseismic monitoring. Numerical modeling will be used to study the interactions between large-scale geologic carbon storage activities and the subsurface geomechanical state. (DOE share: $1,000,000; recipient share: $250,000; duration: 36 months)

Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colo. — The study will use laboratory rock analysis and models to develop an approach to understand and predict geomechanical effects from large-scale CO2 injections. Researchers will use the results to develop tools to assess and validate CO2 flow, storage potential, and the risk of leakage in rock formations. (DOE share: $1,199,408; recipient share: $312,112; duration: 36 months).

Fractured reservoir and seal behavior

Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. — The project will develop new modeling capabilities for simulation of CO2 and brine migration in fractured reservoirs.  Flow interactions between fractures and rock composition will be investigated to model and better predict the CO2 distribution within a storage reservoir. (DOE share: $800,000; recipient share: $200,000; duration: 36 months)

Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colo. — Researchers will develop tools to identify damaged shale caprock along with a method to determine CO2 migration through the caprock. Acoustic methods will be used for detecting damaged CO2-saturated caprock through laboratory and in-place experimental studies of shale. (DOE share: $1,411,278; recipient share: $450,000; duration: 24 months)

Washington University, St. Louis, Mo. — The project will advance the understanding of fractured basalt reservoirs and the impact basalt structure and chemistry has on flow and mineral trapping of injected CO2. The project will perform laboratory experiments on rock cores, and integrate geomechanical and geochemical data to understand fracture structure and changes of carbon-trapping mechanisms over time. (DOE share: $996,951; recipient share: $287,750; duration: 36 months)

The University of Texas at Austin Austin, Texas — The study aims to develop and validate geomechanical models based on chemical-mechanical interactions to evaluate fracture growth at the reservoir-caprock interface.  Researchers will develop predictive models for top-seal failure via fracture growth by calibrating field observations with experimental rock fracture data under chemically reactive conditions representative of CO2 storage reservoirs. (DOE share: $991,417; recipient share: $250,154; duration: 36 months)

Posted by on August 7, 2014
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Proposed parcels for November 2014 oil and gas lease sale posted

— August 6, 2014

(Press release) — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wyoming State Office has posted its proposed list of parcels for the quarterly competitive oil and gas lease sale scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, at the Holiday Inn in Cheyenne, Wyo. Doors open at 7 a.m. with the auction beginning at 8 a.m.

The posted list, which identifies 90 proposed parcels totaling 114,384.700 acres, initiates a 30-day public protest period.

The sale includes parcels located in Carbon, Lincoln, Sublette, Sweetwater and Uinta counties in Wyoming.

Copies of the complete November 2014 competitive oil and gas lease sale notice will be available at the sale and may be purchased in advance for $5 from the State Office at 5353 Yellowstone Road in Cheyenne, or by writing: BLM, Attn: Copy Work, P.O. Box 1828, Cheyenne, Wyo. 82003. Copies are also available for purchase from each BLM field office in Wyoming.

The complete November 2014 competitive oil and gas lease sale notice may be viewed and/or downloaded free of charge here. Also available at this website are the oil and gas leasing environmental assessments, including public comments, for the November 2014 oil and gas lease sale.

Posted by on August 6, 2014
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Delegation wants Grand Teton to keep road open

WyoFile staff report
— July 29, 2014

Wyoming’s all-Republican congressional delegation told National Park officials it’s “a serious waste of taxpayer funds”to consider restricting traffic on the popular Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton National Park.

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, and U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, said the federal agency must make an accounting of $2 million allocated for a traffic study. They say the park continues to study closures even though easements require one end of the road to stay open.

“Spending $2 million for an (Environmental Impact Statement) with pre-determined conclusions before the EIS is completed is unacceptable if not illegal,”the letter says.

At issue is a narrow, winding byway that runs from Teton Village on the park’s south boundary to the park headquarters area near Moose. The park has closed the Moose-Wilson Road at times, including once when a grizzly and her family were foraging there.

Residents, visitors and businesses see the road as part of the valley-wide transportation network used for commerce and getting around, not just for visiting Grand Teton. The park considers the area the road bisects valuable wildlife habitat and a quiet corner of Grand Teton that might be oversubscribed.

Park officials said they haven’t yet responded to the letter, which they said they received on July 11. The copy WyoFile obtained had no date.

