@JoeBiden Can Leverage Larger Trends to Make #Climate Progress — The Revelator

Leaf, Berthoud Pass Summit, August 21, 2017.

From The Revalator (Dan Farber):

Even if Republicans hang onto the Senate, Biden can use these three strategies to make major progress on climate issues.

With the next president of the United States finally decided, we can now begin moving on to the work at hand.

Joe Biden’s election creates an exciting opportunity for climate action. But there’s one clear hurdle: Unless the January runoff elections in Georgia for two Senate seats deliver surprising success to the Democrats, President-elect Biden will face a Senate led again by Mitch McConnell. That narrows the range of available policy instruments, but Biden should still be able to make real progress.

He has the advantage of the tide moving in the direction of clean energy. Market forces are shifting strongly away from fossil fuels and toward renewables and energy storage. State governments are moving in the same direction. And public opinion has shifted, with more people recognizing the importance of climate change and the benefits of clean energy. The trick will be to leverage these trends into faster and larger changes.

I’d advocate a three-pronged approach to take advantage of these trends: (1) aggressive use of established regulatory tools; (2) funding to improve and deploy new technologies; and (3) government support for state and private sector climate efforts.

The first prong was utilized heavily by the Obama administration.

Like Obama Biden needs to make aggressive use of existing law. Given a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court, it would be best to avoid anything that looks legally innovative and instead push as hard as possible on legally established channels.

That would mean strictly regulating conventional pollution from fossil fuels, using the Clean Air Act as well as other environmental statutes. Additional avenues include ramping up standards for methane emissions, cutting back on leasing public lands for fossil fuels, and higher fuel-efficiency standards.

There will be industry resistance to these efforts, but economic trends may help dampen that.

Storm clouds are a metaphor for Republican strategy to politicize renewable energy for the November 2020 election. Photo credit: The Mountain Town News/Allen Best

The second prong is legislative.

Although a GOP or 50-50 Senate will be a challenge, some kinds of legislation may have a chance of sneaking through.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has an energy bill she has been trying to get to the floor that seems to have bipartisan support. The bill focuses on spending for research and demonstration projects. Even when the GOP controlled Congress during the first two years of Trump’s presidency, Congress voted to increase funding for renewable energy for the Defense Department and to increase funding for research into innovative new energy technologies.

If Murkowski and fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins can be brought on board, it may also be possible to adopt energy-related amendments to must-pass bills.

Finally, increased funding for adaptation-related spending by FEMA, the Defense Department and the Army Corps of Engineers may also be feasible.

The third prong involves climate efforts outside the federal government.

During the Trump administration, many states increased their use of renewable energy and a smaller group have adopted serious carbon reduction targets. The federal government can defend these efforts in court; can provide states technical resources; and can use its regulatory powers over energy markets to reinforce state climate programs.

We’ve also seen a serious movement by investors away from fossil fuels and toward renewables. The federal government can support these trends through its regulation of financial markets.

And the power of presidential jawboning should not be underestimated. Presidential appeals to business leaders can carry considerable clout, as can public praise or shaming.

Even if Biden is handicapped by the lack of Senate control, a lot can still be done. And the climate crisis is too urgent for us to pass up any available tool for addressing it.

The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Revelator, the Center for Biological Diversity or their employees.

#FortCollins #water restrictions end Tuesday, with completion of work on the outlet at Soldier Canyon dam — The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Soldier Canyon Dam is located on the east shore of Horsetooth Reservoir, 3.5 miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado. The zoned earthfill dam has an outlet works consisting of a concrete conduit through the base of the dam, controlled by two 72-inch hollow-jet valves. The foundation is limey shales and sandstones overlain with silty, sandy clay. Photo credit Reclamation.

From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Nicole Taylor):

The mandatory water restrictions in Fort Collins are scheduled to end Nov. 10. On Nov. 8, Darin Atteberry, Fort Collins city manager, signed a declaration to end the restrictions.

The restrictions were put in place on Oct. 1 as a level IV restriction due to the Horsetooth Outlet Project. The repairs were successfully completed over the past month with the help of backup pumps and community efforts, according to the announcement…

Recent concerns for the water supply with the recent drought conditions and the Cameron Peak fire also played a role in the water reduction.

The residents managed to reduce water use by 35% within the first day of restrictions, according to the HOP page on the Fort Collins Utilities website. The community then stayed below the 15 million gallons a day request since Oct. 14 rather than the usual 35-40 million gallons.

#Drought moves one state toward water speculation — Writers on the Range #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

West Drought Monitor November 3, 2020.

