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

in Energy/News

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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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Canadians Charged After Evanston Bust Uncovers 750 Pounds Of Meth, Coke

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Two Canadian men are facing federal charges after being caught with almost 750 pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine during a Uinta County traffic stop last month.

Darren Kareem Hall and Brandon Layton Rampersaud each are charged with one count of intent to distribute methamphetamine, which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison if found. They could also be fined $10 million.

According to court documents, around 10 a.m. on Oct. 24, Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper Scott Neilson was patrolling eastbound Interstate 80 near Evanston when he saw a red Dodge Caravan with Florida license plates traveling east and speeding at a rate of 84 mph in a 75 mph zone.

Neilson conducted a traffic stop and made contact with the two men, both of whom had Canadian drivers licenses. Rampersaud, the driver, apologized for speeding.

Court documents said Neilson could smell marijuana in the vehicle and saw two multi-colored backpacks, two elongated cardboard boxes and black bags inside.

Neilson brought Hall to his Highway Patrol vehicle, where the trooper’s K-9 partner Max alerted to some type of odor on Hall.

Hall told the trooper he and Rampersaud were on a road trip back to Canada, saying they had been in Las Vegas for two days for a concert. Upon inspecting the vehicle’s rental agreement, Neilson saw that the car had been rented in Los Angeles and was scheduled for drop-off in Chicago.

Hall returned to the Dodge and sent Rampersaud back to Neilson’s patrol car, where the K-9 again alerted to some type of odor.

When asked about their travel plans, Rampersaud said the men had been in Los Angeles and were headed to Denver, and then they would go to Chicago.

After giving Rampersaud a ticket for speeding, Neilson informed the man of his right to remain silent and mentioned the marijuana odor. Rampersaud said the marijuana belonged to Hall and had been purchased in Las Vegas.

Rampersaud did say that the marijuana was gone, but that an empty bag may still be in the car. In response to further questions from Neilson, Rampersaud denied transporting large amounts of drugs across the country.

According to Neilson’s affidavit, he went back to the Dodge and mentioned the marijuana smell to Hall and Hall produced a dispensary-style plastic tube used for storing pre-rolled joints from the passenger door pocket. He was then placed in the backseat of the patrol car, while Rampersaud was in the front seat.

While in the car, the vehicle’s camera recorded Rampersaud asking Hall what the trooper was doing and Hall informed him that Neilson was going to search the vehicle. Rampersaud told Hall that they were in trouble, albeit in different words.

Max the K-9 was deployed to sniff around the vehicle, while Hall punched the metal cage of the car and Rampersaud expressed concern.

Neilson unzipped a large black bag and found several large, clear plastic bags containing a white substance later identified as meth. A thorough search of the vehicle uncovered 635 pounds of methamphetamine and 112 pounds of cocaine.

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Wyoming’s Kindness Ranch: Pet Of The Week

in News/Good news

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By Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

“Black Friday? No thank you! Black Cat? Yes please!

All adoption fees waived until the end of the year for black cats. Just say you heard it from Cowboy State Daily.

Say hello to Abigail Curly Tail!

This adorable, petite, 5-year-old black cat is just an absolute love. She has a difficult time bonding with other cats sometimes, but given time, she could do very well in a multi-cat household.

Abigail was used in vaccine research and should have no long lasting effects from her time in the lab.

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Wyoming Energy Authority Chairman: Biden’s Oil Release “Drop In The Bucket”

in News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A plan to release oil from the nation’s strategic oil reserve to reduce gasoline prices will not amount to much, according to Wyoming Energy Authority chairman Paul Ulrich.

The White House on Tuesday announced the U.S., along with five other countries, including China, will dip into its national reserves in an effort to ease soaring gasoline prices. President Joe Biden ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil.

However, Ulrich said that the number amounts to about two and one-half days of oil consumption in the United States.

“It truly is just a drop in the bucket,” he said.

America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve holds about 605 million barrels of oil in underground salt caverns in Texas and Louisiana. It was created following the 1970s Arab oil embargo to store oil that could be tapped in an emergency. 

There is also a limit to how much can be released at once.

