Delta-Montrose and Tri-State reach exit agreement — The Mountain Town News #ActOnClimate

Craig Station in northwest Colorado is a coal-fired power plant operated by Tri-State Generation & Transmission. Photo credit: Allen Best

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Deal sealed for electrical co-op’s exit from Tri-State but the fee unknown

Tri-State Generation and Transmission and one of its 43 member co-operatives, Delta-Montrose Electric Association, have come to terms. Delta-Montrose will be leaving the “family,” as Tri-State members are sometimes called, on about May 1, 2022.

What it cost Delta-Montrose to exit its all-requirements contract with Tri-State, however, will remain a secret until then. The figure was redacted in the settlement agreement filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission last Friday. The figure can become public after the split occurs next year, according to Virginia Harman, the chief operating officer for Delta-Montrose.

See filing with the PUC: PUC filing attachment 7.19.19

Delta-Montrose will then be supplied by Guzman Energy, although the power purchase agreement has yet to be completed, Harman said.

Guzman also supplies energy to Kit Carson Electrical Cooperative, which is based in Taos, N.M., as well as the small town of Aztec, N.M.

In May, Guzman also revealed it was offering to buy several of Tri-State’s coal plants, close them down, and replace the lost generation from other sources. See: A small Colorado company sees opportunity in revolutionizing Colorado’s energy supply.

The split reflects a fundamental disagreement over the future of electrical generation and the pace of change that has festered for about 15 years. Those different visions became apparent in about 2005 as Tri-State managers sought to build a major new coal plant near Holcomb, Kan., in partnership with Sunflower Electric.

The utilities were shocked when Kansas denied a permit for the plant, based on the time at the still-novel grounds of its carbon dioxide pollution. When Tri-State finally got its permit for the coal plant in 2017, it had spent nearly $100 million with nothing to show.

See: Twilight of an energy era as supplier of rural co-ops turns back on coal plant

Meanwhile, the electrical world had turned upside down. Wind had become the cheap energy, not coal, and it was being integrated into power supplies effectively. Even solar was in cost competitive in places.

Along among the then 44 member cooperatives, only Kit Carson and Delta-Montrose had refused the 10-year contact extensions to 2050 that Tri-State had wanted to satisfy money markets for long-term loans. Their contracts remained at 2040. The contracts of other member co-ops—including those serving Durango, Telluride, Crested Butte and Winter Park—go until 2050.

Kit Carson was the first to get out. In 2016, assisted by Guzman, it paid the $37 million exit fee required by Tri-State and set out, also with the assistance of Guzman, to develop solar farms in dispersed parts of its service territory in northern New Mexico. It aims to have 100% solar capability by the end of 2022.

See: Is Kit Carson’s renewable goal also the answer to rural America’s woes?

In November 2016, Delta-Montrose informed Tri-State it wanted to buy out its contract, too. It asked for exit figure. The negotiations did not yield an acceptable number to both, and in December Delta-Montrose asked the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to arbitrate. The PUC agreed over protests by Tri-State that the PUC had no authority. A week was set aside in June, later delayed to begin Aug. 12, for the case.

No figures have ever been publicly revealed by either Tri-State or Delta-Montrose, although a court document filed early in July reported that Tri-State’s price had been reduced 40%.

Meanwhile, Tri-State got approval from its members to seek regulation for rate making by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That could possibly have moved the jurisdiction over the Delta-Montrose exit to Washington. It would not affect review by Colorado, New Mexico or other states in which Tri-State operators of resource planning.

Delta-Montrose and Guzman have not completed plans for how the co-operative may develop its local energy resources. The co-op had reached Tri-State’s 5% allowance for local generation by harnessing of fast-moving water in an irrigation conveyance called the South Canal.

For Tri-State’s new chief executive, Duane Highley, the task at hand may be how to discourage more exits by other member co-op. Tri-State has argued that it moved slowly but has now is in a position to realize much lower prices for renewable energy generation. It is moving forward on both wind and solar projects in eastern Colorado.

Delta-Montrose, with 33,000 members, is among the larger co-ops in Tri-State. But even larger one, who together represent nearly half the electrical load supplied by Tri-STate have all dissatisfaction with Tri-State’s slow movement away from coal-fired generation.

In Southwestern Colorado, Durango-based La Plata Electric recently asked for an exit figure, too.

Along the Front Range of Colorado, United Power, by far the largest-coop, with 91,000 members and booming demand from oil and gas operators north of Denver, has wanted more renewable energy and greater ability to develop its own resources. Poudre Valley has adopted a 100% clean energy goal.

