#ColoradoRiver: Lake Mead Drops But Hoover Dam Powers On — Circle of Blue

Lake Mead turbines photo via <a href="http://corbittsnationalparks.com/sites/lakemead/lakemead.html">CorbittsNationalParks.co&lt;,/a&gt;</a>
Lake Mead turbines photo via CorbittsNationalParks.co<,/a>

From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

Six years ago, at the end of the summer of 2010, federal Bureau of Reclamation officials worried that Hoover Dam, the biggest hydropower enterprise in the Southwest, might soon go dark. Water levels in Lake Mead, the dam’s energy source, were falling, and Hoover was moving “into uncharted territory,” the facility manager told Circle of Blue.

Today, the story has a twist. Lake Mead is 10 feet lower, a new record set on May 18 that is re-broken every day now. Yet though water levels continue to decline, Hoover’s hydropower is in a much better spot. Thanks to investment in efficient equipment, managers are confident that they can still wring electricity from the Colorado River even as the surface elevation of Lake Mead drops below 1,050 feet, the uncharted territory that was assumed to be Hoover’s operating limit.

“As far as power goes, we can still operate below 1,050 feet,” Rose Davis, Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman, told Circle of Blue. Dam operators are revising the lower limit to 950 feet, a boundary that will be confirmed in October once the fifth and final more-efficient turbine is installed, Davis said.

The investments in wide-head turbines, stainless steel wicket gates, and digital controls are emblematic of the types of practices that are necessary for the drying Colorado River Basin. In order to maximize scarce water, authorities must do more with less. Water managers in the lower basin states of Arizona, California, and Nevada, keen to avoid a disastrous downward spiral for Lake Mead that would threaten supplies for tens of millions of people, are spending more than $US 11 million on farm-efficiency and other projects that will conserve water and bank the savings in Lake Mead. Dam managers and power customers are adopting the same ethic for power generation.

Spending to Save Water and Boost Power
Electricity from Hoover is some of the cheapest in the country, at 1.83 cents per kilowatt-hour. Constructions costs for the dam were paid off years ago and the energy source, the water, comes from Mother Nature free of charge.

Customers in Arizona, California, and Nevada, the destination for Hoover’s output, would like to keep the cheap power flowing. That is why they spent $US 14.9 million since 2011 on the turbines and wicket gates.

The problem with Mead’s low water level for power generation is physics. Pressure differences in the water coming into the generators produce air bubbles on the turbine blades. As the water flows across the blades, the bubbles collapse and burst, which causes vibrations that can damage the generating unit. If the vibrations worsen, the unit must be shut down.

Wide-head turbines are designed to avoid these “rough zones” and operate smoothly at low reservoir levels. Four of Hoover’s 17 turbines have been fitted with wide-head models, and a fifth will be installed by October.

The wicket gates, on the other hand, allow for more precise control of water flowing through the turbines. They also reduce water leakage so that every drop that passes through Hoover can generate as much power as possible. Digital controls, which allow for more precise positioning of the wicket gates, have been installed at Hoover as well as at Davis and Parker dams, downstream on the Colorado.

“Any efficiency in hydropower means more power for our customers,” Kara Lamb told Circle of Blue. Lamb is the spokeswoman for the Western Area Power Administration, which markets Hoover’s power.

Though Hoover will not shut down any time soon, low water levels still reduce its output.

Generating capacity — the maximum amount of power that the dam is capable of producing — is down 30 percent from when Mead was full. For every foot that Mead drops, generating capacity decreases by five to six megawatts. Money is power, the old saying goes. So is water.

Public meeting scheduled for citizen input on uranium extraction technology in Tallahassee area W. of Cañon City

uraniumdrilling

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

State health officials will host a public meeting for input on ablation technology that Black Range Minerals proposes to use to extract uranium in the Tallahassee area west of Canon City.

The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. May 31 at Quality Inns and Suites, 3075 E. U.S. 50. The Colorado Department of Public Health is working to make a determination on how to regulate use of the new technology to manage risks to the public and the environment.

