Greeley Central sophomore raising money to replace school faucets as part of environmental contest — The Greeley Tribune

Jorge Rubio via GoFundMe.com

From The Greeley Tribune (Trevor Reid):

After representatives of an annual environmental contest spoke at Greeley Central High School in 2019, sophomore Jorge Rubio started looking around for opportunities to reduce water waste.

When he went to wash his hands in a restroom at the school, the answer hit him.

“So much water was coming out,” Jorge said. “We do not need this much water to wash our hands.”

Jorge, 16, set out to replace his school’s water faucets, which use 3.5 gallons per minute. That’s more than twice the maximum volume of water per minute allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program. Faucets that qualify for the WaterSense marker use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute.

Jorge took his idea to his chemistry teacher, Amy Bekins, who supported it and gave Jorge some advice on how to proceed. They met with the building manager and district officials who would install the new faucets. Jorge went to home improvement stores and began researching faucets.

Caring for Our Watersheds is an annual environmental contest challenging students to find ways to care for their local water resources. The contest is sponsored by Nutrien, an agricultural producer and distributor with a location in Loveland. The individual or team whose project wins first place is awarded $1,000 for their school.

Limited by that $1,000, Jorge began by looking at replacing the faucets on the first floor of the school. He estimated they would save 30,000 gallons of water per year by changing out the faucets on the first floor. After submitting his proposal, Jorge’s project was selected as a top 10 finalist out of 491 projects from 650 students in northern Colorado.

Before he knew he was selected as a finalist, Jorge started dreaming a little bigger. He decided he wanted to replace faucets for all three floors.

Aimee Nance, Jorge’s seminar teacher and a marketing teacher at Greeley Central, offered help to find creative funding opportunities for the project’s expansion. Whether that means working with local businesses or crowdfunding, Nance told Jorge it never hurts to ask for help…

Jorge has started a GoFundMe with a $1,000 goal to fund replacing the faucets on the second and third floors of the school. He hopes to have the project implemented by the end of March before going in front of judges in May.

Are Republicans coming out of ‘the closet’ on #ClimateChange? — The Washington Post

Science Senator. It’s called science.

From The Washington Post (Steven Mufson):

Bruce Westerman, a Republican congressman from Arkansas, has a plan to help save the planet — one he thinks may also help save his party.

His proposal, which calls for planting a trillion trees to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, was warmly received last month when House Republicans gathered to discuss their policy agenda heading into the 2020 elections.

After years of denying that the planet was growing hotter because of human activity, an increasing number of Republicans say they need to acknowledge the problem and offer solutions if they have any hope of retaking the House.

In poll after poll, large numbers of young and suburban Republican voters are registering their desire for climate action and say the issue is a priority. And their concern about climate change is spreading to older GOP supporters, too.

Almost 7 in 10 Republican adults under 45 said that human activity is causing the climate to change, according to a poll last summer by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Republicans “can’t win the majority back [in the House] without winning suburban districts, and you can’t win suburban districts with a retro position on climate change,” said former South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis, a Republican who is pushing his party to craft a climate plan…

The GOP is still hammering out details, but some critics say the new Republican approach to climate change looks a lot like the old one. In addition to trees, senior Republicans are said to be considering tax breaks for research, curbs on plastic waste and big federally funded infrastructure projects in the name of adaptation or resilience…

The already well-worn buzzword “innovation” will be their rallying cry, and natural gas, despite its carbon emissions, will be embraced…

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) told the news outlet Axios that a new set of policies would expand an existing tax credit to encourage carbon capture and storage, sharply increase research-and-development funding for “clean energy” technology, curb plastic pollution, and plant a whole lot of trees. Graves in an interview also said that U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas would be better for the climate than natural gas from Russia…

What’s missing? There are no taxes or tax revenue. There are no regulatory standards to boost automotive fuel efficiency or contain methane emissions. And there are no limits on fossil fuels. [ed. emphasis mine]

Moreover, Republicans have no taste for a proposal that leading economists say is the fastest, most powerful way to cut carbon emissions — a $40-per-ton carbon tax on polluters, promoted by George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, and James A. Baker, Reagan’s treasury secretary and secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush. Money raised by the tax would be returned to taxpayers in the form of dividends…

Younger voters’ concerns

As difficult as it may be to change the positions of GOP lawmakers, Trump makes matters even more complicated. Moments after rhapsodizing about trees at Davos, the president took aim at climate activists, calling them “perennial prophets of doom” and “the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortunetellers.”

Earlier, in response to efforts to ban plastic straws that end up in the ocean, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a super PAC, sold packs of 10 red plastic straws emblazoned with Trump’s name and said that “liberal paper straws don’t work.”

