Western Energy News Round-Up: Energy Efficiency Success, Cheap Clean Energy, Fracking Offshore, Ocean Acidification Threatens Business, and Causes of Colorado Flooding

Western Energy News Round-Up is a periodic selection of news highlighting recent energy and environmental issues in the western United States.

September 10-17, 2013

Clean Energy:

Xcel Energy hopes to triple Colorado solar, add wind power

Xcel Energy Inc. is proposing to triple the amount of utility-scale solar power on its grid in Colorado, and add another 450 megawatts of wind power. If approved, the plan would cut Xcel’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than one-third compared to 2005 levels.

(Denver Business Journal, September 9, 2013)

How We Learned Not to Guzzle

Energy use in the United States has been dropping since 2007, and last year’s total was below the 1999 level, even though the economy grew by more than 25 percent from 1999 to 2012. Without trying too hard, over the past 40 years we found so many innovative ways to save energy that we more than doubled the economic productivity of our oil, natural gas and electricity.

(NY Times, September 12, 2013)

NRDC Blog: New Study: Clean Energy Least Costly to Power America's Electricity Needs

A new study published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences shows that once estimates of climate change costs and other health impacts are taken into account, it would be cheaper to build new power plants from wind turbines or solar panels than from coal. It would also be cheaper to replace some of our dirtiest coal plants with these cleaner sources.

(NRDC Switchboard, September 17, 2013)

NRDC Blog: Clean Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration Program Approved

The California Legislature voted to establish a $162 million annual clean energy research, development, and demonstration program, allowing the newly minted Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program to move forward. The EPIC program will target the most significant technological challenges impeding achievement of the state’s statutory clean energy and emissions reductions goals in order to achieve breakthroughs that benefit electric utility customers.

(NRDC Switchboard, September 13, 2013)

Fossil Fuels:

Scale of West Coast Fracking Probed

The California Coastal Commission said it recently found out offshore fracking had occurred from oil platforms overseen by the federal government and has launched a probe. The state legislature has also called on the U.S. EPA to scrutinize the practice to determine if fracking increases the risks of offshore oil spills.

(Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2013)

Colorado and Industry Working to Assess Damage in Flooded Oil Field

Colorado's richest oil field, the Denver-Julesburg Basin, is buried in floodwaters, raising operational and environmental concerns, as state and industry officials work to get a handle on the problem. The major public health risks will come from contaminated water and sediments, which still need to be assessed.

(Denver Post, September 16, 2013)


A Sea of Change in the Electric Grid

The Public Service Company of New Mexico faces a changing regulatory climate and is forced to finally confront the pollution impacts from its biggest energy source: coal.

(The Albuquerque Journal, September 15, 2013)

California Bill Would Expand Solar, Add Monthly Power Fee

Under a new bill expected to be signed by the governor, regulators can remove the solar net metering cap on the amount that can be credited. In addition, the bill gives the CPUC the authority to require utilities to buy more than 33 percent of their power from renewable sources.

(Bloomberg, September 12, 2013)

Climate Change:

Sea Change: Oysters dying as coast is hit hard

Ocean acidification is wiping out oyster growers' livelihood in Washington and Oregon, forcing some businesses to relocate to Hawaii and other waters. Carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel emissions had turned seawater in Willapa Bay along Washington’s coast so lethal that slippery young Pacific oysters have stopped growing.

(Seattle Times, September 12, 2013)


Meteorology and geography collide in Colorado flooding

Deadly flooding in Boulder, Colo., was due to the chance collision of meteorology, geography and urban development, according to weather and climate experts. Though about a decade of drought has diminished vegetation that might otherwise work to slow rain runoff, urban development has also created areas where rainfall moves rapidly across populated areas.

(LA Times, September 13, 2013)

Study: Wind farms killed 67 eagles in 5 years

Wind energy facilities nationwide, but primarily in Wyoming and California, have killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles in the last five years, but the figure could be much higher, according to a new scientific study by government biologists. Since 1997, most deaths — 79 — were golden eagles that struck wind turbines.

(Salt Lake Tribube, September 11, 2013)