Report: Blocking the Sun — @EnvAm

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

Executive Summary

Solar power is clean, affordable and popular with the American people. The amount of solar energy currently installed in the U.S. can power one in 14 American homes; that amount is expected to triple within the next ve years.

The growth of American solar energy in the past decade has been the result of smart solar-friendly state policies like net metering and tax incentives for solar infrastructure, putting clean energy within nancial reach of millions more Americans. The recent appointment of officials favored by electric utilities and fossil fuel interests to key positions within the Department of Energy and other federal agencies makes the preservation of strong solar policies in the states more important than ever.

In 2017, utilities continue to chip away at key state policies that put rooftop solar on the map in the United States, making it harder for Americans to invest in clean energy.

This report documents 20 fossil fuel-backed groups and electric utilities running some of the nation’s most aggressive campaigns to slow the growth of solar energy in 12 states, including eight attempts to reduce net metering bene ts and seven attempts to create demand charges for customers with solar power. Citizens and policy-makers must be aware of the tools that utilities are using to undermine solar energy across America and redouble their commitment to strong policies that move the nation toward a clean energy future.

A national network of utility interest groups and fossil fuel-backed think tanks has provided the funding, model legislation and political cover to discourage the growth of rooftop solar power.

• The Edison Electric Institute, the trade group that represents U.S. investor-owned electric utilities, launched the current wave of attacks on solar in 2012. Since then, EEI has worked with the American Legislative Exchange Council to create model legislation to repeal state renewable electricity standards and attack net metering.
• The American Legislative Exchange Council also provides utility and fossil fuel interests with access to state legislators, and its anti-net metering policy resolution has inspired legislation in states like Washington and Utah.
• The Koch brothers have provided funding to the national fight against solar by funneling tens of millions of dollars through a network of opaque nonpro ts. The Koch-funded campaign organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has carried out anti-solar organizing exorts.
• The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is a Houston-based front group for the utility and fossil fuel industry, representing companies like Florida Power and Light, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell Oil. CEA has spent resources and shipped representatives across the country to help utilities fight their battles in states like Florida, Indiana, Maine and Utah.
• The state industry group Indiana Energy Association successfully lobbied on behalf of the state’s biggest electric utilities to end net metering, replacing it instead with a new solar policy that limits consumer compensation for generating rooftop power.

At the state level, electric utilities have used the support provided by national anti-solar interests, as well as their own ample resources, to attack key solar energy policies.

• In Florida, Florida Power and Light, Gulf Power Electric, Tampa Electric Company and Duke Energy, the largest utility in the U.S., spent millions of dollars funding the front group, Consumers for Smart Solar, which was the primary backer of a failed 2016 ballot initiative that would have restricted rooftop solar growth. In 2017, Florida Power and Light drafted language for a new bill to restrict solar growth in Florida.
• Two major Arizona utilities – Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project – have success- fully pushed for anti-rooftop solar policies. Arizona Public Service, the biggest utility in Arizona, has also been accused of improperly cultivating in influence with the state commission that regulates utilities and funneling dark money into recent commissioner elections.
• In Utah, Rocky Mountain Power tried once again to eliminate net metering and charge additional fees to its 20,000 customers that generate rooftop power. Public outcry from ratepayers and the solar industry forced Rocky Mountain Power to settle, grandfathering all current solar customers into net metering.
• In Texas, El Paso Electric renewed its past attempt to create a separate, and more expensive, rate class for solar customers. In 2015, the utility spent $3.1 million on filing and negotiating fees, an amount ultimately charged to ratepayers, before dropping the proposal, only to pick it up again this year.
• In 2015, Nevada Energy successfully campaigned the Nevada utilities commission to eliminate net metering, a move that e ectively halted the growth of rooftop solar in its service territory for two years. After widespread public protest, state legislators e ectively reinstated net metering in 2017.

As of mid-2017, there were at least 90 ongoing policy actions in U.S. states with the potential to a ect the growth of rooftop generation, such as limits on net metering or new utility fees that make solar power less a affordable.

State decision-makers should resist utility and fossil fuel industry in influence, and reject policies such as

• Elimination of, restrictions on, or unfair caps on net metering;
• Discriminatory surcharges or tariffs for solar customers;
• Utility rate designs that discourage solar adoption;
• Unnecessary regulatory burdens on solar energy; and
• Rollbacks of renewable electricity standards.

