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A Reluctant Move Away from Coal

Scores of new coal-fired power plants that were being planned across the nation six or seven years ago have mostly been shelved. Last year alone, utilities and power-generating companies dropped plans to build 38 coal plants, according to the Sierra Club, while announcing they would retire 48 aging, inefficient ones. Stepping into the void is natural gas and renewables. Utilities have also more aggressively embraced demand-side management strategies to bend down the growth curve.

Drilling Industry Says Diesel Use Was Legal

After three members of Congress reported this week that drilling companies have been injecting large amounts of diesel fuel underground to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells, the industry is fighting back — not by denying the accusation, but by arguing that the EPA never fully regulated the potentially environmentally dangerous practice in the first place.

‘Citizen lobbyists’ learn how pros influence, persuade lawmakers

Though residents in Wyoming enjoy virtually unparalleled access to their elected representatives, participating in person during the annual winter sessions is often hampered by weather, distance, timing and other factors, leaving paid professional lobbyists wielding disproportionate influence over the process. Sharing an opinion with a lawmaker can be as easy as dashing off an email. But for those willing to take the time, learning to lobby like a pro can help ordinary citizens play a more influential and fulfilling role in shaping the laws that govern their own lives.

Coal industry seeks exports to Asia while U.S. market falters

America’s No. 2 coal-producer, Arch Coal Inc., announced last week that it paid $25 million to acquire 38 percent interest in Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, LLC, one of dozens of companies scrambling to boost coal export capacity from the West Coast to customers in Asia.With the Millennium Bulk deal, Arch joins Peabody Energy Corp. — both major producers of Powder River Basin coal in Wyoming — in banking on the Asian coal market for growth. Wyoming coal producers Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Cloud Peak Energy and railroads Union Pacific and BNSF Railway have all expressed interest in boosting coal exports from the West Coast.

Niobrara oil drilling saps county road budgets

Local officials know their rural roads were never meant to handle this kind of industrial traffic. “We’ve seen some of the roads disintegrate. These roads were designed for pickups and horse trailers, not the 100,000-pound loads we’re seeing,” said State Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Veteran. Laramie County Road and Bridge Supervisor Don Beard said bad weather conditions worsen the damage caused by heavy trucks. “They don’t care if the road is frozen, if it’s raining, or snowing, too hot, too dry, too windy, or too cold. They’ll operate on those roads and that’s where the damage begins to occur,” Beard said.

Group with ready-made legislation spurs calls for more disclosure

Though members of Wyoming's citizen Legislature pride themselves on being closely connected to their constituents, voters might be surprised to learn that some laws proposed and passed in Cheyenne are first shaped by state lawmakers and major corporations during privately funded junkets in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. As the 2011 legislative session convenes this week, some watchdog groups — and at least one legislator — are calling for better disclosure from lobbyists and greater transparency from groups that seek to influence or propose specific laws.

High court takes up interstate river battle

The Supreme Court this week wades into a dispute between Montana and Wyoming over water rights to two rivers that flow through both states. Montana claims Wyoming farmers and industries are using too much water in a region where it remains a scarce resource. At issue are the waters of the Powder and Tongue rivers, both tributaries of the Yellowstone River, which run into Montana from Wyoming.

Back on Track: Wyoming coal rebounds amid market, regulatory uncertainty

Wyoming coal producers fared well during a tumultuous year for the industry nationwide, increasing output by an estimated 2.6 percent in 2010. It’s a modest recovery in production, after slipping 7.8 percent in 2009. Wyoming’s year-to-date coal production as of December 25 was 434 million tons, and the industry was on track to finish the year at 442.5 million tons, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

BLM's Conservation Experiment

Under the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's mandate to manage for "multiple use and sustained yield," grazing, mining and drilling have historically trumped conservation, while lands with significant scenic, biological or cultural resources were usually relinquished to the National Park Service. Then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt tried to change that in 2000 when he created the National Landscape Conservation System, now totaling 27 million acres of national monuments, wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, and historic trails. It's like a more rugged version of the national parks, complete with scenery, wildlife, and archaeological and cultural sites.

Casper’s Last Neighborhood Grocery Struggles to Survive

Bill and Nancy Wayte own Grant Street Grocery, the last neighborhood grocery store in Casper. In its heyday, Casper had 99 neighborhood grocery stores. The Waytes sell high-quality goods, donate to local nonprofit groups and help distribute locally grown produce. But all their efforts may not be enough to keep the store’s doors open. Small, locally owned stores often have higher inventory and per-customer operating costs, and face intense competitive pressures from billion-dollar corporate chain stores.