While the hope is that the release of the oil will reduce prices, but Ulrich said he did not believe that Biden’s move would make much of a difference at all.

“Aiming for policy change to address rising natural gas and energy prices would be enhancing, encouraging and incentivizing oil and gas production on federal lands,” Ulrich said. “We in Wyoming have a long track record of balancing major emission reduction efforts and conservation efforts while providing affordable and reliable energy.”

Other experts agree with Ulrich’s assessment.

“We’re talking about adding, at best, a day’s worth of supply to the global market,” Troy Vincent, an analyst at market research firm DTN, told CBS MoneyWatch.

Gas prices are 50% higher than they were one year ago, averaging a little more than $3.40 per gallon nationally. Wyoming’s average gas price Wednesday was about $3.42 per gallon.

Once cheaper fuel hits the market, it takes between three and seven days for consumers to see lower prices at the pump, Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told CBS MoneyWatch.

The reason for the delay? Gas stations, even when they get cheaper fuel, lower prices at the pump by only a cent or two in order to preserve their profits, while carefully watching what their competitors are doing. 

Anyone in southeast Wyoming might want to consider heading to Buford, home of some of the state’s lowest gas prices, to fill up if they are going on a longer trip.

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Wyoming Hosts Hawaii on Senior Day Saturday

in News/wyoming cowboys football

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 It is a series that began back in 1978 and has been played 26 times since that over the next 44 seasons — the Wyoming Cowboys and Hawaii Rainbow Warriors will kick off the 26th meeting in their long-standing series Saturday in Laramie.  Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

Both teams are coming off big wins last week.  Wyoming defeated Mountain Division leader Utah State by a score of 44-17 in Logan, Utah.  Hawaii won at home by a score of 50-45 over Colorado State.  The Cowboys will bring a 6-5 overall record and a 2-5 Mountain West record into Saturday’s game.  Hawai’i is 5-7 overall and 2-5 in the Mountain West.

Wyoming Earns Bowl Eligibility for the Fifth Time in Six Years

With its win over Utah State last Saturday, Wyoming earned bowl eligibility with its sixth win of the season.  It marks the fifth time in the last six seasons that Wyoming is bowl eligible.  The Cowboys played in the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl, won the 2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and captured the 2019 Arizona Bowl.  The Pokes were also 6-6 in 2018, earning them bowl eligibility, and are currently 6-5 this season.

Saturday’s Game Will be Senior Day, Wyoming Seniors Have Been Part of Great Success at Wyoming

Saturday will mark the final home game for several University of Wyoming senior football players.  During their time as Cowboys, the program has enjoyed a great deal of success.  Due to the NCAA granting players an extra year of eligibility following last year’s COVID shortened season, several current Cowboy seniors have been part of the Wyoming Football program since 2016.  Here are some of the accomplishments this year’s senior class has been a part of:

      •Three eight-win seasons in 2016, ’17 and ’19

      •Earned bowl eligibility in 2016, ’17, ’18, ’19 and ’21

      •2016 Hosted Mountain West Championship Game

      •2016 Poinsettia Bowl

      •2017 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Champions

      •2019 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl Champions

      •A 5-1 record against rival Colorado State

      •Defeated SEC member Missouri in Laramie in 2019

Muma Named One of Six National Finalists for the 2021 Butkus Award 

Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma was named one of six finalists for the prestigious Butkus Award on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.  The Butkus Award honors the nation’s best linebackers in the nation.  This is the 37th year of the Butkus Award.

The six finalists for this year’s college award include: Muma; Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati; Nakobe Dean, Georgia; Damone Clark, LSU; Devin Lloyd, Utah; and Leo Chenal, Wisconsin

Winners of the college and high school awards are expected to be selected on or before Dec. 7. The pro winner will be announced in early 2022.

This season, Muma is averaging 10.9 total tackles per game to rank No. 2 in the Mountain West and No. 4 in the nation.  He is also averaging 6.8 solo tackles per game to rank No. 1 in the MW and No. 2 in the nation.  Muma is tied for No. 2 in the nation in interception returns for touchdowns.

