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US to consider sharp hike in royalties from coal mines

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Federal officials will consider hiking royalty rates by 50 percent on coal extracted from massive strip mines on public lands under a pending overhaul of a U.S. Interior Department program. The first outlines of a planned three-year evaluation of the government coal program were released Thursday. Lower royalty rates to stimulate mining also will be considered. The Obama administration in January imposed a moratorium on new coal leases to address the costs of climate change and ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers. Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw says Thursday's notice sets "sideboards" for that review. The royalty increase from 12.5 percent to 18.75 percent would apply to coal from strip mines primarily in Western states.


Wyoming unemployment above US rate for first time since 2000

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming's unemployment rate has risen above the national average for the first time in more than a decade. The Casper Star-Tribune reports that according to a Wyoming Department of Workforce Services report, the state's unemployment jumped up to 5 percent in February, compared to a national average of 4.9 percent. The last time Wyoming's unemployment was above the national average was January 2000. Federal data shows Wyoming has experienced the largest unemployment rate increase in the country over the past year. The rising rate comes as mining, oil and gas companies have shed thousands of jobs in the past year.


Lawsuit: Wyoming Guard needs better sex harassment policy

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Wyoming Military Department. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court contends that the department has an inadequate sexual harassment policy that has promoted a sexually hostile work environment. The lawsuit centers a complaint by a former department employee who reported being harassed by her male supervisor who no longer works for the agency. The woman said the supervisor made repeated advances toward her in late 2010 and in 2011 that she rejected. The lawsuit says guard officials didn't properly handle the situation and the woman eventually resigned her job with a Wyoming National Guard program for high school dropouts.


UW board increases student fees and housing charges

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees has increased student fees and housing charges. Mandatory student fees will increase by $13.12, effective next fall. Full-time students each will pay $1,334.62 in the next academic year, up from the $1,321.50 charged in the current year. A news release from the university says the increase primarily will cover anticipated cost increases in health insurance and retirement contributions for benefited employees. The board also approved a 3.67 percent increase in room rates and a 1.75 percent increase in board rates for residents of UW's residence halls. In addition, rent will increase by 1.78 percent for residents of university apartments.


Casper man pleads not guilty in roommate's death

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A Casper man has pleaded not guilty to murder in the stabbing death of his roommate.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that Don Johns entered his plea Thursday in connection the August death of Don Wickersham, whose body was found with 29 stab wounds in a Casper apartment.

Johns' attorney, Tracy Hucke, had asked for her client's bond to be lowered from $1 million to $100,000, saying that evidence shows Johns had been defending himself in the incident. Hucke also noted that Johns turned himself into police and has limited criminal history.

But the judge denied the request, saying that the bond was appropriate in the case.

In January, Johns' was ordered to undergo a second mental health evaluation. His attorneys say he has been found competent to stand trial.


Winning lottery ticket sold in February still unclaimed

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A $5 million winning lottery ticket sold in Wyoming in February has yet to be claimed. WyoLotto CEO Jon Clontz says the Mega Millions ticket was purchased on Feb. 25 at the Pilot Travel Center in Evanston. Whoever bought the ticket paid extra for the multiplier that pushed the ticket's value to $5 million. In Wyoming, winners don't have to have their names publicly released.