Is the West’s power grid vulnerable to climate change?

‘In their development plans, power providers are not taking into account climate change impacts …’

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Renewable energy sources may be less susceptible to climate change impacts.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Western power grid is vulnerable to projected global warming impacts, and should be climate-proofed to minimize the risk of future power shortages, according to a new study by  two Arizona State University engineers.

Their findings show that extreme heat waves and droughts and related changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density and humidity, are all factors in the energy equation, and that those changes could significantly constrain the energy generation capacity of power plants. Continue reading

Colorado steps up sage grouse conservation

Habitat exchange scheme eyed as key component in efforts to protect dwindling western birds

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is ordering state agencies to boost greater sage-grouse conservation efforts. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling for an all-out state effort to protect greater sage-grouse by stepping up coordination among state agencies, improving habitat on state-controlled lands, and boosting the role of the state’s oil and gas commission.

The new conservation push, announced in a May 15 executive order, also outlines a market-based habitat exchange program that would let ranchers and other landowners buy and sell conservation credits to developers, including the oil and gas industry with the goal of mitigating “residual impacts” to sage-grouse habitat. Continue reading

Still more questions than answers about the ecological effects of oil dispersants used in Gulf of Mexico

Scientists say more study needed before the next big spill

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster approaches the Alabama coastline. Courtesy U.S. Navy.

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster approaches the Alabama coastline. Courtesy U.S. Navy.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Fallout from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is still rippling through the Gulf of Mexico — and through the scientific community studying the effects of the largest oil spill on record.

Along with 210 million gallons of crude oil that leaked from BP’s failed deep-sea well, cleanup workers applied 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersant intended to break down the oil and prevent it from reaching the shoreline in massive quantities. Continue reading

Ohio study tracks air pollution from fracking

Fracked nation.

A new study raises more questions about public health risks in oil and gas development zones.

Findings confirm health risks to people living near oil and gas wells

Staff Report

FRISCO — Careful air sampling near active natural gas wells in Carroll County, Ohio showed the widespread presence of toxic air pollution at higher levels than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for lifetime exposure, according to scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati.

The study reinforces the need for more extensive air quality monitoring in fracking zones around the country, where exposure to the poisonous emissions are likely to lead to increased risk of cancer and respiratory ailments. Continue reading

Shell gets conditional OK for Arctic offshore drilling

Conservation groups say Arctic oil disaster nearly inevitable

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Is Shell Arctic-ready?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In a decision heralding all but certain disaster for Arctic ecosystems, the federal government today approved the basic outlines of Shell’s proposed multi-year offshore oil exploration plan in the Chukchi Sea.

Using two vessels, the giant oil company wants to drill up to six wells in an area known as the Burger Prospect, more than 140-feet deep, about  70 miles northwest of the village of Wainwright.

The approval came just two years after the Department of Interior found that Shell tried to rush into its offshore drilling program without being “fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans.” Continue reading

Environment: Conservation groups say latest oil train blast shows need for updated safety rules

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Does an oil train run through your town?

Critics say proposed phaseout is too slow

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a few weeks after the Obama administration took some tentative steps to improve oil train safety, yet another such train was blasted off the rails by a massive explosion.

The latest disaster in North Dakota underscores the need for more immediate and assertive action to improve safety, according to conservation advocates like Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles.

“Again another derailment and explosion of a train carrying crude. Again another community evacuated and its people counting their blessings this didn’t happen half a mile down the track in the middle of town,” Boyles said. Continue reading

Study details health benefits of EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Atmospheric CO2 levels measured at Mauna Loa.

Atmospheric CO2 levels measured at Mauna Loa.

Big coal-burning states stand to gain the most

Staff Report

FRISCO — Obama administration officials have said all along that, with cutting heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will lead to huge health benefits for states, potentially saving thousands of lives and millions of dollars in health care costs.

A new Harvard-led study confirms those claims after comparing three different scenarios for power plant carbon standards. Under the biggest cuts, the study projected the regs could prevent 3,500 premature deaths in the US every year, with a range of 780 to up to 6100. Continue reading

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