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Pinedale Anticline

A QEP Resources drilling rig operates on the Pinedale Anticline in May 2012.

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) $45.33, Brent (ICE) $52.20

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $3.55, Wyoming Pool $3.73, Opal $3.78

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 1,080, Wyoming 34 (The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's Dec. 10 rig count from Drillinginfo was 42.)

Quote of the Week

 “Culture is a hard thing to measure. I feel like we’ve got some of the best employers in the state in terms of safety practices, culture and leadership. But we probably also have some of the worst … That’s not unique to Wyoming.”

-- Meredith Towle, state epidemiologist on Wyoming's workplace safety record

A recovery year in oil

Most of the oil and gas stories in 2018 focused on one thing: improvement. The price was up, and the price was gradually improving through most of the year, with an unfortunate turn in the final months. Here are of the stories charting oil's improving outlook.

A dangerous business

2017 was an ebb year for workplace fatalities, but the most consistent cause of death for Wyoming workers was unchanged, according to the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services annual fatality report.

Vehicle crashes, on highways, sides roads and worksites, continue to take the lives of workers, while other sources of danger like contact with equipment elude experts searching for trends that can be addressed with research and training. 

NYSE warns Cloud Peak

Cloud Peak's low stock price has been a source of concern for some time, so the notification from the New York Stock Exchange that Cloud Peak was risking a delisting did not come as a surprise. 

The only pure Powder River Basin player recently slashed benefits for retirees as part of a cost-savings strategy and planned retention bonuses for executives. The firm has not survived the post-downturn tightening of the coal market as well as some other players, despite its reputation for being a tight and smart producer. The company announced this winter that it would be considering a sale, among other options for the firm going forward. 

Parity or division?

Energy appears as divisive as politics these days, with fossil fuels often on the ropes in the fight over what sector should provide the U.S. with its incredible energy demands in the face of climate change. But a UW researcher argues that ordinary people are less divided than it would seem, willing to make trade-offs and find a reasonable solution.

Mining drives personal income growth

Improvements in the oil and gas sector have helped drive improvement in how much Wyomingites are taking home. Personal income growth was up across the Rockies, with Wyoming lagging behind Colorado but ahead of Montana. 

Wyo rules expand as feds retreat

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has finalized its expanded guidance for new oil and gas facilities, echoing some of the rules that had only applied to the Upper Green River Basin.

Proponents of the rules have pressed for this expansion for years, an effort that increased in pitch as the Trump administration sought to roll back methane rules at the federal level. 

Looking back: Ramaco and the Legislature

A coal firm denied a permit found some friends in the Wyoming Legislature, who scolded the independent environmental review board that denied the permit. The Environmental Quality Council came up for review -- though original plans to cut its funding were left on the legislative floor. With that study of the board's efficiency, staffing and funding, lawmakers are proposing some modest changes but not cutting the board's independence as some feared.

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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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