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Lawsuit aims to block expansion of Colorado coal mine

More coal mining equals more ozone

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

The U.S. is the second-largest producer of coal in the world, thanks in part to massive surface mines like this one in Wyoming. Photo courtesy BLM.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal officials may have failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of more coal mining in northwestern Colorado, according a conservation group that’s suing the Bureau of Land Management over an expansion permit for the Deserado coal mine, located in Rio Blanco County in northwestern Colorado directly south of Dinosaur National Monument.

The mine fuels the 500-megawatt Bonanza power plant, located 30 miles west in Uintah County, Utah. The mine and the power plant are connecte by a dedicated electric train.

According to WildEarth Guardians, the BLM failed to address air quality impacts from fossil fuel combustion from the Bonanza facility. The group said regional air quality monitoring shows continued violations of ozone. According to the lawsuit, the mine expansion would mean that the Bonanza power plant would continue to operate for another 16 percent years — too long in the context of climate change. Continue reading

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Conservation group challenges Nevada fracking plan

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A NASA Earth Observatory map shows the dry Nevada deserts east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

BLM lease sales based on flawed, incomplete analysis, environmentalists say

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates are formally challenging a Bureau of Land Management proposal to lease lands for natural gas exploitation in north-central Nevada based in part on the federal agency’s failure to require an in-depth environmental study.

The lease sale could open up more than 174,000 acres around Tonopah and Austin on 102 lease parcels. In filing the protest, the Center for Biological Diversity spelled out a laundry list of concerns about the BLM’s process, highlighting the fact that the agency’s evaluation of the proposed lease doesn’t come close to addressing key environmental concerns. Instead of developing more fossil fuel resources, the emphasis in Nevada should be on renewable energy resources like wind, solar and geothermal. Continue reading

Congress grapples with wind power tax credit extension

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More wrangling over renewable energy, as coal barons pull out all the stops

Fossil fuel barons are sensing the end of their era, and pulling out all the stops to squeeze a few more years of profit from their toxic activities

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Fossil fuel companies pulled out all the stops this week, cashing in their lobbying chips to corral the U.S. Senate into stalling a bill that would have extended for the wind production and investment tax credits.

A small group of senators who are deep in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry used a procedural vote to block a full Senate vote, eliciting a frustrated response from Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“This is yet another example of Washington not doing the work that Coloradans and the American people expect us to do,” Bennet said. “This tax extenders bill was approved by the Senate Finance Committee with strong bipartisan support. Coloradans and the American people deserve better.

“The wind tax credit is an economic driver for Colorado’s diverse energy industry. It supports thousands of jobs up and down the supply chain. Delaying this extension risks the same type of economic damage we experienced that last time the credit was allowed to expire,” he said.

Colorado generates the sixth highest percentage of power from wind of any state in the nation. It is home to several major wind energy developers and wind turbine manufacturing facilities, employing upwards of 5,000 workers statewide. Nationally, a permanent expiration of the wind production tax credit could cost as many as 37,000 jobs, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The political maneuvering came the same day that German officials announced that the country set a new renewable energy record, with wind and solar generating enough power to meet 74 percent of the demand on Sunday, May 11.

 

Environmental groups ask EPA to set national limits on pollution from oil and gas production

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Oil and gas drilling roads and pads are spreading into remote backcountry areas of Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Cancer-causing chemicals escaping from fossil fuel facilities by the ton

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado communities looking to regulate the toxic and dangerous impacts of oil and gas drilling may not get any help from Gov. John Hickenlooper, but they may get some backup from a huge coalition of environmental groups that have petitioned the EPA for limits on oil and gas wells and associated equipment in population centers around the U.S.

As thousands of new wells are drilled across the U.S. every day, some studies suggest that at least 100,000 tons per year of hazardous air pollution from oil and gas well sites — including benzene, formaldehyde, and naphthalene — are escaping into the atmosphere. These pollutants have been linked to respiratory and neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer. Continue reading

Environment: Deepwater Horizon blowout may have released 250,000 tons of natural gas into the atmosphere

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The massive Deepwater Horizon oll spill spreads a sheen across a huge section of the Gulf of Mexico in May 2010. Photo courtesy NASA.

Findings show value of long-term post-spill monitoring

Staff Report

FRISCO — Methane-munching microbes in the Gulf of Mexico may have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of gas released during the 84-day Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010.

