Utah national monuments face dramatic reductions — @HighCountryNews

The road to Bears Ears via the Salt Lake Tribune.

Here’s a report about the proposed reductions at Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments from Rebecca Worby writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Trump’s executive orders scale back Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 50 percent and slice away roughly 85 percent of Bears Ears. Grand Staircase-Escalante, a monument designated over two decades ago but still locally contentious, will consist of three separate units totaling just over a million acres. Bears Ears will be reduced to two areas totaling just 228,700 acres. The monument was designated by President Barack Obama late last year and holds great cultural and historical significance to the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Ute Indian and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.

These controversial monuments became focal points in the Interior Department’s review of 27 national monuments designated since 1996. The president spent less than three hours in Salt Lake before returning to Washington D.C. “I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to (Utah’s) citizens,” he said.

The announcement came amid criticism that Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did not take into account the concerns of supporters of the monuments, including tribes, conservationists, business owners in gateway communities and other concerned citizens locally and nationwide. “Secretary Zinke and Utah politicians say that they have talked to tribes about the president’s decision, but none of our Council leaders, executives, or our Commissioners were contacted,” Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Tribe Cultural Preservation Office and a member of the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes, said in a statement. An outspoken faction of Utahns, including state lawmakers and county commissioners, strongly opposes the monuments, and those voices ultimately drove the president’s decision.

Thousands of monument supporters protested the reductions in front of the Capitol, both during Trump’s remarks and at a larger planned protest two days earlier. Utahns who support the reductions assembled to celebrate on Saturday in Monticello, county seat of San Juan County, where Bears Ears is located.

Inside the Capitol, Utahns — including many conservative state and local leaders — filled the marbled rotunda, where murals depicting the state’s history reach the high ceiling. The audience, dotted with cowboy hats and red “Make America Great Again” caps, greeted Trump’s announcement with loud cheers. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who recently introduced a bill to overhaul the Antiquities Act, said this was “just the beginning.”

Pagosa Springs: Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership scores dough for two geothermal greenhouses

Graphic via Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership.

From the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership via the The Pagosa Daily Post (Sally High):

The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) will begin construction of two more growing dome greenhouses — the Community Garden Dome and the Innovation Dome — in spring 2018. These two domes will be installed next to the existing Education Dome in Pagosa Springs’ Centennial Park on a parcel leased from the Town of Pagosa Springs.

The Colorado Water Plan (CWP) Engagement and Innovation Fund granted Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership $174,500 for the construction of the nonprofit organization’s second and third growing domes. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved the CWP grant earlier in November. These funds, coupled with a $34,000 matching grant from Colorado Garden Foundation awarded last February, allow the GGP to fulfill its agreement to build three geothermal greenhouses.

Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership is a volunteer-driven 501c3 educational organization, building a Pagosa-scale botanic park within Centennial Park on the San Juan River Walk. Its mission is “to educate the community in sustainable agricultural practices by producing food year-round using local renewable energy.” Demonstrating the value of Pagosa’s geothermal resource remains an organizational priority.

The October 2017 Smart Growth America Report listed the GGP as an important amenity for the community. Both the Archuleta County Community Economic Development Action Plan and Downtown Colorado Inc. identified the GGP as a priority for downtown economic revitalization. With the Education Dome completed in 2016, the GGP began fulfilling its mission in 2017.

In GGP’s first year of operations, the Education Dome and Amphitheater became busy gathering places. GGP hosted its 5th Colorado Environmental Film Festival Caravan in downtown Pagosa. Five Lifelong Learning Workshops explored various environmental issues and celebrated the biodiversity of the San Juan River Walk. Two well-attended special events included the first San Juan Sounds live concert and the 2nd Colorfest Breakfast with Balloons. Pagosa’s youth began horticultural activities and GGP’s volunteers nurtured an abundant garden for the community.

2018 promises more classes, educational workshops and special events in Centennial Park. Children from 4-H, public and charter school classrooms, and home schools are already learning each week in the Education Dome. The 6th Environmental Film Festival is planned for mid-April. Lifelong Learning Workshops will include in-depth education about the wise use of Colorado’s water. Live music and performance are planned for the GGP Amphitheater, as well as the 3rd Colorfest Breakfast with Balloons.

The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership operates through a professional Board of Directors, numerous volunteers, five strategic committees and an enthusiastic membership base. GGP committees include (1) Soil, Seeds and Water; (2) Site; (3) Fundraising and Special Events; (4) Landscaping; and (5) Programming. An informational question and answer session for the community is planned for January 2018.

