Aspinall unit draft environmental impact statement

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From the Crested Butte News (Evan Dawson): “A draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Aspinall Unit Re-operations plan was released for review on February 13, initiating a 70-day public comment period that ends on April 24. The DEIS contains several different management alternatives that each involve storing and releasing water in the three dams in a different way, along with more than 600 pages of information and data. Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD) attorney John McClow says the DEIS up for public review isn’t much different from an earlier draft that water officials saw last fall.”


There are five alternatives included in the DEIS. As usual in federal environmental reviews, the bureau has included a “no action” alternative that would continue to employ current water management practices in the Aspinall dam series.

Alternative B is the bureau’s preferred alternative, and manages water for a series of spring flushing flows at different levels, along with downstream flow targets at varying points during the year. The minimum flow would be 300 cubic feet per second (cfs), and the maximum would be the 2,150 cfs capacity of the Crystal Dam hydroelectric power plant. In a March 17 written report to the UGRWCD board, McClow said one downside of the preferred alternative was it could result in a reduction of hydropower generation among the Aspinall dam series in all but the wettest years…

Alternative A presents a management plan intended to create strong spring peak flows with an over-abundance of water in the Aspinall Unit, but could pose a risk of spill at the Crystal Dam.
Alternative C includes longer “ramping up” periods for the flow targets, while Alternative D presents sharp jumps in flow levels…

During the UGRWCD’s regular meeting on March 23, McClow said he had a chance to speak with a representative of the Colorado River District and they were in support of the preferred alternative. “It looks like that will be the consensus of most of the Western Slope participants,” he said.

David Neslin named to lead Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission

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From the Denver Business Journal: “David Neslin, who had been acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission for 17 months, has been given the job permanently…Neslin has been serving in an acting capacity while the commission has been working on new oil and gas regulations for drilling in the state. Those rules took effect for state land on Wednesday. Rules for federal lands begin May 1. A lawyer by training, Neslin also has served as assistant director for energy and minerals within the Department of Natural Resources since August 2007. He will step down from that position.”

Energy policy — oil shale: USGS revises estimates of total Piceance Basin reserves upward

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Pete Fowler): “The U.S. Geological Survey now estimates the Piceance Basin has around 1.525 trillion barrels worth of ‘in-place oil shale resources.’ The agency also found an estimated 43.3 billion tons of nahcolite in the Piceance Basin. It’s embedded with oil shale in many places and produces ‘large quantities’ of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide when it’s heated in oil shale processing, the USGS said. At the time of the last USGS assessment in 1989, the agency said there was about 1 trillion barrels of oil in the Piceance Basin’s oil shale. It is not known how much of the oil is actually recoverable because developing oil shale “has significant technological and environmental challenges and no economic extraction method is currently available in the U.S.,” the USGS said in an announcement. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement, ‘The USGS scientific report shows significant quantities of oil locked up in the shale rocks of the Piceance Basin. I believe it demonstrates the need for our continued research and development efforts.'[…]

“Western Colorado Congress spokesman Duke Cox said the announcement is an interesting statistic but it’s never really been about exactly how much oil shale there is. He said, ‘There’s an enormous potential, but the problem is for 100 years, industry has been trying to figure out a way to unlock that potential, and we’re still not there.’ He said it will most likely take at least 10 years before anyone knows if they can harvest oil shale and turn a profit without government subsidies.”

Here’s the USGS release:

The U.S. Geological Survey has updated its assessment of in-place oil shale resources in the Piceance Basin in western Colorado. Development of oil shale has significant technological and environmental challenges and no economic extraction method is currently available in the U.S. Therefore it is unknown how much of the assessed in-place (total amount present) resource is recoverable. “For the first time in 20 years, we have an updated assessment of in-place oil shale in the Piceance Basin of Colorado,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “The USGS scientific report shows significant quantities of oil locked up in the shale rocks of the Piceance Basin. I believe it demonstrates the need for our continued research and development efforts.”

The Piceance Basin has an estimated 1.525 trillion barrels of in-place oil shale resources. This study also found an estimated 43.3 billion tons of in-place nahcolite resources in the Piceance Basin. This mineral is embedded with oil shale in many areas, and produces large quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide when heated in oil shale processing. Oil resources can only be obtained from oil shale rock when heated to great temperatures, 530 to 930 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures are required because oil shale does not contain crude oil but instead contains kerogen, which is an organic precursor to oil that must be heated for oil production.

The Piceance Basin contains one of the thickest and richest oil shale deposits in the world and is the focus of most on-going oil shale research and development extraction projects in the U.S. This new assessment is about 50 percent larger than the 1989 assessment of about one trillion barrels. Almost all of this increase is due to assessments of new geographic areas and subsurface zones that had too little data for previous research and assessments. The USGS is updating its assessments of oil shale resources in support of recommendations in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The USGS is also conducting oil shale assessments in the Uinta Basin of eastern Utah and the Greater Green River Basin of southwest Wyoming.

To learn more about the “Assessment of in-place oil shale resources in the Green River Formation, Piceance Basin, Colorado,” please visit the USGS Energy Resources Program Website.

Million Pipeline Project: Conflicting views for reservoir at Upper Williams Creek site near Colorado Springs

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Here’s an interesting turn of events. Aaron Million and his partners have been looking at siting a terminal reservoir at the same location as Colorado Springs Utilities’ proposed Upper William Creek site, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. Dueling projects? From the article:

“I was amazed when I found out,” Million said. “We have been focusing on our own project for so long. I didn’t realize it was part of theirs. They’re kind of crowding me in the cattle pen. “Colorado Springs doesn’t own the property for the proposed reservoir. Rancher Bob Norris, an old family friend of Million’s owns the site. Million said he targeted the site for his own project while helping Norris’ son, Steve, run cattle on the property last fall.

Late last year, Colorado Springs chose the Upper Williams Creek site as its terminal storage, rather than the Jimmy Camp Creek further north. Many of the comments in the draft environmental impact statement being prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation protested the Jimmy Camp Creek site. The Upper Williams Creek previously appeared in one alternative, but it was the site of choice in the final EIS. Another 185,000 acre-foot Cactus Hill Reservoir is planned northeast of Fort Collins. Meetings have been planned in areas that could be affected by the project. A meeting in Pueblo has been set for 6:30 to 9 p.m. April 22 at Risley Middle School, 625 N. Monument. Other meetings are: April 14, Green River, Wyo.; April 15, Vernal, Utah; April 16, Laramie, Wyo.; April 20, Fort Collins; April 21, Denver. For locations, visit the Web site…

Million also is pursuing a Bureau of Reclamation contract and Colorado water right to put water in the pipeline. “Specifically, the project is being designed to meet environmental and agricultural needs as well as municipal needs,” Million said. “We would allow some of the water to be used at prices that are reasonable to agriculture.” The project would bring water to the Front Range without the less-desirable alternatives of building a new transmountain project or drying up farms in both the South Platte and Arkansas basins, Million said. “Frankly, we have offered the state of Colorado a significant bank of water for the environment,” Million said. “It is important for me to give benefits to the environment.”

Using the drop in elevation from the Palmer Divide to the proposed T-Cross Reservoir also has the potential to develop 330 megawatts of hydroelectric power, Million said. “This could be combined with wind power to make 100 percent renewable energy,” Million said. While the Corps is the lead agency in the project, it would also need permits from other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and Forest Service. The EIS is being developed by AECOM, a global engineering firm.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here and here.