Two Elk Saga: A note on sources and acknowledgements

This series is based on a broad review of public records and on dozens of interviews conducted since January 2011 in person, by telephone, or through email correspondence in 11 states — Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Utah, California, Montana, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, West Virginia — and Washington, D.C.

Among the documents reviewed were Department of Energy invoices obtained under the Freedom of Information Act; quarterly filings with the federal Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board; Colorado, California and Wyoming real estate assessment records; state and federal environmental filings; Colorado and California public utilities commission filings and transcripts of investigative hearings; state and federal tax-exempt industrial bond applications and correspondence; three voluminous bond sale transcripts and supporting documentation including detailed financial records; Internal Revenue Service audit reports and related correspondence with Wyoming county officials; federal Inspector General audit reports; paper and email correspondence between state and federal officials; state and federal campaign contribution reports; promotional materials and presentations by North American Power Group; and hundreds of articles in both general news and trade publications.

Among those interviewed were North American Power Group current and former employees, including NAPG president Michael J. Ruffatto and NAPG vice president Brad Enzi; former governors of Wyoming and Montana; a broad range of current and former Wyoming, California and Colorado officials, both elected and appointed, including members of relevant regulatory agencies and commissions; DOE supervisors and officials with the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh; ranchers with property adjacent to the Two Elk site; coal company land agents; and more than a dozen contractors, subcontractors and vendors, including engineers and scientists with expertise in the CO2 carbon sequestration field. Supplementally — for comparison purposes — I  interviewed a number of scientists, engineers, contractors and accountants with several stimulus-funded carbon sequestration site characterization projects similar to the Two Elk project.

Beginning in January 2012 after WyoFile reported that DOE had suspended the Two Elk stimulus grant, our numerous requests and appeals for additional documents under the Freedom of Information Act have been denied on the grounds that the case was the subject of  an “ongoing investigation” and “pending enforcement action.” I should note, however, that in nearly two years of interviews with dozens of people connected to the stimulus grant, I only encountered one individual who said he had been interviewed by federal investigators. That person, one of the principle contractors in the Two Elk stimulus grant, said he was questioned in person by an investigator with the National Energy Technology Laboratory. However, most of those whom I interviewed were eager to share what they knew. Several of those whom I attempted to interview said they were restricted in what they could say to me by corporate policy or non-disclosure contracts with NAPG, but volunteered that they would be happy and willing to talk about the Two Elk project if they were contacted by federal investigators.

Acknowledgements:

These stories were funded by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Washington, D.C., and a generous donation from WyoFile co-founder and longtime patron Christopher Findlater, formerly of Cheyenne and now living in Miami, Fla. WyoFile board chair Anne MacKinnon, an outstanding journalist and expert on resources policy, offered several excellent suggestions for an early draft. My professional colleague John Lancaster and his wife Gail Walker graciously put me up in their Capitol Hill home during my Washington, D.C., reporting trip. My cousin Kim Tempest housed me in Denver and R.T. Cox hosted me in Gillette.

Special thanks go to the dozens of sources, named and unnamed, who volunteered hours of their time to help me understand the Two Elk Saga. It is proof once again that public service journalism is not possible without an engaged public.

Finally, this story would not have been possible without the loving support and diligent assistance of my wife, the writer and brilliant copy editor Laura Richardson.

— Rone Tempest

2009 Grants
Project Summary-Abstract
Two Elk Docket 1997-2014
Carbon Sequestration Awards 2009
IRS Audit
DOE IG Audit March 2013
Two Elk pay vouchers 2010-2011
Mike Ruffato contributions to Freudenthal
Brad Enzi contribution to Freudenthal
Joan Ruffato contribution to Freudenthal
Etsi Coal Slurry Pipeline Proposal
Many Stars CTL Project Overview

Rone Tempest

Rone Tempest was a longtime national and foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. In 2004 he was part of a team of reporters to win the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the massive wildfires in Southern...

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