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Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma drops into coverage during the Cowboys' game against Nevada on Oct. 24, 2020, at Mackay Stadium in Reno, Nev.

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Trump reignites endorsement flame
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Former president Donald Trump signaled Tuesday that he is making significant moves in his effort to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney.

Trump issued a statement stating that he is going to meet with “some” of the candidates challenging Cheney next week, and that he’ll endorse a candidate “in the next few months.”

“Paying close attention to the Wyoming House Primary against loser RINO Liz Cheney,” the statement started. “This is a “hot” race with some very interesting candidates running against her,” it later continued.

This is one of the first times Trump has truly acknowledged the candidate field challenging Cheney. His previous statements were mostly confined to criticizing her and her candidacy.

Despite the fact that the Republican primary is not until August of 2022, Cheney already has a number of challengers, at least four of whom have launched legitimate fundraising and campaign efforts.

So far, sources close to both state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, and Cheyenne businessman Darin Smith confirmed to the Star-Tribune that they will be meeting with the former President soon.

Two other candidates, State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, and a retired U.S. Army colonel, Denton Knapp, said they have not yet been invited.

Wyoming’s Republican primaries with this many candidates have a history of handing the victory to one candidate, while the rest of the field splits the vote, getting only small portions of the electorate.

Trump acknowledged this trend in his statement.

“Remember though, in the end we just want ONE CANDIDATE running against Cheney,” Trump said in his statement. “I’ll be meeting with some of her opponents in Bedminster next week and will be making my decision on who to endorse in the next few months. JUST ONE CANDIDATE.”

This is not the first time Trump has referenced the issues that come along with a wide campaign field.

“She is so low that her only chance would be if vast numbers of people run against her which, hopefully, won’t happen,” he said back in early May.

Cheney and Trump’s bad blood was spurred by Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. Cheney was one of only 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump, as well as the highest-ranking Republican to do so.

Cheney’s decision to impeach Trump and her continued criticism of the former president has brought on a number of outspoken critics in the Republican party and ultimately forced her out of her leadership role in the House.

“The people of Wyoming are gonna have a very clear choice between somebody who is loyal to the Constitution, and somebody whose claim is loyalty to Donald Trump and I’m confident that people will make the right decision,” Cheney told a reporter Tuesday in Washington D.C.

Oil and gas were core of Wyoming economy before pandemic, industry report finds
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Before the mass layoffs of 2020, one-sixth of Wyoming’s jobs and more than a quarter of its GDP came from the oil and gas industry.

A report released Tuesday by the American Petroleum Institute found that in 2019, the industry directly supported 28,270 jobs — 6.8% of the state’s total employment. It generated 18% of Wyoming’s GDP and 17.3% of its labor income, including wages, salaries, benefits and proprietors’ income.

Through indirect impacts, which occur along the supply chain, and induced impacts, which come from the spending of industry-related earnings, oil and gas supported another 9.8% of jobs, 8.3% of GDP and 8.3% of labor income in the state.

Nationally, the industry impacted 5.6% of U.S. jobs, 7.9% of GDP and 6.8% of labor income, according to the report.

“Stepping back from those specific numbers, I think what this study tells us is that the oil and natural gas industry will be essential in the post-pandemic recovery,” said Frank Macchiarola, API’s senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs. “Not just in creating good paying jobs and economic growth, but also in providing for low-cost energy for the American people.”

Wyoming was especially vulnerable to the fuel demand crash caused by COVID-19. In 2019, it had the second-highest share of residents whose employment was impacted significantly by the oil and gas sector — 16.6%, behind Oklahoma’s 16.7% — and the highest proportion of labor income from the industry.

In total, 26.3% of Wyoming’s 2019 GDP was contributed to directly or indirectly, or induced, by the oil and gas industry — the fourth-highest percentage after Alaska, Louisiana and Oklahoma. And the state’s tax structure is structured around resource extraction.

“If you aggregate all of the tax revenue from oil and gas in 2019, it was $1.67 billion,” said Pete Obermueller, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. “The annual general fund budget in Wyoming is about $3 billion. So one industry sector basically pays for half or more of the state’s general fund.”