“The National Park Service is in the process of developing preliminary alternatives that will be made public in the next month,” spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said in a statement. “These preliminary alternatives will be open for public review and comment, and we will use those comments — plus data from visitor use studies currently being conducted by Utah State University and Penn State University — to develop the draft alternatives that will be included in the draft Plan/EIS.”

Part of the road must stay open, the delegation said.

“Existing publicly recorded easements on the Moose Wilson Road give the public access rights on the southern section,”the letter said, “so we want to make sure that the EIS is studying alternatives that comply with these legal requirements.

“It is a serious waste of taxpayer funds for the NPS Intermountain Regional Office to study or propose closures or limitations of public access that are outside what is in fact legally required on the Moose Wilson Road.”

The delegation said park officials have mulled closing the road or making it one-way. “We understand GTNP officials, in advance of any alternatives from the EIS, have said that it is a foregone conclusion the Moose Wilson Road will close directionally if not entirely,”the letter said.

Skaggs rejected the charge that Grand Teton has decided to close the road. “The NPS hasnot identified a preferred alternative at this time,” her statement said.

“There is considerable skepticism regarding the motives behind the EIS,”the letter states. “The Moose Wilson Road EIS scoping commenced under the former superintendent,”the letter said, without naming that superintendent, Mary Gibson Scott.

“Having tried to close the road directionally prior to retirement, this individual is now on record opposing 2-way access on the Moose Wilson Road and a pathway for non-motorized travel on the very federal scoping she signed and issued.

“To ensure that taxpayer funds are being spent to protect, not degrade, the legally required access to GTNP, we are asking for an accounting of the $2 million to make sure that the NPS is not spending public funds outside of the legal scope of public rights on the Moose Wilson Road,”the letter said. “We want you to assure us that this EIS is fair and is studying management alternatives of this corridor within the framework of the law.”

 

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Posted by on August 3, 2014
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Committee opens Wyoming education governance survey

— July 16, 2014

[Press Release] — The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Education Committee has launched a Webpage to gather public comment tool for the Committee’s ongoing study of the governance and administration of public education in Wyoming. A link titled “Education Governance Study” is now prominently displayed on the Legislature’s homepage at www.wyoleg.gov.

The survey is also available at: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/InterimCommittee/2014/04EdGovernance.pdf.

The Webpage provides an outlet for citizens to participate by completing a short survey, with the option to submit a public comment to the Committee on this issue. Survey responses and comments should be submitted by Aug. 15 to ensure that they are included in the final report that will be considered by the Committee later this year.

At the conclusion of the 2014 Budget Session, the Legislature’s Management Council directed the Joint Education Committee to review the administration of public education in Wyoming during this year’s interim period. As part of this process, the Joint Education Committee has asked consulting firm Cross & Joftus to identify the necessary steps to develop a more effective allocation of state-level responsibilities in Wyoming’s public education system.

In addition to soliciting public comment, Cross & Joftus will be conducting a series of discussions with business and civic stakeholders throughout the state now through mid-August. The the results of these discussions will also be included in the final report.

Cross & Joftus will then submit their conclusions to the Committee and provide subsequent recommendations by late November. Opportunities for public comment during the Committee’s consideration of the report will also be provided.

Posted by on July 16, 2014
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State says elk will persist in face of CWD

By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

— July 15, 2014

Wyoming Game and Fish Department said Monday a research paper published in May shows that elk are less susceptible to Chronic Wasting Disease than previously thought.

The study shows that it takes longer for the disease to incubate in elk than in deer, due to genes that some elk carry. CWD is an always-fatal malady that scientists fear could wipe out some deer populations.

Some conservationists have said the best way to combat potential widespread CWD infection of Wyoming elk is to stop feeding them in winter. Game and Fish operates more than 20 feedgrounds west of the Continental Divide.

But feedgrounds are a key component in sustaining population numbers that allow hunting. The sale of hunting licenses is the agency’s principal source of revenue.

The paper, published in the Ecological Society of America’s “Ecosphere,” was authored by A.L. Williams, B.A. Schumaker and T.J. Kreeger. Kreeger is a retired wildlife veterinarian for Game and Fish. 

