@CWCB_DNR #COWaterPlan update now online

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Click here to read the document:

Colorado’s Water Plan sets forth the measurable objectives, goals, and critical actions needed to ensure that Colorado can maintain our state’s values into the future. This is an update on implementation progress.


  • Reducing the supply and demand gap is ultimately tied to actions in conservation, storage, land use, and ATMs. Updating the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) to provide accurate and current technical information for many of these efforts is fundamental to success. The SWSI update process kicked off July 2016.
  • The CWCB and the IBCC are working to revise the Water Supply Reserve Fund criteria and guidelines to explicitly link funding requests to the goals and measureable outcomes identified in the Basin Implementation Plans and Colorado’s Water Plan. This will ensure that our funding decisions are congruent with the goals of Colorado’s Water Plan. Draft criteria and guidelines were presented to the CWCB Board in July and the IBCC in August. Final criteria and guidelines will be presented to the CWCB Board for approval in November.

  • The CWCB is financially supporting a variety of storage efforts and innovations, including a study of storage options in the South Platte (required under HB 16- 1256), exploring groundwater storage technology, and conducting a spillway analysis to identify existing storage that could be expanded.
  • Earlier this year, state and federal partners, as well as community stakeholders, completed a Lean event on the water project permitting process. The Lean team is focused on implementing its recommendations to streamline the permitting process while maintaining rigorous environmental protection.

  • The CWCB is developing a variety of trainings that will be held over the next couple of years for local governments, utilities, and land use planners to increase water-saving actions and the integration of land use and water planning. The first of the trainings focused on “Breaking Down Silos: Integrating Water into Land Use Planning Webinar Series” was held on September 13th. There were over 100 participants in the webinar. There will be two other webinars and a train-the- trainer session over the next few months.
  • For the Colorado Water and Growth Dialogue, the second exploratory scenario planning workshop was held in July 2016. The Keystone Policy center is working with Denver Water, Aurora Water, and the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) to model the data to quantify the future scenarios.
  • The CWCB is looking at lessons learned from the legislation on indoor watersense fixtures to inform the legislation on outdoor watersense requirements called for in the plan.

  • The CWCB and IBCC are hosting an Ag Viability Summit in partnership with the Colorado Ag Water Alliance (CAWA) on November 29. The agenda will include discussions about how to encourage regional planning for system-wide conservation and fleshing out the needs for an ag viability grant program.
  • The CWCB is participating in a workshop at CU on meeting the Alternative Ag Transfer Mechanisms (ATM) goal in Colorado’s Water Plan on October 7th. Discussions will include creative ways to support and facilitate ATM projects. CAWA, the Ditch & Reservoir Company Association, and Colorado Cattlemen’s Association have also been working on ATM education and development.
  • The Arkansas Basin pilot water sharing project with Catlin Canal is in its second year with favorable results that suggest statutory changes aimed at incenting alternatives to buy-and-dry transactions.

  • We are looking at providing an additional $5 million (through the CWCB funding plan) to the Watershed Restoration Program to work with roundtables and stakeholder groups to develop watershed restoration and stream management plans and projects for the priority streams identified in Basin Implementation Plans (BIPs) and other watershed planning documents.
  • The CWCB helped put on workshops at the Colorado Water Congress summer conference in August 2016 on Stream Management Plans: what they are and how to develop one. Another workshop will be hosted on Tuesday, October 11th at the Sustaining Colorado Watersheds conference.
  • The CWCB will be including climate change impacts in the SWSI update.

  • The CWCB is working with the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and the One World One Water Center at Metro State University of Denver to develop a proposal for a Water Education Assessment to improve long-term water education program evaluation, identify gaps in water education, and develop case studies of successful programs and best practices to share statewide. The assessment will help align funding with educational priorities statewide.
  • The CWCB created an e-newsletter to update stakeholders on Colorado’s Water Plan implementation and the work of the CWCB Board and staff, IBCC, basin roundtables, and local communities. The next issue will go out the first week of October.