Delta-Montrose, with 33,000 members, is easily among the 10 largest co-ops.

The settlement agreement filed with the PUC says DMEA “shall not assist any other Tri-State member in pursuing withdrawal from Tri-State. The agreement also says that DMEA and Tri-State agree to not disparage each other.

More than 30% of Tri-State’s generation comes from renewables, mostly from hydropower. This total is little different from that of Xcel Energy. But Xcel in 2017 announced plans to close two of its aging coal plants, leaving it at 55 percent renewable generation in Colorado.

Tri-State, too, is closing coal plants. A coal plant at Nucla, in southwestern Colorado, west of Telluride, will close early next year, several years earlier than previously scheduled. However, it’s small by coal plant standards, with a nameplate capacity of 114 megawatts, and operates only part time.

A larger reduction is scheduled to occur by 2025 when one of three coal units at Craig, in northwestern Colorado, will be retired. But a Tri-State official, speaking at a beneficial electrification conference in Denver during June, suggested that a second coal plant could also be retired early. That second coal unit is co-owned with other utilities in Colorado and other states, all of whom have indicated plans to hasten their retreats from coal.

Tri-State last week also announced a partnership with former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s Center for the New Energy Economy to facilitate a stakeholder process intended to help define what Tri-State calls a Responsible Energy Plan. See: Tri-State Announces Responsible Energy Plan 20190717

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

A long-standing legal dispute in the Colorado energy industry came to an end Monday when Delta-Montrose Electric Association announced it would withdraw from its membership in Tri-State Generation & Transmission, effective May 1, 2020.

The early withdrawal is part of a definitive settlement agreement between the two energy companies.

Delta-Montrose Electric Association, a rural utility provider on the Western Slope, said it underwent the effort to secure cheaper rates for customers and purchase more renewable energy.

With coal in free-fall, Wyoming faces an uncertain future — @HighCountryNews #KeepItInTheGround #ActOnClimate

From the High Country News (Carl Segerstrom):

As demand shrinks and the industry retracts, counties and the state are in an untenable situation.

Over the last few months, Wyoming’s struggling coal industry has gone from bad to worse. In May, the third-largest mining company, Cloud Peak, filed for bankruptcy, leaving the pensions and future of hundreds of employees in jeopardy. Less than two months later, Blackjewel, Wyoming’s fourth-largest coal company, abruptly declared bankruptcy, idling mines and putting hundreds out of work.

As the hits against coal pile up, so do questions about the future of Wyoming’s coal mines and the economy they support. With even the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback’s offering no relief, the largest coal-producing state in the country is being forced to grapple with the decline of the industry that has long undergirded its economy.

Spring Creek Coal Mine. Photo credit: Cloud Peak Energy

Wyoming’s politicians have gone to considerable lengths to prop up the coal industry. Now, the state is walking an increasingly threadbare tightrope as it manages coal’s future. Lean too far towards promoting mining, with lax tax collection standards and cleanup requirements, and state and local governments may get stuck with cleaning up the mess the failed businesses leave behind. Tilt towards proactive tax collection and strong reclamation requirements, and risk becoming another factor pushing the coal economy into oblivion.

The depth of the current downturn was unforeseen even a couple years ago, said University of Wyoming economist Rob Godby. The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sought carbon emission reductions from the power sector, was expected to deal the industry a blow, and it was discarded by the Trump administration, anyway. Instead, it was cheap natural gas and to a lesser extent renewable energy sources — and the resulting shrink in demand for coal — that ended up knocking coal companies to their knees, said Godby.

The diminishing value of coal draws ominous parallels to the subprime mortgage bubble that precipitated the Great Recession of 2008. But the coal free-fall is likely to be even worse than the housing market crash, because houses always retained some value, while coal mines could end up worthless if investors see costs that outstrip potential income, said energy analyst Clark Williams-Derry of the Sightline Institute, a sustainability think tank.

With mines likely to close, Wyoming is entering a new and untested paradigm for coal — reclamation without production. Typically, mines clean up their mess as they go; if they don’t, then the state can shut down operations until they do. But once a company goes broke and the mine shuts down, the only funds for cleanup are reclamation bonds, which critics say are inadequate in Wyoming.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council has been pushing Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality to look harder at the balance sheet of companies before it allows them to buy mines. This effort has kept cleanup obligations from being transferred to Blackjewel and then possibly going unfunded during the company’s bankruptcy. Williams-Derry called that a “heroically smart move,” because now the cleanup costs are staying with the mines’ former owner instead of potentially ending up with the state.

