@SenBennetCO calls out administration for anti-climate @POTUS executive order #ActOnClimate

I’ll be speaking about the climate crisis this evening in Denver. Click here for the inside skinny. I hope to see you there, please bring your children.

Here’s the release from Senator Bennet’s office:

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today released the following statement in response to President Trump’s Executive Order that attempts to reverse multiple major U.S. initiatives to combat climate change.

“This anti-climate Executive Order is a direct assault on the health of our children and clean energy economy,” Bennet said. “President Trump’s decision to rewrite the Clean Power Plan could jeopardize thousands of new jobs and billions to our economy, and produce a confusing patchwork of state laws for American businesses. It also could prevent the EPA from regulating clean air and water, sacrificing a rigorous scientific process in the name of ideology. Instead of leading the fight against climate change and transition to clean energy, this Administration has abandoned it.”

“Despite this disturbing action, Colorado will continue to lead the nation by growing its clean energy economy and meeting its target under the Clean Power Plan,” Bennet continued. “I’ll continue to work across the aisle to combat climate change for our businesses, our children’s health, and the future of our planet.”

Bennet, along with nine other U.S. Senators from six Western states, sent a letter to President Trump urging him to rescind the Executive Order.

The Executive Order calls for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reevaluate the Clean Power Plan, which set the first-ever national standards to reduce carbon pollution from power plants 32 percent by 2030. The Clean Power Plan would have provided $54 billion in climate and health benefits each year, prevented thousands of premature deaths and asthma attacks in children, reduced electricity bills for homes and businesses, and created thousands of good-paying jobs.

The Executive Order also calls for the Office of Management and Budget to review the Social Cost of Carbon, which has been used since the Bush Administration to ensure that our regulations reflect the full cost of climate change.

And the Nature Conservancy weighs in:

The Nature Conservancy strongly supports actions to address climate change and that affirm the basic safeguards that protect our air, land and water from pollution. The executive order signed today on climate solutions and environmental protections takes us in the wrong direction.

Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek said, “The Nature Conservancy strongly supports continued US leadership in fulfilling the promises of the Paris Agreement, and believes that federal action, including a price on carbon, are essential to addressing the threats a changing climate poses to our economy, our communities, and natural systems.

“We also support the efforts of the many state governments that are encouraging the already strong demand for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. Because of these efforts, many states are making significant progress towards reducing carbon pollution, but even greater efforts are needed and would benefit from national leadership. For example, federal fuel economy standards are essential in driving the development of technologies that lower fuel use, reduce automobile emissions, and save consumers money at the gas pump. The economic gains we stand to make if we stay committed to a low-carbon future are too significant to ignore.”

“The very real losses to our economy and our community from ignoring climate impacts are considerable, but we’re also missing a substantial opportunity. These solutions bring with them more jobs, more innovation, more choices for consumers, cleaner air and water, and better health. These are benefits the American people want for themselves and for their families.”

Governor Hickenlooper had this to say:

Today’s Executive Order by the President pulling back on policies addressing climate change will not deter Colorado’s efforts. Natural gas has become more economical than coal, and Colorado is a national leader on wind and solar energy, which are a boon to our economy, jobs and the environment.

Our efforts to clean our air and protect the natural environment are part of what draws young people, families, and businesses to Colorado. Our outdoor recreation industry, which helps create jobs all across the state, is dependent upon cleaner air and water. We have a history of solving complex problems and taking action to move the state closer to meeting its clean air goals, and we have shown that we can have cleaner air and reduce harmful carbon emissions at essentially no additional cost‒ potentially even saving money for Colorado families.

We will keep building a clean energy future that creates Colorado jobs, improves our health and addresses the harmful consequences of a changing climate. [ed. emphasis mine]

#Snowpack/#Drought news: Is there snow on the horizon for Fort Collins?

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 26, 2017 via the NRCS.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Weekend rains dropped up to half an inch of rain on parts of a parched Choice City, and more rain is on the forecast for this week. But with one week left of what’s historically our snowiest month of the year, forecasters are divided on whether we’ll see any measurable snow at all.