Australia-based Black Range Minerals initially started exploring for uranium in the Taylor Ranch area west of Canon City in 2008 and got approval from the Fremont County commission in 2010 to expand exploration on an additional 2,220 acre site.

Black Range proposes to use ablation — dubbed “uranium fracking” — which involves drilling a hole up to 24 inches in diameter into a uranium deposit, lowering a rotating nozzle into the ground, blasting a high-pressure water jet stream into the rock in order to fracture it and develop an underground cavern before pumping a uranium-bearing slurry back to the surface for processing.

Health officials also will take public comment through July 8 via email to Jennifer.opila@state.co.us.

#Colorado’s battle over regulating fracking shifts to ballot — the Fort Collins Coloradoan

Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation
Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Colorado’s battle over who should regulate fracking — and how much — now shifts to the November election after the state Supreme Court overturned attempts by local governments to impose their own rules.

The court ruled Monday that a ban on fracking in Longmont and a five-year moratorium in Fort Collins are invalid because they conflict with state law. State officials and the industry argued the state has the primary authority to regulate energy, not local governments.

It wasn’t the end of the debate, however. Coloradans face a loud and fierce campaign over fracking this fall if activists succeed in getting any constitutional amendments on the ballot to restrict oil and gas drilling or give local governments the authority to do so.

“We’re taking them as a serious threat to responsible oil and gas development in the state of Colorado,” said Karen Crummy, a spokeswoman for an industry-backed group called Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence.

“We consider all of these measures to be a ban on fracking,” Crummy said. “We’re going to fight.”

Backers of the proposed constitutional amendments also vow a fight, saying Monday’s ruling injects a sense of urgency into their cause.

“It can only help us because it shows that communities don’t have many rights right now when industry wants to drill,” said Tricia Olson of Yes for Health and Safety over Fracking, which hopes to get two measures on the ballot.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has long been a contentious issue in Colorado, the nation’s No. 7 energy-producing state. Fracking injects a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to crack open formations and make it easier to recover oil and gas.

Combined with other drilling techniques, it opened up previously inaccessible oil and gas reserves and boosted the economy, although low oil prices have led to widespread layoffs and a steep decline in drilling.

Critics worry about danger to the environment and public health from fracking spills and leaks. Others say around-the-clock noise, lights and fumes from drilling rigs make their homes unlivable as oilfields overlap with growing communities.

The industry says fracking is safe and that drilling companies take steps to minimize the disturbances.

Restrictions on fracking were proposed for Colorado’s 2014 ballot, but they were withdrawn because of fears they would lead to a huge Republican turnout and hand several close statewide races to the GOP.

Gov. John Hickenlooper promised to convene a task force to address the conflicts caused by drilling, but fracking critics were disappointed by its recommendations, and the industry said regulators went too far in implementing them.

This year, the presidential election will have a bigger impact on turnout than the fracking proposals, said Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan Denver pollster. But fracking could influence races in the Legislature, where Democrats have a narrow majority in the House and Republicans have a narrow edge in the Senate, he said.

“I do think that at the legislative level where relatively small shifts in turnout could be a big thing, it could be very important,” Ciruli said.

Some of the proposed constitutional amendments would clamp specific restrictions on the oil and gas industry, such as minimum distances between wells and homes. Others would grant local governments more regulatory power. Because they’re constitutional amendments, they would supersede Monday’s Supreme Court ruling.

Olson’s group and others are still gathering petitions to get their amendments on the ballot. If they succeed, they will face a well-financed campaign to defeat them.

By the end of last year, the pro-industry group, Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence, had $746,000 on hand, according to state records.

Two groups supporting the constitutional amendments to restrict fracking reported they had less than $15,000 combined on hand this spring. Their reports covered a different period than the industry group’s.

“What we know is that industry has already been advertising nonstop,” Olson said. “What we know is they will put everything against it. But what we also know is that we have very few options left to protect Colorado’s health, safety and welfare.”