In pushing for strong cleanup requirements, resource council Executive Director Joyce Evans said that requiring mines to do proper reclamation would create more jobs for out-of-work miners. Still, she said she doesn’t expect miners to embrace the prospect, even if the reclamation jobs pay just as well as mining, because of Wyoming’s history of “social dependency on coal and energy.”

Meanwhile, coal’s collapse is delivering a one-two punch of unemployment and unpaid taxes to Campbell County, where more than one-third of all coal in the U.S. is mined from the Powder River Basin. The Blackjewel bankruptcy put nearly 600 miners out of work, and the county may never get $37 million in taxes owed by the company, which was run by Appalachian coal executive Jeff Hoops. This is partly because of the county’s lenient approach to collecting back taxes. “We’ve been dealing with delinquent taxes and Mr. Hoops for several months in an amicable way to try and resolve (the unpaid taxes) without pushing them into what has happened now and keep our miners working,” said County Commissioner Del Shelstad in a July 3 meeting in Gillette.

Now, creditors are in line before the county to collect in bankruptcy court. For Gillette’s state Sen. Michael Von Flatern, an ex-coal miner, the delayed county tax payments and ongoing dependence on minerals “is starting not to make sense.” He described the current bankruptcies as the canary in the coal mine for the industry’s long-term decline. “We need to truly diversify our economy,” Von Flatern said. “We have a minerals, minerals, minerals economy.” But over next couple decades, it’s possible that there won’t be a market for Wyoming coal anymore, he said. “If Wyoming can’t do what we need to do to diversify our economy and change our tax structure, then we’ll be in the same place next time we go bust.”

Carl Segerstrom is an assistant editor at High Country News, covering Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies from Spokane, Washington. Email him at carls@hcn.org.

Analysts hit plan to dump oilfield pollutants into #WindRiver — WyoFile #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Boysen Reservoir in 2009. By Charles Willgren from Fort Collins, Colorado, United States – Boysen ReservoirUploaded by PDTillman, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7063709

From WyoFile (Angus M. Thuermer Jr.):

In the first publicly released independent review of a 637-page modeling report and 113-page application for a “produced water” discharge permit, consultants hired by four conservation groups let loose on the science in Aethon studies describing methods and results as “misleading,” “very odd,” “questionable and unrealistic,” “surprising,” and “unwarranted and wrong,” among other things.

Aetheon and Burlington Resources seek permission from the BLM to expand the Moneta Divide oil and gas field by 4,250 wells and need a DEQ permit to discharge up to 2,161 tons a month of total dissolved solids at a rate of 8.27 million gallons a day. The effluent from oil and gas wells would flow through Alkali and Badwater creeks, into Boysen Reservoir in Boysen State Park and into the federally protected Class I flows of the Wind River — the source of Thermopolis’ drinking water.

“The draft permit violates the Clean Water Act, the Wyoming Environmental Quality Act, and the Department [of Environmental Quality’s] rules and regulations implementing those laws,” the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Powder River Basin Resource Council, National Audubon Society and Natural Resource Defense Council wrote the DEQ. “The discharge of produced water from this facility has damaged and continues to damage surface waters of the state and threatens downstream communities with undisclosed health risks,” reads the groups’ cover letter, signed by representatives in Lander, Sheridan, Washington, D.C. and Livermore, Colorado.

They urged the state regulatory agency to encourage the Texas-based energy company “to consider other, less environmental damaging alternatives to the discharge.” In the meantime, “the permit should be denied,” the letter reads.

Yet in the arid West, new water can be valuable, if it is properly treated. “Water resources in the West are a topic of great importance and these issues are currently being studie[d] by a multitude of governmental agencies and research institutes,” wrote Peter Jones, a consulting geochemist from Houston, Texas. He reviewed the Aethon proposal and made the seven-page review available to WyoFile.

“As planned, the Moneta Divide development will be on the forefront of technology and may well be a model for how produced water may be converted into a valuable resource,” he wrote.

Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com

Boulder County Commissioners enact emergency moratorium on new oil and gas development applications and seismic testing #ActOnClimate

Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

Here’s the release from Boulder County:

Unless modified at a future public hearing, the moratorium shall remain in effect until March 27, 2020. A public hearing to accept public testimony and take formal action on the temporary moratorium is scheduled for Tuesday, July 16 at 4 p.m.

