The federal agency responsible for the emissions-cutting Clean Power Plan will hold a public meeting today in Gillette, one of only three across the country this season as the agency plans to dissolve the Obama-era rule.
The Clean Power Plan would have dealt a painful blow to one of Wyoming’s key industries, and both its supporters and opponents are lining up to speak at the event in coal country.
Many of the arguments will be familiar to those who have followed the development, and more recent devolution, of the Clean Power Plan. Supporters say regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions are a necessary step towards combating climate change. Others will criticize the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation as an unwieldy and ineffective tool that targeted the coal industry.
Some may criticize climate science, which identifies the burning of fossil fuels as the catalyst for human-caused climate change. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, along with others in the Trump administration, has expressed doubts about that conclusion, despite a widespread consensus of scientists from NASA to the University of Wyoming.
Finalized in 2015, the plan aimed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by about 30 percent compared to 2005 levels. It would start taking effect in 2022 and ramp up to full implementation by 2030. But the plan was immediately tied up in court when states like Wyoming objected. Wyoming economists noted a potential 25 to 50 percent reduction in the state’s coal production if the plan was implemented.
President Donald Trump’s campaign promised to repeal the rule. The pledge sent a hopeful jolt through Wyoming’s coal industry, which at the time suffered from contractions in coal demand, bankruptcies and layoffs.
Gillian Malone, a supporter of carbon dioxide emissions regulations and a member of the Powder River Basin Resource Council said in a statement Monday that the coal industry will continue to face market pressures with or without the Clean Power Plan, noting the closure of coal plants across the country in favor of natural gas and renewables.
“The Trump Administration’s efforts to champion coal haven’t been successful in bringing coal back, and cutting the Clean Power Plan won’t save coal jobs and communities,” Malone said.
“There is no doubt that we face headwinds,” Deti said. “We face competition from natural gas and low gas prices. But they are separate issues. This is dealing with the regulatory burden on the industry.”
The Clean Power Plan was designed to push coal out of the electricity mix, he said. A less-punitive approach that utilizes carbon capture technology would be preferable from industry’s perspective, he said, noting Wyoming’s work in capturing carbon dioxide and studying its alternative uses.
“You address the carbon dioxide. You solve it with technology, and you keep coal as a viable industry,” he said.
Repealing the Clean Power Plan is not a simple step. The Environmental Protection Agency is required to go through a similar process in undoing or rewriting the Clean Power Plan as it did when crafting it.
Tuesday’s meeting to discuss unraveling the plan is part of that public process.
Despite the contention over the Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency is also hamstrung by an endangerment finding from 2009. It determined that carbon dioxide was a harmful emission that the agency had to regulate under the Clean Air Act. Under the finding, the agency will have to attempt to curb carbon dioxide emissions, of which coal-burning power plants are a key contributor.
The EPA originally only scheduled a single meeting in West Virginia coal country. It was heavily attended by both sides, and the department later scheduled three additional listening sessions in San Francisco, Kansas City, Missouri and Gillette.
Pruitt, the EPA administrator, will be visiting coal country later in the week to see Wyoming’s industry first hand. The state’s delegates to Washington applauded the visit.
“In our community, it doesn’t take long to understand how the coal industry is a source of reliable and affordable energy, a provider of high paying jobs and an amazing steward of the land,” said Sen. Mike Enzi, former mayor of Gillette “If a picture is worth a thousand words, being on the ground is worth more than a thousand pictures.”
The rowdy Green River student section, sitting 20 rows deep at Wolves Gym, groaned as their team committed another turnover.
It was only three minutes into the first quarter, but the Wolves trailed rival Rock Springs 10-2 in the Feb. 15 game.
Rock Springs had implemented a different defense than Green River expected — and it showed. The Wolves were apprehensive with ball movement and shot selection.
Green River head coach Laurie Ivie could see her team was jittery. The traveling Tigers fans hollered with the confidence of a team that had defeated its rival 12 straight times. Ivie called a timeout.
“We need to settle in,” she told her team. “We still look like deer in the headlights.”
She told the Wolves their energy needed to be all out. They needed to scrap, like they had so many times before.
Ivie’s speech worked. The Wolves forced a turnover on the first possession after the timeout. The Wolves converted on the other end. Then again. Suddenly, Green River had a 14-10 lead.
With 28 seconds left in the game, Ivie looked up at the scoreboard. Green River held a 10-point lead.
