Brian Grimmett | KCUR

Brian Grimmett

Brian Grimmett comes to KMUW after taking a year break from journalism, but he’s excited to jump back in to the fray. Previously, Brian spent almost five years working at KUER 90.1 FM in Salt Lake City. He worked his way up, starting as an intern and sticking around long enough until they relented and gave him a full-time job. At KUER, Brian covered a wide range of topics, but mainly focused on covering the Utah state legislature.

Brian earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from Brigham Young University.

When not reporting, he enjoys spending time with his family and building/flying remote control planes and drones.

WICHITA, Kansas — On Aug. 16, the second day of the school year, students in the Burrton district felt the shake of a 4.2 magnitude earthquake. They knew exactly what to do: hide under their desks until it stopped.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Curtis Sneden remembers what impatient investors did to Topeka-based Payless Shoes. Pressure for profits now and the bankruptcy that followed.

Now the president of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce looks at regional utility giant Evergy and worries what might come of pressure from activist investment firm Elliott Management Corp.’s demands for a higher stock price.

WICHITA, Kansas — Trees improve air quality. They keep people and homes cool with shade. They block the breezes that rake across the Kansas plains.

New research suggests the trees planted by people who filled up Kansas over the last century-plus also made the region more susceptible to hard-to-fight fires.

WICHITA, Kansas — About 150,000 people in Kansas get their drinking water from private wells.

How clean, and safe, is that water? Short answer: It depends.

But new research suggests those wells deliver water tainted with a range of pollutants. Some leaked from dry cleaning operations. Yet far more wells soak up, and deliver to taps, fertilizer that’s been building up in Kansas soil and water over generations of modern farming.

An independent review of Kansas’ rising electricity prices shows the current system for setting rates could use some improvements.

In a lengthy report requested by state legislators and submitted by London Economics, analysts concluded three main things: The current ratemaking process has been slightly balanced in favor of utilities, regulators are limited in their ability to protect consumers from paying for underused investments (such as aging coal plants), and additional bill surcharges and have been a key driver of rising rates.

WICHITA, Kansas — As global carbon dioxide emissions break records, Kansas is headed in the opposite direction — reducing emissions for 10 straight years.

Kansas’ decline is largely due to the rapid adoption of wind energy and a slow move away from coal powered electricity. That is to say: Kansas produces less carbon dioxide, or CO2, the powerful greenhouse gas that’s released into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels and is a major driver of climate change.

WICHITA, Kansas — An environmental watchdog group says most states aren’t stepping up to fill the gap left by budget and staff cuts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which could put Kansans at greater risk of exposure to harmful pollutants.

ST. JOHN, Kansas — Water — who gets to use it, when and how — sparks fights all over the world.

The latest battleground is in south-central Kansas, near the federally operated Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

In its simplest form, it’s a clash between the refuge, which isn’t getting its legal share of water, and the local farmers who may be forced to cut back on how much water they use on their crops.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism stands to lose millions of dollars after record spring rains led to park closures, property damage and washed-out roads.

HARTFORD, Kansas — Some of Kansas’ major reservoirs are filling up with sediment, and if something isn’t done to address the issue, parts of eastern Kansas could see water shortages and insufficient flood control as soon as 30 years from now.

To help slow down the slow, but consistent, reduction of usable water storage in Kansas’ reservoirs, the Kansas Water Office is trying to help farmers in critical areas upstream of the lakes to reduce the water running off from their fields.

But if that isn’t widely accepted, state officials say taxpayers may have to pay millions more just to keep the water flowing.

WICHITA, Kansas — This city’s buses all run on diesel.

They navigate Wichita streets with the distinctive rumble of their time-tested engines, belching the distinctive smell of diesel and a concoction of carbon monoxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.

That exhaust clouds the air locally and adds to the greenhouse gases steadily transforming the climate globally.

WICHITA, Kansas — The water coming out of your tap might meet legal standards, but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe to drink — at least according to the Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy nonprofit.

