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Wyoming in brief

Air rules limit power plantsGILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — Only half of the coal-fired power plants proposed in Campbell County may be built because of strict air quality rules, air quality experts said.

Ken Rairigh, air quality engineer for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, said the result could be that the plants are built in other areas of the state.

Five power plants are proposed over the next five years in the county that would add 1,880 megawatts to the 437 coal-fired megawatts already there.

The Powder River Basin, which includes Campbell County, is an attractive location for power plants because of its coal supply.

But the area is ringed by several “class one” areas, such as Devils Tower National Monument, that require visibility to be regulated.

“To site several coal-fired power plants in the Powder River Basin, it is going to be very difficult to show no impact to the class one areas,” said Fred Carl, environmental coordinator for Black Hills Power and Light, whose parent company has proposed adding coal-fired electric facilities.

Also, the proposals are limited by polluting facilities already in the county, such as coal mines, railroads and other power plants, officials said.

Two power plants, Two Elk Unit 1 and Wygen No. 1, have received the necessary permits to be constructed. Two Elk is to be built by the North American Power Group and Wygen is being built by Black Hills Generation.Affordable housing bill introduced in CongressCHEYENNE — Proponents of federal funding for affordable housing said Congress is starting to look at the shortage of low-income rental units.

A bill introduced last week in a House committee would establish a national permanent housing trust fund.

Virginia Sellner, director of the Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless, said a booming economy has driven housing costs up faster than wages.

“For the first time in a decade, Congress is talking about building more affordable homes,” she said.

Wyoming people would benefit from a trust, she said.

“For years in Wyoming they said there wasn’t a lack of affordable housing,” she said. “Now they’re coming to realize there is.”

Mike Stanfield, deputy director of the Cheyenne Housing Authority, said about 650 people are on a waiting list for housing. His agency helps 1,700 low income families with housing needs.Evaluation ordered for suspect in murder ROCK SPRINGS — A mental evaluation has been ordered for the suspect in the murder of a Rock Springs man.

James Michael Rogers, 37, is charged with first-degree murder, arson and aggravated burglary in the death of Edgar Alexander, 84.

Alexander was found dead in his burned Rock Springs home June 17. An autopsy revealed he died from head injuries, and that 25 separate areas of trauma were found on the body.

Near Alexander’s body was a piece of wood, which bore fibers of what appeared to be blood and hair, Rock Springs police said in an affidavit.

Investigators also determined the house had been ransacked and burglarized.

Rogers was arrested later June 17 on an alcohol violation, and a search of his vehicle revealed blood on a door handle and several items of jewelry that belonged to Alexander, authorities said. Several items that bore Alexander’s name and several more pieces of jewelry were found at a campfire site near Wyoming 430, where Rogers had talked with another person, the investigation revealed.

Rogers waived his right to a preliminary hearing Thursday and was bound over to state district court. However, 3rd District Judge Jere Ryckman first ordered an evaluation at the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston.Two prison officials arrested on blackmail chargesRAWLINS — Two corrections officers from the Wyoming State Penitentiary have been arrested on charges of trying to blackmail a Rawlins woman.

Charged are Mark Bessler, 34, and Harry Ekker, 24. Both were released on bond following a court hearing last week.

Bessler told investigators the two were trying to collect money from a woman June 24, authorities said. The woman told investigators she had borrowed $500 from Bessler’s girlfriend and returned $300 of it.

According court documents, the men presented themselves as agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. Bessler denied the two pretended to be DCI agents, the documents said.

Carbon County Attorney Tom Campbell said the investigation continues.

Melinda Brazzale, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, confirmed Bessler and Ekker work at the prison.

She declined to comment further, citing laws protecting the confidentiality of personnel.Wyoming senators praise snowmobile ban settlementThe Bush administration acted wisely by settling a lawsuit on the snowmobile ban in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, Wyoming’s senators said.

The administration settled the lawsuit last Friday with commercial snowmobile interest groups.

The settlement calls for the National Park Service to conduct a new study of air and noise pollution created by snowmobiles in the two parks. Both sides to the lawsuit say they predict it will ultimately mean the ban on snowmobiles will be lifted.

