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Glacier National Park Peaks NorthFork
Photo courtesy of Rick and Susie Graetz
Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016
produced daily by Shellie Nelson

Editor's Notes...

West map In the Rockies today, low prices for coal, oil and natural gas continue to resonate through the region.


Arch Coal and Wyoming strike a deal on the bankrupt coal company's self-bonded reclamation of mines, and now the bankruptcy court must approve it.


In Colorado, Standard & Poor downgraded the ratings of six oil and gas producers in the state.


On the renewable side of energy, solar-panel companies are feeling the pinch of changing regulations at the state level.


SolarCity, the largest provider of rooftop installations, has seen its stock price fall from a high of $86 to $18.63 this week.


Not unlike its fossil fuel competitors, the solar-panel company's debt load and changing regulatory landscape, have played a part in the company's drop in value.


Also in the news, the Bureau of Land Management is proposing outright cancellation of more than two dozen leases on the Thompson Divide in Colorado; a Utah legislator is seeking $1.5 million to study paving a 42-mile stretch of road between the Dinosaur National Monument and Arches and Canyonlands national park; and in Wyoming, a measure that would have prevented state game wardens from working on cases involving wolves and grizzly bears, which are protected under federal law, died in a House committee.

Rockies today

Wyoming, Arch Coal reach accord on self-bonding coal-mine reclamation
The deal struck between the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and Arch Coal that will allows the company to post $17 million in third-party collateral to clean up four closed mines in the Cowboy State and that gives the state a "superpriority" claim in the company's bankruptcy proceeding to $75 million that essentially guarantees Wyoming will get 16 percent of the remainder of the company's $468 million reclamation tab. The deal must be approved by the bankruptcy court, and will likely be carefully scrutinized by federal regulators.
Casper Star-Tribune; Feb. 11

BLM proposes canceling 25 leases on Colorado's Thompson Divide
On Wednesday at a meeting with cooperating agencies in Colorado's Garfield, Pitkin and Mesa counties, Bureau of Land Management personnel released a new preferred alternative for 65 oil and gas leases on the Thompson Divide that would cancel outright 25 undeveloped leases and would classify 27 others as held by production, which would allow development of those leases under the rules in place in 1993 when they were issued. The remaining leases would be subject to stipulations put in place by the U.S. Forest Service in 2015.
Glenwood Springs Post Independent; Feb. 11

Six Colorado oil, gas producers get their credit rating downgraded
Low oil prices continue to eat away at the industry, and on Wednesday, Standard & Poor's Rating Services reworked its ratings for 45 producers, including 9 in Colorado, with rankings for Bill Barrett Corp., Bonanza Creek Energy, Resolute Energy, SM Energy, Triangle USA Petroleum and Whiting Petroleum all downgraded, while ratings for QEP Resources, Antero Resources and PDC Energy all kept their previous ratings.
Denver Post; Feb. 11

Alberta's plan to shift from coal to wind, solar power lacks detail
Late last year, Alberta released its plan to phase out coal-fired power and to increase use of solar, wind and other renewable sources to produce electricity, but as the province has yet to learn, the devil is in the details, and in a letter to officials, the Canadian Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Solar Industries Association laid out their questions about just what the province plan means.
Calgary Herald; Feb. 11

Changing regulatory landscape nicks profits at solar-panel companies
SolarCity, the largest provider of solar rooftop installations in the United States, has seen the price of its stock plummet over the past two years, primarily due to regulatory changes at the state level that have seen fees for rooftop-solar customers increase and rates paid for excess power fed back into the grid fall.
New York Times; Feb. 11

Wyoming House panel kills bill to halt state work on federal species law
On Wednesday, a measure that would have prevented state wildlife officers from working on cases involving wolves and grizzly bears, which are currently under federal protection, failed on a 5-4 vote to make it out of the Wyoming House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); Feb. 11

Utah bill takes federal protections of gunmakers, sellers to state level
Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, said his HB298 contains the same language that the federal law that protects gunmakers, firearms sellers and ammunition manufacturers from lawsuits by victims of gun crimes or accidents, but the Utah legislator is concerned that the federal law could be overturned, and he wants to ensure protections remain in place in the state.
Salt Lake Tribune; Feb. 11

Idaho reports aerial shooting of wolves done, 20 wolves killed
The shooting of wolves in the Clearwater Region in northern Idaho done by U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services over the past week is done. Idaho Fish and Game officials said Wednesday, the operation done to help declining elk population in that region of the state, that 20 wolves were killed during the operation.
Idaho Statesman (AP); Feb. 11

Utah legislator seeks funding for Books Cliffs road study
State Sen. Kevin Van Tassell is seeking a $1.5 million appropriation to fund a study on paving some 43 miles of dirt road in the Book Cliffs to connect the Seep Ridge Road in Uintah County to I-70. Tassell said paving the road would promote tourism as it would provide a paved road connecting Dinosaur National Monument with Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Opponents take a more skeptical view and said the paved road was more likely to benefit the oil and gas industry.
Salt Lake Tribune; Feb. 11

Beyond the region

Occupation of Oregon wildlife refuge ends
Last night, the FBI surrounded the area where the remaining four occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were holed up, and on Thursday, Sean and Sandy Anderson and Jeff Banta walked out and were arrested. David Fry remained inside for approximately an hour after the other three left, but ultimatley was convinced to give up. Cliven Bundy was arrested at the Portland Airport on charges arising out of the 2014 confrontation at his Nevada ranch when he arrived Wednesday night.
Portland Oregonian; Feb. 11

Drop in oil price takes Canadian dollar, stock indexes down for the ride
The per-barrel price of oil fell on Thursday to $27, a level not seen since September of 2003, and the oil-sensitive loonie dropped to 71.55 cents US. Gold prices soared up $43.16 per troy ounce.
Vancouver Sun (Canadian Press); Feb. 11



Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"W hat it does is mirror the federal act at the state level. The problem really has been that the federal act is being challenged, so if something happened to the federal act, I want to make sure we have the same protections for manufacturers."


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