Irina Zhorov

Reporter

Irina Zhorov is a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She earned her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the University of Wyoming. In between, she worked as a photographer and writer for Philadelphia-area and national publications. Her professional interests revolve around environmental and energy reporting and she's reported on mining issues from Wyoming, Mexico, and Bolivia. She's been supported by the Dick and Lynn Cheney Grant for International Study, the Eleanor K. Kambouris Grant, and the Social Justice Research Center Research Grant for her work on Bolivian mining and Uzbek alpinism. Her work has appeared on Voice of America, National Native News, and in Indian Country Today, among other publications. 

In her off time, Irina is pursuing treasure hunters, leafing through photo books, or planning and executing quests.

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News
3:50 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

BLM's coal lease sale attracts one bid: 21 cents/ton

The Bureau of Land Management’s coal lease sale today coal lease sale received one bid. The Buckskin Mine Hay Creek II tract is adjacent to the operating Buckskin Mine in Campbell County. The bid came from Buckskin Mine’s operator, Kiewit Mining Properties, and amounted to 21 cents/ton for the estimated 167 million tons of mineable coal in the tract. If accepted, the tract could extend the mine’s life by about eight years.

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Open Spaces
4:28 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Regulatory agencies have weak controls for bad oil and gas operators

Pure Petroleum logo

We recently reported that an oil and gas company operating in Wyoming was fined by the federal Office of Natural Resource Revenue for not submitting production reports. Turns out, the company has a history of poor behavior in the state, fiscally and environmentally. Although Pure Petroleum’s gross neglect of its responsibilities is somewhat of an exception, it does point to big flaws in the oil and gas industry’s reclamation system.

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Open Spaces
4:18 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

New Director of the WY Humanities Council talks funding and programming plans

Shannon Smith

Shannon Smith is the new Executive Director of the Wyoming Humanities Council. Smith comes to the Council after years working at a non-profit focusing on advancing higher education through the use of information technology.

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News
5:11 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Coal export terminals will not save U.S. coal producers, experts say


While coal producers look to international markets to make up for a soft coal market at home, experts advise that Asian coal demand will not be as strong as had been expected.

During a recent teleconference, researchers and environmentalists discussed the financial viability of building coal export terminals in the Northwest US to ship Powder River basin coal to Asia. Ross Macfarlane works for Climate Solutions, a clean-energy advocacy group. He said domestic producers didn’t account for the evolution of the coal market abroad.  

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News
7:17 am
Wed August 28, 2013

EPA to finalize regional haze plan for WY by Nov.

The comment period closed Monday on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Regional Haze Plan. The plan seeks to address the issue of air pollution produced by coal fired power plants. Wyoming put together its own regional haze program, but the EPA rejected parts of it, saying it wasn't strong enough, particularly when it came to nitrogen oxide emissions at four plants.

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Open Spaces
4:29 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Coal lease sales potentially undervalued, leading to possible millions lost for government

Credit Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for coal on federal lands. That coal makes up about 40 percent of total coal production in the U.S. Of the 314 existing federal coal leases, nearly a quarter of the leases are in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Companies acquire these leases by bidding on the right to mine the federal coal. It has generated a lot of income, which the federal government splits with states. But not everyone thinks the program is working as it should and that the government might be losing out on money.

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News
7:15 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Fort Washakie Health Center receives $1.1 million grant

The Northern Arapaho Tribe’s Housing Authority has received a $1.1 million Indian Community Development Block Grant. The competitive grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Grant administrator for the Northern Arapaho tribe, Patrick Goggles, says the money will be used for upgrades to the Fort Washakie Health Center on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“It’ll expand the number of patient rooms and it’ll expand the amount of healthcare that it dispenses to the clientele on the reservation,” says Goggles.

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News
3:07 pm
Wed August 21, 2013

Powder River Basin coal lease sale gets zero bids

Today’s coal lease sale of nearly 150 million tons of mineable coal in the Powder River Basin received zero bids.

It’s the first time the Wyoming office of the Bureau of Land Management has received no bids for a sale. Cordero Mining, a subsidiary of Cloud Peak Energy, asked BLM to open the tract in 2006. It's adjacent to an operating Cloud Peak mine.

But Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall says things have changed since then. In a press release, he cited current coal market conditions and regulatory uncertainty as factors in the company's decision not to bid.

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News
6:42 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Wyoming exports up

Wyoming exported more goods to foreign markets in 2012 than in 2011.

Total revenue went from 1-point-2 billion dollars to 1-point-4 billion dollars. The largest market is Canada, followed by Australia and Brazil. Machinery and raw commodities like coal, and oil and gas are the top exports.

C-E-O of the Wyoming Business Council, Bob Jensen, says there are several factors that contributed to the growth.

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Colorado River
3:41 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Colorado Basin states cut back water flow to deal with low reservoir levels

Lake Powell Arizona, USA (from plane). Note the prominent "bathtub ring" made visible by low water (May 2007).
Credit PRA / Creative Commons

Twenty-thirteen marks the 14th year of the worst drought in the past century, so Colorado River Basin states are following 2007 agreement guidelines, and releasing less water from a major reservoir, Lake Powell.


Only 7.48 million acre feet will be released from Lake Powell next water year, down about 9% from normal levels. It’s the lowest release since the 1960s.   

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News
6:28 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

BLM to host two coal lease sales

Two coal lease tracts in the Powder River Basin will go up for sale in the next several weeks at the request of two operators in the area.

Cordero Mining and Kiewit Mining Properties requested the sales using the “lease by application” system. Under that system companies with existing mines can request specific tracts, often adjacent to their operations. The system has been criticized for limiting competition.

University of Colorado Law School professor, Mark Squillace, says often, such coal lease sales only attract one bidder.

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News
6:38 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

WY oil and gas producer fined for not submitting production reports.

The Department of the Interior’s Office on Natural Resources Revenue – or ONRR – is fining Pure Petroleum more than $300,000 for not filing monthly production reports.

Reports detailing production on public lands are used to check the accuracy of royalty payments to the government. According to ONRR spokesman, Patrick Etchart, Pure Petroleum has not filed production reports on 16 leases since 2006.

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Open Spaces
3:12 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

When it comes to environmental policy, science isn’t always as helpful as lawmakers hope

Credit Kate St. John

Science has long been something we look to for answers. But when it comes to policy making, science can’t always provide the clear solutions lawmakers and the public want. That has to do with how science works and the politics that sometimes infiltrate. Two issues in Wyoming demonstrate uncannily well the shortcomings of science when it comes to decision making in the environmental sphere.

IRINA ZHOROV: Remember that scene in Ghostbusters, when Bill Murray’s character is pursuing a seemingly irrelevant line of questioning with a laid out woman as a concerned man stands by?

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Wyoming Stories
2:20 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

A crime victim and perpetrator talk about how their unlikely friendship came to be

Stephen Watt (right) and Mark Farnham (left).

Stephen Watt and Mark Farnham are best friends. But it’s a friendship that came out of violent circumstances. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov spoke to both of them at the Torrington Medium Correctional Institution, where Farnham is an inmate. In the first part, Watt and Farnham talk about how they met. In the second, they discuss how their friendship has changed their lives, they say, for the better, and their desire to work towards more restorative justice programs in the criminal justice system. 

This story first aired June 21, 2013 on Wyoming Public Radio.

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News
7:08 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

WY receives first draft of feasibility study about uranium mining regulation

Wyoming has received the first draft of a study it commissioned to determine whether it would be feasible to regulate uranium exclusively in-state.

Uranium extraction is currently regulated by a number of state and federal agencies. But if Wyoming decides to become what’s called an “agreement state,” it could cut the federal agencies out of the process. That would potentially expedite the permitting process for operators.  

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Uranium
6:39 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

More uranium mines starting production, but prices remain low

Ur-Energy's Culver-Douglas Processing Plant at Lost Creek.
Credit Ur-Energy Inc. / CNW Group



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News
7:15 am
Mon August 5, 2013

WY initiates its Pavillion investigation

As the state initiates its investigation of water quality issues in Pavillion, two state agencies plan to review existing data before deciding how to proceed. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Quality will look at the well bore integrity of about 50 oil and gas wells within a quarter mile of 14 domestic water wells that had at least one pollutant at levels above drinking water standards. 