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

The issue does not directly impact La Plata County, where there is no ban or moratorium on oil and gas drilling activities. But it stands to guide future actions.

“The Supreme Court’s decision does not mean that the local control issue is going away,” said La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, a Democrat. “Local governments need the ability to plan and ensure that oil and gas development occurs away from schools and neighborhoods.”

Some observers say the ruling reaffirmed local governments’ land-use authority, since it stated only that bans and moratoriums interfere with the state’s rule-making.

La Plata County in 1992 had a stake in determining that authority, when the Supreme Court upheld the county’s authority to regulate land-use impacts of oil and gas development.

In separate unanimous written rulings Monday, the Supreme Court declared a fracking ban in Longmont and a moratorium in Fort Collins illegal, stating that the voter-approved actions conflict with state law.

“This ruling sends a strong message that bans are not the way we do business in Colorado,” said Christi Zeller, executive director of the La Plata County Energy Council.

She underscored that La Plata and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission have “robust” rules that have been re-written dozens of times over several decades.

“The reality is political decisions take away private property rights, they restrict and hinder business, and they disrupt the economy, here in La Plata County, and in other counties and cities in the state,” Zeller said.

Bruce Baizel, a Durango-based energy program director for Earthworks, called the Supreme Court’s ruling disappointing, but not surprising.

“It kind of pushes things back into the political realm in terms of initiatives,” Baizel said. “They (the Supreme Court) explicitly said it doesn’t matter if drilling or fracking negatively impacts residents, and the state has decided it’s not going to address that.”

Justice Richard L. Gabriel, who wrote the court’s opinion, said justices were not charged with weighing the economic advantages or health risks associated with fracking.

“This case … does not require us to weigh in on these differences of opinion, much less to try to resolve them,” Gabriel wrote.

Groups are readying ballot initiatives for November that run the gamut, including allowing local governments to ban fracking and increasing the distance of well setbacks.

“It makes absolute sense that it would strengthen those folks’ resolve to get a measure on the ballot,” Lachelt said of the ruling.

She co-chaired a task force that convened in 2014 to address the local control issue.

“I’ve expressed my disappointment that the task force didn’t adequately deal with the issues,” Lachelt said. “But just because we have a Supreme Court ruling doesn’t make this issue go away.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who convened the task force as part of a compromise to avoid ballot initiatives at the time, defended the work of the panel.

“The work of the task force amplified the role of local governments in siting large oil and gas facilities and built a stronger connection between state and local regulators,” the governor said in a statement.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, doubts the high court’s ruling will quell controversy.

“I fear today’s ruling will not end this divisive debate and instead some activists will continue to push anti-development initiatives undermining the state’s record of local cooperation on these policy issues,” Coffman said.

Lauren Petrie, regional director of Food and Water Watch – which helped with several initiatives across the state – said much of the opposition is just beginning.

“Today’s decision deals a devastating blow not just to Longmont residents, but to all Coloradans who have been stripped of a democratic process that should allow us the right to protect our health, safety and property from the impacts of this dangerous industrial activity.”

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacey Maramaduke):

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday struck down Fort Collins’ five-year fracking moratorium, a long-awaited decision that could have statewide implications for the controversial oil and gas recovery method.

The court also ruled against Longmont’s voter-supported ban on hydraulic fracturing, the widespread practice of injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to break open formations and recover oil and gas.

In its first judgment on local fracking bans and moratoriums, the court called both laws “invalid and unenforceable” because they’re preempted by state law.

Fort Collins voters supported the moratorium in 2013, and Longmont’s ban was voted into place in 2012. But the Colorado Oil and Gas Association sued both cities in separate cases and won in the lower courts, resulting in the bans being thrown out.

Both cities appealed the lower court’s decisions, and the state appeals court in August asked the Supreme Court to take the cases. The high court heard oral arguments for the cases in December.

ANALYSIS: What’s in Larimer County’s fracking fluid?