In addition, state leaders should embrace ambitious goals for solar energy and adopt policies that will help meet them, including:

• Considering the bene ts of distributed solar energy to the grid, to ratepayers and to society in any rate making or policy decisions about solar energy;
• Implementing strong net metering and interconnection standards, which enable many customers to meet their own electricity needs with solar power;
• Encouraging community shared solar projects and virtual net metering, which can expand solar access to more customers;
• Enacting or expanding solar or distributed renewable carve-outs and renewable electricity standards;
• Enabling financing mechanisms to allow for greater solar access to businesses and residents;
• Allowing companies other than utilities to sell or lease solar to residents and businesses; and
• Making smart investments to move toward a more intelligent electric grid that will enable distributed sources of energy such as solar power to play a larger role.

Policymakers should also uphold our country’s commitment to reduce carbon pollution. Solar power will play a major role in any strategy to reduce global warming pollution and the carbon footprint of the energy we generate and consume.

Shepherding Appropriated Water Within #Colorado and to #LakePowell for #ColoradoRiver Compact Security

From the Getches-Wilkinson Center (Lawrence J. MacDonnell and Anne J. Castle). Click through and read the whole paper. Here’s an excerpt:

To achieve the intended benefit to the Colorado River System, the Upper Basin, and the State of Colorado in particular, the Compact security water must actually make its way to Lake Powell. That is, the water must be moved from its existing place of use or storage and reach Lake Powell when necessary without being diminished by other water users. Absent relatively specialized circumstances, most conserved consumptive use water will require some form of administrative “shepherding” to reach the state line and Lake Powell. Water shepherding here refers to the delivery of a specified volume of conserved consumptive use water from its original place of storage or use to a downstream location without diminishment by other users.

A recent report on Alternative Transfer Methods (ATMs) addresses the issue of Colorado River Compact security and concludes that the ability to shepherd conserved or changed water to Lake Powell is essential. This report reflects the consensus opinion of many knowledgeable water users in Colorado. But existing water law in the Upper Basin states, including in Colorado, presents challenges for protecting Compact security water from diversion and use by others.

This paper explains the basis for the concern about storage levels in Lake Powell and, focusing on Colorado, discusses some of the legal and policy issues involved with moving Compact security water to the reservoir. It offers recommendations for revisions to Colorado law. It considers interstate issues and the management of Compact security water once it reaches Lake Powell. The Technical Appendix provides a more comprehensive discussion of the legal and policy issues.

#Drought news: No change in depiction for #Colorado

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

Summary

A series of storm systems traversed from the Canadian Prairies southeastward across the eastern half of the Nation during the week, with a strong weekend storm tapping ample tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and disorganized Tropical Storm Philippe that was eventually absorbed into the system. With plentiful moisture available to the weekend storm system, widespread, copious rains (2-6 inches, locally to 12 inches) inundated most of the Northeast, especially New England, abruptly ameliorating short-term deficits accumulated during the late summer and fall months. Heavy rains also fell on southern Florida (from Philippe), while light to moderate precipitation occurred in the Great Lakes region, Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, and the Appalachians. With high pressure entrenched over the West, little or no precipitation was reported west of the Mississippi River. Temperatures averaged well below normal east of the Rockies and to the Appalachians, especially in the South and Midwest that had weekly departures of -6 to -12 degF. Sub-freezing readings were common across the northern and central Plains and Midwest, along with decent snows in the upper Midwest. In contrast, above-normal temperatures prevailed across the West and New England. Showers frequented the Hawaiian Islands during the week, maintaining a recent wet pattern that allowed for additional improvements to some windward locations…

High Plains

After several weeks of modifications to the northern Plains (mostly improvements but some deterioration), little or no precipitation fell this week – which is normal for the fall and winter months in the northern Plains. In addition, weekly temperatures averaged near to below normal, along with widespread sub-freezing readings, basically ending the growing season. With typical precipitation (dry), cool temperatures, little or no evapotranspiration or plant growth, no major changes were made in the High Plains this week. Two small exceptions included extending D0 into eastern areas of North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota as a dry October accumulated enough deficits at 60- and 90-days in a slightly wetter climate regime (D0 into Pembina, Steele, and Traill counties of ND and Kittson and Polk counties of MN)…

