Natural Resources & Energy

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How are wildland firefighters expected to battle blazes during a pandemic? That's not entirely clear, but a bipartisan bill proposed by Mountain West lawmakers aims to help ensure firefighters' safety.

Jacob W. Frank / NPS

Most national parks around the Mountain West remain closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. And it remains unclear when or if parks will reopen in the coming months. 

A new study in the journal Science says that human-driven climate change is pushing the American West into a megadrought, and into its driest period in more than 400 years.

 


Yellowstone National Park

Thermus aquaticus is a bacteria found in Yellowstone's thermal lakes - it's what gives some their brilliant yellow color. It was discovered almost 50 years ago, and it turns out to be a key component in most COVID-19 testing.

Kagan Sims; Ian McGivney


It's a calm Wednesday afternoon with snow falling down over a ranch in southern Wyoming. Normally, high school sophomore Kagan Sims would be sitting in English, but due to COVID-19 he's outdoors feeding pregnant cows. He said he's figuring out a new balance between work and school.

A map of the proposed CO2 pipeline corridors from the draft environmental impact statement released April 17
Bureau of Land Management

A project meant to support carbon capture and enhanced oil recovery in Wyoming has passed a regulatory hurdle. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Wyoming Pipeline Corridor Initiative (WPCI). It's now seeking public comment.

There’s been too much oil on the market since well before the coronavirus outbreak. But a recent agreement to cut production won’t be enough to prevent states in the Mountain West from taking a big hit.

 


Sinclair's 25,000 barrel-per-day refinery near Casper
Sinclair Oil Corporation

Governors from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Wyoming requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency make a move to prevent "existential harm" to small oil refineries, of which Wyoming has five.

Sheridan Community Land Trust

The Sheridan Community Land Trust (SCLT) has been granted $235,000 to secure two voluntary conservation easements in Sheridan County.

The two easements will help the organization maintain not only the land and water resources but also habitat for animals like greater sage grouse, mule deer and several species of migratory birds.

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has released temporary guidance outlining how certain entities like wastewater treatment plants or oil and gas operations should respond if COVID-19 makes regulatory requirements unfeasible.

Keith Guille, DEQ public information officer, said that could happen for a variety of reasons.

Pilot Hill Land Purchase

A recent partnership between the Pilot Hill Project and Occidental Petroleum will help protect the 5,500 acre parcel of land east of Laramie from future mineral development. 

Maggie Mullen

Last weekend, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) sold 153 nonresident fishing licenses, about the same number it sold during the same period of time last year.

Diesel fuel cars at a trainyard in Morrill.
Alan Nash


A long-time coal miner in the Powder River Basin said he worries his employer is not taking the risks of COVID-19 seriously despite instituting safety guidelines. Joe Phillips, not his real name, does not feel safe at work. He requested anonymity due to fear of retaliation.

Imagine something like a velociraptor, but faster and stronger, and with feathers.


Wyoming Department of Transportation

The call for social distancing in the state is leading many people to the outdoors. But a high number of people are going to the Teton Pass west of Jackson, which is causing some public health concerns.

"With the current restrictions in certain places, we've got an extra amount of traffic that's going on up here. And generally speaking, we're okay with folks that are coming here as long as they're cooperative on our on our safety issues," said John Pistono, a Teton Pass ambassador.

Parks Canada

Environmental groups have officially sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for allowing up to 72 grizzly bears to be killed over ten years. The groups filed an intent to sue earlier this year.

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.

Some of the nation's top polluters are now running on the honor system after the Environmental Protection Agency last week announced relaxed enforcement of environmental regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

National Park Service

Researchers recently discovered that plague is much more prevalent in the Grand Teton area than previously thought. 

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.

Catherine Wheeler

Since health officials are asking residents to practice social distancing and avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, a conservation group has decided to host its regular spring clean-up differently this year.

The Sheridan Community Land Trust will be hosting the clean-up of local trails and parks virtually.

As the U.S. Forest Service prepares for the wildfire season, it must also confront COVID-19.

Already the agency's put a stop to prescribed burning. And it says it will continue fire suppression and other activities with guidance from the CDC.

Jake Billington has worked at the livestock auction at the Twin Falls Livestock Commission in southern Idaho for 28 years.


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.

Brocken Inaglory via CC BY-SA 3.0

Every year, thousands of American and international tourists pass through Cody as they leave or enter Yellowstone National Park. The summer tourism season officially starts May 1, when the park's east gate opens. That's usually a busy time, but things might be different this year.

A proposed wind farm in southern Idaho could become one of the largest in the nation.

 


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.

By USFWS Mountain-Prairie (Mule Deer on Winter Range in SW Wyoming) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The last of five installments of funding totaling almost $2.5 million was approved by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission recently. The $560,000 has been distributed over the past five years to support the Statewide Mule Deer Initiative.

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.

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