Wyoming News Update

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Here is the latest Wyoming news from The Associated Press-

Oil and Gas Leases Sold Beneath Montana Coal Mine

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Wyoming company has purchased federal leases that would allow it to explore for oil and gas beneath the site of a Montana coal mine.

The Billings Gazette reported Wednesday that Hoover & Stacy Inc. of Cheyenne paid $23,000 in December for leases totaling 909 acres beneath the boundaries of the Spring Creek Mine near Decker.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Al Nash says the company would need to obtain a permit before it could proceed with exploration work. He says mining and drilling wouldn't conflict because technological advances allow drilling from locations that are not directly above a lease.

Mine owner Cloud Peak Energy objected to the lease sale after a public comment period already had closed.

Purchasing a lease does not obligate a company to conduct drilling.

Report: Wyoming smoking rates drop as health issues persist

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — State figures show the number of adult smokers in Wyoming continues to drop, but health issues and deaths related to smoking persist.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports figures from the state Department of Health show the smoking rate for Wyoming adults was nearly 19 percent in 2016, declining since the nearly 25 percent rate recorded in 2003.

The numbers show slightly more women than men are smoking, but far more men are using smokeless tobacco products.

According to the figures, 303 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in the state in 2014, and 212 died from the disease. In 2015, 276 people were diagnosed and 213 died.

According to the health department, more women than men were diagnosed and lung cancer was the third-most common cancer diagnosis during these two years.

New charges filed in Wyoming killing

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Wyoming judge has dismissed the charges against a 21-year-old Cheyenne man accused of shooting a 19-year-old man in the head and dumping his body in a reservoir.

But prosecutors quickly filed new charges and Armando Ramirez-Serna remains in jail.

Laramie County Circuit Judge Denise Nau (NOW) ruled Tuesday the initial charges in the case didn't reflect what had happened and dismissed the charges of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, first-degree arson and attempting to conceal a felony.

Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg said he disagreed with the judge's ruling and responded by filing new charges of first-degree murder, attempted aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and third-degree arson.

Police say Justin Robinson was shot Nov. 26 and his body dumped in a reservoir east of Cheyenne.

Wyoming considers doubling state park in Bighorns

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Legislature will consider a proposed bill that would nearly double the size of a state park nestled in the western foothills of the Bighorn Mountains.

The proposed measure would allow Wyoming to assume control of 52 acres of public land adjacent to Medicine Lodge State Archaeological Site about 30 miles northwest of Worland.

State Parks administrator Dominic Bravo said the park has seen significant growth in recent years and needs more campsites and trails to accommodate the higher volume of visitors.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that the park saw over 34,000 visitors in 2016, and a recent report noted that its 28 campsites are at or near-capacity during summer months.

The site is a nationally registered historic site featuring Native American rock art from 2,000 years ago.

Wyoming data shows decline in alcohol-related crashes

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Preliminary data from the Wyoming Highway Patrol indicates that the number of alcohol-related crashes in the state dropped last year by 24 percent.

So far, the patrol has counted 542 alcohol-related crashes in 2017, down from 712 in 2016.

However, the Casper Star-Tribune reports that the numbers are not final because the department is still waiting for some toxicology screens to come back.

Although the final number is likely to change, Sgt. Kyle McKay said it is likely that 2017 number will come in below 2016's, which also dropped compared to the prior year.

Fatalities on Wyoming roads totaled 123 in 2017, up 11 from the year prior, but down 22 from 2015.

Topeka man pleads guilty to 5 bank robberies in 4 states

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has pleaded guilty five bank robberies in four states.

Federal prosecutors say 21-year-old Dakota Shareef Walker, of Topeka, pleaded guilty Wednesday to robbing U.S. Banks in Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Evanston, Wyoming; and Malad City, Idaho. He also pleaded guilty to robbing a Wells Fargo Bank in Preston, Idaho.

The robberies occurred between Nov. 28, 2016, and Jan. 9, 2017.

In each case, Walker gave tellers a note warning not them not to activate any alarms or to make any sudden moves.

Sentencing will be April 16.

Prosecutors say all parties have agreed to recommend a sentence from 4.25 years to 8 years in federal prison.

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