Opinion: #Colorado is failing on #climate goals. What did you expect? The transportation sector is the state’s biggest greenhouse gas emissions source. And it’s the area in which the state is most falling short — Colorado Newsline

Smoke from the massive Hayman Fire could be seen and smelled across the state. Photo credit to Nathan Bobbin, Flickr Creative Commons.

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Newsline website (Quentin Young):

A new progress report on Colorado’s greenhouse gas emission reductions shows the state is not on track to meet key goals. And anyone could have seen it coming.

The goals are set by statute, yet state officials haven’t taken climate action with sufficient seriousness to do right by the law, let alone public health and the planet. One hopes the new report inspires urgent action, though state officials have approached the climate emergency with a maddening combination of strong rhetoric and weak action for years.

Colorado residents will pay the price.

State lawmakers three years ago enacted House Bill 19-1261, a landmark achievement that requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas pollution compared to 2005 levels by goals of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. As part of the effort to meet those targets, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission in 2020 established a regime to track and ensure progress on emission reductions. It set targets for a handful of sectors that are to blame for the most emissions, including electricity generation, oil and gas production, transportation, and residential and commercial building energy use.

The state has since made some notable strides toward hitting the targets. State law now requires electric utilities to file clean energy plans and work to reduce emissions. While renewable energy is becoming much cheaper to produce, and market forces rather than state action has much to do with the green transition, Colorado’s last coal plant is expected to close by the beginning of 2031, and utilities in the state are expected to see a roughly 80% reduction in emissions by 2030.

In 2019, the state adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard that requires an increased percentage of cars available for sale in Colorado to be electric-powered. The modest measure, which does not require drivers to actually buy electric cars, is expected to boost from 2.6% three years ago to 6.2% in 2030 the proportion of zero-emission vehicles sold in Colorado.

Officials recently enacted standards that require state and local transportation planners to meet a series of greenhouse gas reduction targets. And during the most recent legislative session, the General Assembly enacted a package of climate-friendly measures, the largest climate investment being a $65 million grant program to help school districts buy electric buses.

But for every climate advance in Colorado there’s often a planet-threatening failure.

As Newsline’s Chase Woodruff reported last year, the administration of Gov. Jared Polis abandoned one of its own top climate-action priorities, an initiative called the Employee Traffic Reduction Program, which would have required big Denver-area businesses to reduce the number of their employees commuting in single-occupant vehicles. The initiative was dropped following “intense opposition from business groups and conservatives, many of whom spread misinformation and conspiracy theories,” Woodruff reported.

Earlier this year the administration frustrated environmentalists again when it delayed adoption of an Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which would impose emissions standards on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

This is all aligns with the governor’s insistence on a “market-driven transition” to renewable energy and a preference for voluntary industry action.

Is it any surprise then that the transportation sector accounts for Colorado’s most grievous instance of greenhouse gas negligence? What makes this especially troubling is that, with all those internal combustion engines buzzing around Colorado roads, transportation is the state’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Additional strategies for reducing emissions from the transportation sector will be needed” to meet state targets, the recent progress report concludes.

Emissions from transportation in Colorado have in fact grown in recent years, contributing greatly to the state’s overall off-track status.

The average temperature in Colorado keeps trending up. Denver this year experienced its third-hottest summer on record. The city’s four hottest summers have occurred in the last 10 years, and 3 of 4 of its hottest summers have occurred in the last three years.

Climate change is contributing to the aridification of the Southwest, it’s depleting water resources and it’s fueling more frequent and ferocious wildfires. It’s killing people, and it’s getting worse.

Polis, a Democrat, sits in the governor’s chair, so he shoulders the most responsibility, but Republicans would no doubt exacerbate the crisis were they in his position. Heidi Ganahl, the Republican nominee for Colorado governor, recently released her proposed transportation policy, which is almost entirely about investing in highways and almost exhaustively dismissive of climate change.

State officials, to safeguard the wellbeing of present and future generations of Coloradans, must take urgent steps to meet the 2025 emissions reduction targets. The progress report shows they’re failing to do so.

Credit: Colorado Climate Center

Legal agreement results in EPA taking action on deadly smog pollution in #Denver, other cities — Wild Earth Guardians

Denver smog. Photo credit: NOAA

Click the link to read the release on the Wild Earth Guardians website (Jeremy Nichols):

Affected areas in Colorado, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey, and New York are home to nearly 40 million people

As a result of a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental groups, today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency downgraded four areas across the country from a “serious” to a “severe” rating for their smog pollution. This downgrade in the ratings triggers more protective measures to reduce smog pollution.

The four areas, including the Denver Metro area, have some of the nation’s worst air quality. EPA downgraded the areas because their ground-level ozone pollution—commonly called smog—continues to exceed the levels that are safe for human health, wildlife, and plants.

“Recognizing that these areas have a severe smog problem marks an important step forward in reducing this pollution,” said Ryan Maher, an environmental health attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now it’s time for concrete plans to fix it.”

Smog pollution is linked to human health problems like asthma attacks, cardiovascular problems, and even premature death. Those most at risk include older adults, children and people who work outdoors. The harm smog does to plants can damage entire ecosystems and reduce biodiversity.

“For the more than 3.5 million people living in the Denver Metro and North Front Range region of Colorado, today’s finding gives new hope for clean air,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians.  “Now it’s up to Governor Polis and his administration to do the right thing and finally clean up this smoggy mess and restore healthy skies along Colorado’s Front Range.”

The four environmental groups sued the EPA in March 2022 after the agency missed its deadline to reclassify these areas from a serious to a severe rating for smog. The agreement resulting from this lawsuit required EPA to finalize the ratings for these four areas by today: the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas in Texas; the New York City metro areas of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey; and the Denver-Boulder-Greeley-Fort Collins-Loveland area in Colorado.

“The 37 million people who live in these areas with unsafe levels of toxic pollution deserve clean air and immediate federal action,” said Kaya Allan Sugerman, director of the Center for Environmental Health’s illegal toxic threats program. “Today’s victory will help protect these communities from the dangers of this pollution.”

Under this agreement, EPA must also determine whether the smog ratings for Ventura County and western Nevada County in California need to be downgraded by December 16, 2022.

The downgraded ratings finalized today are part of the environmental groups’ ongoing effort to compel the EPA to protect human health and the environment from smog pollution in accordance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

Smoggy day in Denver, August 11, 2022.

Other Contact

Ryan Maher, Center for Biological Diversity, (781) 325-6303, rmaher@biologicaldiversity.org , Kaya Allan Sugerman, Center for Environmental Health, (510) 740-9384, kaya@ceh.org , Ilan Levin, Environmental Integrity Project, (512) 637-9479, ilevin@environmentalintegrity.org

Intense heat waves and flooding are battering electricity and water systems, as America’s aging infrastructure sags under the pressure of climate change

Volunteers distributed bottled water after Jackson, Mississippi’s water treatment plant failed during flooding in August 2022. Brad Vest/Getty Images

Paul Chinowsky, University of Colorado Boulder

The 1960s and 1970s were a golden age of infrastructure development in the U.S., with the expansion of the interstate system and widespread construction of new water treatment, wastewater and flood control systems reflecting national priorities in public health and national defense. But infrastructure requires maintenance, and, eventually, it has to be replaced.

That hasn’t been happening in many parts of the country. Increasingly, extreme heat and storms are putting roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure under stress.

Two recent examples – an intense heat wave that pushed California’s power grid to its limits in September 2022, and the failure of the water system in Jackson, Mississippi, amid flooding in August – show how a growing maintenance backlog and increasing climate change are turning the 2020s and 2030s into a golden age of infrastructure failure.

I am a civil engineer whose work focuses on the impacts of climate change on infrastructure. Often, low-income communities and communities of color like Jackson see the least investment in infrastructure replacements and repairs.

Crumbling bridge and water systems

The United States is consistently falling short on funding infrastructure maintenance. A report by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker’s Volcker Alliance in 2019 estimated the U.S. has a US$1 trillion backlog of needed repairs.

Over 220,000 bridges across the country – about 33% of the total – require rehabilitation or replacement.

A water main break now occurs somewhere in the U.S. every two minutes, and an estimated 6 million gallons of treated water are lost each day. This is happening at the same time the western United States is implementing water restrictions amid the driest 20-year span in 1,200 years. Similarly, drinking water distribution in the United States relies on over 2 million miles of pipes that have limited life spans.

The underlying issue for infrastructure failure is age, resulting in the failure of critical parts such as pumps and motors.

Aging systems have been blamed for failures of the water system in Jackson, wastewater treatment plants in Baltimore that leaked dangerous amounts of sewage into the Chesapeake Bay and dam failures in Michigan that have resulted in widespread damage and evacuations.

Inequality in investment

Compounding the problem of age is the lack of funds to modernize critical systems and perform essential maintenance. Fixing that will require systemic change.

Infrastructure is primarily a city and county responsibility financed through local taxes. However, these entities are also dependent on state and federal funds. As populations increase and development expands, local governments have cumulatively had to double their infrastructure spending since the 1950s, while federal sources remained mostly flat.

Congressional Budget Office

Inequity often underlies the growing need for investment in low-income U.S. communities.

Over 2 million people in the United States lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. The greatest predictor of those who lack this access is race: 5.8% of Native American households lack access, while only 0.3% of white households lack access. In terms of sanitation, studies in predominantly African American counties have found disproportionate impacts from nonworking sewage systems.

Jackson, a majority-Black state capital, has dealt with water system breakdowns for years and has repeatedly requested infrastructure funding from the state to upgrade its struggling water treatment plants.

Climate change exacerbates the risk

The consequences of inadequate maintenance are compounded by climate change, which is accelerating infrastructure failure with increased flooding, extreme heat and growing storm intensity.

Much of the world’s infrastructure was designed for an environment that no longer exists. The historic precipitation levels, temperature profiles, extreme weather events and storm surge levels those systems were designed and built to handle are now exceeded on a regular basis.

Unprecedented rainfall in the California desert in 2015 tore apart a bridge over Interstate 10, one of the state’s most important east-west routes. Temperatures near 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 C) forced the Phoenix airport to cancel flights in 2017 out of concern the planes might not be able to safely take off.

A heat wave in the Pacific Northwest in 2020 buckled roads and melted streetcar cables in Portland. Amtrak slowed its train speeds in the Northeast in July 2022 out of concern that a heat wave would cause the overhead wires to expand and sag and rails to potentially buckle.

Washed out road in Yellowstone National Park
Fast-moving floodwater obliterated sections of major roads through Yellowstone National Park in June 2022. Jacob W. Frank/National Park Service

Power outages during California’s September 2022 heat wave are another potentially life-threatening infrastructure problem.

The rising costs of delayed repairs

My research with colleagues shows that the vulnerability of the national transportation system, energy distribution system, water treatment facilities and coastal infrastructure will significantly increase over the next decade due to climate change.

We estimate that rail infrastructure faces additional repair costs of $5 billion to $10 billion annually by 2050, while road repairs due to temperature increases could reach a cumulative $200 billion to $300 billion by the end of the century. Similarly, water utilities are facing the possibility of a trillion-dollar price tag by 2050.

A city bus was caught and several people were injured when a bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh in January 2022. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

After studying the issue of climate change impacts on infrastructure for two decades, with climate projections getting worse, not better, I believe addressing the multiple challenges to the nation’s infrastructure requires systemic change.

Two items are at the top of the list: national prioritization and funding.

Prioritizing the infrastructure challenge is essential to bring government responsibilities into the national conversation. Most local jurisdictions simply can’t afford to absorb the cost of needed infrastructure. The recent infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act are starting points, but they still fall short of fixing the long-term issue.

Without systemic change, Jackson, Mississippi, will be just the start of an escalating trend.

Paul Chinowsky, Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

World Meteorological Organization #AirQuality and #Climate Bulletin highlights impact of #wildfire #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Photo credit: World Meteorological Organization

Click the link to read the bulletin on the WMO website:

Increasing risk of “climate penalty” from pollution and climate change

An anticipated rise in the frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves and an associated increase in wildfires this century is likely to worsen air quality, harming human health and ecosystems. The interaction between pollution and climate change will impose an additional “climate penalty” for hundreds of millions of people, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The annual WMO Air Quality and Climate Bulletin reports on the state of air quality and its close interlinkages with climate change. The bulletin explores a range of possible air quality outcomes under high and low greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

The WMO Air Quality and Climate Bulletin 2022 focuses in particular on the impact of wildfire smoke in 2021. As in 2020, hot and dry conditions exacerbated the spread of wildfires across western North America and Siberia, producing widespread increases in particulate small matter ( PM2.5) levels harmful to health.

“As the globe warms, wildfires and associated air pollution are expected to increase, even under a low emissions scenario. In addition to human health impacts, this will also affect ecosystems as air pollutants settle from the atmosphere to Earth’s surface,” says WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

“We have seen this in the heatwaves in Europe and China this year when stable high atmospheric conditions, sunlight and low wind speeds were conducive to high pollution levels,” said Prof. Taalas.

“This is a foretaste of the future because we expect a further increase in the frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves, which could lead to even worse air quality, a phenomenon known as the “climate penalty,” he said.

The “climate penalty” refers specifically to the climate change amplification effect on ground-level ozone production, which negatively impacts the air people breathe. The regions with the strongest projected climate penalty – mainly in Asia – are home to roughly one quarter of the world’s population. Climate change could exacerbate surface ozone pollution episodes, leading to detrimental health impacts for hundreds of millions of people.

The Air Quality and Climate Bulletin, the second in an annual series, and an accompanying animation on atmospheric deposition was published ahead of International Day of Clean Air for blue skies on 7 September. The theme of this year’s event, spearheaded by the UN Environment Programme, is The Air We Share, focusing on the transboundary nature of air pollution and stressing the need for collective action.

The bulletin is based on input from experts in WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network which monitors air quality and greenhouse gas concentrations and so can quantify the efficacy of the policies designed to limit climate change and improve air quality.

Air quality and climate are interconnected because the chemical species that lead to a degradation in air quality are normally co-emitted with greenhouse gases. Thus, changes in one inevitably cause changes in the other. The combustion of fossil fuels (a major source of carbon dioxide (CO2)) also emits nitrogen oxide (NO), which can react with sunlight to lead to the formation of ozone and nitrate aerosols.

Air quality in turn affects ecosystem health via atmospheric deposition (as air pollutants settle from the atmosphere to Earth’s surface).  Deposition of nitrogen, sulfur and ozone can negatively affect the services provided by natural ecosystems such as clean water, biodiversity, and carbon storage, and can impact crop yields in agricultural systems.

Wildfires in 2021

The European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service measures global particulate matter. PM2.5 (i.e. particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller) is a severe health hazard if inhaled over long periods of time. Sources include emissions from fossil fuel combustion, wildfires and wind-blown desert dust.

Intense wildfires generated anomalously high PM2.5 concentrations in Siberia and Canada and the western USA in July and August 2021. PM2.5 concentrations in eastern Siberia reached levels not observed before, driven mainly by increasing high temperatures and dry soil conditions.

The annual total estimated emissions in Western North America ranked amongst the top five years of the period 2003 to 2021, with PM2.5 concentrations well above limits recommended by the World Health Organization.

At the global scale, observations of the annual total burned area show a downward trend over the last two decades as a result of decreasing numbers of fires in savannas and grasslands (2021 WMO Aerosol Bulletin ). However, at continental scales, some regions are experiencing increasing trends, including parts of western North America, the Amazon and Australia.

Future scenarios

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) includes scenarios on the evolution of air quality as temperatures increase in the 21st century. It has assessed that the probability of catastrophic wildfire events –like those observed over central Chile in 2017, Australia 2019 or the western United States in 2020 and 2021– is likely to increase by 40-60% by the end of this century under a high emission scenario, and by 30-50% under a low emission scenario.

If greenhouse gas emissions remain high, such that global temperatures rise by 3° C from preindustrial levels by the second half of the 21st century, surface ozone levels are expected to increase across heavily polluted areas, particularly in Asia. This includes a 20% increase  across Pakistan, northern India and Bangladesh, and 10% across eastern China.  Most of the ozone increase will be due to an increase in emissions from fossil fuel combustion, but roughly a fifth of this increase will be due to climate change, most likely realized through increased heatwaves, which amplify air pollution episodes. Therefore heatwaves, which are becoming increasingly common due to climate change, are likely to continue leading to a degradation in air quality.

Projected changes in surface ozone levels due to climate change alone in the late part of the 21st Century (2055-2081), if average global surface temperature rises by 3.0 °C above the average temperature of the late 19th Century (1850-1900).  Credit: WMO

A worldwide carbon neutrality emissions scenario would limit the future occurrence of extreme ozone air pollution episodes.  This is because efforts to mitigate climate change by eliminating the burning of fossil fuels (carbon-based) will also eliminate most human-caused emissions of ozone precursor gases (particularly nitrogen oxides (NOx), Volatile Organic Compounds and methane). 

Particulate matter, commonly referred to as aerosols, have complex characteristics which can either cool or warm the atmosphere. High aerosol amounts – and thus poor air quality – can cool the atmosphere by reflecting sunlight back to space, or by absorbing sunlight in the atmosphere so that it never reaches the ground.

The IPCC suggests that the low-carbon scenario will be associated with a small, short-term warming prior to temperature decreases. This is because the effects of reducing aerosol particles, i.e. less sunlight reflected into space, will be felt first, while the temperature stabilization in response to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions will take longer.  However, natural aerosol emissions (e.g., dust, wildfire smoke) are likely to increase in a warmer, drier environment due to desertification and drought conditions, and may cancel out some of the effects of the reductions in aerosols related to human activities.

A future world that follows a low-carbon emissions scenario would also benefit from reduced deposition of nitrogen and sulfur compounds from the atmosphere to the Earth’s surface, where they can damage ecosystems.  The response of air quality and ecosystem health to proposed future emissions reductions will be monitored by WMO stations around the world, which can quantify the efficacy of the policies designed to limit climate change and improve air quality. WMO will therefore continue to work with a wide range of partners including the World Health Organization and the EU’s Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service to monitor and mitigate the impacts.

The World Meteorological Organization is the United Nations System’s authoritative voice on Weather, Climate and Water

For further information contact: Clare Nullis, WMO media officer, cnullis@wmo.int. Tel 41-79-7091397

The Way to Slow #ClimateChange Is as Close as Your City Hall or School Board — The New York Times #ActOnClimate

May to July 2022 County Average Temperature Ranks

Click the link to read the guest column on The New York Times website (Justin Gillis and Hal Harvey). Here’s an excerpt:

The big climate law that Congress just enacted will go a long way toward meeting Mr. Biden’s goal [of cutting GHG emissions]. Coupled with other policies and with trends in the marketplace, it is expected to cut emissions by something like 40 percent. But the law — even assuming it survives Republican attacks and defunding attempts over the coming years — does not fully redeem Mr. Biden’s pledge. How can America get the rest of the way toward meeting his 50 percent goal?

The answer is in all of our hands. Many of us are already trying to help as best we can, perhaps by nudging the thermostat a degree or two, by driving or flying less or by eating differently. These actions are useful, but they are not enough. The public must make the transition from green consumers to green citizens and devote greater political energy to pushing America forward in its transition to a clean economy. How? The answers may be as close as your city hall or county commission. Your local school board — yes, the school board — has some critical decisions to make in the next few years. Opportunities to make a difference abound in your state Capitol.

The reason the public needs to speak up is simple. What Congress just did was, in a nutshell, to change the economics of clean energy and clean cars, using the tax code to make them more affordable. But it did not remove many of the other barriers to the adoption of these technologies, and a lot of those hurdles are under the control of state and local governments.

Consider this: Every school day, millions of Americans put their children on dirty diesel buses. Not only are the emissions from those buses helping to wreck the planet on which the children will have to live, but the fumes are blowing into their faces, too, contributing to America’s growing problem with childhood asthma. It is now possible to replace those diesel buses with clean, electric buses. Has your school board made a plan to do so? Why isn’t every parent in America marching down to school district headquarters to demand it? Electric buses are more expensive right now, but the operating costs are so much lower that the gap can be bridged with creative financing. A school board that is not thinking hard about this and making plans for the transition is simply not doing its job.

Here is another example. The power grid in your state is under the control of a political body known as a public utilities commission or public service commission. It has the legal authority to tell electric companies what power plants they are allowed to build and what rates they can charge. By law, these boards are supposed to listen to citizens and make decisions in the public interest, but the public rarely weighs in. We once needed special state laws to push utilities toward renewable energy, but Congress just changed the ground rules. With wind and solar farms becoming far more affordable, every utility in America now needs to re-examine its spreadsheet on how it will acquire power in the future. The public utility commissions supervise this process, and they are supposed to ensure that the utilities build the most affordable systems they reasonably can. But too many utilities, heavily invested in dirty energy, still see clean energy as a threat. They are going to drag their feet, and they will ply their influence with state government to try to get away with it. Citizens need to get in the faces of these commission members with a simple demand: Do your jobs. Make the utilities study all options and go for clean power wherever possible.

