Water Treatment Providers and Conservationists Pushing for Clean Water

bluegreenalgaebloom.jpg

Here’s the release from the Colorado Environmental Coalition:

Several conservation groups and water treatment utilities filed early statements on Friday in the upcoming water quality rulemaking being held by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, slated for March of 2012. The rulemaking will focus on controlling high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous, pollution that impacts Colorado’s drinking water, whitewater recreation and waterways.

Colorado Environmental Coalition, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Colorado Trout Unlimited and High Country Citzens’ Alliance are gearing up in advance of the formal rulemaking to ensure that Colorado’s water remains of the highest quality. The groups are collaborating with some of the largest water treatment providers in Colorado to pass strong standards to protect our health, environment, and to help curb the cost of future upgrades to water treatment facilities.

“Colorado has an exciting opportunity to show our neighbors and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that we can protect our rivers and streams while minimizing costs to local communities. Our rivers really are the lifeblood of our communities and we must use this opportunity to ensure they remain clean, clear and safe for all uses,” said Becky Long with the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

Along with other states, Colorado has been directed to implement new standards by EPA. Pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus is the culprit behind “dead zones” like those in the Mississippi River Delta, resulting in massive fish die-offs. In Colorado, small communities have recently suffered drinking water scares, when chemicals needed to treat for these types of contaminants have made drinking water unsafe for human consumption. This past August the town of Hotchkiss, warned citizens to avoid the local tap water after a similar scare. Efforts to ensure the safety of local water supplies in Hotchkiss could take up to six months.

Many communities have been concerned with the potentially high costs of treating this type of contamination. As a result, the state agency and many water providers are proposing a ten-year phase-in period allowing for needed facility upgrades and reducing costs to customers.

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District is also working to ensure Colorado’s rule is protective in order to head off additional federal regulations, which could be handed down if Colorado fails to pass a state rule.

“We believe the Water Quality Control Division’s proposal provides an opportunity for Colorado to make meaningful progress to reduce nutrients, protect small communities during these tough economic times, and put in place statewide monitoring to better understand the impacts of nutrients on a local, watershed basis,” said Barbara Biggs, Governmental Affairs Officer with the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District.

Water quality is also a major driver for recreation and tourism across Colorado. Murky water and slippery algae that can take over rivers and lakes does not enhance the post card image of Colorado’s environment. In recent years, the Water Quality Control Commission has had to implement standards for Grand Lake in order to control high concentrations of these same elements because of the impacts on water clarity and the fisheries in Colorado’s largest natural lake.

“My business really drops off when water quality is a concern. As Colorado’s population grows and human impacts contribute to water quality problems, we could face additional warnings and restrictions on the South Platte River. Our shop is only steps away from the river and we really rely on a safe river for our customers to recreate on,” said Jon Kahn, owner of Confluence Kayaks in Denver.

Statements were filed in Denver on Friday and the Water Quality Control Division will have until late January to respond.

Thanks to @beckylong for the link.

More water pollution coverage here and here.

Aspen: City council approves zoning for proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric generation plant

microhydroelectricplant.jpg

From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvail):

For nearly nine hours split between two meetings at Aspen City Hall on Monday, experts, consultants, residents and city officials debated the pros and cons of the proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric facility.

When the discourse was finally over at 10:20 p.m., the City Council voted unanimously to advance the project, conditionally approving a staff request to rezone property off Power Plant Road west of Aspen for a 1,761-square-foot building that would serve as the plant’s operations center. The vote also removes the land from the city’s open space inventory…

Council members heard from numerous opponents throughout the day, some of them landowners along the banks and within the watershed of Castle and Maroon creeks. An afternoon work session was designed to answer questions elected officials had about the project at large; the council’s regular meeting during the evening was supposed to focus only on the land-use request. In both instances, the public was allowed to comment…

The day began at 11:30 a.m., prior to the 1 p.m. work session, when representatives of the Washington, D.C.-based group American Rivers discussed a report it commissioned to evaluate the economic feasibility of the project.

The report, conducted by Tier One Capital Management LLC, questions the city’s estimate of $10.5 million for the project’s cost and puts the actual price tag at more than $16 million, citing interest payments on bonds used to finance construction. City officials have disputed the report and its conclusions, saying that it contains “egregious errors.”

At the work session, City Manager Steve Barwick discussed financial aspects of the plant and noted that the city need only spend a little more than $3 million more to complete the project. Most of that amount is for the building on Power Plant Road. An estimated $275,000 has been projected for handling the FERC application process.

Barwick stressed that the project is the best way to further the city’s goal of supplying 100 percent renewable energy through its electricity utility. He said every financial model shows that the new plant would save the community money in the long run.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

Dolores River: The Colorado Court of Appeals affirms Montrose County permit for the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill

doloresrivercanyon.jpg

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Benjamin Preston):

“This is an important project for western Colorado, and is going to mean an awful lot of job opportunities in a depressed part of the state,” said Gary Steele, an investor relations officer for Energy Fuels, Inc., the Canadian company slated to develop the project.

In order to obtain the permit from Montrose County, Energy Fuels had to agree to 18 conditions, which covered everything from the quality of uranium processed in the mill to the amount of water it can use. The conditions also include a 500-ton per day processing limit, plant footprint restrictions and a water quality monitoring requirement. The company has seven years to commence construction of the mill before having to go through the permitting process again.