  • The CWCB is working to connect with and create partnerships with the innovation community, including the Colorado Innovation Network (COIN) and Something Independent, to create pathways for the private sector and the water community to work together to tackle the state’s water challenges and focus on innovating with water data.

  • Funding is critical to many of our implementation efforts. The CWCB will continue to align funding decisions with Colorado’s Water Plan. We are developing a 3-5 year funding plan that will create a repayment guarantee fund, bolster the WSRF program, and support several education, conservation, reuse, and agricultural viability actions called for in the plan. The following funding plan is being developed by the CWCB staff, which will seek approvals from the CWCB Board and the legislature through the annual project’s bill, to kick-start water funding for plan implementation:
  • o a one-time investment of up to $50 million (as available) into a repayment guarantee fund;
    o an annual transfer of $10 million for the Water Supply Reserve Fund;
    o an annual transfer of $5 million for the Watershed Restoration Program;
    o and an annual transfer of $10 million for additional non-reimbursable CWCB programming to implement Colorado’s Water Plan.


    Of the $5 million transferred in the 2016 Projects Bill to assist in the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan, staff is recommending the following approximate amounts to the Board for appropriation in 2017:

    $1 million will support efforts with watershed-level flood and drought planning and response;
    $.5 million for grants to provide technical assistance to irrigators for assistance with federal cost-sharing improvement programs;
    $1.2 million for water forecasting and measuring efforts;
    $1.3 million to update reuse regulations as well as to fund a training program for local water providers to better understand AWWA’s methodology for water loss control; and
    $1 million to support the Alternative Agricultural Water Transfer Methods Grant Program.

    #Drought news: No change in depiction for #Colorado

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:


    During the past 7-days, frequent frontal activity helped to ensure heavy rainfall (2 inches or greater) over portions of the Midwest, the Middle and Lower Mississippi Valley, the southern Plains, the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, and the Pacific Northwest. The Southern Atlantic Coast region also received areas of heavy rainfall due to the slow passage and subsequent meandering of Tropical Storm Julia. Drought remains entrenched over the southern Appalachians vicinity, parts of the Northeast/eastern Great Lakes region, the northern Plains, and much of the West…

    Great Plains and northern Rockies

    In western Montana, moderate precipitation (0.5-2.2 inches) led to small improvements in the drought depiction, including the reduction and/or removal of D2 in Granite, Ravalli, and Missoula Counties. However, increasing dryness across the rest of the state prompted the expansion of D0, D1, and D2 categories across most of the southern half of the state. Groundwater levels along the Rocky Mountain Front (especially Teton County) are a concern. In northeastern Oklahoma, persistent dryness, reduced pond levels, spotty rains which keep hitting (or missing) the same areas, dormant grass, 30-, 60-, and 90-day DNPs, CPC Soil Moisture, and the 30-day SPI warranted a modest increase in coverage of D0 and D1 in this part of the state. Recent precipitation in south-central Oklahoma resulted in the removal of a D1 patch. In Texas, localized adjustments were made to the map, though as a whole, the state remains in relatively good shape…

    Southwest/Four Corners region

    Beneficial precipitation in recent weeks and cooler temperatures are helping to moderate ET demand, prompting some improvement of D1 in north-central Utah (Duchesne and Carbon Counties), and trimming of D2 in Carbon County. The 30-day SPI has improved to the 0 to +1 range in this area. An impact line was introduced in Colorado to emphasize the short-term nature of the drought there, while the “SL” impact label (emphasizing both short- and long-term impacts) still fits for much of the surrounding area. This was based to a large degree on the objective “worst case” drought blends…

    California and western Great Basin

    Since this is the normally dry and warm time of the year when no real changes are expected to occur, there were no changes made on the map…

    Looking Ahead

    During the next 5 days (September 22-26), most dryness or drought areas east of the Mississippi River are not expected to receive significant rainfall. Beneficial rain is, however, forecast for some areas west of the Mississippi River, including the southern Plains (2-3 inches), and from the northern High Plains and northern Rockies southward across northern Utah (1.5 to locally as much as 6.0 inches). During the 6-10 day period, September 27-October 1, odds favor above-median precipitation across the south-central contiguous U.S., peninsular Florida, and the Upper Mississippi Valley/Dakotas region. Odds favor below-median precipitation for portions of the mid-Atlantic, Carolinas, northern Georgia, and eastern parts of Kentucky and Tennessee. Below-median precipitation is also favored for most areas west of the eastern slopes of the Rockies.