Learn more at the GGP website at pagosagreen.org.

Sally High is the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership Board President.

Update on new hydro generating facility at Pueblo Dam

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From HydroWorld.com (Elizabeth Ingram):

Construction of the 7.5-MW Pueblo small hydro project is well under way, with operations expected to begin in the spring of 2018, according to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The plant is the first hydroelectric feature added to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project since the completion of the 233-MW Mount Elbert pump-back hydroelectric plant at Twin Lakes in 1981.

This new facility, on the Arkansas River, will be able to generate electricity at flows ranging from 35 cubic feet per second to 810 cfs. The powerhouse will contain three turbine-generator units and will use the authorized release from the dam to the Arkansas River to generate an average of 28 million kWh of electricity annually, which will equate to about $1.5 million in average revenue per year. Electricity generated will be purchase by the city of Fountain and by Colorado Springs Utilities. After 10 years, Fountain will purchase all of the power generated for the following 20 years.

The total capital cost of the project is estimated to be $19.5 million, which includes a $17.2 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The planning and permitting process for this hydro facility began in 2011. Because this facility is located at Pueblo Dam, owned by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and will connect to a pipeline also owned by Reclamation, the project required a Lease of Power Privilege. The preliminary LOPP was granted in February 2012, and the final LOPP was granted in April 2017.

The final design of the facility was completed in June 2016, and the construction contract was awarded to Mountain States Hydro in August 2017.

The district says construction complete and commissioning will occur in August 2018.

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Superfund site cleanup update

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via The Denver Post

From The Canoñ City Daily Record (Sara Knuth):

The Denver-based Colorado Legacy Land, which has been in negotiations with Cotter since July, received a conditional approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Nov. 8 to take over the defunct uranium mill’s radioactive materials license.

But the company still has a few more obstacles to cross before the deal is final.

During a Community Advisory Group meeting Thursday, Paul Newman of Colorado Legacy Land said the company is waiting for approvals from the state.

Colorado Legacy Land, which is part of environmental cleanup companies Legacy Land Stewardship and Alexco, also is seeking to take over Cotter’s

Schwartzwalder Mine via Division of Reclamation and MIning
Mine near Golden. The project, included in the same transaction as the Cañon City site, still needs a mine permit transfer from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

“The DRMS is taking a bit more time in their evaluation and approval of that transfer,” Newman said. “Hopefully, we can get that resolved and that one transferred here shortly.”

The company also met with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and Environmental Protection Agency attorneys to get assigned an administrative order on consent. That process also is still pending.

But if all goes according to plan, Newman said, Colorado Legacy Land hopes to close the deal by the middle of December. From there, the company would “come in where Cotter left off,” Newman said. “So, we have the whole clean-up process in front of us.”

The first major step toward cleanup, he said, would be working through a remedial investigation, a deep look into how far the contamination goes.

Cotter, which opened the Cañon City site in 1958 to process uranium for weapons and fuel, was found in the 1980s to have contaminated nearby wells. It was placed on the U.S. list of Superfund sites, putting Cotter in charge of cleanup efforts. In 2011, Cotter decided to put a halt to uranium production altogether.

Newman, the executive vice president of Legacy Land Stewardship, said Cotter approached Alexco — a company that has been working on the Schwartzwalder Mine for four years — to step in. Colorado Legacy Land was formed by Alexco and Legacy Land Stewardship specifically to take over the cleanup process.

If the state approves the final requirements, the company will own the land. Additionally, Newman said, Colorado Legacy Land is planning to open offices in Cañon City.

As part of requirements outlined in the CDPHE’s conditional license approval, Colorado Legacy Land will need to inform the department of the closing date in writing.

@AmericanRivers: Don’t let energy companies weaken clean water protections at hydropower dams

The generator building of Glen Canyon hydro power plant in Arizona via Wikimedia.

From American Rivers:

The hydropower industry is pushing a flurry of legislation that would create massive environmental exemptions for hydropower dam operations, taking us back to a time when dam owners could destroy rivers without concern.

If passed, the voices of local communities and people like you would be silenced when it comes to dam operations. We could see more dead fish, more dried up rivers, and degraded water quality on rivers and streams nationwide.

Under the guise of “modernizing” hydropower, these bills actually take hydropower dam operations back decades. They create giant loopholes for hydropower dam operators, so they can avoid requirements to protect fish, wildlife, or water quality. This is about whether states, tribes and citizens will continue to have a say in how dams are operated. It’s about the future of rivers nationwide.