Over the last decade, U.S. natural gas production increased by about 60%, while oil production doubled, Macchiarola said. Despite the push by the federal government and a growing number of states to transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy sources, demand for oil is expected to continue rising through 2030, concluded a new report by researchers from Columbia University and the University of California, Davis.

But in 2019, Wyoming saw combined oil and gas production of 369,434,845 barrels of oil equivalent, according to the petroleum association — a 22.4% decline from its 2009 total of 475,782,140 barrels of oil equivalent.

And though, nationally, the oil and gas industry is rapidly nearing 2019 production levels as it recovers from its 2020 slump, Wyoming’s recovery has lagged behind other states.

Obermueller says the Biden administration’s restrictions on leases for new drilling — an executive order, intended to address climate change, that was struck down by a federal judge last month — has had a disproportionate effect on Wyoming.

“The biggest hurdle is that we are highly, highly dependent upon federal government rules and regulations and law, because there’s hardly any hydrocarbons produced in Wyoming that’s not from federal lands or federal minerals,” Obermueller said. “So if you take the universities at their word that we have not reached peak demand, but we have federal policies that do not allow Wyoming to play in the space, that demand is going to be met by Texas, and North Dakota, and China, and Saudi Arabia and other places.”

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Prominent political consultant and county commissioner arrested on DWUI charges
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Bill Novotny, Vice President of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association and longtime Republican consultant, was arrested Sunday on multiple charges while driving drunk near Buffalo.

He was charged with driving while under the influence, reckless driving, fleeing or attempting to elude police and having an open container in the vehicle. It’s unclear if he was drinking from that container while driving.

His blood alcohol content was recorded twice at .186% and .187% according to court documents. The legal limit in Wyoming is 0.08%, as it is in most other states.

According to a representative at the Johnson County Detention Center, Novotny was booked into the jail on Sunday. He was released the same day on a $1,500 own recognizance bond — which means he didn’t need to pay anything to get out, and won’t as long as he makes all his required court appearances.

Neither Novotny nor the Johnson County Sheriff responded to multiple requests for comment.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a call came in reporting a vehicle traveling eastbound in the westbound lane on Interstate 90, according to court documents.

Once the responding officer turned their lights and sirens on, Novotny continued another three miles where he then merged southbound on the northbound ramp of Interstate 25, continuing another two miles before stopping going southbound in the northbound lane.

There were “multiple vehicles” in the path of Novotny’s car during the pursuit, the court documents said.

After Novotny pulled over, he refused sobriety tests from the responding officer, but was later breathalyzed at the jail.

Novotny is somewhat of a political figure in Wyoming. He was elected to the Johnson County Commission in 2014, and has served as the Chairman since 2016.

“We do not condone driving under the influence and understand that it is a serious infraction. As this is a recent and evolving investigation, we at the WCCA will be making no further comment at this time,” the Wyoming County Commissioners Association said in a statement.

Novotny also has a lengthy history of working for politicians in Wyoming. He was a staffer for former Sen. Mike Enzi from 2003-2007 and worked as a public affairs and political consultant for Rep. Liz Cheney, Superintendent Jillian Balow and Govs. Matt Mead and Mark Gordon, among others.

Novotny will be arraigned Aug. 2.

This story will be updated if the parties involved respond to request for comment.

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Trans woman sent to hospital after attack at Casper apartment complex
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A transgender woman was attacked and beaten outside her apartment complex on Thursday night, sending her to the hospital with severe injuries which will require surgery for a full recovery.

Rilee Bumgardner-Shipley was reportedly hit and kicked in the head at a dog park outside her 12th Street home around 11:30 p.m.

According to police, emergency medical crews responding to the scene took Bumgardner-Shipley to Wyoming Medical Center with serious injuries.

“The victim told officers a neighbor physically assaulted them while outside at the dog park,” Casper police spokesperson Rebekah Ladd said in a statement to the Star-Tribune.

In the aftermath, Bumgardner-Shipley said she’s had trouble sleeping, is scared in her own home and won’t go out alone.