Valladay Could Become Only the Fourth Cowboy to Post Two 1,000-Yard Rushing Seasons 

Only 11 Cowboys in the 125-year history of Wyoming Football have rushed for 1,000 yards in a single season.  One of those is current Cowboy Xazavian Valladay, who ran for 1,265 yards in 2019.  He will enter this Saturday’s game vs. Hawai’i with 942 rushing yards this season.  He needs only 58 more yards this season to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career.

Only Brian Hill, Ryan Christopherson and Dabby Dawson have posted two 1,000-yard seasons in their careers.  Valladay could become the fourth.

Wyoming’s 1000-Yard Rushing Seasons

1.   Brian Hill                          2016        1,860

2.   Brian Hill                          2015        1,631

3.   Ryan Christopherson      1994        1,455

4.   Nico Evans                      2018        1,325

5.   Gerald Abraham              1987        1,305

6.   Devin Moore                    2008        1,301

7.   Xazavian Valladay         2019        1,265

8.   Myron Hardeman            1977        1,165

9.   Dabby Dawson                1988        1,119

10. Marques Brigham            1998        1,114

11.  Jim Crawford                  1956        1,104

12.  Ryan Christopherson      1993        1,042

13.  Dwight Driver                  1992        1,027

14.  Dabby Dawson               1989        1,005

      Xazavian Valladay          2021           942

Swen Rushes for a Career High 169 Yards at Utah State,

Records Longest Run From Scrimmage in 125 Years of Wyoming Football History 

Wyoming junior running back Titus Swen rushed for a personal best 169 yards at Utah State on Nov. 20, 2021.  Included in that total was a 98-yard TD run that is the longest run from scrimmage in Wyoming school history.  The previous long was 95 yards by former Cowboy running back Nate Scott against Central Michigan in 2000.  Swen’s 169 yards marked the third 100-yard rushing game of his career and second of this season.

Valladay and Swen Form Dynamic Running Back Duo

Wyoming’s offense has the luxury this season of having two premier running backs in Xazavian Valladay and Titus Swen.

Valladay has rushed for 942 yards this season.  Swen has ran for 718.  Combined, the two have accounted for 1,660 of Wyoming’s 2,222 rushing yards or 74.7 percent.  Valladay has four 100-yard games this season, while Swen has two of his own in 2021.

Defense Shines in 44-17 Win at Utah State, 

Limiting High-Powered Aggie Offense to 17 Points

One of the keys to Wyoming’s 44-17 win over Utah State on Nov. 20 was the way the Cowboy defense limited the powerful Utah State passing attack, that was averaging 315 yards per game, to only 181 yards.  Wyoming’s defense also held the Aggie offense, which was averaging 33 points per game, to only 17 points.

The Utah State offense was able to complete only 45.2 percent of its passes (19 of 42) for 181 yards and averaged only 4.3 yards per pass attempt and only 9.5 yards per pass completion.

Utah State rushed for only 181 yards and accounted for 362 yards of total offense.  In the second half, the Cowboy defense also shutout the Aggie offense.

Iron Men — Offensive Line Leads the Way for Wyoming’s Outstanding Rushing Attack 

Wyoming’s offensive line has a group of iron men when it comes to the number of games they’ve started and played in their careers.

Chief among those are senior center Keegan Cryder, who will be starting his 43rd consecutive game Saturday.  That is every game that Wyoming has played over the past four seasons.  Cryder has never missed a start during his college career.  Close behind him is senior right guard Logan Harris, who will be starting the 42nd game of his career on Saturday.

Leading the way for Wyoming’s successful rushing attack in 2020 was a dominant group of offensive linemen.  Entering the 2021 season, Wyoming had eight O-Linemen returning with starting experience.

Returning Offensive Linemen              Career Games Played    Career Starts

Logan Harris, OG                                    52                                     41

Keegan Cryder, C/OG                             42                                     42

Rudy Stofer, OT                                       37                                     25

Eric Abojei, OG                                        33                                     26

Alonzo Velazquez, OT                             32                                     30

Frank Crum, OT                                       29                                     22

Zach Watts, OG                                       20                                       8

Latrell Bible, OT                                       18                                       6

Career Totals (As of Nov. 22, 2021)       263                                   200

Levi Williams Enjoyed a Career Day in Win at Utah State

Cowboy quarterback Levi Williams enjoyed a career best day in UW’s 44-17 win at Utah State on Nov. 20.

