Pagosa Springs sixth grade student renewable energy day

San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (David Smith)

Meeting this demand with fossil fuels will be increasing dif cult as reserves become depleted. More important, we know that massive burning of fossil fuels damages our environment. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, provide an inexpensive and clean alternative to burning fossil fuels.

To prepare the next generation for this change, Kristin Hentschel, Pagosa Springs Middle School sixth-grade science teacher, orga- nized a Renewable Energy Day.

This project was funded by a $1,000 grant from the Foundation for Archuleta County Education (FACE).
The 120 sixth-grade students were divided into eight groups which visited eight renewable energy projects. Parents and com- munity scientists manned each of the eight stations.

At the end of the day, the stu- dents wrote about their experiences…

“I liked all the stations. This was perfect.” — Daniel B.

Gov. Hickenlooper town hall recap

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

“Colorado basically has the number one economy in America,” the governor remarked, stressing that the demands for agricultural products will remain one of our economic mainstays as it did to help the country out of the Great Depression decades ago. Hickenlooper acknowledged the disparity of growth between the Front Range and rural areas of the state, explaining that he wants to see more technological growth in rural areas including more access to broadband capabilities in the smallest towns in the state.

The governor addressed changing technologies as well, “Automation has begun to eliminate a lot of jobs in the U.S.,” he explained, adding that this change can foster tremendous wealth in some companies which flows upwards to the top 1% earnings bracket. “I’d like to see a way to recoup some of that wealth. I believe the top 1% has an obligation to help create and develop new industries; not as a hand-out, but as a way of sustaining job growth for new sectors of the economy.” The governor also mentioned employing the new Jumpstart program which can provide tax incentives to new businesses after they have been in operation for several years…

John Stulp gave a brief description of future water demands in Colorado, given the state’s growing population. “We’re going to see as many people move to the state over the next 30 years as there will be born from current residents,” he explained, saying that will double the current 5,000,000 residents by the year 2050. Stulp said this will call for more efficient uses of energy and conversation measures as well as planning ahead for additional water storage throughout Colorado.

Regarding the development of more solar and wind power in Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper said it is remarkable that for the first time in almost 50 years, the country will be in a position to be a net exporter of energy by 2018. He said we are facing a challenge with the construction of transmission lines in the region. “The city doesn’t build them, the county doesn’t either. It has to go through the Public Utilities Commission and that is a long and involved process and they are held responsible for making the most cost-effective decisions for their customers.” The governor said he believed the state will see increased construction and use of wind and solar power in the years to come.

The meeting was attended by numerous elected officials as well as representatives of local government and civic organizations. When asked if the topics covered in the public meeting were any different from an earlier private meeting the governor held with some of those officials, the Prowers County Commissioners said some other topics included the on-going issues with conservation easements and the impact CDPHE rulings would have on small communities with regard to maintenance of their landfills.

Public information meeting for Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site, April 20, 2017

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Liz Forster):

Cañon City community members will meet again with Cotter Corp. on Thursday to hear about the former uranium mining company’s pilot groundwater cleanup project.

Cotter hopes the project will reduce uranium and molybdenum contaminates to safe levels, but so far, community members have had mixed feelings about the effectiveness of the program.

Doni Angell, a member of the Lincoln Park Community Advisory Group that hosts the meetings and frequently comments on Cotter projects, said the proposed project, known as the Organic Bioreactor Work Plan, will only create a more concentrated toxic environment…

The project proposes an organic method using wet hardwood mulch to remove contaminates from the groundwater, rather than synthetic chemicals that most uranium mills use. The mulch, Cotter believes, would remove oxygen from water flow areas, causing the uranium to separate from the water. Because the water is migrating down slope through the mulch, Cotter anticipates successful contamination reduction using the natural aquifer as opposed to a mechanically propelled system.

“This is the simpler solution based on our tests, and sometimes the simple solution is the better solution,” Cotter project manager Steve Cohen said, adding that capital costs for this type of project are much lower than synthetic chemical-based ones.

Community Advisory Group member Carol Dunn said she does not know enough about the details of the project to make an assessment.

She said her hope going into Thursday relies on the relationship the community has developed with Cotter – a unique aspect of the Cotter/Lincoln Park site in relation to other Superfund sites where the responsible party is usually no longer present…

The project is in the informal public comment period, which was extended by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment from April 21 to May 7 last week after a request from the Community Advisory Group. The EPA and CDPHE – which oversees activities at the site because of its designation as a Superfund site in 1984 – are reviewing the details of the project and will provide comments following the May 7 comment deadline.

At that time, the agencies will also evaluate comments received from other agencies and the public, include the Community Advisory Group…

The original groundwater contamination in the Lincoln Park community was caused by the discharging of the uranium tailings into unlined tailing ponds. The ponds were closed in the early 1980s when the EPA listed the area as a Superfund site, and the waste was excavated and put into new lined ponds. The new ponds cut off most of the groundwater contamination, and, since then, the EPA has since declared the contaminated ground water status as “under control.”