    Opposition growing to 
Aspen’s conditional water rights for dams on Maroon and Castle creeks

    A view of the Maroon Bells from just below the confluence of East Maroon and West Maroon creeks, where the City of Aspen has told the state of Colorado it intends - at some point - to build a 155-foot-tall dam. The resulting reservoir would back up 4,567 acre-feet of water and cover 80 acres of USFS land, including a portion of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.
    A view of the Maroon Bells from just below the confluence of East Maroon and West Maroon creeks, where the city of Aspen has told the state of Colorado it intends – at some point – to build a 155-foot-tall dam. The resulting reservoir would back up 4,567 acre-feet of water and cover 80 acres of USFS land, including a portion of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

    By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

    ASPEN – A representative of the U.S. Forest Service told Aspen City Council Tuesday that the federal agency is likely to oppose the city if it files to extend conditional water rights it holds for dams on upper Maroon and Castle creeks.

    The city has until Oct. 31 to submit a due diligence filing in Division 5 water court in Glenwood Springs to keep its conditional water rights alive for another six years, and the council held a work session Tuesday where it took public comment on the issue.

    Kevin Warner, who is serving as the acting district ranger in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, said legal counsel for the Forest Service at the regional level had advised him that the federal agency would likely submit a statement of opposition if the city filed to extend its conditional water rights.

    He said that given the city’s ongoing exploration of whether or not it should seek to renew its conditional water rights, the Forest Service also took an “in-depth” look at the rights.

    “In this instance, we’ve taken a little more time, looked into it,” Warner told the council. “And based on advice from our counsel, we are considering filing a statement of opposition to this diligence filing.”

    If built as currently described by the conditional water rights, the Maroon Creek Reservoir would store 4,567 acre-feet of water behind a 155-foot-tall dam, just below the confluence of East Maroon and West Maroon creeks.

    The Maroon Creek Reservoir would cover 85 acres of Forest Service land about a mile and a half below Maroon Lake. The reservoir would also inundate portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

    The potential Castle Creek Reservoir would hold 9,062 acre-feet of water behind a 170-foot-tall dam located about two miles below the ghost town of Ashcroft.

    The reservoir, inundating 120 acres, would affect mostly private land but would also flood some Forest Service land within the wilderness.

    The city originally filed for the water rights in 1965, citing an expectation that it would need to build at least one of the reservoirs by 1970 to meet demands for water.

    In its last diligence filing in 2009, the city told the water court “it has steadily applied effort to complete the appropriation of this water right in a reasonably expedient and efficient manner.”

    On Tuesday, the city’s director of utilities and environmental initiatives, David Hornbacher, told the city council there could be a gap in the future between the city’s water supply and demand, especially given 
climate change, but he did not cite the specific size of the perceived gap, or how the potential reservoirs would be used to meet it.

    He did, however, recommend that the city file an application in water court to maintain its conditional water rights and then look at alternatives.

    A draft resolution put forward by city staff says “the city should also continue to further investigate alternative locations and sizing requirements of the Maroon Creek Reservoir and/or Castle Creek Reservoir, and, if appropriate, seek water court approval for modification of one or both conditional decrees, with their existing appropriation dates.”

    A view of one of the many wetlands in the Castle Creek valley that would be flooded by a potential Castle Creek Reservoir. The U.S. Forest Service has advised the city of Aspen that its potential reservoirs would conflict with management plans for the White River National Forest.
    A view of one of the many wetlands in the Castle Creek valley that would be flooded by a potential Castle Creek Reservoir. The U.S. Forest Service has advised the city of Aspen that its potential reservoirs would conflict with management plans for the White River National Forest.

