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Environment: Tuesday roundup

Independent journalism in western Colorado

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Big issues at the climate talks in Lima, Peru.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — If you primarily read this Summit Voice feed, which has been climate focused recently, you may have missed a few other recent stories I’ve done for the Colorado Independent. The past couple of weeks I’ve  covered issues in western Colorado, including fossil fuel development, public lands protection and even the ski industry from time to time, including this week’s story about a Colorado Supreme Court case. Continue reading

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More methane woes – study tracks abandoned well emissions

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Concentrations of heat-trapping methane are increasing steadily in the Earth’s atmosphere.

‘What surprised me was that every well we measured had some methane coming out …’

FRISCO — Fixing leaky pipes and other equipment at operational oil and gas wells would go a long way toward cutting emissions of heat-trapping methane pollution, but wells that were abandoned decades ago could be another big source of the potent greenhouse gas.

Princeton University researchers recently tested several abandoned oil and natural gas wells in northwestern Pennsylvania, finding that many of the old wells leaked substantial quantities of methane. By some estimates, there are as many as 3 million abandoned wells across the U.S. Continue reading

White River National Forest updates oil and gas plan

74,000 acres in roadless areas still open to fossil fuel development with a no surface occupation stipulation

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Most oil and gas development on the White River National Forest is limited to the far western zones in areas where drilling is already common.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The White River National Forest wants to open up nearly 200,000 acres for oil and gas drilling leases, including 74,000 acres in designated roadless areas where there would be restrictions on surface activities.

The long-awaited update to the forest’s oil and gas leasing map were released this week by the agency in a final environmental impact study and a draft record of decision, subject to a 60-day objection period. The final EIS is online here.

WRNF supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said he chose a “conservation-minded” option that prioritizes recreational and natural resources values over energy development across most of the forest. Most of the lands open for leasing follow the pattern of recent energy development in areas with high potential for fossil fuel development.

“Over one million acres of the White River National Forest are not geologically conducive for natural gas production, and another 800,000 acres are legally withdrawn. In addition, I have decided to close 213,000 acres of the White River National Forest to leasing in order to protect and maintain the natural character of these areas and protect important wildlife habitat,” Fitzwilliams said. Continue reading

Colorado fracking task force set to meet in Rifle

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Roads and fracking pads spiderweb across the wild landscapes of western Colorado and eastern Utah, as seem from a commercial airliner. bberwyn photo.

Audio from meeting to stream live on the web

Staff Report

FRISCO — A 21-member Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force meets again in Rifle this week, with the agenda including a discussion of health impacts to people in gas patch communities.

Questions about health impacts surfaced again last week as a major new review of scientific studies spurred leading experts to say there are reasons for concern. Many of the toxic chemicals used in the fossil fuel industry are known to disrupt basic body chemistry. Continue reading

Report: Hybrid energy systems, smart grid planning needed to boost renewables

Going solar ...

Going solar …

Matched solar and wind systems could ensure steady supply of renewable energy

Staff Report

FRISCO — Smart grid planning and better energy storage could significantly boost the use of renewable energy in the U.S. according to a new report that calls for developing “hybrid” systems in which, on a broad geographic scale, one form of renewable energy is ramping up even while the other is declining.

Historically, a major drawback to the use and cost-effectiveness of alternative energy systems has been that they are too variable – if the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, a completely different energy system has to be available to pick up the slack. Continue reading

Greater sage-grouse need more buffer zones

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Greater sage-grouse need buffer zones to reduce impacts from human activities. Photo via USGS.

New USGS report details conservation needs of dwindling western birds

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may seem like there are a lot of wide open spaces remaining in the interior West, but when you add up impacts from roads, highways and pipelines; oil, gas, wind and solar energy development; tall structures such as electrical, communication and meteorological towers, it’s just too much for sage grouse.

The birds — at the heart of a classic endangered species political battle, need quiet areas to breed and fledge their chicks. In most cases, they seem to need at least a three-mile buffer from the most impactful activities, the U.S. Geological Survey concluded in a new report. Continue reading

Native Americans eye huge South Dakota wind energy project

A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows areas with the potential for windpower and the associated transmission grid.

A map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows areas with the potential for windpower and the associated transmission grid.

Sioux Nation wants to focus on renewable energy, not dirty tar sands oil

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a few days after responding angrily to the U.S. House vote to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, Sioux Nation Native American leaders met with the Obama administration to explore renewable energy options.

The meeting included representatives from more than eight federal agencies and offices, including representatives from the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Treasury, and Tribal Relations. Continue reading

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