Western Energy News Round-Up: Solar Thermal on the Grid, Regulations for Power Plants' Carbon Pollution, Ramifications of Climate-fueled Flooding and Wildfires


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

September 18-24, 2013

Renewable Energy:

Solar Power From Giant Mirrors Flows Into California's Grid

Ivanpah, BrightSource Energy’s massive solar farm, delivered its energy to the grid, an important step for demonstrating that the project is on the final path to become a fully operating power plant.

(Forbes, September 24, 2013)

Fossil Fuels:

EPA sets first-ever curbs on power plant pollution

The Obama administration announced first-ever regulations setting strict limits on the amount of carbon pollution that can be generated by any new U.S. power plant. Under the new rules, any new coal plant built in the United States would need to install technology to capture a portion of its carbon waste, known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

(Reuters, September 20, 2013)

EPA Chief Offers Glimpse Into Climate Rules for Existing Power Plants

Unlike the rule proposed by the Obama administration for new power plants, the rule affecting existing sources, which EPA is scheduled to propose by June 2014, will not be an across-the-country technology standard. Instead, the rule require each state to set a standard meeting the national benchmark.

(National Journal, September 23, 2013)

A power plant outside Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Thure Johnson, under Creative Commons licensing.)

Utah’s first proposed nuclear plant goes on trial

The effort to block a proposed nuclear power plant near Green River goes to court Monday, with opposition trying to invalidate the water rights necessary to cool the reactors. Water is becoming ever more scarce on the Colorado Plateau.

(Salt Lake Tribune, September 23, 2013)

Wyoming Coal Sale Rejected After Bid at 15-Year Low on Outlook

The U.S. government rejected the sale of coal in Wyoming after an auction drew the lowest top bid in 15 years, as the outlook for the power-plant fuel weakens because of cheap natural gas and clean energy. The company’s offer was less than one-fifth what mining companies paid for similar deposits last year. 

(Bloomberg Businessweek, September 18, 2013)


Idaho PUC tells utility to consider more energy efficiency, renewable resources

PacifiCorp plans to meet its short-term energy needs by upgrading pollution control equipment at its coal plants in Wyoming, which it jointly owns with Idaho Power. The Idaho PUC told PacifiCorp to increase its efforts toward achieving higher levels of energy efficiency and demand reduction as the preferable course to supply future need.

(Idaho Statesman, September 18, 2013)

NV Energy could coal plant closure by up to two years

NV Energy blitzed the Nevada Legislature earlier this year with an intense lobbying effort to pass a bill that would result in higher consumer power rates in exchange for an exit from the coal market on a strict schedule beginning in 2014. But in an ironic twist, the utility is now arguing that those very protections could force it to extend the life of its coal plants.

(Las Vegas Sun, September 19, 2013)

Climate Change:

Snow melts faster in fire-scorched areas, Ore. researchers find

New research suggests that another climate-fueled phenomenon, wildfire, may exacerbate the problem of snowpack melting weeks earlier than the historical average. Fires can also make a landscape more vulnerable to flooding by increasing the water resistance of the soil and removing ground cover that might otherwise absorb some of the runoff. 

(E&E News, September 18, 2013)


An Oregon Army National Guard helicopter flies past the Government Flats Complex fires after dumping a bucket of water on the fire near The Dalles, Ore., Aug. 21. (Photo by Spc. Matthew Burnett, under Creative Commons licensing.)

Oil, gas facilities a concern after Colorado flooding

NRDC's Miriam Rotkin-Ellman discussed the potential public health and environmental impacts from damaged oil and gas drilling operations caused by catastrophic flooding in Colorado. For more information about the pollutants and public health risks that may result and how to avoid them in the future, read this NRDC blog post by Amy Mall.

(MSNBC, September 19, 2013)


Large-scale Nev. project revised to avoid tortoise, produce less power

The Bureau of Land Management is nearing approval of another large-scale solar power project in southern Nevada near the site of the first commercial-scale solar project placed into operation on federal lands. The Silver State Solar South project is being scaled back due to concerns about possible impacts to threatened Mojave Desert tortoise habitat.

(E&E News, September 20, 2013)