#Snowpack news (February 18, 2022)

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map February 17, 2022 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 18, 2022 via the NRCS.

Do you want to keep up with the evolving energy news in #Colorado? — Subscribe to @BigPivots

A turbine whirls on a farm east of Burlington, Colo. Colorado’s eastern plains already have many wind farms—but it may look like a pin cushion during the next several years. Photo/Allen Best

From email from Big Pivots (Allen Best):

Big Pivots 52 has been posted, and you can download the e-journal by going here.

This issue is rich with content about our giant energy pivot underway in Colorado and beyond, the one made necessary—despite the cold and snow today—of the climate crisis.

In this issue are 15 stories, from Lamar to Craig, some short and some long, about transmission lines loping across eastern Colorado’s wind-swept prairies, La Plata Energy’s “monumental” pivot in southwestern Colorado; batteries and buildings in Aspen, and other topics. Some are already posted at http://BigPivots.com; others will be soon.

Also in this issue is a story about Comanche 3, which is down—again. Will this coal plant, still a relative youngster, remain standing to 2034, even with reduced operations? It sure looks like a stranded asset.

How will coal-dependent towns and cities transition to life beyond? The proponent of a nuclear study made the case to a Colorado legislative committee this week that modular nuclear reactors can help Colorado achieve 100% emissions-free electricity while easing those coal communities to a life beyond. Be assured, all the answers in this energy pivot have not arrived, as that state senator observed.

Now a question before state regulators is how best to avoid stranded assets as we nudge emissions from fossil fuels burned for heating and other purposes in buildings. The 2021 laws requiring this are relatively clear, but the precise pathway far from certain. PUC commissioners, led by Megan Gilman, have been asking good questions as they conferred with representatives of utilities, unions, and others engaged in creating solutions.

Sparking the most interest is the proposal to end the subsidies for extension of natural gas lines. Right now, if you live in a new subdivision, you’re not paying the full cost of the extension of the natural gas line. It’s being financed by existing customers. The cost is socialized. This is a hot issue—and will get hotter. The optics on this are really, really interesting. Boulder argues against socialism and Grand Junction argues for it (along with Aurora, by the way). Some of this will be hashed out in a special day-long session of the PUC on March 7.

Meanwhile, we have a $24-$25 million natural gas line proposed to the Sloans Lake area west of downtown Denver that, under normal depreciation schedules, will not be paid off until after 2050—when Colorado’s economy is supposed to be substantially decarbonized.

Comanche 3 was approved 18 years ago, and we’re 28 years away from that decarbonization target.

Do trust Big Pivots to keep following this and other conversations.

Also, I ask you respectfully to encourage others to join the “subscription list by signing up here. Want off this mailing list for Big Pivots? Let me know.

Allen Best
Big Pivots


With Spike in Concern Over #Drought, #Wildfire and #ClimateChange, Westerners Are Eager for Action to Protect Public Lands, New Poll Finds — #Colorado College @RockiesProject

Click the link to read the release from The State of the Rockies Project (Katrina “Kat” Miller-Stevens and Jacob Hay):

Twelfth annual Conservation in the West Poll reveals strong support for policies to protect more outdoor spaces

Colorado College’s 12th annual State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released today showed a spike in concern over issues like drought, inadequate water supplies, wildfires, the loss of wildlife habitats and natural spaces, and climate change among voters in the Mountain West. Those concerns align with continued strong support for pro-conservation policies.

The poll, which surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming), found 69 percent of voters are concerned about the future of nature, meaning land, water, air, and wildlife. That level of concern was a notable jump from 61 percent in last year’s poll. Against that backdrop, 86 percent of Western voters now say issues involving clean water, clean air, wildlife and public lands are important in their decision of whether to support an elected official, up from 80 percent in 2020 and 75 percent in 2016.

“We are seeing a perfect storm of threats that are driving higher levels of concern than ever before for the state of our lands and water in the Mountain West,” said Katrina Miller-Stevens, Director of the State of the Rockies Project and an associate professor at Colorado College. “Not surprisingly, most voters are aligning behind policies that would help mitigate threats by conserving and protecting more outdoor spaces.”

After the climb out of Coyote Gulch at Jacob Hambiln Arch (2000).

Consistent with prior year results, voters in the Mountain West feel deeply connected to the outdoor landscapes that surround them. 88 percent of voters surveyed report at least one visit to national public lands like national parks, national forests, national monuments, and national wildlife refuges in the past year. Similarly, 93 percent report participating regularly in outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, camping, picnicking, bird and wildlife watching, biking, water sports, snow sports, hunting, and fishing. 74 percent say the presence of public lands in their state helps the local economy.

At the same time, 48 percent of voters report making changes to where or when they recreate outdoors because of crowding and 26 percent adjusted plans because of changes in climate like fires, less snow, or less water. 53 percent of voters view the loss of natural areas as a very or extremely serious problem, up from 44 percent in 2020 and 36 percent in 2011.