She said she had seen one of the attacker’s at the apartment complex’s dog park early Thursday morning, and that she didn’t recognize him or his dogs. After picking up her own dog, who gets anxious and skittish around new dogs, she said the man started cussing at her and calling her the N-word.

When she reported the incident to her landlord, Bumgardner-Shipley said, they knew exactly who she was referring to.

“I went to work for the afternoon and I felt really anxious and on edge all day,” Bumgardner-Shipley said, “like something bad was going to happen.”

Later, after coming home from work, Bumgardner-Shipley said she took her dog out again around 11:30 and saw the man again, this time with another man and the two dogs. The man reportedly began yelling at her and using the racial slur again.

“He told me that me and my piece of s—- dog deserved to die,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “All this awful, awful stuff. So I leaned down and tried to put the leash on my dog so that we could leave.”

Bumgardner-Shipley said the next part is a little hard to recall, but she remembers the back of her head being hit then being kicked in the side of her head. Her skull bounced off of a fence post, and the men took their dogs and left her laying in her own blood, looking for her glasses and trying to get home. She said one eye was so badly crusted with blood it was hours before she could open it again.

“I came out as a trans person a little over four years ago,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “About that time I was made aware of a saying — This is Wyoming, we don’t take offense to gays, we take gays to fences.”

She’s strongly considering moving out of her apartment complex, she said, and wants to have a house with a yard where she can put cameras up.

A GoFundMe fundraiser created by Bumgardner-Shipley’s sister says Bumgardner-Shipley sustained fractures to her orbital bone, lower sinus and cheekbone. The hospital also reportedly stapled a head wound caused by the kicks.

Bumgardner-Shipley said Tuesday she has one surgery scheduled for Friday to put her cheekbone back into place, and will likely need at least one more for her fractured eye socket.

The fundraiser had surpassed its $4,500 goal as of Monday, raising nearly $5,000 by midday Tuesday.

“I don’t even have words to describe how grateful I am to everybody that’s reached out and helped us and been kind to my family,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “I’ve just been overwhelmed with support and love.”

Ladd said no arrests have been made in connection to the incident, but investigators have identified people of interest. The investigation is active and ongoing.

“It’s scary still living here,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “I want to trust and believe that the police are doing things behind the scenes, investigation-wise, that I just am not aware of, but I haven’t received any updates since Saturday night.”

Since Bumgardner-Shipley came out as trans, she said she’s never experienced anything like this in Casper. But she hopes being a visible trans person here can set an example and provide representation for others.

“I live very publicly, proudly, who I am and my truth,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “And I don’t try to hide who I am… When I was growing up I didn’t know what transgender means, let alone that I could be that. So if I can be that so someone else can be like, ‘whoa, hey, that’s me,’ then this is all worth it.”

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WMC employees will be required to get COVID-19 vaccine
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Wyoming Medical Center employees will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than Nov. 1, according to a new policy.

Banner Health, which acquired the hospital in October, issued a statement Tuesday that “being vaccinated for COVID-19 will be a condition of employment.”

“We care for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and we owe it to them to take every measure possible to ensure the safest care environment,” Banner president and CEO Peter Fine said in a statement. “The vaccine data has fully supported the safety and efficacy to prevent disease and reduce its severity. There is overwhelming evidence for us to act on behalf of the communities that rely on us to care for and protect them.”

The statement lists a variety of reasons for enacting the new mandate, particularly the rise of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus, to prepare for flu season and in anticipation of the Emergency Use Authorization being lifted in favor of full authorization.

Employees will be able to apply for an exemption, details of which will be forthcoming, according to the release.

Vaccines have been widely available to most Wyomingites since late March, but the state trails most of the nation in getting shots in arms. Just over 32% of the state population is fully inoculated against the virus, and the state has the fourth-lowest proportion of both fully vaccinated residents and those who’ve received one shot.

The Delta variant has begun circulating in the state and is at least partly responsible for a surge of COVID-19 cases in Laramie County, where 142 Delta patients have been confirmed. The Cheyenne Regional Medical Center on Tuesday was treating 31 virus patients.