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Wyoming Uranium Producers Optimistic About Restarting Production

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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Production at Wyoming’s uranium mines all but ground to a halt in recent years as prices bottomed out, but business is looking up as global stockpiles wither and America reconsiders purchasing strategic minerals from its enemies. 

The resulting boost in prices has Wyoming producers looking at the possibility of restarting production.

“With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it all came to light how dependent we are on Russian control of the fuel cycle,” said Travis Deti, Wyoming Mining Association executive director. “Any uranium we mine here in the States has to go to Russia for conversion and enrichment.” 

With 92 of the world’s estimated 435 nuclear reactors located in the U.S., America is the world’s largest supplier of nuclear power — a process fueled by yellowcake uranium. 

When used to fuel a reactor, about 1 pound of uranium can produce the same amount of energy as 20,000 pounds of coal, the WMA reported.

Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, however, global uranium stockpiles became inflated, driving down the price of a pound of yellowcake to a low of about $17.

“We have the capability to produce, but that’s dependent on the price per pound,” Deti said. “For the last couple of years, the price has been so depressed, it’s not been economical to mine the resource in Wyoming.” 

‘Decade Of Underproduction’

Scott Melbey, president of Uranium Producers of America, said global uranium stockpiles are dwindling, causing yellowcake prices to rise. 

Melbey also serves as the executive vice president of Uranium Energy Corporation, which owns assets in Wyoming’s Powder Basin and Texas. 

“The price of uranium has jumped to $50-$60 a pound recently,” Melbey said. “We’re comfortable enough with the current market that we’ll be restarting operations in Wyoming and Texas.”

In northeast Wyoming, Peninsula Energy Limited CEO Wayne Heili is eyeing the markets as he and his team consider restarting Strata Energy Incorporated’s uranium mining operations. 

“We certainly saw a spike in prices during the beginning of the war in Ukraine, but I don’t think it’s a blip in the market,” Heili said, explaining prices have leveled in the months since the Russians’ initial push. “And I anticipate prices will continue to rise, because the world has experienced a decade of underproduction.”

Unlike some mineral extraction operations, rebooting a uranium operation is a lengthy process.

Melbey said his company was well-positioned to begin extraction before the end of the year, but Heili said the earliest his operations would be online would be the first quarter of 2023. 

Strategic Uranium Reserve

Uranium prices are only one piece of the puzzle, however. Melbey, Heili and the rest of Wyoming’s producers have reason to believe stateside uranium production could become more common in the next few years. 

In 2019, former President Donald Trump’s administration formed the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Working Group, which determined the nation’s reliance on foreign uranium production presented a national security risk, Deti said.

As a result, Trump’s administration proposed establishing a Strategic Uranium Reserve (SUR), which could stockpile about 10 years’ worth of uranium. To create the stockpile, Deti said the Trump administration wanted to spend $1.5 billion over a 10-year period to purchase uranium from U.S. producers. 

In 2020, Congress authorized spending $75 million to establish the SUR, but the U.S. has yet to start purchasing American-produced uranium. 

Additionally, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, introduced legislation in March which could prohibit the U.S. from importing Russian uranium. 

In an email, Barrasso’s deputy communications director, Sarah Durdaller, said the senator was pushing to eliminate American reliance on Russian fuel exports. 

“(Barrasso) stated, ‘The time is now to permanently remove all Russian energy from the American marketplace,’” Durdaller wrote. “‘We know Vladimir Putin uses this money to help fund his brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine. While banning imports of Russian oil, gas and coal is an important step, it cannot be the last. Banning Russian uranium imports will further defund Russia’s war machine, help revive American uranium production, and increase our national security.’”

As awareness grows of the risks of relying on foreign and sometimes hostile countries for the nation’s fuels, the uranium industry could write a new page in Wyoming’s history book. 

The atrocities of war are no cause for celebration, Melbey said, but one outcome of the Ukrainian conflict could be a secure line of production for U.S. nuclear reactors. Regardless of the war, he said American producers are gearing up to meet rising global demands. 

“My optimism is based on the fundamentals of supply and demand,” Melbey said. “The Russia-Ukraine war is a geopolitical black swan that throws gas on the fire, but the fire was already lit.” 

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State, Energy Groups Criticize EPA Policy Blaming Wyoming For Denver Smog

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming and some of its energy industry groups are criticizing as “illogical” proposed federal rules that would punish the state for contributing 1% of the pollutants that make up Denver-area smog.

Two industry groups and the state itself responded during the public comment period on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Good Neighbor” policy, which would regulate nitrogen oxide emissions in areas that have no pollution problem, but are identified by the EPA as contributors to the problems in other states.

“The EPA-proposed (federal plan) to regulate NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions is not supported with scientific basis and the analysis is flawed,” Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, said in a May 3 letter to the EPA.  

Deti’s comments were echoed this month by a petroleum industry advocate who called the rule “bizarre,” and by the state of Wyoming itself, which called the rule “arbitrary” and unfair.  

Seasonal Shutdowns 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April announced that states contributing more than 1% in ground ozone ingredients to downwind states that are in violation of EPA ozone limits could soon fall under federal emissions controls, called the “Good Neighbor” policy. 

The EPA said Wyoming contributes about 1.1% of the ingredientsd that make up smog found in the Denver area, so it would be one of the upwind states affected by the new rule.  

But in the public comment period that ended Tuesday, Wyoming’s energy sector advocates called the EPA’s scientific process faulty.  

Deti called the emission standards “unachievable” and said they would hurt Wyoming’s economy without reducing Denver area smog to levels considered acceptable by the EPA.

After reviewing the public comments on the rule, the EPA will decide whether it should be adopted. If adopted, the rule would impose seasonal shutdowns on power plants and put emissions limits on other businesses, all of which could raise electricity prices for Wyomingites and other Westerners, according to critics.   

‘Better Chance’ Of Smog From Denver 

Another Wyoming energy advocate, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said it was “bizarre” that the EPA would enforce the same emissions laws on Wyoming that it does on California when California winds send 42 times more smog ingredients to other states than Wyoming’s winds do.  

Wyoming’s only downwind state with a noted smog problem is Colorado.  

The association pointed to Gillette’s Wyodak coal power plant as a debunking factor in EPA’s blanket policy.  

“The prevailing wind in Gillette comes from the south and southwest, which is the opposite direction of Denver. Yet the EPA is proposing that this facility is contributing significantly to (Denver smog),” Colin McKee, PAW regulatory affairs director, said in a Monday letter to the EPA.  

Cheyenne winds, McKee added, usually blow to Kansas and Nebraska. “During most of the year, the general wind directions do not lend themselves for emissions generated in Wyoming to travel to Denver,” said McKee. “In fact, it seems more likely that emissions from sources along the (Denver-area) Front Range have a better chance of coming into Wyoming.  

Colorado, however, is not penalized under the EPA’s good neighbor policy, as EPA data projects that Colorado won’t send more than 1% of smog-causing ingredients to its own downwind states in 2023.  

Contrary To Law’ 

Wyoming itself pushed back on the federal agency.  

In a Tuesday letter by Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Director Todd Parfitt, Parfitt noted that the EPA in 2015 found it “not appropriate” to impose Good Neighbor emissions laws on Western states like Wyoming, but shifted its position in 2021.  

“The EPA flip-flopped,” said Parfitt in the letter. “Rather than working with Western states, EPA proposed its Transport Rule, including the wholesale adoption of (new emissions embargoes) to Western states, without its promised consultation.”  

The state rebuked the EPA for the policy’s short public comment period, which ended Tuesday, the very date of Parfitt’s letter.  

“EPA’s proposed transport rule is contrary to law and is based on flawed science,” the letter continued, listing additional concerns, including the following:  

Wyoming depends heavily on its energy sector and other NOx-emitting businesses;  

Wyoming has managed its own air quality without requiring federal environmental plans;  

EPA’s testing did not include smog ingredients caused by lightning or by the methane emissions of one of Denver’s own basins; 

Even if Wyoming reduced downwind smog ingredients to zero, Denver still wouldn’t be in compliance with EPA’s limits;

Job losses, power plant shutdowns and economic lags all could result from the rule, according to the DEQ’s letter;  

Oregon appears to be enjoying EPA favoritism, the DEQ implied, because the EPA is forgiving some of Oregon’s California-bound emissions.  

According to the Federal Register, federal entities may change, terminate, or continue with rulemaking after the public comment period as they deem appropriate.  

Colorado Regulates Air 

Colorado has labored under its own rigorous emissions controls for years, according to Mike Silverstein, Colorado Regional Air Quality Council director.  

Silverstein emphasized that the RAQ is an environmental planning group established by Colorado’s governor and while it works closely with the state, it does not represent the state of Colorado or its governor.  

“My board, the Regional Air Quality Council is supporting EPA’s efforts to reduce emissions in the upwind states,” said Silverstein in an interview with Cowboy State Daily. 

“We’re not taking a position on how that should be done,” he said, adding that RAQC was advised to send “supportive comments” to the EPA on the matter.  

The Denver area has exceeded EPA ground ozone standards for years. The region was downgraded from “moderate” to “serious” in 2019 and is slated to be reclassified as “severe” this July. 

Each downgrade brings more federal regulation and millions of dollars in penalties payable to the state, and, in the case of the “severe” designation, reformulated gasoline will be required throughout the region by next year.  

Reformulated gasoline so far is only required in nine areas of the U.S., all urban metropolitan areas.  

It’s time for upwind states to help out, said Silverstein.  

“My own analysis says upwind sources are influencing our ability to come into compliance with the ozone standards,” including Wyoming, Utah, and California, he said.  

“They have emissions that are contributing to our problem, and that we’d appreciate if those, through EPA’s action, those emission reductions occurring in those upwind states help us in our quest in coming into compliance with ozone standards,” he said. 

‘We Have Our Own Issues’ 

Silverstein clarified that Colorado has plenty of domestic nitrous oxide and volatile organic compound (smog ingredients) emission sources, but said there have been many rule changes implemented to combat those, including: stringent requirements on paint, cleaning products, and the oil and gas industry; the phasing-out of coal power plants; requirements for about 7% or more of vehicles sold to be electric vehicles; grant incentives for companies to install electric vehicle charging stations, and other transportation reforms. 

Ozone Not Down 

An EPA data chart depicting Colorado ozone trends shows no noteworthy decline or increase in smog trends in more than a decade.  

Silverstein said the state’s population increases during that time suggest that emissions per person are actually going down, which he deemed an improvement.  

“We haven’t gotten there but we’ve made that progress because of the emission control programs we’ve had that have countered the dramatic growth in our state,” he said.   

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President’s Angry Letter To Oil, Gas Companies Falls Flat With Wyoming Producers

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By Coy Knobel, Cowboy State Daily

A letter from President Joe Biden to oil and gas company executives blaming them for high energy prices was more hypocritical than helpful, an industry spokesman told Cowboy State Daily Tuesday.

Ryan McConnaughey, vice president and director of communications for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said Biden’s letter makes improper assumptions about how oil and gas prices are determined.

“He makes it seem like oil and gas companies are setting the price,” McConnaughey said. “They aren’t.  Setting prices is global, so I don’t understand how they think profit margins could do this.”

Dragged Feet

In a June 14 letter to ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum Corp., Valero Energy Corp, Phillips 66, Shell, BP and Chevron, Biden wrote that Vladimir Putin “is principally responsible for the intense financial pain the American people and their families are bearing.”

However, he also claimed oil refining companies have dragged their feet on increasing fuel supplies they cut during the COVID pandemic when there was less demand.  Less supply means higher prices and profits. 

“In the year before I took office, refineries in the United States reduced their capacity by more than 800,000 barrels a day, leaving American refinery companies today at their lowest level of capacity in more than a half decade,” Biden wrote.  “But at a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly onto American families are not acceptable.”

Policy, Not Profits

McConnaughey said oil refining capacity in Wyoming and the nation has indeed dropped over the last few years, but the decline is due more to policy than profits.  He said refiners are doing what they can to keep up with demand.

“Nationwide refining capacity is something like 93%, so when you’re running that high at utilization, that is a weak argument,” he said. “They are operating now at about as close to max as you can get.” 

Last we saw for our region — Colorado, Wyoming and Utah — we were running almost at 99 percent capacity, he continued. “That’s pretty good utilization in the Rocky Mountains.”

 According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, five Wyoming oil refineries had the capacity to refine 177,500 barrels of oil per day in 2017.  That went down to 168,500 for the next three years.  In 2021 capacity fell again to where it is presently at 125,850 barrels.  Wyoming has one less refinery now than in recent years.  Today there are oil refineries in Casper, Sinclair, Douglas and Newcastle. The refinery in Cheyenne is being rebuilt to produce renewable diesel.

EPA

McConnaughy said the drop in capacity in 2021 was mainly due to the conversion of the refinery in Cheyenne.

That conversion was was the result of the Environmental Protection Agency failing to renew the exemptions for the federal requirements that refineries blend fossil fuels with a certain percentage of renewable fuels such as ethanol. 

Biden told oil company executives that they could take immediate actions to increase the supply of gasoline, diesel and other refined products, thereby reducing prices, but McConnaughey wasn’t sure what the president meant by that statement.

 “It’s not like flipping a switch and getting more capacity,” he said. “That is kind of the hypocrisy of the president’s letter — asking for an increase in capacity on one side and then on the other side his policies are making it more difficult for investors to invest in the oil and gas industry.”

Major Investment

McConnaughey said increasing refinery capacity in Wyoming and the nation would require major investment.  Some companies are looking at such increases, but it would be years out, he said.

He added the president’s letter was just another attempt by the administration to shift blame and direct the outrage that high oil and gas prices are causing away from the administration and on to oil and gas companies. 

“His administration is doing everything it can to shut down the industry and attack them when polling doesn’t look like it is in his favor,” McConnaughey said.

COVID did spark a loss in refining capacity in the U.S., but many of these reductions were already planned or underway, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.

“Political and financial pressure to move away from petroleum derived fuels, costs associated with federal and state regulatory compliance and facilities’ singular economic performance all inform these decisions,” the group said.

What can be done?

Biden wrote that if the oil companies would not help maintain and expand fuel supply, his administration “is prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate Federal Government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity and output in the near term…”

Energy Secretary

Biden directed Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm to convene an emergency meeting with oil companies and the National Petroleum Council, scheduled for Thursday.

Biden asked refiners prior to the meeting to provide the secretary with an explanation of any reduction in their refining capacity since 2020.  He also asked for ideas on how to address inventory, price and refining capacity issues in the coming months.

McConnaughey said his organization is advocating for the government to do everything it can to increase supply.  Increased drilling in Wyoming would be helpful, as would be working with global partners to refine and transport oil and gas to make it easier to distribute, he said.

McConnaughey said Putin, with his attack on Ukraine, does share some of the blame, but policies in the U.S. could be improved and changed.   McConnaughey said renewable fuel standards and leasing royalty rates were two examples.

“We hope that Secretary Granholm will come away from the meeting with a willingness to work with the industry as we meet the challenges our industry is facing,” he said. “Workforce and supply chain issues continue to hamper development, and federal policies make it difficult to kickstart drilling on federal lands.”

Get Ready For Six Dollar Gas In Wyoming

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Gas prices seem high now but the worst is yet to come, at least according to one industry insider in Wyoming. 

A Laramie-based gasoline distributor said the likelihood of seeing gas prices over $6 per gallon this summer is a certainty.

It’s not that far off now. Tim Mandese, who tracks gas prices for Cowboy State Daily, reported on Friday that one gas station in Jackson is now charging $5.29 per gallon while the average in the state is $4.41.

Supply And Demand

Mintu Pandher, owner of Laramie-headquartered Akal Energy, said gas prices will continue to increase because the demand is there and supply is tight. And as long as these conditions remain, the prices aren’t going down.

“We’re not seeing any demand destruction yet,” Pandher told Cowboy State Daily, referring to an economic phrase which means that high prices will eventually cause demand to drop.

But Pandher said that phenomenon isn’t happening, likely because of the COVID pandemic.

“People didn’t drive for two years so I think there’s a feeling like they have a right to drive now, regardless of price. They’re driving despite the gas prices,” he said.

“Exporting Like Crazy”

Pandher said the difference this year compared to 2008, when gas prices also soared, is the U.S. imported more oil than it does now. Plus, U.S. companies are exporting a lot more as well.

“We are exporting like crazy,” he said, mentioning that the U.S. is now exporting more than 10 million barrels per day now compared to 8 million barrels a day a year ago.

“East coast oil companies would much rather sell gas and diesel to Europe than local markets because our local consumers feel like gas should cost $1.99 or $2.99 a gallon,” he said. “They can make more money overseas.”

Wyoming is certainly not alone in feeling the pinch although things are much worse in some other states.

$9.50 Per Gallon

One gas station in California on Friday recorded $9.50 per gallon in Mendocino, along the northern California coast.

Although it won’t get that high in Wyoming, Pandher said but the $6 range can be expected.

“Gasoline is a commodity,” he said. “The more demand for it, the higher the price.”

Pandher said it’s easy to point the finger at oil companies and blame them but he said there’s no real bad guy.

It’s a global economy and oil companies are merely trying to make money for their investors, he said.

“These companies are publicly traded,” he said. “So it’s their obligation to make every single dollar and a penny for the investors. 

“They feel like they got hurt the last few years and they aren’t going to lose money,” he said.

So when do things get back to normal?

“When the demand drops. It’s up to the consumer,” he said.

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Feds OK Gigantic 416-Mile Transmission Line To Connect Wyo Wind Farms To Power Western States

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The federal government on Thursday approved plans by an Oregon-based company to build a 416-mile transmission line that would carry energy from wind farms across Wyoming and other Western states to a power grid in Utah.