It is unclear whether Trump will refer to the changing climate in his State of the Union speech Tuesday, with the possible exception of the trillion-trees commitment, which echoes Bush’s unrealized 1990 proposal to plant 1 billion trees a year for a decade.

Among voters who approve of Trump’s overall job performance, his approval ratings on climate change — 73 percent — were the lowest out of six questions the Post-Kaiser poll asked his supporters. And 23 percent of all Republicans disapprove of his handling of the climate issue, substantially higher than the 9 percent of Republicans who disapprove of his job performance overall.

“You see among younger voters a higher concern,” said David Winston, a veteran Republican pollster who has been researching attitudes toward climate change. “Does it meet the levels of the economy and health care? No. But you are seeing it move up as a level of concern.”
Much of the impetus for a new Republican posture on climate change has come from McCarthy and Graves.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) created the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis last year, Graves told McCarthy the party needed to change its position on climate change or risk being left behind by its voters and awash in a worsening series of floods and fires.

“My conversation with McCarthy was about hey, number one, I think the science is pretty good here and I don’t think the path forward has to be a hard right or a hard left turn,” said Graves, the ranking Republican on the climate committee.

McCarthy was receptive. In October, he told the Washington Examiner that the GOP would introduce several free-market-based bills in response to the Green New Deal, a sweeping set of policy proposals backed by some Democrats that would aim to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero over 10 years.

Before he ran for Congress, Graves worked as a congressional aide, then returned to Louisiana to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, then-Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) put him in charge of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, where he learned about permanent changes to the coastline. In 2014, he won his first race for Congress.

Graves is no liberal. He has received a 3 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, based partly on his opposition to requirements that natural-gas producers control methane releases and his support for logging Alaskan national forests.

“I think that some climate advocates have made a fundamental error in identifying fossil fuels as the enemy as opposed to emissions,” Graves said.

Louisiana ranks as the nation’s third-largest producer of natural gas, and the biggest campaign contributions to Graves in the current electoral cycle come from the oil, gas and utility industries. His four biggest contributors are the ClearPath Foundation, which promotes nuclear energy, hydropower and increased energy research; Entergy, a New Orleans-based utility; Marathon Petroleum, a refiner; and NextEra Energy, a big Florida-based utility that relies heavily on wind, natural gas, nuclear and solar. Over Graves’s career, Koch Industries has also been a major contributor.

Graves and other Republicans paint a bright line between their approach to climate change and Democrats’. They have sharply attacked the Green New Deal…

Graves also opposes taking some measures when other countries are not acting in similar ways. “If you were to implement the Green New Deal, you would be playing into the hands of China,” he said.

Instead, Graves said, Congress ought to promote U.S. technology, which is “all about U.S. competitiveness.” And spending on resilience to prevent costlier climate damage is “an awesome conservative fiscal argument,” he said.

In the Senate, some lawmakers are seeking common ground, led by Sens. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.). “There have been a lot of Republicans in the closet on climate,” Braun, a freshman senator, told The Post in December. Coons and Braun each recruited three colleagues to their Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has also managed to work with Republicans on specific parts of a climate policy. He joined with Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), a longtime climate denier, and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who also represents a fossil-fuel-intensive state, to pass legislation that gives tax credits to companies that capture carbon dioxide from the air and store it.

Risky territory for GOP
Still, some Republicans have paid a political price for urging action on climate change. Consider the swift downfall of California state legislator Chad Mayes. In July 2017, Mayes, then the State Assembly’s Republican leader, joined Democrats in supporting a climate-change program called cap-and-trade.

“We lower taxes, we reduce costs, we reduce regulations, and at the same time we’re going to protect our environment,” Mayes said at a news conference. “I know for some they’re going to look at this and say: What in the world is going on? Why are Republicans talking about something like cap-and-trade? Well I’ll tell you. We believe that markets are better than Soviet-style command and control. We believe that markets are better than government coercing people into doing things that they don’t want to do. We believe that businesses in California want to do the right thing.”

A month later, Republican activists in the assembly’s 25-member caucus stripped Mayes of his leadership position.

He went on to form a group called “New Way California,” but that, too, was attacked. Two months ago, Mayes quit the Republican Party and filed to run as an independent.

Inglis, the former congressman from South Carolina, has followed a similar path. “For my first six years in Congress, I just said that climate change was nonsense,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about it except that Al Gore was in favor of it.”

After going back to private life, Inglis decided to run again for Congress. His son insisted that he wise up on climate change.

Then Inglis went on a congressional trip to Antarctica and looked at bore samples of polar ice. “It is an amazing record of the Earth’s atmosphere,” he said. That convinced him that human activity since the Industrial Revolution was warming the planet.

