NEWS BRIEFS for Wednesday, April 3, 2019


From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Average Wyoming gas price increases 

GILLETTE (WNE) — The average gas price in Wyoming on Monday was $2.46 per gallon, an increase of 6.2 cents per gallon over last week, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 494 stations.

Gas prices in the state are 24.3 cents per gallon higher than a month ago, and 4.1 cents a gallon higher than a year ago.

The national average price of gasoline has risen 3.9 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $2.69 per gallon Monday.

It is the seventh straight week where the national average gas price has increased, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, adding that this is due to seasonal impacts.

Analysts say drivers should expect prices to keep rising as demand for gasoline increases, refineries continue seasonal maintenance and stations switch over to more expensive summer-blend gasoline, which has a lower volatility to limit evaporative emissions that normally increase with warm weather.

“The run-up this spring has felt worse than prior years, and thus far the national average is up nearly 50 cents per gallon from our 2019 low. Unfortunately, this a rut we’ll be stuck in yet for at least a few more weeks,” he said in a press release.

DeHaan also noted that “while oil prices have been a minor piece of the pie of rising gas prices, the bulk of the reason remains EPA mandates during the summer months that coincide with refineries doing work ahead of the intense demand during the summer in which most run near capacity.”

Rock Springs snuffs e-cigarette sales to minors

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — The Rock Springs City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday 

to prevent residents under 18 from acquiring e-cigarettes.

The ordinance amends the city’s tobacco use policy for minors by adding e-cigarettes to its list of products people under 18 cannot purchase or use in city limits. Other items include cigarettes and cigars.

The maximum penalty for violating the ordinance in Rock Springs is six months in prison and a $750 fine, City Attorney Richard Beckwith said.

E-cigarettes, or vapes, typically deliver nicotine, flavorings, and other additives to users via an inhaled aerosol, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mayor Tim Kaumo, Councilmen David Tate, Tim Savage, Billy Shalata, Keaton West, Rob Zotti and David Halter and Councilwomen Glennise Wendorf and Jeannie Demas voted in favor of the ordinance on third reading.

Shalata said the city is trying to get ahead of the problem.

“We have a little bit of an obligation to take care of our teenagers,” he said. “Maybe this is a good thing to have amended before it becomes a problem.”

At the March 19 city council meeting, students, educators and school resource officers expressed their concerns about the use of e-cigarettes in middle schools and high schools.

“From the information we received from them, e-cigarettes are a very big issue in our community and within our schools,” Tate said. “I think, if we can help the school district with this issue, we should.”

Still no luck on search for health sciences dean

LARAMIE (WNE) — Almost two years after the University of Wyoming’s College of Heath Sciences lost its dean, the university still isn’t close to hiring a permanent replacement, one of UW’s trustees said.

At last week’s board meeting, trustee Wava Tully said the search committee continues to suffer from a shortage of candidates, and the candidates who are interested often have “a lack of expertise.”

That search committee is headed by Provost Kate Miller and College of Education Dean Ray Reutzel.

The prospects of the nationwide search have grown dim enough, Tully said, that UW leaders now plan to turn inward, with plans to “mine out candidates” from within the university.

Tully said that will likely mean reaching out to department heads and others to gauge their interest in the job.

Former dean Joe Steiner retired in July 2017 after accepting voluntary separation incentives.

Since then, the college has been helmed on an interim basis by professor David Jones.

The university originally announced in April 2017 it would conduct a nationwide search to replace Steiner, who took over the position in 2009.

In April, two finalists for the position visited campus and gave public presentations.

Those candidates were Stanley Brown, head of the Department of Kinesiology at Mississippi State University, and Russell Mumper, vice provost for academic affairs at the University of Georgia.

Board of Trustees member Michelle Sullivan said at September’s board meeting the search committee selected a finalist.

However, upper level management, and not the search committee, chose not to hire the finalist.

Tax repayment plan approved for Blackjewel

GILLETTE (WNE) — Campbell County Commissioners have approved a payment schedule for a coal company that owes millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. 

Blackjewel LLC, which operates the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines after buying them from Contura Energy in 2017, owes the county about $8.6 million in taxes, most of it taxes on production in the first half of 2018.

The commissioners approved the payment plan at their regular meeting Tuesday morning.

Blackjewel will make weekly payments of $500,000 through May 31. June 28, it will pay $1 million. Following that, the company will make monthly payments of $2 million through March. April 30, 2020, the remaining balance of tax and interest will be paid. 

The plan resolves the payment of $8.65 million in delinquent taxes for the first half of 2018, and another $8.65 million that will be delinquent if not paid by May 10. It also takes care of taxes for the first half of 2019. 

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