“While those conditions aren’t adequate in our opinion, they’re better than no conditions at all, and they help protect the San Miguel River,” said Jennifer Thurston, a project coordinator with Sheep Mountain Alliance. In the wake of Energy Fuels’ recent triumph, Thurston said that SMA has not yet decided if they will attempt to have the case heard again by the appellate court, or try to push the case up the ladder to the state Supreme Court.

One thing is certain: SMA will pursue legal action against the project by way of the permit Energy Fuels received from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in January. The towns of Ophir and Telluride are co-plaintiffs in that case. Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser said that although Telluride isn’t opposing the mill just for the sake of opposing it, the town council wants to make sure air and water quality standards are as tight as possible.

Montrose County officials applauded the appellate court’s decision, but County Commissioner Ron Henderson wondered why SMA filed the suit to begin with. He said the case cost the county hundreds of hours of staff time, plus litigation fees, the amount of which he did not know.

“We included everyone who would possibly have a say during the permitting process,” he said. “I really don’t understand why Sheep Mountain Alliance filed [these lawsuits]. I guess it’s the American way, but it wasn’t very productive.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission green lights new ‘toughest in nation’ hydraulic fracturing disclosure rule

hydraulicfracturingrulisonhaliburtonap04152009

From Reuters via The Calgary Herald:

Pressure has been mounting on U.S. companies to be more open about the fracking technique that has been linked to water pollution.

The measures, which come into effect in April, go further than any other state to publicly highlight the exact contents of fracking fluid, which has become a major point of contention between the energy industry and environmentalists as its use increases…

On Tuesday, Texas adopted its own disclosure ruling for drillers, though it is considered less strict, with companies required to only include chemicals considered hazardous under certain drill site rules. Wyoming, Arkansas and Montana have similar disclosure rules to Texas.

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

The guidelines are similar to those required by a first-in-the-nation law passed in Texas this year but go further by requiring the concentrations of chemicals to be disclosed.

“That’s the big advancer here. We’re getting a full picture of what’s in that fracking fluid,” said Michael Freeman, an attorney for Earthjustice who worked with industry to write the rules.

Also, if Colorado drillers claim a trade secret, they would still have to disclose the ingredient’s chemical family. In emergencies, companies would have to tell health care workers what those secret ingredients were…

“I think we’ve reached the fairest and most transparent rules on the transparency of frack fluids of any state in the country,” Hickenlooper said afterward. “I think this will likely become a national model that if other states they don’t copy it, they will certainly use it as a touch point.”

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

The Colorado requirements are among the most extensive in the U.S. and the Colorado Oil & Gas Association is also satisfied with the outcome.

“Colorado now has the strongest hydraulic fracturing rule in the country,” said COGA president and CEO Tisha Schuller. “But more importantly, we have gained a model process to bring together industry, environmental advocates, and regulators to ensure energy development continues in keeping with protecting the environmental resources of our state.”

“The Commission’s unanimous support for the new hydraulic fracturing disclosure rule is great news for Colorado. The Hickenlooper administration, environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry have agreed upon a rule of which all Coloradoans can be proud.

More coverage from The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn) via Windsor Now!. From the article:

Most oil and gas wells in Colorado have been completed through fracking since 1960, said Ed Holloway, CEO of Synergy Resources Corp., based in Platteville. The process has been widely used since 1947, he said. Holloway, who has been in the business for 30 years and who has seen paperwork associated with oil and gas well drilling double in that time frame, said the new rule will go a long way toward transparency. “I think it’s come to the point now that we can take that veil, that one veil of mystery off,” Holloway said.

Most drillers in Weld already have been disclosing their chemicals voluntarily through the website http://www.fracfocus.org. Come April 1, that will become mandatory. The new rules also require companies to disclose the concentrations of chemicals used.

“There’s always concerns with groundwater contamination, regardless of the industry,” said Weld County Commissioner Chairwoman Barbara Kirkmeyer. “This rule will help with some of that. The industry already does baseline water sampling, and they’re going to continue doing that. And most of the industry players, at least the ones in Weld, have already been disclosing their chemicals. The rule just kind of galvanizes that.”

Some area farmers said they had little concern about fracking. Gege Ellzey, president of the Weld County Farm Bureau, said the disclosure issue had not been heavily discussed among local farmers. “For the most part, no one around here seems to be all that concerned about it,” said Ellzey, who allows oil and gas companies to drill on her land, and noted that she’s had no problems with how they’re operating…

“The end of the story is just a continual attack on our industry,” Holloway said. “My personal belief is this rule is good for the industry, and it’s where the industry should be.”

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch board approves pilot lease-fallowing arrangement with Fountain for 500 acre-feet of water with

arkbasinditchsystem.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The board met at the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District offices in Rocky Ford, and approved the sale of 500 acre-feet of water for $510 per acre-foot under a one-year lease agreement. The cost includes a $10 per acre-foot administrative fee. “The pilot program is important because it will prove if we can actually move the water,” said John Schweizer, president of the Super Ditch and the Catlin Canal. “This will open the door for more leases.”

While the Super Ditch ultimately could use water rights from seven ditches east of Pueblo, only the Catlin Canal will be involved in the pilot program. The Catlin board will review the contract on Dec. 27…

The water will go to the city of Fountain, and possibly other members of the El Paso County Water Authority, after it is exchanged upstream to Lake Pueblo…

About 250 acres will be dried up to provide the water, and one purpose of the program is to demonstrate through engineering how land can be taken out of production and how augmentation flows can be timed to return water to the Arkansas River. Farmers retain ownership of water rights and voluntarily participate.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.