    Not compatible with USFS 
management plan

    Art Daily, a member of the Aspen City Council and a veteran attorney with Holland and Hart in Aspen, asked Warner during Tuesday’s work session whether the Forest Service viewed filing a statement of opposition in water court as an “opportunity” or a “responsibility.”

    Statements of opposition in water court cases do not always reflect a party’s intent in the case. A statement could be simply a way to monitor court proceedings, or it could signal intent to litigate against a proposed water right.

    In response to Daily’s question, Warner said the agency saw it as a responsibility to oppose the city, rather than an opportunity.

    Warner said the Forest Service’s opposition to the city’s water rights was based on the fact that the reservoirs would inundate portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

    “Based on our understanding of the Wilderness Act, and the fact that there was no exception built into the designation for the Maroon-Bells Wilderness Area … it would need to go to the president” in order for the reservoirs to be approved, Warner said.

    Without such an authorization, the Forest Service could not support the city’s conditional water rights.

    “It is nothing against this particular one, it’s just a legal thing,” Warner told the council. “It is kind of our opportunity in the court system to say, ‘You guys would have to get this done,’ and therefore it is kind out of our control.”

    Will Roush, conservation director at Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale, told the city council in an Aug. 19 letter that no president has granted such an exemption to the Wilderness Act since it was approved 52 years ago.

    Roush wrote, “the city would have to convince the president of the Unites States that the ability of Aspen residents and second homeowners to water their lawns in late summer was of a greater national interest than the internationally recognized ecological and scenic values of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.”

    He also urged the city, on behalf of Wilderness Workshop, to abandon its conditional water rights.

    This is not the first time the Forest Service has warned the city of Aspen that its proposed dams and reservoirs conflict with federal policy.

    In 2009, the last time the city filed to extend its conditional water rights, White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams sent the city a letter about its conditional water rights, but did not file a statement of opposition.

    “As currently decreed, the locations of the Castle Creek and Maroon Creek reservoirs would not comply with the goals and objectives of the White River National Forest’s land and resource management plans for these areas,” Fitzwilliams wrote. “For example, the Maroon Creek Reservoir, as currently sited, would not be compatible with the specific management of the highly visited area for the protection of its high scenic value. Both proposed structures would conflict with our management objective to maintain or improve long-term riparian ecosystem conditions on the forest.”

    A map showing the location of the potential Castle Creek Reservoir. The extend of the reservoir has been slightly modified to flood a smaller portion of private property owned by adjacent neighbors.
    A map showing the location of the potential Castle Creek Reservoir. The extent of the reservoir has been slightly modified to flood a smaller portion of private property owned by adjacent neighbors.

    County in question

    In addition to the likely pushback from the Forest Service, American Rivers has also stated it will oppose the city in water court.

    “American Rivers strongly encourages the city of Aspen to not file to maintain its conditional water rights for new dams on Castle and Maroon creeks,” wrote Matt Rice, the director of the Colorado River basin program for American Rivers on Aug. 17. “Aspen does not need these dams for municipal water supply, climate resiliency, or for stream protection now or at any time in the foreseeable future.”

    Last month, Rice also said in an interview that American Rivers would oppose the city in water court if it filed to extend the conditional water rights.

    The Roaring Fork Conservancy also weighed in with an Aug. 25 letter to the council, arguing that based on relevant studies, the city “appears to have sufficient water supply to meet its forecasted demand” without the reservoirs, which would “result in needless, drastic alteration of the natural landscape of two of our state’s most scenic places.”

    “Rather than prolonging this debate for another six-year diligence cycle, Roaring Fork Conservancy believes now is the appropriate time to cancel these conditional water rights and tfor the city to pursue any other water demand and supply initiatives,” says the letter signed by director Rick Lofaro.

    The city council also heard Tuesday from Lisa Tasker, the chair of Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers and Streams Board, which recently sent a letter to the city saying the board “does not support new construction of impoundments on Maroon and Castle creeks.”

    Tasker also suggested that Pitkin County might oppose the city’s diligence filing.