This legislation could result in many more dried up rivers, dead fish and wildlife, and destroyed recreational opportunities. Tell Congress to oppose this power grab by the energy companies.

Click here to take action.

Broomfield: Question 301 aims to prioritize health and safety for oil and gas operations

Drilling rig and production pad near Erie school via WaterDefense.org

From The Denver Post (John Aguilar):

Voters on Tuesday passed a controversial ballot issue that gives Broomfield more local oversight of oil and gas operations in the city, a move that probably will invite a legal challenge from Colorado’s large energy sector.

According to a late-night vote tally in the mail-in election that accounts for most of the ballots cast in the city, the yes vote for Question 301 was comfortably ahead of the no vote by a margin of 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent…

Jennifer Dulles, a Broomfield resident who supports 301, attended a watch party at Brothers BBQ in Broomfield…

As to the question of whether the industry would sue, Dulles said, “The concept that an industry would need to sue the people over a ballot initiative that is about health and safety is incredulous.”

[…]

Question 301 has been a highly contentious topic in Broomfield and is perhaps one of the most fought-over issues on a Colorado ballot in 2017. The measure attracted nearly $400,000 from groups either pushing it or trying to quash it.

Of that amount, the energy extraction industry put in the lion’s share — nearly $345,000 — in both monetary and in-kind contributions to defeat 301.

“It is in violation of state law as upheld by the state Supreme Court,” said Don Beezley, a “No on 301” committee member. “The result will be Broomfield spending tens of thousands of dollars or more defending lawsuits, most likely from both the state of Colorado and the operators, with apparently 100 percent likelihood of losing said suits.”

[…]

Past efforts by cities — including Fort Collins, Broomfield and Lafayette — to temporarily ban oil and gas drilling have met defeat in court. In May 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that municipally imposed fracking bans are illegal because state power to regulate the industry trumps local efforts to do so.

While 301 doesn’t propose an oil and gas ban, its potential to restrict energy extraction activities doesn’t sit well with the industry. Last month, two industry groups sued Thornton weeks after the city passed oil and gas regulations that the industry claims conflict with state law, characterizing the city’s new setback distances for wells and requirements on abandoned flowlines an overreach…

But the pro-301 side points to a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling from March, known as the Martinez decision, that stipulates the protection of public health and the environment is “a condition that must be fulfilled” by the state before oil and gas drilling can be done.

That’s essentially what the measure asked of Broomfield voters, said Judy Kelly, co-chair of the 301 Committee. The measure is an amendment to Broomfield’s home rule charter requiring protection of health, safety and the environment as preconditions for drilling inside city limits.

“It might be worth taking a step back to ask ourselves, ‘Why in the world would people be sued for simply stating that their city places health and safety as a first priority?’” Kelly asked. “If the industry is safe and can operate safely, this is a non-issue for them.”

Will electric car sales become like the pond with proliferating lily pads? — The Mountain Town News

Coyote Gulch’s Leaf connected in the parking garage in Winter Park, August 21, 2017.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

EVs still small share of market share, but that could change

Remember the riddle about the lily pond that begins with one lily, the number doubling each day? The pond seems empty even when it has become an eighth filled. But you can do the math for the three days beyond.

That riddle comes to mind when Will Toor talks about the adoption rate for electric vehicles in Colorado. Today they constitute just 10,000 or so among the 5 million-plus cars, trucks, and motorcycles. But the growth rate for EVs has averaged 41 percent since 2012, and this year sales are up 73 percent over the same months of last year.

Toor, the transportation program director for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, sees this progression as evidence for a coming tipping point in transportation electrification. Like the lilies, this automotive pond will soon look very different.

“We are clearly headed toward lower-carbon electricity, and we now seem to be getting to the tipping point in electrification of transportation,” says Toor, who has a doctorate in physics. Sales will double within three years at this rate of growth. With certain policy supports, Colorado could have a million EVs by 2030, he adds.

Colorado now has the 6th largest market share of EVs in the country, behind California and other West Coast states, Hawaii, and Vermont. Fort Collins, Boulder, and the Roaring Fork Valley stand out as early adopters, says Toor.

To be sure, there are some who remain skeptical, seeing more measured and incremental growth unlike the quick adoption of smart phones and other new wrinkles in technology. EVs, they say, do not obviously represent a transformative improvement for consumers as compared to gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles.

Graphic credit The Mountain Town News.

