EPA proposes carbon pollution limits for power plants

Less of this in the future? PHOTO VIA FLICKR/CREATIVE COMMONS.

Proposed rule would be a first step to limit health and environmental threats posed by greenhouse gases

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —The EPA this week took a historic and long-overdue first step to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants by proposing a new standard that would only apply to plants going online in the future.

According to the EPA, the proposed standard reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies, including new, clean-burning, efficient natural gas generation, which is already the technology of choice for new and planned power plants.

The fossil fuel industry, however, is unlikely to agree, and will probably challenge the rule and try and turn public opinion against by saying it will raise energy prices. Of course, the fossil fuel industry things that anything other than business-as-usual will raise energy prices. Continue reading

Colorado clean-air plan gets early OK from EPA

A new clean air plan could help reduce the brown cloud over Colorado's Front Range and in national parks and wilderness areas in the region. PHOTO VIA UCAR.

Collaborative effort to cut power plant emissions gets bipartisan thumbs up

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —A state clean-air plan has a preliminary thumbs-up from the EPA, pending another round of public comment. The agency aims to finalize its decision by September.

A key component of the overall plan is the 2010 Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act passed by the Colorado General Assembly that will reduce harmful pollution through emissions controls; retire old, inefficient coal-fired power plants; and convert certain electric generating units from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.

By 2018, the plan will result in more than 70,000 tons of pollutant reductions annually, including 35,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, which leads to ground-level ozone formation. In total, the plan covers 30 units at 16 facilities throughout Colorado, including coal-fired power plants and cement kilns. Continue reading

In a federal court settlement, BLM agrees to do more air quality studies on Colorado Front Range gas drilling

A Jan. 17 court-ordered settlement on gas drilling air quality impacts covers all of eastern Colorado.

Federal agency will do full emissions inventory, evaluate ozone impacts in permitting process

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Front Range residents will get better information about air quality impacts from gas drilling, as the Bureau of Land Management has agreed to do more studies before permitting additional energy development. The studies will include a full inventory of emissions anticipated during the next 20 years.

The agreement came as part of a court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians.

“This is a great news for clean air along the Front Range and beyond, which is increasingly at risk because of ramped up drilling and fracking,” said WildEarth Guardians climate and energy program director Jeremy Nichols. “The BLM has basically agreed to look before it leaps, which is a common sense approach to keeping people in Colorado safe from air pollution.” Continue reading

EPA: Industry must disclose hydrogen sulfide emissions

A gas-drilling rig in Texas. PHOTO BY DAVID R. TRIBBLE.

Byproduct of drilling operations can have a slew of negative health impacts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Taking a small step in the long-running battle over oil and gas drilling impacts to communities, the EPA this week ruled that energy companies must once again include releases of hydrogen sulfide as part of their required environmental disclosures.

Starting next year, hydrogen sulfide emissions must again be reported to the Toxics Release Inventory, a federal database that allows Americans to find out what hazardous chemicals are being released in their communities. Nationwide, communities have used the TRI to learn about chemical releases in their neighborhoods and to campaign for tighter regulations and health protections.

Hydrogen sulfide occurs naturally, but is also a byproduct of many industrial processes, including paper manufacturing, sewage treatment, or livestock feedlots. It is also found in oil and natural gas, which is considered “sour” if it has a high percentage of the compound. It may leak from drill rigs and refineries, but is often also deliberately burned off, exposing nearby communities to its harmful effects. Continue reading

EPA requires cleanup at NM coal-powered plant

The San Juan Generating Station. PHOTO COURTESY GRAND CANYON TRUST.

New pollution controls at coal-fired plant near the Four Corners will benefit public health and reduce regional haze; Utility company says it will appeal the federal decision

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Residents of the Four Corners region and tourists in the famed national parks in the area will be able to breathe a bit easier after the EPA this week issued a final rule that will help cut harmful nitrogen oxide emissions from the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico by 80 percent. The coal plant also emits more than 5,500 tons of sulfur dioxide per year.

The EPA’s decision is part of a larger effort to implement Clean Air Act provisions that have long been ignored by state and and federal regulators. The rules require a reduction in regional haze that clouds views in more than 150 national parks and wilderness areas.

According to a Clean Air Task Force report, San Juan Generating Station is responsible for more than 80 percent of the air pollution at Mesa Verde National Park, just across the border in Colorado. It also contributes to air pollution at the Grand Canyon and many other nationally protected landscapes. Parks in the region support thousands of jobs and the millions of people who visit them each year contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to local economies.

