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

Austin Woody

Laramie residents Shealyn and Austin Woody left for a five-day rafting trip on San Juan river in Utah on March 13. They had just eloped and wanted to celebrate that along with some birthdays while relaxing on the water.

March 13 was an important turning point in the U.S. response to COVID-19. That's when the federal government declared a national emergency and Wyoming began to see tighter restrictions. In the five days the Woody's were gone and without cellphone service, Governor Mark Gordon recommended all schools close, created coronavirus taskforces, and ordered the closure of public spaces.

As they returned to Laramie newlyweds, it was already changed.

Coal seam at Peabody's North Antelope Rochelle Mine
Peabody Energy

On March 30, Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and Sen. Mike Enzi led 10 other U.S. Senate signatories in a request for the U.S. Department of the Interior to administer help to the coal, oil and gas industries amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Representative Liz Cheney signed a similar letter coming from the House of Representatives today alongside 29 other Congressmen.

Timeline for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition; the final deadline was moved from June 30, 2020 to August 17, 2020
NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE

The $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE has moved back its final deadline by seven weeks. The competition aims to demonstrate viable new uses for carbon dioxide; one half of the competition is hosted by the Integrated Test Center at the Dry Fork Station in Gillette. The other half is located in Alberta which has not yet seen any deadline changes.

The three eastern coal companies are making changes and some mine closures amidst COVID-19
Rosebud Mining Company, Corsa Energy, Consol energy

Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), added the coal industry to its list of critical infrastructure - a list of what's considered vital to public health, the economy, and national security.

One of Crusoe's computer modules
Permission from Crusoe Energy System

Crusoe Energy Systems, with operations in Wyoming's Powder River Basin and northern DJ Basin, is contributing to a global effort to find a cure for COVID-19, now with the help of Mesa Natural Gas Solutions, based out of Casper.

Main Street, looking south toward Canyonlands National Park, in Moab, Utah
Hurricanehink via CC BY-SA 3.0

Recreation-based counties are seeing higher rates of COVID-19 than other rural counties, according to an analysis from the Daily Yonder, a non-profit publication that focuses on rural issues.

Social distancing at a WY Public Service Commission meeting
Public Service Commission

Wyoming agencies are making internal changes aimed at slowing the spread COVID-19 while keeping the public in the loop. Several are looking to hold public meetings via telephone or online including the Wyoming Public Service Commission and Department of Environmental Quality.

State of Wyoming

The state of Wyoming is issuing an order to close all non-essential personal services. The closure applies to cosmetology services including nail salons and barber shops. It will also affect massage parlors, tattoo, body art and piercing shops.

2017 990 Form
Energy and Policy Institute

3/27: The story has been updated to include Randy Eminger's voice - the executive director of the Energy Policy Network

An investigation published in the Colorado Sun called attention to a connection between the state of Wyoming and an organization that fought against the early closure of two coal-fired generating units in Colorado without disclosing its backing.

Cooper McKim; Stitches website

On March 12, Amy Surdam and her husband Dr. Dan Surdam waged war on COVID-19. The two Wyoming residents own Stitches Acute Care - a clinic in Laramie, Cheyenne and Wellington, Colorado. The clinics have transformed into a testing and treatment center for the global pandemic at a local level as well as an information hub for the whole state. Amy and Dan Surdam tell the story of how their world has changed in just a week.

Downtown Laramie
Nyttend

The Wyoming State Health Officer, with the support of Governor Mark Gordon, found it's necessary to close public spaces for a two-week period in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Wyoming Public Radio

Ultra Petroleum Corp., Wyoming's largest natural gas producer in 2019, agreed to additional one-time bonuses to six executives totaling $1,561,250.

KIEWIT

The Buckskin Mining Company laid off 60 employees across all departments ahead of schedule this week. Kiewit Corporation, the Omaha, Nebraska-based owner of the coal mine, announced March 12 to expect around 50 lay-offs due to a production decline in 2020. A public release anticipated that lay-off date to come in early April. 

Coal seam at Peabody's North Antelope Rochelle Mine
Peabody Energy

This is a developing story.

Coal companies with mines in Wyoming are making adjustments as COVID-19 increases its spread worldwide. Wyoming has 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 thus far with patients in Sheridan and Fremont Counties.