Williams threw for a career high 242 yards against the Aggies.  He also completed a career best 80.0 percent of his passes (12 of 15).  Williams threw TD passes of 40 and 17 yards with only one interception.  He added 22 rushing yards for 264 yards of total offense.

Neyor Records Back-to-Back 100-Yard Receiving Games at Boise State and Utah State

Over the past two weeks, Wyoming sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Neyor has performed at an extremely high level vs. two of the top teams in the Mountain West.  On Nov. 12 at Boise State, Neyor caught six passes for 126 yards and one touchdown vs. the Broncos.  Neyor followed up that performance on Nov. 20 at Utah State with four receptions for 125 yards and his 10th receiving TD of the season.

Neyor had his first of three 100-yard  receiving games as a redshirt freshman in 2020 when he caught three passes for 102 yards at Nevada. 

Cameron Stone Earned MW Special Teams Player of the Week for Performance at Utah State

Wyoming Cowboy kick returner Cameron Stone was named the Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in a 44-17 road win at Utah State on Nov. 20.  Stone returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter at Utah State, giving Wyoming a 14-7 lead on way to a 44-17 road victory.  It was Stone’s first career kickoff return for a TD.  The 99-yard return was the second longest in Wyoming’s 125-year history.  Only a 100-yard kickoff return by Wyoming’s Sonny Jones vs. Colorado College in 1948 was longer.  Stone’s 99-yard return came immediately after USU had tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter.  The sophomore from Rosharon, Texas, added a second kickoff return of 25 yards to account for 124 yards in kickoff returns and average 62.0 yards per return.  It was Stone’s first MW Player of the Week award.

Common Opponents

The Wyoming Cowboys and Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors have played four common opponents in 2021 — Colorado State, Fresno State, San Jose State and Utah State.  Wyoming has a 2-2 record against those opponents, and Hawai’i is also 2-2. 


Opponents        Wyoming vs.                 Hawai’i vs.

Colorado State   W 31-17 (+14), Home     W 50-45 (+5), Home

Fresno State       L 0-17 (-17), Home         W 27-21 (+6), Home

San Jose State   L 21-33 (-12), Away         L 13-17 (-4), Home

Utah State           W 44-17 (+27), Away      L 31-51 (-20), Away

Wyoming and Hawai’i Meet for the 26th Time, Will Battle for the Paniolo Trophy for the 25th Time

The Wyoming Cowboys and Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors will play for the 26th time in the two schools’ histories when they kick off today.  The two teams will be competing for the Paniolo Trophy for the 25th time. 

Wyoming and Hawai’i first played each other in football back on Nov. 18, 1978, with Hawai’i winning that first meeting in Honolulu by a score of 27-22. 

The Paniolo Trophy has been a part of the series since 1979.  In the second year of the series, a group of Hawai’ian residents, with roots in Wyoming, donated a statuette of a Cowboy preparing to toss a lariat.  The traveling trophy is named the Paniolo Trophy as Paniolo is the Hawai’ian word for Cowboy. 

At the time the traveling trophy was introduced to the rivalry both schools were members of the Western Athletic Conference, as Hawai’i joined the WAC in 1979.

Wyoming leads the Paniolo Trophy portion of the series with 15 wins to Hawai’i’s nine victories.  The overall series is led by Wyoming 15-10, when including Hawai’i’s win in the inaugural 1978 game. 

For the next 19 years, from 1979 to 1997, the two teams competed for the Paniolo Trophy.  After Wyoming’s 35-6 win in the 1997 meeting in Honolulu, the series between the two schools ended.  Due to the rotating schedule of the then 16-team WAC, Wyoming and Hawai’i weren’t scheduled to play in 1998.  In 1999, Wyoming joined the Mountain West Conference, which interrupted the series for 15 years.  