The plant’s operator, Public Service Company of New Mexico, said it will appeal the ruling and warned in a prepared statement that the cost of retrofitting the plany with up-to-date pollution controls will increase energy prices for consumers. Continue reading

Republican House bill would exempt homeland security activities from every single federal environmental law

Environmental groups protest; hearing set for July 8

A map compiled by the Pew Environment Group shows the lands that would be exempt from numerous environmental and management laws under a measure proposed by House Republicans. MAP COURTESY PEW ENVIRONMENT GROUP.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — One the latest proposals from the Republican majority leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives would exempt homeland security activity from 36 environmental and other laws on any lands within 100 miles of the U.S. border and coastlines — all in the name of national security and an attempt to thwart illegal immigration.

H.R. 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, was introduced by ultra-conservative Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. It would apply to an area that encompasses 10 whole states, including Florida and Hawaii. Continue reading

Senate rejects attempt to weaken Clean Air Act

For now, the EPA is still on-track to regulate greenhouses gases and other toxic emissions, despite attempts by Congress to undermine the agency's authority.

Ideological battle rages as the Earth grows warmer every day

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Americans can breathe a little easier — at least in the short-term — as the U.S. Senate this week rejected various attempts to cut the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

“Today’s votes were an unprecedented assault on public health protections under the Clean Air Act. In 40 years we’ve never faced such a brazen attempt to rollback air quality standards,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. “It remains to be seen which Senators will continue to side with clean air and who will vote to go backward.”

Republicans have promised to continue their attacks on the EPA, but several amendments offered by Senate Democrats, including Max Baucus (D-MT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), as well as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would have to varying degrees delayed or prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing congressionally mandated and Supreme Court-affirmed responsibilities to address greenhouse gases from the largest sources of pollution. Continue reading

Op-ed: House vote on EPA bill ‘an insult to all Americans’

A bill passed by a House subcommittee would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. Library of Congress photo.

Republican measure would limit EPA’s ability to protect air quality and curb greenhouse gases

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — When it comes to climate change, who are you going to believe — Republican politicians who rely heavily on campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, or a group of scientists focused on ethics and science-based policy?

Since the scientists don’t really stand to gain or lose, at least financially, from decisions made in Congress, it stands to reason that they might be slightly more credible, and their reaction to a House subcommittee approval of a bill that would block the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases speaks volumes. Continue reading

Op-ed: Republican theater of the absurd on global warming

House holds hearing on bill that would strip EPA‘s authority to regulate greenhouse gases

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Surreal politics trumped reason and science in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, as Congressional Republicans tried to put up a major roadblock on the country’s path toward a sane and sustainable energy future. Specifically, Representative Fred Upton, the new Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced a bill that would block the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.

EPA plans to require new pollution controls on big plants are based on massive volumes of peer-reviewed science, all pointing toward the same conclusion — heat-trapping greenhouse gases are a threat to public health and the environment.

The Republican argument to strip away the EPA’s regulatory authority, on the other hand, is based on unfounded claims that the rules would drive jobs abroad — not to mention a fundamental denial of the science of climate change.

“I know American manufacturers can compete, but not if they are saddled with burdensome regulations that put us at an unfair advantage,” Upton said to the committee in an initial hearing on the bill. Continue reading

Breckenridge: Peak 6 expansion battle goes Facebook

A map showing one potential layout for a new lift and trail system on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area.

Will social media play a role in the outcome of a classic ski town showdown?

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Like almost everything else in the information age, a battle over a proposed ski area expansion in Breckenridge, Colorado, will be partially waged on the web. Both supporters and opponents of the plan to build a new lift and clear-cut new trails on Peak 6 are signing up on Facebook pages to take a stand — or at least to stay informed about the issue.

So far, the Support Peak 6 page has 75 “likes,” while the Save Peak 6 page has 13 “friends” and 43 “likes.”

Breckenridge Ski Area first proposed the expansion a couple of years ago. In the initial round of formal Forest Service documents, the resort and the agency said the new terrain is needed to meet demand for intermediate terrain at what has been the country’s most-visited ski resort the past few seasons. Breckenridge has averaged about 1.5 million skier visits per season.

Critics of the expansion are concerned about ski area growth in general, loss of access to nearby backcountry skiing opportunities, as well as potential impacts to natural resources; lynx, elk and healthy old-growth forests high in the Tenmile Range. Continue reading

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