PacifiCorp was notified this week that it could proceed with construction on its Gateway South transmission line, which will stretch from Medicine Bow to Mona, Utah, and will cross northwestern Colorado

Company spokeswoman Tiffany Erickson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that 142 miles of the 416 mile line will be located in Wyoming.

“We started on this Energy Gateway project back in May 2007,” Erickson said. “We’ve had a number of setbacks, including the recession, the pandemic and other things in between. But now, this nod from the (U.S.) Bureau of Land Management was the last thing we needed to move forward, at least on this portion.”

Construction on the Gateway South line will begin June. The line is expected to produce around 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy. The Gateway South is just part of the larger Energy Gateway project.

The goal of the Energy Gateway project is to add approximately 2,000 miles of new transmission lines across the West and will ultimately cost around $2.2 billion. Three major segments of Energy Gateway are complete and in service, but more work continues to be done.

In August, construction will begin on Gateway West, another transmission line project that will also have a portion in Wyoming, 75 miles to be exact, according to Erickson. Gateway West will stretch from eastern Wyoming all the way to the Idaho/Oregon border.

Both Gateway South and Gateway West are expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

“Wyoming has some of the best wind in the country and that’s why Rocky Mountain Power has built wind farms in certain areas of the state,” Erickson said. “Wyoming has, for generations, played a major role in the nation’s energy future, so we’re happy to work with state and local leaders on this project.

“We want to take advantages of the energy opportunities in the state and ensure that Wyoming remains the nation’s leading energy producer and exporter,” she continued.

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EPA Denies Sinclair’s Exemption For Ethanol Content

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

One of Wyoming’s three oil refineries is among 36 nationally to have its request to be exempted from biofuel blending rules refused.

Documents filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals showed the Sinclair Refinery near Rawlins applied with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for an exemption from the rules, but the application was denied April 7.

While the state’s other two refineries, Sinclair Casper Refining Co. and the Wyoming Refining Co., in Newcastle are listed in the court documents with Sinclair Refinery, there is no way to tell if they asked for the exemption.

Oil refineries are required to blend a certain amount of soybean or corn-derived fuel into their gasoline product under the Renewable Fuel Standard administered by the EPA, or, in the alternative, purchase compliance credits.

Small refineries, those processing less than 75,000 barrels of crude oil a day, can claim the biofuel requirements pose a “disproportionate economic hardship” and seek an exemption.

All three of Wyoming’s crude oil refineries meet the production requirements aspects of this waiver. 

The 36 refineries addressed in the EPA’s decision had all asked for exemptions for the 2018 production year. The exemptions were granted in 2019, but in 2020, a federal court adopted much more stringent rules facilities had to meet to qualify. 

One Wyoming refinery, HollyFrontier in Cheyenne, stopped processing crude oil and is transitioning to full biofuel production, a move that led to the layoff of 200 workers in 2020.

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, in an opinion piece in “The Hill,” said HollyFrontier’s decision was influenced by the plant’s loss of its exemption to the blending requirement.

“Many small refineries seek these small refinery exemptions annually,” Lummis wrote. “To remain competitive, they have no other choice. The cost of compliance credits is commonly their second-highest production expense, trailing only the cost of crude oil.”

Lummis also spoke on the poor timing of the decision in relation to rising gas prices. She said the compliance credits within the Renewable Fuel Standard program add 30 cents to 50 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline.

Lummis said the EPA has also indicated it will deny all requests for exemptions for production years from 2019 to 2021.

Decisions against the exemptions further limit the ability of American refineries to meet demand for gasoline, said Ryan McConnaughey, director of communications for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.

“We still see an increase in demand for petroleum products in Wyoming and across the globe,” McConnaughey told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “The recent increases in gas prices show the need for production.”

However, the biofuel and petroleum industries are at odds over the blending rules.

The Renewable Fuels Association, in a statement about the EPA’s decision to deny the exemptions, said the exemptions address past wrongs by refineries, but the EPA’s decision did not do enough to remedy economic problems created by the exemptions in the past.

The RFA also opposed the EPA’s plan to give 31 of the refineries whose exemptions were rejected an alternative to buying compliance credits.

To receive relief, the 31 refiners must resubmit compliance reports for 2018 and report their fuel production for that year and other data.

“EPA is granting this compliance flexibility because the agency has determined that there are extenuating circumstances specific to this set of petitions, including the fact that SRE petitions were previously granted,” the department said in its SRE announcement.

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Jonah Field Executive: Resumption Of Oil, Gas Leasing ‘Promising’

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The end to a moratorium on oil and gas lease sales on federal land is “promising,” even though the amount of land to be leased has been significantly reduced from original proposals, a vice president of Jonah Energy told Cowboy State Daily.

Paul Ulrich, in a position different from those taken by other industry and government officials, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday although the federal government has severely cut the amount of land available to lease for oil and gas production, the fact that the sales will resume again is a good start.

“We all should be pleased that we’re seeing some leases,” he said. “We should be pleased we’re seeing some proactive movement from this administration.”

Other officials in Wyoming have not been so enthusiastic about the lease sale to be held in June, noting only 144,000 acres will be made available nationally by the Interior Department for oil and gas drilling — an 80% reduction of land that had been under evaluation for leasing. Most of that land — 132,000 acres — will be available for lease in Wyoming.

The BLM assessed 733,000 acres of potential drilling sites in Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming before approving the 144,000 acres for lease sale.

In addition to the reduction in available land, the royalty rate on oil and gas produced from federal land will increase from 12.5% to 18.75%.

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming was much harsher than Ulrich in its thoughts about the reduced land available for lease and the higher royalties, saying the administration of President Joe Biden was making energy production much more expensive in a time when inflation and high gas prices are dominating the country.

“President Biden knows this isn’t the energy policy Americans want,” PAW said this week. “Otherwise he would be trumpeting these announcements himself rather than having his Secretary of Interior release a statement late in the afternoon on a holiday weekend when no one is paying attention.”

Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso both criticized the limits on oil and gas leases, with Barrasso pointing specifically at Biden’s call for increased oil and gas production in the face of rising petroleum prices.

“After begging American oil and natural gas companies for months to produce more, the Biden administration is still doing all it can to restrict leasing on federal lands,” Barrasso said. “First it was an illegal moratorium imposed at the start of his presidency. Now it’s this proposal to dramatically increase the cost of onshore leases while cutting the acres offered for lease by 80 percent. The president claims he’s doing nothing to limit domestic production, but once again his administration is making American energy more expensive and harder to produce.”

But Ulrich said the simple act of resuming oil and gas lease sales shows the Biden administration understands that public lands can play a “very” critical role in providing a nation’s energy resources.

“I’m also hopeful that this administration recognizes that Wyoming, in particular, can provide some of the cleanest energy in the country, if not the world,” he said. “Operators and Wyoming state agencies, especially the Department of Environmental Quality, have done an outstanding job in reducing our overall methane impacts through both regulatory and voluntary efforts.”

The sale inventory was welcomed by the Powder River Basin Resource Council, which said it appreciated the U.S. Interior Department’s efforts to adjust the program and that the agency was finally beginning to modernize policies of “great importance” to the nation’s economic and social future.

“It’s high time to halt the underpriced giveaway of federal lands and mineral resources and reframe leasing to better serve American taxpayers, state treasuries, public land users, and the millions of citizens suffering accelerating harm from climate change,” the organization said. “For years we have advocated that federal royalty rates should be raised to more closely match those charged by private landowners, and are glad Interior has finally done so after a century of stagnation.

“The energy world is changing, and time is running out to support states and communities that have nurtured the oil and gas industry for decades. Increased royalty rates will help ensure they get their due before the inevitable decline,” PBRC continued.

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Gordon Welcomes Biden Flip-Flop On Resuming Federal Gas, Oil Lease Sales

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday welcomed President Joe Biden’s change in policy that would again allow the sale of oil and gas leases.

However, Gordon questioned the impact of the Biden administration’s decision to sharply reduce the number of acres available for lease while increasing royalty rates.

Only 144,000 acres will be made available by the Interior Department for oil and gas drilling — an 80% reduction of land that had been under evaluation for leasing. The royalty rate will be increased by 50% — from 12.5% to 18.75%.

“The announcement of an upcoming federal oil and gas lease sale is welcome news, but long overdue,” Gordon said Friday. “While we don’t know the exact number and location of the Wyoming parcels, after 15 months without a lease sale in our state, to learn that royalty rates will be increased and available acreage significantly reduced is hardly cause for unbridled celebration.”

“I am concerned that these changes will have a chilling effect on Wyoming companies as they prepare their bids,” he said.

On Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will issue final environmental assessments and sale notices for upcoming oil and gas lease sales that reflect the new approach the federal government has taken in making federal properties available for lease.

Anger

Climate activists, predictably, were angered by Biden’s decision calling it a “betrayal.”

“This is pure climate denial,” Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, said in a statement. “While the Biden administration talks a good talk on climate action, the reality is, they’re in bed with the oil and gas industry.”

Biden put a halt to oil and gas leasing almost immediately after taking office in 2021.

Skeptical

Despite the move, consumers aren’t likely to notice anything meaningful at the pump as once a lease has been granted, it can take years for any oil to be realized that could be added to supply.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America was skeptical of the announcement.

“This administration has begged for more oil from foreign nations, blames American energy producers for price gouging and sitting on leases,” C. Jeffrey Eshelman, the COO of the organization told the Wall Street Journal. “Now, on a late holiday announcement, under pressure, it announces a lease sale with major royalty increases that will add uncertainty to drilling plans for years.”

Spin

Meanwhile, the Department of Interior attempted to minimize what many are calling a “political announcement.”

“How we manage our public lands and waters says everything about what we value as a nation,” U.S. Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland said Friday. “For too long, the federal oil and gas leasing programs have prioritized the wants of extractive industries above local communities, the natural environment, the impact on our air and water, the needs of Tribal Nations, and, moreover, other uses of our shared public lands.”

“Today, we begin to reset how and what we consider to be the highest and best use of Americans’ resources for the benefit of all current and future generations,” she said.

Embarrassing

A report released by the Biden administration last November about oil and gas leasing was called “embarrassing” by both Gordon and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.

The BLM assessed potentially available and eligible acreage in Alabama, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. It began analyzing 646 parcels on roughly 733,000 acres that had been previously nominated for leasing by energy companies.

As a result of the environmental review, engagement with tribes and communities and prioritizing the American people’s interests in public lands, the final sale notices will offer approximately 173 parcels on roughly 144,000 acres, an 80% reduction from the acreage originally nominated.

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Biden Ethanol Plan “Hypocritical” And Won’t Have Impact On Oil, Corn Industries

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A federal plan aimed at reducing gas prices by allowing the increased use of ethanol in some gasoline sold around the country should have little effect on Wyoming oil production, an industry expert said.

However, the added demand for corn that could result from the switch might bring higher prices for Wyoming’s corn producers, according to a spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced plans to allow the use of gasoline containing 15% ethanol — called E15 — during the summer months. Sales of the fuel, which is about 10 cents per gallon cheaper than regular gasoline, had previously been banned in the summer because of concerns it generates more pollution than regular gas during those months.

But only about 2,300 stations in the United States sell E15, which means the extended period of sale will probably have little impact on Wyoming’s oil production, said Ryan McConnaughey, director of communications for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.

However, the plan shows a certain level of hypocrisy on the part of the Biden administration, which has been discouraging domestic oil and gas production, because of believes E15 causes more pollution in summer months than regular gas, McConnaughey said.

“I think creating these changes, which really won’t have a huge impact on gas prices, is proof the administration cares more about its optics than it does about addressing prices at the pump, which could be done by spurring the production of oil and gas,” he said.

The change will probably also have little direct impact on the amount of corn sold in the state, said Derek Grant, a spokesman for the state Agriculture, because little of the corn raised in Wyoming is used for ethanol.

However, the increase in demand for corn could lead to higher prices paid Wyoming producers, he said.

“What it could possibly do is improve the market for corn and if the prices go up for corn, that will obviously be good for any corn producers,” he said.

Because most of Wyoming’s corn is grown for use as feed, that might also mean a boost in prices for the state’s livestock producers, he said.

“When the market goes up for one commodity, it unfortunately has an impact on others,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 79,000 acres of land was planted into corn in Wyoming in 2021, generating about 10.4 million bushels.

Grant said most of the state’s corn is raised in its southeastern corner near Torrington and in northern Wyoming in the Big Horn Basin.

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Wyoming Mining Spokesman: Coal Production Up, Being Sent Domestically

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s coal producers are not yet seeing the impact of a European ban on the import of Russian coal, according to an industry official.

However, the state’s coal producers have seen significant increases in demand for their product domestically, said Travis Deti, executive director for the Wyoming Mining Association.

“With the ban on importing Russian coal, it doesn’t impact Wyoming much at all,” Deti told Cowboy State Daily. “Our prices are a little bit higher than where we traditionally are, around $16 a ton, which is about $4 higher than our typical prices, but we’re not in the $100s like the national prices.”

The low sulfur content of Wyoming’s coal means it has a lower energy content, so it sells for less than coal from other areas of the country.

According to Bloomberg, U.S. coal prices topped $100 a ton for the first time in 13 years last week as the Russian war in Ukraine upended international energy markets and an economic rebound from the pandemic drove up demand for fossil fuels.

Russian coal accounted for almost 18% of global exports in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

Deti said traditionally, Wyoming has not exported coal internationally. He added the trend may continue because of logistical issues and the question of whether Europe would want Wyoming coal.

However, Powder River Basin mines, which produce most of Wyoming’s coal, have had to hire 300 coal miners in order to keep up with domestic demand, he said.

“Our mines are pretty much sold out right now, we are using so much of our coal domestically,” Deti said. “So if there was a market to ship coal to Europe, we would staff up further and also get more people in more trains to move the coal.”

Deti said the increase in the price for Wyoming coal has been driven by rising natural gas costs. He said that anytime natural gas goes over $3, Wyoming coal becomes competitively priced.

There is an opportunity to ship coal to Europe, but Deti said certain logistical pieces have to fall into place and European buyers will have to determine whether a purchase of Wyoming coal would be economically sound.

Deti said the increase in prices and production shows that coal is still very important to the United States’ energy supply.

“We can’t put all our eggs in one basket, whether it natural gas or renewables,” Deti said. “Coal is really the only energy source which is readily available and reliable, and we’re seeing that now. We’ve seen a shift back to coal because gas prices have gone up.”

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State Could See Economic Jump From Rare Earth Deposits In Northeastern Wyoming

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By Kris Wendtland, Cowboy State Daily

Two companies are working to develop and process rare earth deposits in Wyoming in the face of escalating demand for the valuable elements.

Wyoming Rare USA in late March began drilling in exploration of rare earth elements in Albany County west of Wheatland.  In October, Rare Element Resources started working on a rare earths demonstration processing facility to be built in Upton.

The work comes as the demand for rare earths escalates, with uses ranging from cell phones and air conditioners to electric cars and defense applications

Marty Weems, president for American Rare Earths, the parent company for Wyoming Rare USA, said his company’s work in Albany County is an attempt to determine whether a rare earth mine in the area would be profitable.

“It’s definitely not yet a mine,” he said. “We’re not a mining company.  We’re what’s considered a mineral exploration company.  Once a discovery has been made on the surface, we come in and do the planning, evaluating, and engineering. We determine if it can be made into a technically viable product with the goal of making it shovel ready.”

Electric motors, such as those used in vehicles and air conditioners, are major consumers of rare earth minerals, Weems said, and the demand for such motors is growing as countries develop globally.

“When people come out of poverty, first they buy a refrigerator and then they buy an air conditioner,” he said. “So when people come out of poverty, the demand for products that have rare earths in them increases.”

Upton Demonstration Plant 

Rare Element Resources Inc., a Wyoming corporation, is working to develop an Upton demonstration plant that will separate rare earths from raw ore removed from the Bear Lodge Mountains near Sundance.

A consortium that includes Rare Element Resources was awarded nearly $22 million by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  

The DOE money will pay for half of the engineering, construction, and operation of the rare earth separation and processing plant in Upton.  The plant is expected to provide pure neodymium and praseodymium, rare earths that make incredibly strong magnets.

Randy Scott, president and CEO of Rare Element Resources, said General Atomics, a defense contractor, has invested in the processing plant, demonstrating the importance of rare earth minerals to defense applications.

“The national security aspect of rare earth mining is just critical,” Scott said.  “The investment [by General Atomics] is driven by their knowledge of the defense industry’s reliance on systems which make use of those materials.”

The U.S. Department of Defense is not a major consumer of rare earth minerals, Scott said, but it needs a stable source of the minerals.

“The Department of Defense is not a huge consumer of magnets made with rare earth.  But what they do consume is extremely critical,” he said. “If you can’t assure yourself of a domestic source of that and have to depend on China, you’re in big trouble.”

Weems agreed with Scott on the importance of rare earths to national defense.  

“This particular industry and supply chain are of really serious interest to the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense,” he said. “They are currently concerned that almost the entire supply chain goes through China.  If you have a supply chain that goes through a potential adversary, it can get worrisome if things get kinetic.”

The federal government has identified rare earth elements as one of the 35 items critical to national security and domestic economic prosperity. 

Eight rare earth elements are used in mobile phones.  Six are used in hybrid vehicles.

Just three of the rare earths critical to national defense are: 

◆ Neodymium — More magnetic than any other element.  That makes it a good choice for use in missile guidance systems.

◆ Lanthanum — Makes glass easier to see through, making it important for surveillance and reconnaissance camera lenses.

◆ Samarium — A key component of traveling wave tubes, the “backbone of the world’s entire space communications system” says a contributor to Physics Today. https://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/PT.3.4872

All three are among the rare earth elements found in Wyoming.

UW Playing A Big Role In Development

University of Wyoming researchers have determined the state could be home to large rare earth element deposits, said Scott Quillinan, senior director of research for the university’s School of Energy Resources.