The EPA is currently administering its 5-year review of the site to ensure that the site decision remedies are continuing to protect human health and the surrounding environment. The Community Advisory Group also has contributed to that project, providing the EPA with people to interview in the community about the impacts, or lack thereof, of the remaining contamination.

(The Community Advisory Group meeting will take place on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Abbots Room at the Abbey Events Complex, 2951 East U.S. Highway 50. The meeting is open to the public.)

Ursa Resources Battlement Mesa injection well gets GarCo commissioners approval for zoning change

Parachute/Battlement Mesa area via the Town of Parachute.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A split Garfield County Commission on Monday approved a zoning change needed for Ursa Resources to continue pursuing a controversial wastewater injection well proposal in the residential community of Battlement Mesa.

But while Commissioner Mike Samson was part of the 2-1 vote approving the change, he said he has a lot of questions when it comes to injection wells and will be seeking a better understanding of the proposal from Ursa when it comes back to ask the county for a special-use permit for the well. It will need to get that permit under the new zoning…

Ursa currently has county and state approvals for two well pads in Battlement Mesa, and has said that if it gets the injection well pad approval, that could help eliminate the need for another pad by the community’s golf course and cut its overall planned number of pads in Battlement Mesa from five to four.

But some activists and Battlement Mesa residents fear that groundwater and surface water contamination, induced earthquakes and other impacts could result from an injection well, jeopardizing nearby residents…

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky voted against the zoning change. He said he’s been a fairly strong supporter of oil and gas development in the county, and the county’s decision to let Ursa drill in Battlement Mesa reflected the fact that mineral rights are a property right…

He said while he’s relatively comfortable with injection wells, Ursa’s proposed well is something that residents have sought relief from, and that’s a request he feels he can honor.

Commissioner John Martin said he doesn’t like injection wells because he thinks water brought up from underground during oil and gas production should be able to be filtered and put to agricultural and other surface uses, but the industry is only allowed to recycle it for oil and gas uses. If leftover water is not disposed of in injection wells it is sent to evaporation ponds, a form of disposal that raises health concerns, he noted.

Both he and Samson reiterated that the commissioners’ vote Monday doesn’t authorize Ursa’s operation of an injection well, but just lets the company proceed with seeking the permit to do so.

But their vote frustrated some residents, including Betsy Leonard, who said afterward that Martin and particularly Samson showed “no backbone” on the issue…

Resident Carol Fallon said she thinks the injection well is just designed to save Ursa money by avoiding truck hauling costs…

Matt Honeycutt, Ursa’s operating superintendent, said he’s happy Ursa will get the chance to move forward and show why it believes its plan is a good one. He said he expects the company will apply for the special-use permit within the next month or so.

He also responded to an argument from some residents that Ursa should be recycling the produced water in its operations rather than disposing of it. He said it does use its produced water from wells in its hydraulic fracturing operations, but has to have a place to dispose of the water that wells continue to produce after the fracking is done.

Ursa’s injection well also would require approval by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. It also has yet to receive county or state approval for the pad where the well would be located.

Carbondale micro hydro project cruising to approval — @AspenJournalism

Micro-hydroelectric plant

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent:

On March 9 the town of Carbondale notified the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission it plans to install a micro hydropower turbine in a pipe leading to its municipal water treatment plant on Nettle Creek.

On March 13 FERC found that Carbondale’s project qualified for a quick review under the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, which streamlined the permitting process for hydro projects of less than 5 megawatts.

And by April 27, if no one claims the project doesn’t qualify, the town can expect to get a letter from FERC saying the town does not need a license and can go ahead, at least as far is FERC is concerned.

At 28 kilowatts, Carbondale’s project is much smaller than the 5-megawatt limit in the efficiency act, it’s a new license using a nonfederal pipeline, and it complies with the Federal Power Act.

So far, FERC’s fine with it, and it’s received no objections from the public.

The project involves installing a “turbine/generating unit” in an existing 10-inch municipal pipeline, or “raw water intake line.”

The pipe is 1,800 feet long and transports about 1 cubic foot per second of water downhill from Nettle Creek to the city’s treatment plant. The plant is eight miles up the Crystal River valley on the lower slope of Mount Sopris.

The turbine would be built inside a vault installed in the pipeline, near the treatment plant. A short bypass system would allow water to be moved around the turbine for repairs and maintenance.

“It’s taking advantage of the water that is already going down that pipeline,” said Mark O’Meara, Carbondale’s utilities director. “We’re not going to increase it. We’re not going to be doing any additional diversion.”

O’Meara also said that since it’s a nonconsumptive use of water already running down a pipeline, the town did not have to change its existing municipal water rights to specifically add hydro as a use.

The turbine’s “installed capacity” of 28 kilowatts and its “estimated annual generating capacity” of 190,000 kilowatt-hours is about enough electricity to offset the amount of power used to run the water plant, O’Meara said.

