@POTUS’s #methane rule rollback burns the natural gas bridge #KeepItInTheGround #ActOnClimate

From The High Country News (Jonathan Thompson):

This summer’s statistics on electricity use and generation included a significant gem: Over the last 12 months, power generation from coal has dropped to a three-decade low. That was party-worthy news for the climate, for air quality, for folks who live near power plants and for the natural gas industry, which is partly responsible for coal’s decline. Just days later, however, the Trump administration crashed the shindig, causing a major buzzkill.

No, the president’s attempts to revive coal have not succeeded. But on Sept. 18, the Interior Department snuffed out new rules aimed at lowering the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions, just days after the Environmental Protection Agency started the process of euthanizing its own methane regulations. This is a bummer not only for the planet, but also for the natural gas industry’s efforts to portray its product as the clean fossil fuel.

Coal began its climb to dominate the electricity mix in the 1960s, peaking in the mid-2000s, when power plants burned about 1 billion tons per year, generating about half of the nation’s electricity — and an ongoing disaster. Donald Trump likes to talk about “clean, beautiful coal.” It’s anything but. The smokestacks that loom over coal power plants kick out millions of tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide annually, along with mercury, sulfur dioxide, arsenic and particulates, all of which wreak havoc on human health. What’s left over ends up as toxic (sometimes radioactive) piles of ash, clinkers and scrubber sludge.

When natural gas is burned to produce power, however, it emits only about half the carbon dioxide of coal, and virtually none of the other pollutants associated with burning coal. So during the 2008 election season — when climate politics were less polarized than now — both parties pushed natural gas in different ways, with Republicans chanting, “Drill, baby, drill,” and Democrats calling natural gas a “bridge” to greater reliance on renewable energy sources. At the same time, advances in drilling were unlocking vast stores of oil and gas from shale formations, driving down the price of the commodity and making it more desirable to utilities.

(Hilcorp Newco 2 Oil and Gas Well Site, San Juan County, NM (May 2018) via Earthworks)

As a result, natural gas gobbled up a growing share of the nation’s electricity mix, while coal’s portion withered. In 2008, natural gas generated 21 percent of the electricity in the United States; now, its share is 33 percent. Coal use, meanwhile, plummeted from 48 percent to 29 percent over the same period. In consequence, the electric power sector’s total carbon dioxide emissions have dropped by 700 million metric tons over the last decade, with an attendant decrease in other harmful pollutants. Every megawatt-hour of coal-fired electricity that is replaced by gas-fired electricity is a net win for the planet — and the humans who live on it.

Except when it’s not. Natural gas has an Achilles’ heel: When it is sucked from the earth and processed and moved around, leaks occur. The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, a greenhouse gas with 86 times the short-term warming potential of carbon dioxide. Every punctured pipeline, leaky valve and sloppy gas-well completion eats away at any climate benefits. And if methane’s leaking, so too are other harmful pollutants, including benzene, ethane and hydrogen sulfide. And so the fuel’s green credentials, and one of the industry’s main marketing tools, end up wafting into thin air.

The Four Corners methane hotspot is yet another environmental climate and public health disaster served to our community by industry. But now that we’ve identified the sources we can begin to hold those responsible accountable for cleaning up after themselves. The BLM methane rule and EPA methane rule are more clearly essential than ever. Photo credit: San Juan Citizens Alliance

When the Obama administration proposed rules that would make the oil and gas industry clamp down on methane emissions, it was a gift, not a punishment. Not only would people and the climate benefit; the natural gas industry would be able to sell itself as a clean fuel and a bridge to the future.

The Obama-era rules are similar to those passed in Colorado in 2014, with the industry’s support. Far from being onerous, they simply require companies to regularly look for and repair leaks and to replace faulty equipment. Some companies already do this on their own; the Obama rules would simply mandate this responsible behavior across the board. That’s why the Republican-controlled Congress ultimately decided not to kill the rules. That, however, did not discourage Trump.

Trump is not being “business-friendly” by ending the rules. Rather, he is once again indulging his own obsession with Obama and with destroying his predecessor’s legacy, regardless of the cost to human health and the environment. Trump’s own EPA estimates that its rule rollback will result in the emission of an additional 484,000 tons of methane, volatile organic compounds and other hazardous pollutants over the next five years. Meanwhile, the death of Interior’s methane rule on Tuesday will add another half-million tons of pollutants to the air. In the process, it will erode the pillars of the once-vaunted natural gas bridge.