“Wyoming has some interesting and potentially large rare earth element resources,” he said.

He pointed specifically to the deposit in the Bear Lodge Mountains that Rare Element Resources plans to process at its Upton demonstration plant.

“(It) is often referred to as one of the largest unmined rare earth deposits in North America,” he said. “(Western Rare Earths) is working on defining the rare earth element resources of Red Mountain pluton in Albany County.  So that’s two, potential, mineable deposits in Wyoming.”

Several other UW researchers have focused their efforts on evaluating the presence of rare earth elements from Powder River Basin coal ash collected from four power plants.

The researchers, in a paper published in “Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews,” revealed that the ash could provide rare earth elements that could be extracted economically.

The findings are important because “China and Southeastern Asia dominate all parts of the REE market value chain – from extraction and production to final consumption in the manufacturing sector,” according to work done by UW’s Melissa Firestone and Jada Garfalo, both researchers with UW’s School of Energy Resources.

Workforce Needed Over Next Two To 10 Years

The construction of Rare Element Resources’ demonstration plant should be an economic boon for northeastern Wyoming.

Assuming the knowledge and skills are available, the plant will be built and operated with local workers where possible, Scott said.

He added the company already has 1,000 tons of material to process at the plant, which should help reduce America’s reliance on China for some rare earth elements.

“We aren’t producing a concentrate that has to go to China to be processed,” he said.

Wyoming’s experience with coal production should help provide Rare Element Resources with the labor force it needs, he added.

“This is a tremendous state to be working in,” he said. “Wyoming has quite an established workforce in coal mining that we can borrow from.  Those are the types of people we need for maintenance and construction jobs.”

Some training will be needed for the workers who run the plant, Scott added.

“There will be laboratory analysis, process design, and engineering work on the chemical processing side, plus process and engineering work on the mechanical and industrial side,” he said.

In Albany County, if Western Rare Earths’ drilling results in a rare earths mining operation, the operation will need local employees.  That timeline is quite a bit longer than the timeline for the Upton facility, but, assuming a mine is feasible, Weems said, this could “be a big construction project.”

“It wouldn’t be a little thing,” he said. “Those construction capabilities would be a big need for probably a year or more. On similar projects, after construction, there have been 200 to 300 high paying mining jobs.”

The area could also expect the creation of related jobs in the form of support positions at the mine, along with increased consumer activity.

“When a new mine comes to a community, there’s another 250 jobs created that support the jobs at the mine, more hardware to fix the house, more groceries, more jobs in the community that aren’t directly related to the mine, but support the people who work at the mine and support the mine functions,” he said.

As the rare earth element industry picks up speed, the UW is working new systems for mining and production, Qullinan said.

“The School of Energy Resources is hoping to develop methodologies for the entire supply chain of rare earth materials, methodologies for exploration and mining, separation and processing, beneficiation or enriching materials, as well as value-added processes, business plans, economics, and workforce development,” he said. “We want to develop a wells-to-wheels type of program.”

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Fed Law Enforcement Warns Russian Hackers Could Target Wyoming Critical Infrastructure

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Federal law enforcement officials are warning that Russian hackers are targeting refineries, pipelines, power grids and other critical energy infrastructure in the United States, including in Wyoming.

However, historically, the weather has posed a bigger  threat to Wyoming’s energy infrastructure than hackers, according to records.

In late March, the Department of Energy and other federal agencies issued a joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) warning regarding state-sponsored Russian cyberattacks on the energy sector in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The warning follows an investigation by the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that identified multiple targeted attacks on the energy infrastructure between 2011 and 2018.

Pipelines have historically been a target of hackers, according to Ryan McConnaughey, communications director for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW), who pointed to the 2021 ransomware on the Texas-based Colonial Pipeline that was tied to a Russia-linked cybercrime network.

So far, to McConnaughey’s knowledge, Wyoming’s energy sector has not been hit by Russian or other hackers.

“The individual energy companies and industry as a whole and their partners work with CISA and DOE to look into the future to try to mitigate the risks,” he said.

The warning of heightened concerns by the federal government doesn’t come as a surprise, he noted, adding that the industry has people working on cybersecurity on a full-time basis to prevent such attacks and that the companies regularly work together to share information about potential threats.

Historically, records show the biggest threat to Wyoming’s energy sector has been thunderstorms and lightning.

Between 2009 and 2019, thunderstorms and lightning accounted for $7 million in overall property loss each year, according to an Energy Sector Risk Profile prepared by the DOE. During this time, the state had eight major disaster declarations.

The second largest hazard was floods, with 19 accounting for $3 million in damage each year during that same period.

The third largest cause of damage to the infrastructure was wildfires. The federal reported that between 2009 and 2019, the state saw five fire management assistance declarations. Fire damages to the infrastructure are estimated at $2 million per year.

Potential Targets

In terms of its energy infrastructure, Wyoming has 27 electric utilities, 28 natural gas processing facilities and two liquefied natural gas plants with a storage of 6,051 barrels, per the report.

Additionally, as of 2018, there were 6,838 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines and 5,429 miles of natural gas distribution pipelines running through the state.

Between 1984 and 2019, the report stated that the largest disturbance to the state’s natural gas distribution system came from unknown events and outside forces while the gas was being shipped via pipelines.

In addition to gas lines, as of 2018, Wyoming had 4,257 miles of crude oil pipelines and an additional 1,379 miles of pipelines for refined products.

The report cited no cyberattacks on any of the state’s energy infrastructure.

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Booming Oil Prices Means Good News, Bad News For Wyoming

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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Rising oil prices could be a boon for Wyoming’s economy in the short-term, but if sustained, they could push consumers away from fossil fuel usage quicker than previously predicted, according to economists. 

“We might be making hay while the sun is shining, but unintentionally, we might also be shortening the summer,” said Rob Godby, a University of Wyoming Economics Department associate professor. “The longer we benefit from high oil and gas prices, the more likely the structural decline of oil reliance will come even sooner.” 

As a result of the war in Ukraine, the price of oil, measured by the barrel, has risen steadily since the end of February. As of Thursday, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) – the benchmark crude oil for North America – priced a barrel at about $102, according to www.oilprice.com

Although WTI barrel prices are down from a high of about $124 early in March, the current prices are significantly higher than those seeen at the beginning of 2022, when WTI priced a barrel at about $80. Prior to the pandemic, WTI’s price per barrel was about $60.

“These are surprise revenues for the state, which is good news,” Godby said. “But the question is how long can they last? And will local producers respond with increased production?” 

Biding time

Prior to 2020, about 30 oil rigs were operating in Wyoming, said Wenlin Liu, a chief economist for the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information.

At the beginning of 2022, only about 15 rigs were in operation, and Liu said those numbers haven’t increased despite rising oil prices, showing uncertainty in how long the price hikes will last. 

“Before the pandemic, every time oil prices increased, U.S. producers responded quickly,” Liu said. “Now, they are responding slowly. They’re not sure how long this higher price is viable.”

Oil prices skyrocketed as a result of sanctions on Russian oil producers, who supplied most of Western Europe. While the U.S. has oil to meet European and American demands, it’s not the only player on the field. 

The Middle East-based Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could bring more oil to the European market, filling the gap left by the absence of Russian oil and significantly lowering prices, Godby said. 

“Oil companies have been very reticent to increase their production,” he said. “They’ve been careful not to flood the market.”

In 2020, a lack of oil demand and oversupply on the global market sent barrel prices plummeting to about negative $37 per barrel WTI.

“Firms have been patient this time around,” Godby said. “Even if they wanted to expand production right now, high transportation costs and material shortages could be prohibitive. Those supply chain issues are real.” 

Another factor in the oil producers’ decision-making process is the fact that most of Wyoming’s available oil exists under federal lands. As the nations of the world scramble to address climate change, Liu said oil producers have to weigh the risks of setting up on land that could soon be subject to shifting environmental policies at the federal level.

Finding Workers

Building rigs is one challenge, manning them is another, Liu explained. 

During the pandemic, Americans left the labor market by the tens of millions, many of them never to return. Those workers were largely “Baby Boomers” who were close to retiring or working beyond the average retirement age, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. 

“Across the nation, labor force participation is swinging back,” Liu said. “But Wyoming has a higher proportion of Baby Boomers, many of whom were drawn to the state by the mid-80s oil boom.”

Labor force participation rates refer to the percentage of the country’s civilian, non-institutional population ages 16 and older who are actively working or looking for work. 

The U.S. experienced a significant drop in participation rates during the pandemic, and although numbers nationally have not quite returned to pre-pandemic levels, national labor force participation is rebounding at a much quicker rate than Wyoming – leaving even fewer potential workers for oil companies to man new rigs. 

Declining birth rates and increasing retirements also mean fewer workers available in the future, Liu said. 

In addition, in the five years leading up to 2020, droves of younger workers fled the state for the economic stability of metropolitan areas, Liu said.

“States are now in competition for their labor force,” Liu said.  

Wyoming’s trend of declining population reversed itself in 2020 and the number of state residents has slowly increased as people flee high-density metropolitan areas, but Liu said the population increase isn’t likely enough to significantly offset the downward trend of Wyoming’s labor force participation.  

Hurting Consumers

Wyoming collects taxes on oil based on the first time it is sold after extraction, Godby said. 

As a result, based on the price per barrel at the time of the transaction, March tax revenues will be higher than anticipated, he said. 

“This is a windfall to the state in terms of revenues,” Godby added. “The longer the prices stay higher, the more the benefits stack for the state. But we don’t expect this boom in fossil fuel usage to last forever.”

In addition, what’s good for oil producers isn’t always good for consumers. 

Soaring gas prices could make people less likely to travel. Higher transportation costs also directly affect the price of goods and services. 

With inflation at nearly 8% – the biggest spike since 1982 – the boon of additional tax revenue could be overshadowed by the impact on Wyoming’s lowest-earning residents.    

“The average consumer is really being hurt by this,” Godby said. 

Many economists are skeptical these prices will hold out for long, Liu said.

But even if prices hold strong, the sun is setting on the fossil fuel age.  

“As for the long term, many countries are working to lower their demand for fossil fuels,” Liu said. “It’s only a matter of time before oil is no longer a reliable revenue stream for Wyoming.” 

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Australian Mining Company Says Uranium Deposits Cover Several Miles In Red Desert

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

An Australian uranium company exploring in southwest Wyoming on Monday reported finding what appear to be uranium deposits covering several miles in the Great Divide Basin.

GTI Resources, which just completed a round of exploratory drilling in the Great Divide Basin, posted to its Twitter account Monday a map featuring “roll front trend,” or uranium deposits its drilling revealed.  

The post notes 17,640 feet — about 3.3 miles — “of mineralized roll fronts found,” with 80% of the project area still to be tested.  

A follow-up drilling process is planned.  

GTI’s 100-hole probe known as the Thor project, in northwestern Sweetwater County, began late November 2021 and was completed on schedule in mid-March despite seasonal wildlife restrictions pertaining to sage grouse.  

GTI announced earlier this month that it had found a likely source of raw uranium or “yellowcake” through its exploration. The company told Cowboy State Daily at the time that it planned to announce by mid-April just how much uranium the area might contain.

Colorado Company Gearing Up 

GTI’s properties roughly surround the Lost Creek project, which is the domain of Colorado company UR Energy.  

UR Energy reported that its own exploration indicated the presence of 11.9 million pounds of uranium, with another 6.6 million pounds “inferred” by the exploration.

The report, noted UR Energy in a separate caveat, is speculative.  

UR Energy secured an additional six mine units on the Lost Creek license in 2021, bringing the total to nine. According to its company website, UR Energy expects to have permits and authorizations for production completed sometime this year – along with an increase in its maximum extraction allowance.  

“As we await the return of a robust uranium market, we have prepared (a mining unit) and the Lost Creek plant for an efficient transition to full production rates,” the website said.

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Barrasso, Cheney Say No To Gas Stimulus Check

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It makes more sense to encourage domestic oil production than use provide a “stimulus check” to American consumers to help them cope with current gas prices, according to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and U.S. Sen John Barrasso.

 The “Gas Rebate Act,” a bill proposed by three congressional Democrats, would provide a monthly energy rebate of $100 per person. The refund would kick in for the rest of 2022 as long as the national average gas price topped $4 a gallon during any given month. 

Wyoming’s average gas price as of Monday was $4.08 per gallon, below the national average of $4.234 for a gallon of regular.

Cheney told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the clear solution to rising gas prices is to unleash American domestic energy production.

“In Wyoming and across the country, we have the resources and capabilities to increase production so we can regain  American energy independence, provide crucial resources for our allies around the world, and reduce gas prices and energy costs  hardworking families are facing,” she said. 

Barrasso, speaking during a news conference last week, agreed U.S. oil production must be increased.

“We are still 1.3 million barrels a day less being made in the United States now than during the pandemic,” he said. “We need to get that up and whether it’s checks, gas cards, any of those things, that doesn’t contribute to the solution of having more available energy for Americans to buy when they go shopping.”

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Cowboy State Daily.

Another proposed Democrat-led bill, the “Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax” would charge a per barrel tax equal to 50% of the difference between the current price of a barrel of oil and its pre-pandemic average price between 2015 to 2019.

The lawmakers calculated that if the per barrel price sits at $120, the tax would raise about $45 billion a year, which would provide single tax filers with $240 annually and joint filers with $360 each year. 

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Survey Shows Overwhelming Support For Oil, Gas Production In Wyoming, Even Democrats

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Oil and natural gas production in Wyoming is supported by an overwhelming majority of state residents questioned in a statewide survey, including 68% of Democrats polled.

The biennial poll conducted in February, commissioned by the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, was designed to analyze oil and gas exploration attitudes among state residents.  

PAW reported that of the 500 residents contacted in a random telephone survey conducted prior the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 88% approved of oil and natural gas production in Wyoming.  

Of the Democrats surveyed, 68% said they approved of oil and gas production. In addition, 54% of the Democrats said they believe drilling efforts are compatible with nature recreation and preservation endeavors.  

Of the voters identifying themselves as independent, 74% backed oil and gas production in the state, while 95% of Republicans polled voiced approval.  

Restrictions 

But viewpoints on current federal restrictions on the industry varied widely across party lines, according to the survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5%.

Only 16% of Democrats questioned said there were too many regulations on oil and gas production. Another 38% said there were too few regulations and 39% stated the regulations were about right.  

Among Republicans, conversely, 61% said restrictions on production were excessive, compared with just 5% complaining of too few, and 29% stating the restrictions are about right as they are.  

In total, 51% of Wyoming voters from all party affiliations said restrictions on production were excessive, which PAW stated was a 19% increase from 2020.  

Under the Biden Administration, new oil and gas leasing on federal lands has effectively halted and thousands of permitting requests are backlogged.  

Economic Support 

A majority of those questioned, 86%, agreed with the statement that oil and gas drilling supports the local economy, the survey said.

“The belief that local economies receive a great deal of benefit saw strong support across demographics including a plurality of registered Democrats and self-identifying liberal voters,” read’s PAW’s survey analysis. 

“Seventy-four percent (74%) of voters agree that increasing the use of natural gas is the best way to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change without disruptions to everyday life,” the survey said, “while more than two-thirds of voters (68%) are unwilling to pay more for energy to curb climate change.”  

Party Makeup 

Respondents to the poll, wrote PAW, were “a representative cross-section of likely voters in Wyoming” including 52% women, 48% men; 70% Republican, 16% Democrat, and 11% Independent/Other.  

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Company Building Nuke Plant in Kemmerer Now Says They Won’t Use Russian Uranium

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy Statev Daily

The company installing a nuclear power plant in Kemmerer will not be using Russian uranium, company officials told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Earlier this month, officials said they initially would be using uranium imported from Russia, although this was not an ideal situation for them.

This is not the case any longer, TerraPower director of external affairs Jeff Navin told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

“We will not be using Russian uranium in the Natrium reactor in Wyoming,” Navin said. “TerraPower is actively investing in the domestic supply chain for its fuel and working with elected leaders to develop more support for American enrichment. This work is having a positive effect in Congress and we will continue to work on this urgent issue.”

Earlier this month, Navin said that the company was in a problematic situation, as the only facility that can produce commercial quantities of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) is owned and operated by Tenex and Russia.

“Recognizing this gap in the supply chain, last year, TerraPower allocated funds within the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program proposal … to help create an American competitor to Tenex, and we are working with Congress and the Department of Energy to expedite the development of domestic enrichment capability,” Navin said.

“This investment has helped support the only facility in the United States currently licensed to produce HALEU, although they do not yet have the capability to produce HALEU at commercial levels,” he said.

The Natrium power plant will use fuel rods manufactured with HALEU metallic fluid. This uranium will allow the reactor to operate more efficiently and reduces the volume of waste produced.

This week, Wyoming’s delegation spoke out against the United States’ reliance on Russian energy, including uranium.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney told Wyoming reporters on Wednesday that she was working on legislation that would ban the import of Russian uranium.

According to the Wyoming Mining Association, Wyoming has around 450 million pounds of uranium in reserves, although the resource varies in price. About one pound of uranium can produce the same amount of power as 20,000 pounds of coal.

The Natrium power plant, a “next generation” nuclear plant, is expected to generate 345 megawatts of power.

According to project estimates, approximately 2,000 workers will be needed for plant construction at the project’s peak. Once the plant is operational, approximately 250 people will support day-to-day activities, including plant security.

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Global Mining Business Finds Significant Deposits Of Uranium In Wyoming’s Red Desert

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A global mining business says it has found significant deposits of uranium in Wyoming’s Red Desert.  

GTI Resources discovered a likely source of raw uranium, or yellowcake, through a first-time exploratory drill program called the “Thor” project in the Great Divide Basin, said Bruce Lane, GTI Resources director.

Lane added the geological and political landscapes would appear to encourage development.

“We’re confident we have established there’s a mineralized system here,” Lane told Cowboy State Daily.

