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Wind Energy

A truck drives through a field of wind turbines on Tuesday near Rolling Hills. A pending build out of new wind in Wyoming has some pushing for changes to federal laws that allow small firms to develop wind power whether its needed on the grid or not. 

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Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $49.29 Brent (ICE) $55.62

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $2.83, Wyoming Pool $2.4, Opal $2.46

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 936, Wyoming 23

Quote of the week  

Wind is a renewable resource, but where those wind farms are, they will be there forever. And they will sever something very important to you.” -- Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander

Wind politics

It was a windy week in Casper, appropriate given the number of wind stories that ended up in the paper since last Monday. Each came from the same conference, a two-day forum about wind development at the University of Wyoming. 

It'd be overkill to lay out each of the topics from that conference for a newsletter. In short, the forum addressed the coming wind build out in Wyoming, and highlighted the diversity of opinions that exist about the future of wind development in the state. 

Two interesting moments from the conference was a discussion of how some environmental advocates balance the impact of wind farms on avian species, particularly eagle deaths, with their desire for green electricity sources to combat climate change. 

Another thread that ran through the conference was Wyoming's current economic landscape. It is a very different state, financially, than the one that first grappled with utility scale wind farms years back. 

Sage grouse plans unlocked 

The news has been expected since spring, perhaps even before from some camps. The Interior Department is opening up the sage grouse management plans, a series of local and regional strategies to balance saving the sage grouse from further declines with developing oil and gas, ranching and private property rights.

The plans are closely aligned with Wyoming's, though some say the feds went too far. Both federal and state management follow the same principle, however: protect key habitats.

The Trump Administration has not been shy about its desire to open up federal lands for energy development, a winning platform for operators eager to unlock the Powder River Basin or facing years of delay for permitting on federal lands, for example. However, undoing the federal plans, in light of some the political rhetoric about energy, has environmental groups anticipating a total unraveling of the bird's protections. 

Potential change started last week, with a 45-day public comment period.  

Methane is back on the books, for a bit 

Of all the Obama-era rules that came under fire in the new administration, the Bureau of Land Management's methane standards have followed a unique trajectory. 

The Interior Department and industry keep trying to get rid of the rules, and they keep running into hurdles to do so. 

A court denied a stay on the rule's effective date early in the year. Congress tried to axe the rules and failed by three votes. The Interior tried to stay the rules anyway and a court last week said it couldn't do that without following the Administrative Procedures Act. 

So, that's what Interior will do. Whether companies are in compliance, seeking compliance or waiting to see what happens, is not clear. 

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner


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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