When Hawai’i was invited to join the Mountain West Conference, beginning in 2012, the two schools began discussion of a renewal of the Paniolo Trophy competition.  But over that 15-year timespan the Paniolo Trophy was lost, which became a story in itself.  Each school searched for it, but it was not to be found.

Enter a new group of Hawai’i fans to continue the tradition.  The Paniolo Preservation Society, a group dedicated to preserving Hawai’i’s rich Cowboy heritage, proposed a new trophy.  Led by the Society’s President, Mrs. Patricia C. Bergin, a bronze maquette, featuring Hawai’ian native Ikua Purdy roping a wild stag bull, was donated to the two schools in 2013 to mark renewal of the series.  Purdy became the first Hawaiian inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1999.  The bronze is a reproduction of a larger work by noted western sculptor Fred Fellows.  The reproduction measures approximately 20″ long and 12″ high.

The series was renewed in 2013, when Hawai’i joined the Mountain West as a football playing member school.  Wyoming recorded a 59-56 victory in the first overtime in Laramie in 2013.  Hawai’i won in 2014 in Honolulu by a score of 38-28.  In 2017, the Cowboys and Rainbow Warriors played another overtime game, with the Cowboys winning 28-21 in the first overtime.  UH won the 2018 meeting in Hawai’i by a score of 17-13, and Wyoming captured the most recent meeting in the series in 2020 in Laramie by a score of 31-7.

Where to Watch and Listen

Every Cowboy Football game is broadcast live on the 26 radio affiliates of the Cowboy Sports Network.  Announcers are Dave Walsh, Play-by-Play (38th year), Kevin McKinney, Color Analyst (24th year) and Reece Monaco, Sideline Reporter (11th year).  The pregame show begins 90 minutes prior to kickoff.

This week’s game will be telecast on Spectrum Hawai’i.  The only way to watch the game is by downloading the Team1Sports app on your phone or tablet and watch from those devices.  Fans can also screen cast to their televisions if they have the right phone and TV.  Saturday’s announcers will be Kanoa Leahey (Play-by-Play) and Rich Miano (Color Analyst).

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Buford, Wyoming: Smallest Town in the U.S., Cheapest Gas in Wyoming

in News/wyoming economy

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Last week the tiny town of Buford, Wyoming, was a buzzing topic on a Cheyenne Facebook news group.

Cheap gas was what the members of the page were talking about and many claimed that the four-pump gas station in the middle of a windswept prairie on Interstate 80 had the cheapest gas in Wyoming.

This was a change. Almost a decade ago, when the gas station and the town of Buford made international news for being purchased for $900,000 by a Vietnamese businessman, the gas sold there was among the most expensive — if not the most expensive — in the state.

Now, according to GasBuddy, an internet site that tracks gas prices in the country, Buford stands alone as the cheapest place in the Cowboy State to buy gas — at least it was on Monday.

At $2.84 a gallon for regular, it was more than $1 less than some stations in Cheyenne. The story was the same for premium gasoline.

Why, when an owner could get away with charging through the nose because of its remote location, is gas so inexpensive in Buford?

It’s the business strategy of Mintu Pandher, the owner of Akal Energy who also owns a truck stop 20 miles west of Laramie in Queally Dome, the Tumbleweed gas station in Laramie and a few other gas stations in Colorado and New Mexico.

Pandher, who will not sell cigarettes, alcohol, or lottery tickets in any of his locations, said it’s an ethical decision for him to keep the prices low because people need to buy gasoline.

“It’s not like a Louis Vuitton purse where they have a choice. People have no choice, they have to buy fuel,” Pandher told Cowboy State Daily.

He compared fuel to utilities such as electricity or natural gas.

“There’s a cap on how much they can sell it. But for fuel, there is no cap,” he said. “Anyone can charge anything.”

Pandher, who lives in Laramie, said he is against government overreach but felt like there should be some limit on gas prices because it is a necessity.

He said he feels for the consumer who purchases gasoline for $3.89 a gallon in one location and then fives miles down the road sees a place where they could have bought it for $2.79.

