Cooper McKim

Natural Resources & Energy Reporter

Phone: 307-766-0809
Email: cmckim5@uwyo.edu

Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and now Wyoming. In South Carolina, he covered recovery efforts from a devastating flood in 2015. Throughout his time, he produced breaking news segments and short features for NPR. Cooper recently graduated from Tufts University with degrees in Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.

 

Ways to Connect

Oil and gas drilling on Butler’s property.
Cooper McKim

In northern Converse County, a semi-truck is pulling onto a highway from a rig site. It's rocking back and forth as 49 mile an hour sustained winds blow west. Many other trucks are parked in the lot as well, carrying oil, gravel, water and rig supplies. All this oil and gas activity is happening on Jay Butler’s ranch. 

 

Methane is flared from a well pad in North Dakota’s Bakken formation in photo taken during a 2014 NOAA research project.
Jeff Peischl / NOAA/CIRES

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a revision to the 2016 venting and flaring rule, or Waste Prevention Rule, meant to limit methane emissions from oil and gas projects. The change would rollback requirements strengthened under President Obama including waste minimization plans, well drilling requirements, and leak

People watching Old Faithful erupt from geyser cone, Yellowstone National Park, 1948
R. Robinson / National Park Service Photo Gallery

Several illegal actions took place within national parks during the three-day government shutdown in January. In Zion National Park, a pregnant elk was poached, in Gettysburg National Military Park, a family brought in a metal detector and a drone — both of which are prohibited—and in Yellowstone, private snowmobilers went past the legal boundary to get close to the geyser Old Faithful.

Peabody Energy logo
Peabody Energy

The largest coal company in the world released its earnings report today, announcing that 2017 was a strong year for its production, revenue, and exports. Peabody Energy operates several of its largest mines in the Powder River Basin, including the North Antelope Rochelle, Rawhide, and Caballo mines. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2016 and re-emerged last year.

Adjacent Property Owners Map, Laramie River Station -- map in emergency plan
Laramie River Station / Basin Electric Power Cooperative

The Sierra Club, a national conservation group, has threatened the Laramie River Station, LRS, a cooperative, coal-fired power plant near Wheatland, with a lawsuit over its failure to follow certain federal guidelines.

Comparison of North Atlantic and global marine-margin temperature reconstructions with our pollen-inferred mean annual temperature reconstruction for North America and Europe.
Jeremiah Marsicek/University of Wyoming / Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature

A paper published by a former University of Wyoming graduate student shows recent temperatures across Europe and North America are at unprecedented highs. The report, titled "Reconciling Divergent Trends and Millennial Variations in Holocene Temperatures” looked at climate patterns over the past 11,000 years.

Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

Winds were gusting over 45 miles per hour on an overcast day at the Dunmire Ranch in southeastern Wyoming. Black cows grazed in the distance with wind turbines lined up on the horizon. At the center of ranch, young colts milled around the corral. Gator, a 14-year-old blind and deaf dog, barked, guarding the home of rancher Les Dunmire. 

 

Inside the house, Dunmire put on his dirt-caked cowboy hat and boots, as he told me how he’s owned this ranch for just over 30 years and that this lifestyle goes back generations.

 

Converse, Wyoming County Map
Sperling's Best Places

An oil and gas project that would develop 5,000 new wells over 1.5 million acres of private, forest service, Bureau of Land Management, and state land in Converse County has taken a step forward. The BLM has released a draft version of the project’s environmental impact statement.

Several orphan sites listed on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality online page
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

Factories and dry cleaners used to dump contaminated waste wherever was convenient. Over the past thirty years, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has identified the locations many of these contaminated sites, also known as orphan sites, but the polluting companies are no longer around to pay to clean them up.

Sample of Wildlife Conservation Plate via Muley Fantatic Foundation
Muley Fanatic Foundation / Muley Fanatic Foundation

A state legislator wants to help prevent vehicle collisions with wildlife with the help of new wildlife conservation license plates. Representative Stan Blake of Sweetwater County is sponsoring a bill where individuals could purchase the $100 plates to generate new revenue for conservation efforts along big game migration corridors.

Pinedale, WY at sundown with a rig in the background
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

When you look past the light brown brick courthouse in downtown Pinedale, there are rolling hills dotted with sage brush and thin dark shapes in the distance. Those are oil and gas rigs. They are the largest contributor to revenue out here, but sometimes, when those companies that own those rigs remove resources from the ground, they don’t follow through on paying a key tax to the county. 