Ivie paced along the bench. It felt like the clock wasn’t moving at all.
“Tick, clock, tick,” she thought.
Twenty-eight game seconds later the horn finally sounded. The Green River students, who helped fill the 1,300-capacity gym, stormed the court to celebrate with their winning classmates. Ivie applauded in celebration.
“The Wolves end the 12-game losing streak,” KUGR’s Steve Core told listeners of the game’s broadcast. “For the first time since 2012 Green River beats Rock Springs, 78-69.”
Green River had just two upperclassmen and a record losing streak during Ivie’s first game as Wolves head coach. Now, in her third year at the helm, the Wolves were contending for an automatic bid into the state tournament.
The community embraced a team that just a few years earlier no one wanted to watch. The despondent days of a seemingly endless losing streak faded into distant memory.
The Wolves began the 2017-2018 season 7-0, their best starting record since the turn of the millennium. The perfect start to the season ended in a one-point loss to eventual state runner-up Sheridan. Following a 28-point victory over Laramie to end non-conference play, the Wolves were ranked for the first time in nine years.
“We’re not redoing everything this year,” Ivie said. “We’re not having to start from ground zero and everything this year so we can advance off everything we have in place.”
The conference season, however, did not bring the same good fortune. Green River went 1-2 in its first three West Conference games, including two 16-point losses to Evanston and Rock Springs. Inconsistent play, the same issue that plagued the promising young team a year earlier, returned.
Ivie challenged her players to aim for the top of the conference ladder. No losses were acceptable, especially ones so lopsided. If this team wanted to achieve the dream of a state tournament bid, they needed to return to their scrappy roots, she reminded them.
Green River limped its way to Casper. Wearing warm-up shirts with the team motto — “It’s not about me. It’s about us.” — the Wolves prepared for a 32-minute battle with Natrona County.
Late points from junior Chase Stoeger and senior Chance Hofer — two of the young players Ivie had been focusing on since starting the job — secured a grueling victory.
Ivie’s concern then turned to the following game against defending state champion Kelly Walsh. The Trojans had run away from Green River by 21 points the year before.
Ivie paced the sidelines as she watched her team. During the game’s calmer moments, she crouched on the balls of her feet. She leaped up repeatedly to encourage her players or give them tips.
“Get there,” she repeated to senior Cameron Morris. “Good Cam!”
The final horn sounded. The Wolves won 57-39. It was the first time the team beat both Casper high schools since 1982.
“I feel like if we show up like we did tonight, we can play against anybody,” Ivie said. “We’re top contenders.”
The Wolves confidently boarded their bus and returned to Green River with a firm grasp on second place in the West Conference. All five remaining conference games were to be played at Wolves Gym. Hope for a state championship bid was tangible.
“A lot of credit has to go to Laurie Ivie,” Core said. “She stuck with these kids since they were sophomores. There’s a lot of coaches who would get a couple of wins with older kids and sit the youth but she stuck with these kids and I’m proud of her for that.”
Ivie’s father, Ernie Dunn, watched from the stands at Jackson High School Gym as the Wolves prepared to play last month in a regional tournament. He had missed only one Wolves game during Ivie’s coaching stint.
After beating the Casper teams, the Wolves had gone on to lose four of their remaining five conference games. An automatic bid to the program’s first state tournament in nine years washed away. They needed to win one game at the regional tournament. A single victory separated Green River from ending a nine-year state tournament drought.
Core, the radio broadcaster, took to the airwaves in a plea to the community.
“These kids have earned Green River’s support,” he said.
Natrona County jumped out to an early lead. The Wolves did not score for the game’s first 4 minutes and missed routine layups. As Natrona County continually forced turnovers and started the second half on a 8-3 run to extend the lead to 42-25. Then bad turned to worse for the Wolves.
Senior Chance Hofer fell to the floor while attempting a rebound. The game halted while he clutched at his shoulder. The team’s leading scorer screamed in pain as he was helped to the bench.
When the game resumed, junior Chase Stoeger carried Green River at point guard. A starter since his freshman year under Ivie, Stoeger was not phased. He attacked the defense, Green River moved the ball and the baskets started to fall. Ivie alternated celebrating and pleading for more ball pressure.
The third-quarter buzzer sounded. Green River had cut the lead to 44-34. Hofer, still favoring his shoulder, checked into the scorer’s table and returned to the game for what could have been the final quarter of the season. An MRI would later reveal Hofer played the final quarter with a torn labrum.
