Articles written by Dustin Bleizeffer

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  • Haze of controversy: EPA must force stricter air quality controls in Wyoming, conservation groups say

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Jun 6, 2024

    After sparring in court over the first 10-year phase of the Regional Haze Program, state and federal regulators - along with environmental groups and industrial polluters - are preparing for battle in the next phase of the effort that is intended to gradually restore "natural visibility" at some 156 national parks and wilderness areas. Wyoming's second-round "state implementation plan" awaits approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is expected to begin accepting public... Full story

  • Wyoming stakeholders nudge feds in opposing directions on sage grouse conservation plan

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|May 2, 2024

    As home to about 38% of the planet's remaining greater sage grouse - far more than any other state or province - and the architect of key conservation measures, Wyoming has a lot to gain or lose from upcoming changes to the complex, multi-agency matrix of rules and regulations governing management of the imperiled bird and its habitat. Those stakes were top of mind Wednesday evening for Natrona County rancher Doug Cooper and others who attended a BLM information session on the agency's recently... Full story

  • State slaps down utility's effort to relitigate controversial rate hike

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Apr 18, 2024

    State utility regulators on Thursday denied a request by Rocky Mountain Power to relitigate its recently resolved request for a rate hike, commenting they were “offended” by one of the utility’s allegedly misleading arguments. The company had hoped to add two charges to its Wyoming customers’ bills, despite those increases having been tossed in December following months of intense debate. Rocky Mountain Power, Wyoming’s largest electric utility, filed an application for “rehearing” portions of two 2023 rate cases, which began with a reques... Full story

  • High hopes, or hype, for rare earth mining in Wyoming?

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Mar 14, 2024

    There's a lot of hope, and maybe some hype, for commercial-scale rare earth element mining in Wyoming, which is home to one of the largest proven high-concentrated deposits in North America. That interest comes at a time of increasing demand for rare earths, which are essential components for modern technologies but are mined almost exclusively outside the U.S. If the hope becomes reality, it could mean a potential new, billion dollar mining industry for Wyoming. The Bear Lodge deposit near... Full story

  • Federal court overturns Obama-era coal leasing moratorium

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Feb 29, 2024

    A federal appeals court has overturned an Obama-era moratorium for new coal mine leasing on public lands - an "unequivocal win" for Wyoming's coal industry, according to Gov. Mark Gordon. Yet the decision, which the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down on Wednesday, likely will not result in a rush on new federal coal leases in Wyoming. The three-judge panel even noted an apparent "de facto moratorium" dictated by markets that has all but erased demand for major new federal coal tracts - a... Full story

  • Wyoming officials blame Biden for coal mine layoffs

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Dec 7, 2023

    Wyoming leaders blame Biden administration coal policies as well as bureaucratic delays they claim are deliberate for layoffs at the Black Butte coal mine in southwest Wyoming. Nineteen miners were notified this week that they'd lose their jobs, and more layoffs could be in the works, according to reports. WyoFile was unable to confirm the information with Black Butte Coal. Gov. Mark Gordon's press secretary Michael Pearlman told WyoFile, "We don't have any concrete information, although we had... Full story

  • Lawmakers use power bill increase to target renewable energy

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Sep 7, 2023

    Fear and outrage about rising electric rates have set the stage for lawmakers to go after renewable energy and possibly throw up roadblocks to future wind and solar development in the state. Rocky Mountain Power has testified and submitted data to show that volatile fossil fuel pricing - including a spike in December that boosted Wyoming's revenue outlook - is the primary driver behind its staggering 30% rate hike proposal. But some lawmakers, and many of the utility's customers, say renewables... Full story

  • Residents, elected officials blast utility over historic Wyoming rate hike

    Dustin Bleizeffer, WyoFile|Aug 31, 2023

    Rocky Mountain Power's proposal to hike electric utility rates in Wyoming by an average of 29.2%, if approved, would put households and businesses in peril and only serve to line the pockets of the company's shareholders and executives, which includes its parent company PacifiCorp's owner, billionaire Warren Buffett. That was the consensus among about two dozen people who spoke at a public comment hearing held by the Wyoming Public Service Commission Thursday in Casper. "We're going to lose a lo...