At a public meeting today (watch 7-min video), the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved Resolution 2019-59 enacting an Emergency Temporary Moratorium on the accepting and processing of new oil and gas development applications and seismic testing in unincorporated Boulder County. Unless modified at a future public hearing, the moratorium will remain in effect until March 27, 2020.

The county commissioners approved the temporary moratorium in order to give staff time to pursue changes to the county’s existing oil and gas regulations in light of SB19-181 and to address public health and safety issues related to oil and gas development operations as authorized by the BOCC on June 4 so that any new applications to drill could be reviewed under the most protective, updated regulations.

  • It’s our duty and responsibility as county commissioners to do everything we can to fully safeguard the environment and people of Boulder County. To that end, it’s critical that we impose an emergency moratorium today to ensure that our regulations are as strong as they can be under the new law and that any industry proposals to drill or frack here are reviewed under these updated protections. – Board of County Commissioners Chair Elise Jones
  • SB 181 gives us an opportunity to regulate oil and gas activity in Boulder County in the way that we feel protects the public’s health and safety and safeguards the welfare of the environment for the people who live here. It also allows us to respond to the consistent and vocal concerns of residents who want us to put these essential protections in place. – Board of County Commissioners Vice-Chair Deb Gardner
  • It’s critical that we protect Boulder County residents to the full extent of the law. This moratorium will give us the needed time to create the strongest rules we can after the change in state law that prioritizes protection over profit. – Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones.
  • July 16 Public Hearing
    The commissioners will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, July 16 at 4 p.m. to accept public testimony and to make any changes to the temporary moratorium that may be necessary. At the public hearing, staff will provide more information about the time needed to complete the requested research into public health and safety protections allowable under SB19-181 and to develop the proposed regulations.

    Based on that information and public testimony, the BOCC will then determine whether to extend, terminate, or further amend the temporary moratorium.

  • What: Board of County Commissioners’ Public Hearing to take testimony on the merits of the temporary moratorium on oil and gas development applications and seismic testing in unincorporated Boulder County and to determine whether the moratorium should be extended, terminated, or further amended.
  • When: Tuesday, July 16 at 4 p.m.
  • Where: Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St., Third Floor, Boulder
  • Webstream: Open Meeting Portal
  • Public Testimony
    Online Sign-up for Speaking Times at the Public Hearing: On Tuesday, July 2 at 10 a.m., the online sign-up forms for Individual Speakers and Pooled-Time Speakers will become available at http://www.boco.org/OilGas. All sign-ups will be placed in order based on the time they are received. Those wishing to sign up for pooled time will need to include the names and addresses for anyone donating time to the pool.

    In-Person Speaker Sign-ups: Members of the public will be able to speak at the hearing whether or not they have signed up online in advance of the hearing. In-person speaker sign-ups will be taken beginning one-hour in advance of the hearing start time and will include individual speakers and pooled-time speakers. Anyone who signs up in-person at the time of the hearing will be placed in the queue following the online signups. The county commissioners will continue to take public testimony until all speakers have had an opportunity to comment.

    Written comments may be submitted to oilgascomment@bouldercounty.org or mailed to the Boulder County Commissioners’ Office, P.O. Box 471, Boulder, CO 80306. Comments must be received by 8 a.m. on Monday, July 15 in order to be considered by the Board of County Commissioners prior to the July 16 public hearing.

    Background

    On April 11, 2017, the Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution enacting the strongest set of regulations on oil and gas development in the State of Colorado. Since that date, no applications have been filed with the Boulder County Land Use Department to seek a permit for oil and gas development. Recently, however, an oil and gas operator indicated an interest in applying for a drilling permit with Boulder County.

    On June 4, 2019, the commissioners authorized Boulder County staff to work on Docket DC-19-0002 Amendments to Article 12 of the Land Use Code which addresses oil and gas development in unincorporated Boulder County. The June 4 meeting was held to consider an update to the county’s oil and gas regulations following the passage of SB19-181 which prioritizes the local protection of public safety, health, welfare, and the environment in the regulation of the oil and gas industry and grants additional authority to local governments to regulate oil and gas development.

    Staff intends to work on changes to the current set of oil and gas regulations as time and resources allow. It is anticipated that the Article 12 revisions will require significant staff time from multiple departments.

    #Climate Activists Collecting Signatures for #Denver Carbon Tax Initiative — Westword #ActOnClimate

    From Westword (Chase Woodruff):

    Like much of the rest of the world, Denver is currently not on track to achieve the dramatic greenhouse-gas emissions cuts that climate scientists say are necessary over the next decade and beyond. A group of environmental activists wants voters to help change that by passing a new tax to better fund the city’s efforts to fight climate change.

