Feds OK three big solar projects in Nevada

Regional plan helps speed reviews

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New solar energy projects are sprouting across the sunny Southwest.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Up-front planning helped speed three big new solar projects through the federal review process, the U.S. Department of Interior said this week, touting the administration’s Western Solar Plan as a model for renewable energy development on public lands.

The plan mapped out solar energy development zones in areas where there was little potential for conflicts over resources. The reviews three new projects in Clark County, Nevada, where completed in 10 months, about half the time it previously took under the project-by-project system. Continue reading

Climate change: Six big multinational energy companies call for global carbon pricing to reduce emissions

Multinationals say they’re ready to be part of the solution and emphasize the importance of natural gas

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A coal power plant in northwest Colorado is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the region. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — U.S. politicians and energy companies may not have warmed to the idea of putting a price tag on carbon pollution, but the chief executives of six major multinational oil companies say it’s the best way to “reduce uncertainty and encourage the most cost effective ways of reducing carbon emissions widely.”

The six companies — BG Group, BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shel, Statoil ASA and Total SA — set out their position in a joint letter from their chief executives to United Nations climate policy leaders, timed to precede the critical COP21 climate meeting in Paris this December. Continue reading

Public lands: Feds release sage grouse plans

Last, best hope for endangered birds?

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Staff Report

FRISCO — If plans, press releases and political mud-slinging could help greater sage-grouse, the majestic western bird would be well on the way to recovery. But the only thing that will really help the imperiled species is on-the-ground action — protecting and restoring the habitat the birds need to survive.

A series of proposed land-use plans released by the federal government this week aims to do just that, by minimizing and avoiding new disturbance to habitat, restoring habitat when possible and reducing threats like wildfires and invasive species. Here’s a fact sheet. Continue reading

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

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