Ranking and time evolution of summer (June–August) drought severity as indicated by negative 0–200 cm soil moisture anomalies. Maps show how gridded summer drought severity in each year from 2000–2021 ranked among all years 1901–2021, where low (brown) means low soil moisture and therefore high drought severity. Yellow boxes bound the southwestern North America (SWNA) study region. Time series shows standardized anomalies (σ) of the SWNA regionally averaged soil moisture record relative to a 1950–1999 baseline. Black time series shows annual values and the red time series shows the 22-year running mean, with values displayed on the final year of each 22-year window. Geographic boundaries in maps were accessed through Matlab 2020a.

Climate change seen as a threat with voters expressing concern over impacts

Most voters in the Mountain West, 62 percent, believe climate change is happening and requires action. Among them, 44 percent agree climate change is established as a serious problem and immediate action is necessary. Another 18 percent say there is enough evidence of climate change that some action should be taken. 52 percent of voters view climate change as a very serious or extremely serious problem, up from 46 percent in 2020 and 27 percent in 2011.

Voters express heightened concern about impacts commonly associated with climate change.

Smog blankets Salt Lake City. Photo credit Wikimedia Commons.
  • 79 percent are concerned about worse air quality due to ozone and smoke.
  • West Drought Monitor map February 15, 2022.
  • 86 percent are concerned about droughts and reduced snowpack.
  • Glenwood Canyon and the Colorado River. Photo credit: CDOT via Roads & Bridges
  • 61 percent are concerned about extreme weather events like intense storms or floods.
  • Daytime high temperatures across the western United States on June 23-28, 2021, according to data from NOAA’s Real-Time Mesoscale Analysis/URMA. Climate.gov animation based on NOAA URMA data.
  • 69 percent are concerned about extreme heat.
  • The East Troublesome Fire burns in Grand County in October 2020. Credit: Northern Water
  • 82 percent are concerned about more frequent and severe wildfires.
  • Marshall Fire December 30, 2021. Photo credit: Boulder County
  • 62 percent say uncontrollable wildfires that threaten homes and property are a very or extremely serious problem, up from 47 percent in 2020 and 32 percent in 2016.
  • USFS highest risk firesheds January 2022.
  • 70 percent say wildfires are more of a problem than ten years ago.
  • Continued super-majority support for conservation and access efforts

    Westerners’ heightened concerns about climate change and its impacts are matched with strong consensus behind proposals to conserve and protect the country’s outdoors.

    Photo credit: The Nature Conservancy
  • 77 percent support setting a national goal of conserving thirty percent of land and inland waters in America, and thirty percent of its ocean areas by the year 2030.
  • Sandhill Cranes West of Dunes by NPS/Patrick Myers
  • 80 percent support creating new national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges and tribal protected areas to protect historic sites or areas for outdoor recreation.
  • The water replenishing the delta takes a circuitous path. A maze of irrigation infrastructure and long-neglected side channels delivers water to the 160-acre El Chaussé habitat restoration site, located 45 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border in Baja California, and to downstream river segments. Photo: Claudio Contreras Koob
  • 91 percent support addressing the backlog of infrastructure repairs, reducing risk of wildfires, and natural resource protection on national public lands such as national parks by providing jobs and training to unemployed people.
  • Arapahoe County Open Spaces opened a new trailhead on South Quebec Way in southeast Denver. The site includes parking, a bathroom, a trash can and a trail map. Adding new trailheads is major goal of the High Line Canal Conservancy to improve access and facilities for the public. Photo credit: Denver Water.
  • 81 percent support providing funding to ensure more communities, especially those that have historically lacked access, have safe and nearby parks and natural areas.
  • The Dolores River, below Slickrock, and above Bedrock. The Dolores River Canyon is included in a proposed National Conservation Area. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism.

    Locally, a variety of proposed conservation efforts are popular with in-state voters. In Arizona, 61 percent of voters support legislation to make permanent the current ban on new uranium and other mining on public lands surrounding the Grand Canyon. 89 percent of Coloradans agree with protecting existing public lands surrounding the Dolores River Canyon to conserve important wildlife habitat, safeguard the area’s scenic beauty, and support outdoor recreation. 79 percent of Montanans support enacting the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act to ensure hunting and fishing access, protect stream flows into the Blackfoot River and add eighty thousand acres of new protected public lands for recreation areas, along with timber harvest and habitat restoration. In New Mexico, 73 percent of voters want to designate existing public lands in the Caja del Rio plateau as a national conservation area to increase protections for grasslands and canyons along the Santa Fe river and other smaller rivers flowing into the Rio Grande. 79 percent of Nevadans want to designate existing public lands in southern Nevada as the Spirit Mountain National Monument to ensure outdoor recreation and help preserve sacred Native sites. In Utah, 60 percent of voters call President Biden’s restored protections for over a million acres of the Bears Ears National Monument “more of a good thing.”

    Spike in water issues viewed as very and extremely serious problems

    The level of concern among Westerners around water issues spiked in this year’s poll. Water issues viewed as very serious or extremely serious problems by voters include drought (73 percent, up from 52 percent in 2016) low levels of water in rivers (73 percent, up from 55 percent in 2020), inadequate water supplies (71 percent, up from 45 percent in 2020), and pollution in rivers, lakes and streams (56 percent, up from 42 percent in 2011).

