Pueblo Dam hydroelectric project DEIS is on the street

Pueblo dam releases
Pueblo dam releases

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A draft environmental assessment statement has been completed for a proposed 7-megawatt hydroelectric plant at Pueblo Dam.

The Bureau of Reclamation is accepting comments until Jan. 30 on the project.

The project is a joint eort of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Colorado Springs Utilities and the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

Two generators designed to operate at both high and low flows would be constructed on the North Outlet Works, which was built as part of the Southern Delivery System. A separate connection for hydropower was included in the design.

Electrical generation would not consume any water, operating on flows that already are released from the dam.

The Western Area Power Administration would have first opportunity to purchase power, which would be available to Black Hills Energy or Utilities if WAPA declines.

However, the power lines would be connected to the Black Hills substation that provides electricity to the Juniper Pump Station that provides power for SDS to pump water to Pueblo West and El Paso County.

The assessment notes there would be potential temporary impacts on air quality, water quality and wildlife (including some fish die-o) during construction.

Long-term eects would be less noticeable and not significant, because the flows into the Arkansas River, state fish hatchery, South Outlet Works or the SDS pipeline are not altered, according to the document.

The draft environmental assessment statement may be found at http://usbr.gov/gp/nepa/sopa.

Comments should be addressed to TStroh@usbr.gov.

For copies or more information, call Terence Stroh, 970-962-4369.

Turning the Corner on #ClimateChange in 2016 — Western Resource Advocates

From Western Resource Advocates (Jon Goldin-Dubois):

As we begin the New Year I am filled with hope for real and concrete progress to protect the incredible place we call home. The past year has provided a strong foundation that we can build upon to reduce climate pollution and to protect western rivers and landscapes. Here’s what I mean:

Coming out of the climate agreements negotiated by 195 countries in Paris that concluded in December, many of the world’s nations are expected to take their first steps to address climate change. For the U.S. and most developed nations, this means cutting carbon emissions. For developing nations, the accord calls for financial incentives that will help them leapfrog carbon intensive development. Importantly, the agreement endeavors to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (scientists argue we must keep warming to under 2 degrees Celsius to stop climate change’s most devastating impacts).

Certainly, some advocates have argued that the agreement didn’t do enough. To be truthful, I would have liked to see stronger commitments to cut carbon pollution more quickly as well. But I think the agreement provides reason for hope. I say this for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that earlier in 2015 the EPA issued the Clean Power Plan, mandating carbon pollution reductions from U.S. power plants of about 33%. Clearly that’s not enough to address the U.S. share, but it does send a very strong message to the rest of the world that the U.S. is prepared to take action. In issuing the new standards earlier this year on coal-fired power plants, the Obama administration and EPA have taken our nation’s first real steps to address the carbon pollution that we know is leading to climate change. The rules have some other compelling attributes, including cleaning up air quality in communities across the country, substantial reductions in asthma attacks and other negative health impacts of dirty air, and saving consumers money.

The Paris Agreement, coupled with the Clean Power Plan, sends a strong message to power providers but also offers some predictability (which utilities want) and sets the stage for a carbon restrained, if not a carbon free, future.

I’m also optimistic because we now know that clean energy sources such as wind and solar can compete with coal on a cost basis, and that they are getting cheaper every day. This is a big part of the reason that in 2014, far more clean, renewable energy than fossil fuel-based energy was added to the electric grid in the United States. We will soon see the 2015 numbers, but this trend is projected to continue. In 2015 major utilities in our western region stated clearly that clean, renewable wind energy is now predictably their lowest-cost source for energy generation. And several solar projects are beating coal and gas on a head-to-head basis, leading to new projects that will come on line in 2016.

My hope goes beyond recent action on climate change. The end of 2015 provided some expectation that we will begin to face up to some of the severe challenges to the health of our western rivers. In Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper signed the state’s first water plan. This year presents the first opportunity to take action that forwards the plan’s goals of conservation, reuse and water sharing. 2015 also saw Governor Sandoval in Nevada addressing the region’s water challenges as he convened a drought forum to develop solutions for Nevada. While it is still unclear what the ultimate impact of the current El Nino weather system (which can bring above average precipitation to the Colorado River Basin) will mean to the West and our water supply, it seems like it is finally sinking in that we shouldn’t rely on the weather when it comes to water. We need to take action throughout the Colorado River states to ensure that we have the water we need to serve 40 million people that rely on the River. But we also must ensure that our rivers not only sustain life in our cities, but also can continue to provide the thrilling opportunities to raft and fish, and the habitat to sustain abundant wildlife – just a few of the things that make the West so spectacular.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of challenges.