The Fort Collins and Longmont cases represent an ongoing debate in Colorado and beyond about whether the ultimate right to regulate the oil and gas industry should belong to states or municipalities. The city of Fort Collins spent about $191,000 on outside counsel defending the citizen-initiated moratorium in court. COGA spent about $1 million fighting the Fort Collins and Longmont laws, along with a fracking ban in Lafayette and moratorium in Broomfield.

There are currently no active wells or permit-pending wells in Fort Collins. One oilfield extends into the northern edge of Fort Collins, but it’s been at least three and a half years since a well was fracked there.

What’s next?

Fort Collins and Longmont can’t appeal the decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court because they aren’t a matter of federal law. The city of Fort Collins hasn’t yet announced its next steps, if any.

In a statement, Fort Collins city attorney Carrie Daggett said it’s “premature” to comment until the city has carefully reviewed the high court’s decision.

“These issues are complex, and we’ll thoroughly examine the decisions relative to Fort Collins and Longmont,” she said.

Citizens for a Healthy Fort Collins, which campaigned for the ballot measure that installed the moratorium, wrote in a Facebook post that the group will meet in two weeks to discuss next steps. The group had not replied to the Coloradoan’s request for more information by mid-afternoon Monday.

COGA leaders said they were pleased that the court sided with them in their view that local fracking bans and moratoriums are illegal in Colorado.

“This is not just a win for the energy industry, but for the people of Colorado who rely on affordable and dependable energy and a strong economy,” COGA President and CEO Dan Haley said in a press release. “It sends a strong message to anyone trying to drive this vital industry out of the state that those efforts will not be tolerated.”

Longmont’s City Attorney’s Office will meet in executive session with the Longmont City Council on Tuesday night to review the court ruling, according to a city press release.

Broomfield, which faced a COGA lawsuit similar to Fort Collins’ for its voter-initiated, five-year fracking moratorium, stalled the lawsuit in anticipation of the Colorado Supreme Court decision. Monday’s rulings will likely lead to the invalidation of that moratorium, along with a five-year moratorium in place in Boulder and unincorporated Boulder County.

The city of Lafayette didn’t appeal after a district court judge struck down its fracking ban in 2014.

Mixed reactions

City of Longmont

“The case did not end as the city hoped, but we respect the Supreme Court’s decision,” Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs said in a press release. Coombs noted that Longmont’s other oil and gas regulations, including no drilling in neighborhoods, mandatory groundwater monitoring and setbacks from riparian areas remain in place.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat whose district includes Fort Collins

Polis called the decision “a blow to democracy and local control” in a statement.

“Now that the law has been interpreted, it’s up to the state legislature or the people of Colorado to act to protect our neighborhoods and homes,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to help advocates in these efforts to protect our communities.”

The representative also submitted an amicus curiae brief to the court siding with Fort Collins. Through his attorney, Courtney Krause, Polis argued that Fort Collins’ moratorium was a valid land use regulation.

Colorado Rep. Mike Foote, a Democrat whose district includes Longmont

In a press release, Foote said he was disappointed about the decisions but noted that they reaffirmed local governments’ land use authority.

“Cities and counties may need to modify their approach somewhat,” Foote said, “but it’s clear that the Court has reaffirmed that local governments do have a seat at the table when it comes to oil and gas development.”

“And “in cases where local control isn’t recognized, we as legislators have the ability to step in,” he added.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

In a press release, Coffman said that local fracking bans “undermine the interests of the state as a whole.” But despite the court decisions, the fight might not be over yet, she said.

“Sadly, I fear today’s ruling will not end this divisive debate and instead some activists will continue to push anti-development initiatives undermining the state’s record of local cooperation on these policy issues,” she said.

Boulder County Board of Commissioners, which passed a moratorium on fracking in unincorporated areas of the county until July 2018

The high court decisions are specific to the communities named in the lawsuits, an unidentified board representative wrote in a press release, so the impact of the decisions on Boulder County will need further analysis.

