Feb 14, 2013 The Associated Press

Coal export deal reached

BILLINGS, Mont. -- A Wyoming mining company has signed an option agreement allowing it to ship up to 16 million tons of coal a year through a planned West Coast port.

Cloud Peak Energy said Wednesday's deal involving Washington state's proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal will allow it to expand overseas sales amid weak domestic demand.

The company has mines in Wyoming and Montana. It shipped 4.4 million tons of coal to Asian customers in 2012.

Gateway Pacific is proposed by SSA Marine in the town of Cherry Point and could begin commercial operations by 2018.

Cloud Peak has a separate option agreement to ship 5 million tons of coal annually through a second Washington port, the Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview.

Both port proposals are strongly opposed by conservation groups.

Silencer bill passes House

CHEYENNE -- A bill that cleared the state House of Representatives on Wednesday would mean Wyoming hunters could use silencers on firearms for all types of hunting.

The House stripped off an amendment it had adopted earlier this week that would have allowed silencers for hunting predators and small game but not for big-game species such as elk and deer. It passed the final bill 44-14.

The measure earlier cleared the Senate and now heads to Gov. Matt Mead for his consideration.

House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, sponsored the amendment to allow silencers for big-game hunting, reversing his position from the day before.

Another step forward for fuel tax

CHEYENNE -- A bill to raise state fuel taxes by a dime a gallon has cleared its final vote in the Wyoming State Senate.

The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 18-to-12 on Thursday.

The bill now heads to Gov. Matt Mead for his consideration. He has said he supports increasing the fuel tax.

Proponents say the Wyoming Department of Transportation needs a steady source of funding.

Opponents say the agency could realize savings by being more efficient.

The bill would raise the tax from the existing rate of 14 cents a gallon up to 24 cents for gasoline and diesel.

The tax hike would raise about $70 million a year, of which roughly two-thirds would go to the state highway department and one-third to local governments.

Gillette expects 900 kindergartners

GILLETTE -- The Campbell County School District is preparing for what could be a record number of kindergartners next year.

District administrators warned school trustees this week that some schools may need to add modulars to accommodate all the youngsters.

As of Tuesday, 700 students had registered for kindergarten next fall.

A year ago, 632 students had registered for kindergarten and junior kindergarten, and 238 more students joined the class over the summer.

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