  • The nations of the world need to respond to the Paris agreement in the spirit with which it was crafted. Individual countries (and our states here in the West) need to respond by developing aggressive plans to reduce carbon pollution.
  • Our western states similarly need to take smart steps to protect and restore our rivers, as we plan for population and economic growth. This includes conservation, reuse, recycling, sharing water between urban and agriculture users, and smart storage solutions.
  • There are several ill-advised – okay, let’s be honest – flat out stupid plans to develop oil shale and tar sands throughout wilderness-quality lands in northeastern Utah that are still on the table. These plans need to be stopped.

We’ll take on these and other issues, like protection of Great Salt Lake and other iconic landscapes in the West, while working to find smart solutions on the climate, clean energy and river- and water-related efforts described above by building on the many successes of 2015.

Six days in to 2016, and yes, I am truly excited and hopeful about the prospects for making even more progress to protect the many places that we care about here in the West.

From left, President François Hollande of France; Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister; and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the climate change conference on Saturday in Le Bourget, near Paris. (Credit Francois Mori/Associated Press)
From left, President François Hollande of France; Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister; and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the climate change conference on Saturday in Le Bourget, near Paris. (Credit Francois Mori/Associated Press)

An Exit Interview With Mike King, Colorado’s Director Of Natural Resources — KUNC

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

Here’s an interview with Mike King who is moving on from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to Denver Water, from Bente Birkeland reporting for KUNC. Click through and listen to the whole interview. Here’s an excerpt:

Mike King, the executive director of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources, is leaving the position at the end of January 2016 to become Denver Water’s new director of planning. Statehouse reporter Bente Birkeland sat down with him to talk about the future of the oil and gas and the state’s hydraulic fracturing debate, and his time heading the agency.


On Advice For His Successor

“I hope you’re heart is strong. This is a position where you take a lot of criticism. You have to come in with a dose of humility and also a strong sense of right and wrong and know that people are not going to agree with you at every turn. That’s the hardest thing, is knowing that you’re making people mad.”

Keeping the Roan Plateau wild — Conservation Colorado

From Conservation Colorado (Scott Braden):

The Roan Plateau is one of my favorite places in Colorado; a Western Slope public lands treasure that is truly too wild to drill. But not too long ago, it narrowly escaped just that. In the mid-2000s, the BLM auctioned off tens of thousands of acres of this former naval shale reserve, which was a wilderness populated by herds of elk, genetically pure cutthroat trout, and a few in-the-know hunters and adventurers. Fortunately, people from across Colorado and the whole nation stood up and refused to see the Roan turned into an industrial park. Conservation groups sued the BLM on their faulty analysis of the environmental impacts of the leases. After a decade in the courts, the lawsuit to protect the Roan was settled last year in a way that would protect the top of the plateau, while allowing drilling (with stringent environmental safeguards) to move forward around its base. A win-win solution for all parties.

During the past five years, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to acquaint myself personally with the Roan Plateau – doing field work and tours of the area. I can attest to the sense of wild and free country, teeming with wildlife, that characterizes the top of the mesa. There are few other people up there, and although it is accessible to anyone with a two-wheeled drive vehicle (in dry conditions), it’s the kind of place you have to work to get to. The solitude is well beyond some of the formal wilderness areas in Colorado.

Now, the BLM has released a new draft version of the plan that will govern the Roan Plateau after the settlement. I am happy to report that the proposed alternative in the plan will, as the settlement stipulates, keep the top of the plateau free from industrial drilling and increase protections for the sides and base of the plateau. Right now, the BLM is seeking comment on the plan and hosting a series of open houses on the Western Slope. The meetings will be as follows:

Speak Up for the Roan Plateau: Silt
January 12, 2016
4:00 P.M.–7:00 P.M.
BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office
2300 River Frontage Road
Silt, CO 81652

Speak Up for the Roan Plateau: Battlement Mesa
January 13, 2016
4:00 P.M.–7:00 P.M.
Grand Valley Recreation Center
398 Arroyo Drive
Battlement Mesa, CO 81636

Speak Up for the Roan Plateau: Rifle
January 14, 2016
4:00 P.M.-7:00 P.M.
Rifle Branch Library
207 East Avenue
Rifle, CO 81650

YOU can help weigh in to protect the Roan. Make a comment today to tell the BLM to adopt their proposed alternative, and keep the Roan wild and free for the next generation!

