Wyoming News Update

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Latest Wyoming news, sports, business and entertainment.

POWER PLANT-FUTURE

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The head of the Montana Board of Investments says the board has never made a loan like the one House Speaker Austin Knudsen is proposing for an owner of the Colstrip power plant.

Knudsen is sponsoring a bill that would allow the board to grant Talen Energy loans of $10 million a year to keep two units of the coal-fired plant open until 2022.

The loans are meant to help a company that says it's losing $30 million a year. Talen lobbyist John Metropoulos says the units could close this year without assistance.

Board of Investments Executive Director David Ewer said Monday the board has never before loaned money for a company's operations.

He says that he anticipates the loan would have to be secured with some asset for the board to believe it would be prudent.

WYOMING OZONE POLLUTION

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Itchy eyes and scratchy throats blamed on high levels of wintertime ozone have returned to western Wyoming's gas patch for the first time in six years.

The ozone results from complex atmospheric chemistry involving cold temperatures, sunlight, snow on the ground and air pollution.

Average ozone levels in the Upper Green River Basin this winter exceeded the federal standard for the first time since 2011. Ozone topped the standard on seven days between January and March.

Environmentalists say the gas industry needs to do more to reduce air pollution. The basin is home to two of the largest U.S. gas fields, the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah Field.

Industry officials say they've already reduced pollution substantially and that other sources including wood stoves and idling cars may play a significant role.

STATE OIL-GAS AUCTION

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — An online auction of rights to drill on Wyoming state lands has brought in almost $30 million, the most since oil and gas were booming six years ago.

The auction took place over a week. The revenue will help Wyoming during a downturn in the oil and gas market that has depressed state revenue.

Beneficiaries include the state's common school fund, which gets over $26 million.

State officials say 70 bidders sought the right to drill on almost 86,000 acres in 11 counties. The bidders nominated the leases offered and all 197 leases sold.

BIGHORNS WILDFIRE

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) — Bighorn National Forest officials are investigating an early-season wildfire in the Tongue River Canyon west of Sheridan.

They say the fire was human-caused.

A hiker reported the fire on a dry, south-facing slope Sunday afternoon. The fire burned about 30 acres of timber and grass but firefighters got the flames under control.

They're expecting rain in the area Monday and Tuesday.

Forest officials urge campers to be careful with campfires.

HORSE ROUNDUP

RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) — A U.S. Bureau of Land Management official says he'd like to round up excess wild horses from an area southeast of Riverton later this year.

The roundup had been planned next year but BLM Lander Field Office Manager Rick Vander Voet tells Fremont County commissioners the horse population is way above desired numbers.

The Riverton Ranger reports BLM officials want to maintain a population on the low end of between 480 and 720 horses.

The BLM estimates more than 1,000 wild horses currently inhabit the area. Horse advocates advocate keeping large numbers of wild horses on the range but ranchers say wild horses can damage grazing lands and compete with cattle for forage.

HIGHWAY LANDSLIDE

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — A landslide is fracturing a stretch of U.S. Highway 89/26 south of Jackson, causing travel delays.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation was able to reopen a stretch of the road in the Snake River Canyon over the weekend by building a temporary lane, but speeds are still reduced.

The road was closed from 8 p.m. Friday until 3 p.m. Saturday while crews built the temporary lane by filling a drainage ditch with dirt, topping it with reinforcing grid and gravel and then road base. Maintenance foreman Bruce Daigle tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide (bit.ly/2n0Ia0Q) that the temporary lane will have to be maintained every few days because of heavy traffic.

DOT geologist Kirk Hood says with all the moisture in the ground, the dirt lost strength and is sliding toward the Snake River.