Wired: Most Beautiful National Parks Seen From Space


Click here to go to Wired’s photo essay of select National Parks from space. Here’s the link to the Canyonlands National Park website.

Thanks to @NewMexiKen for the link.

NIDIS Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment Summary of the Upper Colorado River Basin


Here’s the link to the webinar summaries from the Colorado Climate Center.

Click on the thumbnail graphic for the precipitation summary.

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs Featured at June Water 2012 Book Club Event


From the release from Colorado Bar Association CLE (Dawn McKnight):

On June 18, author, scholar, and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs will present on two of his books: Living the Four Corners: Colorado, Centennial State at the Headwaters, published in 2011, and his new book Into the Grand. The presentation will include a special introduction by Patty Limerick, Faculty Director and Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado.

The event is not only available to attend in person, but also via live webcast from your computer. You’re able to see the live event even if you’re not in the Denver area!

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs’ Living the Four Corners: Colorado, Centennial State at the Headwaters was a finalist in 2011 in the Colorado Authors’ League General Nonfiction category and is published by Colorado Bar Association Continuing Legal Education. Hobbs says, “Culture of the Four Corners to me is the culture of the Americas. This book takes a look at the landscape and the culture and the spirituality and the legal arrangements that made the Four Corners part of United States. I hope it reflects, in a very positive way, our legal profession and its commitment to community.” Justice Hobbs says about this latest book Into the Grand, “I like writing, reading the writing of others, and traveling through the imaginative landscape of this great country with family, friends, maps and guides we meet along the way . . . The poems and prose poems are way markers and cairns.”

June 18, 2012 – 4 – 6 p.m.
Colorado Bar Association CLE – 1900 Grant St, Ste 300, Denver, CO 80203
This program is complimentary and refreshments will be served
RSVP: Call Melissa Lucas at 303.824.5387 or mlucas@cobar.org.

Please indicate whether you plan to attend either live or by live webcast and the relevant information will be emailed to you.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Flaming Gorge Pipeline: ‘Colorado has water available under the Colorado River Compact’ — Nathaniel Budd


Here’s a guest column written by Wyco Water and Power, Director of Business Development, Nathaniel Budd, running in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the column:

Colorado has water available under the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement among seven Colorado River basin states governing allocation of water rights for the Colorado River. Until Colorado’s apportionment is fully developed, the Lower Basin (California, Nevada, and Arizona) will benefit at the detriment of Colorado. For 90 years, our region has over-delivered to the Lower Basin, largely because the infrastructure does not exist to utilize the water supply available to this state. The water belongs to Colorado, not California…

Rather than develop waters allocated for the state’s beneficial use nearly 100 years ago, opponents of the Regional Watershed Supply Project would prefer to stunt economic growth and endanger the Upper Basin’s future water supply. If Colorado’s forefathers had been of this mindset, the eastern slope communities and the multi-billion-dollar agricultural base that supplies open spaces, preserves western culture, and provides innumerable environmental benefits would not exist as we know them today.

Meanwhile, here’s a report about FERC’s latest rejection of the pipeline’s preliminary permit, from Mary Bernard writing for the Vernal Express. From the article:

Aaron Milllion’s hydropower and water supply project, renamed the Wyco Power and Water Project was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on May 17. That’s the second refusal of the project’s preliminary permit request from FERC, preceded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ termination in 2011. FERC refused a rehearing on the decision saying, Million’s arguments were unsupported and no preliminary permit for its proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project would be issued…

The project has received widespread resistance from the private sector throughout the tri-state area. Formal opposition from Daggett and Uintah Counties, the Wyoming communities of Green River and Rock Springs, Sweetwater County, Wyo. and Moffatt County, Colo.

Local fly fishermen openly opposed the water project saying it would draw down reservoirs and destroy world class fisheries on the Green River and Flaming Gorge. High Desert Anglers president Jeff Taniguchi warned that the “Million Project would absolutely decimate one of the most beautiful places in Utah, and compromise every downstream user of water on the Green.”

Western Resource Advocates filed objections representing itself, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

An economic water supply is a concern for Front Range dairy operations


From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via Windsor Now!:

…with the rapid growth along the Front Range, which has put pressure on water supplies and made water more expensive, [Charles Tucker] and others question — even worry — whether there is enough water today to accommodate an additional 50,000-plus dairy cows. Each cow can consume 50-plus gallons of water per day, but they are needed to meet the milk demands of Greeley’s new and expanding Leprino cheese plant. Those concerned also wonder — if the water is there for the dairy growth — will dairymen have to pay so much for it that it prevents them from making a profit?[…]

In response to such concerns, developers and others at the forefront of the region’s dairy-expansion efforts say the water for dairy expansions is available. And although it is very pricey, dairies under good management can still make money, they said.