Lane hoped to release an official report by mid-April that will detail how much uranium the area might contain. 

Wyoming’s geologic structure, said the director, is ideal for in-situ leach mining – a relatively “clean” process using water and baking soda to pump uranium deposits from drilled holes.  

The next step, said Lane, will be for GTI to “follow this drilling program with another drilling program of higher intensity” to further identify the yellowcake presence and develop an “economic model” around it before tackling the official permitting process.  

The permitting process for uranium production, said Lane, is “onerous – as it should be” to address environmental concerns.  

Lane said this initial discovery of sandstone-embedded uranium in southern Wyoming comes amid the industry’s first optimistic phase in more than a decade.  

“Uranium mining in the States has really collapsed in the last decade, so in the last few years there’s been no mining at all,” said Lane, noting that Kazakhstan flooded the global market nearly two decades ago with cheap uranium which, at about $20 per pound, drove out established producers and stalled Wyoming ventures.  

Lane also bemoaned the 2010 sale of Uranium One assets to Russian nuclear power giant Rosotom – a move that was approved by then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which transferred 20% of U.S. uranium reserves into Russian control.  

“It’s quite incredible to think… somebody decided in the administration that that was a good idea,” said Lane.  

With the transfer, Russia took over much of the global uranium enrichment services for turning raw yellowcake into refined uranium, Lane said, adding that now there is “some enrichment in the U.S.” 

A Trump-era report by the National Nuclear Security Administration stated the U.S. in 2019 did “not have domestic uranium enrichment capability,” prompting the Navy to use national stockpiles for the propulsion of its nuclear-powered vessels.  

Foreign Chaos 

But the tides turned in January, when civil unrest in Kazakhstan prompted Russia-aided communications and travel shutdowns that quelled both civilian protests and uranium production in the small central-Asian country. Kazakhstan had been producing more than 40 percent of the world’s uranium supply.  

Prices surged to $45 per pound in January and $55 on Wednesday evening.  

Consumers, or “utilities,” said Lane, may find it “better for them to seek uranium from a more politically stable place than Kazakhstan.”  

The Russian-Ukraine conflict now waging, Lane added, could further cement “the strategic issues with buying out of the Russian block, and Chinese-block-aligned suppliers.”  

Kazakhstan, Russian, and Uzbekistan accounted for 47% of the total uranium purchased by U.S. civilian operators in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Canada and Australia together were the second-largest sources for American buyers, providing about 34% of the supply.

America’s export rate was not as voluminous or as lucrative:  

U.S. buyers bought 39.6 million pounds of uranium from foreign sources at an average $33.79 per pound in 2020 – but domestic producers only sold 9.9 million pounds, at an average price of $29.57 per pound, the EIA reported.  

Energy Independence 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine provoked criticism and calls by Wyoming’s three Congressional delegates for bans and sanctions on Russian products.  

“Now you’ve got Liz Cheney banging the desk and demanding that Russia be sanctioned, and that uranium be sanctioned as well, and oil and whatever else,” said Lane. 

Shifting that pressure to meet the demand for uranium back onto American suppliers, he continued, is a “wakeup call, that the U.S. domestic uranium supplier used to be the world’s leading supplier business – and it’s been decimated, and effectively collapsed.” 

“But I believe there’s a renaissance underway,” he added.  

Clean Power 

Lane referenced an increasing demand for clean energy.  

“Emissions-free electricity can’t all come from windmills and solar power,” he said, due in part to their intermittent nature and “network issues.”  

India, France, South Korea, Japan, and many other jurisdictions are “doubling down” on nuclear power, Lane added.

Uranium mining is not without its environmental risks, he said, as some producers will use harsh chemicals to extract the yellowcake. But Wyoming’s sandstone-hosted deposits, he said, allowed for the cleaner alternative of in-situ extraction.  

Wyoming Hands on Deck 

Australia-based GTI Resources, said Lane, is employing Wyoming workers.  

“We don’t have exploration staff and filed staff employed in the U.S., so we work with partners in the U.S… (and) we absolutely would use and would prefer to use local, Wyoming expertise. I don’t imagine why we would want to bring anyone in from out of state,” he said. “These guys are trustworthy and reliable.”  

Lane also praised the Wyoming Legislature for its exploration-friendly policies.  

“I’ve worked in a number of different jurisdictions across the world, and it’s really good to work with people in your part of the world,” said Lane. BRS Engineering, which is based in Riverton, helped GTI choose exploration targets in Wyoming and in Utah.  

“For the Thor project,” said Doug Beahm, principal engineer for BRS, “we planned and permitted the drilling through the (Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality) Land Quality Division and (Bureau of Land Management).” 

With permits in place, BRS managed drilling, completing 100 exploratory drill holes on the Thor project this winter.  

“We did not get the permit until late November 2021 and had to complete the drilling prior to March 15,” said Beahm, due to seasonal wildlife restrictions pertaining to sage grouse. 

But the project was completed on time.  

“GTI has additional claim groups in the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming and we will be evaluating whether to continue the drilling program at Thor or expand the program to the other claim groups or do both,” Beahm said.  

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Barrasso Says American, Not Russian, Uranium Needed To Power Kemmerer Plant

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

American uranium should be the fuel source for a nuclear power plant proposed near Kemmerer, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso said Thursday

Barrasso told his Senate collegues the United States needs to end its reliance on Russia for certain energy sources, such as uranium.

“Russia is our third-largest supplier of uranium, meeting 16% of U.S. demand. We need to eliminate our dependence on Russian uranium,” Barrasso said Thursday during hearings into the nomination of Kathryn Huff to serve as assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. “We also need immediate action to develop an American supply of high-assay, low-enriched uranium. This is the fuel needed for advanced nuclear reactors, like TerraPower’s Natrium reactor, which will be built in my home state of Wyoming.”

TerraPower has said it has no choice but to use nuclear fuel rods created in Russia because there are no domestic suppliers of the rods. The company is working to develop a domestic source for the rods.

The Natrium power plant will use fuel rods manufactured with HALEU metallic fluid. This uranium will allow the reactor to operate more efficiently and reduces the volume of waste produced.

Barrasso joined U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis and two other senators on Thursday in introducing legislation that would ban the import of Russian uranium, a move that would cut Natrium’s supply of fuel.

Barrasso spokeswoman Gaby Hunt told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that while American uranium fuel production probably won’t be sufficient to provide the initial fuel load for Natrium, expected to begin operations in 2027 or 2028, Barrasso is working to make sure domestic uranium sources will be available in the future. Hunt said Barrasso is looking at supplementing the domestic supply with fuel produced by the DOE until commercial production is sufficient to meet the demand.

Barrasso and Lummis agreed it makes little sense to help finance Russian aggression in Ukraine with purchases of fuel, including uranium.

“The time is now to permanently remove all Russian energy from the American marketplace,” Barrasso said. “We know Vladimir Putin uses this money to help fund his brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine. While banning imports of Russian oil, gas and coal is an important step, it cannot be the last. Banning Russian uranium imports will further defund Russia’s war machine, help revive American uranium production, and increase our national security.”

Lummis added that it was “imperative” that the United States cut off all Russian imports, including uranium.

“Every dollar we send to Russia is a dollar used to continue to attack innocent people in Ukraine,” she said. “Wyoming has more than enough uranium to fill this gap, and we can mine it in a more environmentally friendly and safe way.”

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney told Wyoming reporters on Wednesday that she was also working to introduce similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to the Wyoming Mining Association, Wyoming has around 450 million pounds of uranium in reserves, although the resource varies in price. About one pound of uranium can produce the same amount of power as 20,000 pounds of coal.

WMA spokesman Travis Deti did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

The Natrium power plant, a “next generation” nuclear plant, is expected to generate 345 megawatts of power.

According to project estimates, approximately 2,000 workers will be needed for plant construction at the project’s peak. Once the plant is operational, approximately 250 people will support day-to-day activities, including plant security.

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Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Tuesday, March 15, 2022

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s average gasoline price dropped slightly on Monday, declining by 2 cents per gallon over the previous 24 hours for an average of $3.98 per gallon.

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was up 7.2 cents from one week ago and up $1.17 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained below the national average of $4.31.

The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $3.84; Big Horn $3.99; Campbell $3.980; Carbon $3.94; Converse $3.85; Crook $3.99; Fremont $4.03; Goshen $3.93; Hot Springs $4.00; Johnson $3.99; Laramie $3.94; Lincoln $4.20; Natrona $3.88; Niobrara $3.99; Park $4.13; Platte, $3.99; Sheridan $3.95; Sublette $4.10; Sweetwater $3.97; Teton $4.10; Uinta $4.40; Washakie $3.99; and Weston $3.99. 

The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.13; Buffalo $3.50; Casper $3.79; Cheyenne $3.75; Cody $4.07; Douglas $3.78; Evanston $4.19; Gillette $3.86; Jackson $4.18; Kemmerer $4.29; Laramie $3.84; Lusk $4.19; New Castle $3.89; Pinedale $4.05; Rawlins $3.89; Riverton $3.98; Rock Springs $3.75; Sheridan $3.81; Sundance $3.99; Thermopolis $3.97; Wheatland $3.98; Worland $4.04.

The lowest reported average price was $3.75 in Cheyenne, while the highest was in Uinta County at $4.40 per gallon.

Note: Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered the evening before posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

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Officials Believe It’s ‘Unlikely’ Wyoming Gas Prices Will Hit $5

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Despite gas prices hitting a record peak last week, it is unlikely the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline will hit $5 in Wyoming, two experts told Cowboy State Daily this week.

University of Wyoming economics Professor Rob Godby and Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association Executive Director Grier Bailey told Cowboy State Daily that barring some chaotic world event, neither believed that gas prices would increase all the way to $5.

Godby pointed out that although the gas price record was technically broken last week, if adjusted for inflation, the $4.11 high in 2008 would convert to about $5.20 today.

“So when you adjust for inflation, we’re still not at a record level, and we’d have to be over $5 a gallon to hit that level and feel the same impact the way we did 14 years ago when we hit the highest prices,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “

The professor did say it was possible for one, two or a handful of gas stations to set their prices at $5 per gallon or higher, but the statewide average will likely not cross the $5 line.

“Oil prices are hovering around $100 a barrel, so they’re beginning to settle down,” he said. “That reflects the fact that the world is coming to terms, a little bit, with the uncertainty of the war [between Russian and Ukraine]. There was a lot of panic-buying early on when we hit $130 per barrel.”

Godby noted that gas prices tend to go up faster than they come down, but added he expected the prices to level off, if not decrease somewhat, in coming weeks.

According to AAA, Wyoming’s average gas price was $4.02 per gallon Tuesday, with the most expensive prices being found in Uinta and Teton counties, more than $4.20 per gallon.

The national average for gas prices is $4.31 per gallon.

Bailey told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that Wyoming gasoline prices are being kept relatively low by state policies.

“The Wyoming Legislature and administration have a balanced energy policy and the cost of fuels for Wyoming families and businesses should remain lower than the rest of the country,” he said. “Compared to states like Colorado, where the administration is likely to move forward with a 45-cent increase through state-supported federal action, Wyoming families can take comfort. The cost of crude oil remains the primary driver of prices, with a growing percentage exacerbated partially due to speculative commodity trading, which should abate as prices stabilize.”

Bailey added that the “silly and family-devastating prices” seen in states like California and Colorado were being skewed by “punitive and unnecessary” government regulation, which Wyoming’s policies guard against.

California’s gas price average is $5.75 per gallon on Tuesday, according to AAA. Nevada’s average gas prices were just a few cents short of $5 at $4.96 per gallon.

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Gordon: New Nuclear Reactor Needs To Run on Wyoming, Not Russian, Uranium

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming needs a domestic source of uranium to supply a proposed nuclear reactor near Kemmerer, Gov. Mark Gordon said Monday.

TerraPower, the company planning to install a small nuclear reactor in Kemmerer, told Cowboy State Daily last month that it has no choice but to fuel its plant with nuclear fuel rods from Russia, but officials said they are also working to cultivate domestic uranium sources.

Such a domestic source could be converted into a “wonderful” source of energy while reducing waste, Gordon said.

“Currently our nuclear resources come from Russia, and we need to make sure that we have a domestic source of uranium just like we used to,” he said. “We’re very anxious to see the project move forward. We’re really hoping that this helps to revitalize Wyoming’s very important uranium industry.”

Last summer, Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced the Natrium plant, a “next generation” nuclear plant would be built in Wyoming by 2027 or 2028. The reactor is expected to generate 345 megawatts of power.

The proposed reactor would use technology developed by TerraPower, and would result in a smaller nuclear power plant than has previously been built, along with improved safety measures and a power storage system.

On Monday, TerraPower officials announced that the company received a federal $8.5 million grant to support research into a method to recover uranium from used nuclear fuel.

TerraPower officials have said the plant will only be able to use a type of uranium fuel rod made in Russia, although the company is working to cultivate other sources inside the United States.

The Natrium power plant will use fuel rods manufactured with HALEU metallic fluid. This uranium will allow the reactor to operate more efficiently and reduces the volume of waste produced.

In addition to trying to build up American producers of HALEU, TerraPower is investing in an American company to produce the fuel rods, officials said.

According to project estimates, approximately 2,000 workers will be needed for plant construction at the project’s peak. Once the plant is operational, approximately 250 people will support day-to-day activities, including plant security.

TerraPower did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Monday.

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Duke Energy: No Answers Yet On Why 262-Foot Wind Turbine Collapsed Near Cheyenne

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An energy company is continuing to investigate the collapse of one of its wind turbines near Cheyenne last month, an event a University of Wyoming expert called very rare.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Valerie Patterson told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the investigation being conducted is a detailed and deliberative process so company officials will be able to understand what happened, learn from the incident and prevent it from happening again.

“Cleanup efforts are being conducted by site personnel, our engineering team and a third-party engineering firm,” she said. “A complete and thorough cleanup of the area will be done to restore the area to its original condition.”

The 262-foot turbine collapsed in late February. No one was injured.

Patterson previously told Cowboy State Daily that after the investigation was completed, Duke officials would decide whether to repair or replace the turbine. There was no timeline on when that would occur, though.

Wind turbines are built to operate anywhere from 20 to 30 years, but the lifespan could vary.

University of Wyoming Professor Jonathan Naughton, director of the Wind Energy Research Center, told Cowboy State Daily that the likelihood of a wind turbine failing catastrophically is low.

“I’ve only heard of two ‘catastrophic’ incidents happening in Wyoming since these wind turbines went in, this one on Happy Jack and one other,” he said. “There are about 1,500 turbines in Wyoming, so one failure out of 1,500, that’s not a bad number from an industry perspective.”

Naughton added that turbines are not 100% perfect, and malfunctions will and do happen, although they are not usually severe enough to cause a turbine collapse.

He pointed out that no engineered system is 100% perfect, either.

“The overall damage from a turbine falling is pretty small and it’s mainly damages to the owner/operator,” he said. “It’s very unlikely it will hurt somebody. I’ve never heard of an occasion where a wind plant had a failure that had some kind of impact on somebody standing underneath it. They’re just not designed to do.”

Duke Energy has managed the turbine site at Happy Jack since 2008 and runs 14 turbines there currently. The company also operates three other turbine farms in Wyoming: one more in Laramie County and two in Converse County, all of which have been in operation for more than a decade.

Duke provides energy for consumers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Florida.

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Wyoming Gas Prices Up By 21.9 Cents In Last Week

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s average gasoline price increased slightly Monday, rising by 1.2 cents per gallon in a 24-hour period for an average price of $4.02 per gallon. 

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is up 21.9 cents per gallon over one week ago, and up $1.21 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained below the national average of $4.32.

The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $3.81; Big Horn $4.15; Campbell $4.00; Carbon $3.99; Converse $4.00; Crook $4.00; Fremont $4.05; Goshen $4.00; Hot Springs $4.00; Johnson $3.99; Laramie $3.94; Lincoln $4.00; Natrona $4.00; Niobrara $4.00; Park $4.00; Platte, $4.00; Sheridan $3.92; Sublette $4.00; Sweetwater $3.92; Teton $4.20; Uinta $4.46; Washakie $4.00; and Weston $4.00. 

The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.13; Buffalo $3.50; Casper $3.79; Cheyenne $3.75; Cody $4.07; Douglas $3.78; Evanston $4.09; Gillette $3.88; Jackson $4.18; Kemmerer $4.29; Laramie $3.84; Lusk $4.19; New Castle, No Report; Pinedale $4.05; Rawlins $3.89; Riverton $3.98; Rock Springs $3.75; Sheridan $3.77; Sundance $3.99; Thermopolis $3.97; Wheatland $3.99; Worland $4.04.

The lowest reported average price was $3.92, in Sheridan County, while the highest was in Uinta County, with $4.46 per gallon of regular gas.

Note: Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered the evening before posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

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Sunday’s Average Wyoming Gas Price At $3.99 Per Gallon

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s average gasoline price remained relatively steady on Sunday at $3.99 per gallon, an increase of 0.4 cents per gallon over the previous 24 hours.

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average regular unleaded gas price is up by 31.5 cents per gallon over one week ago and by $1.21 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained below the national average of $4.34.

The average price per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $3.86; Big Horn $4.00; Campbell $3.95; Carbon $3.89; Converse $3.90; Crook $4.00; Fremont $4.00; Goshen $3.3.91; Hot Springs $4.00; Johnson $3.99; Laramie $3.94; Lincoln $4.00; Natrona $3.87; Niobrara $4.00; Park $4.14; Platte, $4.00; Sheridan $4.00; Sublette $4.00; Sweetwater $3.98; Teton $4.20; Uinta $4.00; Washakie $4.00; and Weston $4.00. 