“CWD alone was not enough to cause extinction of elk herds that congregate on winter feedgrounds,” the paper said. Further, even in a worst-case scenario, some hunting would still be required to keep elk populations at objective levels, Game and Fish said.

CWD is a malady akin to Mad-cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease in humans. It causes neurological degeneration, but it’s unknown whether it could spread from animals to humans.

“This study model essentially represents the worst-case scenario that would face feedground elk,” Kreeger said in a statement. “We predict a genetic shift over several decades favoring genes that prolong the incubation time of CWD resulting in elk populations that are able to persist in the face of the disease.”

CWD won’t devastate feedground elk said Scott Edberg, deputy chief of the Game and Fish wildlife division.

”It helps to know that based on this research, if CWD should become established on feedgrounds, we won’t see a devastating effect on populations as many have feared,” he said in a statement. “This research also looked at how hunting would affect populations, and it appears, Game and Fish would still need to have hunting seasons to manage elk populations even if faced with CWD on feedgrounds.”

The paper doesn’t address whether hunters would continue to try to kill and eat elk from a herd infected with CWD.

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Posted by on July 14, 2014
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BLM extends comment deadline, sets public meetings for Riley Ridge-to-Natrona pipeline

— June 27, 2014

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rock Springs Field Office has scheduled public scoping meetings for the proposed 243-mile hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide pipeline from Riley Ridge, 18 miles southwest of Big Piney to the Natrona Hub, 30 miles west of Casper.

° July 14 – Holiday Inn, 1675 Sunset Dr., Rock Springs

° July 15 – Marbleton Town Hall, 10700 Highway 189, Big Piney

° July 16 – Rodeway Inn/Pronghorn Lodge, 150 E. Main St., Lander

° July 17 – Ramada Plaza Riverside, 300 W. F St., Casper

All meetings will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. BLM specialists and project representatives will be on hand to provide information, answer questions and collect public comments regarding the proposed pipeline route, identified issues and potential impacts and mitigation.

The BLM is extending the scoping period from July 9 to Aug. 1 to allow additional time for the submission of public comments following the scoping meetings. Written comments identifying specific issues, concerns, ideas or mitigation opportunities for consideration in the environmental impact statement should be emailed to BLM_WY_RRNP@blm.gov with “Public Comment” in the subject line; faxed to 307-352-0329; or mailed or delivered to the BLM, Attn: Stephanie Anderson, 280 Hwy. 191 N., Rock Springs WY 82901.

Related documents can be reviewed at the Rock Springs Field Office, 280 Hwy. 191 N., Rock Springs, Wyo., or online.

For more information, contact Jim Stobaugh at 775-861-6478 or jstobaug@blm.gov. 

Posted by on June 27, 2014
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Wyoming unemployment rate at 3.8% in May 2014

— June 24, 2014

(Press Release) — The Research & Planning section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services reported today that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rose slightly from 3.7% in April to 3.8% in May 2014 (not a statistically significant change). Wyoming’s unemployment rate remained much lower than its May 2013 level of 4.6%, and significantly lower than the current U.S. unemployment rate of 6.3%. Seasonally adjusted employment of Wyoming residents increased, rising by 192 individuals (0.1%) from April to May.

Most county unemployment rates increased marginally from April to May. It is normal to see some fluctuations in unemployment rates and sometimes unemployment increases in May as young people leave school and join the labor force. The largest unemployment rate increases occurred in Albany (up from 2.8% to 3.4%), Laramie (up from 3.7% to 4.3%), and Sweetwater (up from 3.0% to 3.6%) counties. Unemployment fell in Teton (down from 7.0% to 5.7%), Park (down from 4.1% to 3.9%), and Lincoln (down from 5.1% to 5.0%) counties.

From May 2013 to May 2014, nearly all unemployment rates fell slightly. The largest decreases occurred in Teton (down from 6.6% to 5.7%), Campbell (down from 3.8% to 2.9%), and Sheridan (down from 4.9% to 4.1%) counties. Carbon County’s unemployment rate rose very slightly from 4.1% in May 2013 to 4.2% in May 2014.

Converse County reported the lowest unemployment rate in May (2.8%). It was followed by Sublette (2.9%), Campbell (2.9%), and Niobrara (3.1%) counties. The highest unemployment rates were found in Teton (5.7%), Lincoln (5.0%), Fremont (4.8%), and Johnson (4.8%) counties.

