Poll: Western voters oppose state land grab efforts

Results also show support for national monument designation

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A new poll shows widespread support for continued protection of public lands like Colorado National Monument. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

After a year during which Congress and several western state governments dabbled with the idea of stealing land from citizens of the U.S. and turning it over to states, a new poll shows there is little support for this concept.

The Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released today shows strong public support for efforts to protect and maintain national public lands. The poll results were released during an uptick in extremist rhetoric and against the backdrop of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

For the first time, the poll asked voters directly about efforts to turn public lands owned by all Americans over to state or private control. For now, there’s still a solid majority — 58 percent — oppose such efforts, with 60 percent of respondents opposed selling significant holdings of public lands like national forests to reduce the budget deficit. Continue reading

State of emergency declared at massive California gas leak

Escaping methane seen as climate disaster

The massive California gas leak is made visible by infrared imaging. Video courtesy Environmental Defense Fund.

Staff Report

More than two months after massive amounts of gas started leaking from a storage facility in Aliso Canyon, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency at the site, ordering state agencies to focus on protecting public health and stopping the flow.

The order is aimed at convincing the public that the state is doing all it can to protect public health and the environment by detailing the government’s ongoing effort to stop the leak.

Some environmental groups said Governor Brown’s declaration comes a little late in the game, and highlights the dangers of fossil fuels.

“This leak has been a state of emergency for the Porter Ranch community and the climate since day one. Governor Brown is right to call it such and to shut down the facility until it is made safe,” said Mark Brownstein, vice president of climate and energy with the Environmental Defense Fund.

At peak measurement, the leak was pumping 72 million cubic feet of methane into the atmosphere and causing, every day, as much climate damage in the next 20 years as 7 million cars on the road. Continue reading

Colorado fracking battle to heat up in 2016

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Colorado voters may have a chance to ban fracking in the 2016 election. @bberwyn photo.

Fracking ban eyed

Staff Report

The battle over fracking will heat up in Colorado next year, as community and activist groups target the 2016 ballot with a series of initiatives aimed at protecting homes, neighborhoods, schools, and water supplies from the dangers associated with fracking operations.

Altogether, there are 11 proposed ballot initiatives, ranging from measures that would require greater setbacks from residential areas through to an outright fracking ban. Each of the proposed constitutional amendments would require signatures from 98,492 registered Colorado voters to get on November’s ballot.

A public hearing on the ballot measure language is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 5 in Room 109 at the State Capitol. Continue reading

Environment: Feds face legal challenge over Four Corners power plant approval

The Four Corners Power Plant in a 1972 photo via Wikipedia.

The Four Corners Power Plant in a 1972 photo via Wikipedia.

Climate impacts, environmental justice at issue in looming legal battle

Staff Report

Community and environmental activists say they’ll contest federal approval of continued operations at the giant pollution-spewing Four Corners Power Plant in court.

In a formal notice of their intent to sue, the groups said Office of Surface Mining, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies failed to look at clean energy alternatives and didn’t adequately consider the carbon pollution, health and other environmental impacts when they approved operation of the plant last summer. The notice also says the environmental studies didn’t look at water contamination from coal ash waste, and impacts to Navajo culture. Continue reading

Feds to update oil and gas rules for wildlife refuges

A playa lake at the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

A playa lake at the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy USFWS.

USFWS taking public comment through Feb. 9

Staff Report

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to update 50-year-old regulations for oil and gas development on National Wildlife Refuge System lands.

Last week the agency published a proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement that would require fossil fuel companies to use modern best management practices, especially as they relate to abandoned infrastructure and debris.

According to the USFWS, the new regs would reduce refuge impacts, including habitat loss and degradation, wildlife mortality and displacement, and other risks to ecological integrity. Continue reading

Forest Service sets public meetings for North Fork coal mining plans

Plan could unleash 36.6 billion tons of greenhouse gases

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A federal judge ordered the U.S. Forest Service to disclose greenhouse gas emissions from a proposed coal mining project in Colorado.

Staff Report

The public will have a chance to weigh in on a U.S. Forest Service proposal to expand coal-mining on public lands in south-central Colorado at two public hearings, Dec. 7 in Paonia and Dec. 9 in Denver.

At issue is a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Colorado Roadless Rule released November 20. The study addresses a recent court ruling that blocked the coal mining expansion in the North Fork Valley, near Paonia, pending more analysis and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions associated extracting and burning the coal. Continue reading

Global warming: Politicians set lofty goals for Paris climate deal — can the negotiators deliver?

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Climate negotiators in Paris are racing against time, as the Earth gets warmer and warmer.

Goals to de-carbonize energy production are at the fore

Staff Report

The world’s political leaders voiced nearly unanimous support for a climate-change agreement during the opening days of the COP21 talks in Paris — what remains to be seen is whether negotiators can deliver on the nitty gritty details needed to seal the deal.

So far, heads of state have presented new renewable energy and financial commitments to boost climate adaptation and resilience. Major initiatives include an African solar energy commitment; an international solar alliance launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande; a major private partnership for renewable energy development; and a public initiative launched by 20 countries to double their current existing funding for renewable research and development. Continue reading

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