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Gas Prices

Customers fill up their vehicles with gas at the Conoco station off North Center Street in October in Casper. While the price of oil is down, many Wyoming consumers haven't enjoyed a big drop at the pump.

Have an event, trend or general energy happening you’d like to see in the Energy Journal newsletter? Send it to Star-Tribune energy reporter Heather Richards at heather.richards@trib.com. Sign up for the newsletter at trib.com/energyjournal

Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $53.80, Brent (ICE) $62.70

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $2.84, Wyoming Pool $3.02, Opal $3.06

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 1,050, Wyoming 34 (The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's Jan. 7 rig count from Drillinginfo was 43.)

Quote of the Week

“When is it going to take off? I don’t know. Experts keep predicting. They set a date, and the date comes and goes.”

-- Glenn Catchpole on the long-expected improvement in the uranium price

Cutting uranium taxes

Some lawmakers say the uranium industry needs a tax break. Uranium mines in Wyoming have been struggling to keep active due to the fierce competition from cheap international uranium. Production is so low the income Wyoming would let go of will be made up in the jobs kept at Wyoming mines. 

Westmoreland pleads the 11 

The coal firm that owns the Kemmerer mine asked a Houston bankruptcy judge for permission to cut retiree benefits and employee obligations last week. The company argued in court filings that it would be unable to sell the Kemmerer mine if the mine carried the miners' contract and its former miner health benefits. 

Oil money forecast slides for Wyo

Due to the late year drop in crude prices, Wyoming's revenue outlook has lost some of its swagger. In severance taxes alone, the income projection has fallen by $95.7 million, according to the January update to the annual revenue forecast published by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group. 

Update on oilfield fatality

Preliminary findings following an explosion that killed an oil and gas worker last fall count limited training as a significant factor in the incident. The investigation into what happened in October, and whether safety precautions could have prevented or mitigated the fire, is ongoing. 

Economic concerns linger 

State economists note that the shrinking labor force in Wyoming continues to be a concern.  While oil production has driven moderate growth and the economics of the two largest cities in the state -- Casper and Cheyenne -- are improving, Wyoming's coal and natural gas production have fallen, according to the most recent MACRO Report from the Economic Analysis Division. Construction spending is down and the job growth in the oil and gas sector is minimal despite the gains in that industry. 

Tracking oil in the shutdown 

An advocacy group is tracking how much oil and gas permitting goes on during the shutdown, concerned that though personnel have been green lit to help industry keep going during the partial federal shutdown, the result is keeping the public in the dark. 

According to the Center for Western Priorities, the BLM has approved four drilling permits in Wyoming since the shutdown and accepted 15 applications for permits to drill. The agency has also accepted 43 nominations of land parcels for upcoming oil and gas lease sales within the Cowboy State.

More than three dozen groups signed on to a letter last week asking the acting Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, to postpone upcoming oil and gas lease auctions because of the on again, off again access to records during the shutdown. Wyoming has a February supplemental sale planned -- parcels that were deferred by a court order last year -- as well as the first quarter sale. 

Leadership in the state office has insisted in exchanges with environmental groups that the agency continues to work in accordance with federal law regarding analysis and public transparency during the shutdown. In addition to staff brought back to work to process industry's requests, experts needed to analyze impacts -- from endangered species to cultural sites -- will be utilized depending on funding, leadership has stated. 

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Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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