AP News Update

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AP News Update

Latest Wyoming news, sports, business and entertainment

GAY MARRIAGE-WYOMING

Wyoming activists monitor gay-marriage case

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A federal court hearing this week on a challenge to Utah's ban on same-sex marriage will have ramifications for Wyoming and other western states.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is set to hearing arguments Thursday in a case in which a Utah couple is challenging that state's ban on gay marriage. The court has jurisdiction over other western states including Wyoming.

Jeran Artery is executive director of Wyoming Equality, a statewide group that has been leading the charge to allow gay marriage.

The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reports that Artery says his group is watching the Utah case closely. He says there's no doubt that eventually a same-sex marriage case will get to the U.S. Supreme Court.

GAY MARRIAGE-WYOMING

Utah's gay marriage lawsuit may affect Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A legal challenge to Utah's ban on same-sex marriage could have ramifications for Wyoming and other western states.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to begin hearing arguments Thursday in a case that seeks to let gay couples marry in Utah.

The case is one of dozens of pending lawsuits in about 30 states across the country, including Wyoming. They seek to override gay marriage bans at the state or federal level.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports the ruling could also affect Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Four same-sex couples and supporters filed a lawsuit last month against Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and other officials. The lawsuit challenges Wyoming law specifying marriage may only exist between one man and one woman.

MARRIAGE LAWSUIT

Wyoming urges judge to dismiss gay marriage suit

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The state of Wyoming is asking a district judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by four gay couples and a gay rights advocacy group seeking to force the state to recognize gay marriage.

The Wyoming Attorney General's Office filed a response last month with District Judge Thomas Campbell of Cheyenne. The state denies Wyoming's refusal to allow same-sex couples to marry violates the state constitution.

Wyoming law specifies marriage occurs between one man and one woman.

The lawsuit seeks to force state officials to recognize gay marriages performed outside Wyoming and to allow gay couples to marry inside the state.

The plaintiffs are the Cheyenne-based gay rights group Wyoming Equality and four couples - two who were married outside Wyoming and two who want to wed in Wyoming.

JACKSON-GROUND SLIPPING

Worry mounts in Jackson as ground slips

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Jackson officials have ordered residents near an area of an unstable hillside to evacuate after geologists determined the land shifted deeper underground than previously thought.

The evacuation order issued Wednesday evening includes residents along Budge Drive, a nearby Walgreens store and commercial businesses in the Hillside Complex west of the downtown area. It's unclear how many people are affected by the order.

Town officials say the Walgreens voluntarily closed because of the situation, and utilities have been shut off. Town Manager Bob McLaurin says the town is consulting with experts.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports ground movement over the weekend caused water pipes to break at the town's pump station, and visible fissures have formed in the hillside.

The town has been tracking geological activity on the butte for months, but movement appears to have increased.

SEX ABUSE

Mills man gets prison for sexually abusing minor

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A 42-year-old Mills man who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a minor has been sentenced to 28 to 40 years in prison.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports Alvin Riley was sentenced Wednesday on charges of first- and third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. He was arrested in March 2013 about four months after his victim told a social worker that Riley had repeatedly abused her.

The arrest occurred after DNA testing showed there was a 99.99 percent chance Riley was the father of a stillborn child born to the girl, according to court records. Police exhumed the body to test the DNA.

COMMITMENT HEARINGS

Court says county attorneys must attend hearings

POWELL, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Supreme Court says county attorneys must take a leading role in hearings to determine whether mentally ill patients should be held against their will.

Under the law, persons judged to be a danger to themselves or others because of mental illnesses can be held against their will after a commitment hearing is conducted.

Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric had left the commitment cases up to hospital attorneys over the past year, saying state law and another Supreme Court ruling were unclear or limited the role of prosecutors on the matter.

But the Supreme Court ruled that that it is Skoric's duty to consider and present the commitment cases.

Skoric tells the Powell Tribune that the decision makes sense to him and provides the clarification he had sought.

JACKSON WOLVES

Jackson area wolf pack cut to 2 by game managers

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - State wildlife managers nearly wiped out a wolf pack that roams primarily in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge because it was feeding on livestock.

Eleven wolves from the Lower Gros Ventre (grow- vawnt') Pack were killed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on private land last May.

According to agency reports, two wolves in the pack remained at the end of the year.

Game and Fish wolf program biologist Ken Mills tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide that the pack was accustomed to feeding on cattle.

The report also noted that among nearly a dozen wolf packs in the Jackson Hole area, one small pack formed and two others disappeared altogether.

However, it says Jackson Hole's wolf packs grew in overall numbers.

ORPHAN WELLS

Mead calls for increased effort to plug wells

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Gov. Matt Mead says the state needs to increase its efforts to plug abandoned coal-bed methane wells.

About 1,200 so-called orphaned wells in the Powder River Basin were left after some operators went bankrupt following a crash in natural gas prices, leaving the state to close down the well and clean up the well site.

The state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission closed 183 between 2004 and 2013. In December, Mead announced a plan to plug around 300 wells in each of the next four years. Commission officials said recently that 67 wells are ready to be plugged and another 140 are going out to bid.

Mead tells the Casper Star-Tribune that progress is being made but he believes more can be done.

FUELS TAX

New fuels tax means more road projects in Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Road crews will be out in force soon across Wyoming, and there will be more work going on this year thanks to the state's new 10-cent per gallon fuels tax.

The 2013 Legislature enacted the tax, which took effect last July 1. The tax is expected to raise about $70 million a year with two-thirds earmarked for maintaining the state highway system.

Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Dave Kingham says he expects that 19 of about 140 road projects planned for this fiscal year will be funded by the new tax. So far, 16 projects worth about $45 million have been contracted out with the new fuels tax money this year.

Kingham says those projects would have been delayed if it weren't for the fuels tax.

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