“Like all other Colorado communities that regulate oil and gas development, we need to take a close look at our existing regulations before we take any action to change our stance on fracking in unincorporated Boulder County,” the release said.

Conservation Colorado

In a press release, Conservation Colorado executive director Pete Maysmith called the decisions “disappointing” and said that local governments should be able to call a timeout on drilling while they examine its impacts.

“These decisions … show that the oil and gas industry’s threats of litigation are a hammer that the industry has no qualms about wielding against local governments if they decide to engage in land use planning,” he said in the release. “In order to combat this hammer, local governments must be empowered with better tools to protect their citizens from heavy industrial drilling.”

Colorado Petroleum Council

The Colorado Petroleum Council welcomed the decisions for upholding the state’s primacy in overseeing oil and natural gas permitting and curtailing “arbitrary bans” on fracking that could cost local jobs, deprive state and local governments of tax revenue and limit access to energy resources, according to a CPC press release.

“Today’s decision protects private property rights, which are a main driver for the energy renaissance in this country,” executive director Tracee Bentley said in the release. “The U.S. was counted out as an oil and natural gas superpower, but with states like Colorado leading the way, the U.S. defied the odds to become the world’s largest producer of natural gas and a world leader in crude production.”

Advancing Colorado, a political advocacy group that supports fracking and the production of coal and natural gas, among other things

“Today’s ruling protects Colorado’s robust energy portfolio and energy independence, and sends a strong message to the deceptive anti-energy extremists,” executive director Jonathan Lockwood said in a statement. “The Colorado Supreme Court is protecting our democratic process and their ruling will help protect our health, safety and property from the attacks of dangerous special interest groups.”

Interior official looks toward Roan — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The Roan Plateau is high on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s list of issues to be resolved in the remaining months of the Obama administration.

Jewell recently discussed the next 100 years of conservation and a “course correction” before the National Geographic Society.

The Interior Department has “some work left to re-examine whether decisions made in prior administrations properly considered where it makes sense to develop and where it doesn’t,” Jewell said. “Or where science is helping us better understand the value of the land and water and potential impacts of development. Places like Badger Two-Medicine in Montana, or the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, or the Roan Plateau in Colorado.”

Jewell’s comments, however, left some Colorado officials questioning whether they signaled a change in the direction of the management of the Roan.

The Bureau of Land Management is completing an environmental study of the area. BLM, industry and environmental groups and local governments in late 2014 reached an agreement to cancel 17 of the 19 leases issued on the plateau in 2008. The remaining two leases on top and 12 leases at the base of the plateau were to remain in place.

Jewell was referring to the plan now under study by the BLM, the Interior Department said…

The Roan Plateau was managed by the U.S. Department of Energy as an oil shale reserve until 1997, when President Bill Clinton signed legislation transferring the area to the BLM.

The act required the BLM to manage the area for multiple use and instructed the agency to begin leasing it for oil and gas development.

“We hope the secretary’s mention of the Roan Plateau bodes well for the future of the area,” said Luke Schafer, West Slope Advocacy director for Conservation Colorado, urging the BLM to complete the management plan “to protect the pristine lands, rare species, and remarkable habitat on the Roan.”

The directive to lease the area, however, remains, said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Jewell’s “policies may contribute to compliance with that law taking decades rather than years,” Ludlam said, “but for the benefit of future generations we will never stop advocating for the responsible development that must and someday will occur on the Roan Plateau.”

Proposal creates ‘monumental’ friction — the Valley Courier

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument via the Bureau of Land Management
Rio Grande del Norte National Monument via the Bureau of Land Management

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Proponents of an expanded national monument met with water leaders and some resistance on Tuesday in Alamosa.

Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) Board Member Dwight Martin , who lives in the southern part of the San Luis Valley where the proposed expansion would occur, was clear in his opposition to expanding the existing Rio Grande del Norte National Monument northward from New Mexico into the San Luis Valley.

“I am adamantly opposed to this monument designation ,” Martin said. “We really don’t need this monument in Conejos County. I really don’t see what it serves.”