The average price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.13; Buffalo $3.98; Casper $3.79; Cheyenne $3.95; Cody $4.07; Douglas $3.78; Evanston $4.09; Gillette $3.88; Jackson $4.18; Kemmerer $4.29; Laramie $3.84; Lusk $4.19; New Castle, No Report; Pinedale $4.05; Rawlins $3.89; Riverton $3.98; Rock Springs $3.75; Sheridan $3.77; Sundance $3.99; Thermopolis $3.97; Wheatland $3.99; Worland $4.04.

The lowest reported price was $3.77 in Sheridan, while the highest was in Kemmerer at $4.20 per gallon of regular gas.

Note: Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered the evening before posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

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Ban On Russian Oil Not Likely To Help Wyoming Industry Unless Biden Lifts Restrictions on Federal Lands

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A presidential ban on the import of Russian petroleum products could help Wyoming, according to experts, if the federal government would lift its own restraints on American producers.  

“We’re obviously in agreement with (President Joe Biden’s) decision to ban Russian oil,” Ryan McConnaughey, vice president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “But we’ve seen several actions by the administration that have hindered the ability to develop, specifically on federal lands.”  

Russia had contributed about 8% of America’s petroleum products, including 3% of its crude oil supply. On Tuesday, Biden announced he had banned the import of Russian oil in retaliation for Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. 

But Wyoming’s oil industry probably won’t be a big player in making up the difference in the national oil supply, said McConnaughey, because it depends heavily on the availability of federal lands for production.  

The leasing of federal land for oil development has ceased under the Biden administration despite a June court order to revive U.S. Bureau of Land Management oil leasing on federal lands. The permitting process is under a severe backlog as well.

Wyoming tops the nation for natural gas production on federal lands and is second only to New Mexico for oil production on federal lands, said McConnaughey. 

Instead of Wyoming, energy development companies have been setting up shop in states with more state- or privately-owned land, he continued, to avoid the federal permitting shutdown.   

No Leasing, No Permitting 

The administration has offered no federal land parcels for lease since December 2020, McConnaughey said, in violation of federal law. In addition, the BLM has not approved any permit applications for production on federal lands since last fall.

The Biden administration in June was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty to lift its moratorium on federal leasing, but still has not complied.  

There are about 4,600 permits to drill awaiting federal approval nationwide, said McConnaughey.  

“Those companies cannot drill on those lands without those permits,” he added.  

Wyoming’s share of the ungranted permits nationally is about 10% at 469 – putting the state in second place after New Mexico, which has 3,809 ungranted permits caught up in the federal system.  

“I think immediately, the administration could work to streamline getting those permits approved, to get more oil on the market,” said McConnaughey.  

Too Little Too Late? 

But former Wyoming Sen. Eli Bebout worried that even if the Biden administration did change course with the leases, it may be “too little too late.”  

“If (Biden) all of a sudden woke up tomorrow and became a reasonable person and recognized the value of our domestic oil and gas industry, you just can’t turn the switch on,” said Bebout, the owner of Nucor Oil and Gas.

He added any substantial production increases from allowing leasing and permitting immediately likely wouldn’t be seen in Wyoming for another six months to one year, because of the slow process of hiring qualified workers and establishing rig sites.  

“If he’d let (the embargos) go, like, a year ago, we would be able to do a lot better, and I don’t think we’d be suffering the high gas prices we are,” Bebout told Cowboy State Daily.  

Wyoming’s average unleaded gasoline price Wednesday was $3.92 per gallon, an increase of 44.4 cents from one week ago and a jump of nearly $1.19 from last year.  

Bebout stated that there’s “no way” Wyoming would have a substantial role in making up the lost 8% of petroleum products caused by the Russian oil ban, even if the federal restrictions were lifted. 

“It’s not going to have an impact in terms of what the Russian deal does,” said Bebout, adding that the more noticeable benefits in a less restrictive market would be increased state revenues and a better job market. 

Biden Rallies for ‘Clean Energy’ 

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and 25 other state executives asked Biden on Friday to remove bans on new oil and gas development on federal lands and restart the halted Keystone XL pipeline project.  

“People in our states cannot afford another spike at the gas pump, and our allies cannot afford to be held hostage by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s tyranny and aggression,” reads a statement by Gordon’s office. 

Biden in a Tuesday statement on Twitter, resisted calls to unburden domestic oil producers.  

“Loosening environmental regulations won’t lower prices,” wrote Biden. “But transforming our economy to run on electric vehicles, powered by clean energy, will mean that no one will have to worry about gas prices. It will mean tyrants like Putin won’t be able to use fossil fuels as a weapon.” 

Europe Hurting 

According to The Associated Press, the European Union this week will commit to phasing out its reliance on Russia for energy needs as soon as possible. Europe relies on imports for 90% of its natural gas and 97% of its oil products. Russia supplies 40% of Europe’s natural gas and a quarter of its oil. 

The U.S. does not import Russian natural gas. 

Bebout said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a “travesty,” but he worried that the American minerals sanction and other importation bans worldwide would hurt the Ukrainian and Russian civilians far more than the Russian ruling class.  

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Wyoming Economist: Russian Oil Ban Won’t Have Much Impact On Gas Prices

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

President Joe Biden’s ban on Russian oil imports will likely not have much of an impact on gas prices in Wyoming and the United States, Wyoming’s head economist told Cowboy State Daily Wednesday.

Wyoming chief economist Wenlin Liu said because Russian oil makes up less than 3% of the total oil imports into the United States, the ban will have little impact on the global oil market.

“Oil is a global commodity and its price is decided by demand and supply of the whole world,” Liu said. “Before COVID, the exploration activity responded very quickly as prices increased. However, this round is quite different, for both the U.S. and Wyoming, the drilling activity increase has been much slower, despite the fast recovery in prices as producers continue to limit spending and investment.”

On Tuesday, the national average price of gasoline in the United States broke a record, hitting an all-time high of $4.10 per gallon. The national average price of diesel is also nearing a record and is currently sitting at $4.63 per gallon.

The average gas price in Wyoming was $3.92 per gallon as of Wednesday, an increase of 44.4 cents from one week ago and around $1.19 from one year ago.

The national average increased by about 72 cents from a month ago, including 55 cents in the last week.

GasBuddy petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan said Tuesday that sanctions Biden had put into place against Russia before the ban had already slowed the Russian oil imports to a trickle, so the ban wasn’t necessarily a surprise to the oil and gas market.

“[Gas] prices will continue to increase across the U.S. and Canada, but at least for now, the pace of increases will probably start to slow down,” DeHaan said. “You shouldn’t have to worry about going outside and seeing price increases of 40 cents per gallon.”

Liu noted that oil prices were very volatile in recent months, even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month. The main reason for this was demand supply imbalance, with demand increasing as concerns over COVID wane and countries relax related restrictions.

He also noted that if oil producers increase their investment in drilling, it would also boost Wyoming’s energy and overall economic conditions, as mineral extraction has always been Wyoming’s driving industry.

“The (Consensus Revenue Estimating Group) forecasts for Wyoming oil prices are $60 per barrel in 2022, and $55 per barrel in both 2023 and 2024, and assumes that Wyoming prices are about $5 lower than the national benchmark prices,” Liu said. “Assuming CREG production is correct, the total mineral revenue would increase by $120 million if oil prices are $10 per barrel higher than forecasts.”

The CREG is a group of economists and fiscal analysts who work for various state departments.

While Liu does believe the Russian invasion will have an impact on the already tight global energy market, he does not think it will have much effect on natural gas prices in the United States, since the market here is mostly domestic.

Ukranian Invasion Drives Up Wyoming Gas Prices; No Relief In Sight

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Gas and oil prices skyrocketed this week as Russia ramped up its attack on Ukraine, and experts said those price increases would continue, at least in the short-term.

Wyoming’s oil and gas prices escalated quickly this week as the price of oil leapfrogged overnight. 

As of Wednesday morning, the primary global price benchmark used to set the price for two-thirds of the world’s crude oil increased by 6.5% from Tuesday to top at $112 a barrel, coming on the heels of Tuesday’s historic 9.5% increase.

The escalation in crude oil prices has translated to higher gas and diesel prices at the pump as Wyoming’s average price for a gallon of regular gas hit $3.46 a gallon Wednesday compared to $3.34 last month, according to AAA. This is up from $2.59 a gallon a year ago.

The pinch at the pump is already affecting families in Wyoming forcing some to make hard choices.

For Gillette resident AshLee Avila and family, the increased fuel costs, along with inflation raising the cost of living generally, mean that her two sons, both of whom wrestle in school, are now having to pick and choose which meets they attend. Or they take turns carpooling with other families, so the boys can attend as many wrestling meets as possible, many of which are in neighboring states.

“It’s not only the price of gas but everything else has gone up,” she said. “It’s so frustrating. Plane tickets have gone up, food and definitely fuel prices. A lot of other families are having to do the same thing, so these kids can still get to have these great opportunities.”

Fuel Prices On The Rise

But there is no relief in sight, according to experts.

Fuel prices will continue to rise, at least in the short term, according to economist Rob Godby, who noted that conflict in Europe has sent the oil market reeling worldwide. 

“The leap has been pretty dramatic,” said Godby, associate economics professor at the University of Wyoming and interim dean of its business college, “but not surprising given the geopolitical climate.”

Some economists are predicting that the national average gas price will rise to $5 a gallon, but Godby wasn’t making any predictions given the number of unknowns in the rapidly developing Ukraine crisis. 

The price fluctuations, Godby said, are a response to the number of new risks that have toppled traditional supply and demand ratio that the world has experienced in the past decade of relative geopolitical calm.

“The world has kind of rediscovered risk premium rides that have been missing from oil markets for the past decade,” he said. “We used to take for granted that some percentage of oil prices, when they regularly hovered about $100 a barrel, was just due to the geopolitical risks the oil market was facing.”

Typically, prices factor in probabilities and the percentage of risk, which until two weeks ago was still fairly insignificant and now those risks are real, and the market is responding, he said.

Also unprecedented is the severity of sanctions and other responses against Russia taken by both the U.S. and NATO and other European nations that have effectively cut off the world’s third largest oil producer from doing business.

Currently, Russia supplies about 11% of the world’s oil production, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The top producer is the U.S. at more than 18 million barrels per day, which equates to 20% of the world’s total supply, followed by Saudi Arabia at 12%.

What remains to be seen at this point, Godby said, are the impacts of a number variables, such as how Russia responds to the sanctions, how long the conflict continues and how the rest of the world responds to Russia’s actions.

As a result, while the long-term picture is unclear, the market is responding to these various uncertainties with higher prices in the short term.

Godby was hesitant to predict how high prices might get, but shared a formula for oil prices and their impact on gas prices that shows the price of gas goes up by 3 cents per gallon for every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil.

Using that formula, the price of oil would have to hit more than $150 per barrel, he said.

However, if that were to happen, more producers such as Saudi Arabia and the United States would likely ramp up production, bringing prices down, he said. At the same time, demand for gas would plummet as people would cut down on the amount they drive.

Regardless of gas price increases nationally, Wyoming and the Mountain West tend to have lower fuel prices compared to other states due to their relatively low gasoline taxes. 

Wyoming has a combined federal and state excise tax of 42.4 cents per gallon compared to high-tax states like California with an 87-cent per gallon rate, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

“Gas is going up across the country, but gas prices are always going to be lower in Wyoming,” Godby said. “There’s the one silver lining.”

Wake-Up Call

Many in the state like Ryan McConnaughey, vice president and director of communications with the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, view the current situation as a much-needed wake-up call.

In particular, McConnaughey urged the Biden Administration to proceed with lease sales on federal land, allowing the state to produce more oil.

For the past five quarters, the administration has refused to hold its quarterly lease sales. In the last quarter, the ban prevented 195 leases from being released for development.

Currently, there are 18 oil rigs active in Wyoming, a decline of 16 from one month ago.

Rather than cripple U.S. oil and gas producers in favor of foreign imports, McConnaughey said the current crisis is a reminder of why energy independence is so important to the country.

“We need to see the administration embracing and recognizing the need for domestic production,” he told Cowboy State Daily Tuesday. “With what’s happening in Europe now, we need to encourage development in the state.”

Admittedly, McConnaughey noted, the U.S. has relied little on Russian oil and gas imports, although the amounts imported have grown steadily through the years.

Currently, Russia supplies 3.1% of total U.S. crude oil imports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2021, these imports – mostly light and medium grade oil that primarily went to the East and West coasts – amounted to nearly 70 million barrels during the first 11 months of the year valued at $4.7 billion, representing the highest import volumes since 2011.

“We see an opportunity to replace that,” McConnaughey said, “and it’s our belief that the administration should follow the law and do the right thing.”

Paying More At The Pump

In the meantime, Wyoming residents have no choice but to pay more for gas.

The cheapest gas in the state, $2.95 per gallon, can be found in Cheyenne, according to GasBuddy.com, with the majority of gas stations throughout the state charging $3.15 and more per gallon.

At Gillette’s Maverik on East Highway 14-16, where the price at the pump was $3.25 per gallon, resident Mike Bednarz was putting $20 in his pickup truck Wednesday morning for just over six gallons of regular gas.

He never fills up his tank regardless of the cost, he said, because he’s not sure when “the old girl” is going to die, though he definitely gets fewer miles for his money these days.

Bednarz blamed the current administration for its reliance on oil imports as opposed to drilling in the U.S. where states like Wyoming could reap the benefits in terms of increased tax revenue and jobs while driving down gas prices.

Lisa Shrefler of Gillette agreed.

“I think it’s an absolute disgrace that our current administration felt it was more important to buy those resources for double the price from overseas, so they could apparently keep filling their own pockets financially versus looking out for their own country,” she said.

The spike in prices for gas and other goods is having a direct impact on her life, she said. She retired last year and is living on a fixed income. Prior to gas price increases, she was running errands pretty much every day but now has to schedule her errands for one day a week and carefully map out her route.

Bednarz, meanwhile, is not letting the increased cost per gallon slow him down.

“I’m not going to let it control my life,” he said. “Otherwise, I might as well just sit home watching re-runs of ‘Andy Griffith.’

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Kemmerer Nuclear Power Plant To Use Russian Uranium; Legislators Object

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The company planning to install a nuclear power plant in Kemmerer will use Russian uranium in its operation, but its officials are working to cultivate a domestic source of the element.

But the use of Russian uranium is concerning to some Wyoming legislators, who this week tried to amend a state bill setting up the permitting process for the proposed Natrium power plant to prohibit its use while encouraging the use of Wyoming uranium.

The company TerraPower is working to build a small demonstration nuclear reactor at the site of a coal-fired power plant owned by Rocky Mountain Power. Wyoming’s Legislature, through House Bill 131, is updating the regulations that will allow the plant to operate and allow for the storage of nuclear waste.

Jeff Navin, TerraPower’s director of external affairs, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that the company is in a quandary, as the only facility that can produce commercial quantities of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) is owned and operated by Tenex in Russia, which he said was “problematic on a number of levels.”

“Recognizing this gap in the supply chain, last year, TerraPower allocated funds within the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program proposal … to help create an American competitor to Tenex, and we are working with Congress and the Department of Energy to expedite the development of domestic enrichment capability,” Navin said.

“This investment has helped support the only facility in the United States currently licensed to produce HALEU, although they do not yet have the capability to produce HALEU at commercial levels,” he said.

The Natrium power plant will use fuel rods manufactured with HALEU metallic fluid. This uranium will allow the reactor to operate more efficiently and reduces the volume of waste produced.

In addition to trying to build up American producers of HALEU, TerraPower is investing in an American company to produce the fuel rods, Navin said.

However, Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that he was “troubled” by the use of Russian uranium in the reactor. Gray, along with Reps. Karlee Provenza and Trey Sherwood, both D-Laramie, wrote an amendment to House Bill 131 that would have required the plant to use as much Wyoming uranium as possible while prohibiting the use of Russian uranium.

“I’m Wyoming first,” he said. “I’m not for using Russian uranium at this site, and that’s the direction it’s going. It’s wrong.”

Last summer, Gov. Mark Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced the Natrium plant, a “next generation” nuclear plant would be built in Wyoming by 2027 or 2028. The reactor is expected to generate 345 megawatts of power.

The proposed reactor would use technology developed by TerraPower, and would result in a smaller nuclear power plant than has previously been built, along with improved safety measures and a power storage system.

Navin noted that the investment was made with the knowledge that TerraPower could not rely on unstable countries like Russia for advanced reactor fuel, a fact officials recognized even before the Ukraine invasion last week.

“In addition to the strategic and moral imperative to end any reliance on Russian HALEU, creating domestic enrichment capability is the best way to ensure that domestic sources of uranium are used in HALEU production,” Navin said.

“Uranium is a commodity, and HALEU producers will use the lowest cost uranium they can find,” he added. “Shipping uranium halfway around the world is expensive, and for economic and strategic reasons, we shouldn’t expect the Russians to purchase uranium from Wyoming to produce HALEU in Russia.”

He added that TerraPower officials want to see a robust American uranium market driven by free market principles of competition, but that federal support was needed to jumpstart this part of the supply chain.

“The crisis in Ukraine is awakening the world to the need to move beyond Russian sources of energy, and TerraPower does not want Russian HALEU in our reactor,” Navin said.

According to project estimates, approximately 2,000 workers will be needed for plant construction at the project’s peak. Once the plant is operational, approximately 250 people will support day-to-day activities, including plant security.

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Wyoming, PacifiCorp Strike Deal To Keep Jim Bridger Power Plant Operating

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The state of Wyoming and PacifiCorp have reached an agreement to keep the coal-fired Jim Bridger power plant operational beyond April 30, its slated shutdown date.

Gov. Mark Gordon announced on Thursday that the two groups had reached an agreement to keep Unit 2 of the power plant operational beyond April 30.

