Rock cracked Cotter pipeline; contaminants contained at mill site — The Pueblo Chieftain

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 (Tracy Harmon):

Cotter Corp. Uranium mill officials say a leak that dumped about 7,200 gallons of contaminated water on the mill property was caused by a rock that punctured a hole in a feeder line.

The feeder line connects to the main pumpback pipeline above a Soil Conservation Service dam that helps prevent rainwater runoff from leaving the mill site. The pipeline carries contaminated water that seeps past the earthen dam and returns it to an impoundment.

“When Cotter personnel excavated the area of the leak, a large rock was discovered above the feeder line. The rock had punctured the pipe, causing the leak,” said Stephen Cohen, Cotter Mill manager.

“Because the puncture and associated crack were small, only a relatively minor percentage of the total actually leaked. Most of the flow continued into the pumpback pipeline,” he explained.

Cotter maintains a pressure monitoring system on the pumpback pipeline that deactivates pumps in the event of a sudden, large pressure drop. However, the feeder is isolated from the main pressure monitoring system, Cohen said. The leak could have occurred on Saturday and continued for 48 hours until workers discovered it on Monday.

It is believed that none of the contaminated water seeped off the mill site, according to Warren Smith, a state health department spokesman.

Cotter officials are replacing the broken section of pipe and the feeder line should be reactivated today, Cohen said. The main pumpback system continues to operate, Smith said.

Because leaks formed in the main pipeline on two separate occasions late last year, Cotter and state health officials are working to finalize a proposal to build a new pipeline.

“Cotter’s original plan does not include replacing any feeder lines. Because this line has broken, however, company (officials) plan to replace this entire section of feeder line when they replace the main pipeline,” Smith said.

Federal and state health officials also are working with Cotter representatives to come up with a plan to clean up and decommission the now-defunct uranium mill site.

Scientists Urge Obama to End Federal Coal Leasing — Climate Central #keepitintheground

Coal fired plant
Coal fired plant

From Climate Central (Bobby Magill):

Citing coal’s effect on climate change, a group of more than 65 prominent scientists is urging the Obama administration to end coal leasing on federal public lands by making permanent a moratorium the government placed on leasing in January.

In a letter sent to the administration [Wednesday, July 27, 2016], the scientists said that unless coal mining is stopped permanently, the U.S. cannot meet its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, and the goal to keep global warming from exceeding 2°C (3.6°F) may be impossible.

Agencies Help Producer Use Existing Water To Create Electricity — #Colorado Dept. of Agriculture

Micro-hydroelectric plant
Micro-hydroelectric plant

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Agriculture (James Amos):

The first joint project to help farmers use existing irrigation water to generate electricity has been completed in Colorado. And the Colorado Department of Agriculture is looking for more producers who want to try it.

The installation, near Hotchkiss, Colorado, is the first for the multi-agency Pressurized Irrigation Small Hydropower Partnership Project, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). During the next few years, the program is expected to create 30 on-farm hydropower projects in Colorado.

“This project helps farmers by putting their water to work, creating electricity that lowers their power bills,” said Don Brown, Commissioner of Agriculture. “We are very proud of this project and how it gives producers a way to cut their costs and use their resources efficiently.”

The Hotchkiss installation helps veterinarian and farmer Susan Raymond use water already flowing in her irrigation pipeline to generate electricity to offset that used by her veterinary practice and alfalfa operation. When the water is not being used to feed her three center-pivot sprinklers, it flows through the 8-kilowatt hydropower generator attached to the pipeline.

The $50,000 project was finished in early July with $32,800 in assistance from four funding programs, including the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s “Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency” (ACRE3) program, the NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Rural Development’s (RD) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), and the Delta Conservation District. The project also used local contractors.

The overall hydro program is funded and assisted by 14 agencies and groups, collectively contributing $3 million to the effort for project funding and technical assistance for Colorado agricultural producers.