The Coloradoan’s official Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network rain gauge at 1300 Riverside Avenue recorded 0.16 of an inch of rain Sunday…

Meanwhile, our lack of snow is becoming downright strange.

Fort Collins receives an average of 12.6 inches of snow in March, according to 1981-2010 normals from the Colorado Climate Center. This March, we’ve received only a trace of snow. Fort Collins hasn’t seen measurable snow in about a month, since a late-February storm left us with about 3.4 inches and 0.1 inches fell on the last day of February.

We’re also way behind on precipitation this month, with 0.19 inches compared to a normal amount of 1.31 inches by March 26. Rains this week should inch us a bit closer to the monthly normal of 1.59 inches, but barring any big downpours, we’ll probably still fall short for March.

The lack of moisture matters because Fort Collins has been in a drought since August. Our drought classification was recently elevated to “severe,” the third of five levels of drought intensity. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center predicts we’ll remain in drought during the next three months.

If drought persists, residents can expect damage to crops and pastures, developing or imminent water shortages and a request for voluntary water-use restrictions. Snowpack in the South Platte River Basin mountains, which make up much of our regional water supply, has been steadily slipping during the last few weeks and now sits at 103 percent of the average for this time of year.

A snowless March is highly unusual but not unprecedented in Fort Collins. It’s happened about six times in recorded history, most recently in 2011 and 2012, when historic drought covered the state and Fort Collins received a trace of snow in March. The last March before that with no measurable snow was March 1966.

West Drought Monitor March 21, 2017.

2017 #coleg: SB17-036 — Appellate Process Concerning Groundwater Decisions clears State House

Colorado Capitol building

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

House Bill 1151, introduced by Reps. Yeulin Willett, R-Grand Junction, and Chris Hansen, D-Denver, removes electric bicycles from the motor vehicle definition as long as they don’t go too fast.

Under the bill, the bicycles are considered electrical only when the rider is pedaling and its motor ceases when the bike reaches speeds of 20 to 28 mph depending on which of three classes the bicycles fall under.

The measure cleared the House 52-13 in late February. When the Senate took up the bill earlier this month, it made one change, which Hansen and Willett made fun of when the House gave its final approval on Monday…

The measure bars anyone under the age of 16 from riding a class 3 electric bike except as a passenger, and then they must wear a helmet…

The House gave final approval to a bill Monday that would prevent parties that appeal to district court water rights decisions made by the Colorado Ground Water Commission from introducing new evidence in the court.

The measure, SB36, tries to address an issue that its sponsors — Sens. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, and Don Coram, R-Montrose — said was an unfair one. Currently, parties that appeal such water decisions by the commission could present new evidence not heard by the commission.

The two lawmakers said that was unfair to ranchers and farmers who couldn’t afford to retry whole cases.

Scott and Coram tried to get the bill through last year’s Legislature, but failed because of heavy lobbying, much of which came from former Gov. Bill Owens, who at the time was working with a land and water development company.

#Snowpack is holding on, rain and snow on the way

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 26, 2017 via the NRCS.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado’s mountain snowpack water supply registered healthy Sunday, but exceptionally high temperatures in metro Denver over several months — 9 degrees above normal so far in March — rendered the past winter relatively wimpy.

While December and January temperatures dipped a bit below normal, February and March in metro Denver meant enduring temperatures at least 7 degrees higher than the average, according to National Weather Service data. And metro Denver temperatures during the pre-winter month of November also measured above normal.

Even at higher-elevation icy areas, such as Leadville, late winter temperatures this year in Colorado turned mild. Leadville’s average temperature was 5 degrees warmer than normal in February, 4.7 degrees in March through last Wednesday and 4 degrees in November.