PacifiCorp plans to convert Unit 2 and Unit 1 at the power plant to burn natural gas. Unit 2 was to be shut down on April 30, although Unit 1 was not scheduled for immediate shutdown.

Under the agreement reached by the state and power company, Unit 2 will continue operating after April 30 while the state will adhere to Pacificorp’s planned eventual conversion for both units.

The conversion may take up to two years, and it was important to Wyoming officials that both units continued to operate until the conversion is done, Gordon said.

Unit 2 is operating under a suspension order issued by Gordon on Dec. 31, 2021, which allowed continued operation of the unit through April 30.

PacifiCorp has agreed to issue a request for proposal for carbon capture facilities to be added to the power plant’s Units 3 and/or 4.

While not a part of the Jim Bridger power plant agreement, PacifiCorp also agreed to issue a similar request for proposal for Unit 4 of the Dave Johnston Power Plant near Douglas.

The agreement was formalized in a consent decree issued by by a state district court earlier this week. This consent decree ensures PacifiCorp’s compliance with the Regional Haze requirements while the state and power company work to amend the company’s permits and the state’s implementation plan to reflect the conversion of the power units to natural gas.

Gordon said he is confident this agreement represents a sound path forward, and remained hopeful that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will agree. 

“I am cautiously optimistic that this arrangement will actually stick, unlike the earlier agreement in which EPA reversed course,” Gordon said. “There are still procedural steps to take and the public will have opportunities to comment in the future.” 

The consent decree was submitted to EPA Thursday as part of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s comments regarding EPA’s proposed disapproval of the revised state implementation plan.

The state and federal governments in 2020 had agreed to a regional haze program that would allow the plant to continue operating, but after President Joe Biden took office, the EPA reversed its decision and ordered the plant to comply with rules previously in place.

The federal haze program seeks to reduce pollution to increase visibility, which has proved troublesome for the southeastern Wyoming power plant.

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HollyFrontier Declines To Release Specifics On ‘Renewable Diesel’ Plant Work

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Eighteen months after announcing a major change in its operation and the release of 200 employees, work on HollyFrontier’s proposed renewable diesel plant in Cheyenne is progressing well, according to a company spokeswoman

Corinn Smith, director of corporate communications for the Dallas-based HollyFrontier, said although she could not provide details on the company’s efforts to convert its Cheyenne petroleum refinery to a renewable diesel plant, the company plans to begin production of its new product this year.

“I’m happy to highlight that we’re moving along well, and have moved operational timing up from (the first quarter of) 2022 to (the fourth quarter of) 2021,” she said in an email to Cowboy State Daily.

More information on specifics of the work will be provided once production begins, she said.

HollyFrontier announced in June 2020 that the petroleum refinery it operated in Cheyenne for 86 years would be converted to a plant that uses soybean oil to create up to 90 million gallons of “renewable diesel” per year.

At the time, the company said the work would require 12 to 18 months to complete and would result in the release of about 200 workers.

A slide presentation about the project released in November said the company would begin production of its new product in the fourth quarter of 2021, which ends in three weeks, on Dec. 31.

Smith also declined to answer questions about whether the 200 HollyFrontier employees who were expected to lose their jobs as a result of the work have all been laid off, although she did note that going forward, the plant will employ more than 80 people full-time.

“HollyFrontier is proud to be a part of the Cheyenne community and we look forward to employing more than 80 full-time employees at the facility,” she wrote.

News of the reduction in HollyFrontier’s workforce was met with dismay among state and local officials when it was announced.

“The announcement … is a devastating blow to Cheyenne, Laramie County and all of Wyoming,” Gov. Mark Gordon said at the time.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:25 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, to reflect new quotes from HollyFrontier.

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Cheney Introduces Bill To Pay Wyoming For Money Lost Due to Biden’s Oil/Gas Moratorium

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney introduced legislation this week that would compensate Wyoming and other states for millions of dollars in revenue they lost because of President Joe Biden’s oil and gas leasing moratorium enacted earlier this year.

The Payment In Lieu of Lost Resources (PILLR) Act would compensate states for the property rentals, bonuses, royalties and severance taxes lost as a result of a halt on the lease of federal land for energy development issued by the federal government.

“The executive orders signed by President Biden on his first day in office targeting the energy industry were misguided,” Cheney said this week about the bill.

“Not only did these unfair mandates negatively impact the work of energy producers in Wyoming, but they cost our state a key source of revenue that we depend on to educate our kids, support our first responders, and provide for other critical needs,” she said.

“While the best course of action would be to allow new energy leases and permits to move forward unimpeded, the bill I’ve introduced will ensure that citizens in Wyoming and other states that rely on money generated by the energy industry are compensated the full amount of the revenue lost so they can continue to meet the needs of their citizens, despite the Biden Administration’s thoughtless and political agenda,” she continued.

The bill could bring in $100 million in revenue for Wyoming, according to an estimate from University of Wyoming economics professor Dr. Timothy Considine.

Gov. Mark Gordon said he supports the bill.

“Since the inception of the Biden moratorium on federal oil and gas lease sales, I have emphasized that this bad idea would disproportionately affect western states like Wyoming,” Gordon said this week.

“Even though the BLM has begun the scoping process for the lost sales scheduled for the first two quarters of the year, Wyoming and our local counties will not receive any lease bonus bids this calendar year, a loss of millions of dollars. Congresswoman Cheney’s bill is a great start in restoring Wyoming’s lost revenue,” the governor said.

Jim Willox, the chairman of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, also praised Cheney for her work on this legislation.

“The Wyoming County Commissioners Association applauds Congresswoman Cheney’s efforts to see that states and counties continue to receive royalty payments despite the Biden Administration’s attempt to halt oil and gas leasing on public lands,” Willox said.

“Wyoming relies on these funds to provide essential services, including education, libraries, courthouses and judicial systems, public health and senior centers, safe roads and more. This bill ensures that Wyoming’s counties and communities do not suffer as a result of this Administration’s leasing ban,” he said.

study from the American Petroleum Institute issued in 2020 estimated that $641 million in revenue would be at risk for the State of Wyoming if a federal leasing and development ban were enacted.

A report released last week by the administration of President Joe Biden recommended an overhaul of the system used to lease parcels of federal land for oil and gas drilling to limit areas available for development and increase the cost for companies to drill on public lands and waters, according to NPR.

The report by the Interior Department stopped short of recommending an end to oil and gas leasing on public lands, but officials told NPR it would lead to a more responsible leasing process that provides a better return to U.S. taxpayers.

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U.S. Power Plants Short On Coal; Utilities Scrambling With Cold Temps Ahead

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The price for Wyoming’s coal is rising in the face of low supplies at power plants across the country, rising natural gas prices and predictions of cold temperatures in the near future.

Despite efforts by some political leaders to halt the use of coal as an energy source, energy producers are turning to the fuel in increasing numbers this year, only to find it in short supply.

But coal supplies at U.S. power plants have dropped to levels not seen since the 1970s and acquiring the resource has sent prices soaring. And even acquiring coal is proving to be a challenge because of supply chain issues that every industry is experiencing.

None of this is a surprise to Travis Deti, the executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association.

“We’ve been screaming from the rooftops for the last 10 years that America needs coal and that you can’t throw all of your eggs in one energy basket,” Travis told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

“(Natural) gas prices were never going to stay below $2.00 (per 1,000 cubic feet) forever. Gas is at about $4.60 and some analysts are predicting it to be over $7.00 in the winter,” he said.

The problem is that coal is sold in advance of when it is needed and because of the push to move away from coal as a power source, the resource has lost market share, leaving suppliers unprepared to meet this year’s demand.

Getting coal back on the table as a fuel is easier said than done.  As Deti explained, the problem does not lie in a shortage of coal, but in producing the necessary amounts to meet that demand. After adjusting to lower production levels, coal producers require manpower to boost production again.

“Ever since the decline started to happen a decade ago,  we said you need to keep coal in the mix.  You gotta keep it in the mix,” Deti said.

Coal is the one resource, he said, that is “always affordable, always reliable, and always abundant.”

“As for reliability, coal-fired power is going to be there when you turn on the light switch,” he said. “Unlike the renewables which we saw, fatally, in Texas last winter.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that coal supplies have become so low in some areas of the country that one power company that serves one-fifth of the U.S. population is reserving coal for use during the coldest days this winter.

The high price for coal is a good thing for Wyoming, especially if mines can get it out of the ground.

However, there’s a shortage of workers. Deti said mines in the Powder River Basin could use an extra 200 miners right now, as well as more trains to move the coal.

“You’ve got companies up in the basin right now that are offering $5,000 signing bonuses just to come on board,” he said. 

Deti said the short-term prospects for coal is good.

“The basin is sold-out for 2022,” he said. “They are selling into 2023. We are going to have a couple pretty good years.”

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Gordon, Petroleum Association Say Biden Should Be Embarrassed Over Oil, Gas Report

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Neither Gov. Mark Gordon nor the Petroleum Association of Wyoming are impressed with a report calling for an overhaul of the federal government’s oil and gas leasing program.

The report released Friday by the administration of President Joe Biden overhaul of the system used to lease parcels of federal land for oil and gas drilling to limit areas available for development and increase the cost for companies to drill on public lands and waters, according to NPR.

Gordon said on Tuesday the report lacked any real merit.

“The Biden administration’s long-awaited review…lacks merit and is a frontal assault on Western lands that leaves nothing to be thankful for,” Gordon said. “The report encourages increasing the cost of producing oil and gas in Wyoming by hiking the royalty rate, taking more areas off the table for federal leasing  and increasing the costs of bonding. None of these options are wise or necessary for Wyoming.”

The report by the Interior Department stopped short of recommending an end to oil and gas leasing on public lands, but officials told NPR it would lead to a more responsible leasing process that provides a better return to U.S. taxpayers.

On Tuesday, Gordon argued that Wyoming was not over-leased, pointing out that only 23% of the total mineral acreage held by the federal government in the state is leased.

“With our state’s  oil and gas industry just showing signs of recovery, this is the worst time to needlessly increase expenses such as jacking up royalty rates or instituting higher bond requirements,” the governor said. “Wyoming already has an industry-funded, successful plugging and abandonment program. While we are asking our enemies to produce more oil, under less stringent regulations and drain our own national security reserves, further weakening our economy, we need to remember that the only result of the President’s actions will be driving more activity to foreign countries and to states with fewer federal lands and minerals.”

Gordon also said that the Biden administration wants the United States to become more dependent on the nation’s adversaries.

“We can do more to reduce CO2 emissions by innovating new technologies that improve our standard of living than regulating into oblivion,” he said. “Any potential modifications to the oil and gas leasing program identified by this review could have been brought forward without the illegal and devastating moratorium. As I have stated on multiple occasions to the Biden administration, the leasing moratorium does nothing to achieve their climate agenda.”

Officials with the Petroleum of Association of Wyoming shared Gordon’s opinions, saying the Biden administration should be embarrassed by the report.

“As fuel prices continue to rise, the Biden Administration’s solution is to increase the cost of production, build more barriers to Wyoming’s development and choke off exploration of new reserves. No wonder they don’t want anyone to read the report,” the organization said on Friday. “The report repeats overblown claims about the government needing a ‘fair return,’ when in fact the mineral program is second only to the IRS in revenue production for the treasury.”

The timing of the report’s release on the Friday after Thanksgiving was also criticized by PAW.

“Wyomingites should take this report for what it is: at best a politically motivated document repeating old anti-development talking points, and at worst a nonsensical screed,” PAW officials said. “Ask yourself, if the oil and gas program was in such desperate need of reform, why did the Biden Administration try to hide it’s report on the issue by releasing it on a day most people would not be paying attention.”

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Wyoming Nuke Expert: Nuclear Reactor On Moon Is Logical Next Step

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Photo: Dave Bell, Wyoming Mountain Photography

Although the conversation over the last few months here in Wyoming has focused on the new nuclear reactor scheduled to come to the Cowboy State in a few years, don’t be surprised if the next location discussed will be the moon.

Sure, it may sound like something out of a science fiction film, but Wyoming nuclear energy expert David Miller thinks it is a logical next step for the nation to take.

Last week, NASA announced that it was seeking proposals for a fission surface power system on the moon, as its scientists are looking to establish a sun-independent power source for missions to the moon by the end of the decade, according to ABC News.

“I don’t know what else you would use, because while solar panels could work, there are long periods of time where particular areas of the moon aren’t exposed to sunlight,” Miller said. “If there’s going to be a manned moon base, I would much rather have a nuclear power plant keeping me warm and helping me do whatever I need to do.”

The proposed reactor would be built on Earth and then sent to the moon. If successful in supporting a sustained human presence on the moon, the next objective would be Mars.

Miller did note that an accident involving solar panels would also be more likely on the moon than an accident involving a nuclear power plant.

“It makes sense for us to associate ‘nuclear’ with ‘bomb’ since the 1950s as it did to associate ‘electric’ with ‘chair’ 100 years ago,” he said. “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind that nuclear is the only way forward from this point. In my opinion, coal has a lot more issues and kills far more people than nuclear ever thought about killing.”

He added that using nuclear energy in space travel is nothing new, as nuclear isotopes were used to power the Voyager probes and others like it that were sent to travel the solar system. It is impossible to send out more fuel for an expedition like that, so nuclear energy is the best choice, he said.

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Wyoming’s Jonah Energy Wins Recognition For Improvements In Emission Tracking

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming natural gas company has received recognition from an international program for providing detailed measurements of the methane emissions from its natural gas field.

Jonah Energy has achieved the “Gold Standard” in the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, a United Nations-sponsored program, for its efforts to accurately report emissions from its production fields.

Paul Ulrich, Jonah’s vice present for government and regulatory affairs, said the achievement is the result of Jonah’s efforts to provide actual verified data on the methane emissions from equipment at the fields rather than estimates created using mathematical formulas.

The OGMP is a partnership involving environmental groups and members of the oil and gas industry that is designed to improve the accuracy of emission data being collected around the world. The resulting standardized emission measurements are expected to make it easier to track methane emission changes and reduce emissions.

Ulrich said Jonah won the “gold standard” recognition by meeting 85% of the reporting criteria set forth by the OGMP and by putting plans in place for increasing accuracy and reducing emissions in the future.

“It’s a recognition that our work to date and our commitment to further reduce emissions and migrate to direct emission measurements is meeting their criteria,” he said.

Achieving the “gold standard” shows that natural gas can be a very clean energy source, he added.

“For us, it means we’ve taken another step in leading the industry and demonstrating to the public that natural gas can be a clean foundational energy source for decades to Coe if we continue to produce it much cleaner than we have in the past,” he said. “We’ve laid that foundation.”

He added Jonah has already reduced its potential for methane emissions by 68% over the last three years.

Jonah Energy is one of two natural gas companies to have joined the OGMP. The other is EQT, which produces natural gas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

Jonah’s accomplishment won praise from an official with the United Nations Environmental Programme.

“We applaud Jonah Energy’s leadership and congratulate Jonah for being the first US company to reach the highest standard for their methane reporting plan in the oil and gas industry,” said Manfredi Caltagirone.

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Kemmerer Selected As Location For Nuclear Power Plant Project

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Kemmerer has been selected as the preferred site for a proposed nuclear power plant project, officials from TerraPower announced on Tuesday.

TerraPower selected a site near the Naughton Power Plant as the location for its advanced reactor demonstration project supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, officials announced in a news release.

“People across Wyoming welcomed us into their communities over the past several months, and we are excited to work with PacifiCorp to build the first Natrium plant in Kemmerer,” said Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower. “Our innovative technology will help ensure the continued production of reliable electricity while also transitioning our energy system and creating new, good-paying jobs in Wyoming.”

In June, Gov. Mark Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced the “next generation” uranium plant would be built at one of Rocky Mountain Power’s four retiring coal-fired power plants by 2027 or 2028. The reactor will generate 345 megawatts of power using Wyoming uranium.

The proposed “Natrium” reactor would use technology developed by TerraPower, a nuclear power innovation company founded by software developer Bill Gates, and GE Hitachi. The technology results in a smaller nuclear power plant than has previously been built, along with improved safety measures and a power storage system.

“This project is an exciting opportunity to explore what could be the next generation of clean, reliable, affordable energy production while providing a path to transition for Wyoming’s energy economy, communities and employees,” said Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp.

Determining Factors

The demonstration project team evaluated a variety of factors when selecting the Naughton Power Plant, where the remaining two coal-fired electrical units are scheduled to retire in 2025.

Factors included community support, the physical characteristics of the site, the ability of the site to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, access to existing infrastructure and the needs of the power grid.

“Just yesterday, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and today DOE is already putting it to work with more than $1.5 billion heading to Wyoming,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The energy communities that have powered us for generations have real opportunities to power our clean energy future through projects just like this one, that provide good-paying jobs and usher in the next wave of nuclear technologies.”

The Natrium reactor demonstration project’s preferred siting is subject to the finalization of definitive agreements on the site and applicable permitting, licensing and support.

Next Steps

TerraPower anticipates submitting the demonstration plant’s construction permit application to the NRC in mid-2023. The plant is expected to be operational in the next seven years, aligning with the advanced reactor demonstratin project schedule mandated by Congress.

According to project estimates, approximately 2,000 workers will be needed for construction at the project’s peak. Once the plant is operational, approximately 250 people will support day-to-day activities, including plant security.

“On behalf of Kemmerer and surrounding communities, we are pleased and excited to host the Natrium demonstration project. This is great for Kemmerer and great for Wyoming,” said Bill Thek, Kemmerer’s mayor.

The demonstration plant is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology. The plant’s storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 megawatts of power when needed, which is equivalent to the energy required to power around 400,000 homes.

Renewable Resources

The energy storage capability allows the plant to integrate its power with power from renewable resources.

Through the recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, DOE worked with Congress to allocate nearly $2.5 billion in new funding for ARDP.