West

Tranquil conditions returned to the West after last week’s stormy and wet weather in the Northwest. Little or no precipitation and above-normal temperatures were the rule in the West as upper-air ridging enveloped the region. With improvements made to the Northwest last week, no changes were made there this week. Farther south, however, persistently dry and warm weather over the past several months, including a weaker than normal summer monsoon and early ending in Arizona and Utah, along with increased evaporative demand, has started to portray negative impacts. In west-central Arizona (D0 added), a poor monsoon and long-term negative anomalies has started to affect reservoir levels and recreation. In northeastern Arizona, D0 was expanded and D1 was added as soil moisture data showed shallow and deep moisture profiles falling to their lowest level in a year. Ranchers were hauling in hay as any natural forage is dead or dormant. D1 was expanded northward into south-central Arizona due to lack of rain past 60-days, poor growing conditions, numerous small brush fires occurring out of season, and ranchers bringing in hay. D2 was added in extreme southern Arizona (Santa Cruz, southeast Pima, and southwest Cochise counties) as farmers and ranchers reported extremely poor conditions and only half of the year-to-date rainfall. All typical forage is dead or dormant, and Patagonia Lake is down 4 feet from normal (versus 3 feet low last year). D0 was also expanded into south-central Utah and D1 in southeastern Utah with similar conditions in neighboring northern Arizona. In southwestern Colorado, even though the indices at 2-6 months were similar to the adjacent D1 area in southeastern Utah, ground reports indicated much better conditions in Colorado than in neighboring southeastern Utah, so no D1 was drawn…

Looking Ahead

During the upcoming 5-day period (November 2-6), a potent Pacific storm should drop decent precipitation (1-5 inches) on most of the Northwest, southward into central California and the Sierra Nevada, and eastward into parts of the central and northern Rockies. Light to moderate precipitation is expected in the lower Mississippi Valley northeastward into the eastern Great Lakes region and western New England. Little or no precipitation should occur in the Southwest, central and southern Plains, and the Southeast. 5-day temperatures will average well above-normal across most of the lower 48 States except for subnormal readings in the Far West and across the northern thirds of the Rockies and Plains and the upper Midwest. Well below-normal temperatures are expected in Montana and North Dakota.

During the 6-10 day period (November 7-11), odds favor above-median precipitation along the Pacific Northwest Coast, from the middle Mississippi and Ohio Valleys eastward into the Northeast, and northern Alaska. Probabilities for below median precipitation are greatest in the Great Basin, northern Rockies and Plains, upper Midwest, along the Gulf Coast States, and southern Alaska. Above-normal temperatures are likely from the Four Corners region eastward to the southern and middle Atlantic regions and in western and northern Alaska while a tilt toward subnormal temperatures were found in the southeastern Alaskan Panhandle, the Far West, and across the northern thirds of the Rockies, Plains, and Midwest.

Water Update — Colorado Central Magazine

Roberto Salmon and Edward Drusina at the Minute 323 signing ceremony September 27, 2017. Photo credit .U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Here’s my latest column for Colorado Central Magazine

MINUTE 323

Several tributaries of the Colorado River get their start in the crags of the Central Colorado mountains. Storied rivers: Blue, Eagle, Roaring Fork and the powerhouse Gunnison. They’ve all faced the footstep of humankind. The mines dotting the slopes, hay fields, ranching, orchards and cornfields bear witness and are now part of the allure of the high country. Folks cast a line, shoot rapids and enjoy the scenery of those waterways.

On September 27, 2017, the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico inked Minute 323, the amendment to the 1944 United States-Mexico Treaty for Utilization of Water covering operations on the Colorado, Rio Grande and Tijuana rivers. (The Rio Grande is another of Central Colorado’s contributions to the Western U.S. economy.)

An important part of Minute 323 are environmental flows for the Colorado River Delta. Most everyone knows the river doesn’t reach the sea any longer. Environmental streamflow was initiated under Minute 319 signed by then Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.

Young girl enjoying the river restored temporarily by the pulse flow March 2014 via National Geographic

In March 2016 a diverse group of conservationists, biologists, irrigators and government officials effected a release of 100,000 acre-feet of water from Morelos Dam into the dry Colorado River Delta. There was a line of vehicles racing point to point along the river to witness the river’s front. At San Luis Rio Colorado, most of the residents went down to the river to celebrate the return of the river although many had no memory of running water in the sandy channel.

There was a great deal of success from channeling some of the streamflow to restoration sites in the Delta. Within weeks, new growth sprouted – cottonwoods and willows. Much of the diverted water served to replenish groundwater supplies. Wildlife immediately started using the habitat.