One more example: The conversion to electric cars has begun, but as everyone knows, we still don’t have enough places to charge them, especially for people on long trips. State governments can play a major role in alleviating this bottleneck. Under Gov. Jared Polis in Colorado, the state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build charging stations, with poor neighborhoods included. Other states can do the same, and citizens need to speak up to demand it.

If you live in a sizable city or county, your local government is probably slowing down the automotive transition, too. These governments buy fleets of vehicles for their workers, and this year most of them will once again order gasoline-powered cars. Why? Because that’s what they’re used to doing. Citizens need to confront the people making these decisions and jolt them from their lethargy.

A big step for a small mountain town — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

Crested Butte

Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

“There was a lot of talk at council about it being a bold decision, but I don’t see it that way. Not only is it what we need to do, but we have all the tools to do it cost effectively.” — Mayor Ian Billick

Crested Butte, that most lovely of Colorado mountain towns, now vibrant in summer flowers and always in the bold colors of Victorian storefronts, has now entered into the fractious national debate about natural gas.

The municipality decided Aug. 3 that it will no longer allow natural gas in new buildings. Major remodels will be required to be electric-ready. It’s the first jurisdiction in Colorado to take this action.

Others may soon follow, posing the question of whether Colorado will soon get more rambunctious in its debate about how to effectively achieve the reduction in emissions identified in a 2019 law. That law specified economy-wide emission reductions of 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

Buildings must necessarily be part of this drawdown, and that puts the focus on natural gas, which provides space and hot-water heating for more than half of Colorado buildings. Cars last 15 years or longer, but upgrades of buildings often don’t occur for decades.

The Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Roadmap adopted in January 2021 identified emissions from buildings as a relatively small but vital sector. “Even though the emissions reductions from these actions will be relatively modest in the near term,” the roadmap says, “they will grow to become very significant in the period after 2030.”

Berkeley in November 2019 became the first municipality in the United States to ban natural gas in new construction. Since then 80 other towns, cities, and other jurisdictions have followed, first in California but then in other states, too.

In response, 23 states—including five of the seven states bordering Colorado—have adopted laws that prohibit such local regulations. That’s a ban on bans, if you will. An effort was underway in 2020 by oil-and-gas interests in Colorado to put a similar ballot measure, called preemption, before voters. The effort was withdrawn after negotiations with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

Colorado legislators in 2021 instead passed several bills that collectively start squeezing natural gas from buildings without blanket bans. The most important of these bills, SB21-264, requires the four regulated utilities that sell natural gas in Colorado to submit clean-heat plans beginning in 2023.

This clean-heat requirement along with other laws adopted in 2021 nudge Colorado’s four regulated utilities that deliver natural gas toward helping their customers convert their homes and businesses from natural gas to electricity. Xcel Energy, the largest, sells both gas and electricity, so the loss of gas sales will be offset by increased electricity sales. Atmos, the supplier of natural gas to Crested Butte, does not sell electricity, so it will have to cut its emissions in other ways.

Crested Butte might seem an unlikely trailblazer. It’s smallish, with 1,334 full-time residents. The conventional wisdom holds that the big liberal bastions wade into changes first, which then get gradually introduced into the more rural outposts. But neither Denver nor Boulder, though they have started squeezing emissions from buildings in significant ways, have gone quite as far.

Denver, for example, requires heat pumps for space heating and heat-pump water heaters for existing buildings — but not homes — at the time of system replacement, starting in 2024 to 2027. That’s not an explicit ban on natural gas, although it may come close,

The most important aspect of Crested Butte’s example may be its colder climate. It sits at 8,909 feet. Other places that are actually lower in elevation lay claim to the dubious distinction of record cold, but Crested Butte knows chill, an average low of 6 below during January, its coldest month. Town officials, after examining the available technology, including air-source heat pumps, concluded that nobody will suffer in this transition to building electrification.

If it can work in Crested Butte, surely it should work in Castle Rock or Colorado Springs or any number of other places.

Mark Reaman, the editor of the Crested Butte News, called the measure “largely symbolic in the sense it will not save the world. Not even close,” he wrote in a column titled “Symbolism Matters.” “But it could send a message and set an example to those living and visiting here. It is tangible action applicable at the local level.”

Crested Butte, he added, “is one of those towns that punches above its weight given the people it draws and the attitude that doing something locally matters.” His offered the metaphor of a seed now planted “that might grow beyond our little garden.”

To get an understanding of how Crested Butte got to where it is and how it fits with the bigger picture now evolving in Colorado, Big Pivots conducted an e-mail interview with three people:

Ian Billick is the mayor of Crested Butte. He ran on a platform of climate change action and housing. He is also a biologist who manages the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, where scientists from across the country gather during summers to study climate change and other topics at an elevation of 9,000-plus-feet.

Christine Brinker is the senior buildings policy manager for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. She has been deeply involved with helping draft the state legislation and local policies that seek to pivot Colorado’s buildings to fewer emissions.

Mike Foote is a public-interest environmental attorney from Boulder County who served in the Colorado Legislature from 2013 to 2021. As a Democratic legislator, he co-sponsored legislation in 2019 that set Colorado on its march to realize deep, deep decarbonization of its economy – buildings being a particularly knotty problem to solve.

Big Pivots: As mayor of Crested Butte, Ian, can you identify a precise moment when the vision began to take place of eliminating natural gas in new buildings and those with major remodels?

Ian Billick: Several years ago, and before I joined the council, Crested Butte adopted an aggressive climate action plan. New building codes are issued every three years and given how much buildings contribute to carbon emissions, it made quite a bit of sense to consider electrification in adopting the new code.

Pivots: Let’s talk about that aggressive climate action plan. Crested Butte in around 2007 joined a great many towns and cities in adopting a resolution favoring renewable energy. It was my impression that nothing much then happened, perhaps because nobody knew where to start. What explains the more muscular approach?

Billick: A combination of an experienced town staff that has identified meaningful leverage points and a Town Council that has collectively made climate action a top priority. Also, improvements in building technology, including air source heat pumps, along with increases in natural gas prices, make electrification more cost effective, independent of climate impacts.

Pivots: Striking to me was the relative lack of discussion about the adequacy of alternative technologies to natural gas. Was there concern that air-source heat pumps would be unable to perform satisfactorily in Crested Butte’s relatively cold climate?

Billick: The efficiency of air-source heat pump technology declines significantly with colder temperatures. However, the technology works much better in very cold temperatures than it did even a few years ago and can be effectively combined with supplemental heat systems. It’s an example of how recent improvements in technology have made this move possible.

Pivots: The adequacy of the technology was not a major talking point? And do I understand that you had the support of local building contractors?

Billick: We did not spend a lot of time talking about the adequacy of the technology. We had a consultant, August Hasz, with the Resource Engineering Group, which has substantial experience building fully electrified housing in similar, high-altitude, cold environments. We also had local builders who have built successfully here without natural gas express their support. For me, that was very compelling.

Pivots: Let’s explore both of these. What other high-altitude, colder environments? And your local builders – if they are comfortable with the new technology, what do you think that says about places like Vail or Summit County?

Billick: Resource Engineering Group cited projects in Basalt Valley and Telluride. An affordable housing project recently opened in Gunnison that is all electric.

Pivots: You have cited analysis by Rocky Mountain Institute that electrification will usually reduce costs. Is that comparison of gas vs. electric in the completed building? Or is that in cost savings over time?

Billick: One thing we learned is that the cost-benefit analysis of electrification versus natural gas is complicated; you can’t say that one technology will always be cheaper. But RMI has found that in many circumstances both up-front costs as well as lifetime costs will be cheaper with electrification. For example, there are costs to hooking a home up to natural gas that are avoided with full electrification.

Pivots: How many unbuilt lots? Any potential annexations? What application might you see in remodels? Would this have been a harder decision had there been more real estate involved?

Billick: We have about 60 unbuilt lots. Additionally, we have an affordable housing project involving 60-80 units coming online, which will be built to the new code. We have no annexations in the pipeline. Major renovations will trigger a requirement that buildings be electric ready. For me, the decision was not influenced by the number of units involved. There was a lot of talk at council about it being a bold decision, but I don’t see it that way. Not only is it what we need to do, but we have all the tools to do it cost effectively.

Pivots: Your law allows an exemption. Please explain.

Billick: We allow commercial kitchens to use natural gas for cooking.

Pivots: The Crested Butte News reported the major pushback was from those who urged a go-slower approach. For other towns considering following in the footsteps of Crested Butte, how would you describe that pushback? And why did the council reject that go-slower approach?

Billick: We had a working group analyzing this option through the spring, including holding a question and answer session for the public. The CB Town Council had a work session, as well as two public hearings. By the final public hearing while some disagreed with the policy, no new information was emerging, nor did council feel that it was missing any information. We had the information we needed to make a decision, so we moved forward.

Pivots: I was struck by the fact that the council was unanimous. Can you explain the unity on this? Does it extend to other decisions?

Billick: The council works very well together, but we don’t always agree. The council has been very clear, however, that climate action is a priority that is shared across the board.

Pivots: What repercussions beyond Crested Butte do you hope your town’s actions will have?

Billick: If we can make it work in an environment as extreme as Crested Butte, it is possible to make it work across the country.

Pivots: Christine, when do you think we will hear about the next local government in Colorado to limit or ban natural gas in homes and buildings?

Christine Brinker: Most likely in the next few months. While they may not outright prohibit natural gas, they will likely take steps to either gradually move away from it or at least reduce some of the negative impacts. For example, some local governments in the northwestern metro area are working together on a policy that would give builders a choice between either all-electric or, on the other hand, natural gas with extra energy efficiency.

Having said that, Crested Butte’s example will surely give these and other local governments the courage to take stronger climate action and take bolder steps toward all-electric new construction.

Pivots: Colorado has adopted several laws in the last two years that seek to reduce emissions from buildings. How would you describe the general approach?

Brinker: The approach has been to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis while at the same time trying to orchestrate the transition in a way that protects our workers and families. Recent bills had extensive negotiations and “stakeholdering” with builders, building owners, labor, local leaders, equity groups, and more, because ultimately, the policies need to be workable, practical, and impactful for as many Coloradans as possible.

From a policy standpoint, the original 2019 law set an overall emissions reduction goal 90% by 2050, and individual bills since then are going sector-by-sector to help reach those goals. That’s where these bills governing buildings fit.

Pivots: How does the law passed in May, HB22-1362, titled “Building Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” define the paths forward for local jurisdictions? Do you see various paths for different communities?

Brinker: That law sets the floor, the minimum, for resilient and energy-efficient construction when local governments update any other building codes. This is in recognition that many homebuyers and renters don’t have the ability to choose efficient and healthy homes – they have to “take what’s out there.” Better energy codes make sure homes and buildings are built right at the outset.

Notably, the law still allows natural gas — but requires that new construction at least include the wiring for future all-electric appliances like heat pumps. And it allows local governments like Crested Butte to go above the minimum if they want.

Pivots: Air-source heat pumps remain fairly expensive. Do you see this changing?

Brinker: The costs of the technology have fallen significantly in recent years while performance improved. The next stage of cost reduction will partly come from contractors here getting more familiar with the latest heat-pump technology, something being helped along by trainings from Xcel Energy and others.

Also, heat pumps have a new batch of incentives available because of how much they help our air quality and climate – including rebates from Xcel Energy and other utilities, a 10% tax credit from the state, and tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Pivots: As a former state senator, Mike, I would like your read on the political implications of this ban adopted by Crested Butte. Colorado’s policy so far has been a firm but still gentle squeeze of emissions, both methane and carbon dioxide, from buildings. The clean heat law, for example, stipulates that consumers will always retain choice.

Does the mandate by Crested Butte put the Polis administration into a place it would prefer not to be? Or are the numbers in Crested Butte just too small to be consequential?

Mike Foote: Local governments in Colorado have significant autonomy when it comes to their building codes. Crested Butte’s actions are consistent with that tradition of local control. Certainly some state actors and the oil-and-gas industry will take notice of it.

It is highly unlikely, even after this fall’s elections, that there will be a successful effort in the legislature to limit the ability of local governments to do what Crested Butte did. Some gas proponents have advocated for a statewide “energy choice” ballot measure that would prohibit localities from requiring non-fossil energy in their codes. This is sometimes called a “ban on bans.” At some point that effort could get more traction if the industry decides to fund a statewide campaign. The threat of the industry going to the ballot is always there, but it shouldn’t dissuade local governments from taking climate action in my opinion.

Pivots: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to pass a statewide law that would ban natural gas by 2027. Assuming Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is reelected this fall, can you envision him attempting to do the same? Why or why not?

Foote: We haven’t seen Governor Polis propose a policy like that during his first four years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some members of the General Assembly were thinking about it. The fact of the matter is new gas usage must be substantially curtailed within this decade for us to avoid the worst effects of climate change. There are not too many easy options left to achieve that, at least in Colorado.

Pushback on building emissions: A law passed by #Colorado legislators in 2021 requires natural gas utilities to start squeezing emissions from buildings. This could get very interesting — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround #COleg

The downtown Denver skyline from Arvada. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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To be very clear, this is the biggest energy story of the year in Colorado, in my read.

State legislators in 2021 adopted several laws that will, in various ways, begin squeezing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.

Now comes the implementation as the three commissioners from the Public Utilities Commission do their required public engagement in meetings held in various locations in Colorado. All available evidence suggests to me that this will come close to fist-swinging before it’s all done, at least of the wordy type. From what I hear, it already has.

I attended the second of the six meetings, the one at Montbello Community Center in Denver. It was a bilingual meeting structure designed for consumption by people who had mostly never heard of the PUC much less clean heat plans.

In Montrose a week later, people had heard of the clean heat plans – or least that an effort was underway to remove natural gas from buildings. According to a report in the Montrose Press, many were not in the least bit happy. “Public Utilities Commission gets an earful over Clean Heat Plans,” was the headline.

SB 21-264, which we’ll call the clean-heat law, requires Colorado’s four privately owned natural gas utilities – Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy, Atmos and Colorado Natural Gas – to reduce greenhouse gases 4% by 2025 and then 22% by 2030. This is compared to emissions of 2015.

How can they do this? The law provides four ways for the utilities to do so in the heat-clean plans they must submit:

1) Demand-side management programs, especially including improved energy efficiency.

2) Beneficial electrification, meaning that gas use in buildings for space and hot water heating is replaced by electricity. One way of doing that is through addition of air-source heat pumps or, in original construction, ground-source heat pumps.

3) Improved efforts to reduce methane leaks from the natural gas infrastructure.

3) Recovered methane, such as from landfills, to supplement the methane extracted from wells;

4) Green hydrogen, which means made from renewable resources and after (but not natural gas);

5) Pyrolysis of tires, the recycling of tires to extract heat and energy, as is being considered at Fort Morgan.

The latter two are likely more difficult than the first three.

The PUC commissioners have until December to draw up the rules governing the review of these clean-heat plans.

I see four very, very big issues here:

First, this is a lot of work in a short time. “A heavy lift for utilities,” John Gavan, the PUC commissioner who presided at the Montrose meeting, said.

A Black Hills representative at the Montrose meeting said that the required reduction coming on top of demand growth means that instead of a 4% reduction it’s more like a 25% reduction. Nigh on to impossible, said Mike Harrigan, the Black Hills rep.

Second, the gas utilities are being required to radically change their business models and, in the case of three of them, to essentially make themselves less relevant. Xcel Energy will sell more electricity as it sells less gas. For Black Hills, which sells both gas and electricity, the trade-off is not as easy. It sells gas in Aspen, for example, but not electricity.

One of the attendees at Montrose summarized it in this way: “Let me get this straight,” said David Combs, speaking to the Black Hills Energy representatives. “The products you sell, you make money on, you’re trying to reduce and you’re giving people money to use less of it?”

There always has been a strange tradeoff between regulated utilities. They enjoy monopolies in their service territory in return for regulation. This was once reliable money. Utilities are now being required to be far more inventive.

Third, builders and real estate developers have been enjoying a subsidy as they build new subdivisions, the gas lines that are laid being subsidized by existing natural gas customers. At the end of the day, this may be the defining issue. High-spirited filings with the PUC began in December 2021.

Fourth, there are equity issues here as we squeeze out natural gas, replacing it with electricity. Who will pay for the aging natural gas systems? Like so many things, it’s likely to be those who can least afford to pay.

The meeting in the Denver neighborhood of Montbello was conducted in both Spanish and English. Photo/Allen Best

I mentioned the Montbello meeting. It was designed to reach out to an area that met the definition of a disproportionately impacted community. I can’t disagree, but I must say that I felt very marginalized. I struggle to hear well normally, and the choice of room configuration left me with my back to the speakers and trying — and almost entirely failing — to hear the English translation of what was being said in Spanish. My impression was that the meeting was designed with the intent of honoring the law, and it did achieve that. But one meeting alone will not achieve the real purpose with this particular group.

A meeting in Grand Junction was somewhat boisterous, I heard, which did not surprise me. The first filings of opposition to clean-heat plans in the PUC docket in this case were submitted by real-estate agents and others from the Grand Valley and Montrose. Weeks later they started arriving from places like Aurora.

Again, as Gavan identified in the Montrose meeting, the key issue here is the subsidy for gas lines to homebuilders. Nobody likes to lose their subsidy.

Sandy Head, executive of the Montrose County Economic Development Corp. told the Press that the cost of extending a gas line to a new house was previously $250 to $300 but will now cost $800.

This led to charges that it would become too expensive to live in a place like Delta County – which, with the exception of now pricey Paonia, remains one of Colorado’s least expensive places to live west of I-25.

Also balled up into this issue is the high cost of natural gas and the failure of Xcel Energy to adequately prepare itself for what happened in February 2021. Xcel ended up paying $600 million extra for high-priced natural gas. But there’s also the issue of Texans going without power – which some people, apparently, still think can be blamed on the dependency on wind turbines. (It was a part of the problem, but only a small part).

“We’re not going to shut off fossil fuel generation in the form of gas overnight,” Gavan replied, as per the Montrose Press account. “No, our plan is to add another gigawatt of combustion technology to back up renewables. It’s a balancing mix. As we transition, the resource mix will change. It will become very different, more intelligent.”

An investment to rival those of I-70 and #Denver International Airport — @BigPivots

I-70 on Vail Pass. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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Most of the $9-$10 billion that Xcel Energy will spend in the next few years will be spent on Colorado’s eastern plains. Why is this such a big deal for Colorado?

Click the image to go to Xcel’s project page and the interactive map.

Colorado will soon embark on a change with few rivals in the last 100 years. Think of the dismantling of geography by construction of Interstate 70 through the tunnels, over Vail Pass, and through Glenwood Canyon. Think of Denver International Airport. Think of the arrival of electricity to farms and small towns in the 1930s and 1940s.

Within a decade, Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electrical utility, will retire all its coal plants, convert one to burn natural gas, and add massive amounts of wind on Colorado’s eastern plains and solar generation, some of it in the Western Slope’s Grand Valley, along with batteries nad perhaps other storage, as it pursues a mid-century goal of net-zero carbon. Combined with potentially 740 miles of new transmission lines looping around eastern Colorado, this investment in new generation could hit $9 billion to $10 billion. Xcel will likely get its final green light from state regulators in the next month, maybe two.

This has repercussions beyond Xcel Energy, which sells more than half the electricity in Colorado. It also delivers wholesale sales to some municipalities and cooperatives, including Holy Cross Energy, Yampa Valley Electric, and Grand Valley Power.

Is this money well spent? If you’re a climate hawk, as I am, convinced we must dramatically reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, this represents a giant step forward. We must immediately reduce emissions from electrical generation and also displace fossil fuels in transportation and buildings.

True, China’s emissions keep growing. But Colorado can lead the United States by example, and the United States can lead the world.

Some people, even champions of this transition, disagree with the precise pathway. For example, if demand were shaved through energy efficiency and other programs, will less investment in new generating resources be needed, says Western Resource Advocates, an environmental group.

From Colorado eastern plains, already dotted with wind turbines, come other complaints about cluttered skylines. This is not universal. Other plainsmen (and women) welcome the property taxes local governments will realize and the lease payments to land owners.

Nuclear power represents another question. Colorado’s lone experiment with nuclear power, at the St. Vrain plant near Greeley, went seriously awry. But now come efforts with presumably smaller and hence lower-risk modular reactors, such as are being planned in Idaho and also Wyoming. Cost, more than safety, is the fulcrum for the debate. Nuclear has had exorbitant cost overruns. Will this new technology be better?

Comanche 3, a coal plant in Pueblo, has become the symbol for this energy transition. It was approved 18 years ago by Colorado regulators, a $1 billion investment (in today’s dollars). Utilities had been building ever-bigger coal-fired coal plants, abetted by natural gas plants to meet peak demands, for a half-century. Few were willing to give credence to the vision of renewable energy. I remember in about 2008, a geologist in Meeker who still hoped for the dream of milking hydrocarbons from the oil shale of northwestern Colorado. “We can’t run a civilization on windmills,” he fumed.

We still can’t. And as somebody pointed out to me, even wind turbines need oil and grease and so forth. But we can do far, far more than Xcel or most others thought just 18 years ago.

