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North team player Conrad Swenson of Lander runs for yardage against the South during the annual Shrine Bowl on June 8, 2019 at Cheney Alumni Field in Casper.

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Electric scooters could be coming to Casper. But some laws need to change first.
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Electric scooter rentals may be coming to Casper, but there are some changes to be made first.

Bird Rides Inc., a California-based company that operates more than 200,000 scooters globally, presented the idea to Casper City Council during a work session on Tuesday.

The shared scooter system is already in Evanston and is set to launch this week in Rock Springs, according to territory manager Michael Covato.

Bird’s proposal would bring a fleet of at least 50 electric scooters to Casper, hopefully in time for residents to use them this summer. Riders use an app to find and pay for their rides, which start at $1 per use and average about $0.40 per mile ridden.

Ideally, the scooters would be used in Casper’s downtown area. But as city code stands now, people aren’t allowed to ride scooters (or other “toy vehicles” including skateboards, roller blades and skates) on streets or sidewalks downtown.

City Attorney John Henley said that’s the biggest change that would need to be made before people could start flying around Casper on their Birds.

“We think it’s best that some ordinances change,” Henley said Wednesday. “We want them available downtown, so we need to take a look at that ordinance.”

There are also city ordinances related to biking that Henley said would likely need to be applied to the scooters — they prohibit people from riding two to a bike, for instance, and say you can’t ride side by side with another biker on the streets. Scooter riders would also be subject to the rules of the road.

New or updated ordinances take three readings at City Council meetings — which give the public the opportunity to comment — before they can go into effect.

The proposal also raised some safety concerns among council members on Tuesday, which could be addressed with new rules. Council member Bruce Knell clarified that you can get a DUI on a scooter just like you can on a bike.

Putting them downtown would give people going to and from bars and restaurants the chance to use the scooters instead of driving. But helmets aren’t required, and most of downtown doesn’t have designated bike lanes, which means riders would be riding the narrow streets right next to cars.

Bird’s proposal would shut off the scooters between midnight and 4 a.m. each night, in hopes of avoiding drunk scooter incidents. The scooters can’t go faster than 15 mph, and the company can also lower that in certain areas or block places off completely if the city wants.

The council and city staff have lots of work to do before the partnership with Bird can move ahead — defining the area where the scooters can be used or parked, speed limits, off-limits areas, age restrictions, and more.

Bird’s memorandum of understanding with Casper allows anyone 18 or older to rent and use the bikes, but Henley said the city would be interested in lowering that to at least 16 with the company’s approval.

Covato, on behalf of Bird, said Tuesday that they try to avoid placing the scooters near bodies of water to discourage people from throwing them in.

There are no plans for designated docking or parking areas, so the scooters would have to be located through the company’s app or just by walking around. The company can create parking areas if the city requests, but those are mostly used in larger metropolitan areas.

That also raises the issue of scooters being left on sidewalks, where they can obstruct walkways and cause problems for foot traffic. In residential areas, they could be parked in parkways, but many sidewalks downtown are narrow enough that adding a scooter — even if it’s parked correctly upright — could be out of ADA compliance.

Covato said Bird also brings some jobs to its cities. The company contracts with locals to round up scooters for charging, retrieve scooters from outlying areas or make repairs as needed.

Electric scooters have been removed in some cities over safety concerns, but many who have kicked scooters out also bring them back later with enhanced regulations. Bird is also the subject of a mass tort lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, in which 42 people complained in 2020 of injuries caused by faulty brakes, sudden acceleration and malfunctions.

Sponsor ends Keystone XL pipeline
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BILLINGS — The sponsor of the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline pulled the plug on the contentious project Wednesday after Canadian officials failed to persuade President Joe Biden to reverse his cancellation of its permit on the day he took office.

Calgary-based TC Energy said it would work with government agencies “to ensure a safe termination of and exit” from the partially built line, which was to transport crude from the oil sand fields of western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska.

Construction on the 1,200-mile pipeline began last year when former President Donald Trump revived the long-delayed project after it had stalled under the Obama administration. It would have moved up to 35 million gallons of crude daily, connecting in Nebraska to other pipelines that feed oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Biden canceled the pipeline’s border crossing permit in January over longstanding concerns that burning oil sands crude could make climate change worse and harder to reverse.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had objected to the move, raising tensions between the U.S. and Canada. Officials in Alberta, where the line originated, expressed frustration in recent weeks that Trudeau wasn’t pushing Biden harder to reinstate the pipeline’s permit.

Alberta invested more than $1 billion in the project last year, kick-starting construction that had stalled amid determined opposition to the line from environmentalists and Native American tribes along its route.

Alberta officials said Wednesday they reached an agreement with TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, to exit that partnership. The company and province plan to try to recoup the government’s investment, although neither offered any immediate details on how that would happen.

