@EPA’s methane rule back on — DC Circuit Court

Natural gas flares near a community in Colorado. Federal rules aim to lower risks of natural gas development. Photo credit the Environmental Defense Fund.

From The Hill (Timothy Cama):

The Trump administration cannot delay an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule limiting methane pollution from oil and natural gas drilling, a federal court ruled Monday.

In an early court loss for President Trump’s aggressive agenda of environmental deregulation, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the EPA didn’t meet the requirements for a two-year stay of the Obama administration’s methane rule.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to delay enforcement of the provision was based on arguments that when the Obama administration wrote the rule, it violated procedures by not allowing stakeholders to comment on some parts of what became the final regulation. The agency used that reasoning to formally reconsider the rule and to pause enforcement.

But the court said the argument doesn’t withstand scrutiny.

“The administrative record thus makes clear that industry groups had ample opportunity to comment on all four issues on which EPA granted reconsideration, and indeed, that in several instances the agency incorporated those comments directly into the final rule,” two of the judges on the three-judge panel wrote.

“Because it was thus not ‘impracticable’ for industry groups to have raised such objections during the notice and comment period [the Clean Air Act] did not require reconsideration and did not authorize the stay.”

Environmental groups led by the Environmental Defense Fund had sued the EPA after its delay, asking for quick emergency action from the court on the matter.

The latest newsletter from the CCWCD is hot off the presses

Crop circles — irrigated agriculture

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

109 Wells Added to WAS Plan

In 2004 and 2005 many WAS contract holders had multiple irrigation wells included in a Substitute Water Supply Plan operated by the Well Augmentation Subdistrict while the Subdistrict worked to obtain a permanent augmentation plan. The permanent plan of augmentation was granted by the Water Court in 2006, however Subdistrict members were notified that WAS was unable to allow them to include more than one well per contract in the decreed plan for augmentation. The deleted wells were placed on a waiting list with every intention to incorporate those back into the decreed augmentation plan as the Subdistrict worked to secure additional augmentation supplies.

June 21, 2016 , after ten years of development of water supplies the CCWCD Board of Directors voted to direct staff to proceed with the incorporation of the waiting list wells into the WAS augmentation decree. February 28, 2017, the Water Court application to formally add these 109 wells was filed. Statements of opposition to the application were received from City of Sterling, City of Boulder, Centennial Water & Sanitation District, Public Service, The Irrigationists (lower South Platte River water users), Farmers Reservoir & Irrigation Company, South Adams Water & Sanitation District, and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

In order to allow operation of these wells during the 2017 irrigation season, WAS filed an application seeking temporary approval from the Water Court on March 16, 2017. A few months later on June 29, 2017 the Substitute Water Supply Plan (SWSP) was approved by the State and Division Engineers which authorizes pumping from June 29, 2017 through June 28, 2018. The Central Board and Staff anticipated a more rapid approval for the SWSP, however the City of Sterling provided comments in lieu of the request sought by WAS. Fortunately the State and Division Engineer granted the approval and processed the request with fair reasoning and timely consideration. No additional pumping will be added to the contract holder’s allocation, but they now have the flexibility of pumping from either of their wells on the WAS Contract.

Elkhead Reservoir fish barrier appears to be working as designed

Elkhead Reservoir

From The Craig Daily Press (Lauren Blair):

Installed last September, a net designed to keep non-native, predatory fish at Elkhead Reservoir from entering the Yampa River appears to be fulfilling its purpose, though it may be too soon to tell.

This spring, Colorado Parks and Wildlife conducted its first count of the two species of concern, northern pike and smallmouth bass, in the stretch of water between the net and the spillway, where water leaves the reservoir and enters Elkhead Creek, which feeds into the Yampa.

“In our first sample this spring, we didn’t see any indication that the net was failing,” said CPW Aquatic Biologist Tory Eyre.

The count was taken before the reservoir filled with spring runoff and water began spilling over the spillway. Another count taken this fall, after the reservoir is done spilling, will give biologists an even better idea of how the net is working.

“This is a big spill year,” Eyre said. “When it’s spilling, it can suck trees and other debris through, damaging the net.”

Officials are hoping the net, made of a sturdy polyethylene mesh, will hold up to any debris that gets swept its way, and divers will check and clean the net once a year.

The net is one piece of a multi-pronged approach to protect four species of endangered fish in the Yampa River, the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker…

The net will hopefully keep the predatory fish contained, but with so many factors affecting the species, biologists won’t necessarily be able to determine the precise impact of the net on endangered fish populations…

The life span of the $1.2 million net is only estimated at about seven years, Eyre said, which is why CPW is also hoping to check northern pike and smallmouth bass populations through its new, annual Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic.

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

#Runoff news: Royal Gorge open for rafting

Photo via Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Rafts have returned to the Royal Gorge section of the Arkansas River this week [June 25th] now that flows are receding and tourism is looking up in the region…

The river was running higher than 3,200 cfs for much of the past three weeks, a level that had commercial rafts voluntarily avoiding that section due to safety concerns…

What August will bring remains to be seen. If the river drops below 700 cfs, the voluntary flow program will kick in and augmentation will keep the flow at that level through Aug. 15 to accommodate rafting.

From the Canon City Daily Record (Sarah Matott):

Kyle Horne, programs director at the Cañon City Area Recreation and Park District and co-chairman for the Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival, said festival attendance was down Friday night [June 23, 2017] and was still waiting on numbers for Saturday.

He said weather definitely played a role Friday night, as it was rainy and cold, as compared to a typical summer night…

On Saturday, Horne said the Arkansas River was flowing at about 3,400 cubic feet per second in the afternoon and was flowing at 3,160 cubic feet per second Sunday morning. Leading up to the festival, the river levels were being watched carefully by festival organizers after an unexpected water release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation caused the river to spike.

The water release came from Twin Lakes Reservoir, which is about 13 miles south of Leadville in Lake County.

Last Tuesday, the Arkansas River was flowing at about 4,100 cubic feet per second, hitting a new peak level for this year after the release occurred.

Before the release, festival organizers were expecting the river levels to be at about 2,400 to 2,000 cubic feet per second.

Horne said the release by the Bureau of Reclamation did have some impact, but the high river levels are simply due to this year’s runoff.

The high river levels caused all inter tube events at the festival to be canceled and a last-minute decision to cancel the rafts from the “build your own boat” race.

Colorado joins lawsuit to maintain @EPA methane regulations — @GovofCO

Natural gas flares near a community in Colorado. Federal rules aim to lower risks of natural gas development. Photo credit the Environmental Defense Fund.

Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

The State of Colorado today joined 13 other states and the District of Columbia in seeking implementation of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules to reduce methane emissions and other harmful air pollutants produced from oil and gas facilities. The State asked the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to join plaintiffs and other intervenors in a recently filed lawsuit challenging the decision of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to stay the effect of these rules. Colorado is participating in this lawsuit to help assure comprehensive federal regulation of methane emissions, as authorized by the EPA in 2016.

Colorado has a vested interest in the federal government regulating methane emissions from the oil and gas industry across all 50 states. Colorado led the way in 2014 by becoming the first state in the country to regulate methane leaks. These regulations were developed in concert with the oil and gas industry. As a result, this type of regulation is a win-win: it improves the environment and helps reduce leakage and lost revenue in the production and transportation of oil and gas. The EPA used Colorado’s regulations as a template for the federal approach to this issue. Without these rules, Colorado’s methane levels will increase due to pollution from neighboring states, which is why federal regulation is so important.

In today’s action, Colorado urged the Court to require the EPA to implement these important regulations.

View the motion here.