Cheyenne Ridge, located between Burlington and Cheyenne Wells, near the Kansas border, is one of many wind projects on Colorado’s eastern plains. Soon, new transmission will enable far more wind and solar projects. Photos/Allen Best Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

This has come in increments. Almost simultaneous with approval of Comanche 3 came Colorado’s first renewable energy mandate. Xcel fought it. Then it set out to comply. Costs of wind tumbled dramatically, and then so did solar. Something of the same thing is now happening with lithium-ion batteries.

It’s not yet possible on a large scale to affordably eliminate all emissions. But also note this. In 2005, when Xcel began building Comanche 3, about two-thirds of its electricity came from coal plants. Within a decade, it will be close to zero. We’re moving fast, because we can and because we must.

Will there be adverse consequences beyond altered prairie vistas on the Great Plains? Quite possibly. With I-70, what once was close to a full-day journey from Grand Junction to Denver was shortened to a long morning. But the highway has made mountain valleys a little less lovely and far more noisy.

This course correction in our energy foundation may also prove to have flaws that may require further altering. And in 18 years we may look back and wonder if we should have held off just a little longer for a technological breakthrough instead of making Colorado’s eastern plains look like Paul Bunyan’s playground for Erector Set creations.

What we cannot afford is to do nothing. Given what we know today, about the cost of energy and the cost of climate change, this massive investment soon to happen looks to be the wisest path forward.

2021 #COleg: Walking the legislative talk of environmental justice — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Suncor Refinery with Sand Creek in the foreground July 9, 2022. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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Colorado legislators in 2021 passed a suite of laws that in various ways give state agencies new marching orders that this energy transition will reconcile past wrongs and put people on an equal footing. But there’s a lot to sort through in this.

Now comes the part where the rhetoric about a just transition of the energy economy — paying special attention to disproportionately impacted communities and rectifying past wrongs with the word “equity” in mind — gets tested in the field.

In late July and early August, the three members of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission will take turns hosting six meetings from Lamar to Grand Junction, places selectively chosen because of evidence of disproportionate impacts from energy.

The meetings serve a dual purpose. The commissioners are gathering thoughts about how the state’s four regulated gas-distribution utilities will start changing how we heat buildings and water in order to reduce emissions. They are required to submit what are called clean-heat plans.

The four gas utilities —Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy, Atmos Energy, and Colorado Natural Gas — must show how they will be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 4% by 2025 and 22% by 2030, based on a 2015 baseline.

But the commissioners are also very deliberately meeting in cities that have been identified by mapping tools as having, or being proximate to, disproportionately impacted communities.

Get accustomed to hearing that phrase, now used so often it has been reduced to an acronym in many documents: DIC. Among other things, the commissioners want to better understand how to define equity (as distinct from equality) and what constitutes a DIC community.

It’s an early milestone in Colorado’s difficult and still new process, one parallel to others underway in several states around the country.

Pushing their investigation are five laws passed by Colorado legislators in 2021 that collectively seek to put the hands of those communities on the steering wheel in ways that they have not before.

SB 21-272, “Modernize the Public Utilities Commission,” tells the PUC that it must adopt rules that “consider how best to provide equity, minimize impacts, and prioritize benefits to disproportionately impacted communities and address historical inequalities.”

What are disproportionately impacted communities? This law provides a glimpse:

“Certain communities, both in Colorado and internationally, have historically been forced to bear a disproportionate burden of adverse human health or environmental effects, as documented in numerous studies, while also facing systemic exclusion from environmental decision-making processes and enjoying fewer environmental benefits,” says SB21-272.

The law cites a 2021 report from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. The project, called Mapping for Environmental Justice, attempted to paint a holistic picture of intersecting environmental, social, and health impacts in individual states, including Colorado.

The study found that “communities of color breathe nearly twice as much diesel pollution and are 1.5 times more likely to live near a Superfund site than white communities. The disparity holds across an array of environmental hazards: from wastewater releases to air toxins, Coloradoans of color are consistently exposed to more pollution.”

This same law, SB 21-272, instructs the PUC to “identify disproportionately impacted communities” and host meetings and in other ways invite input from them to ensure that they will have at least proportionate access to the benefits of retail customer programs, incentives and investments.”

The PUC must go through a rule-making process that governs how the PUC reviews plans by utilities —including not just energy utilities, but also transportation and other sectors it regulates.

The goal is to deliver equity – which will be defined later – in programs and incentives that serve low-income customers and disproportionately impacted communities.

Clean Heat

The second law of relevance, SB 21-264, the “Clean Heat Bill,” requires Colorado’s four natural gas utilities to start figuring out how to reduce fossil fuel combustion from buildings. It gives the largest gas utilities, including Xcel, various ways to achieve a 22% reduction in emissions by 2030. They can, for example, help customers convert to electricity through use of air-source heat pumps. Utilities are required to submit clean-heat plans.

This clean-heat bill also has an environmental justice component. That law also calls out the “historic injustices that impact lower-income Coloradans and black, indigenous, and other people of color who have borne a disproportionate share of environmental risks while also enjoying fewer environmental benefits.”

As the PUC goes about creating the rules for evaluating clean-heat plans, it must hold at least two meetings in disproportionately impacted communities.

In planning six meetings, not just two, the PUC obviously aims for a robust compliance with the letter of the law. The PUC has gone a step beyond, and we’ll explain that later in this article.

Yet a third law, HB 21-1266, called the “Environmental Justice Act,” takes direct aim and, unlike the others, delivers more explicit instructions for the Air Quality Control Commission – an agency within the state’s health department – to engage with disproportionately impacted communities.

The law incorporates demographic factors but delegated to a new Environmental Justice Action Task Force the work of defining what exactly constitutes a disproportionately impacted community. The law also added transition to a more equitable clean energy economy to the mission of the Colorado Energy Office.

Two more laws deserve mention.

SB 21-246, Promote Beneficial Electrification, requires investor-owned utilities to file plans with the PUC that must include “programs targeted to low-income housing or disproportionately impacted communities with at least 20% of the total beneficial electrification program funding” directed to those communities and income levels.

HB21-1105 modified the eligibility standards for low-income programs.

The trajectory

Why did all of this come together in 2021?

Ean Tafoya, of GreenLatinos, who is co-chair of the new task force, says the thinking had been growing for years of the need to “redress” inequities.

In 2019, the first year that Democrats gained a majority in both chambers, as well as the governor’s mansion, the legislators who might have carried the bills were too new to the General Assembly to be effective.

Then came the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, spurring national protests, including in Denver. This was just months after the covid pandemic descended, hitting minority populations harder.

Those things “helped to galvanize the creation of a more formidable environmental justice coalition,” says Tafoya. This pressure seems to have created “more political room for the politicians to move forward.”

Tafoya also says that this powerful new environmental justice coalition wouldn’t settle for legislation that in early drafts didn’t initially include equity provisions.

In this, he refers to major bills driven by Sen. Chris Hansen of Denver and two Boulder County legislators, Sen. Steve Fenberg and Rep. Tracey Bernett, as well as Rep. Alex Valdez and Rep. Meg Froehlich.

A bill that started out as SB 200 was recreated in SB 1266 with Faith Winter as a primary author. She did not respond to several requests for an interview.

The Environmental Justice Act is sweeping. It requires the Air Quality Control Commission to adopt rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas operations. It also requires that commission to adopt rules to reduce emissions from the industrial and manufacturing sector in Colorado by at least 20% by 2030 relative to 2015 levels.

This is from Big Pivots 59 (July 17, 2022). Please consider subscribing.

Environmental justice, though, is front and center in the law. It requires the Air Quality Control Commission to promote outreach to disproportionately impacted communities by creating new ways to gather input from communities across Colorado, using multiple languages and multiple formats.

The law also created the task force of which Tafoya is a member with the responsibility to make recommendations to legislators of “practical means to address environmental justice inequities” by Nov. 14.

That task force has met four times beginning in December, and it also has five subcommittees that meet monthly.

Pueblo’s Jamie Valdez, who is also on the task force, describes it as a “very difficult process.” But the goal is to avoid compromising as has occurred in the past.

Members have received much testimony “that there has not been enough consideration or responsiveness to community and too much to industry,” he says.

The table has been tilted heavily to a discussion between industry and regulators, to the exclusion of others, says Valdez, who is paid staff and a community organizer for southern Colorado on behalf of Mothers Outfront, a mothers-funded environmental justice organization whose mission is to work for a livable climate for all children.

Equity and equitable

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has also been moving along. The commission held a workshop in February to get insights from participants about how to implement the environmental justice component of HB21-264, the law that requires the meetings in disproportionately impacted communities. In March, the PUC asked the states’ four natural gas utilities – Xcel, Black Hills Energy, Atmos, and Colorado Natural Gas – to identify three ideas for meeting locations.

Xcel identified Grand Junction, metro Denver, and Pueblo. Black Hills identified Montrose, Rocky Ford, and Yuma. Atmos Energy identified Greeley, Lamar, and Craig.

The utilities were advised to consult a data-rich mapping tool created by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment called EnviroScreen. This was a result of the Environmental Justice Bill. When I first looked at this a year ago, I found it primitive. It showed the Wildridge neighborhood north of Avon and the Singletree neighborhood of Edwards to be in an environmentally impacted tract. (That all of us should be so unfortunate as to live in such areas.)

A review for this article shows a sophisticated tool, if still not complete. A tutorial explains it was created “to help identify the relative health burdens and environmental risks facing different communities across Colorado.”

On June 1, the PUC hosted a session on equity initiatives. Kelly Crandell, of the PUC staff, explained the SB 21-272 requirement to promulgate rules that seek to “provide equity and minimize impacts and prioritizes benefits to disproportionately impacted communities that have experienced historical inequalities.”

During the next few months, she said, the PUC commissioners and staff will be focusing on learning things that can be used to shape these new rules, the ones being drawn up to govern how the PUC evaluates plans by utilities.

Crandell carefully distinguished between equality and equity. With the equality, the idea is to provide something to everyone equally. So, your residential rates for electricity will be the same as your neighbors’.

Equity as Crandell explained it has a historical dimension. It recognizes that things may need to change so that others can participate, that actions of the past such as redlining must be acknowledged to properly rectify going forward.

“It’s challenging to an agency such as ours because conversations more traditionally operated in the vein of equality,” she said.

The legislation, she explained, had three dimensions: 1) recognize why certain communities have suffered, such as because of redlining practices; 2) procedural inequalities. How can the PUC make its process more accessible to the public; and 3) broadly prioritizing the benefits of new energy programs to disproportionately impacted communities.

Different sorts of meetings

Most interesting of these meetings may be at Montbello, located in northeastern Denver on the north side of I-70. It will use a new format of outreach.

There, community members will be paid to attend and share their thoughts. The meeting will be led by the Denver Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency. That municipal agency has been hosting community meetings. In this case two community-based organizations have been enlisted to put it together.

“The event will include a listening session on energy priorities within these neighborhoods in addition to a discussion about clean heat plans,” the decision notice issued by the PUC on July 6 says. The event will be presented in both English and Spanish.

Ah yes – the clean heat plans. The natural gas utilities must figure out how to reduce emissions from buildings. A small bit of this can be accomplished by augmenting supplies of methane distributed to homes for heating and cooking with what is called renewable natural gas, such as that harvested from landfills. But there are many other tools – including beneficial electrification, including the use of air source heat pumps to displace or at least augment natural gas furnaces. They’re still relatively expensive, though, with a payback that in most cases will take at least several years.

Tafoya observes that focus groups have already found that tax credits won’t work for lower-income residents. “It’s clear that people want down-payment assistance, not just tax credits.”

Colorado is far from alone in trying to look at utility decisions through the new lenses of equity. A report called “Advancing Equity in Utility Regulation” issued in November 2021 by Berkeley National Laboratory notes an effort in California in 2020 requiring “environmental justice” to be part of the state’s mission. New York and Washington also adopted legislation in 2019, the latter state charging the utilities commission with “ensuring that all customers are benefiting from the transition to clean energy.”

In 2021, Massachusetts, Oregon, Illinois, and Maine all passed somewhat parallel legislation along with Colorado.

Also worth checking out:

Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Environmental Justice page

Colorado Public Utilities Commission Equity Initiatives page

Meetings

July 21: Greeley, Greeley Recreation Center, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

July 21: Denver, Montebello Recreation Center, 5-7:30 p.m.

July 27: Grand Junction, Colorado Mesa University Center, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

July 28: Montrose, Montrose Event Center, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Aug. 4: Pueblo, Bessemer Community Room at Steelworks Center for the West, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Aug. 4: Lamar Cultural Events Center, 4:30-6 p.m.

The 5 bills:
SB21-272 “Measures to Modernize the Public Utilities Commission.” Requires PUC to identify disproportionately impacted communities (DICs) and to reach out to let them help create new rules.

SB 21-264, “Clean Heat Bill.” Requires natural gas utilities to begin decarbonizing gas distributed to buildings. Requires PUC to hold at least two meetings in DICs.

HB 21-1266 “Environmental Justice Act.” Instructions specifically to Air Quality Control Commission.

SB 21-246, “Promote Beneficial Electrification.” Requires 20% of program funds be used for low-income households or disproportionately impacted communities.

HB21-1105, modifies eligibility standards for low-income programs.

Photo from http://trmurf.com/about/

June’s global average concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (#CO₂) was about 419 parts per million (ppm), a roughly 50% increase since 1750 due to human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and land-use changes — NASA #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

PROXY (INDIRECT) MEASUREMENTS
Data source: Reconstruction from ice cores.
Credit: NOAA

Click the link to go to the NASA website for all the inside skinny and to use the interactive map:

Carbon Dioxide

LATEST MEASUREMENT: June 2022

419 ppm

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important heat-trapping gas, or greenhouse gas, that comes from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and natural gas), from wildfires, and from natural processes like volcanic eruptions. The first graph shows atmospheric CO2 levels measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, in recent years, with natural, seasonal changes removed. The second graph shows CO2 levels during Earth’s last three glacial cycles, as captured by air bubbles trapped in ice sheets and glaciers.

Since the beginning of industrial times (in the 18th century), human activities have raised atmospheric CO2 by 50% – meaning the amount of CO2 is now 150% of its value in 1750. This is greater than what naturally happened at the end of the last ice age 20,000 years ago.

The animated map shows how global carbon dioxide has changed over time. Note how the map changes colors as the amount of CO2 rises from 365 parts per million (ppm) in 2002 to over 400 ppm currently. (“Parts per million” refers to the number of carbon dioxide molecules per million molecules of dry air.) These measurements are from the mid-troposphere, the layer of Earth’s atmosphere that is 8 to 12 kilometers (about 5 to 7 miles) above the ground.

Guest essay: What Joe Manchin Cost Us: “Mr. Manchin’s grandchildren will grow up knowing that his legacy is #climate destruction” — The New York Times (Lean C. Stokes) #ActOnClimate

Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

Click the link to read the essay on The New York Times website (Leah C. Stokes):

Over the last year and a half, I’ve dissected every remark I could find in the press from Senator Joe Manchin on climate change. With the fate of our planet hanging in the balance, his every utterance was of global significance. But his statements have been like a weather vane, blowing in every direction. It’s now clear that Mr. Manchin has wasted what little time this Congress had left to make real progress on the climate crisis.

Since early 2021, congressional Democrats and President Biden have worked relentlessly to negotiate a climate policy package. When Build Back Better passed the House last fall, it included $555 billion in clean energy and climate investments. After four decades of gridlock in Congress, the Democrats were poised to finally pass a major climate bill, with agreement from 49 senators. But yesterday, one man torched the deal, and with it the climate: Mr. Manchin.

By stringing his colleagues along, Mr. Manchin didn’t just waste legislators’ time. He also delayed crucial regulations that would cut carbon pollution. Wary of upsetting the delicate negotiations, the Biden administration has held back on using the full force of its executive authority on climate over the past 18 months, likely in hopes of securing legislation first.

The stakes of delay could not be higher. Last summer, while the climate negotiations dragged on, record-breaking heat waves killed hundreds of Americans. Hurricanes, wildfires and floods pummeled the country from coast to coast. Over the last 10 years, the largest climate and weather disasters have cost Americans more than a trillion dollars — far more than the Democrats had hoped to spend to stop the climate crisis. With each year we delay, the climate impacts keep growing. We do not have another month, let alone another year or decade, to wait for Mr. Manchin to negotiate in good faith.

The climate investments in the bill ranged from incentives for clean power like wind and solar, to support for electric vehicles. They were essential to meeting President Biden’s goal of cutting carbon pollution in half from its 2005 levels by 2030 — the United States’ contribution to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Congress’s failure to act means that, under the best case scenario with the policies we already have in place, we will only get 70 percent of the way there.

After months of stop-and-start discussions, with Mr. Manchin repeatedly walking away from the negotiations, Congress has largely run out of time. Democrats need to pass their reconciliation package this summer, and despite weeks of round-the-clock effort from Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, and his team, Mr. Manchin has now refused to agree to vote for spending on climate. While he claimed on a West Virginia talk show on Friday that it wasn’t over, that “we’ve had good conversations, we’ve had good negotiations,” this is doublespeak; he simply doesn’t want to be held accountable for his actions. He has consistently said one thing and done another.

Mr. Manchin’s refusal to agree to climate investments will hurt the economy he claims he wants to protect. The package would have built domestic manufacturing, supporting more than 750,000 climate jobs annually. It would have also fought inflation, helping to make energy bills more affordable for everyday Americans. This is particularly ironic since Mr. Manchin said inflation was the chief reason he was uncomfortable with supporting tax incentives for clean energy right now.

Over the past year, Mr. Manchin has taken more money from the oil and gas industry than any other member of Congress — including every Republican — according to federal filings. A Times investigation found that he also personally profited from coal, making roughly $5 million between 2010 and 2020 — about three times his Senate salary. Coal has made Mr. Manchin a millionaire, even as it has poisoned the air his own constituents in West Virginia breathe.

As Upton Sinclair put it: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

But one thing I have never understood about Mr. Manchin is how he looks his grandchildren in the eye. While he may leave his descendants plenty of money, they will also inherit a broken planet. Like other young people, Mr. Manchin’s grandchildren will grow up knowing that his legacy is climate destruction.

Governor Polis Takes Additional Steps to Improve Air Quality for Coloradans

Click the link to read the release on Governor Polis’ website:

Today, Colorado Governor Jared Polis urged the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and other state agencies to take additional steps to improve air quality for Coloradans.

In a letter to key leaders within his administration at the agency level, the Governor wrote: “Clean air is critical to the Colorado way of life. We value protecting our environment, ensuring environmental justice, and promoting better health for all Coloradans. This past legislative session we made substantial progress toward improving our air, including:

Wildfire smoke and ozone have been a daily blur for long range views along the Front Range this summer [2021]. Photo credit: Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline

  • A significant investment over three years to increase resources available to our Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) to right size and modernize the Division. Recent expansion in core responsibilities specifically related to the EPA Ozone non-attainment did not come with adequate resources. These investments now empower the Division to expand monitoring and emissions work, accelerate the transition to cleaner technologies across various industries, and to more thoroughly engage with communities across the state, particularly those most affected by air pollution.
  • West Grand School District electric school bus. Photo credit: The Mountain Town News/Allen Best

  • Hundreds of millions of dollars of state money to clean up our transportation system, including resources to position Colorado as a national leader in the electrification of our school bus fleet; substantial resources to decarbonize the industrial and aviation sectors above and beyond current and future greenhouse gas emissions rules; saving people money on transit with free and reduced-cost fares, and significant investments to reduce pollution from the buildings sector.
  • New plating at the Glenwood Springs water intake on Grizzly Creek was installed by the city to protect the system’s valve controls and screen before next spring’s [2021] snowmelt scours the Grizzly Creek burn zone and potentially clogs the creek with debris. (Provided by the City of Glenwood Springs)

  • Expanded capabilities across the State to mitigate, prepare for, and respond to disasters such as wildfires, mudslides and flooding and other devastating impacts of climate change.”
  • The Governor acknowledged that CDPHE and the Air Quality Control Commission have an ambitious agenda over the next 12 months to establish new plans, and standards to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and reduce paperwork for Colorado businesses.

    The Governor also urged CDPHE and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to take steps to improve air permit modeling, the permitting process, and oil and gas emissions reporting, evaluate cumulative impacts, reduce emissions from heavy duty off-road engines, improve collaboration between COGCC and APCD, and provide greater access to air quality information for the public.

    After U.S. Supreme Court decision (#WV v. @EPA), some #Colorado leaders see urgency in addressing climate change — The #Durango Herald #ActOnClimate

    Natural gas flares near a community in Colorado. Colorado health officials and some legislators agree that better monitoring is necessary. Photo credit the Environmental Defense Fund.

    Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Nina Heller). Here’s an excerpt:

    Federal, state action needed to implement policies

    Colorado leaders say the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last week to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants further demonstrates the urgency to enact federal and statewide policies that curb greenhouse gas emissions. The ruling means the EPA needs authorization from Congress to regulate the carbon emissions from power plants. The decision raises questions about how much the federal government can do to fight climate change and the extent that federal agencies can impose regulations. Though the ruling will not affect Colorado’s ability to address climate change on a state level, environmental policy experts say it illuminates the need to find ways to make policy to address the climate crisis facing the state. With the EPA having more limitations to its powers, the court’s decision underscores the importance for states to recognize the threat that climate change poses through policymaking…

    Colorado Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet expressed a sense of urgency for Congress to take steps to address climate change…

    “The bipartisan Clean Air Act has a 50-year track record of effectively protecting public health, curbing air pollution, and safeguarding our environment,” Bennet wrote in a news release. “This decision ignores the clear authority the Act gives EPA to keep our communities healthy and safe. With climate change bearing down on the American West, now is the time to strengthen protections for cleaning up air and water and for cutting climate pollution, not weaken them.”