    But Laura Makar, an attorney with the county who specializes in water issues, said Wednesday that the board of county commissioners “has not taken any position on any possible permutation of a diligence application the city of Aspen might file and I expect the [commissioners] will not have any position until any application is filed.”

    A map produced by Pitkin County from a map on file with the state of the city of Aspen's proposed Maroon Creek Reservoir, located just below Maroon Creek Lake, shown to the left as the smaller of the two bodies of water. The map was commissioned by Aspen Journalism and confirmed in 2012 as accurate by city officials.
    A map produced by Pitkin County, from a map on file with the state, of the city of Aspen’s proposed Maroon Creek Reservoir, located just below Maroon Creek Lake, shown to the left as the smaller of the two bodies of water. The map was commissioned by Aspen Journalism and confirmed in 2012 as accurate by city officials.

    Opposition in Maroon Creek Valley

    The city also received a letter from an attorney representing the Larsen Family Limited Partnership, which owns water rights on Maroon Creek.

    Craig Corona, a water attorney in Aspen who represents the Larsen family, wrote a letter on Aug. 17 to the city saying, “The city has not demonstrated that it will have a water supply shortfall in the future raising questions as to the need for these water rights. Even if such a supply issue arises, the city has other far less damaging options to meet its needs, including improving conservation and efficiency, developing additional groundwater sources (which the city is currently doing), and developing multiple smaller storage structures in more appropriate locations.”

    Corona also told the city that it “should not file for diligence on its Castle Creek and Maroon Creek Reservoir water rights and should allow them to be canceled.”

    Marcella Larsen of Aspen is co-manager of the Larsen Family Limited Partnership. She’s also a member of the Maroon Creek Caucus, which advises Pitkin County on land use in the Maroon Creek Valley.

    Larsen recently sent a comment letter to the city from the Maroon Creek Caucus, opposing the Maroon Creek Reservoir, noting, “The city has made several statements to the public that it has no plans to build the reservoir and merely seeks to keep its options open by maintain the water rights. But when it files in court, the city will have to prove that it ‘can and will’ build the reservoir. Put differently, the city must prove that the project is essentially a foregone conclusion, not just a potential pursuit.”

    The caucus concluded, “We think the only reasonable decision is for the city of Aspen to choose to not maintain its Maroon Creek Reservoir water right.”

    The city council next plans to meet in a closed-door executive session with its water attorney on Monday about its conditional water rights, and then hold another public work session on Tuesday.

    It also plans to vote on Oct. 10 whether or not to file to maintain the conditional water rights.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on coverage of rivers and water. The Daily News published this story on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016.

    The Sky’s Limit: Why the Paris #ClimateChange Goals Require a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production — Oil Change International


    From Oil Change International (Greg Muttitt):

    Download the report here.

    A new study released by Oil Change International, in partnership with 14 organizations from around the world, scientifically grounds the growing movement to keep carbon in the ground by revealing the need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure and industry expansion. It focuses on the potential carbon emissions from developed reserves – where the wells are already drilled, the pits dug, and the pipelines, processing facilities, railways, and export terminals constructed.

    Key Findings:

    • The potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming.
    • The reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone, even with no coal, would take the world beyond 1.5°C.
    • With the necessary decline in production over the coming decades to meet climate goals, clean energy can be scaled up at a corresponding pace, expanding the total number of energy jobs.

    Key Recommendations:

    • No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.
    • Some fields and mines – primarily in rich countries – should be closed before fully exploiting their resources, and financial support should be provided for non-carbon development in poorer countries.
    • This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.

    From The Guardian (Bill McKibben):

    The future of humanity depends on math. And the numbers in a new study released Thursday are the most ominous yet.

    Those numbers spell out, in simple arithmetic, how much of the fossil fuel in the world’s existing coal mines and oil wells we can burn if we want to prevent global warming from cooking the planet. In other words, if our goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius—the upper limit identified by the nations of the world—how much more new digging and drilling can we do?

    Here’s the answer: zero.

    That’s right: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production.

