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

U.S. Bureau of Land Management


Since 2010, whenever a parcel of land was nominated to be leased by an oil and gas company, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) went through a significant review period. There were site visits, comments when draft environmental assessments were released, and an additional 30 days of public comment once the sale was live. But Tim Spisak, acting assistant director of energy, minerals, and realty management for the BLM, said all that review wasn’t efficient for energy production.

Mark Christensen speaking in front of the House Subcommittee on Natural Resources
House Committee on Natural Resources

Congress is considering a bill called the POWER Counties Act that would re-direct funds back to mineral-producing counties. The reclamation fund within the Mineral Leasing Act typically supports water projects, like dams, but now has an excess of money thanks to increased mineral leasing. 

Wyoming Integrated Test Center
Tri-State Generation and Transmission

The Integrated Test Center (ITC) in Gillette will host five finalists for the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition later this year. The 10 teams were selected this week, down from 27 in the semi-final round. The remaining five teams will be located in Alberta studying natural gas instead of coal. 

Statewide Chronic Wasting Disease Distribution (All Species)
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Researchers are attempting to breed genetic resistance to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) into farmed deer and elk. CWD was once rare, but is now found in herds across the U.S. including Wyoming. It’s known for causing weight loss, lethargy, and eventually death

Jimmy Emerson via Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Amount of Financial Assurances Held in 2017, by Type, for Reclaiming Coal Mines in States and on Indian Tribal Lands with Active Coal Mining
U.S. Government Accountability Office

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is recommending Congress eliminate self-bonding. It's a method used by coal companies to guarantee clean-up costs without putting money down.

The problems with self-bonding were highlighted when several of the nation’s largest coal companies went bankrupt in 2015 and 2016. The huge bill leftover for clean-up costs nearly fell on taxpayer shoulders. Wyoming has been looking to reform the practice since 2013, with a more concrete proposal released in 2017.

Energy Trends Conference held by the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Coal has railroads, oil and gas have pipelines, but transferring renewable energy isn’t so easy. Wyoming has one of the best wind resources in the country, though many see a ceiling to its success due to transmission capacity limits. 

Cooper McKim/Wyoming Public Radio

Sustainability has a become a buzzword when it comes to facing environmental challenges. But one researcher believes resilience is a better answer. 

Bureau of Land Management logo
U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management

An Obama-era rule seeking to limit methane emissions from oil and gas projects is no longer in effect. It sought to reduce leaking, flaring and venting of natural gas in drilling operations. The U.S. District Court in Wyoming has paused the Bureau of Land Management’s Waste Prevention Rule until the agency completes revisions. That process is currently underway

It’s been a consistent target of the Trump administration with delay attempts, as well as the call for revisions. 

Bureau of Land Management via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

A section of the North Platte River, between Gray Reef and Casper, may receive new commercial permits for fishing due to increased annual demand. The Bureau of Land Management put out a request for public comment to learn more about how recreationists want to use the stretch between Gray Reef and Casper. 

A gas flare, used to burn off flammable gas -- on Highway 59 from Gillette
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Oil and gas advocacy groups said companies are struggling to comply with newly in effect methane regulations. The Obama-era rule aims to reduce leaks and greenhouse gas emissions and has faced several roll-back attempts from the Trump Administration. But in February, a California court refused to postpone the rule, putting it back into effect.

DEQ's Land Quality Division Advisory Board meeting in Gillette while webcasting in Cheyenne and Jackson members
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Rules that would have placed limits on self-bonding will be sent back to the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Land Quality Division following a meeting of its advisory board Wednesday. Self-bonding is a way for mining companies to guarantee clean-up costs without putting money down.

Gov. Matt Mead speaking to a pro-coal rally at Gillette College prior to the official EPA listening session
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Hundreds of people from across the mountain west gathered Tuesday at Gillette College to discuss the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, or CPP. That’s a 2015 Obama-era rule that would force states to limit greenhouse gas emissions at power plants. Many see it as the former president’s key piece of legislation to combat climate change. In October of 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the first step towards a repeal.  

The foreground is reclaimed mine land, with the active coal mine behind.
Wyoming Mining Assocation

Back in 2011, the coal market looked great. Three of the largest coal companies in the world, all with mines in Wyoming, invested big in metallurgical coal, the kind used for infrastructure. Sierra Club Attorney Peter Morgan said, “Each company took on hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of debt."

Oil and gas drilling on Jay Butler's property in Converse County
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A major oil and gas project has taken a step forward with the end of its public comment period last week. The 5,000 well project covers over 1.5 million acres in Converse County, and received 110 comments following the release of its draft environmental impact statement, or EIS. 

WyDOT Photograph of Closed U.S. 287
Wyoming Department of Transportation

Due to heavy snow causing downed trees, nearly 3,000 people in Laramie lost power Thursday evening. Rocky Mountain Power is the town’s electricity provider. Dave Eskelsen, a media relations officer with Rocky Mountain Power, said several outages occurred. 

SF 74, image below Gov. Mead's veto letter
Legislative Service Office

Governor Matt Mead has vetoed a bill aimed to make new criminal classifications for those damaging or slowing down critical infrastructure like oil and gas facilities or pipelines. In a public letter, he said it was imprecisely crafted with some crimes already covered under other statutes. 

DEQ Notice of Public Meeting
Department of Environmental Quality

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has released a final rule proposal that would change how coal companies self-bond. That’s when a company uses an IOU to guarantee clean-up costs based on its financial strength. 

Listen to the full show here. 

2018 Legislative Session Update: Chaos, Critical Infrastructure, And Education Funding

The Wyoming Legislative session is coming to an end and Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck joined Morning Edition host Caroline Ballard to discuss the lawmakers' progress.

Combination of several notices, regulations, and proposed policies
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Club’s Wyoming Chapter

This week, both the state and federal government took steps that will change how coal companies deal with pollution and reclamation.

Sheridan County meeting to discuss rezoning
Robin Bagley / Powder River Basin Resource Council

Sheridan County Commissioners voted three to two in favor of rezoning 114 acres of land from agricultural to industrial. It’s the first regulatory step for Ramaco Wyoming Coal Company LLC, which owns the land, to eventually develop there. 

Senate President Eli Bebout discusses SF-98 with the House Revenue Committee
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill seeking to incentivize more oil and gas production has died in the House Revenue Committee with a 6 to 3 vote. Senate File 98 would have cut the severance tax rate for oil and gas in half after the second year of production until the end of the fourth.

Senate President Eli Bebout Speaks To Full Senate
Cooper McKim

It’s the third of four weeks in the 2018 budget session. With the current revenue crunch, many bills have revolved around spurring new revenue, finding new sources, or cutting back on spending. And for energy, it’s no different. The surviving bills also come down to money. Thirteen bills arose related to energy, with only three still moving through the system. There are others that relate, but are not directly tied to energy.

Powder River Basin Resource Council's Shannon Anderson speaking to the Senate Minerals Committee about SF-98
Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

A bill looking to cut future severance taxes for oil and gas companies was approved by the Senate Minerals Committee. Senate File 98 would cut severance taxes in half during the third year of production until the end of its fourth year.  

Cody Senator Hank Coe said the goal is to attract new energy operations to Wyoming over another mineral producing state. Coe said that it's worked before. 

Digest For SF-98
Wyoming Legislative Service Office

Proposed legislation passed introduction in the State Senate last Friday that would cut the severance tax rate in half for petroleum and natural gas companies for a certain period of time. The reduction from 6 percent to 3 percent would take place during the project's third year until the end of its fourth. 

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. 

 

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