Peabody Energy

Peabody's three Wyoming mines are all still in operation. Charlene Murdock, director of corporate communications for Peabody Energy, said they are following the advice from government authorities to manage the spread of COVID-19.

www.nrel.gov

There were only six bills centered on renewables this session, but you'd be forgiven to think there were many more. Even when it wasn't the topic of conversation, renewables were on lawmaker's minds.

Map of the COVID-19 outbreak as of 11 March 2020.
Pharexia

The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) has reported an adult female from Sheridan County with recent domestic travel has tested positive for COVID-19.

The announcement Wednesday evening followed a lab test from the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory in Cheyenne. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will conduct further testing, but the test result will be considered a "presumptive positive."

WTI Crude pricing falling 20 percent since Friday, March 6.
oilprice.com

Oil prices fell 25 percent today in their steepest drop since 1991. The record stumble raises concerns of lasting impacts to Wyoming's revenue picture and energy producers in the state.

A few of the changes in an amendment adopted by the Senate
Legislative Service Office

An amended bill to move ad valorem tax payments from an 18-month to a monthly schedule has passed its first hurdle on the Senate floor.

Ad valorem taxes are a property tax paid to counties from mineral companies. Wyoming is currently missing out on about $130 million in delinquent ad valorem taxes, according to the Wyoming County Commissioners Association. 

NARM Map
Peabody Energy

Peabody Energy laid off 50 temporary employees who worked at the North Antelope Rochelle mine (NARM) in southern Campbell County on Thursday, the company confirmed.

"We routinely match staffing levels with production needs and the reduction in temporary workers is consistent with that approach," wrote Charlene Murdock, Peabody director of corporate communications.

Part of the land where the proposed Brook Mine may be dug
Cooper McKim

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has deemed a mine permit application technically complete for the second time. It's a step towards Ramaco Carbon mining between 2 and 5 million tons of thermal coal near Sheridan.

In 2017, the DEQ also signed off at this stage for Ramaco's proposed Brook Mine, but issues arose from nearby landowners, a coal company with conflicting rights, and a landowners' advocacy group. The controversy resulted in a contested-case hearing in front of the independent review board, the Environmental Quality Council (EQC).

Online GIS Maps; Cooper McKim

Wyoming legislators are working through two bills that would lay the groundwork to study and potentially buy over a million acres of land and four million acres of mineral rights across the southern part of the state.

The 1,010,900 acres of land in question sits within six Wyoming counties: Lincoln, Uinta, Carbon, Albany, Laramie, and Sweetwater. Local officials are beginning to grapple with the potential risks and rewards of the deal.

Combined coal mine assets
Wyoming Public Radio

This is a developing story.

The Federal Trade Commission has filed an administrative complaint challenging the proposed joint venture between Peabody Energy Corporation and Arch Coal. The federal agency has filed a preliminary injunction for the two companies to maintain the status quo pending a trial in August. In other words, the two companies will keep operations separate for now.

The proposed site for the Millennium Bulk Terminals in Washington State. Wyoming has pushed to open a port in the U.S. with distance from a port in Canada
Millennium Bulk Terminals - Longview

The House Revenue Committee went back and forth over a bill that looks to incentivize coal exports, voting 5 to 3 to move the bill forward.

House Bill 231, Coal Severance Tax Exemption - Canadian and Mexican Ports, is one of three bills with the goal of boosting exports this session along with the Wyoming Coal Marketing Program and Exportation of mineral resources. Both look to appropriate funds to expand Wyoming's coal markets. The former has already passed out of the House.

Cooper McKim

The House Revenue Committee sat down on an early Wednesday morning to a full audience. Chairman Dan Zwonitzer, who represents Cheyenne, switched seats in order to testify on a bill called "Reliable and Dispatchable Low-Carbon Energy Standards."

Governor Mark Gordon announced this week that Wyoming is looking to buying a million acres of land across southern Wyoming and surrounding states along with 4 million acres of mineral rights.

The Dry Fork Station, a coal-fired power plant, sits next to the Integrated Test Center which aims to research and develop carbon capture technology
Cooper McKim

The House Revenue Committee heard testimony today on a bill that would require public utilities to provide a certain percentage of their generation from "dispatchable and reliable low-carbon electricity."

House Bill 200 describes "low-carbon" as electricity generated using carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technology - a process that can store or reuse carbon dioxide. In Wyoming, that would mean utilities have an incentive to preserve coal-fired power plants by equipping new technology. They would have until July 1, 2030 to meet the standards.

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