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Cloud Peak

A shovel loads haulers with coal at Cloud Peak Energy's Antelope Mine north of Douglas. The troubled company plans to give lump-sum bonuses to its executives.

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Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $55.26, Brent (ICE) 62.88

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $2.98, Wyoming Pool $3.33, Opal $3.38

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 1,045, Wyoming 33 (The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's Jan. 7 rig count from Drillinginfo was 43.)

Quote of the Week

 “If you are in an ailing industry and you’ve got a lot of debt, there are only so many financial tricks that you can try."

Clark Williams-Derry, director of energy finance at the Sightline Institute in Seattle

Solar in a coal town

Solar energy has not made much of a footprint in Wyoming, aside from interest from some ranchers and homeowners and small installation from some utilities. But another solar development is considering Wyoming, proposing a farm just outside Kemmerer where earlier this week PacifiCorp shut down one of its coal-fired units. 

Wyomingites' unique conservationism 

Three-fourths of Wyomingites would call themselves conservationists, placing high value on their open spaces, according to Colorado College's annual State of the Rockies poll. The survey of Mountain West voters focuses on issues like the environment, outdoor recreation and public lands. The energy dominance strategy from the Trump administration appears to have unsettled a number of those polled, though less so, it appears, in Wyoming. 

Coal numbers down in 2018

Employment at Wyoming coal mines was down by 137 workers, according to federal counts. Overall production last year fell by about 4 percent compared to the previous year. 

Cloud Peak exec get bonuses

A few months ago, executives at Cloud Peak Energy were looking at retention bonuses that would be doled out gradually. The coal company with an uncertain future in the Powder River Basin has scratched that plan in favor of lump-sum payments of double or more of base salary for leadership. 

No shutdown delay on sales

The first-quarter oil and gas lease sale from the BLM will go forward next month -- as will the supplemental sale of sage grouse parcels this month -- despite delays from the partial federal shutdown. 

Most Wyoming BLMers were out of work for most of the 35-day shutdown, but some were employed taking care of oil and gas business. Environmental groups are calling foul on the upcoming lease sale, arguing that there wasn't enough time for the agency to review comments, given the shutdown. 

No time for eggs

A measure proposed by Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, would extend the limits on sage grouse farming in Wyoming by 10 years. 

The only farm in the state to pursue captive breeding of the finicky bird has struggled to meet the requirement created by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and says it faces significant expenses if it wants to proceed. Right now, the farm, which has recently changed hands, is waiting on the creation of a foundation by oilman and former Republican lawmaker Diemer True to potentially fund the project. But the time limits put in place when the sage grouse farming bill was originally approved by lawmakers are creating additional pressure that the bill, proponents say, would alleviate. 

Sage grouse farming is frequently criticized by Wyoming scientists who argue that preserving habitat should be the focus of conserving the bird. 

Permitting battle hits Cheyenne

Wyoming's oil and gas permitting battle has found a little play in the legislature, but solutions don't appear to have much traction. Industry lobbyists are pushing for a discussion on permitting rules, regs and statutes to be held off for the interim. 

Wyoming has long hoped to get its coal across the Pacific, particularly as the thermal market in the U.S. continues to face tremendous pressure. The Wyoming Legislature is considering a bill this year that would authorize spending for a private attorney to fight for a coal port in Washington state, where pushback and red tape have stalled the coal export terminal. 

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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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