Colorado

Drought monitor outlook of Wyoming
Brian Fuchs / National Drought Mitigation Center

Wyoming is seeing slightly less drought now than this time last year, from 24 percent down to 20. But it’s still having an effect, especially since the state has experienced drought conditions for the last 20 years. Southern Wyoming is getting the worst of it, particularly in parts of Sweetwater and Carbon counties with abnormally dry conditions.

Dan Salkeld doesn’t like plunging toilets, filling out tax forms, or clipping his children's toenails. But he loves collecting ticks in Colorado.

Details are unfolding about how British data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica influenced national elections. Meanwhile, a newly surfaced document suggests the group also had a hand in our region -- and in one especially tight Senate race in Colorado.

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.

An aerial view shows severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017.
Army National Guard

Wyoming and Colorado residents are traveling to Texas to volunteer after the record-breaking Hurricane Harvey. About 32 people are there now volunteering with the Red Cross with another 20 expected by the end of the week.

Hurricane Harvey has battered southeastern Texas for nearly a week dropping more than 50 inches of rain, a continental record according to the National Weather Service. Red Cross has set up 30 shelters around the state to house evacuees.

Dan Boyce

At 11 p.m. on a recent Friday night, the West Elk Mine outside Somerset opened its gates. Cars and trucks started rolling out, signaling the end of a coal mining shift in this rural pocket of Colorado.

Workers had been opening up a new section of the mine four or five miles underground, a tough job made tougher considering that the current economics of the coal industry means fewer workers at the mine.

Madelyn Beck

An accident in Colorado brings the total coal mine deaths this year to 11: more than in all of 2016.

Blue Mountain Energy, Inc. released a statement Aug. 3 saying a worker at their Deserado Mine died the night before. 

"The accident occurred above ground inside the coal processing building, as the worker was attempting to remove a portion of a steel beam," it said.

The employee's name had not been released as of August 4. That accident is now under investigation.

Leigh Paterson/Inside Energy

  

In a hotel ballroom, at the base of the Steamboat Ski Resort, candidates for the US House and Senate, and their surrogates, tick through talking points.

“There are two issues I know of Scott Tipton cares very, very deeply about. One of them is water. The other one is energy,” Chuck McConnell, of the Routt County Republicans, said.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Here’s a simple recipe for ozone: mix hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide chemical compounds in the air, and add sunlight.

“The sun comes out and cooks this mixture and the outcome of that is ozone,” said Steve Brown, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

  

For the poorest amongst us, paying every bill can be a struggle, including the power bill. Solar power hasn’t really been a go-to option for those at the bottom, but that’s starting to change. Colorado’s largest utility – Xcel energy –  recently announced an expansion of a program to provide solar energy to low income residents. Its part of a proposed settlement agreement with the state’s public utility commission.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

  

Chris Goodwin's pitch opens with the same question every time: “Are you a Colorado voter?”

He has been wandering the streets of Boulder, asking that question over and over. Many people say no or ignore him  until he brings up the f-word: fracking.

Coal Dependent School Budgets In Crisis

Jul 29, 2016
Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

  

This story originally aired on Inside Energy partner station KUNC. 

Colorado's coal country is experiencing the same slump that is gripping the heart of more traditional mining locales, like Wyoming or West Virginia.

"We see the trains and we hear the trains, and they used to be often. Daily," says Darci Mohr, the superintendent for South Routt County School District. "Now we hear one every five to six days."

A federal bankruptcy court judge gave Peabody Energy the go-ahead on Wednesday to pay nearly $30 million in property taxes in four states while the company makes its way through bankruptcy.

Peabody Energy can now make payments to counties in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Indiana. One missed payment of around $1 million hit a small Colorado school district particularly hard. The state had to dip into its emergency fund to bail out the South Routt School District after taxes were not paid in June.

The Bureau of Land Management

 

Regulators heard from all sorts of people, from firefighters to business owners to coal miners, at a meeting in Grand Junction, CO today on potential reforms to the federal coal program. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

  

Environmentalists, lawmakers, coal miners, and advocates of all types gathered to have their say at a public meeting this week, in Casper, Wyo, hosted by the Department of the Interior (DOI). Like most discussions of the future of coal, the debate was passionate and polarized.

“This is a politically motivated sham, pandering to the political allies of the secretary and the administration,” Richard Reavey, an executive at a coal company called Cloud Peak Energy, said in his public remarks.

Stephanie Joyce

  

Historically, electricity pricing has been relatively straightforward: the more you use, the more you pay. But today, that simple equation is not so simple. Increasingly, the time of day when you use electricity factors into the cost as well. It’s called time-of-use pricing, and while it can save money and energy, it’s not always popular.

Emily Guerin

Dustin Bergsing was a young, fit, bull rider from Montana. On a cold night in January 2012, he climbed to the catwalk on top of a 20 foot tall crude oil storage tank on an oil well pad in North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield. His job was to pop open the small hatch on top and drop a rope inside to measure the level of oil.

