Energy policy — nuclear: Energy Fuels is aggressively buying up uranium properties in the Uravan Mineral Belt

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From The Telluride Daily Planet (Matthew Beaudin):

The newly purchased Crain Lease is located on approximately 640-acres in San Juan County, Utah, and is near the historic Calliham and Sage Mines, which are properties already controlled by Energy Fuels. It cost the company about $520,000.

Its deposit is historically rich, according to Energy Fuels, and it sits in the Uravan Mineral Belt, one of the richest deposits of uranium and associated elements, in the country. The company recently announced it had also bought two other properties, the Energy Queen and Whirlwind, and has spent “millions” buying up mineral leases.

According to Energy Fuels, it costs about $250,000 and 18 months to permit a new uranium mine, outside of land and mineral right costs…

At the mill, [Curtis Moore, an Energy Fuels spokesperson] said jobs will pay anywhere from $45,000 to $75,000 a year, with benefits. At the mines, those jobs are likely to pay $90,000 to six figures, he said. It’s estimated by the company that the mill would create 85 jobs at its full capacity and spawn 200 additional jobs in the area, from trucking to restaurants. The life of the mill is pegged at 40 years, or, in other words, a generation.

Hilary White, the executive director of Sheep Mountain Alliance, said the company was mining — for investors.

“Energy Fuels needs at least $150 million to build the Piñon Ridge Mill and they do not have all the state and federal permits or the water to start construction or operation of the proposed mill,” she wrote in an email.

“The price of uranium has tumbled since the DOE released stockpiles of ore and the unfortunate disaster in Japan. They are in need of cash just to continue day-to-day operations. It is not surprising that we continue to see these press releases from the company mainly aimed at investors … Even if the mill were built today, it would most likely be seeking radioactive waste to process as the processing of ore at today’s prices is not economically viable. These are the realities that they do not mention in the press release.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Colorado State University Receives $2 Million from Shell Oil Company for Endowment in Restoration Ecology

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Kimberly Sorensen):

Shell Oil Company has endowed a $2 million chair in Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources. Mark Paschke, associate professor of restoration ecology in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, has been designated the Shell Endowed Chair in Restoration Ecology. Paschke will continue his research on mitigating ecological impacts associated with energy development in the Rocky Mountain region.

“We are so grateful for Shell’s investment in our college and generous support of Dr. Paschke’s groundbreaking work in restoration ecology,” said Joyce Berry, dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources. “This endowed chair will allow us to have an ongoing partnership with Shell and to focus on the most pressing and state-of-the-art practices in restoration related to energy development in the West. This support is a testament to Shell’s desire to be responsible stewards of the land, and we look forward to working with them to sustainably manage Colorado’s natural resources.”

CSU has a long history of conducting reclamation research and, continuing in that tradition, partnered with Shell in 2008 to build on work conducted during the past 30 years. In 1976, CSU began a substantial research project in the Piceance Basin of Northwest Colorado to provide basic and applied information that would aid in the reclamation of land disturbances associated with energy development.

The 2008 CSU and Shell partnership allowed scientists to revisit some of the original studies and make recommendations to the energy industry regarding long-term effects of various revegetation approaches.

“Shell and CSU share the goal of finding new, innovative ways to restore habitats affected by energy development,” said Chandler Wilhelm, Shell Exploration Manager for the Onshore U.S. and Latin America. “Shell has a long history of working with universities to support critical research, and we look forward to a long and productive partnership with CSU.”

In recent years, the Piceance Basin – located northeast of Grand Junction, Colo. – has become a valuable study site as a source of long-term data on ecosystem development resulting from a variety of reclamation approaches that were initiated by CSU researchers in the 1970s.

Paschke was a lead scientist on the latest project with Shell in which his team of researchers and graduate students studied long-term ecological dynamics including effects of disturbance on plant communities and ecosystems. The information collected helped determine how to optimize ecosystem restoration following land uses such as temporary road construction associated with oil and gas drilling or oil shale development.

“This generous support from Shell will allow CSU to explore new methods for healing damaged and degraded ecosystems. Our research will focus on lands impacted by energy development, but in the long term, we hope that our discoveries will lead to improved stewardship of all ecosystems impacted by a growing human population,” Paschke said.

Endowed chairs help attract and retain outstanding scholars and teachers and provide them with recognition and additional funding. Funds may be used to help upgrade laboratories and equipment as well as for seed money to develop innovative technologies with the help of undergraduate and graduate students performing cutting-edge research.

Paschke has been at the university since 1993 and became a faculty
member in 2005.