“That’s $9 that you could have used for lunch or your kids’ lunch,” he said. “And someone took that away.”

Gas station owners are still making money even at the lower price, he said

“You’re not taking his cake away,” he said. “But you did take $9 away from someone’s pocket and that’s what bothers me.”

Pandher, who has been in the fuel transport business since 1999, isn’t waiting around for government to step in. He’s using what he calls the greed of others, to build his own competitive advantage. 

He can sell gas cheaper because he buys it cheaper. In fact, he “chases it.”

Pandher watches where fuel is being sold at the cheapest amount and sends his fleet of trucks to that location to fill up.

He said he has 19 fuel trucks in his fleet and they were dispatched two weeks ago to El Paso where he could buy cheap fuel and bring it up to his gas stations.

Does it pay off?  Absolutely, he said. High volume is the key.

“Look at the Tumbleweed in Laramie. It’s a little dinky gas station but it stays busy day and night,” he said.

Back to the Facebook page, many people from Cheyenne make the 40-mile round trip trek to Buford, they say, to save money.

“I buy my gas there. Best price in Wyoming and way less than Cheyenne,” said Rodger McDaniel, a former Wyoming legislator who now serves as a pastor in Cheyenne.

“I stop there several times a week,” Claude Womble wrote. “I work in Laramie but live in Cheyenne. This is my fuel stop, I try and give them all the business I can.

“Sorry Cheyenne unless you can compete with their fuel prices my business goes to them!!” Womble added.

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Man Sentenced To Jail For Walking on Yellowstone Thermal; Woman Avoids Jail Time

in Yellowstone/News

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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

After raising concerns about how her case was handled, a Connecticut woman who was caught walking on one of Yellowstone National Park’s thermal areas last summer won’t be going to jail.

In a ruling earlier this month, a federal magistrate rejected Madeline Casey’s contentions that her constitutional rights were violated, but eliminated a seven-day jail sentence “in an abundance of fairness.”

Her co-defendant, however, wasn’t as fortunate. Days after reducing Casey’s sentence, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman rejected a proposed plea agreement for Timothy R. Francis that called for no jail time; the judge instead ordered Francis to serve a week behind bars for his role in the July 22 incident, according to his defense attorney and court records.

Federal prosecutors say the 26-year-old Casey and Francis ventured off the boardwalk in the Norris Geyser Basin in July. Both ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of foot travel in a thermal area.

At an August hearing, Carman handed Casey a seven-day sentence while imposing $1,040 in fines and fees and ordering a $1,000 payment to Yellowstone Forever, a nonprofit organization that supports the park. Casey was also banned from Yellowstone over the course of two years of probation, while prosecutors dropped a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming and Yellowstone officials soon highlighted her case — and the perils of going off-trail — in a press release picked up by numerous national news outlets.

In the statement, Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray noted that the park’s thermal areas are dangerous and well-marked, “yet there will always be those like Ms. Casey who don’t get it.”

“Although a criminal prosecution and jail time may seem harsh, it’s better than spending time in a hospital’s burn unit,” Murray said then.

Casey represented herself at her Aug. 18 sentencing hearing — indicating an attorney was too expensive — but soon afterward, she retained counsel and appealed her punishment. Her newly hired attorney, Ryan Wright of Cheyenne, contended that Casey’s rights had been infringed and questioned the fairness of her sentence.

“… Ms. Casey’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when the Court [Carman] did not appoint her an attorney after she informed the Court she could not afford counsel, even though she was facing the possibility of a jail sentence and was indeed sentenced to jail,” Wright wrote.

In response to the concerns — and the fact that no recording exists of Casey’s initial court appearance — the U.S. Attorney’s Office recommended that Carman vacate the sentence and schedule a new hearing or trial. But that idea was opposed by Wright, who said the government’s suggestion to put the case back on a trial track was “the most costly, lengthy, untimely, burdensome and prejudicial approach.”

Carman ultimately ruled without a hearing, issuing a three-page decision on Nov. 2.