“Most of the gas injected into the Gulf was methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change, so we were naturally concerned that this potent greenhouse gas could escape into the atmosphere,” said University of Georgia researcher Samantha Joye.” Many assumed that methane-oxidizing microbes would simply consume the methane efficiently, but our data suggests that this isn’t what happened.” Continue reading

Colorado: Industry, state regulators consistently underestimate air pollution from oil and gas operations

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about water quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

The proliferation of oil and gas drilling in Colorado raises serious questions about air quality impacts. Photo courtesy SkyTruth.

New research show true magnitude of fossil fuel pollution along Front Range

Staff Report

FRISCO — Heat-trapping greenhouse gases and other air pollutants are leaking from Colorado oil and gas operations at a far higher rate than previously estimated.

Two days of aerial surveys showed methane leaking at three times the rate predicted by inventory estimates, and seven times as much benzene, a cancer-causing air toxic.Emissions of other chemicals that contribute to summertime ozone pollution were about twice as high as estimates, according to the new paper, accepted for publication in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. Continue reading

Environment: Activists ramp up campaign against seismic airguns

Oil-probing technology could harm marine mammals, affect fisheries

Oceana projection on National Postal Museum (Credit: Oceana/Melissa Forsyth)

Oceana projection on National Postal Museum (Credit: Oceana/Melissa Forsyth)

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tourism and fishing-dependent communities along the East Coast of the U.S. are banding together to voice concerns about seismic airgun testing. According to Oceana, an ocean conservation group, 110 local elected officials and 155 conservation and animal welfare organizations all say the use of airguns to conduct these seismic tests threatens fish populations and profitable fisheries.

Six coastal towns have also passed local resolutions opposing the use of airguns. (Cocoa Beach, FL, Carolina Beach, NC, Caswell Beach, NC, Nags Head, NC, Bradley Beach, NJ and Red Bank, NJ). The loud and constant undersea thumping may decrease the catch rates of certain fisheries, potentially threatening a billion-dollar industry that supports thousands of jobs.

At issue is the use of loud acoustic devices that help energy companies probe for oil beneath the seafloor. Federal officials recently adopted a final proposal that would allow the use of this controversial technology in an area twice the size of California, stretching from Delaware to Florida. Continue reading

Environment: BLM plans in-depth study of oil and gas leases on Colorado’s White River National Forest

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The BLM will analyze the environmental impacts of contested oil and gas drilling leases south of I-70, between Carbondale and DeBeque. Click for a full-size version.

BLM taking input during scoping phase of environmental study

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Lynx, elk, owls and other high country forest critters in western Colorado will get at least a temporary reprieve from potential oil and gas drilling, as the federal Bureau of Land Management announced last week that it will do an in-depth environmental study for 65 existing oil and gas leases on 80,000 acres of public lands managed by the White River National Forest.

The leases are spread roughly west to east along biologically important mid-elevation lands between Carbondale and DeBeque and overlap designated roadless areas. Conservation advocates have long argued that the sale of the leases was inconsistent with efforts to protect wildlife, water quality and other high-value natural resources. Continue reading

Big comeback for renewable energy stocks in 2013

Public market investors bullish on wind and solar

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Renewable sources accounted for 43 percent of all newly installed energy capacity in 2013, according to a new report from UN economists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Renewable energy stocks made a big global comeback in 2013, gaining 54 percent after a 4.5 year slide during which they lost 78 percent in value, according to a new report released by economists in Frankfurt, Germany.

The improvement happened as many companies in the solar and wind manufacturing chains moved back towards profitability after a painful period of over-capacity and corporate distress, according to experts with the United Nations Environmental Program.

The 2013 improvements came despite a significant dip in investments in the renewable energy sector — the investment drop of $US35.1 billion was partly down to the falling cost of solar photovoltaic systems. The other main cause was policy uncertainty in many countries, an issue that also depressed investment in fossil fuel generation in 2013. Continue reading

Climate: Upcoming IPCC reports highlights need for a global carbon tax

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Can we slow our greenhouse gas emissions? A global carbon tax could help.

Ending subsidies for fossil fuel companies also high on the list

Staff Report

FRISCO — A modest carbon tax of just $0.15 per kilo could lead the world down the path of meaningful action on global warming, says a Swedish researcher who was one of the coordinating lead authors of a new report that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will present next week.

“What we need to avoid dangerous climate change is the application of strong policy instruments,” said Thomas Sterner, professor of environmental economics at the University of Gothenburg. Continue reading

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