State governments, however, want to smooth the way for EVs, creating charging infrastructure to create comfort for potential buyers. Colorado agencies propose to spend $10.3 million of the state’s $68 million share of the Volkswagen settlement for charging stations or fueling stations for zero-emission passenger cars and trucks. The settlement is a result of Volkswagen’s admission that it tampered with its diesel cars to allow more emissions than permitted by the Clean Air Act.

In anticipation of that settlement, Colorado a year ago was moving to join Utah and Nevada in creating charging infrastructure on interstate highways—and, in some places, beyond. Soon, it will be possible to drive from Kansas to the Pacific Ocean with some sort of fast-charging infrastructure guaranteed about every 50 miles. But there are still gaps, such as between Denver and Summit County.

Last year, Colorado also released a tiered program for implementation of electric charging stations and other alternative fuels on secondary highways, such as along U.S. 285 between Denver and Buena Vista and along U.S. 36 between Denver and Estes Park. Other corridors, including U.S. 40 and U.S. 50, are also being targeted for alternative fueling stations.

More policy supports may be on the way as advisors to Gov. John Hickenlooper put together strategies to support the governor’s executive order, issued July 11, “supporting Colorado’s clean energy transition.”

The order directs state agencies to develop a statewide electric vehicle plan by Jan. 1 to build out key charging corridors that “will facilitate economic development and boost tourism across the state while reducing harmful air pollution.”

Denver, Salt Lake City, and other cities have also identified electrification of transportation as crucial to achieving their greenhouse gas reduction goals. Denver is aiming for an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050.

The Salt Lake Valley each winter suffers through temperature inversions that trap pollutants from cars, trucks and buildings. Photo credit The Mountain Town News.

In Salt Lake City, vehicle electrification is seen as a crucial strategy for addressing the pollution that badly fouls the air during winter. Temperature inversions trap local pollution in the valley, leaving many of the one million residents of the metropolitan area wheezing, hacking, and scratching their eyes.

“It’s absolutely miserable,” says Nick Norris, communities and neighborhoods planning director. The pollution is also unhealthy, exacerbating asthma and even causing spikes in heart attacks. Medical authorities have attributed 1,000 to 2,000 premature deaths to the air pollution.

Transportation is the single largest source of the pollution, followed by exhausts from heating buildings, according to analysis by the state government. Electric power plants are located well away from Salt Lake.

This clear and obvious problem of pollution is causing more rapid acceptance of electric vehicles in the Salt Lake Valley, says Norris. It also fits with the goals of the city to reduce carbon emissions from transportation and home heating 80 percent by 2040.

Rocky Mountain Power, the electrical utility for Salt Lake City as well as Park City and Moab, supports this transition with installation of charging stations. And why shouldn’t it? Electric cars represent new demand even as improved energy efficiency has leveled off and even caused declines from other sectors. “It’s a different world out there than it was only a few years ago,” said Cindy Crane, chief executive of Rocky Mountain Power at the Western Power Summit last week.

Utah now leads the nation in percentage growth in EV sales, followed by Nevada, North Carolina, and Colorado. About 1.2 percent of all cars in Colorado are now electric, compared to more than 4 percent of all cars in California.

Tesla several years ago installed fast-charging stations in Lusk, Wyo., located in eastern Wyoming. It is the county seat for one of the nation’s least-populated counties, Niobrara. Photo/Allen Best.

Wyoming, too, doesn’t want to be left behind. It joined with the effort to put electric charging infrastructure along major highways in concert with other Western states, despite the lack of current demand. Wyoming Gov. Brad Mead, at at the Center for the New Energy Economy conference in Fort Collins this week, characterized it as a chicken-and-egg situation. But given the importance of tourism in Wyoming, he said, “we don’t want to be left behind. We don’t want to be the gap state.”

Federal tax credits of $7,500 are available everywhere, but Colorado buyers have an additional incentive of $5,000 in state tax credits of, bringing an electric car so ld by Boulder Nissan, one of the West’s busiest electric-car dealers, down to about $22,500.

Boulder Nissan’s Nigel Zeid says tax credits will not always be needed to foster sales of electric vehicles. “This is like when you have a kid in college,” said Zeid, a member of the Colorado Electric Vehicle Coalition, a state-sponsored group. “Once you’re out (of college), you’re on your own.”

Zeid also sees range concerns diminishing. The Chevy Bolt has 238 miles of range, and Tesla’s Model X has 295 miles of range (but at a cost of $98,500). But many more models are coming with 150 miles of range, satisfactory for nearly all daily commutes. “Now that you have 150 to 200 mile range, range is not really an issue,” he says.