Total nonfarm employment (measured by place of work) rose from 291,600 in May 2013 to 293,300 in May 2014, a gain of 1,700 jobs (0.6%).

Research & Planning has scheduled the June employment news release for July 22, 2014.

Posted by on June 24, 2014
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Cloud Peak Energy has single fatality at Spring Creek Mine

— June 24, 2014

(Press Release) — Wyoming-based Cloud Peak Energy confirms a fatality at its Spring Creek Mine in Montana at approximately 7:00 p.m. local time on June 23, 2014 in a single haul truck incident. There are no other injuries to report. Next of kin has been notified.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, co-workers and friends,” said Colin Marshall, Cloud Peak Energy President and CEO.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Big Horn County Sheriff have been notified and are on site. The cause of the incident is being investigated.

Cloud Peak Energy will provide updated information via press releases on its website at www.cloudpeakenergy.com as it becomes available.

About Cloud Peak Energy
Cloud Peak Energy Inc. (NYSE:CLD) is headquartered in Wyoming and is one of the largest U.S. coal producers and the only pure-play Powder River Basin (PRB) coal company. As one of the safest coal producers in the nation, Cloud Peak Energy mines low sulfur, subbituminous coal and provides logistics supply services. The company owns and operates three surface coal mines in the PRB, the lowest cost major coal producing region in the nation. The Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines are located in Wyoming and the Spring Creek mine is located in Montana. In 2013, Cloud Peak Energy shipped 86.0 million tons from its three mines to customers located throughout the U.S. and around the world. Cloud Peak Energy also owns rights to substantial undeveloped coal and complimentary surface assets in the Northern PRB, further building the company’s long-term position to serve Asian export and domestic customers. With approximately 1,700 total employees, the company is widely recognized for its exemplary performance in its safety and environmental programs. Cloud Peak Energy is a sustainable fuel supplier for approximately 4 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Posted by on June 24, 2014
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Jewell announces $27.1 million in PILT funds for Wyoming 

— June 17, 2014

(Press Release) — As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to rural communities, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that 23 local governments in Wyoming are receiving a total of $27,143,411 under the 2014 Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

Distributed today, the payments are part of a record $436.9 million in PILT allocations to nearly 1,900 local governments around the nation. The payments represent the largest amount ever allocated under the PILT program to compensate counties and local governments for non-taxable federal land in their jurisdictions. A full list of funding by state and county is available at www.doi.gov/pilt.

“Rural communities contribute significantly to our nation’s economy, food and energy supply, and help define the character of our diverse and beautiful country,” Secretary Jewell said. “President Obama has made job creation and opportunity in rural areas a top priority for his Administration and has fought for continuing the PILT program, which is a lifeline for many local communities.”

PILT program eligibility is reserved for local governments (mostly rural counties) that contain non-taxable federal lands and provide vital services, such as public safety, housing, social services and transportation. These jurisdictions provide significant support for national parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas throughout the year. PILT seeks to compensate them for their support and foregoing tax revenue from these federal lands.

This year’s PILT program is the last to be funded under the Agriculture Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-79), which reauthorized PILT for 2014 and funded full entitlement levels of the program.  From 2008 through 2012, the program was funded under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (P.L. 112-141) provided funding for the program in 2013. The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposes to extend mandatory full funding for the program for another year while a sustainable long-term funding solution is developed for the PILT program.

“PILT payments help local governments carry out vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search and rescue operations. These critical investments help keep essential public employees on the job,” added Jewell. “President Obama has proposed to fully fund the PILT program, and we encourage Congress to take the required action to make sure this important program continues.”

The Interior Department collects about $14 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on federal lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting. A portion of these revenues are distributed to states and counties in the form of revenue-sharing payments. The balance is deposited in the U.S. Treasury, which in turn pays for a broad array of federal activities that benefit state and local governments, including PILT funding to counties.

Using a formula provided by statute, the annual PILT payments to local governments are computed based on the number of acres of federal entitlement land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction. The lands include the National Forest and National Park Systems, the areas managed by Bureau of Land Management, those affected by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water resource development projects, and others.

