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Coal Train

A train transports coal on Aug. 27 from a mine south of Gillette. More than 90 percent of Wyoming coal goes to other states. Last week, Gillette-based Cloud Peak Energy announced it had secured a export agreement with two new Japanese power plants for 1 million tons per year. Cloud Peak's coal exports travel north by rail to a port in Vancouver. 

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This week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $47.35, Brent (ICE) $52.76

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $2.96, Wyoming Pool $2.65, Opal $2.9

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 943, Wyoming 25

Does lifting the moratorium matter?

Wyoming hasn't seen a flush of coal lease applications in recent years, and the fact is the moratorium didn't matter much in the nation's leading coal state. 

But in the wake of the moratorium, the question is what's next for leasing and coal in Wyoming. 

Companies say expanding existing mines is the most likely course. New leases are too costly at a time when demand is down. For environmentalists, coal companies have enough to last two decades. After that the industry as we know it might not exist. 

Coal royalty rule still disbanded

A California court ruled that the Trump Administration broke the law by delaying the Office of Natural Resources Revenue royalty regulations after they'd already taken effect. 

Trump delayed implementation of the rule a month after their effective date in January. However, the decision to disband the rule still stands. That decision made this summer followed proper procedures, the court found. 

Cali troubles Chokecherry outlook

The first phase of the Chokecherry Sierra Madre wind project is permitted after a 10-year delay of red tape and permitting hurdles. But the market the farm plans to tap, the desert southwest and California, has changed in the intervening decade. 

The wind farm's developer, the Power Company of Wyoming, remains confident that a market exists for its wind. But California state policies are increasing the amount of renewable power available. An increasing push for in-state power generation may be a challenge for Chokecherry wind once the turbines are up and the transmission line laid along the more the 700 miles from farm to market. 

BLM's limitations on oil and gas trouble ranchers 

A handful of Converse County landowners say the BLM has made oil and gas development in the vicinity of Native American sites impossible. The agency says it hasn't changed the way it addresses these sites, which up to 18 tribes may find culturally important, if the landowners allow them access to view the sites. 

Harvey's impact unclear 

It's unlikely that the storm that ravaged east Texas in recent weeks will impact the oil and gas industry, or the cost of gasoline, up in Wyoming. 

It may depress the price of crude as refineries in the region are offline and service is disrupted. But pump prices here are less defined by supply in that region of the country. If anyone is to feel prices spike, it would be the southeast. 

If they do spike in response to the storm's aftermath, they may go up faster than they come down. 

Quote of the week

“You well understand I hope that the state of Wyoming and Rocky Mountain Power have been sleeping in the same bed for a number of years. You’ve kept us warm, and we are very grateful for that. But it really causes angst when we look at the accelerated retirement of some of these plants.”

Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, to an RMP official on the trend of coal plant retirements due to market challenges. 

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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