#Drought news (June 24, 2021): Increases in moderate, severe, extreme (and in a few cases, exceptional) drought coverage occurred in #Colorado, #Wyoming, #Utah, and #Montana

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

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

This Week’s Drought Summary

This week, Claudette, the third named tropical cyclone of the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season, made landfall in the central Gulf Coast and moved across the southeast United States. Results from Claudette’s rainfall included widespread improvement to drought conditions in North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as improved conditions in northern Florida and southern Georgia. Severe thunderstorms, including an EF3 tornado that hit western suburbs of Chicago, affected parts of northern Illinois, northern Indiana, northern Ohio, and southern Michigan on Sunday. While they caused widespread damage from wind and hail, the storms also delivered beneficial rainfall to areas suffering from moderate, severe, and extreme drought. Meanwhile, relatively dry weeks in both the Northeast and the West caused drought conditions to worsen, for the most part, in both regions…

High Plains

Rainfall was paltry in areas of ongoing drought and abnormal dryness in the High Plains region. The dry weather combined with warmer than normal temperatures in much of Nebraska, Kansas, and western South Dakota to lead to widespread worsening of drought and abnormal dryness in these areas. Extreme drought developed along the Missouri River in northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota, and severe and moderate drought expanded around this. Widespread extreme and exceptional drought still covered North Dakota, where adverse effects to crops and pastures from drought is widespread. In eastern Wyoming, short-term dryness and hot weather led to expansions of moderate, severe, and extreme drought as well…

Colorado one week Drought Monitor change map ending June 22, 2021.

West

The drought situation in the western United States continued to worsen after another mostly hot and dry week. A few areas of drought in south-central and southeast New Mexico saw some slight improvement due to effects from several rain and thunderstorm events in the last month. Unfortunately, widespread severe or worse drought continued in New Mexico, and conditions remained the same or worsened elsewhere. Increases in moderate, severe, extreme (and in a few cases, exceptional) drought coverage occurred in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana. Severe drought also expanded in western Idaho. Wildfires and increasing wildfire danger, water restrictions, and damage to agriculture are very common across the West region…

South

Across the South, in areas not affected by Claudette, rain was relatively scarce. Temperatures were generally near normal in the eastern part of the region, while the Texas Panhandle and northwest Oklahoma were warmer than normal. Moderate drought developed near Woodward, Oklahoma, and slightly expanded in the northwest Texas Panhandle. Moderate and severe drought continued in southwest Oklahoma, and conditions ranging from abnormal dryness to exceptional drought (D4) continued along the Texas/Mexico border…

Looking Ahead

As of the afternoon of Wednesday, June 23, the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center is forecasting widespread rain, some possibly heavy, to occur over the next five days from southeast New Mexico to the western Great Lakes. The largest totals, ranging from 2 inches to as much as 5 inches of rain, are forecast to fall from central Missouri to northern Illinois and southern Michigan. The northern edge of the area where the heaviest rains are predicted to fall is suffering from drought, and the precipitation could be beneficial if that occurs. For the next six to 10 days, the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center’s forecast favors warmer than normal temperatures extending from the Pacific Coast to the northern Great Plains, as well as in the Northeast, while an area of cooler than normal temperatures is favored in between, stretching from near the Arizona/New Mexico border to Iowa to central Florida. In Alaska, above normal precipitation and near or below normal temperatures are favored in the west, while drier than normal weather and warmer than normal temperatures are favored in the eastern part of Alaska. The eight to 14 day outlook for the Lower 48 and for Alaska paints a similar picture, though the eight to 14 day outlook features a higher probability for above normal precipitation in the central Great Plains.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending June 22, 2021.

Short clip of the Boulder Bike Underpass Choir singing in a beautiful new underpass in #Boulder

What new Permian research means for U.S. #methane policy — Environmental Defense Fund

From the Environmental Defense Fund blog (Dan Grossman and Ben Hmiel):

Newly released research is shedding more light on the largest sources of methane emissions in the nation’s largest oilfield.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas and has a huge impact on the current rate of global warming. The oil and gas industry is one of the biggest emitters.

Using a helicopter equipped with an infrared camera, we surveyed over a thousand sites across the Permian Basin to get specific information about the types of facilities, equipment and events that make the Permian Basin the highest-polluting oilfield in the country. Three things immediately stood out.

More equipment equals more emissions

We wanted to learn more about emissions from “marginal wells” — those that typically produce less than 15 barrels of oil or 60,000 cubic feet of gas a day. Despite the fact that marginal wells make up the vast majority of wells across the country, operators often seek to have them exempted from emissions standards. The argument is based on an assumption that because they produce less, they pollute less. But that is not the case. Our research indicates it is the volume of equipment — not the volume of production — that is likely to impact emissions levels.

We looked at two types of marginal well sites:

  • Simple sites — those with just a pumpjack or well head and no other equipment.
  • Complex sites — those with tanks, flares, compressors and other machinery.

The simple sites with fewer pieces of equipment had virtually no large emissions. Comparatively, we measured emissions at about 16% of more complex sites, and about 80% of the emissions were coming from tanks. Cumulatively, these emissions add up. About half of emissions from the Permian Basin well sites come from these smaller, lower producing wells.