Individual county payments may vary from the prior year as a result of changes in acreage data, which is updated yearly by the federal agency administering the land, prior year Federal Revenue Sharing payments reported yearly by the governor of each state, and population data, which is updated using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Federal Revenue Sharing payments are made to local governments under programs other than PILT during the previous fiscal year. Payments include those made under the Refuge Revenue Sharing Fund, the National Forest Fund and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, among others.

By statute, the per acre and population variables used in the formula to compute payment amounts are subject to annual inflationary adjustments using the Consumer Price Index.  The requirement for annual inflationary adjustments to the per acre and population variables was included in the 1994 amendments to the PILT Act.  For purposes of calculating the 2014 payment, the 2013 per acre amounts are adjusted from $2.54 per acre and $0.35 per acre to $2.58 and $0.36 per acre, and the population variables are adjusted from $68.45 – $171.11 to $69.59 – $173.97 per capita.

Posted by on June 17, 2014
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Visitors watch Old Faithful geyser erupt from a second-floor observation deck at the Old Faithful Inn. (Ruffin Prevost/WyoFile - click to enlarge)

Visitors watch Old Faithful geyser erupt from a second-floor observation deck at the Old Faithful Inn. (Ruffin Prevost/WyoFile – click to enlarge)

Slight Uptick In Yellowstone Visitation For First Five Months Of 2014

— June 11, 2014

(Press Release) — Visitation to Yellowstone National Park for the month of May and for the first five months of 2014 is up almost six percent compared to the previous year.

Visitation to the world’s first national park begins to pick up in May as weather improves and interior roads and visitor facilities begin to open to the public.

There were 310,039 recreational visitors to Yellowstone in May and a total of 415,185 for the first five months of 2014.  That compares to 293,250 recreational visitors for May 2013 and 392,222 recreational visitors for January through May 2013.

Visitation at each of the park’s five entrances for the month of May and for the first five months of 2014 is up compared to 2013 levels.

Recreational

Visits

2014

Recreational

Visits

2013

 

Change

January

26,778

24,699

+   8.42 %

February

28,233

31,053

-    9.08 %

March

18,778

18,613

+   0.89 %

April

31,356

24,606

+ 27.43 %

May

310,039

293,250

+   5.73 %

Total Year-To-Date

415,185

392,222

+    5.85%

Visitation statistics are calculated by taking the actual number of wheeled vehicles entering the park gates, and using a person-per-vehicle multiplier to calculate the number of monthly recreational visitors.

July is typically the park’s peak visitation month, followed in order by August, June, September, and May.

Detailed park visitation information and additional information on how these statistics are calculated is available online at https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/Reports/ReportList.

Posted by on June 11, 2014
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State ready to green-light Simplot Rock Springs ammonia plant

by WyoFile staff
— June 3, 2014

None of 19 Wyoming agencies reviewing Simplot Phosphates, LLC’s application to build a $350-million-plus ammonia plant near Rock Springs has found a reason to oppose the project.

Agencies, from the Game and Fish Department to the Department of Transportation and Public Service Commission, responded to requests from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to weigh in on the plan to build the plant 5 miles south of Rock Springs on Simplot property. Five divisions in the DEQ also responded.

Based on the comments, the DEQ’s Industrial Siting Division recommends only conditions “common to all permits” be required of Simplot. Those 14 conditions range from one requiring construction to begin in three years to one mandating Simplot secure “all required State land local permits and approvals…” 

Simplot responded to each of the agency comments through the law firm Holland & Hart. Simplot lawyers pointed out repeatedly that many of the agencies had no authority to require changes to its plan.

Those analyzing the application expect a temporary need for nine new teachers and staff, one law enforcement officer and a 0.84 full-time fire protection position. There’s a prediction of 285 additional trips to the emergency room, an increase of 1.4 percent, according to the state documents.

Agency comments include a mind-numbing 208-pages of traffic analysis in Rock Springs.

The DEQ Solid & Hazardous Waste Division said it can’t tell if the ammonia plant would require a permit from it. “Simplot needs to explain the type and quantity of hazardous waste they will produce during facility operations and why a hazardous waste permit would or would not be needed to manage those wastes.”

Simplot, through Holland & Hart, said simply that “the ammonia production process itself will not generate any hazardous waste.