For Denver, weather service meteorologists on Sunday said storms this week could pull down the plus-9 degree March average of 48.7 degrees through Saturday, well above the March norm of 39.7 degrees. However, precipitation doesn’t guarantee lower temperatures, meteorologist Natalie Sullivan said. Denver residents were told they would face temperatures in the 50s and 60s through the week…

For Colorado food producers and urban residents, this is the key time of year for assessing mountain snowpack. The snow serves as slow-release water storage, closely watched by irrigators and municipal supply managers, because melting snow determines the amount of water that will end up in streams, rivers, reservoirs and irrigation canals. Water in mountain snowpack normally peaks in April.

@CWCB_DNR: March 2017 #Drought Update

Click here to read the update (Taryn Finnessey/Tracy Kosloff). Here’s an excerpt:

February of this year was the second warmest February on record, and the warmest since 1954. Well above average temperatures have continued into March. Precipitation in February was average but has slowed considerably with only 29 percent of average month –to-date in March. However, the forecast for the next two weeks indicates that the state will likely see cooler temperatures and more significant moisture. Demand has already increased for municipal water providers, indicative of an increase in outdoor watering typically not seen for another month. Agricultural producers are also expressing concern and are hopeful that forecasted storms will materialize and help to alleviate worsening drought conditions. Fires have already been an issue in the foothills and on the eastern plains.

  • Statewide water year- to- date snowpack as of March 20th is at 116 percent of normal, down from 133% of normal on March 1st. The Upper Rio Grande currently has the lowest snowpack in the state at 105 percent of normal while the basins of the Southwest and Gunnison have the highest snowpack at 130 percent of normal.
  • Above average temperatures have resulted in snowpack beginning to melt off at some mountain locations. All basins have seen a decline in snowpack with respect to normal since March 1st due to combined dry and warm weather. This is typically the snowiest month of the year in the Colorado mountains. Normal peak accumulation typically occurs around April 9th,so the possibility remains to return to snowier weather and accumulate more snowpack potentially providing a higher peak snowpack this year.
  • Following an average February, all basins are well below average for precipitation thus far in March, with accumulation ranging from a low of 19 percent in the Gunnison to a high of 55 percent in the Yampa & White. Statewide March-to-date precipitation is only 29 percent of average.
  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 107% of normal. The Yampa & White River basins along with the Southwestern basins have the highest storage levels in the state at 127 and 114% of average, respectively. The Upper Rio Grande has the lowest storage levels at 91% percent. Reservoirs are already beginning to see inflow from the early snowmelt.
  • Reservoir storage and above average streamflow forecasts have resulted in the Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) indicating slightly wet to moderately wet across most of the state, with the eastern plains showing less available water than the west slope.
  • Streamflow forecasts, while still above average, have been trending downward over the last month and without additional snow accumulation are expected to continue decreasing.
  • Neutral ENSO conditions are present, and are favored to continue through spring, with the possible development of an El Nino this summer. The April-June forecast looks dry for the season, with the promise of an enhanced monsoon season based on current analogues. Should an El Niño develop this summer, precipitation during the latter half of the growing season becomes more favorable.
  • Short term forecasts show an increased probability of precipitation across most of the state over the next two weeks with widespread 1-4 inches of moisture expected over the mountains and northeastern plains.
  • Colorado Drought Monitor March 21, 2017.

    Boulder County adopts new oil and gas regulations

    From KUNC (Jackie Fortier):

    The county calls them the “most restrictive” of such regulations in Colorado. They are about 60 pages and require a much higher environmental and public health standard than the state. Boulder County began the new rule process following two state Supreme Court decisions in 2016 that invalidated hydraulic fracking bans or long term moratoriums.

    “In light of those decisions, the board terminated our moratorium that was in effect until 2018, and established a new moratorium until May 1, 2017, for the purpose of allowing us [Boulder County planning department] to update the regulations that we had adopted in 2012 and prepare for their implementation,” said Kim Sanchez, chief planner for the county.

    Now that the commissioners have adopted these regulations, here are three key takeaways:

    These regulations are ‘the most restrictive’ in Colorado

    Boulder County wants to push the envelope. For example, an oil or gas company that wants to drill in unincorporated Boulder County would have to give notice to surrounding landowners and residents, have multiple public meetings, and do soil and water testing, which could be a very long and probably more expensive process than anywhere else in Colorado. State officials told Boulder County it is overstepping their local authority, a position that Commissioner Elise Jones said they would defend.