    […]

    [Alex] DeGolia said Colorado has made good efforts to address climate change through policy, such as the passage of House Bill 1261 in the state Legislature in 2019. The bill established statewide goals for reducing emissions over the next 30 years by 90% compared with 2005 levels. However, he said a big thing Colorado can do would be for the Air Quality Control Commission to evaluate the progress the state is making in reaching those targets as a result of the new policies being implemented. Doing that, he said, will help evaluate any gaps between the targets and the projections and eventually establish new regulations to help ensure the targets are met.

    “States like Colorado have broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “We just need to double down on our work at the state level and elsewhere, in order to make sure that we are reducing emissions as fast as we can.

    Plan for up to 10 oil trains a day through #Colorado on track for administration’s approval — Colorado Newsline #ColoradoRiver #COriver #KeepItInTheGround #ActOnClimate

    The Union Pacific railroad along the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon is pictured on Sept. 2, 2021. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

    The Biden administration is set to approve another key permit for a new railroad in Utah that is expected to drastically increase the amount of crude oil hauled through Colorado by rail, dismissing objections from environmental groups and Colorado communities along the impacted route.

    Officials with the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday rejected a challenge to its decision to allow part of the proposed 88-mile Uinta Basin Railway to cross a protected roadless area in the Ashley National Forest. Securing the right-of-way is a critical step for the project, which is backed by a public-private partnership between seven Utah county governments, Drexel Hamilton Infrastructure Partners and the Rio Grande Pacific railroad company.

    Utah’s oil and gas industry has eagerly supported the proposed rail line, which is projected to significantly increase oil production in the Uinta Basin by connecting the region to the national rail network, allowing crude oil to be transported over the Rocky Mountains to refineries along the Gulf Coast. An environmental impact statement prepared by federal regulators estimated that the increased production from the Uinta Basin alone could increase total annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 1%, at a time when scientists are urging drastic global emissions cuts to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

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    “President Biden should be doing everything in his power to respond to the climate emergency, but he’s about to light one of the nation’s biggest carbon bombs,” Deeda Seed, a senior campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “This is pouring another 5 billion gallons of oil on the fire every year and bulldozing a national forest in the process. It’s a horrifying step in the wrong direction.”

    Much of the additional crude oil produced as a result of the Uinta Basin Railway would be hauled through Colorado on a route that passes through Glenwood Canyon along the Colorado River, then through the Moffat Tunnel and central Denver. Up to 10 two-mile-long trains would travel the route daily, and because the Uinta Basin produces a type of oil known as “waxy” crude, the tank cars used to transport it need to be heated, creating additional safety and environmental risks.

    Dozens of cities, counties and water districts along the route have voiced opposition to the project, including Glenwood Springs, where city officials worry about potential impacts to the Colorado River Basin, and Eagle County, which has joined environmental groups in suing the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in a federal appeals court over its 4-1 vote to approve the project as a whole in December.

    This is pouring another 5 billion gallons of oil on the fire every year and bulldozing a national forest in the process. It’s a horrifying step in the wrong direction.

    – Deeda Seed, a senior campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity

    At least 21 oil train derailments have occurred in the U.S. and Canada since 2013, according to a 2021 report from the nonprofit Sightline Institute. Such incidents frequently result in fires and spills, including the 2016 derailment of an oil train in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, in which an estimated 42,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled.

    The partnership behind the railway project says it’s “committed to minimizing and mitigating environmental impacts where possible,” and will comply with “all federal, state, and local environmental regulations.”

    In a notice sent on Tuesday, Forest Service officials rejected the Center for Biological Diversity’s challenge to the Ashley National Forest right-of-way permit, writing that despite some “concerns” about the environmental impact statement prepared by the Surface Transportation Board, the agency believes the analysis “supports permit issuance.”

    “There is nothing in the proposal that would suggest that the Forest Service must reject the proposal or deny the application,” wrote Deb Oakeson, deputy regional forester for the USFS Intermountain Region. “Analysis in the (environmental impact statement) has led to certain protective measures and mitigations that would be stipulated conditions of any potential special use permit.”

    Backers say the $1.5 billion Uinta Basin Railway would be the largest new railroad project in the United States in nearly 50 years. Construction could begin as early as next year.

    Opponents, however, still hope to prevail in several legal challenges, including Eagle County’s suit against the Surface Transportation Board and a separate complaint alleging misuse of state funds in connection with the project’s financing. Eagle County and other petitioners in the federal lawsuit are scheduled to file opening briefs in the case by Aug. 4.

    In a letter sent earlier this year, more than 50 Colorado city and county governments urged Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper to speak out in opposition to the project. Both senators have said that they share Colorado communities’ “concerns” about the proposal.

    Meanwhile, more than 100 environmental groups from Colorado, Utah and other Western states have voiced their opposition, objecting to the railway’s potential to do “tremendous harm to the environment.”

    “This area is already facing water and air quality issues,” Jonny Vasic, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said in a statement Wednesday. “The railway will quadruple production of oil in the Uinta Basin, resulting in dire consequences for air quality, public lands, water, public safety and the climate.”

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    Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

    Uinta Basin Railway faces obstacles: Litigation takes aim at public funding for project that would run heated oil trains through #Colorado — @AspenJournalism #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    The Roaring Fork River (left) joins with the Colorado River in downtown Glenwood Springs. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

    Click the link to read the article on the Aspen Journalism website (Amy Hadden Marsh):

    There comes a phase in almost any large-scale, controversial project on public or private land when the questions arise and the lawsuits begin. The proposed Uinta Basin Railway (UBR) is no different.

    Everything about the venture is large-scale, from its nationwide scope to potential global impacts. Although the UBR, at 88 miles, is considered a “short line,” it would create a new link in the oil supply chain connecting the vast, fracked-oil fields in northeast Utah’s Uinta Basin to the national rail network, passing through Glenwood Canyon on its way to the refineries on the Gulf Coast. The UBR, approved by the Federal Surface Transportation Board (FSTB) in late 2021, would provide enough transportation capacity to increase oil production in the Uinta Basin from between 80,000 and 90,000 barrels per day (B/D) currently to 350,000 B/D — essentially quadrupling output.

    The increase in CO2 from expanding Uinta Basin production would come at a time when scientists around the world are sounding an alarm. In 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025, drop by half by 2030 with net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 to avoid catastrophic and possibly irreversible climate changes.

    Combined CO2 emissions from the estimated fracked-oil operations in the Uinta Basin as result of the UBR and end-product combustion range from about 20 to 55 megatons per year, which, at the high end, is equal to about 1% of the U.S. or 17.5% of the United Kingdom CO2 output in 2020.

    The Uinta Basin is shown on this map, along with existing rail terminals in Carbon County, Utah, where limited amounts of the basin’s waxy crude is loaded into train cars. A proposal to create a direct rail link to the basin would provide shippers with enough transportation capacity to quadruple output.

    Salt Lake City refineries at capacity
    The type of oil found in the Uinta Basin is tricky to transport and difficult to refine. Called “waxy crude” because of its high paraffin content, it solidifies at about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality states that it must be “heated in the field and transported in insulated trucks.”

    As explained by Adam Sayres, president of Axia Energy II, which operates in the Uinta Basin, Uinta crude is like Chapstick. He gave a detailed presentation to the Board of Trustees of Utah’s School & Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) in May 2018, stating that the crude is liquid underground at about 225 degrees, but once it hits the surface, it has to be kept in heated tanks at 180 degrees. Then, it’s loaded onto insulated trucks that head for Salt Lake City refineries, about 150 miles away.

    According to Matt Sands, host of the Mineral Rights Podcast, in 2019, those refineries had a total production capacity for 189,000 B/D but only about 88,000 B/D for Uinta Basin waxy crude. Salt Lake City was declared a nonattainment area by the Environmental Protection Agency for air-quality standards twice in one decade — in 2009 for fine particulate matter and in 2015 for ozone — which proved problematic for those wanting to increase Uinta Basin waxy-crude production. “Production has had to mirror the refining capacity,” Sayres told the SITLA board.

    Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, told Aspen Journalism that ozone levels have not improved and emissions from all refining operations are capped due to air-quality concerns. “Without getting permit changes or offsetting emissions, the refineries cannot increase production,” he said.

    Wendy Park, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group opposed to the UBR, said Uinta Basin oil producers are locked into the Salt Lake City refinery market, which gives the refineries a distinct advantage. “The Salt Lake City refineries can ask for a discount because there isn’t much competition for this waxy crude oil, [since companies] can’t get it to other customers,” she said. “The increase in markets for Uinta Basin crude would allow oil producers to charge higher prices, which would spur increased drilling.”

    The only way to increase production in the Uinta Basin is to refine the waxy crude somewhere else. Proponents of the UBR say the best way to do that is to link the Uinta Basin by rail to the national rail network, near Price, Utah, and take that crude to Gulf Coast refineries that can handle it.

    Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes near the Union Pacific rail yard just west of downtown. Godes is opposed to oil trains from the Uinta Basin coming through Glenwood Springs.

    Oil trains would go through Colorado
    The UBR promises to add from three to 10 oil trains daily to the national railway running through Colorado. The trains would share the tracks with Amtrak and freight haulers, winding through Glenwood Canyon and up through the Moffat Tunnel before descending to Denver and then east and south. The waxy crude would be shipped in heated unit cars — approximately 110 cars per train with the capacity to carry about 642 barrels in each car.

    Communities along the Colorado route, including the city of Glenwood Springs, have written to U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John HIckenlooper against the UBR, citing concerns about air quality, wildlife, water and public safety. Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes told Aspen Journalism that an accident or spill in Glenwood Canyon would be disastrous all the way to the Sea of Cortez. “To say it’s a far-fetched possibility, I think, is to ignore reality,” he said. “If that waxy crude that’s heated in order to stay viscous spills into our watershed and into the Colorado River, it would be a massive cleanup where they would have to remove tons of soil and debris.”

    Eagle County officials, who are party to a lawsuit challenging the FSTB’s December approval of the UBR, have also voiced concerns that the long-dormant Tennessee Pass rail line would be revived as an alternate route for the oil trains should the national rail network through Colorado — particularly the Moffat Tunnel — become crowded.

    Texas-based Rio Grande Pacific Corp (RGPC), which plans to build and operate the UBR, also owns Colorado, Midland & Pacific Railway (CMP), which, in late 2020, attempted to lease a portion of the Tennessee Pass line from UP for possible commuter/passenger service and freight options, and applied for fast-track approval from the FSTB. RGPC made a point of stating that it “has no plan to operate oil trains over Tennessee Pass.” RGPC even went so far as to amend its plan a week before the FSTB made its decision, requesting restriction from hauling crude oil, coal and hazardous materials in the proposed lease.

    But Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr is not convinced. “There is no way they can commit to that,” he told Aspen Journalism. “They are not allowed to officially make a promise that [they] will not do some sort of activity on a line that has a general practice of moving freight.”

    The FSTB denied the application — and, by extension, RGPC’s proposed amendment — on March 25, 2021, for a variety of reasons, including public opposition and RGPC’s apparent rush to get it done. But the decision left the door open for CMP to reapply with a more comprehensive impact review and a full application process. “So, the proposal could come back,” said Park.

    A week of highs: See where #ClimateChange made heat worse in America — The Washington Post #ActOnClimate

    Climate Shift Index
    For High Temperature on June 26, 2022. Graphic credit: Climate Central

    Click the link to read the article on The Washington Post website (John Muyskens, Kasha Patel and Naema Ahmed). Here’s an excerpt:

    Last week, 96 percent of people in the contiguous United States experienced nighttime temperatures more likely to occur due to human-caused warming. The findings come from a Washington Post analysis of data provided by the nonprofit Climate Central, which released the world’s first tool to show how climate change is affecting daily temperatures in real time. Overnight temperatures, as opposed to daytime temperatures, were boosted the most by climate change. While more and more people are increasingly exposed to warmer nighttime temperatures, which are potentially more dangerous to the body, last week’s number stands out.

    Screenshot from The Washington Post website.

    More than 3,000 new daily high temperatures were reached in the Lower 48 states that week – with nearly twice as many unprecedented warm temperatures reached at night than during daytime.

    “Climate change is impacting us every day somewhere. That’s a big part of the world that we’re living in right now,” said Andrew Pershing, director of climate science at Climate Central. “Our goal is really to be able to talk about everyday conditions.”

    #Colorado Air Pollution Control Division: Upcoming Recovered Methane Stakeholder Meetings / Próximas reuniones de partes interesadas sobre metano recuperado, June 25 and 28, 2022 #ActOnClimate

    CH4 trend: This graph shows globally-averaged, monthly mean atmospheric methane abundance determined from marine surface sites since 1983. Values for the last year are preliminary. (NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory)

    The Air Pollution Control Division invites you to two upcoming stakeholder engagement meetings on the to-be-proposed Recovered Methane Protocol rule. Come learn more, ask questions, and share your thoughts!

    Registration is required.

    Saturday, June 25 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. REGISTER HERE:
    https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUpdOugrj4tEtUyUwyZcVIVdOtAE4HyFanM

    Tuesday, June 28 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. REGISTER HERE:
    https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAvceGsrzoqGNeCK1MicXdBis1Osq78nqTT

    Background:

    To address climate change and meet requirements from Senate Bill 21-264 and House Bill 21-1238, the Division will develop recovered methane protocols for use in Clean Heat Plans to help demonstrate greenhouse gas reductions by gas utilities, and a crediting and tracking system for recovered methane projects. In July 2022 will propose a rule to the Air Quality Control Commission to establish recovered methane protocols and a crediting and tracking system for recovered methane in Colorado, as required by statute. The rulemaking will take place in November 2022.

    Under state statute, recovered methane includes biomethane, coal mine methane, methane derived from municipal solid waste, wastewater treatment, or the conversion or thermal decomposition of biomass, and methane that would have leaked without repairs of the gas distribution and service pipelines from the city gate to customer end use.

    La División de Control de la Contaminación del Aire lo invita a dos próximas reuniones de participación de las partes interesadas sobre la regla del Protocolo de Metano Recuperado. ¡Ven a aprender más, haz preguntas y comparte tus pensamientos!

    Es necesario registrarse.

    Sábado 25 de junio 10:00 a 11:30 REGÍSTRESE AQUÍ: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUpdOugrj4tEtUyUwyZcVIVdOtAE4HyFanM

    Martes 28 de junio 18:00 h. a las 7:00 p. m. REGÍSTRESE AQUÍ: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAvceGsrzoqGNeCK1MicXdBis1Osq78nqTT

    Fondo:

    Para abordar el cambio climático y cumplir con los requisitos del Proyecto de Ley del Senado 21-264 y el Proyecto de Ley de la Cámara de Representantes 21-1238, la División desarrollará protocolos de metano recuperado para usar en Planes de Calor Limpio para ayudar a demostrar reducciones de gases de efecto invernadero por parte de las empresas de servicios públicos de gas, y un sistema de acreditación y seguimiento para proyectos de recuperación de metano. En julio de 2022 propondrá una regla a la Comisión de Control de la Calidad del Aire para establecer protocolos de metano recuperado y un sistema de acreditación y seguimiento para el metano recuperado en Colorado, según lo exige la ley. La reglamentación tendrá lugar en noviembre de 2022.

    Según la ley estatal, el metano recuperado incluye el biometano, el metano de las minas de carbón, el metano derivado de los desechos sólidos municipales, el tratamiento de aguas residuales o la conversión o descomposición térmica de la biomasa, y el metano que se habría filtrado sin las reparaciones de las tuberías de servicio y distribución de gas de la ciudad. puerta al uso final del cliente.

    Revised Xcel Settlement Benefits the Climate with 2031 Retirement of Comanche 3 and Reduced Reliance on Fossil Gas — Western Resource Advocates #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Solar installation in the San Luis Valley. Photo credit: Western Resource Advocates

    Click the link to read the blog post on the Western Resource Advocates website (Julianne Basinger):

    Western Resource Advocates signed on to a revised settlement agreement filed today in Xcel Energy’s Electric Resource and Clean Energy Plan proceeding before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The new settlement includes accelerated dates for retiring the Comanche 3 coal unit, helps avoid building unnecessary and potentially stranded new fossil gas generation, and establishes commitments to achieve interim carbon emission reductions in 2024 and 2027.

    “If approved, this settlement secures the next stage of Colorado’s energy transition, ensuring commitments from Xcel to reduce its harmful fossil-fuel emissions that contribute to climate change,” said Gwen Farnsworth, Western Resource Advocates’ managing senior policy advisor in Colorado. “The earlier date for retiring Comanche 3, plus cutting the assumed lifetime for any new fossil gas generation and establishing interim targets for reducing carbon emissions, will all help Colorado reach its climate goals. Important provisions also extend community assistance to the Pueblo community for 10 years and will help in the transition to new economic opportunities as the coal-fired Comanche unit closes.”

    These are all key improvements to the settlement WRA has advocated for during the commission proceeding on Xcel’s plan. WRA opposed a previous version of the settlement signed by other parties late last year. Specifically, the new settlement calls for Xcel to:

  • Retire Comanche 3 by January 1, 2031 — four years earlier than the original settlement, which will avoid an additional 3.5 million tons of carbon emissions compared to the original settlement filed in November and will cut toxic local air pollutants in Pueblo;
  • Commit to interim reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, with targets of a 50% reduction by 2024 and 65% by 2027, compared with the utility’s 2005 levels;
  • Cut the modeled lifetime for any new fossil gas generation to 25 years; and
  • Expand Xcel’s Just Transition Plan, by extending the community assistance benefits for Pueblo to 10 years.
  • The settlement overall will provide more than 17 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions. Reducing these fossil-fuel emissions will help curb the harmful effects of climate change. The Comanche generating station is also responsible for over 80% of all toxic chemicals released into the surrounding community of Pueblo.

    Several provisions in the revised settlement reduce the utility’s expected future reliance on fossil-fuel gas generation. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reducing methane emissions from fossil-fuel gas is one of the biggest and fastest strategies for slowing climate change.

    The Xcel settlement today follows the utility’s February 2021 announcement of its Clean Energy Plan committing to achieve an 85% reduction in carbon emissions and 80% renewable energy generation by 2030, as well as 100% clean energy by 2050. A 2019 Colorado law requires Xcel to reduce its emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2030. In 2019, the Colorado Legislature also passed House Bill 1261, requiring the state to reduce its economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

    An even worse #drought 2,000 years ago: #ColoradoRiver reservoirs are far closer to empty than full. Now comes evidence of a worse drought long, long ago — @BigPivots #COriver #aridification #ActOnClimate

    Lees Ferry, located 15 miles downstream of Glen Canyon Dam is the dividing line between the upper and lower Colorado River basins. Photo/Allen Best

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    The Colorado River Basin has suffered a handful of extended, deep droughts. We’re in one of them. But as bad as the current drought is, leaving reservoirs far more empty than full, new evidence has emerged of an even worse drought. It occurred 2,000 years ago.

    “The new findings should “help water managers plan for even more persistent and severe droughts than previously considered,” said Subhrendu Gangopadhyay, the lead author of the study that was published in Geophysical Research Letters. Gangopadhyay is principal engineer for the Water Resources Engineer and Management Group at the Bureau of Reclamation.

    September 21, 1923, 9:00 a.m. — Colorado River at Lees Ferry. From right bank on line with Klohr’s house and gage house. Old “Dugway” or inclined gage shows to left of gage house. Gage height 11.05′, discharge 27,000 cfs. Lens 16, time =1/25, camera supported. Photo by G.C. Stevens of the USGS.
    Source: 1921-1937 Surface Water Records File, Colorado R. @ Lees Ferry, Laguna Niguel Federal Records Center, Accession No. 57-78-0006, Box 2 of 2 , Location No. MB053635.

    The definition of average used by the team of researchers was the average of flows recorded at Lees Ferry since 1906. This location below Glen Canyon Dam is the official dividing line between the lower Colorado River Basin and the upper basin. The latter is where nearly all of the river flows originate, more than half in Colorado.

    The new research finds that compared to the current 220-year drought in the Colorado River, with only 84% of average water flow, it was surpassed by a 22-year period in the second century, when the average water flow was 68% of average.

    Farview Reservoir Mesa Verde NP

    Paleoclimatologists have long known of severe droughts in the Colorado River. One occurred in the late 16th century, about the time Spanish colonists were staking claims in the Southwest, and others occurred midway through the 12th century, and again in the late 13th century, about the time the ancestral Pueblo were vacating cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde.

    This new study stretches the record deeper into the past.

    “This new finding suggests that the range of natural hydroclimatic variability in the Colorado River is broader than previously recognized, setting a new bar for worst-case scenario from natural variability alone,” the study concludes.

    In other words, Mother Nature could deliver even worse.

    Annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, by world region

    That’s not even including the effect of artificial heating of the atmosphere caused by accumulating greenhouse gases. Previous studies have calculated that a third to a half of the reduced precipitation is due to global warming.

    New tree ring studies in Alaska help shed light on climate-change impacts to forests.

    Paleoclimatologists have a variety of tools for establishing precipitation of past centuries. Tree rings reflect growing conditions, especially precipitation. Wider bands correspond with more moisture, narrower rings less.

    These tree ring studies have been catalogued at many areas. For example, one of the researchers in the current study, Connie Woodhouse, then affiliated with the University of Colorado at Boulder but now with the University of Arizona, has studied Douglas fir trees near Eagle among many other places.

    San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

    Prominent in this study was research conducted in the San Juan Mountains southwest of Alamosa, near the former mining site of Summitville. It is not in the Colorado River Basin but it does reflect the climate in the San Juan Mountains, which provides a tributary for the Colorado River. That particular site showed a severe drought in the second century, the driest in the last 2,250 years.

    For this study, tree rings were not enough. There were just a few fragments. “Tree-ring records are sparse back in the second century,” said Woodhouse. “However, this extreme drought event is also documented in paleoclimatic data from lakes, bogs, and caves.”

    Researchers also used statistical method called grid-point reconstructions.

    The take-away, once again, is that the natural drought could lift from the Colorado River Basin next year. Or it could deepen.

    As for the aridification caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we’re likely stuck with that even if a miracle occurs and the world figures out how to stop the production of carbon dioxide and other gases.

    #Climate scientists say expected ocean changes require planning for many generations ahead — EurikAlert #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Observed upper 2000 m ocean heat content and ocean salinity trends in the past half century. Data from IAP ocean dataset (http://www.ocean.iap.ac.cn/).

    Click the link to read the article on the EurekAlert website (Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences):

    Even if society is able to slow all greenhouse gas emissions and get to “net zero” by mid-century as targeted by nations of the world in the UN Paris Agreement, there is a lag built into the climate system primarily as a result of ocean thermal inertia (also ice sheets) that means slow emerging changes such as deep ocean warming and sea-level rise will continue very long afterward.

    Climate scientists argue in a new review paper that this means climate actions need to be established at multiple time scales. The paper has recently been published in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters.

    In the near term (∼2030), goals such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be critical. Over longer times (∼2050–2060 and beyond), global carbon neutrality targets may be met as countries continue to work toward reducing emissions. The climate actions need to extend far beyond the current period of focus to time scales of hundreds of years. On these time scales, preparation for “high impact, low probability” risks—such as an abrupt slowdown of Atlantic Ocean circulation and irreversible ice sheet loss—should be fully integrated into long-term planning.

    The global ocean, which covers some 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, is slower to absorb and release heat than land. The large mass and heat capacity also means the ocean is much more capable of storing heat than air or land, and the ocean is hence the most important controlling component of the Earth’s climate.

    This “ocean thermal inertia” offers both good news and bad news with respect to climate change. It means that the planet is not heating up as fast as it would without an ocean. But it also means that even once we halt greenhouse gas emissions by about 2050 to 2060, as laid out in the United Nations Paris Agreement—like a speeding train taking time to slow down once the brakes are hit—the climate system will still continue to change for a considerable amount of time afterward.

    The ocean will keep on warming as heat is transported downwards into deeper ocean waters, and the climate system will only re-stabilize when that deep ocean stops warming and the Earth reaches an equilibrium between incoming and outgoing heat.

    “This process means that while surface warming may stabilize at about 1.5-2℃ when global emissions reach net-zero emissions, sub-surface ocean warming will continue for at least hundreds of years, yet we normally only talk about climate action on the scale of a few decades to the end of the century at the most,” said lead-author, Prof. John Abraham, a mechanical engineering researcher with the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, “That needs to change.”

    As a consequence, a system of scientific ocean monitoring with that time-scale in mind needs to be developed. Besides subsurface temperature and sea level, the tracking of ocean climate trends such as pH, sea ice, ocean surface heat flux, currents, salinity, carbon, will require long-duration consistent and calibrated measurements, and compared with temperature, these essential climate variables are currently much less observed.

    “Changes to the ocean will also continue to impact extreme weather over these longer periods, as well as sea-level rise.” said Prof. Lijing Cheng, an ocean and climate scientist from Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. “And infiltration of sea water into fresh water supplies can affect coastal food supplies, aquifers, and local economies. Other impacts that are connected to ocean warming and so need to be considered for the very long term include more damaging storm surges, coastal erosion, marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and marine oxygen depletion.”

    “Clearly this later group of measures will take a much longer time to implement but will also provide much longer lasting benefits”, added Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael E Mann, another co-author of the paper. “Multi-scale adaptation practices like this should be considered throughout the globe.”

    Finally, the researchers argue, societies need to begin to consider ensuring they are resilient in the face of “high impact, low probability” events (an unlikely event that would have significant consequences if it happens), such as an abrupt slowdown of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, large methane emissions from the seabed or thawing permafrost, passing a tipping point for losing a major ice sheet, or an abrupt shift and transition of ocean ecosystem including a major extinction event.

    Moving forward, the researchers hope to connect with key decision-makers, city planners, and vulnerable communities that will need to be involved with such very long-term social decision-making to ensure that are basing their conclusions on sound climate and ocean science.

    Carbon Dioxide Levels Are Highest in Human History — The New York Times #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Air samples from NOAA’s Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii provide important data for climate scientists around the world. On Thursday, NOAA announced that analysis of data from their global sampling network showed that levels of the potent greenhouse gas methane recorded the largest annual increase ever observed in 2021, while carbon dioxide continued to increase at historically high rates. (NOAA)

    Click the link to read the article on The New York Times website (Henry Fountain). Here’s an excerpt:

    Humans pumped 36 billion tons of the planet-warming gas into the atmosphere in 2021, more than in any previous year. It comes from burning oil, gas and coal.

    The amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere broke a record in May, continuing its relentless climb, scientists said Friday. It is now 50 percent higher than the preindustrial average, before humans began the widespread burning of oil, gas and coal in the late 19th century.

    There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any time in at least 4 million years, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said.

    The concentration of the gas reached nearly 421 parts per million in May, the peak for the year, as power plants, vehicles, farms and other sources around the world continued to pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Emissions totaled 36.3 billion tons in 2021, the highest level in history.

    As the amount of carbon dioxide increases, the planet keeps warming, with effects like increased flooding, more extreme heat, drought and worsening wildfires that are already being experienced by millions of people worldwide. Average global temperatures are now about 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than in preindustrial times.

    This graphic shows the increasing warming influence over time of CO2 and non-CO2 greenhouse gases, in CO2 equivalents, on the left axis. The corresponding increase in the AGGI is shown on the right axis. Credit: NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory.

    Large differences among the recent increases in the cost of powering gasoline, diesel, and electric vehicles — Green Car Congress

    Leaf charging in Edwards September 30, 2021.

    Click the link to read the article on the Green Car Congress website (Michael Sivak). Here’s an excerpt:

    This post examines the recent changes in the costs of powering gasoline, diesel, and electric vehicles. The expectation was that the cost of electricity had recently increased much less than the costs of gasoline and diesel. The reason is that, in the United States, oil is used to generate less than 1% of electricity. Therefore, the recent jump in oil prices (because of the war in Ukraine), should have only a relatively small indirect effect on the cost of electricity.

    The raw data—the retail prices of regular gasoline, on-highway diesel, and residential electricity—came from the Energy Information Administration. The gasoline and diesel prices are already available through May 2022, while the electricity prices are currently available only through March 2022.

    The table below shows all available average monthly prices for 2022. Also shown are the calculated changes for each month compared with the January prices.

    Average monthly prices for 2022. Graphic credit: Michael Sivak

    Greenhouse gas pollution trapped 49% more heat in 2021 than in 1990, NOAA finds

    Click the link to read the release on the NOAA website:

    Greenhouse gas pollution caused by human activities trapped 49% more heat in the atmosphere in 2021 than they did in 1990, according to NOAA scientists.

    NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, known as the AGGI, tracks increases in the warming influence of human emissions of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and 16 other chemicals. The AGGI converts the complex scientific computations of how much extra heat these gases capture into a single number that can easily be compared to previous years and tracks the rate of change.

    This graph depicts the relative contributions of the major greenhouse gas pollutants to global warming, in watts per square meter along the left axis. The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) is shown on the right axis. Credit: NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory

    The AGGI is indexed to 1990, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol and the year the first IPCC Scientific Assessment of Climate Change was published.

    “The AGGI tells us the rate at which we are driving global warming,” said Ariel Stein, the acting director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML). “Our measurements show the primary gases responsible for climate change continue rising rapidly, even as the damage caused by climate change becomes more and more clear. The scientific conclusion that humans are responsible for their increase is irrefutable.”

    In 2021, the AGGI reached a value of 1.49, which means that human-emitted greenhouse gases trapped 49% more heat in the atmosphere than in 1990. Because it is based primarily on highly accurate measurements of greenhouse gases in air samples collected around the globe, the result contains little uncertainty.

    Global average abundances of the major, well-mixed, long-lived greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, CFC-12 and CFC-11 – from the NOAA global air sampling network since the beginning of 1979 are depicted here. These five gases account for about 96% of the direct radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases since 1750. The remaining 4% is contributed by 15 other halogenated gases including HCFC-22 and HFC-134a, for which NOAA observations are also shown here. Credit: NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory

    The biggest culprit

    Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is by far the most abundant human-emitted greenhouse gas. Roughly 36 billion metric tons of CO2 are emitted each year by transportation, electrical generation, cement manufacturing, deforestation, agriculture, and many other practices. A substantial fraction of CO2 emitted today will persist in the atmosphere for more than 1,000 years. Not surprisingly, it is also the largest contributor to the AGGI in terms of both amount and rate of increase.

    NOAA measurements showed the global average concentration of CO2 in 2021 was 414.7 parts per million (ppm). The annual increase was 2.6 ppm during this year, about the average annual increase for the previous decade, and much higher than the increase measured during 2000-2009. CO2 levels have risen by 61 ppm since 1990, accounting for 80% of the increased heat tracked by the AGGI since that year.

    “CO2 is the main player because it stays in the atmosphere and oceans for thousands of years and it is by far the largest contributor to global warming,” said GML Senior Scientist Pieter Tans. “Eliminating CO2 pollution has to be front and center in any efforts to deal with climate change.”

    This graphic shows the increasing warming influence over time of CO2 and non-CO2 greenhouse gases, in CO2 equivalents, on the left axis. The corresponding increase in the AGGI is shown on the right axis. Credit: NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory.

    Methane: Is warming feeding warming?

    One of the most important scientific questions for climate scientists is what’s been driving the sharp, sustained increase of the second-most important greenhouse gas – methane – since 2006.

    Levels of atmospheric methane, or CH4, averaged 1,895.7 parts per billion during 2021. The 16.9 ppb increase recorded for 2021 was the fastest observed since the early 1980s, when a more rigorous measurement regime was initiated. Methane levels are currently around 162% greater than pre-industrial levels. From NOAA’s observations, scientists estimate the amount of methane emitted in 2021 was 15% greater than the 1984-2006 period.

    Methane is the second-most important greenhouse gas in warming the globe. The warming influence of CH4 since pre-industrial times is about a quarter of that from CO2. Causes for the dramatic post-2007 increase are not fully understood, but NOAA scientists have concluded that changes in isotopic composition of atmospheric methane over time point to microbial sources, likely from wetlands, agriculture and landfills, as the dominant driver. Fossil fuel emissions, they suggest, have made a smaller contribution.

    “We should absolutely target man-made methane emissions – especially those from fossil fuel – because it is technologically feasible to control them,” said Xin Lan, a CIRES scientist working in the Global Monitoring Lab. “If wetlands are giving off more methane because of warming and changes in global precipitation caused by rising CO2 levels , that’s something we can’t control directly. And that would be very concerning.”

    No laughing matter

    The third-most important greenhouse gas is one you may have encountered as an anesthesia in the dentist’s chair. Nitrous oxide, or N2O, is another long-lived climate forcing pollutant primarily emitted by people. It is rising every year. But it’s different in that it’s being driven by expanding populations, not energy demands. N2O pollution is primarily a result of fertilizer use to support agriculture and food production, especially for an expanding global population .

    “We can find alternative energy sources to replace fossil fuels,” said Stephen Montzka, the GML scientist who leads the AGGI report each year, “but cutting emissions associated with producing food is a very difficult task.”

    These three greenhouse gases, plus two banned ozone-depleting chemicals, account for about 96% of the excess heat trapped in the atmosphere due to human activity since 1750. The remaining 4% is from 16 other greenhouse gases also tracked by the AGGI. In aggregate, they trapped an amount of heat equivalent to 508 ppm of CO2 in 2021.

    One number to track human impact on climate

    NOAA scientists released the first AGGI in 2006 as a way to help policymakers, educators, and the public understand the cumulative impact of greenhouse gases on climate over time.

    Scientists benchmarked the AGGI to the year 1750, the onset of the Industrial Revolution, assigning it a value of zero. An AGGI value of 1.0 was assigned to 1990.

    The AGGI is based on thousands of air samples collected from sites around the world each year from NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. Concentrations of these greenhouse gases and other chemicals are determined through the analysis of those samples at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. Scientists then calculate the amount of extra heat being trapped in the Earth system by these gases and how much that has changed over time to understand the contribution from human activity.

    For more information, contact Theo Stein, NOAA Communications, at theo.stein@noaa.gov.

    Federal judge stops 35,000-acre fracking plan in western #Colorado — Wild Earth Guardians #KeepItInTheGround #ActOnClimate

    The North Fork Valley in Colorado. Photo by EcoFlight.

    Click the link to read the article on the Wild Earth Guardians website (Jeremy Nichols):

    The North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan would have allowed 35 new fracking wells in the North Fork Valley and Thompson Divide areas

    A U.S. District Court judge vacated a federal plan that allowed fracking across 35,000 acres of Colorado’s Western Slope on May 20.

    The North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan would have allowed 35 new fracking wells in the North Fork Valley and Thompson Divide areas of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests that provide habitat for elk, black bear and the imperiled Canada lynx and drinking water for downstream communities. Judge Marcia K. Krieger’s order prevents new drilling and fracking in the area.

    “This is a victory for the integrity of a biologically and economically diverse area,” said Melissa Hornbein, a senior attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “It reinforces that the federal government can’t skirt disclosing the environmental impacts of its actions. The Bureau of Land Management has to confront the dissonance between its proposal for fracking in an area already disproportionately affected by climate change and the reality that, to maintain any chance of keeping warming below the critical 1.5°C threshold, the government cannot approve any new fossil fuel projects.”

    Today’s order stems from a 2021 lawsuit by conservation and climate groups challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service for failing to analyze potential water and climate pollution, or plan alternatives that would prevent such harm. The plan would have caused about 52 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution, equivalent to the annual pollution from a dozen coal-fired power plants.

    “In this case, BLM acknowledged deficiencies in its analysis. Based on the court’s ruling, the agency must start over if they’re going to approve fossil fuel development in the area,” said Peter Hart, an attorney with Wilderness Workshop. “This will give BLM a chance to reconsider whether this is the right decision in the first place, and to contemplate alternatives that don’t destroy the headwaters of the North Fork, pristine roadless areas and our climate.”

    Colorado’s Western Slope is already suffering from severe warming. The Washington Post featured the area as the largest “climate hot spot” in the lower 48 states, where temperatures have risen more than 2 degrees Celsius. The temperature rise is reducing snowpack and drying Colorado River flows that support endangered fish, agriculture and 40 million downstream water users.

    “Today’s ruling is an important victory for the North Fork Valley community because it ensures government accountability and protects our vital public lands, water resources and climate from misguided oil and gas development plans,” said Natasha Léger, executive director, Citizens for a Healthy Community. “The government’s concession that its analysis of the project was inadequate would not have occurred without this citizen-led lawsuit.”

    “We’re thrilled that today’s decision protects the spectacular public lands, wildlife and waters of the Upper North Fork,” said Matt Reed, public lands director for Gunnison County-based High Country Conservation Advocates. “Furthermore, this ill-conceived project would have impacted critical headwaters that sustain a significant organic agriculture industry immediately downstream in Delta County, whose farms are an important source of produce for Gunnison County individuals and businesses.”

    Several analyses show that climate pollution from the world’s already-producing fossil fuel developments, if fully developed, would push warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius, and that avoiding such warming requires ending new investment in fossil fuel projects and phasing out production to keep as much as 40% of developed fields in the ground.

    “The judge’s order has spared forests, creeks and wildlife from fracking industrialization and prevented dangerous climate pollution along Colorado’s spectacular Western slope,” said Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now It’s time for President Biden to keep his promise and stop all new oil and gas expansion on our public lands and waters. His urgent action can help save the Colorado River basin, and the planet, for future generations.”

    Thousands of organizations and communities from across the United States have called on President Biden to halt federal fossil fuel expansion and phase out production consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

    “Climate action starts in places like Colorado’s North Fork Valley, where it’s absolutely vital to keep fossil fuels in the ground and protect the region’s clean air and water, public lands and wild places,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. “This lawsuit win is a critical victory for the climate and for western Colorado’s North Fork.”

    Plaintiffs Citizens for a Healthy Community, Wilderness Workshop, High Country Conservation Advocates, Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians are represented in this litigation by Western Environmental Law Center.

    Background: Fossil fuel production on public lands causes about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide fossil fuel leasing ban on federal lands and oceans would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate-policy proposals.

    Oil, gas and coal extraction uses mines, well pads, gas lines, roads and other infrastructure that destroy habitat for wildlife, including threatened and endangered species. Oil spills and other harms from offshore drilling have inflicted immense damage to ocean wildlife and coastal communities. Fracking and mining also pollute watersheds and waterways that provide drinking water to millions of people.

    Federal fossil fuels that have not been leased to industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution; those already leased to industry contain up to 43 billion tons. Pollution from the world’s already producing oil and gas fields, if fully developed, would push global warming well past 1.5 degrees Celsius.

    We’re catapulting ourselves out of the Holocene — @rahmstorf #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    The #Climate Fight Isn’t Lost. Here Are 10 Ways to Win — Rolling Stone Magazine #ActOnClimate

    Click the link to read the article on the Rolling Stone website (Jeff Goodell). Here’s an excerpt:

    The clock is running on the climate crisis, but we have the tools and knowledge — and the crickets — that we need

    The climate crisis is here, and heartbreak is all around us. The early promise of dramatic action from President Biden is sinking in the old mud bog of fossil-fuel politics. Meanwhile, despite 40 years of warnings from scientists and the decline in the cost of clean energy, carbon pollution is still increasing and the world is heating up as fast as ever. The final sentence of last February’s U.N.’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the impacts of that warming is stark and unequivocal: “Climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future.” Or as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres put it after an IPCC report on the mitigation of climate change was released this month: “Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

    […]

    1. Tax carbon.
    In February, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse took to the Senate floor for his 280th “Time to Wake Up!” speech about the climate crisis. The centerpiece of Whitehouse’s plan was the need for a tax on fossil fuels. It is an argument that speaks to a truism of economics: to make something scarce, tax it…

    Leaf charging at the Lionshead parking facility in Vail September 30, 2021.

    2. Electrify everything.
    In the U.S. there are roughly 290 million cars and trucks, 70 million fossil-fueled furnaces, 60 million fossil-fueled water heaters, 20 million gas dryers, and 50 million gas stoves. What if all those were electrified? Saul Griffith, an Australian American engineer and author of Electrify: An Optimist’s Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future, thinks electrification can reduce 80 percent of U.S. emissions by 2035…

    A solar parking facility at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, with an output of 8 megawatts of electricity.

    3. Go local with solar.
    It’s now obvious: The future is solar on homes, solar on apartment buildings, solar on malls, solar on parking lots, solar on fast-food joints, burrito stands, and strip clubs. With the sun, small is beautiful. Wasted space becomes a platform for power generation. With solar, cost has always been a problem, but that is ending now as the price of solar panels has plummeted over the past decade. Nobody pretends that you are going to make steel from solar, or that it will be the best way to generate power in every situation,but it is clean and reliable and won’t go down in a blackout like the one in 2021 that left 11 millions Texans freezing in the dark for days and was responsible for as many as 700 deaths…

    Xcel Energy proposes to close two of its coal-fired generating units at Comanche, indicated by smokestacks at right. The stack at left, for the plant completed in 2010, provides energy for a portion of Aspen and for the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys. In the foreground is the largest solar farm east of the Rocky Mountains at its opening. Photo/Allen Best

    4. Buy out coal plants.
    Coal is the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, responsible for 30 percent of global carbon emissions. The biggest coal burner is China, which consumes more coal than the rest of the world combined. Here in the U.S., coal is slowly being displaced by cheap gas, wind, and solar. But there are still 179 active coal plants, generating 20 percent of U.S. electricity. Shutting them down and replacing them with cleaner, cheaper energy is the fastest way to lower carbon emissions and slow the climate crisis. “The transition beyond coal is inevitable,” says Justin Guay, director for global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project. “But the timeline on which it happens isn’t.”