The dairy growth in the area is a gradual process, expected to continue during the next few years. Seven to eight new dairies in Weld County — most of which will be owned by producers coming from California — are expected to be producing milk by some time next year, with two of them possibly operating by the end of 2012, according to Wade Meek with Dairy Farmers of America and others in the dairy industry. Because of that, Leprino officials say the growth of the region’s dairy industry is on pace to meet their demands through at least next year, when the plant will be taking in about 3.5 million pounds of milk per day, more than twice as much as it is now.

Tom Haren, owner of AgProfessionals in Longmont, which is a development company that has helped producers find locations for new dairies or expansions, said that, so far, the new dairies have been going up on sites of previous agriculture operations — old feedlots and dairies, former Butterball turkey farms and others — where water supplies already existed and have been sitting idle. “At a lot of these sites, we’re not having to go out and get new water,” said Haren.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

New Ceres Report: Oil Shale Development in Western U.S. Poses Significant Risks to Investors


Here’s the link to the report (registration required). Here’s the release from Ceres:

Citing technological uncertainties and a wide range of other risks, a new Ceres white paper supports a federal agency’s proposal to take a cautious approach to oil shale production in the western U.S.

At issue is the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to focus oil shale production in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado on “Research, Development, and Demonstration” (RD&D) leases only and to reduce the available acreage to about 500,000 acres from nearly two million acres under an earlier plan.

“Given the wide array of uncertainties, BLM’s proposed leasing approach on oil shale makes sense,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber, citing regulatory risks, water constraints and numerous other questions about various technologies being pursued to extract a non-liquid form of oil from shale rock. “Investors should be similarly cautious in evaluating future investment in this space.”

“Oil shale technologies are still highly speculative, and proving them to be commercially viable will be difficult and require a long period of time with uncertain outcomes,” said Paul Bugala, senior sustainability analyst, extractive industries, at Calvert Investments. “The little that state and federal regulators know about the environmental impacts, especially in the areas of water use and land reclamation, further indicates that caution should be exercised.”

While oil shale reserves beneath the three states in the Green River Formation are vast, holding more than three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia, the Ceres white paper, Investor Risks from Oil Shale Development, sends a strong cautionary message to policymakers, investors and companies alike.

The white paper, prepared by David Gardiner & Associates, LLC, identifies five key risks to oil shale development:

Core technological uncertainty: Despite decades of efforts, surface and in-ground technologies for producing oil shale still face many uncertainties. The report states: “The uncertainties around continued testing and development of new technologies and processes for producing oil from oil shale leave a great deal still unknown, including the amount of the resource that is recoverable, the efficiencies and costs of various methods, the impacts on natural resources, and the effects of various technologies on the costs of final products (and thus the competitiveness of oil shale).” The white paper cites an earlier report by the Task Force on Strategic Unconventional Fuels (comprised of federal, state, and local officials) which states: “[t]echnology uncertainty is the largest single risk factor associated with oil shale development. This uncertainty remains even after 50 years of government and industry research to develop a commercially viable retorting technology.”

Market risks: Production of oil shale is characterized by significant capital investment, high operating costs, and long payback periods – at least a decade. Uncertainties about the costs associated with developing a first-generation commercial facility, combined with oil price volatility and other uncertainties, pose investment risks that make oil shale investment less attractive than other potential uses of capital. Sporadic attempts to commercialize oil shale have repeatedly failed once oil prices fall.

Water constraints: Oil shale development’s need for water is a particular concern in water-stressed states such as Colorado and Utah. The report cites estimates showing that surface technologies may require 2 to 4 barrels of water for every barrel of product produced while in-ground technologies may require up to 12 barrels of water per barrel produced. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has suggested that the size of the oil shale industry in Colorado and Utah may be limited by water availability.

Regulatory risks: Lifecycle carbon emissions for oil shale fuels are likely to be 25 to 75 percent greater than for conventional petroleum. This means oil shale development could face risks as carbon-reducing rules and regulations take hold – whether low-carbon fuel standards, a price on carbon emissions, lifecycle emissions requirements, or other measures. Other federal and state environmental regulations, including those related to air and water quality, also pose risks to oil shale development.

Risks from public opposition: Public opposition to oil shale based on the actual or perceived environmental impacts could “derail, delay, or increase the costs of such projects,” says the white paper.

More than 70 percent of the Green River Formation oil shale resources lie beneath federal lands. BLM is presently considering public comments on its proposal to limit development to RD&D leases on 252,181 acres in Utah, 174,476 acres in Wyoming and 35,308 acres in Colorado. A decision is expected in fall 2012.

From the Ceres website:

Ceres is an advocate for sustainability leadership. Ceres mobilizes a powerful coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy. Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $10 trillion.

More oil shale coverage here and here.