Casper Star-Tribune Online - Energy-journal

Ranchers protested industry, but oil and gas plead fair play

The ranchers stood out in the room full of lawyers in suits at Tuesday’s Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission hearings. Read more

Kemmerer bankruptcy and sage grouse disputes

Heather Richards 307-266-0592,​ ​ ​

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Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $71.34, Brent (ICE) $80.43

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $3.29, Wyoming Pool $2.92, Opal $2.92

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 1,063, Wyoming 30

Quote of the Week 

“I think you have to be worried...This is a major deal for us. It’s one we deal with annually. Every time we make a budget we talk about it."

-- Lincoln County Commissioner Jerry Harmon regarding risks to local economic linchpin, Kemmerer coal mine, with Westmoreland's bankruptcy.

Coal bankruptcy

Westmoreland, the coal firm that owns the Kemmerer mine in Lincoln County, has filed for Ch. 11. The announcement was expected as the over-leveraged company has suffered financially for more than a year.  

The mine employs 286 employees. Its fate is tied to its main customer -- the Naughton power plant. Uncertainty in the coal market and uncertainty about the future of PacifiCorp's fleet has driven a lingering anxiety in the area over the future of these two operations. 

Though Westmoreland faces some of the headwinds that led to the coal downturn of 2015 and 2016, it should be distinguished from that coal bust. The Powder River Basin mines were heavily indebted, making them particularly inflexible to deal with a rapidly shrinking coal market. Westmoreland has largely depended on mine to mouth operations. 

Division over the bird

For industry, the Trump administration has been a friend over the last year in a number of ways. Lease sales are broader, environmental reviews have been time constrained and permitting could be significantly expedited if the Interior Department listens to its industry advisers.

But that direction has been painful for Wyoming in one way: sage grouse.

Documents obtained in a public records requests show that the eagerness of the Interior to deal with the bird's management on federal land was not taken lightly, and not always well, by a number of Western leaders. 

In a letter from the public records request to the Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Govs. Matt Mead and John Hickenlooper noted concern over the lack of involvement with state authorities on making some of its sage grouse changes. Other states shared this stance but didn't want their names on that letter.


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