Back in Washington, in 2009 he proposed a bill that would have imposed a carbon tax, adjusted the prices of imports from countries such as China and India that did not have such a tax, and return the revenue to taxpayers by cutting payroll taxes.

It was poorly timed during the Great Recession, he recalled. And unpopular.

He lost the Republican primary to Trey Gowdy by a margin of 71 percent to 29 percent…

After Barack Obama moved into the White House in 2009, Republicans solidified their opposition to his entire agenda, including any climate plan.

“My party was against everything Obama was for,” Inglis said.

It took nearly a decade for any shift. On Feb. 12, 2018, Joseph Majkut, climate policy director at the libertarian Niskanen Center, became the first Republican witness before the House Science Committee in nearly 10 years to talk about tackling climate change, according to Inglis.

The former congressman is now traveling the country trying to change Republican minds about climate policy…

Democrats and middle-of-the-road politicians are wary about the GOP’s recent climate buzz.

“I think they’re caught on the politics,” said Ben Finzel, president of a public relations firm, RenewPR, and a former Hill staffer. “The challenge is they want to get stuff done but also want to beat up the Dems.”

Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, said he thinks there is meaningful change underway.

“The fact that Leader McCarthy is publicizing his intention to put out a Republican climate solution matters a lot,” Grumet said. “The details will be embraced and ridiculed like every other climate plan. But that gives tremendous license for the Republican Party to get in the game.”

New Federal Rule Reduces Protections for Water in the West, Harming People and Birds — @Audubon

Click here to read the January 2020 Western Water News from Audubon. Here’s an excerpt:

Western Water News
UPDATE: New Federal Rule Reduces Protections for Water in the West, Harming People and Birds

The Trump Administration’s revised Waters of the United States rule shrinks the number of waterways protected under the Clean Water Act.

Phainopepla. Photo: Elaine Padovani/Great Backyard Bird Count via Audubon Rockies

UPDATE (1/23/2020): Today, the Trump Administration announced finalization of rollbacks to the Clean Water Rule. The newly published Navigable Waters Protection Rule removes Clean Water Act protections for many rivers, streams, and wetlands, which could allow them to be altered, degraded or filled without first seeking a federal permit. For example, a large number of streams and wetlands that only flow or are wet for part of the year are now exempt from Clean Water Act protections. Some 138 species and subspecies of birds in the U.S. are designated as “wetland dependent” and many more are threatened by the new rule.

At Audubon, we know the value that wetlands, rivers, lakes, and streams provide to birds. These waterways are critical habitat for the lifecycle of millions of birds, not to mention the millions of people who rely on clean water to drink, bathe, wash, and grow our food.

Riverside forests and wetlands—fed by both continuous and intermittent water sources—are essential for birds, particularly in the arid Southwest.

However, under the 2019 Proposed Revised Definition for Waters of the United States (WOTUS) many waterways that flow for only portions of the year would be excluded from Clean Water Act protections. This means ephemeral waterways like the Rio Puerco in New Mexico, Centennial Wash in Arizona, Milpitas Wash in Southern California’s Imperial County and Chemehuevi Wash in San Bernardino County would no longer be protected. Without WOTUS protections, developers can build in these areas without federal permits, and the waterways and their surrounding environments would be unprotected from potentially harmful discharges. In the past, industrial operators used these dry washes as disposal sites for pollutants, only to end up contaminating the groundwater below.

Along many of the dry washes in the desert Southwest, trees like mesquite, palo verde, and ironwood thrive. When water occasionally flows through these normally dry washes, these thrifty trees take advantage. Along these washes, trees grow tall and into dense desert forests. They support abundant avian life, especially Lucy’s Warblers, Bell’s Vireos, Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, Phainopeplas, and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. These woodlands comprise only five percent of the acreage in the desert regions of the Southwest but support 90 percent of the bird life, according to A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert. For these habitats to be stripped of their protections under the Clean Water Act means a serious risk of habitat loss in areas of outsized importance for birds.

On the human side of the equation, excluding dry washes and ephemeral streams and rivers risks damage to property through flooding. In Arizona, for example, drainages coming off local mountain ranges flow infrequently. However, when they do flow due to rain or snow events, floodwaters can overwhelm the normally dry channels. Clean Water Act protections can require that developers mitigate impacts to these washes, or mandate that development keep the washes intact in order to act as drainages for storm events. As part of the urban fabric, these washes serve as flood protection for communities during storm events and as corridors for wildlife when dry.