“There are some catalysts used in the ammonia plant that are changed every three to ten years,” the response said. “Simplot currently does not know the exact makeup of these catalysts because they have not yet been specified. However, Simplot does not believe that these catalysts will be hazardous wastes and Simplot plans to recycle these through a vendor “specializing in this work.”

In its application, Simplot said the ammonia plant would not discharge anything harmful. “There are no anticipated chemical, physical, biological, or radiological discharges associated with construction or operation of the proposed Project that would substantially impair the health, safety, or welfare of the present or expected inhabitants in the area of site influence or the proposed Project area,” the application states.

The application process for the ammonia plant included a previous round of comments, a DEQ review and catalog of deficiencies, and Simplot’s response to the missing information. See the Industrial Siting Division’s summary of the process here.

The Industrial Siting Council will decide whether to issue a permit for the plant starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 4, at Holiday Inn Rock Springs under rules governing contested cases. Council members Gregg Bierei, James Miller, Richard O’Gara, Peter Brandjord, John Corra and Sandy Shuptrine will consider the permit under the chairmanship of Shawn Warner.

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Posted by on June 3, 2014
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Results of Gov Mead’s Wyoming Water Strategy focus of public meeting June 4 in Casper

— May 29, 2014

(Press release) — Gov. Matt Mead is continuing to work on a Wyoming Water Strategy with broad public input. Last year, he held nine listening sessions around the state. Now people have additional ways to participate. On June 4th in Casper state officials will present the results of the listening sessions. Anyone can attend the conference in person or they can join online and send comments over the internet.

“Water is critical to Wyoming’s future and because of its importance I want as many people to be involved in this strategy as possible. By taking advantage of technology, people can join this meeting from their homes or from the local public library. I urge everyone who can, to join on June 4th,” Gov. Mead said.

The meeting will take place in Casper at 9:00 am at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 2211 King Boulevard. To join online visit this link.

Access to information that will be presented on June 4th is available here. People can comment in person, online or by contacting the Governor’s Office directly.

“The Water Strategy will be flexible and will include efforts that are defined and have outcomes that can be measured. These will cover water storage, management, protection and conservation, along with water and watershed restoration. Anyone can give information about the kinds of projects most necessary at this time,” Gov. Mead said. “I am excited about technology and its role in enhancing the public process.”

Posted by on May 29, 2014
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Open Studios Day at Ucross

— May 29, 2014Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 3.26.49 PM

(Press release) – Ucross Foundation is hosting its first-ever Open Studios event on the afternoon of Saturday, June 7, in conjunction with an Alliance for Historic Wyoming workshop taking place at Big Red that day. Visitors will have a chance to meet Ucross artists-in-residence in their private studios. Participating artists include visual artists Vesna Jovanovic (Chicago, IL), Gordon McConnell (Billings, MT), and Laini Nemett (New York), and writers Anthony Wallace (Boston, MA), Catherine Chung (New York), and Stephen O’Connor (New York).  

The event, which is open to the public at no charge, will take place from 3-6 p.m. Ucross is also the launching off point for the Unbarred tour of the Piney Creek area being presented by the Alliance for Historic Wyoming.

Ucross Foundation President Sharon Dynak stated, “We are delighted to give our local community this rare behind-the-scenes experience of meeting artists-in-residence in their Ucross studios. The Alliance for Historic Wyoming’s morning workshop, with its focus on preservation in our area, is the perfect chance to celebrate the preservation that took place at Big Red over 30 years ago. It was only through the restoration of the Big Red Complex, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, that the Foundation’s artist-in-residence program was able to take root and blossom the way it has.”

The Ucross Foundation Residency Program supports over 90 artists, writers, composers and choreographers each year, with the gift of space and time for uninterrupted work. Nearly 2,000 individuals have come to Ucross since the program opened its doors in 1983, including many who have gone on to achieve international recognition, such as Annie Proulx, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ann Patchett, Doug Wright, Adam Guettel and many others. 

Buildings that will be included in the Open Studios event, which are not normally open to the public, are the Rock Studios (the visual arts complex), the Kocur Writing Retreat, Jesse’s Hideout (a composer’s cabin), the School House, and the Depot, which was formerly a Burlington Northern Santa Fe depot, moved from Clearmont to Ucross in the late 1980s. The Foundation’s Ranch House and Art Gallery, featuring work by Chessney Sevier and Teresa Jordan, will also be open to the public that day.