    […]

    Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

    5. Start telling the truth about the climate crisis.
    How much is that $2 million house on the beach going to be worth when there’s an octopus swimming through the living room? What’s going to happen to all those refineries on the Gulf Coast as the demand for oil plummets? Banks and corporations face huge financial risks as the age of climate disruption accelerates. One just-published report found around $343 billion in weather- and climate-related economic losses in 2021 alone, the third-costliest year on record. A 2019 study concluded that 215 of the world’s largest companies face nearly $1 trillion in climate-related risk as soon as 2024. Very little of this is disclosed in corporate financial reports. “The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare just how vulnerable the United States is to sudden, catastrophic shocks,” Sarah Bloom Raskin, Biden’s nominee to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, wrote in The New York Times. “Climate change poses the next big threat.”

    […]

    Denver Water’s planned new administration building via the Denver Business Journal

    6. Build denser, fairer, more humane cities.
    Urban life is far gentler on the planet than suburban life. People who live in cities spend less time stuck in traffic in their SUVs; they have better access to local food; they live in buildings that are more efficient. But cities need a climate upgrade too: more bikes, better public transit, more green space…

    Bears Ears Protest in Salt Lake December 2, 2017. Photo credit: Mother Jones Magazine

    7. Get loud and hit them where it hurts.
    The biggest roadblock to climate action has always been the cowardice and complicity of our political leaders. For many, the lack of significant accomplishments at last year’s Glasgow climate talks and the failure of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda have been a brutal awakening. “Activists have become jaded because there’s been a lot of promises from politicians without a lot of action to back it up,” says Dana Fisher, an environmental-activism expert at the University of Maryland and author of American Resistance. “A lot of young people are looking at other tactics now.”

    […]

    Graphic credit: The Nature Conservancy

    8. Fund small-scale geo-engineering research.
    Maybe Dr. Evil wants to deliberately fuck with the Earth’s climate, but nobody else does. Nevertheless, it’s probably inevitable, given the risks we face. There are many potential forms of geoengineering, from brightening clouds to stabilizing glaciers, but the technology that gets the most attention is solar engineering, which amounts to scattering particles in the stratosphere to reflect away sunlight and cool the Earth. Scientists know it works because it’s essentially what volcanoes do (particles injected into the stratosphere from Mount Pinatubo, which erupted in 1991, cooled the planet 0.6 C for more than a year, until they rained out of the sky)…

    Deep-fried house crickets (Acheta domesticus) at a market in Thailand. By Takeaway – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26774492

    9. Eat crickets!
    America’s (and, increasingly, the world’s) appetite for meat is barbecuing the planet. Livestock eat up a lot of land, drive deforestation, and are carbon-intensive in their own right. Without reforming industrial agriculture and reducing meat consumption, it will be virtually impossible to limit warming to 2 C, much less 1.5 C…

    Protest against Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. Photo: Dio Cramer

    10. Fight and win the culture war.
    Much has been said about the failure of Big Media to cover the climate crisis. It’s too often pigeonholed as an environmental issue rather than a slow-rolling planet-wide catastrophe. Or it’s infused with “both-sidesism,” in which journalists are duped into the false idea that there is any real debate about the fundamentals of climate science. Or it’s just not discussed at all. When Hurricane Ida slammed into the Gulf Coast late last summer, six of the biggest commercial TV networks in the U.S. — ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, and MSNBC — ran 774 stories about Ida, an analysis by the watchdog group Media Matters found. Only 34 of those stories mentioned climate change. Mark Hertsgaard, the executive director of Covering Climate Now, an initiative dedicated to improving climate reporting, calls it “media malpractice.”

    Air-source heat pumps at the home of Joe Smyth and Kristen Taddonio in Fraser, Colo. Photo/Joe Smyth

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    The coldest temperature this winter at the new home of Joe Smyth and Kristen Taddonio was 17 below. They live in Fraser, the Colorado town that used to get far, far colder.

    Still, that February night was cold enough to test the design and technologies employed in construction of the couple’s 1,176-square-foot house. They insulated carefully, of course, and have solar panels. Even after charging their electric car, their house produces more energy than it consumes.

    An air-source heat pump was central to their mission in creating a net-zero home, one gutted of emissions from fossil fuels. It extracts heat from outside, even on chilly nights, to warm the interior.

    The Mitsubishi model used at the Fraser house promises to deliver the necessary indoor heat even when outside temperatures dip to 13 below. To supplement the air-source heat pump should temperatures dive to 30 below, as was once common, the couple also installed electrical-resistance heating. It wasn’t needed.

    Colorado needs many more air-source heat pumps — and fewer carbon emissions from buildings — to meet its mid-century decarbonization target goals of 90%.

    Getting this right during housing construction costs less in the not-very-long term. Building permits for 48,200 housing units, both single-family and multi-family, were issued last year, according to the Colorado Business Economic Outlook. That’s like adding a new Greeley each year along with a few small towns.

    Retrofitting our older buildings is laborious and expensive. I know, because my house was built in 1889. You don’t swap out buildings the way you would computers or cars.

    Several bills working their way through the Colorado Legislature this spring would nudge Coloradans toward low- and no-carbon technologies. All cost more upfront, but save money, sometimes lots of it, over time, while reducing or eliminating emissions.

    Carrots would be offered by SB22-051 to those who purchase air- and ground-source heat pumps. Purchasers would be allowed income-tax exemptions of up to 10% of the purchase price.

    Other provisions in the bill approved by the House Energy and Environment Committee offer tax incentives for energy storage and buildings materials with low levels of embodied carbon.

    Christine Brinker, representing the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, testified that her family’s air-source heat pump paid for itself in six years because of lower energy costs. Air-source heat pumps help residents of Geos, a project in Arvada, to pay as little as $6 a month in energy costs.

    “It is just more efficient to move heat than to create heat,” said Rep. Mike Weissman, a Democrat from Louisville and a bill supporter. “I think we can do some good here by amending that pay-off time curve just a little bit. That’s something that we need to do to facilitate our transition” from fossil fuels.

    Air-source heat pumps can also move heat from inside buildings during summer, effectively becoming air conditioners. Even in Winter Park, real estate buyers expect air conditioning.

    The second bill, HB-1362, would require towns, cities, and counties to adopt the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code before 2025. This latest code advances efficiency 8% to 9% compared to the 2018 iteration.

    Natural gas will still be allowed, but air-source heat pumps more efficiently meet the 2021 code’s elevated standards.

    The Colorado Municipal League objected to loss of local control. Two representatives of rural areas described it as onerous for small towns despite $3 million earmarked for training. Homebuilders argued that the advanced standards would make already expensive housing less affordable.

    Howard Geller, representing the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, cited a study from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that found the latest code would indeed add $200 to the cost of an average mortgage in Colorado built to this latest code. Lower energy costs will more than recoup that extra cost, he said, even in the first year.

    Rep. Tracey Bernett, a Democrat from Longmont whose district includes nearly half the 1,084 homes destroyed by the Marshall Fire, said she sponsored the bill with full confidence it will help, not harm, her constituents.

    These bills both moved from the House committee on strictly party-line votes, Democrats in support. A third bill, HB22-1381, has bipartisan sponsors — and bipartisan support. It would allocate $20 million for grants to further geothermal development by tapping the year-round heat of 55 degrees found 8 to 10 feet below the surface.

    As with air-source heat pumps, sponsors said the market needs to be nudged to adopt technology that costs more upfront than installing natural gas infrastructure but pays off in the long term. “This is something we don’t do enough of,” said Rep. Hugh McKean, a Republican from Loveland, who is installing geothermal in a house he is constructing.

    “I really like this bill,” said Perry Will, a Republican from New Castle, citing the experiences of family members with the technology at Rulison and elsewhere.

    A sharper pivot for Xcel Energy — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Pawnee, a coal-burning plant near Brush, in northeastern Colorado, would be converted to natural gas no later than 2026, according to a proposal submitted to state regulators yesterday., It’s located a mile from where this writer and photographer emerged into the world. Photo/Allen Best

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    A settlement agreement proposes an earlier coal plant retirement and a way way to evaluate need for new natural gas plants. It also punts some key decisions.

    An agreement filed Tuesday with state regulators proposes a sharper, faster pivot by Colorado’s largest electrical utility from coal to renewables and alternative technologies.

    The settlement agreement filed by Xcel Energy and other parties calls for retirement of Comanche 3, the state’s youngest and most powerful coal plant, “no later than” Jan. 1, 2031. Retirement could actually occur sooner.

    As for new natural gas generation, the agreement calls for a new measuring stick: How cost-effective can the gas plant be if it operates only 25 years?

    This could potentially result in Xcel Energy reducing carbon emissions from its electrical generation 88% by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels. As of 2021 Xcel’s electrical generation in Colorado was 39% carbon free.

    But the proposal would also kick some major decisions down the road to 2024 and 2025. “The modeling and technologies need just a little more time to improve,” said Gwen Farnsworth, managing senior policy advisor in Colorado for Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates.

    Among the items almost certain to be taken up in 2024 are questions of whether new programs and business models can be used to configure demand for electricity to better match supplies. For example, can batteries of electric cars be charged during the middle of night, when wind turbines in eastern Colorado most reliably whirl? Can peak demand be shaved more on hot summer afternoons? Such strategies and new technologies could reduce need for new generation, both fossil and renewables,

    Those decisions include when exactly Comanche 3 needs to close. When the $1 billion plant opened in 2010, it was projected to operate until 2070. It has had a troubled history, a largely unreliable source of electricity with massive amounts of debt remaining. The 750-megawatt plant has been idled – again – since January, with no certain date for reopening.

    Noting that lack of reliability, two of the three PUC commissioners in March indicated that they saw no good reason for the plant to remain operational beyond 2029.

    Xcel last year proposed continuing operations to 2040, then agreed to a 2034 closing. This moves up the no-later-than date to the end of 2030.

    “No-later-than is a key phrase, because it allows for flexibility and even improving the results of this settlement over time,” said Farnsworth. She said the accelerated retirement of Comanche 3 by just four years will save Xcel ratepayers up to $39 million.

    And having Comanche off-line this year has helped save money because otherwise production from wind farms and other renewable generation would have been curtailed.

    As for new natural gas, Xcel originally proposed 1,300 megawatts of “dispatchable” resources, meaning natural gas or other fossil fuels. Dispatchable resources can – at least in theory – be turned on quickly to meet demand. In practice, it’s more complicated. See Comanche 3.

    How much natural gas?

    Some of Xcel’s plans for natural gas remain. The coal-burning Pawnee Power Plant near Brush, about 90 miles northeast of Denver, is to be converted to natural gas no later than January 2026. Still in question is how much additional natural gas generation Xcel will acquire.

    Xcel could still propose new burn natural gas plants to go on line in 2030, for example, but they would have to cease producing emissions by 2050.

    But the settlement agreement also will result in new modeling that the Sierra Club’s Anna McDevitt says will allow battery storage coupled with renewable generation to better compete with natural gas in giving Xcel the confidence it can meet demands. Previous modeling used what the Sierra Club believes were flawed assumptions that favored natural gas.

    “There is much in the settlement that will result in less likelihood of building new gas plants,” she said.

    Xcel, in a presentation to investors in November 2021, estimated its Colorado division, would spend $9.9 billion from 2022 through 2026, not quite two-thirds for electric distribution and transmission but almost a quarter for natural gas.

    Another major component of the plan calls for Xcel to continue property tax payments to Pueblo and Pueblo County districts from 2031 through 2040, the previous retirement date.

    The proposal would have Xcel continue tax payments to Pueblo and Pueblo County until 2040.

    Holy Cross Energy, the electrical cooperative serving the Vail and Aspen areas, owns 8% of Comanche 3. That translates to a potential 60 megawatts of production.

    The agreement specifies that Holy Cross will be able to continue to use Xcel Energy’s transmission lines from eastern Colorado for an equal amount of electrical production, either from the resources owned by Holy Cross or from the new generating resources being brought on-line by Xcel in coming years.

    Xcel’s plans for new generation, to be determined by competitive bidding, are estimated to include 2,400 megawatts of new wind, 1,600 megawatts of large-scale solar, 400 megawatts of energy storage, and nearly 1,200 megawatts of distributed solar resources.

    “In a way, we are held harmless by the early retirement” of Comanche 3, said Bryan Hannegan, the chief executive of Holy Cross.

    Holy Cross is currently projected to pay off its portion of the Comanche 3 debt in 2042.

    Sedalia-based CORE Electric Cooperative, the state’s largest electrical cooperative, which serves Castle Rock and other suburban and exurban communities on the south flanks of metropolitan Denver, owns 25% of Comanche 3.

    Hannegan and many others credited Xcel with a major achievement in getting a diverse set of parties – Boulder, Pueblo and other cities, as well as labor and business groups, environmental organizations, and still others – to come to a compromise.

    Release of the agreement was accompanied by press releases from many organizations with a chorus of hosannahs.

    “This agreement is a significant step toward meeting Colorado’s climate goals,” said Will Toor, chief executive of the Colorado Energy Office. “We’re so proud to lead the charge on reducing carbon emissions in Colorado,” said Alice Jackson, president of Xcel’s Colorado division. The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Noah Long also saluted a future of “savings for Xcel Energy customers and cleaner skies for Colorado.”

    Farnsworth, of Western Resource Advocates, offered similar praise, but also pointed to a strong motivation: “I think the parties all made it possible because there’s a common understanding of the urgency of addressing climate change and also the urgency of moving this resource planning process forward in time to benefit from the federal tax credits for wind and solar.”
    That, she added, made everybody want to reach compromise and avoid litigation.

    The key word used by many was “flexible.”

    Forward movement, but…

    Not all were equally enthused. “Any date for shutting Pueblo unit 3 that isn’t 2022 is the wrong date,” said Leslie Glustrom of Boulder-based Clean Energy Action, referring to Comanche 3. “The climate crisis now clear to everyone.”

    The Colorado Renewable Energy Society policy committee members were miffed that the social cost of methane was not used in the agreement as they had advocated.

    “A big move forward, but there are pieces missing,” said the group’s Laurent Meillon. He charged that the plan still favors Xcel building generating facilities – that it can then use to justify higher rates to customers than necessary.

    CH4 trend: This graph shows globally-averaged, monthly mean atmospheric methane abundance determined from marine surface sites since 1983. Values for the last year are preliminary. (NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory)

    “Xcel is orienting itself toward the construction of unnecessary gas plants, thus maximizing its investments and profits, right before it becomes entirely too obvious that only renewables and efficiencies are worthy of more investments. A repeat of its profitable coal mistakes, despite the current early coal closures with decades left to amortize those stranded assets,” he wrote in an e-mail.

    CRES members, Glustrom and others say that Xcel must more aggressively pursue strategies that shave peak demands. Others involved in the agreement said they believe that those programs will become a central component of discussions in the middle of this decade. Xcel is beginning an update this summer of the thinking behind its programs.

    All in all, how might this settlement be seen in a broader context – say, the United States? Farnsworth offers what must be considered a hometown view but one worth considering.

    “Colorado might be on a smaller scale than some other states, but Xcel and this settlement are really on the leading edge.”

    Solar installation in the San Luis Valley. Photo credit: Western Resource Advocates

    Click the link to read the release on the Western Resource Advocates website (
    Julianne Basinger):

    Western Resource Advocates signed on to a revised settlement agreement filed today in Xcel Energy’s Electric Resource and Clean Energy Plan proceeding before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The new settlement includes accelerated dates for retiring the Comanche 3 coal unit, helps avoid building unnecessary and potentially stranded new fossil gas generation, and establishes commitments to achieve interim carbon emission reductions in 2024 and 2027.

    “If approved, this settlement secures the next stage of Colorado’s energy transition, ensuring commitments from Xcel to reduce its harmful fossil-fuel emissions that contribute to climate change,” said Gwen Farnsworth, Western Resource Advocates’ managing senior policy advisor in Colorado. “The earlier date for retiring Comanche 3, plus cutting the assumed lifetime for any new fossil gas generation and establishing interim targets for reducing carbon emissions, will all help Colorado reach its climate goals. Important provisions also extend community assistance to the Pueblo community for 10 years and will help in the transition to new economic opportunities as the coal-fired Comanche unit closes.”

    These are all key improvements to the settlement WRA has advocated for during the commission proceeding on Xcel’s plan. WRA opposed a previous version of the settlement signed by other parties late last year. Specifically, the new settlement calls for Xcel to:

  • Retire Comanche 3 by January 1, 2031 — four years earlier than the original settlement, which will avoid an additional 3.5 million tons of carbon emissions compared to the original settlement filed in November and will cut toxic local air pollutants in Pueblo;
  • Commit to interim reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, with targets of a 50% reduction by 2024 and 65% by 2027, compared with the utility’s 2005 levels;
  • Cut the modeled lifetime for any new fossil gas generation to 25 years; and
  • Expand Xcel’s Just Transition Plan, by extending the community assistance benefits for Pueblo to 10 years.
  • The settlement overall will provide more than 17 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions. Reducing these fossil-fuel emissions will help curb the harmful effects of climate change. The Comanche generating station is also responsible for over 80% of all toxic chemicals released into the surrounding community of Pueblo.

    Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    Several provisions in the revised settlement reduce the utility’s expected future reliance on fossil-fuel gas generation. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reducing methane emissions from fossil-fuel gas is one of the biggest and fastest strategies for slowing climate change.

    The Xcel settlement today follows the utility’s February 2021 announcement of its Clean Energy Plan committing to achieve an 85% reduction in carbon emissions and 80% renewable energy generation by 2030, as well as 100% clean energy by 2050. A 2019 Colorado law requires Xcel to reduce its emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2030. In 2019, the Colorado Legislature also passed House Bill 1261, requiring the state to reduce its economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

    We’re into that time of year again where the #CO2 at Mauna Loa is higher than last year’s peak – so we’re now seeing the highest CO2 ever recorded — @chrisd_jones

    3 big reasons why the Biden #climate agenda is floundering — #Colorado Newsline

    Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, left, and Sen Joe Manchin participated in a roundtable event hosted by the White House Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, on March 18, 2022. (Interior Department via Flickr/Public domain)

    President Joe Biden’s climate agenda took a hit this month when the Interior Department said it would open 144,000 acres of federal land up for oil and gas development to comply with a court order to restart fossil fuel development.

    The announcement marked yet another setback for a presidential climate plan that was once seen as historically ambitious. 

    Biden’s signature climate bill has gone nowhere in the U.S. Senate, he’s called for more domestic fossil fuel production to combat rising gas prices, and members of his own party doubt whether he can meet goals for a U.S. transition to electric vehicles.

    GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

    After noting climate as one of four crises facing the nation during his 2020 campaign, Biden gave it only a passing mention in his State of the Union address in March.

    The White House defense on the oil and gas leases is that a court order forced adoption of a policy contrary to Biden’s climate objectives. Accompanying the move was a raise in the royalty rates for energy companies drilling on federal land, a reform long sought by environmental advocates. 

    But it still represented a departure from the president’s campaign rhetoric that promised no more drilling on federal lands, and it was met with derision by some environmental advocates. 

    Randi Spivak, the public lands director for the Center for Biological Diversity, called it “a reckless failure of climate leadership.”

    Other advocacy groups were more understanding — the National Wildlife Federation, for example, stressed provisions of the restart that raised rates for fossil fuel development and limited the area that would be available.

    As the nation having celebrated Earth Day on Friday, the administration has said it is still committed to climate action. 

    The evidence? Biden’s move to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, funding to target carbon reduction and electric vehicles in last year’s transportation infrastructure law, and a goal set to reduce carbon emissions by 50 to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

    “The press and the pundits may want to declare President Biden’s climate agenda dead,” an administration official said at a press briefing Monday. “But this week, we will show how it is very much alive and well.”

    Thursday, the Transportation Department announced a $6.4 billion program funded by the infrastructure law to help state transportation departments limit greenhouse gases from vehicles. Biden addressed climate issues in an Earth Day speech in Seattle Friday.

    Here are three big reasons why the White House has struggled with its climate agenda:

    Court decisions

    During the presidential campaign, Biden pledged to end new fossil fuel development on federal lands. He followed through on that promise on his first day in office, issuing an executive order to pause new oil and gas leases as the administration reviewed the program and its impact on climate change.

    A federal judge, though, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Louisiana, found the executive order was illegal and ordered the administration to restart leasing.

    In a tweet, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that the order forced the new oil and gas lease sales. 

    She noted the parcels available for lease were decreased 80% from what had been nominated for leases in 2021 and touted the raise in royalty rates from 12.5% to 18.75%.

    Oil and gas infrastructure is seen on the Roan Plateau in far western Colorado. (Courtesy of EcoFlight)

    White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the move “was the result of a court injunction that we continue to appeal. And it’s not in line with the president’s policy.” 

    House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and former chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who has pushed the Biden administration for more ambitious climate action, accepted that the court order forced the administration’s hand and credited Haaland with the reforms. 

    “I’m glad we finally have an administration that recognizes that the status quo for our oil and gas leasing program is a rip-off for the American people,” Chair Grijalva said.

    But some outside groups called it a violation of Biden’s campaign pledge.

    Kyle Tisdel, director of energy and climate at the environmental legal group Western Environmental Law Center, said in an interview the administration had options, even after the “flawed” injunction from Doughty.