According to Craig Cano, a media relations officer at FERC, the 28 kilowatt figure refers to how much power the turbine could produce at any moment.

“That’s real small,” Cano said, pointing out it’s 0.028 of a megawatt, while a typical baseload-generating power plant’s capacity is in the hundreds of megawatts.

The 190,000 kilowatt-hour figure refers to the total amount of energy produced over a year.

The resulting electricity would either be sent through the existing Holy Cross Energy system that today powers the plant, or perhaps be used directly in the plant, O’Meara said. The town would get credit from Holy Cross for hydropower sent out over the grid.

The project has been in the works since the 1990s, but it still has a long way to go.

On the list is an in-depth feasibility study considering design, engineering and cost. A 2012 estimate from engineering firm SGM put the cost at $180,000. O’Meara did not have an updated cost.

And since the water plant and pipeline are on U.S. Forest Service land, the agency also has jurisdiction over the project.

But O’Meara said after going to a recent workshop put on by the Colorado Energy Office, it seemed like the right time for the town to enter the streamlined FERC process and see how it goes.

It took only four days after receiving Carbondale’s “notice of intent” for FERC to issue its “notice of preliminary determination” that the project qualified for speedy review.

That notice, along with town’s initial notice, are on town’s website, on its utilities page.

Also on March 13, FERC opened two windows for parties to contest the qualifications of the project.

The first was a 30-day window to file a motion to intervene. By April 12, no one had.

The second was a 45-day window for less formal but still “contesting” comments to be made.

That window closes April 27, and as of April 13, FERC had received no comments.

“If no party contests staff’s initial determination that the project meets the criteria for a qualifying conduit hydropower facility within the 45-day public notice period,” FERC’s Cano said, “the facility is deemed to meet the criteria and FERC staff shortly thereafter will issue a letter notifying the filer that is project has met the criteria.”

If someone does file a comment contesting the project’s qualifications, FERC is supposed to then “promptly issue a written determination as to whether the facility meets the criteria,” Cano said.

Carbondale’s O’Meara said that as far as he knows, no one over the years has raised concerns about the project directly to the town.

Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Post Independent, The Aspen Times, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News on coverage of water in the upper Colorado River basin. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

Southwestern utilities back down from rooftop solar fight — @HighCountryNews @ClimateReality #ActOnClimate

Denver, June 8, 2015. Photo credit Climate Reality Project.

From The High Country News (Elizabeth Shogren):

Not long ago, major electric utilities in much of the Southwest seemed bent on chasing rooftop solar companies out of the region. They saw the booming industry as a threat to their profits and sought rate changes that would make solar panels less financially attractive to homeowners. The electric companies advocated slashing the compensation those customers get for sending their excess power to the grid and adding new fees to their electric bills.

Because the electric companies are monopolies, state regulators have to approve such changes. In late 2015, the Public Utility Commission of Nevada set new rates that were so unfavorable to solar customers that they nearly snuffed out the residential solar business in the state. The number of households applying to connect solar panels to the grid dropped from a peak of nearly 3,000 in August 2015 to just 14 in July the next year. The biggest solar installation companies left the state, laying off thousands of workers.

But that’s not the end of the story. The public was outraged, and its objections resulted in a surprising shift: gradual rollback of the commission’s anti-solar decision…

Apparently big electric companies are learning that given the broad popularity of solar in the sunny desert region, they will have to accommodate rooftop solar instead of trying to kill it. This reflects the growing political might of the solar industry as it’s seen as a key job creator in much of the Southwest.

Please consider coming by the Community Building at Thornton’s Community Park on May 16th. I’ll be speaking about the climate crisis as part of the Climate Reality Project. Children are welcome. We’ve already baked in a lot of uncertainty about the future for them. The presentation revolves around three questions: Should we act; Can we act; and, Will we act? I’ll bring you up to date on the engineering effort around renewable energy.

Details:

  • What: Climate Change is Water Change: Colorado Update
  • Where: Thornton Community Park Community Building (Near the swimming pool), 2211 Eppinger Blvd, Thornton, CO 80229
  • When: Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
  • About the Climate Reality Project:

    With glaciers melting, seas rising, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record coming this century, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. But with solar, wind, and other clean energy solutions becoming more affordable and accessible every year, neither has the way forward. And with 195 countries signing the historic Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gases the world is finally united in working to seize the promise of renewables and create a safe, sustainable, and prosperous future powered by clean energy.

    What’s in the way? Powerful fossil fuel companies and their government allies spreading fear and misinformation.

    Led by Vice President Gore and CEO Ken Berlin, we’re here to change that. We connect cutting-edge digital media, global organizing events, and peer-to-peer outreach to share the truth about climate change and the solutions in our hands today with people everywhere. And with our more than 10,000 Climate Reality Leader activists building support for pro-climate policies at every level, and millions joining us to accelerate the global transition to clean energy, we have the chance to stop climate change and together create a future we can be proud of. We’re not about to waste it.