A second Colorado project is under construction near Kersey, Colorado, to help a farmer there use the energy in his irrigation water to generate electricity. That will help offset the electrical bill for his farm. That project uses “low-head” hypropower technology because the available pressure in the surface-fed water is lower, as is the case with many agricultural water supplies.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is looking for more producers who want to participate. Sam Anderson, the department’s lead official for the hydro program, said the department will help producers apply to the funding programs. Applicants must be eligible to receive funding from the EQIP program. To start the application process, contact Anderson at sam.anderson@state.co.us.

The overall project has 14 partner agencies and groups:
USDA – Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)
Colorado Department of Agriculture ACRE 3 energy grant program
USDA – RD Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
Colorado State Conservation Board
Colorado Energy Office
The Nature Conservancy – Colorado
American Rivers
Colorado Water Conservation Board
Colorado Association of Conservation Districts
Colorado State University Extension
Colorado Small Hydro Association
Colorado Rural Electric Association
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Hydro Research Foundation

Governor Mead Opposes Federal Coal Lease Moratorium #Wyoming #keepitintheground

temperaturedeparturefromavg01thru062016noaa

Here’s the release from Governor Mead’s office:

Governor Mead’s formal comments strongly oppose the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) moratorium on new coal leases. The Governor outlined the State’s concerns in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze. The moratorium began January 15, 2016.

“States like Wyoming, where coal is produced and environmental stewardship is a model for the nation, were not consulted and were caught by surprise,” wrote the Governor. “Now, national revenues, energy users across the nation, coal miners and their families are at risk. The justification for this moratorium and the manner it was unveiled are unjustifiable.”

The Governor states this Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) process is an attempt by the DOI to bypass Congress and impose a Carbon Tax. The moratorium will dramatically impact jobs, energy security and energy independence. It targets Wyoming as the nation’s leader in coal production. Wyoming produces roughly 40% of the nation’s coal – 80% of that comes from federal land.

“The BLM needs to stop the PEIS, but at a minimum it needs to commit in writing what it has promised repeatedly, that the PEIS will be completed by January 15, 2019 and, completed or not, that the moratorium will expire on that date,” said Governor Mead. “I will continue to oppose the administration’s unjustified approach to coal.”

The Governor’s letter is over 75 pages long with 4179 pages of attachments. The letter is available on Governor Mead’s website: http://governor.wyo.gov/documents.

#NISP: Galeton Reservoir proposed site now hosts 24 Niobrara shale wells

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.
Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

Galeton was slated to go east of Ault and south of Colo. 14, but during the lengthy permitting process, a landowner in the area ended up leasing to Noble Energy.

Now there are 24 active wells on the site.

“You can’t fault the landowner, if somebody’s going to come in and offer (them) money,” said Brian Werner, a spokesman for Northern Water Conservancy District, which acts as the project’s lead agency.

Now the organization has to decide: mitigate or move.

“It can get mitigated,” Werner said. “We can cap those wells.”

But it will be expensive and difficult. In some areas moving might be the more difficult choice, but it’s looking as though that isn’t the case for the Galeton reservoir.

“(There’s) a very similar site across (Colorado) Highway 14 to the north,” Werner said. “And it doesn’t have 24 oil and gas wells in the footprint.”

Niobrara Shale Denver Julesberg Basin
Niobrara Shale Denver Julesberg Basin

More coverage from Jacey Marmaduke writing for the Fort Collins Coloradan:

To mitigate contamination risk, wells on the proposed reservoir site would need to be plugged according to state regulations, said Ken Carlson, an environmental engineering professor at Colorado State University.

“As long as they do what (the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) says, there’s not a risk,” Carlson said. “There’s over a million wells drilled in this country. This is not a new situation.”

[…]

The plugging process is highly regulated and basically involves inserting huge plugs — at least 100 feet long and usually made of cement — into the drilled hole of the well. The top of the well is then sealed and covered with dirt. Carlson said the process cancels out any risk of contamination, although some research suggests that abandoned wells emit small amounts of methane.

However, plugging a well can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The 15 communities and water districts signed on to use the additional water stored by NISP would probably have to foot the bill, and the costs wouldn’t stop there.

