First identification of endocrine disruptors in algae blooms

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Here’s the release from the American Chemical Society:

Scientists are reporting for the first time that previously unrecognized substances released by algae blooms have the potential to act as endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with the normal activity of reproductive hormones. The effect is not caused by microcystin toxins, long recognized as potentially harmful to humans and aquatic animals, but as yet unidentified substances. As a result, the scientists are calling for a revision of environmental monitoring programs to watch for these new substances. The findings appear in ACS’s journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Theodore Henry and colleagues note that harmful blooms of toxin-producing algae, called cyanobacteria or blue-green algae, occur in waters throughout the world and are a growing health and environmental concern. The algae produce microcystins that can harm fish, plants, and human health. Possible human health effects include skin rashes, fever, and liver damage. Although scientists have focused mainly on microcystins’ biological effects, new evidence suggests that other potentially harmful substances also may be present.

In an effort to find out, Emily Rogers supervised by Theodore Henry, and co-authors Michael Twiner, Julia Gouffon, Jackson McPherson, Gregory Boyer, Gary Sayler, and Steven Wilhelm turned to zebrafish, often used as a stand-in for people and other animals in laboratory experiments. They found that something released by algae, other than microcystins, had an endocrine disrupting effect on the fish. The report recommends that environmental protection agencies may need to update monitoring programs for algae blooms to include potential endocrine-disrupting substances.

Energy policy — oil and gas: The State Land Board pulls 3 tracts from lease sale

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjun):

Melissa Yoder of the Colorado State Land Board said two of the parcels were adjacent to Antero Reservoir and were removed at the request of Denver Water. The third tract was near a Gold Medal fishery on the Middle Fork of the South Platte, and Colorado Division of Wildlife officials advised it be removed.

“The South Park Basin is incredibly important for our drinking water and rich in wildlife resources,” said Matt Garrington, program advocate for Environment Colorado, in a press release. “The Colorado State Land Board made a wise decision today recognizing that some areas are too sensitive to be drilled where the full impacts are not yet fully known.”

The Land Board commissioners “asked its staff to go back through the oil and gas auction list to ensure the Division of Wildlife didn’t have any additional stipulations to put on tracts as it related to specific wildlife habitat impacts,” Yoder said.

She added that if there are concerns, leases receive stipulations to accommodate the habitat issues identified. In that area, mule deer and pronghorn could be affected by drilling operations.

“The State Land Board will auction lands with high wildlife values, such as severe winter range for mule deer and pronghorn and greater sage grouse habitat,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, in the press release. “It is absolutely critical that the State Land Board confer with the Division of Wildlife about how to best avoid, or at least mitigate, impacts to wildlife habitat.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Burlington: 23rd annual Central Plains Irrigation Conference and Equipment Exposition in Feb. 22-23

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From the Holyoke Enterprise:

All events will be held at the Burlington Community Center at 340 S. 14th St…

Speaking at the general session on Tuesday is Craig Beyrouty, Colorado State University. He will cover “The Future of Global Food Supplies.” On Wednesday, Dick Wolfe, Colorado Division of Water Resources, will talk about “Water Issues in Colorado.”

Technical sessions topics are “Limited/Deficit Irrigation,” “Irrigation Scheduling,” “Subsurface Drip Irrigation,” “Irrigation System and Pumping Plant Maintenance,” “Center Pivot Sprinkler Automation” and “Energy Crops for Irrigation.”

The trade show will be open at various times throughout both days. It will close at 10:30 p.m. on the second day. It is open to the general public and there is no admission charge for it.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Save Our South Park Water and the South Park Coalition are in opposition to more exploration in South Park

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A 1,000-square-mile grassland basin between Pikes Peak and the Collegiate mountains, South Park holds headwaters of the South Platte River. In 2009, it was declared a national heritage area, one of three in Colorado and 49 in the United States. On Tuesday, Houston-based El Paso Corp. confirmed it has drilled one well in South Park and holds government permits to drill two more. Plans to drill up to 300 wells in South Park and install a gas pipeline depend on whether enough gas is found, El Paso Corp. spokesman Richard Wheatley said…

“It would be nice if the federal government, State Land Board, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Park County, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission would start talking to each other,” [Eddie Kochman, a former state fisheries chief] said. “It would be nice if Denver Water, instead of sitting in the bleachers, would take an active role.”