This allocation, along with previous funding, will cover DOE’s commitment to TerraPower for the first five years of a seven-year, $2 billion agreement.

TerraPower will match this investment dollar for dollar. Federal funding is provided for the demonstration activity under a cost-shared cooperative agreement and the result of the project will be a commercially-owned generating asset.

Best Choice

After the announcement, Cowboy State Daily spoke with nuclear energy expert and former state legislator Dave Miller, who felt Kemmerer was the best choice of the four options in Wyoming.

Miller, who has been a major proponent of the state being home to nuclear energy, told Cowboy State Daily that he favored Kemmerer over Gillette or Rock Springs because there is enough economic activity in those two communities to keep their economies afloat.

The location was picked after the company conducted an extensive evaluation process and met with community leaders and members.

Congressional Reaction

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a strong advocate for U.S. energy independence applauded Tuesday’s announcement as a win for Wyoming.

“Wyoming powers America, and I’m so excited for the way that advanced nuclear energy production is going to play a role in our state’s energy sector and economy for years to come,” Lummis said in a statement.

“TerraPower and PacifiCorp’s decision to build their new Natrium reactor in Kemmerer is a huge boon not only to Kemmerer, but to Wyoming’s and America’s future energy independence,” she said.

“I look forward to watching this plant come to fruition, and am proud to support Wyoming’s continued place as the number one net energy exporter in the nation.”

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State Sen. Warns Of Wyoming Power Grid Failure, Says Renewables Not Reliable Enough

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming came dangerously close to a power grid failure issue during February’s cold snap, according to one of the state’s leading energy experts.

State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, a consultant for the energy industry, told Cowboy State Daily that the state’s energy grid almost reached its maximum capacity during the weather event that caused power supplies in Texas to fail last winter.

“On the 12th of February, it was part of the same phenomenon, the peak load got to more than 97% of available capacity, and the reserve margins were razor thin,” Case said. “And if there would have been any kind of problem — a gas delivery problem, a failure of a generating unit, a transmission failure — we would have been closer to the Texas situation than we know.”

The cold snap in Texas resulted in the death of 210 people due to power outages and exposure to sometimes sub-zero temperatures.

While Case said Wyoming’s energy transmission systems are better prepared to withstand extreme cold temperatures than those in Texas, the energy supply during winter weather has limited capacity.

And when polar vortex or heat dome weather patterns cover areas of more than 1,000 miles or more, as were seen this past year, the sheer volume of power being requested by consumers taxes the existing power grids.“

It’s not like we can import electricity from Colorado, because everybody has the same phenomenon,” Case said.

Case’s doctorate in natural resources and public utility economics has served him well in his elected position. Case often speaks out on legislative issues concerning the future of the energy industry in Wyoming. 

From his perspective, the push for renewable energy sources often ignores the need for what Case called “dispatchable” energy that can generate more reliable power.

“You’ve got rooftop solar on people’s homes and solar energy and wind energy, but it’s not really dispatchable — it’s weather dependent,” Case said. “So we have to have something that we could turn on, and ramp up when that energy is not available.”

Case pointed out that some renewable energy sources rely on natural gas as backup, because natural gas is a reliable, dispatchable, source of power.

“Renewables don’t work all the time,” he said. “So we’ve increased our reliance on natural gas. And in these very cold long-term events, we’re having delivery problems for gas, because there’s huge demand for domestic heating. And then the electric system can run short… and then it can get circular, because sometimes you need electricity to help make gas move. So it’s a real serious situation.”

Case noted that while the renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are cheap, proponents of renewables often fail to take into account the costs to keep the power grid online.

“We are on thin ice with respect to try and to push more renewable energy into the grid without figuring out how to make the grid work better,” he said, “or without having, at the same time, electricity that can be brought up when there’s no sun, and there’s no wind — and plenty of it.”

Case noted that coal is one of the best forms of dispatchable energy, but the carbon emissions from coal-fired plants are considered by some to be a contributor to climate change.

“Up by Casper, where the Glenrock plant is, you can see that the plant is running hard out on cold winter days,” he said. “Even though the whole country is trying to get away from coal, those are still valuable assets. “They may be so valuable that we might want to slow down their retirements – but almost every coal plant in the country is scheduled to be retired, and those are plants that burn Wyoming coal, by and large,” he continued. “The trouble is, we haven’t really thought what the gap is going to be.”

Case listed other forms of renewable energy that are being studied for use in Wyoming, from hydroelectric to geothermal to nuclear.

“There’s a proposal in Wyoming for a nuclear power plant, from a company called Terra Power,” he explained. “Rita Meyer, who used to be the state treasurer, is helping that company. It’s a serious consideration, partly because of the proponents behind it — Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, two of the richest people in the United States.”

But in the meantime, Wyoming residents should be prepared to go without power for long periods of time, as extreme weather incidents are becoming more frequent.

“You know, in Wyoming, we get power failures, usually because we have a winter storm that drops branches on power lines, right? Well, that’s not what we’re talking about,” he said. “This would be much more wide scale than that. A polar vortex event can be 12 to 13 days. So I really think it’s always good idea for homeowners to be prepared. “They should have a kit with warm clothes available an alternative heat source if you can; emergency lighting, emergency food,” he continued. “I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but what happened last February, when it happened in Texas — we came closer than we care to mess with.” 

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Arch Nets $89M Amid ‘Strong Thermal Coal Markets’ In Third Quarter

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

Arch Resources closed out its most recent quarter with $89.1 million in net income with thermal coal segments showing a significant improvement over the previous quarter, the company announced Tuesday.

During the third quarter of 2021 (3Q2021), gross margins for Arch’s Legacy Thermal assets came in at $58 million, an increase of more than 40 percent over the previous quarter that will allow the coal giant to advance its long-term reclamation and retirement plans for operations in the Powder River Basin, according to an Oct. 26 quarterly earnings report.

“We continue to maintain tight capital discipline in our legacy thermal segment and to work to reduce our long-term closure obligations in a systemic and measured way,” said Arch CEO and President Paul Lang in a statement. “While we do that, we are simultaneously continuing to move aggressively to capture the still-significant value of these high-quality assets in an increasingly tight market environment.”

Sales volumes this past quarter across Arch’s thermal coal segments showed a 25 percent increase over the same period last year with the company effectively selling out its thermal mines for 2022 at “record-high pricing levels,” per the report.

Over the last three months, Arch’s thermal assets committed 66.5 million tons of coal priced at $14.03 per ton, according to the report.

As of Oct. 26, Arch remains committed to transitioning away from thermal coal towards steel and metallurgical markets, according to the report, and has reduced its asset retirement obligation in the Powder River Basin by $19.3 million since the end of 2020.

Coal Creek Mine is still slated for closure in 2022 with Arch completing $23 million worth of reclamation at the south Gillette mine to date, the report states.

Care and responsibility are key as the company continues the long-term wind-down of its legacy thermal assets, per the report.

All legacy thermal retirement obligations will be handled in a way that serves the needs of the company’s thermal employee base, mine communities, and thermal power customers, Arch said in the report.

Moving forward, the coal giant remains confident that the thermal mines can and will self-fund their own closure obligations while continuing to provide significant cash flow for the company.

Global and domestic thermal coal markets remain exceptionally strong at present, the report states, with countries around the world struggling to secure sufficient supplies of energy to support quickly recovering economies.

Based on current projections, Arch’s thermal segment should be on track to generate a gross margin next year that “substantially exceeds the entire asset retirement obligation for its thermal mines.”

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Potential Gold Mine Near Cheyenne Could Produce Tens Of Millions In Revenue For State

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By Elyse Kelly, The Center Square for Cowboy State Daily

Cheyenne may soon boast the only working gold mine in the state of Wyoming.

U.S. Gold Corp., a gold exploration and development company, is investigating the potential of an old copper mine adjacent to Curt Gowdy State Park to produce gold. If continued data collection bears out hopes, the Copper King (CK) Gold Project could produce tens of millions in revenue for the state.

And U.S. Gold Corp. is hopeful.

Jason Begger, project spokesperson for the CK Gold Project, says with every bit of data they collect, the project becomes more certain.

“All indications are that it could work,” he told The Center Square.

The mine site is located at Copper King, an old copper mine that hasn’t been worked since before World War II and is owned by the state. The gold deposit has been known to exist for a long time, but new mining technology has finally reached a point where experts think it could be worth opening again, Begger said.

Currently the company estimates the mine holds 230 million pounds of copper and 700,000 ounces of gold awaiting extraction, according to Begger. The operation would be hard rock mining. Begger said the ore is trapped within granite and requires forcible extraction.

U.S. Gold Corp. is in consultation with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to assess any environmental and wildlife impacts the operation could have. 

“The area is a part of what’s called critical winter range for mule deer, and so we’re working with the regulators to determine what sort of mitigation efforts can be done,” he said.

If the project moves forward, Begger said they estimate the financial boon to the state could be in the tens of millions.

“We have partnered with the University of Wyoming and their economic analysis division and they’ll be completing an economic impact analysis of both tax revenue to the State of Wyoming, vendors, sales tax – the kind of broader impacts – so that is in the works,” he said.

Begger pointed out as Wyoming and the country embrace new technologies like electric cars, manufacturers are going to require a lot of copper – copper the CK Gold Project could produce. 

The project is roughly a 10-year operation, according to Begger.

“It’s a nice shot in the arm for the state of Wyoming,” he said.

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Oil And Gas Lawsuit Will Continue Despite BLM Plan To Resume Leases In 2022

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A lawsuit filed in Wyoming to reverse a ban on oil and gas leasing on federal lands will continue despite the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s announcement it will resume leasing in 2022, according to a spokesman for the state’s oil and gas industry.

Ryan McConnaughey of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming told Cowboy State Daily the BLM continues to move slowly in issuing leases on federal land for energy development.

“In reality, the only reason the administration is doing this is because they have a court order and they were in danger of being held in contempt of court,” McConnaughey said. “We have no doubts they will continue to stall leasing on federal lands, so we believe our lawsuit should move forward.”

The PAW and Western Energy Alliance have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne to overturn the ban imposed on oil and gas leases on federal land by President Joe Biden in his first few days in office. The lawsuit argues the BLM did not follow the rules of the federal Mineral Leasing Act in stopping the leases.

A similar lawsuit filed in Louisiana resulted in a judge’s ruling that the federal government did not follow the rules of the act. The judge also issued an order for mineral leasing to resume nationally.

The BLM recently announced it will allow the lease sales for parcels offered for lease in the first and second quarter of 2021 to proceed in early 2022.

However, McConnaughey said the announcement does not address the lease sales that should have been held in the third and fourth quarters of 2021.

“At this point, at this rate, we’ll still be two quarters behind what they should be doing in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act,” he said.

The BLM’s announcement came shortly after the PAW and WEA filed a request with the federal court asking the judge in the case to expedite proceedings so the merits of their lawsuit can be argued.

“By proceeding directly to the merits of our case, we believe we can compel the federal government to uphold its obligations under the Mineral Leasing Act,” PAW President Pete Obermueller said in a statement.

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Biden Gears Up For Renewed Fight Against Oil And Gas

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By Casey Harper, The Center Square

A federal judge has ruled the Biden administration must resume allowing oil and gas leasing on federal land and waters, but the administration is saying it will not go down without a fight.

The Biden administration said it will appeal a court ruling allowing the leases, the latest development in a months-long battle between President Joe Biden and the oil and gas industry, even as gas prices continue to rise.

“Together, federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leasing programs are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and growing climate and community impacts,” the Department of Interior said in a statement.

Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office banning new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters.

“The United States and the world face a profound climate crisis,” the executive order said. “We have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents. Domestic action must go hand in hand with United States international leadership, aimed at significantly enhancing global action. Together, we must listen to science and meet the moment.”

Biden’s order sparked backlash in the industry and among states that rely heavily on oil and gas for jobs and tax revenue. More than a dozen states challenged the order in court.

Wyoming commissioned a report on the impact of the order, which found Biden’s rule would cost 350,000 jobs and $670.5 billion in GDP in Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, California and Alaska by 2040. The report also found that the moratorium would cost $639.7 billion to the nation’s GDP by the same year.

In June, a federal judge in Louisiana sided with the states.

Despite the judge’s ruling, industry leaders have complained that the Biden administration has dragged its feet in reinstating the leases.

“For six months, the Interior Department cited the Biden Ban as the reason for not holding quarterly lease sales,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Alliance, a group that represents more than 200 companies in the industry. “In the two months since the ban was overturned by a federal judge, department officials have ducked questions from lawmakers, media, and industry about when lease sales would resume. Now that the Interior Department has missed the deadline to hold any sales before October, it’s crystal clear there is no intention of complying with the judge’s order. At a recent Senate hearing, Interior Sec. Haaland admitted the president’s ‘ban on new leasing is still in place.’ Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has spent the summer lobbying OPEC and Russia to increase oil production.”

The decision comes as gas prices have continued to rise in recent months. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, gas prices have risen 19% nationwide in the last 12 months.

“Someone needs to explain how it makes any sense for President Biden to beg other countries for more oil while requiring a federal judge’s order to do the same within the United States,” said Larry Behrens of Power the Future, an energy workers advocacy group. “The fact that the Interior Department will appeal this ruling makes it clear: the Biden Administration prioritizes radical environmentalists first and America’s working families last. If Joe Biden wants gas prices to fall, he needs to get out of the way and let America’s energy workers get back on the job.”

The Biden administration recently called for more overseas drilling to keep gas prices down.

“Higher gasoline costs, if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in an official White House statement. “The price of crude oil has been higher than it was at the end of 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.”

That statement sparked outrage among domestic oil producers. Now, Biden is appealing the court order requiring the administration to allow new leases.

“At the same time it’s encouraging foreign oil production, the Biden Administration is preventing American production and helping drive up the price Americans pay at the pump,” Sgamma added.

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Jonah Energy Joins Global Effort To Reduce Methane Emissions In Energy Production

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming natural gas company has become the first in the country to join an international program designed to show that energy producers are working to reduce their methane emissions.

Jonah Energy has become the first American oil and gas producer to submit methane emissions data to the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, a United Nations-sponsored program.

The data will be used to create a global uniform platform that allows participating companies to demonstrate how much they have reduced emissions and what steps they plan to take to further reduce emissions, said Paul Ulrich, Jonah’s vice president of government and regulatory affairs.

The information will be used to show buyers, end consumers and regulators exactly what steps Jonah is taking to reduce its emissions, Ulrich said.

“From an economic standing alone, pivoting Wyoming to provide the cleanest natural gas in the country is vital,” he said. “For us to be able to compete and grow in a national and global market, we have to provide the cleanest natural gas possible. This is a first significant step.”

Jonah is working to earn the “Gold Standard” emissions rating from the OGMP, Ulrich said, which will show the steps the company has agreed to take to carefully monitor and reduce emissions.

“The ‘Gold Standard’ says you’ve committed to steps you take for continuous improvement,” he said. “It gives consumers and regulators confidence in and transparency into our market.”

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Cheney Calls For Elimination Of Electric Vehicle Subsidies

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Congreswoman Liz Cheney on Tuesday called for the elimination of federal electric vehicle tax credits, saying they target the energy industry and only benefit “elites” who make more than $100,000 a year.

Cheney made the statement while announcing she was a co-sponsor of H.R. 3796, the “Eliminate Lavish Incentives to Electric (ELITE) Vehicles Act.”

Cheney said the bill will end the electric vehicles tax credit which she said unfairly targets the energy industry and costs billions in taxpayer funds.

“Eliminating the subsidy will save taxpayers billions of dollars and also help to protect the energy industry from the far-left’s radical environmental agenda,” Cheney said.

According to a Congressional Research Service report, 78% of electric vehicle credits are claimed by filers with an adjusted annual gross income of $100,000 or more, and those filers receive an even higher proportion (83%) of the amount of credits claimed.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso introduced identical legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Like Cheney, he mentioned that the tax credits benefit those who have the most money.

“The electric vehicle tax credit largely benefits the wealthiest Americans and costs taxpayers billions of dollars,” Barrasso said. 

“Today, the market for electric vehicles is well established. The auto industry no longer needs these pricey subsidies. It is time to pull the plug on subsidies for electric vehicles.”

A study done by the The Manhattan Institute estimates that ending the electric vehicle tax credit would save roughly twenty billion dollars in taxpayer funds over the next decade.

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Supreme Court Will Not Hear Wyoming Coal Port Lawsuit Against Washington

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an attempt by Wyoming and Montana to sue Washington over its refusal to license a proposed coal export terminal.

The court, without comment, denied a request to hear the complaint that alleged Washington officials looked beyond the environmental impacts of the port on Washington when deciding whether to license the Millenium Coal Export Terminal and made their decisions based on the impact of using coal for fuel in other countries.

A note on the Supreme Court’s website said Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. supported hearing the case, but the other seven justices ruled to deny the request.

Gov. Mark Gordon called the court’s decision “frustrating” because It leaves open the question of whether one state can block another from selling its goods.

“This case was never about a single permit or product,” he said. “It was about the ability of one state to engage in lawful interstate commerce without the interference of another state. Today it is coal, tomorrow it could be agricultural products or any of our state’s abundant natural resources. At some point the Supreme Court is going to need to take on this matter.”

The Wyoming Mining Association, which represents the state’s coal mining companies, had backed the state’s legal action.

“We’re very disappointed,” said WMA Executive Director Travis Deti. “I really don’t have much more to add on this one.”

The case stems from a decision by Washington officials to block development of the coal export terminal, which would have provided a place to load coal for shipment to overseas markets. Washington officials blocked the project’s construction on the grounds it would violate the Clean Water Act.

However, Wyoming and Montana officials, in a lawsuit filed in January, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the actions of Washington officials, alleging the denial violated the Interstate Commerce Clause, which gives only the federal government the authority to regulate the flow of goods between states.