  • State to back carbon storage, nuclear microreactor projects with $19M

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Aug 17, 2023

    The state's top energy office has recommended two energy projects for a combined $19 million in support from a Wyoming taxpayer-funded program established to provide matching dollars for federal energy and carbon capture grants. Some $9.1 million would go to the Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub in southwest Wyoming, and $10 million would support a "nuclear microreactor" effort to assess the manufacture and deployment of small-scale nuclear reactors in the state and beyond, according to the Wyoming... Full story

  • Electricity bills could climb 22% for Rocky Mountain Power customers

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Jul 20, 2023

    Wyoming's largest electric utility, Rocky Mountain Power, wants to hike prices by nearly 22%, a request that's primarily driven by volatile natural gas and coal markets, according to the company. It's the largest rate increase request the regulated-monopoly utility has made in more than a decade, and it would result in an additional $16.42 per month for the average household customer, according to the company. A hearing on the matter, including an opportunity for public comment, will take place...

  • TransWest Express poised to expand reach of Wyo renewables

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Jun 22, 2023

    After 15 years of planning and permitting, construction will begin this year on the TransWest Express high-voltage transmission line - a milestone expansion of Wyoming's electric power export industry to markets in the American Southwest and one of the largest transmission upgrades to the western grid in decades. The Bureau of Land Management granted TransWest Express LLC a "notice to proceed" in April, culminating years of work and millions of dollars invested in a "vision" to bring Wyoming's...

  • DOE awards Wyoming $41M for carbon storage hub

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Jun 15, 2023

    The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $40.5 million to the University of Wyoming to advance a "large-scale" commercial carbon storage hub in the southwest corner of the state. It's the latest show of federal support for cleaner energy projects in the state, and comes as a result of years of foundation laying in the sector. The Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub - part of the federal CarbonSAFE Initiative - will be located near Granger, west of Green River, according to a UW official. Texas-based...

  • Towns face chicken-and-egg dilemma with nuclear project needs

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Jun 1, 2023

    KEMMERER- When a 16-inch diameter ductile-iron municipal water pipeline failed this spring, a crew dug in for repairs. They found that the 40-year-old line was so brittle that repressuring it after patching it up created more breaks 100 yards away. The crew chased and patched leaks over several days until they ran out of repair "bands" and had to find a manufacturer to build new ones. Forty-seven homes were without potable water for days as the community pitched in with water deliveries and...

  • Extra releases from Flaming Gorge suspended

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Mar 16, 2023

    The Bureau of Reclamation suspended extra "drought response" releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir Tuesday at the request of Wyoming and the other three Upper Colorado River Basin states. The reservoir, which straddles the Wyoming-Utah border, was tapped for an extra 500,000 acre-feet of water starting in May 2022 to help ensure that water levels downstream at Lake Powell don't drop low enough to threaten hydroelectric power generation at Glen Canyon Dam this year. An estimated 463,000... Full story

  • Water managers: Lower Flaming Gorge levels the 'new norm' , for now

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Dec 29, 2022

    Lower water levels at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which have left several boat ramps and docks high and dry, are likely the “new normal” for years to come, according to federal officials. The Bureau of Reclamation’s most recent water-balancing adjustment under the Colorado River drought contingency plan, announced this month, maintains current plans at Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Wyoming-Utah border. Those plans entail releasing an extra 500,000 acre-feet of water through April as per actions implemented in May. However, Flaming Gorge — alo...

  • Railroad under fire for costly decrease in coal shipments

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Dec 29, 2022

    Union Pacific Railway, one of two railroad companies that haul coal out of the Powder River Basin, is under fire for curtailing shipments to customers, including power plants. The failure to meet customer coal demand has resulted in less coal-fired power generation and higher costs to ratepayers for natural gas purchases to replace coal power. Coal-fueled power plants nationwide have responded by "curtailing operations for parts of the year in order to conserve fuel for peak seasons," National...

  • Flaming Gorge drawdown threatens local fishing, recreation economy

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Oct 13, 2022

    FLAMING GORGE RESERVOIR-The shoreline of this large reservoir on the Wyoming-Utah border has steadily receded this summer as the Bureau of Reclamation pumped more water out to help maintain critical water levels 500 miles away at Lake Powell. The water shrunk from boat ramps and forced marinas to scoot docks ever inward. By September, 6 feet of vertical drop in the water level translated into vast areas of exposed lakebed, leaving many boat ramps on the northern reaches of the reservoir high... Full story

  • ExxonMobil to store CO2 on BLM lands in Wyoming

    Dustin Bleizeffer, via the Wyoming News Exchange|Sep 8, 2022

    ExxonMobil has received a federal permit to inject CO2 for permanent underground storage below public Bureau of Land Management property in southwest Wyoming. The company will inject up to 60 million cubic feet of CO2 per day from its Shute Creek natural gas processing facility near La Barge, according to the BLM. The greenhouse gas will be stored in a briny portion of the Madison Aquifer some 18,000 feet below the surface in an area that straddles the border between Lincoln and Sweetwater counties. The permit is a first-of-its-kind for the...

