Cheyenne, Wy – While an Audit of the State Department of Education alleges some improprieties, the State Superintendent says it was poorly done, and is overreaching. Trent Blankenship called a news conference to say that the audit was another political attack on him and his department. Blankenship says the audit was supposed to look at whether the Education department bypassed the competitive bidding process while leasing a building in Riverton.
Gillette, Wy – State Representative Jeff Wasserburger cannot be considered as a candidate for the state's upcoming vacancy in the State Superintendent of Public Instruction's office. Trent Blankenship is resigning that post August 1st. And Wasserburger, the House Education Chairman, was among those interested. But the Attorney General ruled Wednesday that it would violate the state constitution for a sitting legislator to be appointed to a state office. Wasserburger accepts the decision, but has doubts about whether this is the intent of that constitutional clause.
Washington, DC – The US Department of the Interior released a study Tuesday examining the impacts of wind energy development across 11 western states, including Wyoming. Environmental, economic, and social impacts were all considered. At a press conference releasing the study, Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson said it will further wind energy permitting and paves the way for 3,200 megawatts of wind energy to be produced by 2025, enough power for one million homes. 11% of that is expected to be produced in Wyoming.
Sheridan, WY – Most of the court files in a brutal Sheridan murder case have been unsealed. District Judge John Brackley ordered that files in the case against Stephen Hyatt shall be open except for psychological reports, motions to suppress evidence and any evidence excluded by the judge. Judge Brackley closed the entire file in this case in May, saying it was to protect the defendant's right to a fair trial. The Sheridan Press, however, successfully argued that closing all the files violated the public's right to follow the case.
Yellowstone National Park – Eleven people were hurt this afternoon in Yellowstone National Park, including a 12-year-old boy who was seriously injured, when a lightning strike hit near Old Faithful geyser. Park officials say two physicians and a nurse who were among the visitors resuscitated the boy, who was flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls. Yellowstone spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews says the lightning struck the ground in front of the geyser but did not hit anyone directly.
Laramie, Wy – The final draft management plan for Grizzlies was an attempt to manage the bears and compromise with those who disagreed with previous drafts. It confines the bears to northwest Wyoming and will keep occupation levels at around 500. The Biological Services Supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department says that will likely mean fewer Bears then currently exist in the state. And Reg Rothwell adds that Wyoming officials will reduce their numbers through hunting or other means, and hope that some Grizzlies could be relocated to Idaho or Montana.
Dubois, WY – The reconstruction of the highway over Togwotee Pass will now take a year longer then originally planned and won't be complete until 2012. The Wyoming Department of Transportation still has not received a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for the first segment of the project. So that segment will not even go out for bids until at least September. Due to the early winters on Togwotee Pass, a contractor would only be able to start on some off-highway work this fall. Jeff Corbett, a WyDOT engineer in Dubois, says this delay pushes the timeline back for the entire project.
Casper, WY – At least three people are interested in taking over as the state's top educator. Trent Blankenship is leaving as superintendent of public instruction effective August first to take a job in Alaska. So far, those expressing interest in the job are Natrona County School District trustee Jim Bush, state Representative Jeff Wasserburger of Gillette and former state Senate President Jim Twiford of Douglas. Governor Freudenthal will appoint a successor from a list of candidates provided by the state Republican Party.