    The court order only said the administration could not issue a blanket pause on new leases, he said. But the Bureau of Land Management could still decline to issues new leases on a case-by-case basis, he said.

    Congress

    Bipartisan members of the House and Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that the administration helped steer and Biden signed last year.

    A group of progressive lawmakers almost sank the measure over concerns it would exacerbate — not solve — the climate crisis. The administration and congressional leaders promised to pair the infrastructure bill with a sweeping $3.5 trillion bill that would include major climate provisions.

    The House passed the larger bill, but the Senate never took it up. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III came out against the legislation in December. With no Republican support, Manchin’s opposition doomed the bill in the evenly divided Senate.

    “What the last year has shown us is that the Biden administration trying to calibrate action to the whims of certain senators or congresspeople or midterm elections has been sort of a fool’s errand,” Tisdel said.

    Some members of Congress remain optimistic that a climate bill can be passed. Manchin has indicated an openness to supporting the clean energy tax credits in the Biden plan, but also has said that negotiations on the so-called Build Back Better plan must start from scratch.

    U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat who earlier this year called for passing the climate provisions of the Biden spending plan, said in a Thursday statement he remained focused on expanding clean energy, funding conservation work and supporting fish and wildlife protections.

    “All eyes are rightly on the Biden administration and on Congress to pass transformative climate investments,” Heinrich said. “We need to deliver.”

    War and spiraling gas prices

    Biden’s State of the Union address this year focused on the war in Ukraine, then just days old, and spiking prices for consumer goods — including energy. 

    His top priority, he said, was “getting prices under control.”

    The drive to cut costs seemed to displace climate action, which he only mentioned twice, once in the context of lowering energy prices.

    To address rising prices in the short term, Biden has also called on domestic producers to pump more oil and has released millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a complex of underground storage caverns in Louisiana and Texas. 

    Biden, in Iowa, also waived a regulation banning sales of the ethanol blend E15 during the summer months. The Environmental Protection Agency normally doesn’t allow sales from June to mid-September due to concerns over air pollution.

    Julie McNamara, a deputy policy director with the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a climate advocacy group, said using rising energy prices to make the case should be an opportunity to hasten a transition away from fossil fuels to less volatile energy sources.

    “We’re seeing a push from the fossil fuel industry and their supporters to increase our dependence on fossil fuels, to increase production and fighting back against clean energy,” she said.

     “When every indicator says now is the time to be doubling down on our commitment to this clean energy transition.”



    Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

    Home court for #Colorado #climate lawsuits — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

    Suncor refinery Commerce City. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    San Miguel County and Boulder lawsuits against two oil companies will be heard in Colorado. That helps. But these cases will still have an uphill struggle to prove damages that might seem obvious.

    Colorado has abundant evidence of destruction caused by the warming, and more volatile, climate. Wildfires, ever larger and more destructive, now happen year-round, including the ghastly Marshall Fire of late December and the much smaller fires of recent weeks. Rising temperatures have robbed flows from the Colorado River, from which Boulder and Boulder County get substantial amounts of water. Air conditioning has become more necessity than luxury.

    But can Boulder and other jurisdictions show harm from burning of fossil fuels — the primary cause of warming — in their climate liability lawsuits against oil companies?

    Marshall Fire December 30, 2021. Photo credit: Boulder County

    In 2018, Boulder (both the city and the county) as well as San Miguel County sued two oil giants, ExxonMobil and Suncor. These Colorado cases are among more than 20 climate lawsuits now in courts from Hawaii to Massachusetts. They’re the only cases from an inland state claiming actual damages from climate change — and after a recent legal victory, they could be among the first where substantive arguments are heard in court. (Only Honolulu’s case is on a faster track.)

    Despite all the evidence of climate destruction, the legal case will be challenging, according to Pat Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School.

    “In a court of law, you have to prove by the preponderance of evidence and you have to convince the jury, all 12 of them,” says Parenteau, who has advised some parties who filed similar lawsuits, but is not currently involved directly in the litigation.

    He points to the difficulty of pinning health impacts on tobacco companies in the 1990s. “Cigarettes kill people. Global warming, per se, kills people: Heat waves kill people. High tides kill people.”

    Proving responsibility in a courtroom will be the tricky part. “There are multiple links in the causal change that you have to prove with climate change,” Parenteau says. “It was difficult enough to prove with tobacco. It never was proven [in court]. It was just settled. Just imagine how difficult it is for climate change.”

    Suncor operates a refinery in Commerce City northeast of downtown Denver that processes 98,000 barrels of oil daily. “We purchase crude oil from the Denver-Julesburg Basin, process it in Commerce City, and sell nearly 95% of our products within the state,” Suncor’s website says.

    Exxon’s private prediction of the future growth of carbon dioxide levels (left axis) and global temperature relative to 1982 (right axis). Elsewhere in its report, Exxon noted that the most widely accepted science at the time indicated that doubling carbon dioxide levels would cause a global warming of 3°C. Illustration: 1982 Exxon internal briefing document

    Exxon has no refinery in Colorado, but it does sell fuel in the state.

    “They are the two most consequential oil companies in Colorado, given their local operations,” says Marco Simons, the lead attorney with EarthRights International, the organization representing the three jurisdictions in Colorado.

    So far, the arguments in the Colorado cases (and others) have been about process, namely where the cases should be tried.

    In legal cases, as in basketball, home court matters. This is likely why Exxon and Suncor wanted lawsuits filed against them by Boulder and San Miguel heard in federal courts instead of Colorado district courts.
    “Basically, their argument was that you can’t let state law allow these people to seek remedy before climate change injury when federal law doesn’t provide that remedy,” Simons explains.

    The oil companies lost that round. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled on Feb. 8 that the two lawsuits should be heard in Colorado. The court then ordered, on March 2, for that mandate to take effect.

    “The court is basically saying there’s nothing wrong with using ordinary state law to hold oil companies accountable to their contribution to climate change,’” says Simons. “That does not in any way violate federal law. It’s not something inappropriate for states to do.”

    arenteau agrees there is value to the climate cases being heard in state courts. The empirical evidence is clear: “Where do the states and cities find the best success? It’s in their own courts. The faster these cases get back to state courts from federal courts, the better.”

    Colorado’s cases, originally filed as one, have been separated. San Miguel County’s case is to be heard in Denver District Court, and the Boulder and Boulder County case in Boulder County District Court.

    Telluride. San Miguel County alleges damages to its skiing economy at Telluride. The case will be heard in Denver District Court.

    Home-court advantage goes only so far. Attorneys for EarthRights International must now prove that the fossil fuels sold by Suncor and ExxonMobil in Colorado have produced damages from a changing climate to the local jurisdictions.

    While many legal analysts say that will be difficult to prove, some observers think the Colorado lawsuits could be successful, even short of total courtroom victories.

    One of those making that case is Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment, a program embedded in the law school at the University of California Los Angeles. She has coordinated with counsel for several jurisdictions in California that filed climate change lawsuits in 2017, but is no longer involved in those other climate liability cases.

    “On an even more deep level, one goal that the plaintiffs have across the set of cases is undermining the social license of the corporations to do what they have been doing for decades,” says Horowitz. “They just need one good victory to hang their hats on.”

    That could help supporters of these suits win verdicts in the court of public opinion.

    Neither Suncor nor Exxon responded to requests for comment, but the premise of the fossil fuel companies is that they have been doing nothing wrong by peddling gasoline, diesel and other fossil fuel products.

    Climate change-related lawsuits have been filed since the mid-1980s. Early lawsuits generally sought to force actions by state governments and federal agencies. The most notable such case is Massachusetts v. EPA, which resulted in the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 decision that gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Other lawsuits, such as Connecticut vs. American Electric Power in 2011, targeted energy companies. For complex legal reasons, these cases using federal courts have struggled to go forward.

    Investigative reports in 2015 by Inside Climate News and independent work by the Los Angeles Times about ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company, were important in triggering the wave of lawsuits of the last five years. The journalists showed that the oil giant misled the public about what it knew about climate change and the risks posed by fossil fuel emissions decades ago. The investigative series were based largely on the company’s internal records.

    Since then have come a wave of lawsuits by state and local governments.

    California jurisdictions — first Marin and San Mateo counties along with the city of Imperial Beach in July 2017, followed by Oakland and San Francisco that September — were at the forefront of suits by state and local governments. Currently pending are lawsuits filed by seven states and the District of Columbia and 19 by cities and counties, according to the Center for Climate Integrity.

    These lawsuits fall into primarily two overlapping buckets. The two cases in Colorado fall into both.

    In one bucket of lawsuits are claims of fraud and deception by oil companies, primarily by Exxon. The second bucket consists of suits alleging the oil companies have created “nuisances” that have caused damages. In the Colorado cases, local governments have suffered harm as a result, the lawsuits say.

    “It’s about fundamental principles of tort law that basically boil down to, ‘If you harm someone, you have to pay for it,’” explains Simons, the EarthRights attorney.

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck.

    The 2018 lawsuits for the Colorado jurisdictions cite many climate impacts from fossil fuels. Rising temperatures will affect water supplies. Emergency management services will have to be ramped up because of increased wildfires, heavy rainfall and other extreme weather events. Warmer temperatures will worsen the already problematic ground-level ozone in Boulder County.

    This car in Superior was among the victims of the Marshall Fire in late December 2021 that burned 1,084 homes and caused 30,000 residents of Superior and Louisville to flee. Photo/Allen Best

    Some increased costs have already occurred, the lawsuit filed by the three Colorado jurisdictions in 2018 says. It points to the West Nile virus spread by mosquitoes amid rising temperatures. Prior to 2002, Boulder had no mosquito control program. That was the year the virus first appeared in Colorado. After that, costs of mosquito abatement grew steadily. By 2018 mosquito management nicked the city budget roughly $250,000. In Boulder County, the cost approached $400,000.

    Buildings will have to be modified, the lawsuit says. “Due to the expected continued heat rise in Boulder County, a place that historically rarely saw days above 95 degrees, Boulder County and the City of Boulder are expected to see increased public health heat risks, such as heat stroke, and their associated costs,” the lawsuit filed in 2018 says.

    This increasing heat, the lawsuit continues, will drive up costs, such as that of cooling infrastructure for buildings. “Cooling centers that are available during heat waves, and/or assisting with home air-conditioning installation, could cost Boulder County and the City of Boulder millions of dollars by mid-century.”

    The lawsuit cites the $37.7 million of a $575.5 school construction bond for the Boulder Valley School District used for air-conditioning and better ventilation.

    How the Colorado cases are different

    Colorado’s lawsuits were the first filed in an interior state. Even now, the only other states without coastlines to have filed climate change lawsuits against oil companies are Minnesota and Vermont. They claim fraud. That makes the Colorado cases the only ones claiming damages.

    This duality, an inland state claiming actual damages from climate change, sets Colorado’s cases apart from all others.

    “It’s easy to imagine a city like Miami or other coastal cities being imperiled by climate change,” says Horowitz, the UCLA law professor. “The Boulder case is helping to illustrate that even inland cities, cities in the middle of America, are being harmed by climate change.”

    One long-sought goal of the litigation is getting to what in courts is called the discovery phase. That’s the stage where documents, emails, other correspondence and information related to the suits could reach the public and prove devastating to the company. (That is essentially what happened to the tobacco industry, with the release of memos and documents in discovery.)

    Horowitz, the law professor in Los Angeles, expects the filings and rulings to accelerate. “You will start to get state court decisions sooner rather than later, by which I mean probably in the next year,” she says. Appeals will follow, but these Colorado cases — and those similarly proceeding in other states — will move along.

    “I wouldn’t think it will take five to 10 years,” she says.
    And the fact that Colorado has no beach-front property could spur other similar cases. Sea level rise is not imminently threatening Boulder the way it is in Imperial Beach, a city of 26,000 people near San Diego that has also filed a climate change lawsuit.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if more jurisdictions realize they will need help in funding climate change adaptation,” Horowitz says, “and the fossil fuel companies are logical places to look as sources for that funding.”

    This story was prepared in collaboration with the Boulder Reporting Lab, whose editing and suggestions enormously improved the story.

    Animation showing the strong correlation between recent increases in carbon dioxide and changes in global mean temperature, as well as projected future changes — @RARohde

    Suing over #ClimateChange: Taking #FossilFuel companies to court — CBS News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Change in sea level since the 1993. Blue indicates places where sea level has increased by up to 20 centimeters (8 inches); brown indicates places where sea level has dropped by the same amount. NOAA Climate.gov image, based on data from P. Thompson, UHSLC.

    Click the link to read the article on the CBS News website. Here’s an excerpt:

    If climate change were a disaster film, it would likely be accused of being too over-the-top: wildfires reducing entire towns to ashes, hurricanes swamping cities, droughts draining lakes and withering fields, and raging oceans redrawing the very maps of our coasts. And now, many cities and states are asking, who’s going to pay for all of this?

    “This is real; we’re on the front line of climate change right here in Charleston,” said John Tecklenburg, the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina. The city’s been battered by an endless parade of floods due to sea level rise. Some desperate homeowners have resorted to raising their homes by several feet. So, the city is raising large parts of its existing sea wall, and the Army Corps of Engineers says Charleston should build another eight miles of wall. The city expects an estimated $3 billion in climate change-related costs…

    Study after study has shown the companies’ carbon emissions from oil, coal and gas are major contributors to climate change. Charleston is one of more than two dozen cities, counties and states that are suing these companies (including ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and ConocoPhillips)…

    Exxon’s private prediction of the future growth of carbon dioxide levels (left axis) and global temperature relative to 1982 (right axis). Elsewhere in its report, Exxon noted that the most widely accepted science at the time indicated that doubling carbon dioxide levels would cause a global warming of 3°C. Illustration: 1982 Exxon internal briefing document

    The suits are modeled after the “Big Tobacco” cases of the 1990s, and accuse the companies and industry groups of making false and misleading claims about climate change…

    William Tong, attorney general of Connecticut, said, “I’m suing ExxonMobil because they lied to us.”

    Tong is suing ExxonMobil under the state’s consumer protection laws. He said internal company research done by Exxon and Mobil (which used to be separate companies) shows they were aware of the dangers of climate change since at least the 1980s.

    “There’s a study from, I think, 1982 in which they produce a chart that shows, as the levels of carbon dioxide rise, the temperature of our atmosphere will rise,” said Tong. “And that chart is almost exactly right.”

    And the suit also cites a 1988 internal draft memo from an Exxon spokesperson advising the company “emphasize the uncertainty” of climate science…He points to ads that look like editorials from ExxonMobil, as well as their executives’ own words, including the 1996 statement by Lee Raymond (then the CEO of Exxon) that “the scientific evidence remains inconclusive as to whether human activities affect the global climate.”

    Opinion: Abandoned mines, wells present vexing problems — The #Durango Herald

    Bonita Mine acid mine drainage. Photo via the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

    Click the link to read the opinion piece from the San Juan Citizens Alliance (Mark Pearson) on The Durango Herald website:

    Our region hosts an abundance of abandoned mine sites and orphaned oil and gas wells.

    They contaminate our water and air with acid mine drainage and leaking methane. They are the legacy of decades of resource extraction, and unfortunately, taxpayers often end up with the liability to reclaim the damage.

    The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act passed in November includes billions of dollars for abandoned mine reclamation and plugging orphaned oil and gas wells. But more importantly, rules are needed to head off the creation of future problems.

    Most of us are likely familiar with abandoned mines that dot the hillsides above Silverton and elsewhere, but the ones of most concern are those draining water laden with heavy metals. Our region also contains more 30,000 oil and gas well sites, and a surprising number are inactive with rusted equipment bleeding methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

    Abandoned mines and orphaned wells are derelicts without any responsible owner willing or financially capable of reclamation. These sites are not intentionally created, but creep up on us as owners change over the decades and lose interest or capacity to keep them operating. An owner might hope that metal or oil prices will spike and lead to a resurgence of extraction, but these sites have marginal reserves to begin with, and eventually owners may just walk away, leaving someone else on the hook for cleanup.

    One important means to prevent these liabilities from burdening taxpayers is to require reclamation while a financially viable owner still exists. That’s the basis of Colorado’s Mined Land Reclamation Act, which allows mines to “temporarily” cease production for a limited period. If production does not resume, then it is in the interest of the state and taxpayers to make sure reclamation starts while someone responsible is still around.

    Screenshot of Old uranium sites in Colorado via The Denver Post

    The uranium mines scattered across the Dolores River basin are a case in point. Most haven’t operated for decades, but over the past 40 years owners kept hoping that uranium prices might reach a level that again spurred production. But at some point, reality needs to set in and owners should start undertaking efforts to reclaim mines. That’s the point of Colorado’s reclamation law.

    Orphaned oil well. Photo credit: DroneDJ.com

    Orphaned oil and gas wells are similarly vexing. A nearby example is dozens of rusting, derelict, leaking wells west of Farmington in an area called the Hogback. State and federal records list these as active, but the rust and the fact one needs a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle to even reach them is ample evidence the wells haven’t produced in many years. The companies associated with them have long since vanished, with phone numbers disconnected. If today’s price of oil hasn’t spurred any renewed activity, it seems unlikely anything would.

    Colorado hopes to prevent additional orphaned wells by increasing bonds posted by oil companies. The bonds ideally should be ample enough to cover the costs of plugging and reclaiming wells in the event the companies disappear, so as to keep taxpayers off the hook.

    It seems common sense to head off future problems, and forestall asking for billions in tax dollars like the Infrastructure Act provides, but not all agree. Right now, the mining industry is aggressively opposing rules about temporary cessation at hardrock mines, arguing for loopholes that allow mines to be idled and largely abandoned for decades, just in case someday they might again become profitable.

    The plague of abandoned mines and orphaned wells proves the worth of Benjamin Franklin’s adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We can hope state officials to appropriately translate that advice into rules.

    Mark Pearson is executive director at San Juan Citizens Alliance. Reach him at mark@sanjuancitizens.org.

    One Last #Climate Warning in New IPCC Report: ‘Now or Never’ — Inside Climate News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    A forest fire next to the Bitterroot River in Montana. UCLA-led research revealed that larger fires tend to be followed by larger increases in streamflow. | Photo by John MacColgan/Creative Commons

    Click the link to read the article on the Inside Climate News website (Bob Berwyn). Here’s an excerpt:

    The world will probably burn through its carbon budget before the global climate panel issues its next update on mitigation

    Whatever words and phrases the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have been parsing late into Sunday night, its new report, issued Monday, boils down to yet another dire scientific warning. Greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2025 to limit global warming close to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), as targeted by the Paris Agreement, the report says. In a way, it’s a final warning, because at the IPCC’s pace, the world most likely will have burned through its carbon budget by the time the panel releases its next climate mitigation report in about five or six years. Even with the climate clock so close to a deadline, it’s not surprising that the IPCC struggled to find consensus during the two-week approval session, said Paul Maidowski, an independent Berlin-based climate policy researcher and activist. The mitigation report may be the most challenging of the three climate assessments that are done every five to seven years under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, he said.

    The first two reports of each IPCC assessment cycle, one on the physical basis of climate science, and another about impacts and adaptation, are mostly based on unyielding physics, like how much global temperature goes up for every added increment of CO2, and how fast and high sea level will rise based on that warming.

    But the mitigation report, which outlines choices society can make to affect the trajectory of climate change, has to reconcile those scientific realities with economic and political assumptions that are not constrained by physics, Maidowski said. Other researchers have described the IPCC report as a mechanism to determine what is politically possible, he added. If those assumptions—for example about future availability of carbon dioxide removal technology—don’t materialize, “then you are left with illusions, essentially,” he said. The IPCC has “blinded itself” to deeper questions of sustainability and is thus asking the wrong questions, like how to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, he added. Instead, it should be more up front about acknowledging the physical limits of the planet, and start asking how to downscale current resource consumption to a sustainable level.

    The report found that “without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach.”

    On the hopeful side, the panel noted that renewable energy costs have dropped by as much as 85 percent in the past decade, and that new policies in many countries have accelerated deployment of wind and solar power.

    As EV Sales Soar, Automakers Back Higher Fuel Standards

    Leaf charging in Frisco September 30, 2021.

    Click the link to read the article on the Yale 360 website:

    Sales of electric cars are surging in the U.S. and Britain, a reflection of growing interest in plug-in vehicles and a response to high gas prices, analysts say. And as EV sales boom, automakers are backing the Biden administration’s new, more stringent fuel standards.

    While the U.S. saw an overall dip in car sales in the first quarter of 2022, all-electric brands such as Karma, Polestar, and Tesla made significant gains, with sales of Teslas up 87 percent over the first quarter of last year. Major automakers also saw a significant EV uptick, with Ford reporting a 38 percent growth in EV sales over last year.

    This trend was even more pronounced in the U.K., where automakers sold more electric cars in the month of March than they did in all of 2019, despite overall March car sales hitting their lowest point in 24 years. The growth of electric cars comes as oil prices soar, owing to problems in the supply chain and sanctions on Russia, a major oil producer, over its invasion of Ukraine.

    “There was already massive growth in this segment and, if anything, the demand for vehicles is now even stronger as prices at the pumps rise on the back of the Ukraine crisis,” Ian Plummer, a director at car sales website AutoTrader, told The Guardian.

