Wyoming News Briefs
September 10, 2020
Hanna residents allowed to return home after fire
CASPER (WNE) — Hanna residents were being allowed to return home starting at 1 p.m. Sunday after a wildfire prompted evacuations a day earlier.
The Carbon County Office of Emergency Management was working with local authorities to bring back the residents who evacuated, the agency said in a press release.
However, residents that return were being asked to shelter in place.
The fire has burned roughly 7,500 acres since it ignited Saturday and is 0% contained, according to the Bureau of Land Management. FEMA on Saturday authorized the use of federal funds to help with firefighting costs due to the blaze, which threatened roughly 200 home and 846 residents.
The fire burned over the town’s water treatment plant and destroyed one engine, according to FEMA.
Power to the small, Carbon County community has been restored, according to the emergency management office. Black Hills Energy is expected to go door-to-door to re-light pilot lights for customers that use natural gas.
Yellowstone guide, blogger charged with 17 counts
JACKSON (WNE) — A Yellowstone National Park law enforcement ranger has thrown the book at a blogger, guide and social media personality for alleged offenses ranging from disturbing a black bear to guiding without a license.
The accused is seasonal West Yellowstone, Montana, resident Theodore “Teddy” Garland, author of the “Explore Yellowstone Like a Local” guidebook.
Reached Friday, Garland told the Jackson Hole Daily that every last one of the 17 charges against him is “absolutely” baseless.
“I’m just not going to roll over and take it,” Garland said. “My goal of this whole thing is to get my guide permit back.”
The complaint, filed Aug. 17 in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming, shows that most evidence supporting the charges was self-incriminating, with the alleged offenses posted about on Facebook or mentioned in a podcast. Other counts detailed in the criminal complaint spearheaded by the investigation of law enforcement officer Devon Beeny include illegal cliff jumping, traveling off boardwalks and trails in geothermal areas, and moving rocks at Mystic Falls to create an illegal “hot pot.”
Garland characterized the law enforcement investigation as sloppy. The June 15 video that led to a charge about disturbing a Lamar Valley black bear, for example, was taken by his wife, he said, who was clustered with 100 other people at a bear jam.
“I never even got out of the car,” he said.
The charge for cliff jumping was related to a video a follower posted to Explore Yellowstone Like a Local’s public Facebook page. Garland said it was shot and posted while he was in Cancun at a wedding.
Wyoming given authority over carbon dioxide storage wells
GILLETTE (WNE) — Gov. Mark Gordon and other officials are applauding a recent EPA rule that gives Wyoming authority to regulate wells related to storing carbon dioxide under the ground.
The EPA has granted the state’s request to have primacy, or primary responsibility, to enforce regulation of Class VI wells under the Underground Injection Control Program.
Class VI wells are used to inject carbon dioxide into deep rock formations. The EPA created this classification of well in 2010 to establish minimum technical criteria to protect underground source of drinking water from the long-term subsurface storage of carbon dioxide.
During a press conference Thursday morning, Gordon said this decision will help keep coal burning, protect local jobs and encourage economic diversification.
It allows the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, rather than the federal government, to regulate these Class VI wells. Todd Parfitt, director of the state DEQ, said it streamlines the process for those who are developing carbon sequestration projects.
“This further demonstrates we can and do have the means to allow for economic development while protecting public health and the environment,” Parfitt said.
“Wyoming is in the best position” to oversee this activity, Gordon said, adding that the rule is a big step in the right direction for keeping coal viable as an energy source in the future.
Cody schools report first coronavirus case
CODY (WNE) — On the fourth day of the school year, the Cody School District announced the first case of COVID-19 within its walls – a Heart Mountain Academy student.
In a Facebook post Thursday morning, the district credited Park County Public Health with notifying them of the case.
Officials also said Public Health determined that no one else would need to quarantine, and thanked the community for following its reopening plan.
Park County Public Health Officer Aaron Billin said he thought the case was identified Wednesday morning, but could not give any further information.
The district plan regarding COVID infections has been to work closely with Public Health and allow it to take the lead on contact tracing.
Superintendent Peg Monteith has said in the past that it would take more than a single infection to close down a school, and that they would follow directions from Billin and Public Health when it was time to make that type of decision.
Anyone infected in the district is not allowed to return to school until their fever is gone for at least 72 hours without the aid of over-the-counter medications.
Exam ordered in case of man accused of trying to run over deputy
GILLETTE (WNE) — A mental examination has been ordered for the man accused of deliberately trying to run into a sheriff’s deputy in April.
Nathan Schuerman, 41, of Moorcroft pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness or deficiency to five felony and two misdemeanor charges against him. District Judge Michael N. “Nick” Deegan ordered an exam to see if he is competent to stand trial.
Schuerman had reportedly fled from Moorcroft police early April 17 after a family fight. They determined by pinging his phone that he was in Campbell County and asked for the Sheriff’s Office to arrest him because he was wanted for aggravated assault, violation of a protection order, domestic battery and interference.
Campbell County deputies found his 2009 Toyota Tacoma parked on Coal Train Road about 10 a.m., surrounded the home and called him to try to negotiate a surrender.
Deputies, who had laid spike strips nearby to prevent him from leaving the area, watched him drive away after negotiations failed, but the spikes strips didn’t disable the truck.
Deputy Eric Coxbill was farther down Coal Train Road and moved his vehicle off the road.
But when Schuerman was about 50 yards away and going about 50 mph, he veered off the road and into the grass, aiming directly at Coxbill.
Schuerman’s tires were unable to gain traction and went past Coxbill, who then pursued him onto Fairview Road, where he drove through two fences and a field on private property. He eventually rolled the Tacoma on a private oil field road, suffering significant injuries.
Budget cuts force halt on school auditorium funding
RIVERTON (WNE) — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has postponed funding for a new auditorium at Riverton High School.
The news came in the form of a letter to the Wyoming Select Committee on School Facilities, indicating that Gordon was “exercising his right, statutorily, (to) adjust budget funds based on revenue issues, which we know we’re facing in the state,” Riverton school superintendent JoAnne AndreFlanagan said Friday.
Gordon was “very clear,” however, that the move was “a postponement – not a cancellation,” Andre-Flanagan said.
The school facilities committee also expressed support for the project during a meeting Wednesday, agreeing to create legislation to fund the construction in the future, she said.
“(We) looked at a bill to say it’s a postponement and we’ll maintain our priorities,” Wyoming Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, said.
Bebout, who sits on the school facilities committee, said he understands the changes Gordon has made to the state’s budget in light of the “huge deficit” created by the coronavirus pandemic and the depressed minerals industries in the state.
“It’s responsible,” Beobut said. “Things have really changed. This deficit is real. … We’ve got some serious issues out there.”
Until the state’s funding problems are resolved, Andre-Flanagan said, her team will do all it can to advance the project so it is ready for construction once the state funding is available.