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Open Spaces
4:45 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

August 2nd, 2013

Credit Rebecca Martinez

Reviving local saw mills could limit fire danger in the Rocky Mountain Region

Saw mills are re-opening in Wyoming and Colorado after a decade of being shuttered. They’re harvesting and processing trees that have been killed by beetle infestation.  Still, many are suitable for lumber.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez reports that this uptick in the timber business is helping with forest fire management.

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Open Spaces
4:09 pm
Fri August 2, 2013

Conservationist walks from Mexico to Canada to promote habitat preservation

Erik Molvar

John Davis is a conservationist and co-founder of the Wildlands Network conservation organization. He’s currently on a 5,000 mile international route from Mexico, through the Western US, and up to Canada, mostly on foot. He’s working with various environmental groups as he makes his way across North America. The idea is to promote an international, continuous area where wildlife can move freely. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov caught up with Davis as he made his way across the Red Desert.

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News
4:46 pm
Thu August 1, 2013

Berries returning to Yellowstone bears’ diets thanks to wolves, study finds

A new study shows that berries, a staple of the grizzly bear diet, are becoming more abundant at Yellowstone National Park. According to the study, over the past three years berry consumption by bears has nearly doubled, something the authors are contributing to the reintroduction of wolves.

Study co-author Bob Beschta says the lack of wolves during the past century led to more elk, which overgrazed plant life in the area for decades. Now, the wolves are helping to re-balance the ecosystem.

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News
6:37 am
Thu August 1, 2013

Coal export facilities in Washington State to get broad environmental evaluation

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County have announced that their joint Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed coal export facility in Washington State will include a broad analysis. The proposed Cherry Point terminal would be able to export 48 million tons of coal each year, mostly of Powder River Basin coal going to Asia.

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News
5:10 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Coal demand up in first part of 2013, but prices stay steady

Demand for coal was higher and supply lower in the first half of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, but prices remained mostly steady. That’s because electric companies burned off their coal inventories instead of buying new supplies.

Executive Director of the Wyoming Mining Association, Marion Loomis, says he expects the second half of the year to be better.

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News
7:14 am
Fri July 26, 2013

Metal-laden discharges from coal plants poorly regulated

A new report by the environmental group Sierra Club says at least three coal-fired power plants in Wyoming discharge pollution containing metals into streams. According to the report, some plants do not monitor how much waste they discharge or what it contains.

The Environmental Protection Agency says coal plants nationwide contribute more than half of the toxic pollutants discharged to water bodies by regulated industry, but discharge standards have not been updated since 1982. 

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Wyoming Range
6:43 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

New report names two WY places as too special to drill

A new report released today by the Wilderness Society says Wyoming’s Red Desert and the Wyoming Range are too special to drill for oil and gas. The report – titled Too Wild to Drill – lists a dozen locations across the U.S. 

The Wyoming Range was initially opened for leasing in 2005, but the Forest Service canceled those leases in 2011. Appeals by operators have left the leases in limbo since then, but the U-S Forest Service is expected to decide later this year whether they will allow energy development.

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News
4:54 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Gov. Mead speaks about state takeover of the Pavillion water study and potential investments

Governor Matt Mead says he trusts the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to deliver trustworthy results when it takes over the Pavillion water contamination study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A draft of the study initiated by the EPA was released in 2011 and tentatively linked groundwater contamination with fracking, something industry expressed skepticism about.

Mead says he’s not sure yet whether the state study will be peer reviewed once it’s completed.

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Open Spaces
4:02 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

July 19th, 2013

National Republican Party Supports Enzi over Cheney

This week Wyoming’s senior senator, Mike Enzi, was surprised to learn he’ll be facing off against Liz Cheney in what’s expected to be one of the most heated Republican primaries in the nation. Matt Laslo reports from Washington that right now, the Republican Party is wrapping its arms around Enzi.

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Open Spaces
3:48 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

Gov. Mead speaks about the Pavillion water study, state revenues, doctors in the state, and more

Governor Matt Mead

Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov caught up with Governor Matt Mead to check in about some big changes in the state in the coming months. Her first question was about the Environmental Protection Agency’s report on contaminated water in Pavillion and the state’s takeover of the study.

Though the entities involved in the study have previously expressed skepticism over the EPA’s findings, Governor Mead says he has no doubts that the state’s study will be unbiased.

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