    Those concerns translate into strong support for water conservation efforts aimed at addressing water shortage situations in the future by voters in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. 81 percent prefer using water supplies more wisely by encouraging more water conservation, reducing use, and increasing water recycling. By contrast, 14 percent would rather divert more water from rivers in less populated areas of the state to communities where more people live.

    Asked about remote locations, 87 percent of voters across the survey support increasing federal funding to extend running water and sanitation services to rural areas and tribal communities that currently lack access.

    Voters seeking a cleaner and safer energy future on public lands

    With oil and gas drilling taking place on half of America’s public lands, Western voters are familiar with the harmful impacts and want to ensure their public lands are protected and safe. 43 percent of voters view the impacts of oil and gas drilling on land, air and water as an extremely or very serious problem.

    Turning to solutions, 91 percent of voters support requiring oil and gas companies to use updated equipment and technology to prevent leaks of methane gas and other pollution into the air. 91 percent of voters support requiring oil and gas companies, rather than federal and state governments, to pay for all of the clean-up and land restoration costs after drilling is finished. On compensating the public for extraction, 65 percent of voters support increasing the fees that oil and gas companies pay to have the opportunity to drill on national public lands.

    Voters in the Mountain West prefer clean sources of energy. 66 percent of voters support gradually transitioning to one hundred percent of our energy being produced from clean, renewable sources like solar and wind over the next ten to fifteen years. Asked which sources of energy they want encouraged in their state, solar power and wind power top the list at 61 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

    Given a choice of public lands uses facing lawmakers, 67 percent of voters prefer ensuring we protect sources of clean water, air quality and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands. By contrast, 28 percent of voters would rather ensure we produce more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available for responsible oil and gas drilling and mining.

    Nearly three-fourths of Western voters want to significantly curb oil and gas development on public lands. 55 percent think that oil and gas development should be strictly limited on public lands and another 15 percent say it should be stopped completely. That is compared to 28 percent of voters in the West who would like to expand oil and gas development on public lands. That is compared to 28 percent of voters in the West who would like to expand oil and gas development on public lands.

    Black, Latino and Native American voters support conservation at higher levels

    For the second consecutive year the poll examined the intersection of race with views on conservation priorities. Results were separated by responses from Black, Latino, and Native American voters, along with combined communities of color findings. The poll included an oversample of Black and Native American voters in the region in order to speak more confidently about the view of those communities.

    The poll found notably higher percentages of Black voters, Latino voters, and Native American voters to be concerned about climate change, pollution of rivers, lakes, and streams, and the impact of oil and gas drilling on our land, air, and water. The poll also found higher levels of support within communities of color for bold conservation policies like protecting 30 percent of the country’s lands and waters by 2030, establishing more national public lands and transitioning to one hundred percent renewable energy. Large majorities of Black voters, Latino voters, and Native American voters also believe in climate change and want to see action on it at even higher levels than the overall survey sample.

    This is the twelfth consecutive year Colorado College gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. The 2022 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll is a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The survey is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

    The poll surveyed at least 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, & WY) for a total 3,400-voter sample, which included an over-sample of Black and Native American voters. The survey was conducted between January 5-23, 2022 and the effective margin of error is +2.4% at the 95% confidence interval for the total sample; and at most +4.8% for each state. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.

    Here’s how much snow fell on Fort Collins and the surrounding in the latest storm — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

    Click the link to read the article on the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt). Here’s an excerpt:

    Fort Collins generally received 4 to 5 inches of snow, with one reporting station 5.4 miles west-southwest of the city’s main reporting station on the Colorado State University campus reporting 6.5 inches, according to the weather service and Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network stations…

    Colorado snowfall totals

    Golden: (1.6 miles southwest): 10.4 inches
    Boulder (3 miles northwest): 7.6 inches
    Boulder (1.5 miles north-northwest): 6.8 inches
    Fort Collins (5.4 miles west-southwest): 6.5 inches
    Estes Park: 6.5. inches
    Horsetooth Mountain (2 miles south-southeast): 5.5 inches
    DIA: 5 inches
    Fort Collins (2.1 miles southwest): 4.9 inches
    Poudre Park: 4.8 inches
    Fort Collins (2.8 miles west): 4.7 inches
    Denver (2.1 miles east-southeast): 4.5 inches
    Vail (2.6 miles east): 4.5 inches
    Fort Collins (2.5 miles northwest): 4.3 inches
    Fort Collins (0.7 miles south-southwest): 4.1 inches
    Laporte (1.4 miles northwest): 4 inches
    Loveland: (2.4 miles west): 4 inches
    Timnath (2.1 miles east): 3.7 inches
    Loveland: (4.8 miles southeast): 3.5 inches
    Longmont: 3.5 inches
    Greeley: (1 mile south): 2.6 inches
    Severance: 2.6 inches
    Fort Collins (4.6 miles north): 2.5 inches
    Wellington: 2 inches