    The new numbers are startling. Only four years ago, I wrote an essay called “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” In the piece, I drew on research from a London-based think tank, the Carbon Tracker Initiative. The research showed that the untapped reserves of coal, oil, and gas identified by the world’s fossil fuel industry contained five times more carbon than we can burn if we want to keep from raising the planet’s temperature by more than two degrees Celsius. That is, if energy companies eventually dug up and burned everything they’d laid claim to, the planet would cook five times over. That math kicked off a widespread campaign of divestment from fossil fuel stocks by universities, churches, and foundations. And it’s since become the conventional wisdom: Many central bankers and world leaders now agree that we need to keep the bulk of fossil fuel reserves underground.

    But the new new math is even more explosive. It draws on a report by Oil Change International, a Washington-based think tank, using data from the Norwegian energy consultants Rystad. For a fee—$54,000 in this case—Rystad will sell anyone its numbers on the world’s existing fossil fuel sources. Most of the customers are oil companies, investment banks, and government agencies. But OCI wanted the numbers for a different reason: to figure out how close to the edge of catastrophe we’ve already come.

    Scientists say that to have even a two-thirds chance of staying below a global increase of two degrees Celsius, we can release 800 gigatons more CO2 into the atmosphere. But the Rystad data shows coal mines and oil and gas wells currently in operation worldwide contain 942 gigatons worth of CO2. So the math problem is simple, and it goes like this:

    942 > 800

    “What we found is that if you burn up all the carbon that’s in the currently operating fields and mines, you’re already above two degrees,” says Stephen Kretzmann, OCI’s executive director.

    It’s not that if we keep eating like this for a few more decades we’ll be morbidly obese. It’s that if we eat what’s already in the refrigerator we’ll be morbidly obese.

    What’s worse, the definition of “morbid” has changed in the past four years. Two degrees Celsius used to be the red line. But scientists now believe the upper limit is much lower. We’ve already raised the world’s temperature by one degree—enough to melt almost half the ice in the Arctic, kill off huge swaths of the world’s coral, and unleash lethal floods and drought. July and August tied for the hottest months ever recorded on our planet, and scientists think they were almost certainly the hottest in the history of human civilization. Places like Basra, Iraq—on the edge of what scholars think was the Biblical Garden of Eden—hit 129 degrees Fahrenheit this year, approaching the point where humans can’t survive outdoors. So last year, when the world’s leaders met in Paris, they set a new number: Every effort, they said, would be made to keep the global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees. And to have even a 50–50 chance of meeting that goal, we can only release about 353 gigatons more CO2. So let’s do the math again:

    942 > 353

    A lot greater. To have just a break-even chance of meeting that 1.5 degree goal we solemnly set in Paris, we’ll need to close all of the coal mines and some of the oil and gas fields we’re currently operating long before they’re exhausted.

    “Absent some incredible breakthrough in mythical carbon-sucking unicorns, the numbers say we’re done with the expansion of the fossil fuel industry,” says Kretzmann. “Living up to the Paris Agreement means we must start a managed decline in the fossil fuel industry immediately—and manage that decline as quickly as possible.”

    “Managed decline” means we don’t have to grind everything to a halt tomorrow; we can keep extracting fuel from existing oil wells and gas fields and coal mines. But we can’t go explore for new ones. We can’t even develop the ones we already know about, the ones right next to our current projects.

    In the United States alone, the existing mines and oil wells and gas fields contain 86 billion tons of carbon emissions—enough to take us 25 percent of the way to a 1.5 degree rise in global temperature. But if the U.S. energy industry gets its way and develops all the oil wells and fracking sites that are currently planned, that would add another 51 billion tons in carbon emissions. And if we let that happen, America would single-handedly blow almost 40 percent of the world’s carbon budget.

    This new math is bad news for lots of powerful players. The fossil fuel industry has based its entire business model on the idea that it can endlessly “replenish” the oil and gas it pumps each year; its teams of geologists are constantly searching for new fields to drill. In September, Apache Corporation announced that it has identified fields in West Texas that hold three billion barrels of oil. Leaving that oil underground—which the new math shows we must do if we want to meet the climate targets set in Paris—would cost the industry tens of billions of dollars.

