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Nov 18, 2012 - The Associated Press

Mead appoints new district judge

CHEYENNE -- Governor Matt Mead has selected a federal prosecutor to serve as district judge in Laramie County.

Mead announced Friday that he has selected Steve Sharpe to fill the district judgeship vacated when the governor recently appointed Judge Michael Davis to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Mead says he had hired Sharpe when Mead served as U.S. Attorney for Wyoming. Mead says Sharpe has a broad range of trial experience and a great respect for both the state and federal constitutions.

Sharpe is an assistant U.S. attorney in Wyoming. He says it's an honor to be selected to serve as a judge and that he will strive to maintain the high standards that Judge Davis set.

Wyoming rig count down one

HOUSTON -- The number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose this week by three, to 1,809.

Texas-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. reported Friday that 1,390 rigs were exploring for oil and 417 were searching for gas. Two were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago, Baker Hughes counted 2,001 rigs.

Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Louisiana gained five rigs, Colorado three and California and West Virginia one each.

Alaska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania declined by two apiece and Texas and Wyoming each fell by one. Arkansas and North Dakota were unchanged.

The rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.

Decker to lay off dozens of workers

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Up To 75 employees of Montana's Decker Coal Mine will be laid off from the surface mine near the Wyoming border in mid-January, managers said Friday.

The mine is in Montana, but most of the work force lives in Sheridan, Wyo.

A spokesman for mine operator Ambre Energy North America attributed the layoffs to "ongoing expense management activities," but offered no details. It is co-owned by Ambre-subsidiary KCP Inc. and Western Minerals LLC, a subsidiary of Cloud Peak Energy.

About 160 people work at the mine located in the coal-rich Powder River Basin, an area along the Montana-Wyoming border that produces more coal than any other region in the U.S. The mine is located in Big Horn County, although many of its workers come from the Sheridan, Wyo. area.

Ambre spokesman Brian Gard said in a statement that the layoffs were unrelated to a legal dispute between the owners over whether to expand production.

Coal production at Decker dropped sharply over the last few years, from 7 million tons in 2006 to 3 million tons last year.

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