Pioneer Cunningham Ranch Historic Cabin Wyoming
CC0 Public Domain

Organizations in the region are encouraging ranchers and farmers to think ahead about how to pass their land on to the next generation so the way of life doesn’t disappear. As property values outpace the potential revenue from agriculture, it’s harder for families to pass down their land or even sell it to another rancher. 

 Logo of the United States Forest Service
US Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service closed its comment period asking the public whether to reopen sage grouse conservation plans. The National Wildlife Federation found that over 120,000 comments were submitted requesting the agency to keep the plans how they are. The organization, along with several other conservation groups, analyzed the comments to come up with the number. 

Holly Copeland / The Nature Conservancy

In the first quarter of 2018, the Bureau of Land Management will place seven times more acres of sage grouse habitat on sale in Wyoming for oil and gas drilling than it did during the same time last year. Holly Copeland, conservation scientist with The Nature Conservancy, crunched the numbers.

POWDER RIVER BASIN RESOURCE COUNCIL

Mineral extraction companies owe Wyoming counties more than $42 million in back taxes, fees, and penalties, according to a new report from the Powder River Basin Resource Council. The publication looked at 12 counties in Wyoming from 2006 to 2016.

DXR

A coal company and an oil and gas company are stuck in legal limbo over who has superior rights on overlapping federal leases in the Powder River Basin. The case has been bandied back and forth in federal court, state court, district court… but in the end, who should settle this debate? Cheyenne oil and gas attorney Kris Koski, who is not involved in the case, helps give deeper analysis about what the controversy and potential resolution means for Wyoming.

 

Supreme Court, State of Wyoming

The Wyoming Supreme Court says a mineral rights case involving overlapping federal leases in the Powder River Basin cannot be resolved without intervention from a federal agency. The court is now sending it back to a Wyoming district court.

Yellowstone National Park Emblem Sticker
National Park Service

A coalition of tribal and conservation groups is asking a judge to restore federal protections for Greater Yellowstone grizzly bears, as it also asks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), to restore federal protections on their own.

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

Listen to the full show here. 

Tax Reform's Impact On Western Energy

The debate over tax reform has finally come to an end. Congress has passed its bill and President Trump has signed it. But what’s it all mean for western energy? Wyoming Public Radio’s Cooper McKim helps deconstruct tax reform’s impact. 

The High Plains wind farm, near McFadden, Wyoming.
Leigh Paterson

  

The debate over tax reform has finally come to an end. Congress has passed its bill, and the President has signed it. But what’s it all mean for western energy?

Renewable Energy Threat Removed

Wyoming Game and Fish Department logo
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

On December 5, a man was caught with an illegally hunted wolf from the Gros Ventre range north of Jackson.

Passing hunters had seen the wolf move from an open hunting area to a closed one, then heard gunshots soon after. The group called in the tip to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department with a vehicle description. Warden Jon Stephens tracked down the offending sportsmen, whose name cannot yet be legally released by the department.

Bureau of Land Management; https://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D9%85%D9%84%D9%81:Coal_mine_Wyoming.jpg

Wyoming voted for President Trump at a higher percentage than any other state, in part because the President promised a new era of energy dominance. After declining employment numbers in fossil fuel industries, increasing environmental regulations and coal company bankruptcies, many were ready to see a change. So, what has changed in the President’s first year?

Wyoming Game and Fish Department logo
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

A private ranch has donated enough money to open, or keep open, about 7200 acres of private land around Wyoming for public access to hunting and fishing. The Pathfinder Ranches gave more than $2,250 to Access Yes, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department program. 

Wyoming Outdoor Council

A 14-year veteran of the Wyoming Outdoor Council will take the reins in the coming year. Lisa McGee has worked on decade long projects for the conservation organization that have prevented fracking at the Hoback River and stopped oil and gas leasing within the Wyoming Range. She replaces Gary Wilmot who stepped down in September.

Cooper McKim

 

This holiday season, the Wyoming Public Radio news team is sharing stories about memories and traditions that stand out to them.

Wyoming isn’t known for having the largest Jewish community and that means some religious supplies aren’t as easy to come by. I learned that the hard way on the first day of Hanukkah this year - my first festival of lights celebration in Wyoming.  

Cattle Drive Near Pinedale, WY
Theo Stein / USFWS

Conservation groups want a fresh take on management of a contagious disease occurring in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem called brucellosis, which affects elk, bison and livestock. It can kill fetuses, decrease fertility and hurt milk production, and many consider it an economic threat, too.

PacifiCorp Logo
PacifiCorps

PacifiCorp, the largest utilities company in the western U.S., will evaluate the cost of its coal resources. The Oregon Public Utility Commission requested the action after customers and advocacy groups demanded more information on whether the current coal plants made sense economically.

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