Although he lessened Casey’s sentence, the judge generally rejected her attorney’s contentions. For instance, Wright charged that, in order to appear in court via Zoom, Casey had been instructed to sign a form that waived her right to an attorney. However, Judge Carman noted the form requesting permission to appear remotely was separate from the document waiving an attorney.

“Having reviewed these forms, the court finds that they are clear,” the judge wrote. “And, further, had Ms. Casey been confused about the forms and sought additional information on the issue, it would have been clarified in the hearing.”

Carman added that, while there’s no recording of her initial hearing, Casey was properly advised of her rights and “fully understood her right to representation, including her right to court appointed representation if she was indigent.”

According to the ruling, Casey initially said she’d be hiring an attorney, then changed her mind and requested a change of plea hearing; she mentioned that the cost of a lawyer was “outside of my wheelhouse.”

In retrospect, Judge Carman said it would have been better if he’d pressed Casey on her “ambiguous statement regarding the cost of representation.”

“While this Court does not find any violations of Ms. Casey’s rights, in an abundance of fairness, this Court will vacate the jail sentence imposed,” Carman concluded, leaving the rest of the judgment intact.

Casey accepted the revised sentence, with Wright and another Cheyenne attorney, Jeremiah Sandburg, notifying the U.S. District Court on Nov. 8 that she was dropping her appeal.

But that same day, her co-defendant received a sentence that included jail time.

Francis’s case was delayed and a warrant issued for his arrest after he failed to show up for his initial court dates, but he later retained Branden Vilos of Cody and struck a deal with prosecutors. In exchange for Francis’ guilty plea to the count of foot travel in a thermal area, Vilos said the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to drop counts of disorderly conduct and violating closures and to effectively seek the same sentence given to Casey: $2,040 in financial penalties with no jail time.

However, at the Nov. 8 hearing, Judge Carman rejected the proposal. He instead imposed a seven-day jail sentence alongside $1,540 in penalties and a two-year ban from Yellowstone. Vilos said the judge expressed a desire to be consistent with past sentences for similar offenses.

For his part, the defense attorney said he made the case that Francis — who lacked a prior criminal record — was very cooperative and immediately took responsibility for his actions when approached by a park ranger.

“I argued that he [Francis] would be punished enough,” Vilos said, and that a stiffer sentence might not necessarily deter the general public.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Park Service did not publicize Francis’ sentence or Casey’s reduced punishment, but Casey’s attorney highlighted her lightened sentence in a news release provided to CNN earlier this month.

“We are grateful that the Court recognized the harsh sentence,” Wright wrote, “and that it was fair to vacate the jail sentence.”

As for Vilos, he would have liked a more lenient sentence for Francis, given his cooperation.

“But I do recognize the public safety concern and all that, too,” Vilos said. “It’s that balance, and the court’s got a role to play in this.”

Francis has until April to serve his seven days in jail. 

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Microsoft Opens Two New Data Centers In Cheyenne

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By Dan Swinhoe, Data Center Dynamics

Microsoft has launched two new data centers in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The company announced the new facilities – one in the Cheyenne Business Parkway and another in Bison Business Park — to support its West Central US Azure region.

“Expanding Microsoft’s digital capabilities in Wyoming will allow us to meet the demand for new and existing customers in the region, and we’re excited to continue supporting the growth of diverse businesses in the state and look forward to working with state and local leaders on initiatives that can foster job creation and economic opportunity,” said Sergio Loureiro, Microsoft’s VP of core operations for data centers.

The company said sustainability was important and it was making “significant efforts” in water conservation and preserving Cheyenne’s water resources through adiabatic cooling and donations to local organizations working on preserving the region’s watershed.

“In addition to building data centers, Microsoft is investing in new water, sewer, and road infrastructure to create easier access to Bison Business Park, which will also support the growth of new businesses in Wyoming,” added Loureiro.

Microsoft has had a data center presence in Wyoming since 2012 and expanded its footprint there in 2014. The West Central Azure region opened in 2016; the site currently only has one Availability Zone so the new facilities should see that upped to the standard three.

Cheyenne is also the site of Microsoft’s ‘Data Plant’ concept to create an off-grid data center powered by methane that opened in 2014.