A Federal Highway Administration map shows existing fueling infrastructure for Colorado, Utah, and other states, not just for electricity but also hydrogen and natural gas. However, the map has been outdated in recent weeks by the announcement that Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, and Idaho will be joining in the interstate infrastructure.

A case can be made that hydrogen still represents the fuel of the future. California now has 31 fueling stations and plans more. Colorado, perhaps surprisingly, also has some hydrogen fueling stations, all in the metropolitan area. Hydrogen fuel is energy dense and can be produced from water through a variety of fuels, both renewables and natural gas.

But U.S. car manufacturers are now rushing to produce electric cars. General Motors several weeks ago announced plans to embrace an all-electric, zero-emissions future, leaving behind the internal combustion engine “General Motors believes the future is all-electric,” says Mark Reuss, the company’s head of product. Wired Magazine reports that GM plans almost two-dozen fully electric models by 2023.

Other car manufacturers have also announced plans to offer new EV models. China and India are embracing electrified transportation as they develop their economies and try to tame emissions that have fouled skies and scarred lungs. China, Britain, and France all plan to ban sales of vehicles powered by fossil fuels but have not set dates.

Some see the transition to electric vehicles happening more slowly.

“I am not sure they (EVs) will come quite as fast as some people say,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at the Western Power Summit on Oct. 24. But one indication that it will occur sooner, he went on to say, is the announcement by GM of its robust commitment to EV models.

Some bumps in the road of this transition. “Certainly, there will be some issues around lithium and cobalt, two constituents of batteries. There could be some supply challenges,” says Toor, a former mayor of Boulder. “But I don’t think they will derail electrification.”

Discounts yields 42 EVs and hybrids in group buy

From April through June, a group buy for electric vehicles was organized in the Pitkin, Garfield, and Eagle county areas (Aspen, Glenwood Springs, and Vail).

Dealers in Boulder and Loveland, plus two in Glenwood Springs, were enlisted to offer discounts on top of the $12,500 state and federal tax credits. The best deal was offered by Boulder Nissan, which offered an $8,000 discount on Leafs. Other dealers offered somewhat lesser discounts for all electric and hybrid models.

The goal of 50 EV sales in the three-county area fell short: 42 were sold. However, the goal for 25 percent expansion of charging stations by the end of this year will almost certainly be exceeded. A recent report predicted an 85 percent increase.

The program was sponsored by Clean Energy Economy for the Region. It was based on similar group buys in the Fort Collins and Boulder areas in 2015 and 2016.

Notable was the support of Holy Cross Energy, the co-operative that serves most of the three counties. Holy Cross offered rebates of $200 to EV purchasers.

Can e-bikes help decongest the highway to Yellowstone?

JACKSON, Wyo. – Now come e-bikes and the question whether they can ease the congestion of cars found in ski towns like Jackson.

The specific question at hand is whether the e-bikes should be allowed on the local trails normally frequented by pedestrians and bicycle riders. Or should they instead be restricted to streets? Jackson town officials will soon be talking with their counterparts in Teton County, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

An important distinction, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Act, is 20 mph. That’s the maximum assisted speed when powered solely by the motor of a low-speed electric bike. However, there are some ways to use a larger motor, allowing an e-bike to go more than 30 mph without pedaling.

Brian Schilling, coordinator for Teton County Pathways, told Jackson town officials recently that e-bikes have been called a game-changer. He sees great potential for their application in Jackson during warm months.

“It changes the way people get around town, especially during the busy summer months when they don’t want to be sitting in traffic on Broadway,” he said, referring to the street that is the main street in Jackson and the primary route for many thousands of travelers going to and from Yellowstone National Park.

Crested Butte may slowly ease into paid parking

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Crested Butte is planning to take a year to gather public feedback before moving ahead with paid parking in the town’s interior.

The town has gone along with a committee’s recommendation and has allocated $45,000 for the year-long study and a community outreach effort.

“The committee feels parking in town is ‘free and easy’ and we can’t build our way out of the problem,” said Bob Nevins, town planner for Crested Butte, according to a story reported by the Crested Butte News. “I want to get people out of their cars,” said Jackson Petito, a council member.

The plan calls for paid parking along Elk Avenue, the town’s main street, and other adjoining areas. Residents will get permits. The start-up costs if the town decides to go forward will be $220,000, or about the same price as paving a parking lot.

About Allen Best
Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.