After clean electricity, #Colorado to focus on green transportation, buildings — @AspenJournalism #ActOnClimate

The coal-fired Tri-State Generation and Transmission plant in Craig provides much of the power used in Western Colorado, including in Aspen and Pitkin County. Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office has a plan to move the state’s electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):

The 2019 legislative session in Colorado included a major focus on climate policy, and Gov. Jared Polis has a plan to move the state’s electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, [was] in Aspen on [September 4, 2019] to discuss that plan and how states can address climate change.

In 2019, the Colorado legislature passed a dozen climate-related bills, including bills focused on tracking and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There were also bills aimed at helping coal workers transition to new careers, increasing the size of community solar gardens and diverting more waste from landfills.

“One of the things that in many ways was really interesting was how non-controversial most of these bills were,” Toor said. “Compared to prior years where any one of these bills might have been a gigantic fight, most of them went through without large battles over them.”

Toor said a few bills, including SB 236, which re-wrote how the state public utilities commission will work with utilities, and HB 1261, which sets goals for reducing pollution, have the potential to make a major impact on Colorado’s footprint.

“Together, I think that these will be really transformative and move the state forward toward using low-cost renewable energy that I think will both save consumers money and dramatically clean up our electricity supply,” Toor said.

Though Toor said the climate-related bills were mostly non-controversial, he acknowledged that there will be some economic challenges in parts of the state that relied heavily on coal.

“There’s going to be a lot of work required, I think, to help with economic development in those regions, as the world changes,” he said.

But those changes are due primarily to market demands, Toor said, not state legislation.

Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office via State of Colorado.

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission recently followed California’s lead in adopting zero emission vehicle standards, and the governor’s office is working to expand the number of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across the state and the I-70 corridor. Toor said this decision is likely to mean more models of electric vehicles will become available in the state.

Such work to electrify transportation could be valuable in reducing emissions as Colorado’s outdoor recreation continues to grow. He said the state is “looking at opportunities for getting EV charging infrastructure at state parks, at ski areas.”

And he said, as the outdoor industry partners with car companies at major events, “it would be great to see more of those be electric vehicles that they’re highlighting when they’re working with various sponsors.”

Toor said the three top contributors to greenhouse gas emissions are electricity generation, transportation and buildings. As electricity gets cleaner, he said the focus will shift to transportation and buildings.

“Just as with transportation, we do believe that, in addition to increased energy efficiency, electrification of buildings is going to be very important,” Toor said.

His office just kicked off a study to try to quantify what it would look like to move toward replacing natural gas with electricity in buildings around the state, and to understand what policies might support that.

Toor speaks about these policies and how local communities and states can tackle climate change tonight at 6 p.m. at the Limelight in Aspen as part of the Aspen U speaker series.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with Aspen Public Radio on coverage of of the environment.

Coyote Gulch’s Leaf charging at the City of Thornton’s Infrastructure Maintenance Center August 31, 2019. Charging infrastructure partially paid for with a grant from the Colorado Energy Office.

#Colorado’s Summer Weather Started Cool, But Has Turned Hot And Dry — Colorado Public Radio

From Colorado Public Radio (Hayley Sanchez):

Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Alamosa and Grand Junction all had temperatures above average for July and August, according to the National Weather Service…

Scott Stearns with the Weather Service in Grand Junction said the city had 28 days during the month with temperatures at or above 90 degrees. On average, Grand Junction usually only has about 16 days with those hot temperatures.

“Rarely do we hit that average here in Western Colorado. Usually, we’ve got a good monsoon, a lot of moisture coming up and we’re below 90 during the month of August most of the time,” Stearns said. “We keep hitting those high temperatures well through August.”

Stearns said temperatures in Grand Junction were 5.4 degrees above the normal high at 95.1 degrees. In 2018, the normal high was 92.6 degrees with 24 days at or above 90 degrees.

In Denver, the average high for August was 90.6 degrees, said Frank Cooper with the weather service in Boulder. The average monthly temperature is 73.5 degrees.

“August was the warmest month,” he said. “We were still getting some of those wet thunderstorms through like the first or second week, which is around that monsoon period. But we started to dry out fairly well toward the latter part of the month and we stayed kinda dry.”

[…]

Cooper said Denver didn’t reach 90 degrees until June 26, which is unusual.

“We kept our snowpack through the month and normally if it warms up really fast, we deal with a lot of runoff issues and we really didn’t deal with that because it stayed cool through the first part of the summer,” he said. “We really didn’t have like a really solid monsoon season. We did get periods where we got heavy rainfall from mid-July to mid-August, but generally, it was rather it was dry.”

[…]

Peter Goble, a service climatologist and drought specialist with Colorado’s Climate Center, said the combination of above-average moisture, few 90-degree days across the urban corridor in June and a great snowpack helped keep water supplies high and fire season less active.

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

Aspen just experienced its sixth-driest August in the past 68 years, according to weather data collected by the water plant.

Just 0.82 inches of precipitation fell at the water plant for the month. That was less than half of the August average of 1.78 inches. The water plant has kept records since 1951.

The record low for precipitation in August was 0.58 inches in 1996. Other years that were drier than this year for the month were 1978, 1985, 1988 and 2004…

For the year-to-date, Aspen Water Plant has received 20.52 inches of precipitation. The average through August is 15.07 inches. A second weather station at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, which is at a lower elevation than the water plant, recorded 11.95 inches of precipitation through August compared to a year-to-date average of 11.46 inches.

Meanwhile, long-range forecasts are starting to roll in for the winter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecast for December through February indicated a strong probability of higher than average temperatures for that three-month period in all of Colorado. NOAA forecasted an “equal chance” of Colorado’s precipitation being above average, below average and average for the three-month period.

Fremont County flood mitigation work completed

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Canon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):

The significant damage caused by the July 24, 2018 flooding in western Fremont County has been cleaned up and mitigation work has been done in case such an event ever happens again.

The force of the water from Butter Creek and Dinkle Ditch/Cottonwood Creek met during the heavy rainstorm, blowing out a stream channel and forcing its way through structures. Debris, trees and rocks washed through the Gillespie family’s hayfield, cutting a gulley and leaving behind a huge mess.

Crews this year cleaned the gulley and reshaped, lined and stabilized the channel.

“The water that overflows out of Little Cottonwood – if we do get a significant flow – it should come out, go right down this channel and safely make its way down to Big Cottonwood Creek,” said Greg Langer, the district conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Service…

About $1.5 million was spent on restoration and mitigation between the two properties, Commissioner Dwayne McFall said.

Natural Resources Conservation Service funded the design of the stream bank stabilization project, which was designed for a 10-year flood event.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection recovery project in the Big Cottonwood area in Coaldale officially started in early Spring and was completed in July. It required a number of agencies, property owners and experts working together to get the job done.

The project was sponsored by Fremont County with matching funds in the amount of $453,850 from the Colorado Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as a grant match.

The Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative and the Upper Arkansas River Conservancy District also garnered a grant for more than $250,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the cleanup effort. Additionally, Chelesy Nutter, the executive director of the Arkansas River Watershed Collaboration, partnered with the Colorado Workforce Center who provided labor to remove 120 cubic yards of debris and cut fallen trees.

Luke Javernick of River Science did all of the hydrology work and brought Canon City High School students to do water quality testing. They will continue monitoring for three years, Nutter said. The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Trout Unlimited also will be working to explore longterm recovery. Fremont County provided in-kind services with staff time…

Fremont County Manager Sunny Bryant said the last time there was a flood, not only were the properties damaged, but U.S. 50 was threatened and County Road 39 nearly was washed out.