From Writers on the Range (Dave Marston:

There’s a concept called “demand management” in the news in Colorado, and here’s a simple definition: Landowners get paid to temporarily stop irrigating, and that water gets sent downstream to hang out in Lake Powell.

It’s an idea long talked about because of increasing drought and the very real danger of both Lake Mead and Lake Powell dropping into “dead pool” where no hydropower can be generated. But fears keep arising about what water markets mean. To some rural people, the idea of separating water from the land sounds like heresy.

Here’s how Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River District sees it: “Just talking about demand management has already attracted deep-pocketed investors, whose motives are money and not for maintaining a healthy river.”

But James Eklund, former head of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and who shares credit for creating Colorado’s version of demand management, thinks setting up demand management in Colorado is crucial.

“We need to act now,” he said. “Last winter and spring, where 107 percent snowpack turned into 52 percent runoff, was proof we’ve entered a deadly phase where millions of acre-feet of water need to be stored in Lake Powell.”

These days, Eklund is a lawyer for the New York investment company, Water Asset Management (WAM), whose land purchases in Mesa County have sounded alarms about outsiders speculating on water. State Sen. Kerry Donovan, Democrat from Vail, has co-sponsored what could be called an anti-WAM bill, aimed at beefing up the state’s water anti-speculation laws.

“If we don’t do demand management correctly,” Donovan warned, “we are going to create a commodity-based situation where water goes to the highest bidder.”

Eklund’s rejoinder: “Like it or not, we live in a capitalist system.”

[…]

Jim Lockhead, president of Denver Water, argued that by not putting demand management into place, increasing drought could bring about a crisis: “Water rates would spike in cities, just as farm income and output would plunge region-wide.” Without demand management, Lockhead predicted, there would be “an economic black hole.”

To test demand management, four municipal water districts, including Denver Water, funded a pilot program in 2015-2019. It stored 175,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Mead by paying irrigators in Arizona, California and Nevada to fallow fields and forgo cultivation.

Applications rose annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which funded 53 percent of the study. The rest, 47 percent, came from the four water districts and the Walton Family Foundation. Eklund wants the same players to back Colorado’s program, the first of the Upper Basin states to attempt demand management.

“BuRec built all the dams possible (and) they should steer into conservation,” Eklund said.

But to gain participation in the pilot program, water prices were set at levels that boosted farm incomes above what agriculture alone would produce. That raise in income also increased the value of their land.

Mueller doesn’t like what that could lead to: “That will squeeze out future mom-and-pop operators. Ninety-five percent of Western Slope irrigators are owner-operators and we don’t want that declining.”

Although the Colorado Water Conservation Board hasn’t ironed out how to “shepherd” the water downstream or who will round up willing sellers, investors from outside of Western Colorado are already buying up land with senior water rights.

“We are seeing large, well-financed purchasers — ostensibly agricultural organizations — coming into the Gunnison basin,” said Steve Anderson, who manages the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, a canal company in Montrose County. In Delta County, the Conscience Bay Company, operating out of Boulder, bought the 3,000-acre Harts Basin Ranch, with senior water rights on the Grand Mesa.

Yet, the new owners are hardly quick-buck artists. They have expanded the cattle herds, improved irrigation and hired locals.

For the new water owners, it’s a waiting game until demand management exists and water comes with a price. As drought worsens, the owners of these senior water rights — whether they are from New York City or Texas — could well be sitting on a fortune.

#2020 Delivers Setbacks For Some Long-Planned Western #Water Projects — KUNC #GilaRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Lake Powell, behind Glen Canyon Dam, shows the effects of persistent drought in the Colorado River Basin. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

2020 has been a tough year for some of the Colorado River basin’s long-planned, most controversial water projects.

Proposals to divert water in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah have run up against significant legal, financial and political roadblocks this year. But while environmental groups have cheered the setbacks, it’s still unclear whether these projects have truly hit dead ends or are simply waiting in the wings.

The watershed’s ongoing aridification, with record-breaking hot and dry conditions over the last 20 years, and lessened federal financial support for large-scale water projects is adding more pressure on projects that attempt to divert water to fast-growing communities or slow the purchase of agricultural water supplies.

In New Mexico, a “solid plan” fails to materialize

For years, environmental journalist Laura Paskus has been following the twists and turns of a proposed project in New Mexico’s southwest corner, called the https://www.sfreporter.com/news/coverstories/2020/10/07/dead-in-the-water/

Introduced in 2004, when Arizona settled tribal water rights with the Gila River Indian Community, the diversion was billed as a way to provide much needed water supplies for four, mostly rural New Mexican counties.

