#Snowpack news: #Colorado ski season off to a warm start — 9News.com

Statewide snowpack map October 25, 2016 via the NRCS.
Statewide snowpack map October 25, 2016 via the NRCS.

From 9News.com (Matt Renoux):

Powderheads might be grabbing their skis and snowboards with the opening of Arapahoe Basin, but warm weather in the mountains is helping to keep the summer sports going a little longer.

Saturday is the second day of A-Basin’s winter season, even though it feels a lot more like spring with weekend temperatures in the 60s.

It’s so warm on Lake Dillon that Joanne Stolen with the Frisco Rowing Club says their season is still afloat.

Normally by this time of year they have put their shells up for the season, but warm weather has kept rowers on the water longer and even in short sleeve shirts.

“I work for the Nordic Center — they were trying to make snow and it’s been too warm but its beautiful rowing weather,” Stolen said.

#AnimasRiver: Sunnyside wants out of Navajo Nation lawsuit — The Durango Herald

Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.
Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

From The Durango Herald:

Sunnyside Gold Corp. filed a motion last week to be dismissed from its inclusion in a lawsuit brought by the Navajo Nation for the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill.

“We are hopeful that the case against Sunnyside will be promptly dismissed, as we see no basis for us even being named in this litigation,” spokesman Larry Perino wrote in an email to The Durango Herald.

In August, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit that included Sunnyside, the Environmental Protection Agency and its contractor, Environmental Restoration LLC, for the mine spill, which sent 3 million gallons of wastewater down the Animas and San Juan rivers.

The lawsuit also named Kinross Gold Corp. (Sunnyside’s parent company), Gold King Mine Corp. (the entity that owns the Gold King mine) as well as Harrison Western Corp., and John Does 1 to 10.

The reasons Sunnyside asked the U.S. Federal Court in New Mexico to dismiss its inclusion are manifold: the company was not involved on the work last summer, the New Mexico court lacks jurisdiction and the bulkheading of the American Tunnel was done at the direction of the state of Colorado.

Sunnyside argued that for those reasons, the state Colorado should have been also named in the lawsuit.

“In essence, the point of Navajo Nation’s lawsuit is to hold Sunnyside liable for following the directives of Colorado and for intending to store water in Colorado,” the motion says. “The fact that an accident at the Gold King Mine – of which Sunnyside had no part – carried water into New Mexico is irrelevant for a personal jurisdiction analysis.”

In July, Sunnyside filed a similar motion to dismiss concerning the state of New Mexico’s lawsuit for impacts to that state regarding the spill.

Questions have been raised whether the bulkheading of Sunnyside’s American Tunnel has caused mine waste to back up and discharge out adjacent mines, namely the Gold King and Red & Bonita.

The EPA has said it will conduct further evaluations this summer to better understand the network of mines in the complicated drainage.

The Navajo Nation has 60-days to respond to the motion to dismiss, though it has asked the courts for an extension of that deadline.

Widefield Aquifer: Local, state and federal pols put pressure on the Air Force

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.
The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Tom Roeder and Jakob Rodgers):

Local, state and federal politicians Monday called for accountability and more investigation into the military’s use of firefighting foam after a Gazette investigation showed the Air Force ignored decades of warnings from its scientists about a toxic chemical in the foam. The chemical is suspected in widespread water contamination.

The investigation, published Sunday, found that the Air Force ran a series of tests dating back to the 1970s that found the foam harmed laboratory animals. The service also ignored warnings from the Army Corps of Engineers and continued to use it for 16 years after a major manufacturer and the EPA agreed to phase it out, citing environmental and health dangers.

“That’s the definition of negligence,” said Colorado Springs Democratic state Rep. Pete Lee, whose district spans Fountain Creek…

“We cannot be in a situation where we are allowing this to continue,” said Fountain Republican state Rep. Lois Landgraf, whose district also spans Fountain Creek…

What accountability could look like is up in the air.

Landgraf said she wants a state inquiry and may call for a hearing at the General Assembly.

“We need to be looking out for our citizens,” Landgraf said. “That’s the No. 1 priority.”

Lee said he wants the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to investigate the Air Force as a likely polluter, saying the agency should “also impose, if appropriate, fines and a sanctions.”

Fountain Mayor Gabriel Ortega said he is focused on working with the Air Force to improve the city’s water supply.

“My hope is they’re in for the long haul,” Ortega said.

Unlike the Security and Widefield water districts, Fountain switched entirely to cleaner surface water last year. Security stopped using the fouled aquifer last month, and Widefield has yet to announce such a move.

Ortega voiced confidence the Air Force would follow through with its promise to spend about $4.3 million helping the impacted communities install well water filters.

“We can’t really go back and change what has happened in the past,” Ortega said. “It’s upsetting, but we’re going to work with what we can.”

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

#ClimateChange: Renewables overtake coal as world’s largest source of power capacity — The Financial Times

From The Financial Times (Pilita Clark):

About 500,000 solar panels were installed every day last year as a record-shattering surge in green electricity saw renewables overtake coal as the world’s largest source of installed power capacity.

Two wind turbines went up every hour in countries such as China, according to International Energy Agency officials who have sharply upgraded their forecasts of how fast renewable energy sources will keep growing.

“We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the global energy advisory agency.

Part of the growth was caused by falls in the cost of solar and onshore wind power that Mr Birol said would have been “unthinkable” only five years ago.

Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed.

The Paris-based agency thinks costs are likely to fall even further over the next five years, by 15 per cent on average for wind and by a quarter for solar power.

It said an unprecedented 153 gigawatts of green electricity was installed last year, mostly wind and solar projects, which was more than the total power capacity in Canada.

This was also more than the amount of conventional fossil fuel or nuclear power added in 2015, leading renewables to surpass coal’s cumulative share of global power capacity, though not electricity generation.

A power plant’s capacity is the maximum amount of electricity it can potentially produce. The amount of energy a plant actually generates varies according to how long it produces power over a period of time.

Because a wind or solar farm cannot generate constantly like a coal power plant, it will produce less energy over the course of a year even though it may have the same or higher level of capacity.

Coal power plants supplied close to 39 per cent of the world’s power in 2015, while renewables, including older hydropower dams, accounted for 23 per cent, IEA data show.

But the agency expects renewables’ share of power generation to rise to 28 per cent by 2021, when it predicts they will supply the equivalent of all the electricity generated today in the US and EU put together.

It has revised its forecasts to show renewables’ capacity will grow 13 per cent more between 2015 and 2021 than it had thought would be the case just last year, mostly because of stronger policy backing in the US, China, India and Mexico.

Paolo Frankl, head of the IEA’s renewable energy division, said efforts to address climate change were only part of the reason for this policy drive.

Air pollution worries were also spurring growth in countries such as China, a renewable energy juggernaut that alone accounts for close to 40 per cent of capacity growth.