Losing protections on thousands of stream and river miles because they only flow seasonally or after rain events or snowmelt will negatively impact the birds and people who rely on these important water resources throughout the Southwest. Audubon will submit formal comments on the proposed WOTUS definition to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers by the April 15, 2019 deadline, and we invite you to do the same.

Waters of the United States jurisdiction changed — The Monte Vista Journal

The headwaters of the Rio Grande River in Colorado. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Monte Vista Journal (Trey Spaulding):

Jan. 23, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the improved definition for “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. “ The Navigable Waters Protection Rule ends decades of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. For the first time, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are recognizing the difference between federally protected wetlands and state protected wetlands. It adheres to the statutory limits of the agencies’ authority. It also ensures that America’s water protections – among the best in the world – remain strong, while giving our states and tribes the certainty to manage their waters in ways that best protect their natural resources and local economies.”

In March 2014, the Obama administration released a regulation that would assert Clean Water Act jurisdiction over nearly all areas including those with undiscernible connections to water resources and man-made conveyances. Specifically, the Obama WOTUS rule expanded agency control over 60 percent of the country’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands that were previously non-jurisdictional. In September 2019, the Trump administration, EPA and Army Corps of Engineers repealed the controversial 2015 WOTUS rule and proposed a new Clean Water rule clarifying which level of government, federal or state, would oversee water features and dry land that is sometimes wet.

The revised WOTUS definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: the territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds and impoundments; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters. The final action also details what waters are not subject to federal control, including features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall; groundwater; many ditches, including most farm and roadside ditches; prior converted cropland; farm and stock watering ponds; and waste treatment systems.

Leaders of the National Potato Council (NPC) welcomed the announcement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its proposed rule defining the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. EPA’s action also defines what waters are not subject to federal control, including most farm and roadside ditches, prior converted cropland, and farm and stock watering ponds.

“Potato farmers are committed to protecting the nation’s waters,” said Britt Raybould, President of the National Potato Council. “However, the imposition of unnecessary federal burdens, such as regulating ditches on private farms that are generally dry throughout the year, undermines that overall mission by creating uncertainty and increasing costs. EPA’s newly issued rule avoids those negative outcomes and provides increased clarity regarding the responsibilities of farmers under the Clean Water Act in protecting our nation’s surface water resources.”

[…]

Contrastingly, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment stated, “The EPA’s announcement today is alarming as it puts our precious waters at risk. Every Coloradan, and so many others from neighboring states, are dependent on Colorado’s healthy waterways. At the department, regardless of what happens at the federal-level, we’ll always be committed to the health of our waters. Healthy waters mean healthy Coloradans,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“In the absence of federal leadership, we are going to do everything possible to protect streams and wetlands in Colorado. It’s sad that we have to step up in contrast with our federal government on something so basic as protecting our water, but we must. The rollback removes huge swaths of Colorado’s waters from federal jurisdiction, waters used by 19 states and Mexico. It’s estimated that almost 70 percent of our Colorado Waters could be impacted by this rule. Additionally, the change will impose significant burdens upon the State of Colorado,” said Patrick Pfaltzgraff, director, Water Quality Control Division.

Earlier in the year, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Colorado Department of Agriculture collectively rebuked the EPA’s proposed rule change.

Breckenridge scores $10 million grant for Goose Pasture Tarn Dam improvements

Goose Pasture Tarn Dam. Photo credit: NextDoor.com

From The Summit Daily (Sawyer D’Argonne):

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded a $10 million grant to the state of Colorado last week to help fund modifications to the Goose Pasture Tarn Dam.

The funds come as part of FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, which is meant to help minimize the risks of possible dam failures…

The dam — south of Breckenridge proper and north of Blue River — is classified as “high hazard” by the state, a categorization that has little to do with its condition but rather the potential loss of human life and property in the event of any type of failure. According to FEMA, a failure likely would impact more than 2,000 residences and businesses in the Breckenridge area below the dam, along with major damage to roadways and the community’s existing water supply.

The dam does need some work to help put the minds of Breckenridge residents at ease. The need for upgrades began to emerge in 2015, during a high moisture year when town-run monitoring stations started to see significant rising water levels, according to Steve Boand, a state hazard mitigation officer with the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. As a result, stakeholders decided to implement reservoir storage restrictions in 2016.

Breckenridge also moved forward in seeking federal funding to address concerns. The $10 million from FEMA will cover more than half the costs of the project. The rest already has been budgeted as capital improvements by Breckenridge, Boand said. The work on the dam is scheduled to begin later this year and will lower the spillway by 4 feet to help protect the dam and everyone in its path…

Construction on the project will begin later this year and is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2022, though Boand said it could take until 2023. Breckenridge will lower water levels in the reservoir during construction seasons to facilitate the work.