NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, April 29, 2019


From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Wyoming prison population third-fastest growing in country

CASPER (WNE) — Wyoming’s prison population was the third-fastest growing in the country at the end of 2017, according to a government report released last week. 

The report, which was authored by two U.S. Department of Justice statisticians and released Thursday, states that Wyoming’s prison population grew by 4.2 percent between the year-ends of 2016 and 2017. The Cowboy State was outpaced only by Utah, where the incarceration rate grew by 4.3 percent, and Idaho, where the rate grew by 5.1 percent. The three states topping the list were also the only Mountain West states with notable increases. 

The report indicates the continuation of a trend a 2018 Star-Tribune analysis noted began more than a decade ago — Wyoming prison population rates as a percentage of the state’s total population grow while national numbers drop. Nationwide, 390 per 100,000 people were locked in state prisons by the end of 2017 across the country. That number was down 7 from the year prior. 

In Wyoming, however, 429 people per 100,000 were in corrections department custody at year’s end, up more than 20 per 100,000 compared to the prior year. 

Because the report analyzes prison populations on the basis of supervising authority, rather than physical location, Wyoming Department of Corrections prisoners held in a Mississippi private prison for space reasons, are included in the total the report attributes to Wyoming. 

The report indicates Wyoming’s prison population increase was the result of both an increase in newly incarcerated people and a decrease in people released from prison.

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Woman changes plea in stabbing death

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A Cheyenne woman facing involuntary manslaughter charges agreed last week to change her plea to guilty as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Tanya Pearson was facing up to 30 years in prison on felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault and battery for the fatal stabbing of Jennifer Pratt, 45, in April 2018.

The plea deal limits the Laramie County District Attorney’s Office to seeking a sentence of 10-12 years in prison for Pearson. The judge in the case doesn’t have to abide by the terms of the agreement, however, and can hand down any sentence within the guidelines they see fit.

According to the Cheyenne Police Department at the time of the incident, the stabbing occurred in Martin Luther King Jr. Park after Pearson and Pratt got into a heated argument. The two women knew each other before the incident.

Pratt died of her wounds before first-responders could reach the park.

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Suspected tornado hits Marbleton, no injuries

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — There were no injuries after a storm thought to be a tornado was reported in Marbleton on Friday afternoon.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Al Ross said the storm hit around 12:30 p.m.

A Marbleton resident captured the event on video, Sublette County Sgt. Travis Bingham told the Rocket-Miner, but added that he wasn’t sure if there was a tornado. The storm moved in from Idaho, but it never made a funnel cloud or picked up dirt. It was more like a microburst, he said.

The Sheriff’s Office called the National Weather Service, and it wasn’t able to see anything, “so we really don’t know,” Bingham said.

“We’re just assuming it was a microburst,” he added. “It wasn’t even on the radar.”

No one was injured although the 45-60 mph winds tipped over a mobile home and damaged power and gas lines. About 1,800 residents were without power, which has since been restored. The Sheriff’s Office is currently conducting a damage assessment, Bingham said.

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Jackson airport sees busiest winter

JACKSON (WNE) — It was the busiest winter by a wide margin at Jackson Hole Airport, and passenger numbers are beginning to chart into territory previously reserved for the valley’s summer season.

Judging by “enplanements” — the number of people stepping onto commercial jets — the winter started off stagnant, with December’s 24,000 air travelers amounting to slightly fewer people than flew the same month a year before.

But every month thereafter, new records were set: January’s 40,335 passengers exceeded 2018’s record count by 10%, and February’s 38,690 fliers topped the previous high by 17%. March smashed the monthly record, its 47,472 passengers equating to a 27% jump over the previous all-time mark.

“That 27% reflects about a 10,000-person enplanement growth,” Jackson Hole Airport Director Jim Elwood said. “Of that 10,000, not quite half was from American Airlines’ increased passenger counts. That was American expanding their flight schedule and going to larger airplanes.”

Higher “load factors” — the percentage of seats filled — explained some of the rest of the increase, he said. About 79 percent of seats flying into the valley were occupied in the first three months of 2018, but that figure increased to 82 percent this year. Aircraft flying into the valley are also getting larger, with smaller regional jets gradually being replaced by Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s, Elwood said.

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UW to give up to $1 million to Clean Coal Technologies

GILLETTE (WNE) — The University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources has awarded up to $1 million to Clean Coal Technologies Inc. to help the company develop technology to commercialize its product.

Clean Coal Technologies uses patented technology to convert run of mine coal into a cleaner-burning and more efficient stabilized solid fuel.

Earlier this year, UW researchers independently verified the performance of CCTI’s technology. The outcome from this milestone identified performance improvement areas that are being designed and incorporated into the next stage of field testing scheduled to start in Wyoming.

UW will give Clean Coal a matching grant of up to $1 million. The first $500,000 will be available in May, said Clean Coal CEO Robin Eves. The money has been earmarked for the company’s second-generation test facility, which will be located in Gillette.

‘’Our partnership with the University and the state of Wyoming will ensure that the test facility will be ready to commence testing of coal and will help our company move to commercialization in an expedited manner,” Eves said.

“This second generation plant will include process and engineering enhancements that the university’s simulated modeling study and experimental program advocated,” he said. “We fully expect it will further increase the plant’s performance and efficiency and will reduce the overall cost of a commercial unit.

“Furthermore, the University’s work has informed and quantified the potential of manufacturing valuable byproducts as a consequence of the coal-beneficiation process.’’