“The most recent plan was to build this diversion in the Cliff-Gila Valley,” Paskus said. “And to provide water to irrigators,” like farmers and ranchers.

What propelled the project forward was a federal subsidy to cover some of the costs associated with planning and building. Thorny questions over the project’s total cost, its eventual operation and the financial burden of those who would receive the water were present from the start, Paskus said, but the idea of leaving federal dollars unspent kept the effort alive for more than a decade.

“But there was never a really solid plan of how it would be built, or how it would be paid for,” she said. [ed. emphasis mine]

Failure to come up with a plan finally sank the proposal in June this year. The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, which had thrown its weight behind the project five years earlier, voted to stop spending money on environmental reviews related to the diversion. Roughly $17 million had already been spent on engineering plans and consultants over the years…

“Swamp Cedars” (Juniperus scopulorum) and associated pond, wetland and meadow in Spring Valley, White Pine County, Nevada. Photograph by Dennis Ghiglieri from http://images.water.nv.gov/images/Hearing%20Exhibit%20Archives/spring%20valley/WELC/Exhibit%203030.pdf

Legal troubles for the Las Vegas pipeline

A similar drama played out in Nevada earlier this year. For decades water providers in Las Vegas have pursued a $15 billion plan to pump groundwater from northern Nevada, and pipe it 300 miles south to the fast-growing metro area in the Mojave Desert…

The Southern Nevada Water Authority, the agency pushing for the pipeline, hit legal hurdles this past spring. Just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold, a judge denied some water rights associated with the project. A month later the water authority chose not to appeal and tabled the pipeline altogether

This $2+ billion project would pump 28 billion gallons of water 2,000 feet uphill across 140 miles of desert to provide just 160,000 residents in Southwest Utah with more water. Graphic credit: Utah Rivers Council

Litigation threat puts Utah pipeline on notice

Rising costs have long been at the heart of criticism over the Lake Powell pipeline, a proposal to spend upwards of $2 billion to build a 140-mile water pipeline from the beleaguered Colorado River reservoir to rapidly expanding communities in southwest Utah.

But you can now add political and potential legal troubles to the mix of factors that could put the pipeline’s future in question. And seeing the successes in other parts of the Southwest are giving Utah’s environmental advocates hope that it too can be derailed completely.

“The state of Utah is proposing to divert Colorado River water down the Lake Powell pipeline simply to use more of its water rights out of the Colorado River,” said Zach Frankel, director of the Utah Rivers Council, one of the groups opposed to the pipeline.

But opposition to the pipeline doesn’t end with environmentalists. Political pressure from other users on the river is slowing it down. In September, in the midst of a new environmental review from the Bureau of Reclamation, every other state that relies on the river besides Utah teamed up to say the project has too many unresolved issues to move forward…

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2019 of the #coriver big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck

The lesson here, according to Paskus, is that many of these proposals rely on outdated ideas about our relationship to water in the arid West, and that plans will have to change as the region warms.

Map of the Colorado River drainage basin, created using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65868008

600,000 new #environmental voters — Heated #ActOnClimate

From Heated (Emily Atkin):

The Environmental Voter Project, a non-partisan get-out-the-vote group, tells HEATED it spent $2.05 million this year targeting 1.8 million self-identified environmentalists who had never voted before in 12 states, including the critical battlegrounds of Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Of those 1.8 million environmentalists targeted by Environmental Voter Project, more than 600,000—or about 33 percent—voted early. It’s “a truly astounding number when you consider that these are almost all first-time voters,” said Nathaniel Stinnett, EVP’s president.

It’s also astounding when you consider that, in many cases, those voters outnumber the margin between Trump and Biden in key battleground states.

For example:

  • 54,976 new environmental voters cast early ballots in Pennsylvania, where Biden is leading by about 45,400 votes
  • 56,990 new environmental voters cast early ballots in Arizona, where Biden is leading by 16,730 votes;
  • 69,332 new environmental voters cast early ballots in Georgia, where Biden is leading by 11,596 votes; and
  • 20,705 new environmental voters cast early ballots in Nevada, where Biden is leading by 36,186 votes.
  • Of course, these aren’t necessarily votes for Biden. EVP only encourages environmentalists to vote; it doesn’t say who they should vote for. But given the environmental hellscape of Trump’s presidency, it’s safe to assume many, if not most of those votes did not go in his direction.

    In addition, these are only early vote numbers, and therefore only show part of EVP’s impact. The group will know its full impact in February or March when states release their final voter lists.

    Above all, EVP’s results only constitute one part of the climate movement’s broader impact on voter turnout and fundraising in the 2020 election.