A group known as Wyoming NORML, which stands for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws wants to make recreational pot legal in Wyoming. The proposed initiative would make it legal to grow, sell and transport marijuana, and to purchase up to three ounces.
The group’s director Chris Christian says that legalization could make the state money. Colorado expects to make eight-billion-dollars in revenues this year. And, she says, decriminalizing pot could save the state millions of dollars, too.
We start off today’s show with a look at the agency that’s in charge of protecting the environment in Wyoming. Many of our reporting in the past has led us to conversations with angry landowners, and folks who have concerns about industry’s effects on the environment and human health.
We’ve reported often on the effects that energy production can have on air quality. The most obvious example is Pinedale, where federal ambient air quality standards were violated, largely because of emissions from natural gas production. Regulators say the air elsewhere in the state is fine. But some worry that Wyoming doesn’t have a sufficient monitoring network to know for sure. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.
Some landowners with oil and gas wells on their property complain about emissions affecting their air quality and health. But though there may be a lot of wells, they’re considered small facilities, so their cumulative effects are never counted up and regulations are more lax than for large emitters. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that that could be a problem since in aggregate, their pollution can be significant.
Wyoming’s biggest export is soda ash, which comes from trona mines in Sweetwater County. Last year, the trona industry produced 17 million tons of soda ash for which the state received nearly $90 million in various taxes and royalties. But as Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov report, the industry has a dirty side, too.
IRINA ZHOROV: Wyoming is used to superlatives. The biggest coal bed, the largest mine, the most wind! Here’s another:
[VIDEO PLAYING: The silver retreats of Wyoming, USA is home to the largest reserve of trona. ]
Wyoming regulators recorded hundreds of spills by the oil and gas industry last year, but issued just a handful of fines. As Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, that’s actually not unusual.
STEPHANIE JOYCE: ‘Genie McMullan knows when there’s been an oil spill from the production wells on her goat farm in the Big Horn Basin.
'GENIE McMULLAN: When there’s a spill there’s a sharp smell, it’s a burning smell to my senses, my nose, my eyes, my lungs.
For many years, Wyoming lawmakers have been reluctant to impose new regulations on industry. At the national level, the congressional delegation has been highly critical anytime the Environmental Protection Agency proposes new regulations on energy production, saying that it costs jobs.
State leaders have echoed those statements, and over the years many legislators have even expressed concern about adding staff to the Department of Environmental Quality, fearing that it could lead to over regulation.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council is the latest organization urging legislators and others to look for ways to reduce the practice of flaring.
Flaring is when natural gas … which is a byproduct of oil production … is burned. The Outdoor Council says it causes pollution and wastes a resource.
The group’s Amber Wilson says one reason drillers burn natural gas is because companies don’t have a good way to dispose of the gas. She says the state could work with companies to improve the pipeline grid.
There are a number of contaminated sites across the state that are expensive to clean up. The contamination comes from a variety of sources including industrial sites and businesses that use chemicals.
Regulation has been a hot-button topic when it comes to worker safety in Wyoming over the last few years. Despite pressure from worker advocacy groups, legislators have been reluctant to write new laws tackling workplace injuries and fatalities, instead opting for an incentives-based approach.
Although it was one of the most challenging and controversial chapters of his career, the final year of King's life has not been the focus of significant public attention. This dramatic and illuminating documentary uses a rich mix of archival tape, oral histories and contemporary interviews to paint a vivid picture of what may have been the most difficult year of Dr. King's life.
8pm - A Beautiful Symphony of Brotherhood: A Musical Journey in the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Representative Sue Wallis has drafted a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Wyoming. She’s even considering revising it to include recreational marijuana, as well. Wallis toured facilities in Colorado where recreational marijuana is packaged and labeled and says she was impressed with how smoothly everything is going.
After hearing mixed public testimony, the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees have voted 9 to 3 to make Dick McGinity the full time President of the University until June 30th of 2016.
Trustee President Dave Bostrom says McGinity “has demonstrated his ability to lead the institution.” During the meeting Faculty and Staff representatives urged trustees to wait before removing McGinity’s interim tag. But many, like Dean of Libraries Maggie Farrell said it was time for U-W to move forward.
The University of Wyoming’s Board of Trustees is considering making Interim U-W President Dick McGinity the full time President. The Trustees held a public discussion on the issue Thursday and got plenty of advice.
Addressing a room full of people, Staff Senate President Jim Logue told the board that U-W staff would prefer to see the board conduct a formal search for a new president.
An all ages weekly concert series in Laramie started as a training ground for students. Now, Studio WYO brings a steady flow of local and regional bands to the University of Wyoming on Thursday nights…and has become a hub for music lovers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Anna Rader reports.
The head of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says his agency will consider changing setback rules. Those are the rules that govern how far away oil and gas operations, such as wells, have to be from things like houses.
Grant Black spoke at a public meeting in Douglas last night. He says currently, the setback rule is the same, regardless of whether you’re dealing with a home or something else. But he says that could change.
Thursday the University of Wyoming trustees are scheduled to discuss the position of UW President. Many on the UW faculty list serve have expressed concern that Interim President, Dick McGinity, will be appointed to the position permanently without a search. Faculty Senate Chair Colin Keeney warns against leaping to conclusions.
Draft results of a hydrogeologic study in Laramie County indicate that water is being used at different rates, in different parts of the county.
The State Engineer’s office undertook the study because of water shortages in the area. They wanted to find out why water levels have been declining, and whether the drawdowns are equally bad everywhere.
State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says what they’ve found so far is somewhat reassuring.
“It does appear that most of the drawdown issues are localized,” Tyrrell said. “And that’s a good result to know.”
Teffany Fegler coordinates the University of Wyoming’s Student Educational Opportunity Center in Ethete, WY. The daughter of two educators, she continues her family's legacy by helping students achieve the dream of going to college.
Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector increased about 2 percent in 2013 from a low point in 2012. The Energy Information Administration did the analysis. The agency attributes the increase to a small comeback by coal from a dramatic market share low in 2012.
The National Park Service does not wish to start using air guns to vaccinate Yellowstone bison for Brucellosis.
Brucellosis is a disease that can cause bison and other large animals to abort their calves. Currently, the park only vaccinates bison when they leave the park, and even then, only a few animals are vaccinated. But Park Spokesman Al Nash says after some legal disputes regarding bison management over a decade ago, Yellowstone agreed to look into new options.
Last week a legislative committee recommended passage of two bills that could provide health insurance to several thousand low income Wyoming residents. The bills would use federal Medicaid expansion dollars to provide the health insurance. But Committee member Lee Filer doubts either bill will get far this session…mainly because many Republicans are concerned that the federal government will not keep its promise to pay for the insurance.