EWG found that nearly all of the 870 water utilities in Kansas tested for at least one contaminate above what it considers safe, though most water utilities in the state meet federal standards, which are different than EWG’s. 

WICHITA — Ashley and Erin Watt have always enjoyed the outdoors.

Over the years, they’ve spent a lot of time floating down the Arkansas River in south-central Kansas. Because of record-setting rains this spring, the two didn’t make their first kayak trip down the river until mid-August.

But what started as a leisurely trip ended with a remarkable discovery.

When it comes to electric scooters, it seems that people either love them, or want to see them all thrown into a river — literally.

LINDSBORG, Kansas — The city-owned utility here wants to sell more electricity to the 3,500 people in town.

So it bought a $40,000 Tesla Model 3 sedan. It wants to show that getting around in an electric car can make sense.

WICHITA, Kansas  Deanna Caudill hasn’t used an inhaler since she was a child. That all changed for the 25-year-old Wichita State graduate student this month when, after getting a back-to-school cold, she never seemed to recover.

“It’s like every morning I wake up and I cannot breathe,” she said. “It’s just a feeling I’ve never had in my whole life be this bad.”

Caudill suffers from an allergic reaction to ragweed pollen and the lingering effects of a cold — a combination that’s becoming increasingly common for Kansans in September.

WICHITA, Kansas — Large industrial operations — think electrical power plants, oil refineries, ethanol facilities —cough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by the ton. That, in turn, warms the planet.

But now some researchers think Kansas could be a good place to pump the gas underground rather than up in the air.

Wichita  Kansas is a national leader in wind energy, but a new report shows the state lags in the adoption of other so-called green technologies.

Find out how Kansas compares to the rest of the country.

Tyson Fresh Meats plans to reopen the Holcomb, Kansas, beef packing plant partially destroyed by a weekend fire — it’s just not sure when.

Tyson said in a news release that it will recruit some employees to rebuild the plant, which processes about 5% of the country’s cattle.

Wichita — Sarah Stephens stands over a brightly lit table in a detached garage-turned-grow shed as she trims away unnecessary leaves from a recently harvested hemp plant.

When she’s finished, only the floral material of the plant will be left. The flowers will eventually be processed into CBD oil.

“We started out with not a ton of knowledge about it,” Michael Stephens, Sarah’s brother and partner at Tallgrass Hemp and Cannabis, said. “It’s been a learning experience.”

Wichita — Cindy Hoedel and Scott Yeargain, who live in or near the Kansas Flint Hills, began looking into oil and gas operations near their homes as early as 2016.

The two, separately, worried about earthquakes and water quality issues that new wastewater injection wells would create.

Hoedel documented a few dozen instances where injection well permit applications didn’t follow Kansas Corporation Commission guidelines. That led to a KCC report identifying more than 1,000 similar cases.

WICHITA — Toxic blue-green algal blooms have been causing major problems on Kansas’ lakes since about 2010.

Because the pond scum can make people sick, the lakes became out of bounds for swimmers and the like.

Yet now the phenomenon is costing Kansans money. It’s infiltrating city water systems, triggering slightly more expensive treatments to keep drinking water safe.

PLEVNA, Kansas — P.J. Sneed walks through his small greenhouse in central Kansas checking on rows and rows of small hemp plants just waiting to be put into the ground.

The plants inside the greenhouse near Plevna look rather healthy. Problematically, they look better than the plants in the few acres he’s already planted just outside of the greenhouse.

The terms for handing off the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas, have been settled — even as the billion-dollar-plus research site remains under construction.

The way Westar Energy runs its coal plants in Kansas unnecessarily costs consumers millions of dollars a year through an obscure, if common, practice known as self-committing generation.

Members of the group Keep Reno Heavenly showed a mix of emotions after the Reno County Commission denied NextEra Energy a permit to build a wind farm in the southeastern part of the county.

On one hand, all of its efforts had paid off. Members of the group had worked for months to organize and participate in public hearings, and they finally got the result they wanted — the proposed 220 megawatt wind farm with more than 80 turbines reaching 500 feet in the air would not be built.

Pages