There probably won’t be a repeat of the Colorado River once again reaching the sea. The environmental flows in Minute 323 are planned to be set to work in the restoration of the Delta. It was great to see the river reach the sea but the conservationists want to concentrate flows like irrigators do for maximum yield.

Another feature of the deal allows Mexico to store water in Lake Mead to better manage their diversions for agriculture. The U.S. is also helping to rebuild and upgrade Mexican infrastructure. Under Minute 319, Mexico was allowed to continue storing water, and that water was used for the pulse flow. The idea is that greater efficiency in Mexico will lead to more storage in Lake Mead.

Currently, Arizona, California and Nevada are working on a drought contingency plan to stave off a shortage declaration in Lake Mead. Arizona’s Colorado River allocation takes a big hit under a declaration. Mexico’s water in Lake Mead will help. Negotiations about the drought contingency plan will now move forward with greater certainty with the signing of Minute 323.

The final signatures for the Minute came from Roberto Salmón (Mexico) and Edward Drusina (U.S.). There were several officials from President Obama’s administration in attendance, including Jennifer Gimbel and Mike O’Connor. The negotiations started before last year’s election but did not conclude before the inauguration.

Minute 323 is an important piece of the puzzle for administering the Colorado River.

Central Colorado is joined at the economic hip with the Colorado River. A lot of transbasin water flows down the Arkansas River from the Twin Lakes and Fryingpan-Arkansas projects. Some is pumped over to South Park by Colorado Springs and Aurora but most of it goes down to Lake Pueblo and the Fry-Ark partners. Colorado Springs, Fountain and Security pump some back north in the Fountain Valley. Cities along the river divert and treat the water for their populations. The water also is used to grow the famous crops in the Arkansas Valley: Rocky Ford melons, Pueblo chile, corn and others. Timing the releases from Twin Lakes and Turquoise Reservoir also contributes to the rafting economy. 100 miles of the Arkansas River are designated as gold medal fisheries. Transbasin flows help the riparian habitat.

SHORT TAKES

• Comments about managing the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area are due by November 10, 2017. Check out the AHRA Plan Revision page on the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website.

• Congratulations to Wet Mountain Valley ranchers Randy and Claricy Rusk for winning the Dodge Award for a lifetime of conservation from the Palmer Land Trust.

• Congratulations to the Colorado Parks & Wildlife folks at the Roaring Judy Hatchery for successfully spawning the line of Cutthroat trout rescued from Hayden Creek during the Hayden Pass Fire.

• James Eklund has moved on from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Becky Mitchell is the new director.

• Coloradans cam now legally collect rain off their roofs. Governor John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1005 in May.

• R.I.P. Gary Bostrom. He was one of the driving forces behind Colorado Springs’ $825 million Southern Delivery System.

John Orr works for a Front Range water utility where he keeps one eye on the sky to monitor Colorado snowpack. He covers Colorado water issues at Coyote Gulch (www.coyotegulch.blog) and on Twitter @CoyoteGulch.

Martha Gomez-Sapiens, a monitoring team member and postdoctoral research associate in the UA Department of Geosciences, stands on a riverbank next to willows and cottonwoods that germinated as a result of the pulse flow. (Photo: Karl W. Flessa/UA Department of Geosciences)

Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin Forum recap @WaterCenterCMU #COriver

Colorado River Trail near Fruita September 2014

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

There are many ways to use the Colorado River other than just relying on its water, a panel of local people who have been working to create more public access to the river told participants at a water conference Wednesday.

As recently as 30 years ago, the community was like many others in the nation, the panelists told participants at the 2017 Upper Colorado River Basin Water Forum at Colorado Mesa University. The forum continues today.

“We didn’t do a great job of treating the river with respect,” said Stacy Beaugh, executive director of the Tamarisk Coalition, who moderated a panel of five local residents who have, in their own ways, been working on ways to help revitalize the riverfront.

“There was no public access to the river for boating or anything 30 years ago,” said Beaugh, who also is co-chairwoman of the Colorado Riverfront Commission. “We had a bunch of junk cars and uranium mill tailings all over the river. It was pretty gross.”

The panel — Brian Mahoney, Colorado Riverfront Commission and Foundation board member; Cindy Enos-Martinez, a Riverside neighborhood resident and former Grand Junction mayor; Traci Wieland, Grand Junction’s recreation superintendent; Thaddeus Shrader, part owner of Bonsai Design; and Jen Taylor, owner of Mountain Khakis — talked about the work they and others have done since then to clean up the riverfront.