“The growth of the data center industry in Wyoming has been led by Microsoft and it is coming to represent a significant sign of the continued diversification of our economy. I appreciate Microsoft’s commitment to Wyoming and thank them for the benefits they have brought to multiple sectors of our economy,” said Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon.

“Governor Mead was the inspiration for bringing the first Microsoft Data Center to the state in 2012. The incentives that set this train in motion are working. This is a sector of our growing economy that continues to pick up steam,” he said.

“Additional data centers are a great win for Cheyenne and all of Laramie County,” added Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins. “With it comes more high tech opportunities, a skilled workforce, and expands upon Microsoft’s existing economic impact to our community.”

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Chancey Williams To Be Honored With Legacy Of The West Award

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming musician Chancey Williams will be honored next month in Las Vegas for upholding the legacy of the rodeo industry.

Williams will be given the Legacy of the West award during the fourth annual gala of the same name in Las Vegas on Dec. 8. According to the Legacy of the West organization, the award goes to a person who upholds the legacy of the rodeo industry through ethics and leadership.

“Proud to be selected as a Legacy of the West Award recipient,” Williams wrote on social media on Sunday. “I’m looking forward to the ceremony and excited to raise some serious money for an important cause. Thanks for all you do to combat human trafficking.”

To attend the fundraiser, prices range from $50 to $5,000.

Prior to playing music full-time, Williams was a rodeo cowboy. The hosts of the Cowboy Channel, when announcing the awards and highlighting some of the winners, pointed to Williams’ song “The World Needs More Cowboys” as a particularly powerful anthem.

Legacy of the West is an organization that works to fight human trafficking.

Williams is not the only Wyomingite being honored at the gala, which is being held during the National Finals Rodeo in December.

J.R. Vezain, a former rodeo cowboy from Cowley in Big Horn County who was injured in a 2018 riding accident that paralyzed him from the waist down, is being recognized with the All Grit Award, due to his efforts to walk again following his injury. The award celebrates athletes who have gone through trials and tribulations while still pursuing their dreams, according to the Cowboy Channel.

“His resiliency, grit and unwavering faith has touched more than the Golden Buckle he was surely a contender for,” one of the Cowboy Channel hosts said.

The Cowboy Channel and women’s rodeo star Jackie Crawford will also be honored at the ceremony.

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Wyoming Industry Groups Say Federal Infrastructure Bill Will Be Good For Business

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By Elyse Kelly, The Center Square

Some Wyoming industry groups say the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill will be good for business in the Cowboy State.

As far as transportation goes, it’s definitely a win, according to Katie Legerski, executive director for Associated General Contractors of Wyoming, the members of which are mostly people in horizontal construction including highways, roads and bridges.

Roads, bridges, airports, rail transit, water systems, the power grid, broadband internet and more are all targets of the spending bill with an emphasis on Democratic pet issues like climate change mitigation.

Legerski also sees the bill as an economic boon.

“We see for every $1 put into construction on a regular basis it turns over four to six times in the local economy, and it would also assist the contractors as well with additional projects,” she told The Center Square.

For a number of years, highways in Wyoming have been under a preservation system because it lacked funds, according to Legerski, who cited a study by the Wyoming Department of Transportation stating it was short $190 million a year for surface transportation infrastructure. 

“Our roads are beginning to deteriorate at a pretty alarming rate,” she said. “What we’re finding is for every $1 not spent today, it’s going to cost us $4 to $8 in the future to take care of that road.”

For Wyoming as a whole, transportation, the energy grid, and broadband are going to get a lot of play, according to Wyoming Business Council CEO Josh Dorrell.

Dorrell said the infrastructure bill is “speaking Wyoming’s language.”

“When you talk about energy: so you think about carbon management, hydrogen, critical minerals and materials, even renewable energy and nuclear energy and advanced manufacturing – those are all squarely within Wyoming’s economic strategy, and we have a lot of the groundwork and resources ready to go to mobilize in all of those areas,” he told The Center Square.

Legerski is excited to see her state receive additional funding, and expects it to help sustain its workforce and transportation network so commerce can grow through safe and effective roads.

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