He added that the Conejos County commissioners are also opposed to the monument expansion. Martin said about 90 percent of Conejos County residents at a meeting he attended on the monument were opposed to the expansion, and he questioned why the expansion was needed.

Anna Vargas, project coordinator for Conejos Clean Water, the organization promoting the monument expansion, responded that the meeting Martin attended was a meeting hosted by opponents .

“There has been interest in supporting the national monument, and there has been opposition that has been raised,” Vargas said. “We have tried to address all the concerns.”

Vargas told water board members on Tuesday that Conejos Clean Water had accepted language recommended by the water district to safeguard water rights within the monument, if it is expanded into the Valley. The language also recognizes the existing Rio Grande Natural Area, which lies in the proposed monument expansion.

“We are not trying to trump any of the work that’s been done on the natural area,” Vargas said.

Vargas recently completed the intensive water leadership course sponsored by several water groups including the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. She said the course gave her a better understanding of water issues and rights, such as the Rio Grande Compact. She said she had not viewed the monument expansion as affecting water rights but as more of a land protection issue . She said she now understood the potential problem implied water rights could generate.

“We don’t want national monument designation to have any implied water rights,” she said. The goal of the monument expansion, she said, is to preserve the land for traditional uses.

The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, encompassing 242,500 acres, was designated by presidential proclamation in 2013. The expansion proposal would bring the monument north of the New Mexico state line into the southern part of the Valley and would encompass about 64,000 additional acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, Vargas explained.

She said the goal would be to preserve traditional uses such as piñon and wood gathering, hunting, fishing and other recreational uses. The monument would also prevent the land from being sold or leased for mining extraction. The turquoise mine would be “grandfathered in,” she said.

Vargas said proponents of the monument expansion want to be proactive in protecting the land from oil and gas activity.

“To us, that is a threat,” she said.

In 2007 that threat was real, she said, with four oil/gas sales involving 14,500 acres in the San Luis Hills and Flat Tops. The reason drilling did not occur, she added, was “basically because of a loophole” created because private landholders had not been notified of the sales.

“What we don’t want is a repeat of that,” she said. There might not be a loophole to prevent it in the future, she added.

Martin said, “This is really about oil and gas and not about protecting the land. All the monument will do is make it more restrictive for landowners.”

Vargas said that is why Conejos Clean Water is trying to get more community input and address these issues. She said there are rumors that the group is trying to prevent such uses as cattle grazing, but that is not the case. Such traditional uses are what the monument would protect, she said.

The land would continue to be BLM property, public lands, she said.

“We want it to stay publicly accessible.”

“Thank you for recognizing the concerns the district expressed,” RGWCD Attorney David Robbins told Vargas.

The district also sent a letter to the Department of the Interior and Colorado’s congressional delegation expressing the district’s concerns about the monument expansion without terms and conditions that would ensure water resources and the Rio Grande Natural Area are not adversely affected. The Rio Grande Natural Area, created through a federal, state and local partnership, integrates the management of federal and private properties along the Rio Grande between Alamosa and the state line to protect the riparian corridor for several purposes including Rio Grande Compact deliveries.

The district’s letter to congressmen regarding the monument expansion stated: “Every federal withdrawal or designation carries with it an implication that sufficient water will be made available to support the purposes of the designation unless specifically disavowed. The flows of the Rio Grande and the Conejos rivers in this area of the San Luis Valley are intimately tied to the economic and social health of the entire region, and reflect 150 years of water use practices that support the entirety of the San Luis Valley’s population as well as a water management structure designated to allow Colorado to freely utilize its share of the Rio Grande and its tributaries pursuant to the Rio Grande Compact. Any new federal land use designation that could impact or interfere with the water use practices in the San Luis Valley or Colorado’s ability to utilize the water resources to which it is entitled must be strenuously resisted by our elected federal representatives , as well as all of our state officials . This matter is of enormous importance.”

Representatives of the district also personally met with congressmen and Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor.