Flares malfunction at a much higher rate than previously thought

We also examined emissions from flares. Our previous surveys of Permian flares indicated that about 10% are malfunctioning — leading to large emissions of methane. However, those surveys mostly looked at high-production sites that rely upon routine flaring. When we expanded our survey to include marginal wells with more intermittent flares, we found that number tripled. Approximately 30% of flares were pumping methane emissions into the air rather than burning the methane as they are designed to do. Regularly checking these marginal facilities for equipment failures could help substantially reduce the rate of flare malfunctions.

Oil and gas production is not the only problem

The other significant finding from this research confirms that the midstream sector — sites that process and move oil and gas through the system — is just as much of an emitter as the production sites. We detected large emissions at nearly 40% of midstream sites surveyed. Data released last week from researchers at the University of Arizona and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory similarly confirmed that about half of all Permian emissions are from the midstream sector.

Explore all the new data and findings.

Click here for mobile friendly version.

Policy implications

Congress is currently debating whether it should use the Congressional Review Act to reinstate sensible methane standards that would limit this pollution from newer well sites and lay the groundwork for next-generation standards for new and existing facilities. Doing so would be an important step to help address this pollution.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose new rules this fall that could and should go even further to reduce emissions. Applying these rules to older facilities, complex marginal well sites and midstream operations will be necessary for the U.S. to meet its climate goals.

A sensible path forward

Reducing emissions from oil and gas facilities is one of the fastest, cheapest and most effective ways to slow the rate of climate change. Many reduction measures pay for themselves, since they result in more gas being captured and delivered to customers.

Methane mitigation is also a huge job creator. Research shows that policies requiring companies to reduce emissions produce a net increase in jobs. In fact, the methane mitigation industry already employs thousands of high-paying individuals across the country and is projected to grow as companies and regulators increase their focus on methane reductions.

The good news is we know that programs designed to reduce emissions are incredibly effective. In 2014, Colorado started regulating methane from its oil and gas industry, and in the year after regulations were implemented, operators reported a 75% drop in the number of methane leaks detected during routine field surveys.

Strong, national standards to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is achievable and is supported by some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. Ensuring that methane standards are as effective and encompassing as possible is critical to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

Related Posts

A year of data and one clear message: Permian flaring remains a major problem

New report: Routine flaring in Texas’ Permian can be eliminated at little to no costAnother study reveals Permian methane levels are abnormally high, reinforcing need for action

Another study reveals Permian methane levels are abnormally high, reinforcing need for action

City tackles drainage project named in EPA lawsuit — The #ColoradoSprings Independent

Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

The city of Colorado Springs posted a request for proposals (RFP) on June 3 for Flying Horse Pond 1 Retrofit, a detention pond noted as a potential violation of the Clean Water Act in the lawsuit filed by the Environmental Protection Agency against the city in 2016.

Deadline for proposals is July 8.

The EPA lawsuit has since been settled, and the city is expected to pay up to $45 million for additional projects to satisfy the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. City Council raised stormwater rates, which kick in on July 1, to fund the settlement.

The scope of work for the Flying Horse pond is stated this way in the RFP: “Reconstruct existing detention pond with new concrete facilities that include sediment forebays and outlet structure. Construct soil rip rap trickle channels and overflow spillway, maintenance/access roads, MSE retaining walls, boulder lined permanent aesthetic pond and extensive riparian and upland plantings.”

[…]

But how much is this project costing and who’s paying for it?

Stormwater manager Rich Mulledy says via email that this pond project cited in the RFP is, indeed, the same pond referenced in the lawsuit.

The budget for the project is $2,541,419, he says. Design will cost $284,878 and the construction costs are estimated at $2,256,541.

But the city’s Stormwater Enterprise will pay for only the design. Construction is being picked up by a grant the city received, he says.

“The developer is not responsible to contribute for several reasons,” Mulledy says.

“First, the City reviewed and accepted the facility as designed and constructed when it was built. The City believed then and believes now that the facility was designed and constructed correctly and in compliance with our criteria at the time,” he says.

Mulledy emphasizes that the pond issue wasn’t ever ruled upon by the court as to whether it, in fact, was a water quality regulation violation.

The city settled the case before that happened.

Mulledy continued, “The main reasons we are reconstructing the facility are to make it easier to maintain and to eliminate any potential water rights issues with the permanent pool of water. We are also redesigning the facility to accept future flows from the Powers Blvd. extension.”

Stormwater fees generate $16 million to $17 million a year, which will grow by several million dollars through the rate hike set by a Feb. 23 City Council vote that takes effect next month.

Residential rates will rise to $7 this year, $7.50 next year and $8 in 2023, a cumulative increase of 60 percent. Non-residential rates will increase to $40.50 per acre this year, $43 in 2022 and $45 in 2023, an overall hike of 50 percent.

Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to bump to 500 cfs June 25, 2021 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Map credit: USBR

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 500 cfs on Friday, June 25th, starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.