    As EV sales rise, automakers are backing more stringent fuel standards recently announced by the EPA, Reuters reported. Texas and 15 other states are suing to block the new regulations, which call for a 28 percent cut in vehicle emissions by 2026. But the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents nearly every major automaker, has sided with the EPA, saying in a court filing that it wants to make sure “critical regulatory provisions supporting electric vehicle technology are maintained.”

    Scientists To Biden: Don’t Ramp Up #FossilFuels — Food & #Water Watch #ActOnClimate

    Click the link to read the release on the Food & Water Watch website (Mark Schlosberg):

    In recent weeks President Biden and his administration have moved to increase fossil fuel production and infrastructure. These actions fly in the face of climate science, which mandates a transition off of fossil fuels right away. Now scientists are speaking out, imploring President Biden to follow through on his commitments. As a candidate, Biden promised to listen to science, but his recent actions suggest the opposite.

    The increased drought, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods that we’ve experienced recently would have been reason enough to curb this plan. But the Ukraine crisis has brought into full view the dangers of continued reliance on fossil fuels. Europe is planning for dramatic cuts in Russian gas and looking toward new sources. Rather than going all-in on renewable energy, Europe wants increased U.S. gas imports — for over a decade to come. This is a recipe for climate disaster.

    A Broken Promise — President Biden Moves to Increase Fossil Fuel Production and Infrastructure

    When President Biden ran for office, he pledged to listen to science. He also pledged to stop new drilling on federal lands, and initiate a transition off of fossil fuels. He was already falling massively short on these promises before the Ukraine crisis, but now he has reversed course completely. He and his administration have urged increased fossil fuel production, rush approvals of its infrastructure, and ramped-up exports to Europe. And his plan envisions a huge increase of gas exports by 2030 — more than tripling a big increase this year.

    What these exports mean for the U.S. is more drilling, fracking, pipelines through communities and massive, polluting industrial facilities. These come with a litany of safety risks and local pollution, which have devastating environmental justice and health impacts.

    It also will have monumental climate impacts, according to the most recent IPCC scientific report. Global emissions continue to increase and the very narrow window to avoid even 2 degrees of warming is rapidly closing. Building more infrastructure will certainly lock us into decades of more emissions.

    As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said upon the release of the IPCC report: “Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

    Failing on Climate: Lies From Leaders Will Be “Catastrophic”

    The Biden approach to climate is, unfortunately, not unique. As the IPCC report highlights, governments worldwide have broken prior commitments even though those fell far short of requirements.

    The only way to avert even worse impacts is to embrace scientific reality and adopt policies matching the rapidly escalating climate emergency. This means confronting hard truths and paying the crisis more than lip service. The only way to really achieve energy independence and security is to move off of fossil fuels. That means making quick, bold investments in renewable energy and immediately halting and rolling back fossil fuels and its infrastructure. To do otherwise fails to confront what is happening. Secretary-General Guterres said: “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another…Simply put, they are lying, and the results will be catastrophic.”

    Scientists Implore Biden to Reverse Course Before It’s Too Late

    While President Biden has charted a perilous course, there’s still time to reverse and confront the reality of the climate crisis. Over 275 scientists wrote Biden to implore him to act. This is directly in response to his announced plans to double down on fossil fuels and the IPCC report release. They urged him to instead take bold action to move off fossil fuels and infrastructure and reject the mad dash to increase production and exports.

    The initiative for this letter is led by scientists Bob Howarth, Mark Jacobson, Michael Mann, Sandra Steingraber, and Peter Kalmus. The message is prophetic and clear in its call to action. It concludes:

    “As scientists who look at data every day, we implore you to keep this promise and listen to what the scientific community is saying about fossil fuels and the climate crisis. Do not facilitate more fuel extraction and infrastructure. The impacts of climate change are already significant and we have a very narrow window to avoid runaway climate chaos. We urge you to lead boldly, take on the fossil fuel titans, and rally the country towards a renewable energy future.”

    Help amplify this call to action. Join them, and all of us at Food & Water Watch in calling on President Biden to reject fossil fuels — now.

    Atmospheric levels of powerful greenhouse gas #methane rose by a record amount (17 parts per billion) last year – highest annual increase since start of measurements in 1983 — World Meteorological Organization

    Methane emissions 2021 via WMO

    #FortCollins City Council mulls an unusual path for preventing oil and gas development — The Fort Collins Coloradoan #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Downtown “Old Town” Fort Collins. By Citycommunications at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50283010

    Click the link to read the article on the Fort Collins Coloradoan website (Jacy Marmaduke). Here’s an excerpt:

    One way or another, Fort Collins City Council is interested in limiting oil and gas activity as much as possible in the city’s boundaries and growth management area. What’s less clear is how they’ll try to do it. The city could adopt regulations, currently being drafted by staff, that effectively ban new drilling in city limits. It could incentivize the plugging and abandoning of wells or leverage new state rules to do so. Or Fort Collins could pursue another idea that attracted some City Council members’ attention at a March 22 work session: What if the city bought all the mineral rights in Fort Collins?

    “I’m talking about buying out the operators who own the oil and gas,” Mayor Jeni Arndt said at the work session. “That just seems like an elegant solution that is probably cheaper than all these rules and regulations and potential lawsuits for takings.”

    […]

    Staff are investigating the feasibility of Arndt’s idea while continuing to work on the regulations and considering how to facilitate the plugging of inactive or low-producing wells. Ralph Cantafio, a Colorado attorney who specializes in oil and gas, told the Coloradoan the buy-out idea seems “wildly impractical.”

    […]

    But first, a rundown of the city’s draft regulations. Staff have been working on them since 2019, with the process drawn out as they awaited new state regulations on everything from setbacks to financial assurances. A 2018 state law gave municipalities the right to adopt oil and gas regulations that are stricter than the state standards and triggered the overhaul of the state’s regulations. City staff are considering draft regulations that would allow drilling only in areas with industrial zoning, located at least 2,000 feet from homes, parks, natural areas, schools, hospitals and anything defined as “occupiable space.” The 2,000-foot standard, unlike the state’s regulations, would leave no room for exceptions. It’s based on a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment study that found the greatest health risks of living near oil and gas wells were for those living within 2,000 feet of the site. No land in city limits meets all the city’s draft requirements, so they would essentially prohibit new drilling. Council members haven’t expressed any discomfort at that possibility, pointing to the 2013 ballot measure where about 55% of voters supported a five-year moratorium on fracking.

    One Last #Climate Warning in New IPCC Report: ‘Now or Never’ — Inside Climate News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Marshall Fire December 30, 2021. Photo credit: Boulder County

    Click the link to read the article on the Inside Climate News website (Bob Berwyn). Here’s an excerpt:

    Whatever words and phrases the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have been parsing late into Sunday night, its new report, issued Monday, boils down to yet another dire scientific warning. Greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2025 to limit global warming close to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), as targeted by the Paris Agreement, the report says.

    In a way, it’s a final warning, because at the IPCC’s pace, the world most likely will have burned through its carbon budget by the time the panel releases its next climate mitigation report in about five or six years.

    Even with the climate clock so close to a deadline, it’s not surprising that the IPCC struggled to find consensus during the two-week approval session, said Paul Maidowski, an independent Berlin-based climate policy researcher and activist. The mitigation report may be the most challenging of the three climate assessments that are done every five to seven years under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, he said.

    The first two reports of each IPCC assessment cycle, one on the physical basis of climate science, and another about impacts and adaptation, are mostly based on unyielding physics, like how much global temperature goes up for every added increment of CO2, and how fast and high sea level will rise based on that warming.

    But the mitigation report, which outlines choices society can make to affect the trajectory of climate change, has to reconcile those scientific realities with economic and political assumptions that are not constrained by physics, Maidowski said. Other researchers have described the IPCC report as a mechanism to determine what is politically possible, he added. If those assumptions—for example about future availability of carbon dioxide removal technology—don’t materialize, “then you are left with illusions, essentially,” he said.

    The IPCC has “blinded itself” to deeper questions of sustainability and is thus asking the wrong questions, like how to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, he added. Instead, it should be more up front about acknowledging the physical limits of the planet, and start asking how to downscale current resource consumption to a sustainable level.

    The report found that “without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach.”

    […]

    On the hopeful side, the panel noted that renewable energy costs have dropped by as much as 85 percent in the past decade, and that new policies in many countries have accelerated deployment of wind and solar power…

    An Unrealistic Leap of Faith

    The contradictions between scientific reality and hopeful political assumptions identified by Maidowski are clear in the new report, which says, on the one hand, that greenhouse emissions need to peak in the next three years, while also finding that average annual greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 to 2019 were higher than in any previous decade.

    Believing that emissions can peak by 2025 on that trajectory requires an enormous and unrealistic leap of faith, and many climate scientists, including NASA researcher Peter Kalmus, are not buying it.

    “This IPCC report is absolutely harrowing. Wake up everyone,” Kalmus wrote on Twitter. “Brief summary of the new IPCC report: We know what to do, we know how to do it, it requires taking toys away from the rich, and world leaders aren’t doing it,” he continued.

    #Climate misinformation still reigns in @GOP Senate primary amid #Colorado #drought, fires — Colorado Newsline #ActOnClimate

    Temperature changes around the world 1901 thru 2021. Credit: Hawkins

    Residents in Big Thompson Canyon east of Estes Park became the latest Coloradans to flee their homes in fear of a nearby wildfire on Monday, just hours after the NCAR Fire forced evacuations and closures 30 miles to the south in Boulder.

    It’s been three months since the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes and left two people dead, and nearly two years since Colorado’s three largest wildfires on record burned in the summer and fall of 2020, razing mountainsides, choking the skies with haze and eventually causing mudslides that killed four people in Larimer County and left Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon shut down for weeks.

    The increasingly tangible impacts of the climate-driven “megadrought” that has affected much of Colorado since 2000 — stressed water supplies, more intense wildfires, losses in the agricultural and tourism sectors — have served as a rallying cry for Democrats who highlight the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But the 2022 campaign season has brought little sign of a change in Colorado Republicans’ long-running pattern of denying or downplaying human-caused climate change.

    GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

    In the crowded GOP primary for U.S. Senate, misinformation, half-truths and conspiracy theories still dominate candidates’ rhetoric on climate and energy issues.

    State Rep. Ron Hanks of Cañon City, the race’s only sitting lawmaker, said earlier this month that climate change is a Chinese hoax designed to “emasculate” the American economy.

    Eli Bremer, a first-time candidate and former Olympic pentathlete, has spread debunked claims that wind power emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.

    And Gino Campana, a former Fort Collins city councilman who once supported the city’s emissions-cutting programs and co-founded a clean-energy startup, has joined other Republicans in blasting Democrats for holding back domestic energy production — an assertion belied by the oil and gas industry’s own statements.

    Ahead of the state GOP assembly next month, climate change has rarely come up in debates and other campaign events featuring Republican Senate candidates. Several leading contenders ignored repeated requests from Newsline to comment on climate issues, and none have detailed a plan to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions cuts that an overwhelming scientific consensus says is necessary to avoid increasingly catastrophic effects. Other GOP candidates who filed to run for the Senate seat include Joe O’Dea, Deborah Flora and Peter Yu. Observers generally name Hanks, Bremer and Campana among the frontrunners.

    “Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability,” wrote 270 scientists in the latest report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month. “The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming.”

    ‘It’s called weather’

    A Colorado College poll released last month found that 82% of Centennial State voters agreed that climate change is a serious problem, up from 60% in 2011. Nearly 7 in 10 Coloradans say they’re supportive of climate action, including efforts to transition to 100% clean energy within “the next ten to fifteen years,” the school’s annual State of the Rockies poll found.

    Republican voters, however, are much more evenly split on the issue, with about half declaring climate change “not a problem,” according to poll results across an eight-state Western region. And despite periodic predictions of a Republican shift on climate issues from pollsters and pundits, little about party leaders’ views has changed over the last decade.

    During his six-year U.S. Senate term, former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner acknowledged that “the climate is changing” but consistently cast doubt on the extent to which warming is human-caused. The same position is held by many Republicans in the state Legislature, including Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker, who said of “so-called climate change” during a floor debate last year: “I do not believe that it is man-made.”

    In fact, virtually all of the 1.07 degrees Celsius average global temperature increase observed since 1850 has been the result of rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations “unequivocally caused by human activities,” IPCC scientists wrote last year. Non-human drivers like solar and volcanic activity and natural variability have had no quantifiable long-term effect.

    Hanks, a first-term lawmaker who was present at the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol and a leading proponent of conspiracy theories relating to the 2020 election, staked out the primary’s most extreme position on climate change at a candidate forum earlier this month.

    Asked how he would respond to concerns about climate change in a general election matchup with incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, Hanks replied that Republicans need to “start marketing the truth.”

    “I don’t want to sit here and pretend climate change is a real issue. It’s called weather,” Hanks said to laughter and applause, according to video posted by his campaign.

    Echoing baseless claims made by former President Donald Trump, Hanks called climate change a “serious effort from China to emasculate us” by impeding domestic manufacturing and economic growth.

    Bremer, a onetime chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, is among the only candidates in the primary to have publicly addressed the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Our approach should be led by data, science, and common sense rather than tilting to the political winds of the day,” reads a section devoted to environmental policy on his website.

    But Bremer’s recent claims about emissions from renewable energy sources like wind turbines are contradicted by a vast body of existing research.

    “On the yardstick of greenhouse gas emissions, environmental policies fail … If you look at windmills, there’s a lot of greenhouse gas emission cost that we gloss over,” Bremer said in a March 23 Fox News interview, claiming that the emissions resulting from the manufacture and construction of wind farms offsets their lower operating emissions. “Virtually every expert that I’ve talked to believes that the overall return is negative.”

    In fact, a 2021 analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden concluded that even when “total life cycle” emissions are calculated wind energy projects produce only a tiny fraction of the emissions of fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation. Evaluating the results of hundreds of previous studies, researchers concluded that the 13 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions per kilowatt-hour produced by wind generation — nearly all the result of one-time construction emissions — are 77 times smaller than the emissions from a typical coal plant and 37 times smaller than emissions from a natural gas plant.

    From smart-grid investor to ‘unleash Colorado energy’

    Campana, a wealthy real estate developer who served a term on the Fort Collins City Council between 2013 and 2017, has attracted establishment support for his Senate candidacy, including endorsements from former Trump administration figures like Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Kellyanne Conway, who joined Campana’s campaign as an advisor last month.

    During his city council term, Campana frequently aligned himself with Fort Collins’ ambitious emissions-cutting efforts. In 2014, he voted to approve an update to the city’s climate action plan, which aimed to reduce emissions 80% by 2030, and endorsed another resolution calling for the city to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In 2016, he also expressed support for the “objectives” of a legal brief filed by city officials in support of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, though he didn’t vote in favor of it. The Trump administration later gutted the policy.

    Years earlier, Campana had been one of four founders of Windsor-based Ice Energy, a manufacturer of thermal energy storage systems. Experts say so-called “smart grid” technologies are a key part of the transition to a fully renewable electric grid, helping improve efficiency and offset the intermittency of wind and solar resources.

    In 2010, Ice Energy received millions in government funding in the form of tax credits authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the same stimulus bill under which California-based solar panel manufacturer Solyndra received a $535 million federal loan guarantee that became notorious among conservatives after the firm went bankrupt a year later. Campana reported income from Ice Energy in a financial disclosure as late as 2013; the company later moved out of Colorado and declared bankruptcy in 2019.

    In a financial disclosure filed earlier this year, Campana estimated his net worth at between $44 million and $141 million, and detailed an extensive list of corporate stock holdings that include tens of thousands of dollars invested in both fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum and clean-energy firms like Tesla and Vestas Wind.

    As he looks to win support from the GOP base ahead of next month’s state assembly — and fight off attacks from opponents who say his city council record makes him a “tax-and-spend-liberal” — Campana has positioned himself as a champion of the oil and gas industry, calling on policymakers to “unleash Colorado energy.”

    “Biden and Bennet are stifling America’s energy production, costing us jobs and higher gas prices,” he wrote in a tweet earlier this month. That’s a widely repeated GOP attack line that’s contradicted by the thousands of approved drilling permits held by oil and gas producers in Colorado and beyond, and the repeated assurances companies have made to investors to limit production growth.

    On his website, Campana touts his “background in environmental engineering” and endorses an “all of the above energy strategy” that he says can lead to reduced emissions.

    Scientists, however, warn that plans for continued fossil fuel production by governments around the world are “dangerously out of sync” with the targets outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which called for limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius.

    “The research is clear: Global coal, oil, and gas production must start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author on the 2021 U.N. Production Gap report, said upon the report’s release last year. “However, governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn.”

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    EPA objects to Suncor air quality permit renewal, tells #Colorado pollution control agency to try again: Federal agency expresses concern over environmental injustice toward Suncor’s neighbors — The #Denver Post #ActOnClimate

    Commerce City: This is east of Denver, the industrial suburb of Denver. Photo credit: James from Boulder, USA

    Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Noelle Phillips). Here’s an excerpt:

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which submitted the 373-page permit for Suncor, has 90 days to respond to the EPA’s objections and then resubmit. The operating permit regulates the level of various toxic pollutants the refinery can release into the air. The EPA’s objections do not affect the Suncor refinery’s operations and they do not mean the agency will eventually deny the permit renewal.

    The Suncor refinery in Commerce City is pictured on Sand Creek near where it meets the South Platte River. Both streams have highly challenged water quality, though many conservationists argue they can get still better. Photo credit: Suncor

    The refinery has been operating under a permit that was issued in 2006. Those air-quality permits are supposed to be renewed every five years, but Suncor and the state have not applied for renewal since then, meaning the plant has been operating on an expired permit for 16 years.

    The EPA’s objections focused on three sites at the refinery where Suncor uses flares to burn off excess chemicals. The state’s Air Pollution Control Division, which falls under the health department, wanted to exempt those flaring sources from regular monitoring requirements, according to a letter to the agency from KC Becker, the EPA’s regional administrator. The EPA is asking the state to do more analysis and better explain why it believes the flare sites don’t need additional monitoring. The EPA also expressed significant concern about the refinery’s environmental impact on people who live and work within a three-mile radius of the plant, and the federal agency suggested multiple steps the state can take to improve communication with the community when it comes to permitting for the plant and reporting on the pollution that comes from it, the letter said.

    In a World on Fire, Stop Burning Things: The truth is new and counterintuitive; we have the technology necessary to rapidly ditch #FossilFuels — @BillMcKibben in the @NewYorker

    The coal-fired Tri-State Generation and Transmission plant in Craig provides much of the power used in Western Colorado, including in Aspen and Pitkin County. Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office has a plan to move the state’s electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Click the link to read this important article that’s running on the New Yorker website (Bill McKibben). Here’s an excerpt:

    On the last day of February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its most dire report yet. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, had, he said, “seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this.” Setting aside diplomatic language, he described the document as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” and added that “the world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.” Then, just a few hours later, at the opening of a rare emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly, he catalogued the horrors of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and declared, “Enough is enough.” Citing Putin’s declaration of a nuclear alert, the war could, Guterres said, turn into an atomic conflict, “with potentially disastrous implications for us all.”

    What unites these two crises is combustion. Burning fossil fuel has driven the temperature of the planet ever higher, melting most of the sea ice in the summer Arctic, bending the jet stream, and slowing the Gulf Stream. And selling fossil fuel has given Putin both the money to equip an army (oil and gas account for sixty per cent of Russia’s export earnings) and the power to intimidate Europe by threatening to turn off its supply. Fossil fuel has been the dominant factor on the planet for centuries, and so far nothing has been able to profoundly alter that. After Putin invaded, the American Petroleum Institute insisted that our best way out of the predicament was to pump more oil. The climate talks in Glasgow last fall, which John Kerry, the U.S. envoy, had called the “last best hope” for the Earth, provided mostly vague promises about going “net-zero by 2050”; it was a festival of obscurantism, euphemism, and greenwashing, which the young climate activist Greta Thunberg summed up as “blah, blah, blah.” Even people trying to pay attention can’t really keep track of what should be the most compelling battle in human history…

    …the era of large-scale combustion has to come to a rapid close. If we understand that as the goal, we might be able to keep score, and be able to finally get somewhere. Last Tuesday, President Biden banned the importation of Russian oil. This year, we may need to compensate for that with American hydrocarbons, but, as a senior Administration official put it,“the only way to eliminate Putin’s and every other producing country’s ability to use oil as an economic weapon is to reduce our dependency on oil.” As we are one of the largest oil-and-gas producers in the world, that is a remarkable statement. It’s a call for an end of fire.

    We don’t know when or where humans started building fires; as with all things primordial there are disputes. But there is no question of the moment’s significance. Fire let us cook food, and cooked food delivers far more energy than raw; our brains grew even as our guts, with less processing work to do, shrank. Fire kept us warm, and human enterprise expanded to regions that were otherwise too cold. And, as we gathered around fires, we bonded in ways that set us on the path to forming societies. No wonder Darwin wrote that fire was “the greatest discovery ever made by man, excepting language.”