Ucross Foundation is located at 30 Big Red Lane, .5 miles east of the intersection of Highways 14 and 16 East, 10 miles west of Clearmont.  

For further information on the Open Studios event, call (307) 737-2291 or email info@ucross.org. For more information about the Alliance of Historic Wyoming historic preservation workshop on the morning of June 7, or to register for the workshop, call (307) 333-3508 or email ExecDirector@historicwyoming.org

Posted by on May 29, 2014
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Industrial Siting Council to consider permit for Simplot ammonia plant

by WyoFile staff
— May 28, 2014

The Wyoming Industrial Siting Council will consider a constriction permit application for Simplot Phosphates, LLC’s proposed Rock Springs Ammonia Facility Project on Wednesday, June 4, at the Holiday Inn Rock Springs.

The appointed seven-member council will consider the application at 10 a.m. under rules governing contested cases. Council members Gregg Bierei, James Miller, Richard O’Gara, Peter Brandjord, John Corra and Sandy Shuptrine will consider the permit under the chairmanship of Shawn Warner.

The plant is expected to cost more than $350 million, according to state documents.

Simplot proposes to build and operate the plant on its land at the company’s phosphate fertilizer complex 5 miles south of Rock Springs. The ammonia plant would produce 600 tons a day for use in the fertilizer factory.

Ultimately, the plant would employ 27 full-time workers when fully staffed, according to the company’s 385-page application. Construction would begin in June or July, 2014, and would employ up to 460 persons during the peak of activity in 2016. The plant would be completed that summer.

The plant would require about 150 gallons of water per minute “within the currently permitted level” for the existing phosphates complex, the application states. The company expects “no significant environmental impacts.” Simplot would build the plant on 20 acres in the big sagebrush and short- to mid-grass prairie communities.

Anhydrous ammonia is one of the major raw materials used in the existing fertilizer plant, which produces 400,000 tons of phosphorus pentoxide for fertilizer annually. Today, Simplot buys ammonia from an outside source and ships it to the fertilizer plant by rail. Rising transportation costs and other factors lead the company to seek its own ammonia production.

Simplot expects to employ up to 100 local workers during the 25-months of construction and spend $49 million in the area for equipment, materials and services, the application states.

Simplot would pay impact assistance funds to local communities, estimated at $383,502 a month, based on a formula that tracks the growth of sales and use taxes. The plant would generate an estimated $7.9 million in ad valorem tax revenue over the next five years, Simplot says.

To produce fertilizer, Simplot uses phosphate from a mine near Vernal, Utah, that’s made into a slurry and piped 96 miles to Rock Springs. Ammonia would be made at the proposed plant from natural gas. Questar would build a 2.5 mile 8-inch natural gas pipeline to the plant.

Public comments can be made in the form of a “limited appearance statement,” that must be written and given to officials at the hearing, according to a Wyoming DEQ legal notice.

The Wyoming DEQ’s Industrial Siting Division is recommending 14 conditions be required in the permit.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to see more quality Wyoming journalism, please consider supporting WyoFile: a non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to in-depth reporting on Wyoming’s people, places and policy.
 
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Posted by on May 28, 2014
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State calls for participants: 2014 Science Standards Review

— May 27, 2014

(Press release) — The Wyoming Department of Education has issued a call to all Wyoming residents who are interested in serving on the 2014 Wyoming Science Standards Review Committee. The work of this committee will begin this summer with 2-4 days of meetings in July and August and continue for approximately 10-18 months. The department anticipate another 1-4 days of meetings during the 2014-2015 school year.

The science standards will outline what students should know and be able to do at the end of a grade level. Standards are concise, written descriptions that describe educational objectives. They do not describe any particular teaching practice, curriculum, or assessment method.

If you are interested in serving on this committee, please complete the survey by clicking this link.

The survey will close at 11:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 14, 2014.

Please note: Completing this survey does not commit you to anything at this time, nor does it sign you up to serve. You are simply expressing an interest to participate. Standards committee members will be chosen from the list of those interested and will be contacted directly through the email address they provide in the survey.

For questions regarding the committee work or the survey, please contact Laurie Hernandez at laurie.hernandez@wyo.gov or 307-777-3469.

Posted by on May 27, 2014
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