“We remain disappointed and frustrated with the circumstances surrounding the Keystone XL project, including the cancellation of the presidential permit for the pipeline’s border crossing,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement.

The province had hoped the pipeline would spur increased development in the oil sands and bring tens of billions of dollars in royalties over decades.

Climate change activists viewed the expansion of oil sands development as an environmental disaster that could speed up global warming as the fuel is burned. That turned Keystone into a flashpoint in the climate debate, and it became the focus of rallies and protests in Washington, D.C., and other cities.

Environmentalists who had fought the project since it was first announced in 2008 said its cancellation marks a “landmark moment” in the effort to curb the use of fossil fuels.

“Good riddance to Keystone XL,” said Jared Margolis with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of many environmental groups that sued to stop it.

On Montana’s Fort Belknap Reservation, tribal president Andy Werk Jr. described the end of Keystone as a relief to Native Americans who stood against it out of concerns that a line break could foul the Missouri River or other waterways.

Attorneys general from 21 states had sued to overturn Biden’s cancellation of the pipeline, which would have created thousands of construction jobs. Republicans in Congress have made the cancellation a frequent talking point in their criticism of the administration, and even some moderate Senate Democrats including Montana’s Jon Tester and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin had urged Biden to reconsider.

Tester said in a statement Wednesday that he was disappointed in the project’s demise, but made no mention of Biden.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy committee, was more direct: “President Biden killed the Keystone XL Pipeline and with it, thousands of good-paying American jobs.”

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on TC Energy’s announcement. In his Jan. 20 cancellation order, Biden said allowing the line to proceed “would not be consistent with my administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”

TC Energy said in canceling the pipeline that the company is focused on meeting “evolving energy demands” as the world transitions to different power sources. It said it has $7 billion in other projects under development.

Keystone XL’s price tag had ballooned as the project languished, increasing from $5.4 billion to $9 billion. Meanwhile, oil prices fell significantly — from more than $100 a barrel in 2008 to under $70 in recent months — slowing development of Canada’s oil sands and threatening to eat into any profits from moving the fuel to refineries.

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Organizers announce two marijuana initiatives for 2022 election in Wyoming
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The state and national Libertarian Party as well as Wyoming community leaders will deliver two marijuana ballot initiatives to the Wyoming secretary of state Friday.

The ballot initiatives are aimed at legalizing medical cannabis and decriminalizing personal use of cannabis, according to a news release.

“We’ve listened to the concerns of conservatives and the needs of patients and veterans and we’ve really tried to balance the initiative that’s beneficial for all stakeholders,” said Apollo Pazell, chief strategist for the national Libertarian Party.

The group plans to have petitioners on the ground throughout this summer and fall and have the signatures needed to get it on the ballot collected by July 31, 2022. The effort is using more than volunteers; the leaders plan to “employ full-time teams on the ground for the next 18 months,” Pazell said.

To get a measure on the ballot, Wyoming requires organizers to gather the number of signatures equal to 15% of votes cast in the last general election. Voter turnout was high in 2020 because of the presidential election.

Roughly 278,000 people voted in Wyoming’s 2020 general election, which means that the initiatives would need more than 41,000 signatures each.

“The Libertarians are super organized and motivated, and they will provide the professional boots on the ground that we lacked the last time that we ran a petition,” said Bennett Sondeno, treasurer of the Wyoming chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

In 2018, a medical marijuana initiative failed to go out to voters because the secretary of state’s office did not receive the signatures by the deadline.

The signature requirement of 15% of the previous election’s votes is the highest in the country, according to Ballotpedia. And petitioners also need to secure signatures of 15% of the qualified voters in at least two-thirds of Wyoming’s 23 counties.

“The reality of Wyoming’s rural nature is going to be the biggest challenge to get signatures,” Pazell said. “I’m confident that we will get the certification to get it on the ballot.”

If organizers are successful in advancing the measures, they still require over 50% of total voters in the election to vote to affirm the measure.

While organizers will face logistical challenges, support for marijuana legalization has been growing in the state.

A University of Wyoming study from December shows more than half of residents support legalizing it for recreational use, and 85% are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

During the legislative session earlier this year, a pair of bills — one that would have authorized a study on medical marijuana and another aimed at full legalization — died without a hearing in the House. Both passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a 6-3 vote.

Wyoming is one of just six states where marijuana use and possession are still entirely illegal.

Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, who sponsored the legalization bill, estimated that the state would generate around $50 million in tax revenue during the first year of legalization. Opponents to the bill said it would be hard to regulate dosages and warned of expensive upfront infrastructure costs.

Organizers will hold a news conference Friday at 1 p.m. on the state Capitol steps.