Stoeger scored. Green River trailed by five. Hofer, a former junior varsity reserve who started for Ivie from day one, cut the lead to three. Senior Jake Angelovich hit a free throw to cut the lead further.
With 8 seconds left, Natrona County led 58-56.
The final buzzer sounded. Green River had come tantalizingly close but had fallen short. The chance to compete for the state championship evaporated.
“At that point we were in a good position,” Ivie said. “Got a turnover, big moment, one possession. Just couldn’t pull it out.”
Crushed and dejected, the Wolves returned to the locker room. The hours of film study, the grueling practices and trying bus rides ended in heartache.
“These kids have worked for this since the start of their sophomore year and it’s a powerful ending,” Ivie said. “It feels good after three years there to say we can compete with anyone in the state. But it’s still disappointing.”
Despite falling short of the tournament, the Wolves finished their season 14-8 — their first winning record since 2009. It’s an ending Ivie is proud of. She’s watched her players grow from inexperienced freshman to scrappy contenders. She watched as they learned that they could win. That if they worked hard, they could force a change.
“When I came in these were my babies and they started as sophomores,” Ivie said. “They didn’t want to own the 0-58 record because they weren’t part of it. And it was unacceptable. So they went to work.”
Ivie and her team also reinvigorated a love for basketball in Green River. Fans attend games. Younger students are practicing in hopes of someday joining the varsity squad.
“I do not have a gym in this town from elementary up where there’s not someone with younger kids playing basketball now,” Green River activities director Anthony Beardsley said. “There’s a lot going on and it’s extremely exciting. There’s more little kids’ basketball being played in Green River than has been played in a long time.”
Ten days after the season ended, the team regrouped one last time for the annual banquet. Seniors set to graduate in two months recapped their time playing basketball at Green River. They celebrated the program they had built. Ivie thanked her players for their dedication, for their work, for their trust.
The next day, she prepared workouts, camps and tournaments for the off-season. She thought of the promise in the upcoming freshman class, how she hoped to include them as much as possible. How perhaps they could be part of Green River’s eventual state tournament team.
“I hope that’s exactly where we’re headed,” she said.
More than 160 people have signed on to join a lawsuit filed by Mills against the Natrona County School District over the closure of the last school in the town’s area.
The group — at least 163 strong — is seeking to become part of a class-action suit against the district, which is set to shutter Mountain View Elementary in June, a year after it closed Mills Elementary. The initial lawsuit challenging the impending closure was filed in January, and within that complaint, the town reserved the right to turn the case into a class-action suit.
The district has asked a judge to dismiss Mills’ lawsuit, alleging that the town cannot sue on behalf of its residents and that it, as a municipality, will not suffer any actual harm from the closure of Mountain View. Making the case a class-action suit would bring those citizens into the litigation.
The signatures are attached to a March 23 filing seeking to do just that. In February, the town had asked a judge to keep Mountain View open until the litigation had run its course, arguing that it would cost the district relatively little to do so. But, the town’s attorneys have argued, closing the school and then reopening it would harm Mountain View and Mills at large.
But the district’s private attorneys argued against the request. They wrote in a court filing earlier this month that it would cost the district $750,000 to keep the school open and reverse the enrollment and replacement moves officials have completed or are working toward.
A message seeking comment from the school district’s private attorney was not returned Monday.
At least three Mountain View educators signed onto the petition, as did six students. Unsurprisingly, most people who signed on are parents, Mills residents or relatives of students.
“Kids go to school, would like to enroll in neighborhood school,” one woman wrote on the signup sheet.
Another unsurprising presence is that of Mills Mayor Seth Coleman, who two weeks ago accused the school board’s previous chairman, Kevin Christopherson, of trying to “bribe” Coleman by promising that Mountain View would be given priority to reopen if the town would buy Mills Elementary.
Christopherson has denied that the email was a bribe.
The town filed the suit, claiming that the district had acted unlawfully when its board voted in October to close Mountain View and three Casper schools. Officials cited falling state funding and dropping enrollment, particularly at Mountain View, as evidence that the schools had to be closed.
District officials have argued that while some in Mills claim Mountain View is a neighborhood school, the enrollment numbers suggest otherwise. Michael Jennings, the district’s executive director for human services, wrote in a court filing that 191 students live within a one-mile radius of Mountain View. Of that group, only 41 attend the school.
Jennings added that only 138 students are taught in the building, which has the capacity to hold 320 kids.