  • Drought prompts 'unprecedented' drawdown of the Flaming Gorge

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Jun 2, 2022

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will release an extra 500,000 acre feet of water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to help maintain hydroelectric generation at Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam amid drought conditions that have parched the West for more than two decades. The action will draw down Flaming Gorge Reservoir’s surface about 10 feet by August and possibly a total of 15 feet later in the fall, according to the BOR. News of the Flaming Gorge release follows calls on two other river systems in Wyoming in April. Those actions were also pro...

  • Closure at Jim Bridger avoided

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|May 5, 2022

    A coal-burning unit at the Jim Bridger power plant will be allowed to remain in operation pending a second revision of the state’s regional haze compliance plan, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal agency confirmed Monday it has no plans to order PacifiCorp to shut down Unit 2 — among four coal-burning units — at the Jim Bridger power plant east of Rock Springs, despite blowing past a January 1 deadline to install regional haze pollution controls. It cited a sue-and-settle consent decree reached in February betwe...

  • Mandate could spike monthly bills by $100

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Apr 21, 2022

    Adding carbon-capture systems to existing coal-fired power plants in Wyoming could cost the average residential ratepayer an additional $100 per month, according to Black Hills Corp’s initial filings to the Wyoming Public Service Commission. The retrofit costs alone could range from $400 million to $1 billion for each coal unit, according to PacifiCorp, which operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming. Adding carbon capture utilization and storage technologies would also significantly reduce electrical generation efficiency at the coal p...

  • PacifiCorp seeks $26M rate increase citing extreme weather

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Apr 21, 2022

    Blistering heat waves across the West helped spike wholesale electric power prices in 2021 as drought conditions sapped hydroelectric capacity. The extreme weather prompted utility giant PacifiCorp to file for rate increases this month across its six-state operating region. PacifiCorp, which operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming, has requested a 4% “energy cost adjustment” for its Wyoming customers, totalling $26.3 million. If approved, its average Wyoming residential customer would see his or her monthly bill increase by $1.97 beg...

  • Following Cheney censure, Wyo. Republicans evaluate allegiances

    Mike Koshmrl and Dustin Bleizeffer,|Feb 10, 2022

    ROCK SPRINGS - To Lenore Perry's eye, the Holiday Inn ballroom Saturday night was packed with red dresses, scarlet shirts and a lot of Harriet Hageman supporters. Perry, an attorney, has the same profession as Hageman, who also attended the adult-prom themed "Conservatives in Crimson" gala. Hageman's appeal as a candidate to replace sitting U.S. House Rep. Liz Cheney stems not from their dealings in the courtroom, she said, but rather from getting to know her as a fellow Republican in the... Full story

  • PacifiCorp continues to run coal unit with approval in limbo

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Jan 13, 2022

    PacifiCorp continues to operate unit 2 at the Jim Bridger coal-fired power plant despite running afoul of a federal regional haze permit — an infraction some believed would force a Jan. 1 shutdown. Gov. Mark Gordon, who recently attempted to intervene in the regulatory noncompliance, warned in late December the Environmental Protection Agency might force the unit to shut down on Jan. 1. “In several short days, PacifiCorp will be forced to shut down Unit 2, lay off employees, and buy power to make up for the lost generation,” Gordon wrote in a...

  • Governor signs order to postpone partial Bridger shutdown

    Dustin Bleizeffer,|Dec 30, 2021

    Gov. Mark Gordon issued an emergency suspension order Monday seeking to temporarily block the Environmental Protection Agency from potentially shutting down one of four coal-burning units at the Jim Bridger power plant for falling out of compliance with regional haze parameters. Jim Bridger owner and operator PacifiCorp — which operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming — has until Jan. 1 to install “selective catalytic reduction” controls to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions at unit 2, and until the end of 2022 to install the controls at unit...

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