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Jun 19, 2012 - The Associated Press

Captured inmate to return

RAPID CITY, S.D. -- A Wyoming fugitive who spent two days on the run before being captured in South Dakota's Black Hills will be returned to his home state to face charges.

24-year-old James Friesen appeared in a Rapid City courtroom on Monday and waived extradition. He will be transferred to a correctional facility in Cheyenne within the next week and a half.

Friesen was sentenced last year to up to five years in custody for forgery.

He was serving the time at the Wyoming Honor Conservation Camp, a minimum-security facility in Newcastle.

Warden Michael Murphy says Friesen walked away after a welding session as other inmates were turning in their tools and scaled a 12-foot fence.

Driver license rules examined

CHEYENNE -- An interim legislative committee will consider a proposal that would block teen drivers who have a restricted license from traveling with more than one passenger under the age of 18 who is not a member of their immediate family.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol recommended the proposal last week to the Legislature's Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee.

Col. John Butler, the administrator of the Highway Patrol, told lawmakers that he supports the change because of the safety risks associated with having multiple passengers with a young driver.

Restricted licenses allow 14- or 15-year-olds to drive on their own as long as they meet certain "hardship" requirements and then follow several driving restrictions. The license is largely designed for teenagers who live on farms or in rural parts of the state.

Current restrictions on such licenses include driving only to certain locations, staying within a 50-mile radius from home and driving only during the day.

Butler noted that a passenger limit is already in place for the intermediate learner's permit that is issued to 15- and 16-year-olds.

Some lawmakers expressed caution with the Highway Patrol's proposal because of the strain it could place on rural families.

The legislators said they also would examine the hours that restricted license holders can legally drive.

Several of the lawmakers suggested extending the 8 p.m. restriction to 11 p.m.

CBM lease policy changing

CASPER -- The decline in natural gas prices is causing the state to take a harder look at extensions granted to owners of idle coal bed methane leases.

The new policy will allow leases for non-producing wells to be extended for up to five years. After that, owners will have to justify their need for an extension.

The Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners, which includes the governor, will have the final say. The board can also decide whether to charge a higher royalty fee and rental fee and whether to increase the reclamation bond.

Until now, the state board has almost routinely allowed extensions on idle leases.

Revenue from leases on state trust lands help fund public schools.

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