Over those years, the city, the commission, the Grand Junction Lions Club and many other groups and individuals have dedicated their time and money on various projects to, first, clean up the river, and then to provide public access to it.

Lately, that access has now included development of Las Colonias Park along with a business park along a two-mile section where the Colorado and Gunnison rivers meet.

It all began thanks to many people, but particularly to Mahoney and the Lions Club, who have been working on revitalization of the riverfront since the 1980s.

“In 1986, this project actually started in the minds of many people at the Lions Club,” Mahoney said. “In 1986, it was almost the bottom of the oil shale bust, the economy had gone to hell in a hand basket, and there were 1,400 home foreclosures. They could have put a sign up on the edge of town, ‘The last one out, turn out the lights.’”

The six talked about how the effort snowballed over the years, and attracted not only many volunteers, but also state and local grant money to get things done. What needs to happen next, the group said, is more of the same.

“More and more over the past few years, more community members were coming together,” Shrader said. “There’s change in the air. There’s an amazing opportunity here.”

Redefining #drought could lead to better preparation — National Drought Mitigation Center

Graphic vie the National Drought Mitigation Center November 2017.

From the National Drought Mitigation Center (Shawna Richter-Ryerson):

New framework shows investments in water for nature are also investments for people

A team of researchers, including two from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, have developed and proposed a new definition of drought that integrates ecological, climatic, hydrological, socioeconomic and cultural dimensions of drought. This novel approach to thinking about drought may help decision makers better prevent and respond to drought impacts.

Up until now, definitions of drought have tended to focus primarily on drought’s effects through a human-centric lens — reduced streamflow and lowered reservoir and lake levels, crop stress and failure, and socioeconomic impacts. What these definitions ignore is the high cost of drought on nature and how that affects human communities as well.

“Ecological drought impacts are important,” said Shelley Crausbay, a researcher on the project conducted by the Ecological Drought Expert Working Group with support from the U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and the Science for Nature and People Partnership. “But so far, they have not easily fit under the existing drought definitions long used by the drought community and, as a result, ecosystem responses to drought remain largely absent from most drought-planning efforts.”

The new definition, which was presented in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, describes ecological drought as a deficit in available water to the point that ecosystems are irreversibly altered, affecting benefits people typically gain from nature, such as food, water, clean air or recreation. The lack of benefits, in turn, triggers new reactions in both natural and human systems.

When ecosystems change, the services they once provided may be altered or lost altogether — and replacing them can cost communities millions. After a decade-long drought, for example, Australia spent about $6.2 million to support air quality regulation, water treatment, erosion prevention and other services that previously had been provided by a river ecosystem.

Those costs are likely to keep increasing.

Over the course of the 21st century, the researchers said, droughts have grown hotter, longer and more expansive than those previously recorded. Human demands for water will exacerbate the issue, and combined with changes in human land-use practices, such as fire suppression, and with climate change, ecosystems will continue to become increasingly sensitive to drought.

“We now see profound ecological responses to drought, like mass fish kills or widespread tree mortality in the western U.S., that have real consequences for biodiversity, including complete ecosystem transformations in some cases, for example, from forest to shrubland,” said Crausbay, currently a post-doctoral researcher with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California.

Working group members Mike Hayes, professor within the School of Natural Resources, and Deborah Bathke, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, both at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the definition for ecological drought will be a benchmark in drought risk management and planning. It already is being utilized by planners in Montana to identify which ecosystem services, if lost, would matter the most to their communities, and how they can reduce the services vulnerability to drought.

Going forward, the SNAPP working group hopes to continue integrating ecological drought into drought science, planning, policy and management, so communities can take a proactive approach to combat drought, rather than a reactive one.

“It is time for ecosystems to have a seat at the drought decision-making table, with the realization that an investment in water for nature may also be an investment in water for people,” Crausbay said. “A more holistic planning and research approach that includes ecological drought means both people and nature will be better prepared for the rising risk of drought.”

The drought expert working group is a collection of specialists from a variety of fields. They are climatologists; hydrologists; wildlife, fish and plant biologists; fire ecologists; science communicators; planners and policymakers; environmental economists; and social scientists dedicated to creating a framework to help communities better prepare for drought and adopt management strategies that support whole ecosystems. For more on the group, click here.