Denver Water officials who provide water to 1.3 million metro-area residents “are not experts on oil and gas exploration or fracking,” director of operations Brian Good said. “We’re water folks. We’ve got to trust that the regulatory bodies are doing their job in reviewing applications and assigning permits.”[…]

South Park residents Tuesday met with Park County authorities to consider using a county trust fund to conduct their own baseline study of water resources. Some say they’re not opposed to limited drilling if it could really be done safely — with none of the damage seen elsewhere around Colorado.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil shale: The Department of Interior proposes a settlement of environmental organizations’ lawsuit over leasing terms

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From the Associated Press (Cathy Proctor) via the Denver Business Journal:

The review settles two lawsuits that environmental groups filed in 2009 over the federal government’s rules for commercial-scale oil shale operations, Salazar said. The government hasn’t issued any commercial leases for oil shale production under the 2008 rules. Nor will the review change rules governing existing or proposed leases for oil shale research, a federal spokesman said. The rules for commercial oil shale operations were put forward in the last weeks of President George W. Bush’s administration. They changed oil-shale plans by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency of Salazar’s Interior Department, in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

The agreement to review the 2008 rules in coming months was accepted by plaintiffs in the suits, said Kate Zimmerman, an attorney with the Rocky Mountain regional office of the National Wildlife Federation. The federation was one of the 13 environmental groups that were party to the two lawsuits. The review will look at the amount of water available for use in oil shale operations; potential impacts on federal lands, wildlife and watersheds, and the amount of royalties that oil shale production should pay, Salazar said.

The U.S. Geological Survey, another Interior agency, also will analyze the amount and quality of water available to better understand the groundwater and surface water systems that might be affected by commercial-scale oil shale operations, he said. “Oil shale is an important resource for the U.S.,” said Salazar, a former U.S. senator from Colorado. “We need to move forward and examine the possibility of developing oil shale as part of our national portfolio, but we need to do it in a smart way.”

More coverage from The State Colunm (U.S. Senator Michael Bennet):

“This announcement is a welcome step forward in our efforts to ensure thoughtful, responsible development of Colorado’s natural resources while protecting the land, water and way of life we in the West hold dear. Our approach to oil shale development should be both measured and responsible given the potential effects extraction could have on Colorado’s precious water supplies, farmers, ranchers and local communities in the arid West. While we should allow for research and development to proceed, we must also be mindful of the need to protect our land and water and provide a fair return to American taxpayers.

“Beyond today’s announcement of a path forward for commercial leasing rules, I am also pleased to hear that scientists will undertake a full analysis of oil shale in the context of Colorado’s water supply, considering the importance of this precious resource to farmers and local communities.”

More coverage from Sheila Kumar writing for the Associated Press (via Bloomberg). From the article:

The proposed settlement filed in federal court in Denver would give the Bureau of Land Management more discretion when awarding oil shale leases and would remove the 5 percent royalty rates approved by the Bush administration for mining oil shale on public land. The lawsuits by environmentalists challenged the rate as too low. Little is known about the potential environmental impact oil shale development will have on water and wildlife resources, a fact highlighted by the lawsuits. The settlement proposes requiring environmental reviews of commercial development, including impacts on air and water quality and water supplies. “We’re very pleased with the secretary’s emphasis on the importance of water as we move forward with the research and discussion,” said Bill Midcap, the renewable energy development director at the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

More from U.S. Representative Jared Polis via The State Column:

“The Department of Interior has taken a well reasoned approach to the future of Oil Shale on public lands with their announcement to take a closer look at how this form of energy could affect our precious and dwindling western water supplies,” said Polis. “The Department has struck a positive balance between researching future potential and ensuring that long term water needs and water impacts will be taken into account before companies invest dollars or the public invests it’s natural resources.”

More oil shale coverage here and here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works meeting recap

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From The Pueblo chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The board voted to enter a $1 million contract with Deere & Ault Consultants to provide engineering for its Water Court application to change the use of shares it has purchased on Bessemer Ditch. In 2009, the water board bought about 27 percent of the largest ditch in Pueblo County for $55 million. Nearly all of the Bessemer Ditch water is being leased back to farmers, but eventually the water rights need to be changed to allow for municipal and other uses in order for the water board to make full use of it. The board anticipates filing an application for the change in late 2012.

The $1 million contract with Deere & Ault covers four major areas, explained Alan Ward, water resources administrator:

Analysis to quantify the historic use of the water, including consumptive use, return flows and stream depletions.
– A description of future uses for those same areas.
– Conditions that would be needed to protect other water rights on the Arkansas River.
– A method of ditch operation that protects other Bessemer Ditch shareholders.

“We have committed to the Bessemer Ditch and the St. Charles Water District to consult with them on specific areas of concern and addressing those issues,” Ward said.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works Tuesday agreed to lease a little more than 10,000 acre-feet of water to other users in the Arkansas River, bringing in about $500,000 of additional revenue. The water board typically sells water from supplies it owns, but probably will not be able to use in the current year, through a competitive bid process. The leases do not include the $7 million in revenue projected from leases to Xcel, Aurora, Black Hills and others through longer-term contracts this year…

Prices for water that will be sold through the leases this year range from $42 per acre-foot for the Fort Lyon Canal, the valley’s largest ditch, to $400 for Holcim Inc., which has a cement plant near Florence. The largest amount paid was $144,000 by the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association, which augments return flows to the Arkansas River from depletions by both municipal and agricultural wells…

No water from the Bessemer Ditch, which is 27 percent owned by the water board, will be used in the leases. That water, under the terms of the 2009 sales of shares, is first offered to farmers on the Bessemer for the cost of assessments. Nearly all accepted that offer this year, Ward said.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.