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Oil and gas

A Wold oil drilling rig operates outside of Rolling Hills.

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Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $56.74 Brent (ICE) $63.60

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $3.04, Wyoming Pool $2.88, Opal $2.9

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 907, Wyoming 22

Quote of the week

“Sometimes you don’t run businesses that are free and easy.” -- Patrick Imeson, managing director for Black Diamond Holdings, on his troubled mine in Montana. Imeson is one of a group of investors who want to buy the old Two Elk site for a new coal venture.

Wind tax return

The U.S. Senate doesn't look too interested in cutting the subsidy for wind like its colleagues in the House, but wind developers in Wyoming are watching closely. 

The House proposal that passed earlier this month could hit a number of firms counting on the production tax credit. 

Meanwhile in Wyoming, lawmakers are planning a measure that would increase the state's wind tax, from $1 per megawatt hour to $3. 

Needless to say, industry is critical of that as well, but lawmakers like Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, are adamant that the industry can take the hike. Wyoming, he says, needs the money. 

The trouble with mitigation  

Industry may get a win with reforms from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as it considers cutting the "net gain" mitigation language in the Endangered Species Act and related policy

Net gain is essentially the leave-it-better-than-you-found-it routine, and conservationists say without it sage grouse habitat is going to be a continual net loss.

Industry groups, however, say it's an ill-defined concept and difficult to comply with.

Two Elk 

A financier approached Campbell County commissioners last week to swoop up $100 million in unused industrial development bonds to build a coal treatment plant in the Powder River Basin. 

He is one of a group of potential investors in the venture, but he has a history in Montana, where his company has a distressed mine that owes the state millions in reclamation

The property has a reputation of its own after the Two Elk would-be developer failed to live up to his promises of raising a coal waste facility, or a carbon research facility, in the heart of coal country. He admitted to defrauding the federal government and may face prison time. 

Tightening the reins

Self-bonding for coal mines isn't something the federal government wants to discourage anymore. But Wyoming's rules on the subject needed some updates, according to regulators. 

Wyoming has been adamant about its right to allow self-bonding according to federal statute. But the state is proposing to make it more difficult to do so that Wyoming isn't at risk on the reclamation side. 

The proposed changes to the financial requirement rules are in their early stages and haven't been out for public comment yet. 

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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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