    “We’re in a climate emergency,” says Ean Thomas Tafoya, spokesman for Resilient Denver, the group behind the initiative. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change continually tells us that we’re missing our goals. We know that we have good staff that are working [on climate change] in the city, but you have to put your money where your mouth is with the budget.”

    If it makes the ballot and gets approved by voters, the Resilient Denver initiative would make Denver the first major city in the country to levy a carbon tax — sort of. The measure is technically an excise tax on electricity and natural gas consumption rather than a direct tax on emissions, and it’s much smaller in scale than many of the world’s most ambitious carbon-pricing schemes.

    Denver skyline. Photo/Allen Best – See more at: http://mountaintownnews.net/2015/10/05/water-runs-through-colorados-climate-action-plan/#sthash.i7Y7Ea33.dpuf

    2019 #COleg: Colorado lawmakers approve a bevy of energy bills — The Denver Post #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Coyote Gulch’s Leaf charging at campsite near Steamboat Springs August 21, 2017.

    From The Denver Post (Judith Kohler):

    “If I had to sum it up in a word, I think I’d say ‘transformative.’ It’s a real shift in our policy, and I think it really shows the direction that Colorado is headed,” said Erin Overturf, chief energy counsel for the conservation group Western Resource Advocates. “I think it shows that we’re starting to take climate change seriously and recognize the task that’s truly ahead of us if we’re going to do our part to help solve this problem.”

    The bills include efforts to make houses and appliances — from refrigerators, to light bulbs to air conditioners and furnaces — more energy-efficient…

    Lawmakers extended state tax credits for buying electric vehicles and allowed regulated electric utilities to own and operate vehicle charging stations to try to encourage people to buy and drive zero-emission vehicles.

    One of the things that sets Colorado apart from other states working to boost the use of renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is its efforts to look out for affected workers and communities, said Anna McDevitt, an organizer with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

    The bill reauthorizing the PUC has a provision requiring utilities to include a workforce transition plan when they propose shutting down a power plant. Another section on low-cost bonds to retire power plants for cleaner, cheaper alternatives also provides that a portion of the proceeds helps workers and communities affected by the closures…

    Referring to the PUC bill and its carbon-reduction targets, Xcel Energy said in a statement Friday that the legislation was “heavily negotiated with a broad set of stakeholders” and protects safety reliability and customer costs…

    One bill expands the size of community solar gardens, which are centralized arrays of solar panels that users “subscribe” to. They are intended for people who want to use solar power but whose roofs aren’t suitable, who live in an apartment or can’t afford to install a system.

    Other legislation directs the PUC to study regional transmission organizations that would make it easier for utilities or municipalities to buy wholesale power. Another section requires regulators to take on planning to help facilitate rooftop solar and other distributed-energy installations.

    The PUC also will have to look into so-called “performance-based ratemaking.” That would allow utilities to earn a certain rate of return on things such as increasing energy efficiency or installing a certain amount of rooftop solar rather than just on construction of plants or other infrastructure.

    Lawsuit challenges @POTUS administration approval of #Utah #oilshale development — Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    White River Basin. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69281367

    Ed Quillen used to say that oil shale had been the, “Next big thing for 100 years.”

    Here’s the release from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (Ray Bloxham) via Earth Justice:

    Conservation groups today sued the Trump administration to challenge what would be the nation’s first commercial-scale oil shale mine and processing facility. The lawsuit says officials failed to protect several endangered species when they approved rights-of-way across public lands to provide utilities to the proposed oil shale development.

    The massive Enefit project in northeast Utah’s Uintah Basin would also drain billions of gallons of water from the Green River, generate enormous amounts of greenhouse gas pollution and exacerbate the Uintah Basin’s often-dismal air quality.

    Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Utah, argues that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the law by ignoring the potential harm to endangered fish. In its biological opinion, the agency considered only the harm from water depletions necessary to build the pipeline, not the billions of gallons of Green River water that will be sent through the pipeline to Enefit’s oil shale development.

    “The responsible federal agencies have worn blinders in approving this project, leaving themselves and the public in the dark about the immense ecological harm it would cause,” said Alex Hardee, attorney at Earthjustice. “We’re going to court to uphold the nation’s environmental laws and save the Upper Colorado River Basin from the devastating effects of oil shale.”