About Shell Oil Company

Shell Oil Company, including its consolidated companies and its share in equity companies, is one of America’s leading oil and natural gas producers, natural gas marketers, gasoline marketers and petrochemical manufacturers. Shell, a leading oil and gas producer in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, is a recognized pioneer in oil and gas exploration and production technology. Shell Oil Company is an affiliate of the Shell Group, a global group of energy and petrochemical companies employing 93,000 people in more than 90 countries. The company’s goal is to help meet the energy needs of society in ways that are economically, environmentally and socially responsible.

About the Warner College of Natural Resources

The Warner College of Natural Resources is the most comprehensive and largest named college of its kind in the country. It boasts an enrollment of 1,500; 1,200 undergraduate and 300 graduate students. The college facilitates $50 million in research annually in 40 countries on every continent and has 500 research scientists and staff alongside its 65 tenured track faculty. Experiential learning is a mandatory component of each of the college’s five disciplines and speaks to the strength of the undergraduate experience. As part of its outreach efforts, the Warner College is home to several centers and special units such as the Colorado State Forest Service, the Center for Collaborative Conservation and the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Governor Hickenlooper points to transparency to build trust in the hydraulic fracturing debate

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From The Colorado Statesman (Peter Marcus):

The Democratic governor made his comments Aug. 2 during a keynote address at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual Energy Epicenter Conference held at the Colorado Convention Center. Hickenlooper himself is an alum of the industry, having worked as a geologist in the 1980s before he ventured into the beer crafting brewing business and later politics. The governor said he would like to see new rules in Colorado that would require the oil and gas industry to disclose ingredients used in the hydraulic fracturing process. But Hickenlooper is not encouraging the disclosure because he thinks the so-called fracking process is dangerous — he believes the public will back off their concerns when they see that the ingredients used in the process, and the process itself, is nothing to worry about in terms of contaminating groundwater.

“Everyone in this room understands that hydraulic fracturing doesn’t connect to groundwater, and we can’t find any chemicals in Colorado… It’s almost inconceivable that we would ever contaminate groundwater through a fracking process, and yet there are reports, not just the New York Times, that have created the impression that this happens and that this is something we should be fearful of,” said Gov. Hickenlooper. “The best way to fight back on that kind of misinformation is to be transparent. To really step out and say this isn’t something that happens, and we’re so confident that this is not going to happen that we’re going to measure before drilling and then after drilling, and we’ll monitor and just clearly demonstrate beyond any possible doubt that this doesn’t happen.”[…]

Environmentalists say they haven’t quite made their minds up yet on Gov. Hickenlooper, hesitant to applaud him following eight appointments he made recently to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Gov. Hickenlooper has big shoes to fill, considering that former Gov. Bill Ritter was considered to be one the greatest of friends to the state’s environmental community. Following the announcement of the appointments last week, the Colorado Environmental Coalition said, “The jury is still very much out as to whether this set of appointments meets that important standard [of striking the right balance] or whether instead the balance has shifted away from protecting Colorado’s air, water, wildlife and communities from the impacts of drilling.”

The appointments include: Fort Lupton Mayor Tommy E. Holton, John H. Benton, vice president of the Rockies Division of Rex Energy Corp. in Denver, W. Perry Pearce, manager of state government affairs for ConocoPhillips/Burlington Resources, Andrew Lawrence Spielman, chairman of Colorado’s Regional Air Quality Council, Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources and Dr. Chris Urbina, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment. Hickenlooper also reappointed Thomas L. Compton, owner and manager of Compton Cattle Co., and Richard D. Alward, a principal ecologist and environmental scientist at Aridlands Natural Resource Consulting in Grand Junction.

From the Colorado Springs Independent (Chet Hardin):

The next day [ed. after Governor Hickenlooper spoke], the New York Times published a story detailing a known incident of well water contamination due to fracking materials.

For decades, oil and gas industry executives as well as regulators have maintained that a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that is used for most natural gas wells has never contaminated underground drinking water.

The claim is based in part on a simple fact: fracking, in which water and toxic chemicals are injected at high pressure into the ground to break up rocks and release the gas trapped there, occurs thousands of feet below drinking-water aquifers. Because of that distance, the drilling chemicals pose no risk, industry officials have argued.

But there is in fact a documented case, and the E.P.A. report that discussed it suggests there may be more. Researchers, however, were unable to investigate many suspected cases because their details were sealed from the public when energy companies settled lawsuits with landowners.

