Saturday, October 25, 2014
What's New in the New West

Energy

In Montana, Keystone Pipeline Draws Praise and Concern

After the State Department released its final environmental impact statement Friday on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which is intended to carry crude oil from the Alberta tar sands in Canada through eastern Montana and down to the Gulf Coast, supporters and opponents of the project raised an immediate hue and cry. In Montana, the Rocky Mountain state that would be most directly affected by the pipeline, the controversy was encapsulated in two releases. The Northern Plains Resource Council is very worried, but Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, is delighted. Those opposing reactions are published here. Read More »

State Department Pipeline Report Ignites Fervor

The web is abuzz with news of the U.S. State Department report released today, which concludes that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the oil sands developments in Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast will have minimal environmental impacts. The $13 billion pipeline of TransCanada Corp (TRP) would extend 1,661 miles from Alberta through parts of Saskatchewan and eastern Montana on its way through five more states to Houston, Tx., and Port Arthur, La. Read More »

Clean Energy Coalition Offers Blueprint for the West

A new report entitled Western Grid 2050: Contrasting Futures, Contrasting Fortunes examines two very different energy investment pathways facing the 11 Western states: business-as-usual or a new, clean-energy trajectory. The report finds that with intentional policymaking and planning today, the West can successfully make the transition to a clean-energy economy that will deliver benefits in employment, the environment and public health for decades to come. Read More »

Idaho Wind and Solar Projects Run into Roadblocks

It’s been a tough few weeks for Idaho wind and solar energy developers, what with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) slamming the brakes on 14 wind projects, and with developers locking horns with Idaho Power Company over the terms of their contracts. On July 27, the PUC opted not to reconsider its earlier disqualifications of 14 contracts for wind projects, on grounds that the contracts weren’t submitted before a PUC-ordered cutoff date. Nine of those contracts were between developers and Idaho Power; the other five were with PacifiCorp, an Oregon company that does business in Idaho as Rocky Mountain Power. Read More »

Oil Shale Mining Would Suck the West Dry, Report Warns

At a time when management of the Colorado River Basin water supply is facing unprecedented challenges due to over allocation and climate change, energy companies are proposing to move forward with oil shale development—a water-intensive, inefficient source of energy that could become a major producer of greenhouse gas pollution. A new report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Between a Rock and a Dry Place, explores the potential impacts of oil shale development on water supplies in the basin and on the region’s agricultural economy, water quality, protected species and natural environment. Read More »

A Monumental Fight over Otero Mesa

The decade-long tussle over energy development in New Mexico's Otero Mesa has been reinvigorated recently, as hardrock mining claims now threaten the region for the first time. The area, sometimes referred to as the "Southwest's Serengeti," is a 1.2 million-acre stretch of undisturbed Chihuahuan Desert grassland. The sprawling but sensitive expanses of black grama are home to more than 1,000 species of native wildlife, including a genetically-pure herd of pronghorn antelope, the endangered northern aplomado falcon, mountain lions, mule deer, bald and golden eagles and hundreds of species of plants, insects and migratory birds. Read More »

Speedy Drilling Gets Green Light

U.S. Federal Judge Nancy Freudenthal last week struck down the Interior Department’s 2010 instructional guidance meant to curtail the use of “categorical exclusions” in permitting oil and gas drilling. The plaintiff, industry trade group Western Energy Alliance, successfully argued that the guidance was invalid, in part, because it wasn’t created under a formal process that includes public comment. Yet the “categorical exclusion” itself is a procedural tool that allows industry to bypass—at the permitting stage—a formal National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) analysis that includes public comment. Read More »