AP News Update

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AP News Update

Latest Wyoming news, sports, business and entertainment

MINERAL PAYMENTS

Budget deal cuts mineral payments to states

WASHINGTON (AP) - Wyoming, New Mexico and other states will lose more than $400 million in mineral payments over the next decade under a budget deal nearing final approval in the Senate.

A provision in the budget deal preserves a 2 percent fee charged by the government on royalties from energy companies that purchase oil and gas leases on federal land. The fee effectively set a 51-49 split, favoring the federal government, on energy royalties.

The government last year paid $2.1 billion to 35 states under the program, with the largest payments going to five Western states: Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and California.

Wyoming would lose about $19 million next year and nearly $200 million over the next decade. New Mexico would about lose $10 million next year and Utah, $2.8 million.

COAL TO LIQUIDS PLANT

Wyo. coal-to-liquids plant permit extension OK'd

SARATOGA, Wyo. (AP) - The state has extended a permit for a planned coal-to-liquids plant near Medicine Bow.

Houston-based DKRW Advanced Fuels got a state industrial siting permit for the $2 billion plant almost six years ago. Difficulty lining up financing and contractors has delayed the construction start.

State industrial siting officials have been expecting an updated construction schedule and recently told DKRW it was out of compliance with the permit terms.

On Wednesday, the state Industrial Siting Council approved a permit change sought by DKRW. The change allows DKRW to delay construction for up to 39 more months, but the permit would become invalid if DKRW doesn't submit a construction schedule within 30 months.

The plant would process coal into gasoline. Company officials say the process remains economical despite booming U.S. oil production.

WOLF PROTECTION

Experts to review taking wolf off threatened list

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - A group of experts is reviewing whether the federal proposal to lift more Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf is scientifically valid.

A research center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, assembled the experts at the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the agency used the best available science to conclude that gray wolves no longer need protection.

Wolves have already lost federal protections in the Northern Rockies and western Great Lakes. Fish and Wildlife now wants to lift protections in the rest of the United States, except for a small area of the Southwest.

The scientific review is due by the end of January. Fish and Wildlife is to make a final decision on wolf protections by the end of 2014.

FRACKING-GROUNDWATER POLLUTION

Reports on Pavillion water pollution delayed

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Residents near Pavillion will have to wait longer to find out more about what might have caused contamination in their well water.

State officials told residents at a meeting Tuesday that two reports due this month would be delayed until early 2014. A third originally due in September will also likely be delayed.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began investigating the potential water pollution but stopped in June after repeated delays and controversy over its preliminary finding in 2011 that hydraulic fracturing polluted water supplies. It turned the probe over to the state, which isn't targeting whether fracking did or did not cause the problem.

Farmer Jeff Locker told the Casper Star-Tribune that he doesn't have much confidence in the state to resolve the issue. Instead, he and his wife are considering suing Encana Corp., which operates the Pavillion gas field.

SEX ASSAULT-LIFE SENTENCE

Man gets life in prison for sex assault on teen

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A man convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old mentally challenged girl has been sentenced to life in prison.

Judge Thomas Sullins had little discretion in sentencing James Edward Rogers in Casper Tuesday. The Casper Star-Tribune reports Rogers was convicted in 1990 of assaulting a 10-year-old girl and Wyoming law requires that habitual offenders be sentenced to life.

Rogers' attorney asked for credit for time served for two lesser charges but Rogers asked the judge to just give him life "so I can go die somewhere." He also directed diatribes full of curses at his own attorney and the judge.

The victim's mother told the judge that her daughter is in therapy because of the assault. Rogers looked straight ahead and not at her.

WOLF HUNT

Wolf quota reached outside Yellowstone, 4 shot

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Montana's gray wolf season around the town of Gardiner ends 30 minutes after sunset Thursday after hunters filled a four-wolf quota in the area near Yellowstone National Park.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim says the closure applies to both hunting and trapping in Wolf Management Area 313. That's one of two areas near Yellowstone where hunting has been restricted following requests from federal park officials.

The only other place in Montana with restrictions on how many wolves can be shot is west of Glacier National Park, where there's a two-wolf quota.

Hunters statewide have reported shooting 106 wolves since the season began Sept. 7. Wolf hunting ends March 15.

Trappers have taken three wolves so far, in a season that began Sunday and runs through February 28.

WILDLIFE ADVOCATE-POACHING PLEA

Idaho wildlife advocate pleads guilty to poaching

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho director for the wildlife advocacy group Greater Yellowstone Coalition has pleaded guilty to poaching two elk.

The Idaho State Journal reports Marv Hoyt is currently on vacation and will retire from his post at the end of the year. Hoyt pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor charges of unlawful taking of game and wasteful destruction of wildlife. Prosecutors said Hoyt only had one elk tag but that he killed three cow elk during a November hunting trip in Caribou County.

Fish and Game officer Blake Phillips found the three elk carcasses. The first elk had been gutted and the meat taken, but the other two had not been harvested.

DEAD GRIZZLY

Freedom man fined in accidental grizzly killing

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - A judge has ordered a Freedom man to pay a $2,500 fine for killing a grizzly bear after mistaking it for a black bear.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that Circuit Judge James Radda imposed the fine on Joe B. Conger on Monday.

Radda also revoked Conger's hunting and fishing privileges for a year and placed him on a year of unsupervised probation.

A jury found Conger guilty earlier this month of killing the grizzly. He shot the bear in September 2012 while hunting near Mount Randolph, north of Grand Teton National Park.

Grizzly bears are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Court records show federal prosecutors declined to prosecute because Conger didn't intend to kill a protected animal.

BISON SALE

State parks plans to sell bison from park

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources plans to sell seven bison at the Hot Springs State Park office in Thermopolis.

The park is taking bids on two heifer calves, four bull calves and one mature cow until 5 p.m. January 14. The minimum bid is $1,000 for calves born in 2013 and $1,200 for the cow.

Each animal offered will be sold to the highest bidder and buyers may begin picking up their animals on Jan. 21.

JACKSON CELLPHONES

Jackson outlaws cellphone use while driving

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - The town of Jackson has banned the use of cellphones while driving or biking.

The Jackson Town Council approved the ban on Monday but the new ordinance doesn't take effect until March 1.

Mayor Mark Barron tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide that officers will pull violators over but not issue any tickets during the grace period.

The law makes it illegal to use cellphones or other wireless communication devices such as iPads, while behind the wheel or pedaling a bike.

Exceptions include devices designed for "hands-free" operation and authorized emergency responders.

Violators would be charged with a misdemeanor.

WYOMING CONSERVATION CORPS

UW suspends conservation work program

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A University of Wyoming program that paid students to perform conservation work around the state during the summer months has been put on hold because of financial problems.

The Wyoming Conservation Corps program has stopped taking on new projects while it is reviewed by UW officials.

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin says it's hoped the program can be revived in partial form next year. If not, the program will be suspended at least a year.

The conservation program has been supported by state and federal funding as well as some corporate and nonprofit organizations.

But Baldwin says state and federal funding has run out or been reduced. He says officials are trying to make the program more self-sustaining financially.

Founded in 2006, the program has completed more than 200 conservation projects.

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