Over the past six months, the Star-Tribune has been speaking with high school and college students in Wyoming to learn more about what path they believe the state should take as it adapts to the changing energy landscape and economy.
Wyoming is contending with one of the most debilitating financial crises in its 136-year history. Budget cuts have gouged nearly every state department, businesses have shuttered and a pandemic has taken the lives of 57 Wyomingites. Meanwhile, a fundamental shift in where our electricity comes from is relentlessly undermining the traditional energy industries the state has come to rely on for fundamental services.
The state has a prodigious task in front of it: rebuilding an economy historically built around energy into one that can adapt, maintain its resilience and serve generations to come.
That’s no small task.
So what do young people in Wyoming think about all this? Their voices matter and deserve a platform. At a time of more questions than answers, why not turn to the young people living through this moment and ask for their ideas?
The conversations I held this year with young Wyomingites reaffirmed to me just how vital listening to the next generation can be, and how important it is to take their ideas seriously.
In addition to sitting down for interviews, participants in this project were offered the opportunity to contribute to the Star-Tribune. By doing so, they expressed their ideas, opined some of their first newspaper articles and shed light on ways the state can transform itself.
Third-generation Wyomingite Rachelle Trujillo, a 19-year-old living in Casper, urged Wyoming to take a long and hard look at climate change and the ways we might be contributing to the problem.
Mindy Songer, 20, spent months researching the potentials behind an innovative farming method in Sheridan.
Chase Galley, 21, did not glorify his time spent working in the state’s minerals industries in southwest Wyoming. He’s now going to school to build another career. But he wants to stay in Wyoming, if the state can provide stable economic opportunities.
And there’s the young engineer Sarah Marie Buckhold who hopes the state will capitalize on its indomitable wind resource so she can stay and pursue her career here.
These are just a few examples of the young people who are trying to solve today’s problems.
I hope you take time to read about their ideas in the Star-Tribune’s special section, located inside this Sunday’s print edition. You can also access each of the stories online at trib.com.
Last week in energy news:
Wyoming’s energy industry continued to limp along in September with price, production and employment indexes trailing far behind last year, a new report published by Wyoming’s Economic Analysis Division shows. Numbers provided in the report demonstrate just how devastating the economic blows during the COVID-19 pandemic have been to the state’s leading industry.
Citizen groups from across the country have banded together to ensure a bankrupt coal company cleans up its idling coal mines. The cohort of conservation advocates allege several mining sites formerly operated by the bankrupt coal firm Blackjewel have become serious environmental liabilities and are at risk of not being cleaned up, according to court documents filed last week.
The Wyoming Energy Authority is on the lookout for help developing its new and improved “energy strategy” for the state. As the newest governmental body to form here, the Wyoming Energy Authority is tasked with charting the course for the state’s domineering industries. What that looks like on the ground largely remains to be seen as the agency gets up and running.
OIL & GAS
The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved a regulatory change for underground disposal wells on Tuesday. Disposal wells are used by oil and gas operators to collect oil field waste, like produced water. The rule change was prompted by a new law, which endowed the oil and gas commission with the authority to regulate both commercial and non-commercial underground disposal wells.
In a win for Wyoming’s oil and gas industry, a federal court overturned a rule limiting the amount of methane and other pollutants emitted during natural gas production on public and tribal lands this month.
WIND & SOLAR
Sales and use tax collection grew almost 146% in Carbon County in September, thanks to hearty wind energy development. Most other Wyoming counties recorded heavy losses.
CONSERVATION & PUBLIC LANDS
The Bureau of Land Management will open up about 280,162 acres of public land for oil and gas development in its final sale of the year.
The U.S. Forest Service began assessing the damage left behind by the Mullen Fire in southeastern Wyoming. Fire experts anticipate cooler and wetter conditions in the coming weeks will slow the fire’s intensity. The Burned Area Emergency Response team will conduct a review of the fire over 17 days and then submit a report to the forest supervisor, so funding can be distributed to necessary recovery projects.
Quote of the week
“As a third generation Wyomingite, I want the best for our state. I want to see my loved ones employed and our communities booming. Simultaneously, I want my children to grow up on a planet with oceans they can swim in and clean air they can breathe.”
— Rachelle Trujillo, 19, grew up in Casper and is now a freshman at Casper College studying international studies and communications.
Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry and the environment at @camillereports
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