A hearing is scheduled to hear various arguments in April, Mills’ attorney said earlier this month.
WASHINGTON — From Washington to Warsaw, Western nations banded together Monday to expel more than 100 Russian diplomats they accused of being spies, punishing Moscow for its alleged poisoning of an ex-intelligence officer in Britain.
President Donald Trump, under constant political heat for his reluctance to challenge Russia, ordered 60 of its diplomats out of the U.S. — all of them spies, the White House said. The United States called it the largest expulsion of Russian spies in American history, and also shuttered Russia's consulate in Seattle, deeming it a counterintelligence threat.
All told, at least 21 countries have ousted more than 135 Russians, including 23 kicked out earlier by the U.K.
"Together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia's continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values," British Prime Minister Theresa May told Parliament.
The American moves illustrated an increased willingness by Trump's administration to push back on the Kremlin, even as the president himself steadfastly avoids challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin personally or directly. Less than a week ago, Trump congratulated Putin for his re-election but didn't raise the March 4 spy poisoning, Russia's alleged election-meddling in the U.S. or its own tainted voting process, prompting dismayed critiques even from Trump's fellow Republicans.
In a choreographed show of trans-Atlantic unity, the U.S. and European allies carefully timed their announcements for maximum effect.
Within a few hours, at least 16 European Union nations expelled Russians, with more likely to follow. Germany, Poland and France each said it planned to boot four Russian diplomats, the Czech Republic and Lithuania ousted three, and Italy and Australia expelled two. Canada also took action, kicking out four Russians and denying three who have applied to enter the country.
The list included nations in Russia's backyard that have perhaps the most at stake. Ukraine, a non-EU country with its own conflicts with Moscow, was expelling 13 Russians. All three Baltic states said they would make diplomats leave.
Almost all of the countries said publicly that those being expelled actually were Russians intelligence operatives working under diplomatic cover.
Moscow threatened retaliation of the tit-for-tat variety, suggesting it would kick out an equal number of foreign diplomats. Russia's Embassy in Washington responded to the Seattle consulate closure by asking its Twitter followers to "vote" which U.S. consulate should be shuttered in turn: St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg or Vladivostok.
"This is an attempt on the lives of Russian citizens on the territory of Great Britain," Russia's Foreign Ministry said. "It goes without saying that this unfriendly move by this group of countries will not go unnoticed."
Yet it was unclear whether the expulsions, which may be inconvenient for Moscow but don't take aim at its economy, would be enough to alter Putin's behavior.
"There is no actual deterrence and squeeze," said James Nixey, head of the Russia program at think-tank Chatham House. "There is, so far, no cyber-response, no financial response."
Still, the dueling allegations added to a serious escalation of tension and distrust between Russia and the West, intensified most recently by a bizarre poisoning this month that evoked the spy-vs.-spy rivalries of the Cold War.
Britain has accused Moscow of using the Soviet-developed nerve agent Novichok to poison Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer convicted of spying for the U.K., and his daughter, Yulia, on British soil. The two remain in critical condition and unconscious. The U.S., France and Germany have agreed it's highly likely Russia was responsible. Russia has denied responsibility, while accusing Britain of leading a global charge against it without proof.
The expulsions came with a chorus of condemnation for the Kremlin — for the poisoning, Russian spying and other Western grievances. Poland's Foreign Minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, called it "the right response to the unfriendly, aggressive actions of Russia." In the Czech Republic, where Russian officials have claimed the poison may have originated, Prime Minister Andrej Babis dismissed that allegation as "an utter lie."
And the United States warned of an "unacceptably high" number of Russian spies in the U.S., describing them as a national security threat. Among the 60 Russians expelled were a dozen posted to Russia's mission to the United Nations who senior U.S. officials said were engaged in "aggressive collection" of intelligence on American soil.
"When we see these espionage tactics that are taking place right here at the heart of the U.N., we can't have that," said Nikki Haley, Trump's envoy to the U.N.
In Washington, Russia's ambassador was summoned early in the morning and told his diplomats have one week to leave the U.S. and must evacuate the Consulate General in Seattle by Monday. Located on the 25th floor of a large, downtown office building, the consulate is a particular counter-intelligence concern because of its close proximity to a U.S. submarine base and a Boeing Co. facility, said U.S. officials.
The officials said they estimated Russia had roughly 100 intelligence officials in the U.S., suggesting that dozens will remain even after the 60 are expelled. The officials weren't authorized to be identified by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.