Just after midnight, he was found dead by a co-worker, slumped on the catwalk.

Dan Boyce

Bruce Friest asks himself if he would have done it again, knowing what he knows now – move from Minnesota to start a small trucking company during the peak of North Dakota’s oil boom.

“I don’t know if I would, I really don’t,” he said. “It was hard on me, it was hard on my kids, I was married and my marriage fell apart.”

A couple of years ago, his trucks were sub-contracted to haul oil by a larger trucking company. Then that company, Montana Midwest, went bankrupt, still owing Friest more than $200,000.

Wikimedia Commons

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem isn’t likely to forget the phone call he got Tuesday night, from a colleague in Washington D.C.

“5pm. It was 5pm exactly,” he recalled in an interview with Inside Energy.

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

Colorado regulators say the state is changing its approach to ensuring coal mines get cleaned up.  

The change involves self-bonding, a program that gives coal companies a pass on putting aside money for future mine clean-up, if they can pass a test of financial strength.

Even though many coal companies are struggling in a steep market downturn and some have even declared bankruptcy, many of them are still self-bonded. The problem? It's no longer clear whether those companies will actually be able to pay for future coal mine reclamation.

Dan Boyce

The massive expansion of domestic oil and gas production over the last five or so years is rippling across the economies where that drilling is taking place. More oil workers need more welders, more restaurants, and ... more clothes.

Specifically, workers are required to wear flame resistant clothes, or FR for short, on oil and gas sites everywhere in the country.

ecowatch.com

The song is called Paradise. Recorded in 1971 by folks musician John Prine. In it, he criticized Peabody Energy's mining practices in a Kentucky town called Paradise. It's now being used as a protest song in another coal mining town, Gillette Wyoming. In 2013, two Colorado activists were arrested there for demonstrating at Peabody shareholders meeting. That same day thousands of protestors showed up at Peabody's headquarters in St. Louis Missouri. Both groups were accusing the company of denying healthcare benefits to workers.

Jeannie Stafford/USFWS & US Energy Dept

A chicken-sized game bird native to western sagebrush has become the subject of the biggest conservation project in U.S. history.

Efforts to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list stretch across 11 states from North Dakota to California. It is a complex balancing act between saving critical ecosystems while at the same time protecting the region’s key industries.

Flickr user Geof Wilson

The oil and gas industry pays a ton of money in severance taxes to energy producing states like Colorado, Wyoming and especially North Dakota. When oil prices were high, North Dakota took in about $10.5 million a day. But as prices have fallen, so has revenue. In the midst of this, North Dakota lawmakers have passed a bill to stabilize and lower the state’s oil and gas tax rate.

 

Very few people in the state capitol of Bismarck support the state's current tax system. Representative Al Carlson, the House Majority Leader, put it this way:

This week, lawmakers in Washington are examining the cost and legality of the Environmental Protection Agency’s controversial plan to reduce carbon emissions.

The issue also came up over the weekend during a panel about clean power at an energy conference in Colorado. 

Dan Boyce

It’s no secret that America’s roads are in trouble.

Our highways, interstates and bridges are crumbling and there's an estimated $90 billion dollar annual shortfall in funding to make the fixes. So, now would be a good time to raise gas taxes, right? That’s the main funding source for road infrastructure, has been for decades. Wyoming, and Iowa have raised theirs in recent years, other states are considering it. But, as Dan Boyce with our Inside Energy team tells us, gas taxes are not a long-term solution.

INSIDE ENERGY: Energy Efficiency May Be Bipartisan Winner

Jan 9, 2015
Anna Boiko-Weyrauch / Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

When it comes to U.S. energy consumption, transportation and power plants leap to mind as top power users. Buildings, though, are not far behind. Commercial buildings account for one-fifth of our energy use. Much of that is pure waste, leaking from poorly-insulated walls or lights left on when no one is around. Energy efficiency is one of the few issues with support from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as private industry.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Working in the oil and gas industry is dangerous. Inside Energy reported earlier this year that these jobs are in fact six times more dangerous than the average American job. A new training center opening up in central Wyoming in 2015 is designed to address those risks by training students as young as 16 on the heavy equipment used in oil and gas production.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Working in the oil and gas industry is dangerous. As Inside Energy reported in its "Dark Side Of The Boom" series, these jobs are actually six times more dangerous than the average American job. But a new Department of Labor-sponsored training program could help fight that trend.

Jordan Wirfs-Brock / Inside Energy

(This is the first in an occasional series on the financing behind the country’s energy boom.)

Oil prices are slipping to levels not seen in years. That is bad for oil companies, but it has to be good for consumers, right?

The story is more complicated than that.  Nearly all of us with retirement accounts--the tens of millions of Americans with IRAs, 401Ks, 403Bs, or pension funds--are actually solidly invested in oil and gas companies.

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