    For understandable reasons, the unions whose workers build pipelines and drill wells also resist attempts to change. Consider the current drama over the Dakota Access oil pipeline. In September, even after pipeline security guards armed with pepper spray and guard dogs attacked Native Americans who were nonviolently defending grave sites from bulldozers, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on the Obama administration to allow construction to proceed. “Pipeline construction and maintenance,” Trumka said, “provides quality jobs to tens of thousands of skilled workers.” The head of the Building Trades Unions agreed: “Members have been relying on these excellent, family-supporting, middle-class jobs with family health care, pensions, and good wages.” Another union official put it most eloquently: “Let’s not turn away and overregulate or just say, ‘No, keep it in the ground.’ It shouldn’t be that simple.”

    She’s right—it would be easier for everyone if it weren’t that simple. Union workers have truly relied on those jobs to build middle-class lives, and all of us burn the damned stuff, all day, every day. But the problem is, it is that simple. We have to “turn away.” We have to “keep it in the ground.” The numbers are the numbers. We literally cannot keep doing what we’re doing if we want to have a planet.

    “Keeping it in the ground” does not mean stopping all production of fossil fuels instantly. “If you let current fields begin their natural decline,” says Kretzmann, “you’ll be using 50 percent less oil by 2033.” That gives us 17 years, as the wells we’ve already drilled slowly run dry, to replace all that oil with renewable energy. That’s enough time—maybe—to replace gas guzzlers with electric cars. To retrain pipeline workers and coal miners to build solar panels and wind turbines. To follow the lead of cities like Portland that have barred any new fossil fuel infrastructure, and countries like China that have banned new coal mines. Those are small steps, but they’re important ones.

    Even some big unions are starting to realize that switching to renewable energy would add a million new good-paying jobs by 2030. Everyone from nurses to transport workers is opposing the Dakota pipeline; other unions have come out against coal exports and fracking. “This is virtually unprecedented,” says Sean Sweeney, a veteran labor and climate organizer. “The rise of ‘climate unionism’ offers a new direction for the labor movement.” And if it spreads, it will give Democratic politicians more room to maneuver against global warming.

    But to convince the world’s leaders to obey the math—to stop any new mines or wells or pipelines from being built—we will need a movement like the one that blocked the Keystone pipeline and fracking in New York and Arctic drilling. And we will need to pass the “Keep It in the Ground Act,” legislation that would end new mining and drilling for fossil fuels on public land. It’s been called “unrealistic” or “naïve” by everyone from ExxonMobil to the interior secretary. But as the new math makes clear, keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the only realistic approach. What’s unrealistic is to imagine that we can somehow escape the inexorable calculus of climate change. As the OCI report puts it, “One of the most powerful climate policy levers is also the simplest: stop digging.” That is, after all, the first rule of holes, and we’re in the biggest one ever.

    This is literally a math test, and it’s not being graded on a curve. It only has one correct answer. And if we don’t get it right, then all of us—along with our 10,000-year-old experiment in human civilization—will fail.

    Second Widefield aquifer lawsuit in the works

    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

    McDivitt Law Firm said it plans to file a lawsuit this week over the fouling of the Widefield Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to thousands of residents in southern El Paso County.

    McDivitt is partnering with a New York firm, Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC, which has been running television ads in recent months to woo clients.

    Mike McDivitt, the firm’s founder, said about 1,000 people have retained his firm, and many more residents have expressed interest.

    The possible move comes on the heels of another federal suit filed earlier this week against 3M, Ansul Foam of Wisconsin and National Foam of Pennsylvania. The companies manufactured and sold a military firefighting foam laden with chemicals associated with a host of health ailments, including cancer.

    The first suit was filed by the Hannon Law Firm of Denver on behalf of three customers receiving contaminated water.

    McDivitt’s suit was expected to be filed Wednesday, but he said the filing was delayed.