    “Our focus is on adopting regulations that we think are the strongest possible, for our citizens and the environment, and our understanding of the law as we see it,” she said. “If the state disagrees well, so be it, we’ll deal with that. If the state wants to pre-empt local governments, on oil and gas then they need to do their job and protect us from the impacts of oil and gas, and they are not doing that. And until they do that, local jurisdictions like Boulder County will continue to push to do that work themselves.”

    What can the state regulate and what can local governments like Boulder County regulate?

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulates location and construction of drill sites and associated equipment, for example what machinery is used. Local governments like Boulder County have substantial regulatory authority through their land use code, such as building permits for structures, traffic impact fees, and inspecting for compliance with local codes and standards related to water quality and wildlife impacts. Boulder County’s new regulations are the most stringent in terms of land use.

    You could get paid to live by oil and gas drilling

    One of Boulder County’s regulations could require a company to pay residents “disruption payments.” Not every company would have to do this; it’s an option for the county to require. Within a mile radius of the drill site, companies would need to pay residents enough money to move and pay rent somewhere else during some operations. The closer you are to the drill site, the more money you would get. The amount would be calculated based on federal data for the area. Every month residents would get a check. It would be up to them if they would want to move temporarily or just keep the money.

    Commissioner Jones said they thought disruption payments were necessary to include.

    “Industry has never been required to say ‘Yes, I’m impacting those people’s lives and I’m going to pay to help move them to a place so their quality of life isn’t diminished by my noise and my dust and my vibrations and my emissions,’ Jones said. “We think that it’s an important first step in industry taking ownership of the significant impacts that drilling has, particularly when you’re drilling near homes and schools and the like.”

    Alamosa: Councillors review augmentation, loan, project plans

    Alamosa railroad depot circa 1912

    From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

    Like all other larger well owners in the San Luis Valley , the City of Alamosa has to comply with groundwater regulations filed by the Colorado Division of Water Resources State Engineer and pending court approval.

    Those regulations require well owners to make up for the injuries they are causing senior surface water rights. The regulations also require measures to help replenish the basin’s aquifer levels.

    The City of Alamosa staff and council have been working on means to comply with the new rules including acquisition of water to offset the city’s well pumping.

    The city is setting up financing to cover those costs, which the city has capped at $4.3 million. The city will basically use a portion of its ranch property as collateral to finance the city’s water compliance efforts…

    Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks explained that the city allowed flexibility in authorizing up to $4.3 million to include the East Alamosa Water & Sanitation District, if it wished to participate in the city’s plan.

    If East Alamosa opts to develop its own augmentation plan, or other costs for the city’s water plan are not as high as expected, the city will have leeway in the $4.3 million for other projects, Brooks added. The city would also have the option of paying the money back earlier, she said. The city staff and council identified some projects they felt were appropriate to use this money for, if it was not all needed for the water augmentation plan.

    These include: water and sewer mains; sanitary lift stations; and levee rehabilitation to meet FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and CWCB (Colorado Water Conservation Board) requirements.

    Including these projects in the financing ordinance does not mean they will be completed, but it gives the city more options with the financing , Brooks explained.

    “It allows flexibility,” she said. She said the identified projects need addressed. For example, some of the pumps on sanitary lift stations are 30 years old “essentially at the end of their life” and if they were to be replaced, it would increase efficiency, use less electricity and require less staff time.

    Likewise, there are sewer and water lines that need to be replaced. Last year lines even collapsed in a couple of areas, Brooks said.

    The city also has to recertify the levee and cannot use enterprise funds for that, Brooks said. Councilors agreed it was a good idea to have some flexibility.

    “It leaves the door open ” in case we need it,” said Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley . “It doesn’t cost anything extra than what we are already doing.”

    […]

    The council unanimously approved on first reading the ordinance amendment and scheduled the second reading and public hearing during the city’s 7 p.m. meeting on April 5.