If the wells haven’t reached the end of their useful lives by the time construction of the reservoir begins, Noble could reasonably demand additional reimbursement for plugging them, Carlson said. Noble Energy representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The wells were built in 2010 or later, Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said. The average lifespan of an oil and gas well in the Weld County area is about 11 years, according to data analysis by Colorado Public Radio. So although the construction timeline for Galeton is several years away — assuming NISP gets federal approval and wins the court battle that would almost assuredly come after — construction could prompt closure of the wells before they’re done producing.

Werner said the decision to move the proposed reservoir location remains up to the project participants.

#ColoradoRiver: Appeals court backs nuke plant water supply from Green River — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel #COriver

Green River Basin
Green River Basin

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Opponents of a proposed nuclear power plant near Green River, Utah, are considering whether to appeal to the state’s high court after the state Court of Appeals upheld a district judge’s ruling approving the plant’s water supply.

A three-judge panel ruled last week in favor of Blue Castle Holdings, the project developer, and two water districts that are seeking changes to existing water rights so Blue Castle can withdraw 53,600 acre-feet a year from the Green River for cooling and steam production at the proposed plant.

The conservation group HEAL Utah challenged the state water engineer’s approval of the proposal, but that approval has now been upheld twice in court.

“In sum, HEAL Utah has not shown that the district court erred in concluding the change applications were filed in good faith and are not speculative or for monopoly of the water,” the appeals court ruled.

HEAL Utah’s challenge had been based partly on concerns about environmental impacts to the watershed, including to endangered fish.

Blue Castle CEO Aaron Tilton said in a news release, “We recognize our responsibility for strong environmental stewardship throughout the lifetime of the project, which includes working diligently to assure protection of the Green River environment and endangered species. Our project has been scrutinized at many levels, including the state engineer, the district court and now the appeals court. We have fully complied and satisfied all the requirements of the law. We can assure the public the high level of scrutiny that has been applied to the process is welcomed.”

Matt Pacenza, HEAL Utah’s executive director, said Monday that despite the setback, “we don’t think the project is moving forward in any legitimately or significant way.”

He said Blue Castle hasn’t attracted interest from utilities for the power it would supply, nor, as far as HEAL Utah can tell, from investors. He said the company hadn’t met with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 2011…

The appeals court said in its written ruling, “Despite the relatively early stage of the Project, the Applicants offered considerable evidence that the Project is feasible, including a detailed business plan, purchase contracts for land, lease agreements for the Districts’ water rights, and evidence that shows it has had discussions with eighteen utilities expressing an interest in the plant’s power.”

It added that while the project “is a risky venture” and hasn’t yet been licensed through the NRC, “the Applicants presented evidence that the Project is both physically and economically feasible.”

Blue Castle says it has begun the contractor selection process for some $8 billion worth of construction work with an expected start date of 2020.

It projects that construction would require some 2,500 workers over some six or seven years, and the plant would employ about 1,000 people permanently. The 2,200-megawatt plant would increase Utah electricity generation by about 30 percent, the company says.

SECWCD seeks $17.4 million for Pueblo Dam hydroelectric project

Hydroelectric Dam
Hydroelectric Dam

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A hydropower project at Pueblo Dam has been given a green light by the Bureau of Reclamation and is in line for a $17.4 million state loan.

A finding of no significant impact was issued last week for the project being spearheaded by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Other partners in the project are Pueblo Water and Colorado Springs Utilities.

The Southeastern district will seek a $17.4 million loan for the project from the Colorado Water Conservation Board today. The loan would be for 30 years at 2 percent interest.

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

A 7 megawatt hydropower facility is anticipated at the north outlet works, which was constructed by Utilities as part of the Southern Delivery System.

“A hydropower plant and associated facilities will be constructed at the base of Pueblo Dam, utilize the dam’s north outlet works and immediately return flows to the Arkansas River downstream of the dam,” said Signe Snortland, area manager of Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Office.

The next step will be negotiation of a lease of power privilege contract.

About 1.4 miles of new power and fiber optic lines also will be constructed to connect the hydropower plant to Black Hills Energy’s substation at Lake Pueblo.

Construction is expected to begin later this year, with the first power generation to begin in 2018.