    The Bureau of Land Management also violated the law by failing to adequately analyze the significant environmental impacts of the proposed oil shale development, which likely would not occur but for the agency’s approval of the rights-of-way.

    “This is a prescription for disaster for our climate, wildlife, and the Colorado River Basin,” said Ted Zukoski, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Draining the Green River to mine one of the most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet sends us in exactly the wrong direction. It’s putting us on a collision course with climate catastrophe so a foreign fossil-fuel company can make big bucks.”

    The Trump administration paved the way for the project last year by approving rights-of-way for electricity, oil, gas, and water lines across public lands. At full buildout, the Estonian-owned Enefit American Oil facility would produce 50,000 barrels of oil every day for the next 30 years or more from the Green River Formation.

    Map of oil shale and tar sands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming — via the BLM

    “The environmental destruction, air pollution and water pollution inherent in this proposed oil shale mining project is something that every citizen of Utah should be alarmed about,” said Dr. Brian Moench, president and founder of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “That it would become a long-term public health disaster is being callously dismissed by a BLM that is being run as a subsidiary of the dirty energy industry.”

    Huge amounts of water are required in the oil shale production process. The water pipeline will allow Enefit to drain more than 10,000 acre feet annually from the Green River, harming critical habitat for endangered fish, including the Colorado pikeminnow and the razorback sucker. The project comes as Western states struggle with record droughts and climate-driven declines in river flows in the Colorado River Basin.

    “Our region is already feeling the effects of pollution and climate change. To destroy our public lands in order to drill for more polluting fossil fuels would be a disaster for our communities and our planet,” said Dan Mayhew, conservation chair of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We should be accelerating the transition to clean energy, not sacrificing our water, air quality, and climate for an investment in one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in the world. Today we continue the fight to ensure that federal agencies can’t continue to approve dangerous, dirty energy projects without fully considering the totality of environmental damage that would result.”

    Enefit intends to strip-mine about 28 million tons of rock a year over thousands of acres of high-desert habitat, generating hundreds of millions of tons of waste rock. It will also construct a half-square-mile processing plant, about 45 miles south of Dinosaur National Monument, to bake the rock at extremely high temperatures to turn pre-petroleum oil shale rock into refinery-ready synthetic crude oil. That will require vast amounts of energy and emit huge amounts of ozone precursors in an area recently listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as not in attainment with healthy ozone standards.

    Oil shale is one of world’s most carbon-polluting fuels, with lifecycle carbon emissions up to 75 percent higher than those of conventional fuels.

    “BLM’s approach here is to ignore the elephant in the room, which never ends well,” said Ann Alexander, senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council. “They’ve focused exclusively on the relatively small impact of building some power lines and pipes, hoping no one will notice that this infrastructure will facilitate large-scale environmental destruction. Well, we noticed.”

    The project would produce 547 million barrels of oil over three decades, spewing more than 200 million tons of greenhouse gas — as much as 50 coal-fired power plants produce in a year. Those emissions would contribute to global warming and regional drought already afflicting the rivers and their endangered fish.

    “Enefit’s proposed oil shale operation could deplete more than 100 billion gallons over three decades,” said Sarah Stock, program director at Living Rivers. “That’s water taken away from other current water users and the downstream river ecosystem. The BLM needs to stop side-stepping their responsibilities by ignoring the devastating impacts that oil shale development will have on the climate and downstream water availability in the Colorado River Basin.”

    “As a result of mismanagement, drought, and accelerating climate change, the Colorado River system is on the verge of collapse,” said Daniel E. Estrin, advocacy director at Waterkeeper Alliance. “Yet despite this crisis, BLM and FWS have approved rights-of-way across public lands for a project that could remove 100 billion gallons of water from the basin, push several endangered species closer to extinction, and rapidly degrade the water supply of almost 40 million people. These approvals, that will allow an Estonian hard rock oil shale company to exploit US public lands and resources, must be reversed.”

    “The BLM approved the rights-of-way to service Enefit’s proposed oil shale mine and processing facility based on an utterly inadequate analysis of potentially devastating air, water, climate and species impacts,” said Michael Toll, a staff attorney at Grand Canyon Trust. “Considering the rights-of-way are a public subsidy of an otherwise economically unfeasible oil shale development, the public has a right to know exactly how Enefit’s project will impact their health and environment.”

    The groups filing today’s lawsuit are Living Rivers/Colorado RiverKeeper, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Waterkeeper. The groups are represented by attorneys from Earthjustice, Grand Canyon Trust and the Center for Biological Diversity.