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill update: Replacement pipeline in the works

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

After two recent breaks in the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill’s pumpback pipeline which returns contaminated water to an impoundment, officials on Friday outlined a plan to replace 3,500 feet of the pipeline.

Cotter officials reported two leaks occurring at the end of November and in early December in a pipeline that captures contaminated water that seeps past an earthen dam on Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill. It appears that both times the leaks were contained to Cotter property, according to Warren Smith of the Colorado Department of Public Health.

The now-defunct mill is undergoing the decommissioning process as health officials decide how best to safely retire the site. The pipeline proposal can be seen at http://recycle4colorado.ipower.com/Cotter/docspubreview.htm.

Whiting Oil & Gas Corp sells saltwater disposal and fresh water transportation and storage system in Weld County for $75 million

Deep injection well
Deep injection well

From the Denver Business Journal (Ben Miller):

Whiting Oil & Gas Corp., a unit of Denver-based Whiting Petroleum Corp., has sold its Redtail saltwater disposal and fresh water transportation and storage system in Weld County for $75 million.

Whiting sold the system to BNN Water Solutions, a unit of Tallgrass Energy Partners of Leawood, Kansas.

The water system consists of 148,000-acre system consists of 62 miles of pipeline along with associated fresh water ponds and disposal wells.

“I believe the extension of tax credits for solar and wind energy is a game changer” — Barbara Boxer

From USA Today (Bill Theobald) via the Fort Collins Coloradan:

The annual spending bill negotiated by congressional leaders is stuffed with millions in additional funding for Western needs — from fighting wildfires to fixing national parks and helping deal with the drought.

In addition, a companion bill would extend tax breaks for solar and wind power.

Both bills are expected to be approved by the House and Senate in the next few days.

The budget legislation would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. It would reauthorize the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years and appropriate $450 million for the fund to be spent through the Department of Interior and the Forest Service.

The fund has provided $17 billion through its 50-year lifetime to fund more than 40,000 local recreation projects and to buy about 5 million acres of public lands, mostly in the West…

Funding in the budget bill is $50 million more than President Obama requested, a 47 percent increase from last year. More than 50 percent of the money will go for local and state recreation projects.

Alan Rowsome of The Wilderness Society had said Congress would be snatching “defeat from the jaws of victory” if it failed to permanently reauthorize the fund and increase the amount that could be spent.

For wildfires, the legislation includes $4.2 billion for wildfire fighting and prevention programs within the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service. That’s $670 million more than last year and includes $1 billion in firefighting reserve funds.

This provision is sure to disappoint members of the House and Senate — mostly from the West — who have been pushing legislation to revise funding for fighting wildfires. Fighting the most severe fires, under these proposals, would be paid for like other natural disasters such as tornadoes and come from emergency funds.

That would eliminate the need during several recent severe fire seasons to transfer money into firefighting from other activities, including efforts to reduce the number and severity of fires. The bill includes $545 million for hazardous fuels reduction, an increase of $19 million from last year.

Other provisions of interest to the West in the budget legislation include:

  • National Park Service. The service gets $2.9 billion, up $237 million, including $94 million to reduce the massive maintenance backlog at the parks and to mark the service’s centennial anniversary in 2016.
  • Drought relief. While no comprehensive drought package is included, $100 million is appropriated for the Bureau of Reclamation to address severe drought in the West.
  • Tax breaks include five-year extensions of the production tax credit for wind energy and the investment tax credit for solar energy.
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said the ITC would create about 61,000 jobs in 2017 and retain another 80,000 solar jobs. The American Wind Energy Association estimated extending the PTC would add more than 100,000 jobs in four years in the wind industry.

    “I believe the extension of tax credits for solar and wind energy is a game changer,” Boxer said.