The two states also alleged that Washington officials looked beyond the local impacts of the port and instead based their decision on the state’s political opposition to the use of coal as a fuel.

The company proposing the coal terminal went bankrupt earlier this year, prompting the U.S. Solicitor General to ask that the Supreme Court not take up the case because it was moot.

Wyoming and Montana officials countered that justices needed to address the question of whether Washington could interfere with the sale of Powder River Basin coal to overseas clients.

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Federal Government Took ‘Insulting’ Stances In Oil, Gas Lawsuit, Says Former BLM Official

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The federal government made some “insulting” arguments in its efforts to maintain a moratorium on oil and gas leases on federal land, according to a former U.S. Bureau of Land Management official.

William Perry Pendley, a former Wyoming attorney who served as the BLM’s deputy director for policy and programs under former President Donald Trump, said he found “arrogant” the federal government’s arguments that it would find a way to halt lease sales on federal property even if a federal judge in Louisiana ruled the sales must resume.

“The government says ‘Even if you tell us to keep doing sales, we have the discretion to implement the postponement with another rationale, we will find another way not to obey the law,’” he said. “It’s pretty arrogant.”

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Louisiana on Tuesday granted an injunction sought by 13 states to keep the administration of President Joe Biden from blocking oil and gas lease sales on federal property.

Biden several days after taking office issued an executive order halting oil and gas lease sales on federal property pending a review of the lease program.

The lawsuit filed in Louisiana alleged the halt to sales was issued without following the proper administrative steps as outlined in the Administrative Procedures Act.

The lawsuit is similar to one filed in U.S. District Court in Wyoming by Wyoming officials, who also allege that the federal government failed to follow its own rules in adopting the ban.

In his ruling, Doughty rejected several arguments by the federal government that Pendley said he found “somewhat insulting,” including one that the 13 states involved in the lawsuit did not have the authority to challenge the federal government’s actions.

“That’s pretty outrageous that a sovereign state doesn’t have the right to come into court and try to save an economy,” Pendley said.

He added that another argument that the states were not harmed by the ban because existing oil and gas leases were not affected by Biden’s actions were not accurate because of the amount of time needed to develop a leased area.

“These things take time and the leases they issue today … are going to be drilled sometime in the future,” he said. “If they are not issued today, then we will have real trouble down the road.”

Some groups have maintained that the judge’s injunction only requires the BLM to hold oil and gas lease sales and that the BLM itself has discretion over how many parcels it will actually offer during those sales.

Pendley said he could not predict whether the BLM might significantly reduce its lease offerings to comply with the desires of the administration.

“You have a Secretary (of the Interior) who says she is opposed to fracking, a president who says he is opposed to fracking and 90% of all wells are fracked, so if you lease, you are going to have fracking,” Pendley said. “It’s entirely possible, as the government lawyers told the judge, ‘We can find a way around this.’”

However, he added it might be difficult for a government attorney to argue in defense of such an action.

“I think that would be insulting,” he said. “I don’t think a court would look lightly on that. I would not want to be the state (BLM) director who goes into court and explains to the judge how I complied with the judge’s order by putting one lease up for sale.”

Doughty declared his injunction to apply to all federal properties in the country, but Pendley said he did not believe it would stop progress on Wyoming’s lawsuit, largely because of questions over whether a judge in Louisiana can issue an injunction in effect nationally.

“There is some dispute about whether those district court judges have the authority to issue nationwide injunctions,” Pendley told Cowboy State Daily. “The important thing is I don’t believe the Wyoming district court will stand down because of this.”

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Gordon Applauds Judge’s Ruling Against Biden Oil And Gas Lease Moratorium

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By Brianna Kraemer , The Center Square

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon expressed his content on Wednesday after a federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s moratorium on new federal oil and gas leases.

A U.S District judge based out of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction in the case on Tuesday, ultimately restraining the U.S. Department of Interior from continuing to implement the pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public land or offshore waters.

The decision is a major setback for President Joe Biden’s climate change agenda.

Wyoming relies heavily on lease sale revenue to fund its public services, Gordon noted in his statement.

“This preliminary injunction is outstanding news for Wyoming and our energy workers. It confirms the position we have maintained since this ‘pause’ was implemented,” Gordon said.

“The Biden Administration has in fact put in place an unlawful, de-facto moratorium, causing economic harm to states like ours that rely on lease sale revenue to fund our schools and critical functions of government,” he added.

Biden’s executive order halting new oil and gas leases went into effect just a week after Inauguration Day. The order, called “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” pauses new leases until a comprehensive review of the environmental impacts can be assessed.

Wyoming is the nation’s top producer of onshore gas that takes place on federal lands, and second in the nation for its federal onshore oil production, according to the Bureau of Land Management. 

Of the nearly 63 million acres in the state of Wyoming, oil and gas leases managed by the bureau accounted for 8.4 million acres of land from over 13,000 leases in recent years.

With Tuesday’s ruling, Gordon said he hopes a similar ruling will be issued in a case filed in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming.

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Barrasso and Energy Sec. Granholm Agree on Domestic Uranium For Bill Gates Nuclear Plant

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s not like the two politicos from opposite sides of the aisle walked out of a conference room holding hands and singing “Love Will Keep Us Together,” but America did bear witness to a rare bipartisan agreement on Tuesday.

Energy Secretary Janet Granholm, a Democrat and former governor of Michigan, agreed with U.S. Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, on the necessity for a domestic supply of uranium to supply a proposed nuclear power plant in the Cowboy State.

In order to power the “Natrium” reactor plant, Barrasso said high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) would be necessary, which can be supplied only by the Department of Energy or Russia.

He asked Secretary Granholm what steps the department is taking so that the U.S. doesn’t have to rely on Russia for the energy.

“We agree that we need to develop that supply of HALEU and the budget requests $33 million in that regard to start that process and make sure that we will have on an ongoing basis access to that critical mineral,” Granholm said.

Pleased with her response, Barrasso noted there were individuals in the Energy Department who didn’t share those feelings so it was “good to hear that you’re on board on this,” he said.

“For sure,” Granholm said. “It goes right into again, this notion of us being able to make sure that we have the means for our own for our own supply chains for our own energy.”

The plant proposed for Wyoming will generate 345 megawatts and will also be able to store enough energy to generate 500 megawatts of power for more than five hours.

The plant will be built at one of Rocky Mountain Power’s existing coal power plants near Rock Springs, Glenrock, Kemmerer or Gillette. The location should be decided by the end of the year.

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Oil, Gas CEO Slams North Face Company As Hypocritical

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The CEO of an oil and gas company with offices in Gillette and Colorado is criticizing the apparel company North Face as hypocritical for taking a stance against oil and gas by refusing to accept a clothing order from a Texas company while using petrochemicals in its products.

Chris Wright, CEO of Liberty Oilfield Services, posted a short video last week thanking North Face for being an “extraordinary customer of the oil and gas industry” despite the company’s refusal to fulfill an order of 400 jackets from a Texas oil and gas company because North Face did not want to be affiliated with the industry.

“I went through North Face’s website of wide-ranging products and I failed to find a single thing that wasn’t made out of oil and gas,” Wright said in the video. “Their vast manufacturing, distribution and retailing networks are also large consumers of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane, jet fuel, etc.”

Wright added that by providing material for North Face’s apparel, the oil and gas industry has contributed to people’s outdoor recreational choices, which has helped North Face’s business,

Liberty also posted a billboard in Denver this week with another “thanks” to the company.

“That North Face puffer looks great on you. And it was made from fossil fuels,” the billboard reads, adding a website also called thankyounorthface.com.

The comments stem from an incident in December, when North Face rejected an order for 400 jackets by Innovex Downhole Solutions, a well drilling company. The company’s CEO, Adam Anderson, told energy research company Hart Energy he was told The North Face refused to fill the order because he wanted the Innovex logo on the jackets and The North Face did not want to be affiliated with an oil and gas company.

North Face has responded to Wright’s criticism (although neither he nor Liberty were mentioned by name), promising that by 2025, 100% of its most used apparel materials will be recycled, regenerative or renewable and the company intends to eliminate all single-use plastic packaging.

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Wyoming AG Says Lawsuit Over Washington Coal Port Must Go On

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The U.S. Supreme Court needs to stop the state of Washington from unconstitutionally blocking the delivery of Powder River Basin coal to foreign markets, according to the attorneys general for Wyoming and Montana.

The two states, in a brief filed with the court, argued justices should take up their challenges to Washington’s denial of permits needed for a proposed coal terminal, even though the terminal’s developer has gone bankrupt.

The brief filed Monday said the issues posed by Wyoming and Montana go far beyond which company will build a terminal and apply directly to Washington’s discrimination against the use of coal as fuel.

“Montana and Wyoming are challenging Washington’s longstanding discrimination against two landlocked states’ sovereign interests in getting one of their most important commodities to market,” the brief said. “Washington’s hostility to coal exports … remains unchanged. Washington has changed nothing and will continue to block Powder River Basin coal exports based on coal’s end use in foreign markets …”

The brief was filed in response to a request from the U.S. Solicitor General asking that the Supreme Court dismiss the lawsuit filed by Wyoming and Montana against Washington in January. The solicitor general argued because the company proposing the Millenium Coal Export Terminal has gone bankrupt, the challenge is moot.

But the brief filed by Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said the more important issue of Washington’s refusal to issue permits for a coal terminal, regardless of who develops it, must be addressed.

“Washington will continue to block port development and dissuade bidders from taking up this otherwise lucrative project,” the brief said. “Evidenced by its successful eight-year crusade to kill the terminal project, Washington’s policy-driven interpretation of its laws and regulations is not going to change on its own.”

In their initial lawsuit, Wyoming and Montana officials argued that in denying permits for the terminal, Washington did not simply look at the environmental impacts of the port on Washington, but at the environmental impact of using coal for fuel in other countries. Such “extraterritorial” factors should not have figured into the state’s decision, the lawsuit said.

Monday’s brief said even though the developer of the terminal has declared bankruptcy, Washington’s continued discrimination against Powder River Basin coal will infringe on the “sovereign interests” of Wyoming and Montana by unconstitutionally blocking commerce by the states.

The U.S. Supreme Court is the only court that can issue a judgment in such cases, the two states said, making it necessary for the legal action to proceed.

“If anything, that the developer is now bankrupt is one more fact to be weighed in determining the important legal issue raised in this matter — whether Washington’s policies and practices violate the Commerce Clause (of the Constitution) to Wyoming and Montana’s detriment,” the brief said.

Unless prevented from doing so, Washington will continue to prevent the construction of coal ports, the brief said.

“Without relief from this court — the only forum with the power to grant it — Wyoming and Montana likely will never see their abundant coal reserves to foreign markets,” it said.

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Gordon Relaunching Program To Encourage Oil, Gas Projects In Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is dedicating up to $12 million in federal CARES Act funds to re-launch the Energy Rebound Program, which is designed to get more people working in the energy industry.

In 2020, the program provided capital for specified oil and gas projects, including drilled but uncompleted ventures, the replacement of equipment to lengthen the life of wells and the reclamation of oil and gas wells through the plugging and abandonment process.

“The Energy Rebound Program successfully provided opportunities for oil and gas industry employees who lost jobs when drilling ceased last year,” Gordon said. “This program will continue to provide economic benefits to this important industry, their workforce and the entire state of Wyoming.”

Wyoming’s oil and gas industry is lagging due to external market factors, according to the governor’s office.

Currently, there are nine drilling rigs operating in Wyoming, down from more than 30 running in February 2020.

The program again target projects that bring immediate economic benefits, including job growth and revenue, along with the environmental benefits of plugging and reclaiming oil and gas wells that are no longer in use or near the end of their useful life.

“As energy demand continues to increase, private-land production states have seen a quicker rebound, one that has yet to reach Wyoming’s federally-owned resources. Given the success of the inaugural Energy Rebound Program, a jobs program at its core, Gov. Gordon’s decision to initiate a second round makes perfect sense,” said Pete Obermueller, President of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. “In 2020, despite a quick turnaround over the holidays, the men and women of the oil and gas industry stepped up, utilizing more than 100 service companies from 14 Wyoming towns to complete their work, supporting thousands of local jobs and kickstarting more than $150 million in new production.”

Last year, the oil and gas industry had just six weeks to identify and complete projects. This time, the projects will need to be completed by the end of the year.

There will be a cap of $500,000 for each approved project.

There will be a cap of $500,000 for each approved project and the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will administer the program.

Oil and gas operators will need to certify the number of jobs created for Wyoming workers. To qualify as a Wyoming worker, the worker must be a resident of Wyoming at the time of the application.

“We look forward to supporting the governor’s Energy Rebound Program by administering this additional funding. The program has proven to be successful in supporting projects and employment within the oil and gas industry,” stated WOGCC Deputy Supervisor Tom Kropatsch. “Our evaluation of the applications and post program reporting to ensure compliance with program rules will be essential in making this version of the Energy Rebound Program as successful as the first.”

The WOGCC will accept applications from June 15 through June 25.

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Wyoming Nuke Expert: Kemmerer Is Best Choice for Nuclear Power Plant

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although all four potential Wyoming sites for proposed nuclear power plant are great options, one of Wyoming’s leading experts in nuclear energy said Kemmerer should be at the top of the list.

Former State Rep. Dave Miller, the sponsor for legislation that cleared the way for TerraPower and its partner Rocky Mountain Power to propose construction of a next-generation nuclear power plant in Wyoming, said Kemmerer needs the economic boost that could be provided by the reactor.

“I don’t think there are cons to any of the proposed cities,” Miller said. “I’d love it to be in Fremont County [where he lives and the area he represented in the Wyoming Legislature], but we don’t have the infrastructure for it here. I think Kemmerer makes the most sense, though.”

Last week, Gov. Mark Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced they are working to build the reactor at one of Rocky Mountain Power’s four retiring coal-fired power plants by 2027 or 2028. The reactor will generate 345 megawatts of power using Wyoming uranium.

The plant will be built at one of Rocky Mountain Power’s existing coal power plants near Rock Springs, Glenrock, Kemmerer or Gillette, according to Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of the power company. The location should be decided by the end of the year.

Miller, who has been a major proponent of the state being home to nuclear energy, told Cowboy State Daily last week that he favors Kemmerer over Gillette or Rock Springs because there is enough economic activity in those communities to keep their economies afloat

The proposed “Natrium” reactor would use technology developed by TerraPower, a nuclear power innovation company founded by software developer Bill Gates, and GE Hitachi. The technology results in a smaller nuclear power plant than has previously been built, along with improved safety measures and a power storage system.

“A small modular reactor is a perfect fit when we take these coal plants offline,” Miller said. “The infrastructure is already there. The spending is already there. You can seamlessly place one of these reactors in a former coal plant and the workers can transition from coal to nuclear power.”

In addition to generating 345 megawatts of power, the facility will be able to store enough energy to provide 500 megawatts of power for short periods of time, according to TerraPower.

Before beginning operation, the plant will have to be approved by several regulatory agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

A bill that Miller and former Wyoming Sen. Eli Bebout co-sponsored during the 2020 legislative session is likely the impetus for the nuclear power plant coming to Wyoming, Miller told Cowboy State Daily last week.

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Former Wyo Legislator Who Sponsored Nuke Bill Thrilled About Nuclear Power Plant

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Former state Rep. Dave Miller, R-Riverton, was surprised no one from Gov. Mark Gordon’s office called him this week to give him the news.

As someone who has been pushing for nuclear energy in Wyoming for 20 years, he figured someone would give him a heads up when, if ever, there was an announcement that Wyoming could be the home to a nuclear power plant.

Miller has been passionate about nuclear energy for decades and even caused a stir 10 years ago when he managed to amend a bill saying that nuclear energy was technically a renewable resource. More recently, he was the chief sponsor for legislation that would allow the construction of small, modular nuclear power plants at coal-fired power plants.

“I mentioned many times over the years, ‘Why doesn’t Wyoming have a nuclear power plant?'” Miller told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “I’ve been the guy shaking the trees on this.”

On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Gordon, joined by officials with TerraPower and Rocky Mountain Power, announced they are working to build the reactor at one of Rocky Mountain Power’s four retiring coal-fired power plants by 2027 or 2028. The reactor will generate 345 megawatts of power using Wyoming uranium.

Miller believes it was a bill he co-sponsored in 2020 with former Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton — House Bill 74 — that helped bring the “Natrium” nuclear reactor to Wyoming. The bill allowed power plants in Wyoming to replace their natural gas and coal-fired generators with small nuclear reactors that have similar output.

The Natrium technology has been developed by TerraPower, a nuclear power innovation company founded by software developer Bill Gates, and GE Hitachi. The technology results in a smaller nuclear power plant than has previously been built, along with improved safety measures and a power storage system.

While Miller’s and Bebout’s bill is perfectly aligned to allow construction of the new power plant, Miller was quick to point out that he was never lobbied by TerraPower, or any power company, to create the bill. It’s just a passion of his. However, he said he had great supporters for the idea in the Wyoming Legislature, including Bebout.

“I’ve been getting emails from my friends in the legislature who are telling me that bill is now starting to pay dividends in Wyoming,” Miller said.

Before beginning operation, the plant will have to be approved by several regulatory agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, Miller tried to write HB 74 in a way to reduce the regulatory burden on the project as possible, because he he feels overregulation has caused issues in basically every industry in the state.

Bebout and Miller both told Cowboy State Daily the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be very important in getting the project approved, as well as up and running.

The bill also would assess a $5 per megawatt hour tax on the plant.

Although Miller said he was hesitant to add any tax, he thought $5 was an appropriate number.

“I was trying to figure out the amount of coal that a plant could burn and that tax rate for Wyoming on that coal, and I came up with $5,” he said. “I tried to amend it to $1, but it didn’t happen. However, since 93% of our power is exported out-of-state, 93% of the cost will be borne by out-of-state consumers.”

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