Residents who live around Yellowstone National Park would have suffered under the ban and the Clinton administration ignored their concerns, said U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

“One of the differences since this banning business first surfaced are the snowmobiles themselves. There have been significant advances in technology that make snowmobiles cleaner and quieter and I’m sure there will be further improvements in the coming years,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., said he will continue to push for strict guidelines for managing snowmobiles and clean technology that will protect the environment.

Thomas is chairman of the Senate Parks Subcommittee.Authorities look for body in Snake RiverJACKSON — Searchers spent a second day looking for a man who may have drowned after jumping off a cliff into the Snake River.

The man was last seen alive floating through Cottonwood Rapid after jumping from Jump Rock on Sunday, authorities said.

Later, witnesses downstream reported a body floating past the Sheep Gulch takeout.

Authorities spotted a body about a mile downstream from Sheep Gulch two hours after launching a 7:15 p.m. search Sunday. The river’s current was too strong for a jet boat to navigate to retrieve the body, authorities said.

The search, which included kayakers and dogs, ended at nightfall Sunday and resumed Monday.

Authorities declined to identify the man.

The man was not wearing a life preserver, they said.

Participating agencies were the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Star Valley Search and Rescue and Bridger-Teton National Forest.Bighorn sheep center celebrates todayDUBOIS — The National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center is celebrating its eighth year of operation from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. today with an open house with free admission, birthday cake and gift shop specials. View the special exhibit for 2001, a re-creation of the world’s record Stone’s Sheep, the Chadwick Ram.

Since opening in 1993, more than 77,000 visitors and 5,000 students have enjoyed the life-size wildlife dioramas and hands-on interactive exhibits. The National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Association, a nonprofit membership organization, took over the operation of the Center in 1995 and has made it a self-supporting facility with year-round outreach education programs.

The Center is open daily during the summer months from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults, 75 cents for children 12 and under and $5 for a family. Members of the Interpretive Association always receive free admission.Floyd steps down as head of wildlife federationCHEYENNE — Kim Floyd, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation the last three years, announced Monday he is leaving the sportsmen’s group to pursue new challenges.

“I believe that change is healthy for an organization,” he said in a release. “It’s time for me to move on, but I know that the federation will continue to play a role as a voice for Wyoming hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts.”

Under Floyd, membership increased by more than 1,500 members and the organization’s finances improved, the release stated.

“We’ve achieved remarkable growth and set it on a stable path for even more,” he said.

He said he plans to stay involved in the federation in other capacities.

The federation board appointed board president Jim Narva as interim executive director until Floyd’s successor is namedScientists meet in Powell to study fossilsPOWELL — Scientists worldwide are expected to meet in town this week to study the Big Horn Basin’s rich supply of Paleocene and Eocene fossils.

“It’s really an amazing conference to be held in a small town,” said Beryl Churchill, a conference organizer.

The area is famous for its thick, well-exposed and intensively studied late Paleocene and early Eocene sections.

The 170 or so scientists expected to participate in the conference plan to study a key period in history: the emergence of the mammal.

The Eocene epoch began about 37 million years ago. The Paleocene, immediately before the Eocene, began about 58 million years ago. Both followed the dinosaur age.

During the two epochs, the Heart Mountain detachment formed in the Beartooth Mountains and the Absaroka volcanic field erupted. Also during this time, major coal, oil, shale and trona deposits formed in Wyoming.

The conference is scheduled Tuesday through Sunday.

Conference sponsors include the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of Natural History and the University of Michigan.

On the roster are scientists from the United States, Albania, Austria, Colombia, Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, France, Egypt, Ireland, Brazil, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Belgium, India, China, Spain, Australia and Sweden.Riverton depot sold to make way for renovation projectRIVERTON — The Wind River Heritage Center will have to move from the historic railroad depot because the building has been sold.

The new owner is Susan Skidmore, who operates a Mexican restaurant in the depot and plans renovations.

“The good news is that building is going to have some major foundation work done, which will help preserve it for the future,” said Ernie Over, president of the heritage center. “The bad news, from our perspective, is that we have to move out just seven months after setting up shop there.”

Skidmore said her restaurant is in the south half of the structure, which sits on a number of old tree stumps.

“I’ll be hiring an engineer versed in saving historical buildings and then we’ll put a foundation under the structure,” she said.

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