This particular incident of contamination occurred in Jackson County, W.Va., in 1984. The Environmental Protection Agency produced a report on the contamination in 1987. You can read it here.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Lamar pipeline: GP Water chief executive Ken Nyquist — ‘Private enterprise has got to pull the sled’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

[The Lamar pipeline, a] $340 million proposal would divert the water 150 miles from where it was traditionally used, possibly out of the Arkansas River basin. “Private enterprise has got to pull the sled,” Karl Nyquist, GP Water chief executive, said. He touts both municipal and agricultural benefits of the project he is proposing. “But nothing is done in the private sector without an idea of making money.”[…]

Nyquist said the up-front costs of developing a large project can be too much for a growing community to afford. There is a competitive market for new sources of water as cities that rely on the Denver Basin aquifers slowly tap it out. GP Water quietly bought up shares of water in the Lower Arkansas Valley for nine years before deciding to make its move…

At a state Roundtable Summit in Denver last March, former State Engineer Jeris Danielson, who has worked as a consultant for both Boyce and Million, asked Gov. John Hickenlooper if there is a place for private development of state water projects. “We have to be careful bringing in private capital as part of the solution,” Hickenlooper answered. “I don’t have a problem with bringing private capital into the picture, but we need to make sure their goals line up with the state’s goals.”[…]

State officials are taking a wait-and-see approach to private projects, watching projects like Flaming Gorge and the newly announced GP plans cautiously. “I think the jury’s still out,” said Alan Hamel, a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “In recent years, it has become harder to develop a large water project unless you’re a big water provider.”

Hamel said there could be a place for the private sector in filling state water needs, but like Hickenlooper he urges caution. “The unincorporated areas are struggling with coming up with a way to replace non-renewable groundwater assets,” Hamel said. “The Flaming Gorge Task Force is a way to flush out the issues. I think, before we’re done, there have to be some public-private partnerships.”

Be sure to click through. Mr. Woodka provides a lot of detail about water projects in Colorado in the article.

More coverage from Karen Crummy writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Elbert County residents fear the group will take too much water out of the aquifers, some of which are being depleted faster than they can be recharged. County residents are also worried about an eventual plan to store treated Arkansas River water in their aquifers, fearing it will hurt their water quality. Meanwhile, Prowers County, where Lamar is located, is expected to lose irrigated farmland and seasonal farm-labor jobs as Arkansas River water is pumped north. “The big concern in our community is dried-up land. It’s extremely difficult to get things to grow after it dries up,” said Prowers County Commissioner Henry Schnabel. “I would rather the water was used in our area, preferably for agriculture. But we don’t know much about (the plan) right now.”

Karl Nyquist, head of GP, said the “net benefits” in both counties will outweigh the negative impacts. The pipeline from the Arkansas River means Elbert County will eventually get a renewable water source, which he said should help with economic opportunities. Prowers will enjoy a larger tax base and higher-paying jobs from the plant that will treat the river water to drinking standards. He also said GP intends to retain some farmland, using sprinkler irrigation. “We’re trying to create a win-win for every stakeholder,” said Nyquist, who has scheduled community meetings in Elbert, El Paso and Prowers counties this month to educate residents on the project…

After the public questioned the speed with which the proposal was being considered [by the Elbert County Commissioners] and the secrecy surrounding it, the commission delayed voting on the matter until Aug. 24. “This project popped up and caught a lot of people by surprise,” said John Stulp, special water adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper and director of the Interbasin Compact Committee, a group created under a 2005 state law to promote cooperation on water- management issues and storage projects…

…through public records and an interview with Nyquist, The Denver Post was able to put together a basic picture of the project. Generally, the financing involves GP Water Group, which is made up of Nyquist and his two partners, David Pretzler and David Bechtel. Pretzler and Nyquist are also on the Highway 86 district board. Both men are also partners in C & A Holding Co., a real- estate management and development company. The Highway 86 district owns 180,000 acre-feet — roughly 58 billion gallons — of aquifer water. That water would be pumped through a 32.5- mile pipeline from southwestern Elbert County to Falcon, which is 15 miles northeast of Colorado Springs, for use while districts are waiting for Arkansas River water. Nyquist said the group is not focused on oil and gas exploration, which is set to begin in Elbert County and will need millions of gallons of water. But he also didn’t rule it out in the future. GP, which owns 39 percent of the Lamar Canal, will pull water from the Arkansas River near Lamar. Once GP, or one of its related companies, goes through the courts to change the use of the river water from agricultural to municipal, it will build a treatment facility near Lamar and the pipeline to Falcon. The group is already constructing a gravel pit in Lamar for water storage. Additional storage at the other end of the pipeline will be in aquifers…

The Arkansas River Compact Administration — made up of two Colorado members, two Kansas members and a federal representative appointed by the president — must give its seal of approval, said Steve Witte, an engineer for Colorado’s natural-resources division. It’s unclear how long that will take. “There isn’t a lot of precedent for this,” Witte said, noting that others have considered similar projects but haven’t followed through.

More Lamar pipeline coverage here.