Then again, maybe the time has come to let that bridge burn. We get 70 times more electricity from solar sources now than we did in 2008, and renewables hold 11 percent of the total share of power generation. Perhaps just as significant is a less-noticed fact: Electricity consumption in the U.S. has held steady for the last decade, even dropping during some years, despite a growing population, a burgeoning economy, harder-working air conditioners and more electric devices. That means we’re becoming more efficient and smarter about how we use energy. If we keep this up, we’ll be able to cross that fossil fuel chasm, no matter how many bridges Trump burns down.

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster.

Sharing my heritage, in my own words (Part 1) – News on TAP

Dr. Selene Hernandez-Ruiz, water quality scientist, shares her background and the cultural experiences that have shaped her life.

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Splash into National Hispanic Heritage Month – News on TAP

Experts spend time at local Latino community events talking all things water.

Source: Splash into National Hispanic Heritage Month – News on TAP

Pagosa Springs councillors approve new sewer rates

From The Pagosa Sun (J. Williams):

Upon conclusion of Tuesday’s Pagosa Springs Town Council meeting, town leaders put on their Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District (PSSGID) board hats and addressed a resolution to implement sewer rate increases.

Town Manager Andrea Phillips and Sanitation Supervisor Gene Tautges asked the board to approve an annual sewer rate increase of about 6.5 percent for the next 10 years, taking the monthly fee from the current $37.50 to $62 by the year 2028.

The proposal would also raise the “plant investment fee” (PIF) by $150 to a new level of $4,550. The PIF is a onetime charge for new connections to the town’s waste- water system.

The rate increases were the result of recommendations from a commissioned study by Stantec Inc., a consulting firm that was hired to help town staff analyze current wastewater rates and prepare a plan for future anticipated increases in capacity and sustainability.

According to Tautges, “It’s been at least 10 years since we visited our ability to maintain capacity through our present rate schedule. Things have changed a lot since 2007. No one likes to increase rates, but the way we have to look at it is that growth has to finance growth, while existing has to finance existing. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to keep up.”

Although mostly in agreement that a rate hike would be appropri- ate to maintain system standards, board members appeared to be in no mood to lock in rate hikes for 10 years.

To that end, board member Nicole DeMarco proposed addressing the needs one year at a time.

“I think it would be best to allow a hike to take effect Jan. 1, 2019, which would raise the monthly sewer rate from $37.50 to $40. But, we raise it for one year only. Can we do that?” she asked of Phillips, who quickly researched the particulars of the resolution to conclude, “Yes, we can do that.”

DeMarco noted, “I don’t think anyone is questioning the need for the additional funds. But, let’s revisit this year by year instead of just allowing for a onetime vote for an annual raise for the next decade.”

Board President Don Volger commented, “Of course, we could pass the 10-year proposal tonight and we’d always have the recourse to stop it, or reverse it, at some point in the years ahead.”
DeMarco asked, “Have we ever done that?”

Board member Mat deGraaf quickly interjected, “Never. Once a hike is in place, it never goes back- wards,” drawing nods and laughter from those in attendance.

DeMarco then made a motion to amend the resolution accordingly, raising the PSSGID’s monthly sewer rate to $40 and the PIF to $4,550, effective the first of the year.

The board passed the amended measure five to one, with David Schanzenbaker as the only dissenting vote.

Workshops on community water infrastructure financing opportunities still open through September

Arizona Water News

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The Water Infrastructure Financing Authority of Arizona (WIFA) has recently redesigned its Technical Assistance Program and is now offering additional lending options. Communities that are contemplating their next water or waste­water infrastructure project, may benefit from what WIFA has to offer.

WIFA acts as a “bond bank” that is able to issue water quality bonds on behalf of communities for basic water infrastructure. The program is authorized to finance the construction, rehabilitation and/or improvement of drinking water, wastewater, reclamation and other water-related projects.

WIFA already has conducted a Phoenix-area workshop, held on September 12. Statewide, however, there is still time to sign up for local-area workshops:

PHOENIX ……………………………….. Wednesday, Sept. 12 at l p.m.

WIFA Board Room, 100 North 15th Avenue, Suite 103

SHOW LOW ………………………………….. Tuesday, Sept. 18 at l p.m.

Show Low Public Works, 181 N. 9th Street – Council Chambers

YUMA ……………………………………………. Thursday, Sept. 20 at l p.m.

Yuma County Public Works…

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Remembering the floods of 2013 – News on TAP

Record rainfall five years ago triggered a rare event at Ralston Reservoir.

Source: Remembering the floods of 2013 – News on TAP

When it comes to watering, we practice what we preach – News on TAP

We say to check your sprinkler system regularly for a reason. One of our employees can testify why.

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