The district presented language protecting the Rio Grande Natural Area that it requested be included in the monument designation, were that to occur, and Conejos Clean Water has agreed to that language.

Robbins said the Valley’s congressmen and Department of Interior also assured the district they would not move forward with a monument expansion unless the district’s concerns were properly addressed.

Business voices come out in support of Clean Power Plan — GreenBiz #keepitintheground

Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best
Solar panels, such these at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle, Colo., need virtually no water, once they are manufactured. Photo/Allen Best

From GreenBiz (Barbara Grady):

Tech titans Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon as well as global brand companies Ikea, Mars, Adobe and Blue Shield Blue Cross Massachusetts told a U.S. court Friday that they need the federal Clean Power Plan for economic reasons.

In two separate Amici Curiae briefs filed in U.S. Circuit Court supporting the EPA’s plan for reducing carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants by 32 percent, the corporate giants said without a “national carbon mitigation plan,” they face “undesirable business risk,” energy price volatility and higher costs.

With these arguments, the businesses seem to have flipped prospects for the Obama administration’s centerpiece climate change policy, which only a month ago looked dim after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to delay its enforcement.

Since the eight companies collectively employ about 1 million people, account for nearly $2 trillion in market capitalization and are major energy consumers — the tech companies alone use 10 million megawatt hours of electricity a year — they have clout.

Their briefs refute some claims made by 27 states that are plaintiffs in the State of West Virginia, et al vs. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency case challenging the Clean Power Plan as an overreach of federal authority by the EPA in a way that would harm jobs and raise electricity prices.

Among the companies’ most interesting refutations? Their expansion plans depend partly on how they can procure low-carbon electricity.

Funding Awarded for Two Small Hydropower Projects

Micro-hydroelectric plant
Micro-hydroelectric plant

Here’s the release (Christi Lightcap):

Two small hydropower projects have been awarded grants through the “Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency” (ACRE3) program. Both hydro projects generate electricity as water flows to the fields through irrigation pipelines.

The funding is part of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The RCPP small hydropower program provides funding for technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers to install and maintain projects that address natural resource concerns in Colorado.

“The program addresses water quantity, water quality, and energy resource concerns by helping farmers upgrade outdated and labor intensive flood irrigation systems to more efficient pressurized irrigation systems using hydropower, or retrofit existing sprinkler systems with a hydropower component,” said Sam Anderson, CDA’s Energy Specialist. “Over the next three years, the project plans to install 30 hydro-mechanical or hydro-electric power systems across Colorado.”

2015 Grant Recipients:

  • Park Family Farm, Kersey, Colo., will receive $9,568 to install hydroelectric turbines that generate 10 kW of power for operating two center-pivot irrigation systems on 125 acres. The hydro turbines will power the center pivots through a net-metering agreement with Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association.
  • Susan Raymond, Hotchkiss, Colo., will receive $11,400 to install hydro-electric turbines for generating 8 kW through a net-metering agreement with Delta-Montrose Electric Association. The hydropower will produce electricity to run three center pivots on 37 acres and provide electricity for an on-site veterinary practice.
  • In addition to the $20,968 awarded by the ACRE3 program, the two projects will receive combined funding of $28,100 from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and additional funding from the USDA’s Rural Development REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) Program. These funds are made possible through the RCPP Pressurized Irrigation Small Hydropower Partnership Project, a partnership between CDA’s ACRE3 program and the NRCS, with the support of USDA Rural Development. The two grant recipients will use the funding to pay for the hydro turbines, improvements to the irrigation systems and pipelines, and water management planning.

    Now Accepting Applications:
    CDA is currently accepting applications for the next round of RCPP Irrigation Hydro Projects and will award funding for six more projects this year. For more information and to submit an application, visit the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s ACRE3 energy website: http://www.colorado.gov/agconservation/agriculturalhydro or contact Sam Anderson at 303-869-9044 or Sam.Anderson@state.co.us. The application deadline is May 13, 2016.