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Credit: Larry Johnson, "Denver Skyline at Sunset," December 17, 2009

New West Daily Roundup for Aug. 25, 2016

Today in New West news: startup activity up across Rocky Mountain West, Colorado Gov. may order sweeping emission cuts, and cleaning Atlas missile site groundwater in Wyoming.

According to the latest Kauffman Index of Startup Activity from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, startup activity is up across the board in many states and metro areas. Some of the biggest winners? Rocky Mountain West states, especially Montana and Colorado, according to a Kauffman Foundation press release:

“With the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, the Kauffman Foundation provides the essential data and research that allow us to keep that pulse and leverage the insights we learn from the data to create a better future for our communities,” wrote Colo. Governor John Hickenlooper in the reports’ foreword. “All entrepreneurship is local. And the policymakers, entrepreneurship supporters and communities that overlook this reality do so at their own peril.”

“The startup numbers for states and metro areas dovetail with the national Startup Activity Index report, which showed entrepreneurship recovering from the Great Recession slump,” said Arnobio Morelix, senior research analyst at the Kauffman Foundation. “While there is considerable variation from one locale to the next, the aggregate data bodes well for business startup activity around the country.”

As the Kauffman Foundation previously reported, national startup activity rose in the 2016 Index, continuing an upward trend started in 2015. After falling with the Great Recession and reaching its lowest point in the past two decades just two years ago, startup activity rebounded in 2016 to its fifth-highest level ever.

The Kauffman Index of Startup Activity uses three indicators to create a composite picture of business activity: Rate of New Entrepreneurs, Opportunity of New Entrepreneurs, and Startup Density. The Index further breaks down the U.S. into two categories: 25 largest by population and 25 smallest by population. Among large states, Colorado came in fifth in startup activity. Montana, meanwhile, took home first for startup activity among smaller states. Wyoming ranked third.

Another feather in Montana’s cap: the Treasure State had the largest rate of New Entrepreneurs—500 per 100,000 adults.

Not all the news was good, however. Both Utah and Idaho both posted slowdowns in startup activity, slipping slightly in the rankings.

Returning to John Hickenlooper, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Governor may be poised to order a sweeping cut in carbon gas emissions across the state, which would put the state on course to meet requirements under the stymied federal Clean Power Plan. The proposal, obtained by the Gazette, would require a one-third cut in emissions over the next 14 years. Among the most immediate impacts: it would require Colorado Springs Utilities to reevaluate their plans for the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant. It would also impact the course signaled by Colorado Republicans after a lawsuit halted implementation of the Clean Power Plan. From the Gazette:

Colorado lawmakers battled this year over how the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment should respond to that stay. Ultimately, funding was reduced to the department’s clean air division, making it clear that Republicans expected all work on the project to stop.

An executive order from Hickenlooper would put the work back on track.

Kathy Green, spokeswoman for Hickenlooper’s office, said staff has circulated the draft proposal to stakeholders in the oil and gas industry, utilities and environmental groups to get feedback. After input is gathered, a path forward will be clearer, she said.

At Colorado Springs Utilities, “Our Electric Integrated Resource Plan modeled both with and without the Clean Power Plan, so the governor’s order would probably not significantly change our board’s decision to close the Martin Drake Power Plant by 2035,” said Manager Mark Murphy. “We are on track to significantly reduce our CO2 emissions and invest in additional renewable energy resources and conservation programs in the coming years.”

The Colorado Mining Association is evaluating the draft plan, said Stan Dempsey, president.

“We’re looking at it in terms of the impact such an executive order would have on the future of Colorado’s local communities … how it would affect the Colorado coal industry and impacts on electric rates for all Coloradans,” Dempsey said.

The governor’s proposal says rising temperatures and violent weather related to global warming are a threat to Colorado agriculture, skiing, summer recreation and other economic sectors.

Daniel Steinberg of the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden told the Gazette that, given the state’s recent efforts to curb emissions, the Governor’s proposal is not out of line. “Colorado certainly needs to take some steps to meet the Clean Power Plan but is likely in a good position to do so,” Steinberg said. “The targets are readily achievable.”

Finally, over in Wyoming, according to the Casper Star Tribune, progress has been made on efforts to treat contaminated groundwater at a former nuclear missile launch site 22 miles west of Cheyenne. Over the past 15 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been drilling wells around Atlas D Site 4, home to a launch site operate by F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

Currently, there are high concentrations of trichloroethylene, or TCE, a chemical used to clean the missile launcher that’s now classed as a carcinogen and liver damager when ingested in high doses. The Corps has determined, over the years, that the contamination has been spreading in an underground plume—upwards of ten miles in length, east of the Atlas site. Now, according to the Trib, engineers know where the worst TCE influxes are coming from:

New drilling and core samples taken from hundreds of feet of rock and earth this summer appear to have pinpointed the source of the worst TCE contamination, which is being hailed as a major breakthrough by members of a Restoration Advisory Board that has been working with the Corps on the project.

Members of the board met Thursday evening at Laramie County Community College, where David Groy, a geologist with RMC Consultants, went over some of the recent preliminary test results from wells dug this summer.

The most significant finding, he said, was from a well dug at a flame pit next to Launching Service Building 1 at the Atlas site.

There, he said, the Corps hit the jackpot: the soil samples collected from 89 feet below the surface showed about 96,000 micrograms of TCE per kilogram, while groundwater samples showed TCE levels of 240,000 parts per billion.

For reference, the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum containment level goal for TCE — that is, the level in water considered safe for human consumption — is five parts per billion.

That is far and away the single biggest concentration of TCE ever discovered anywhere on or around Atlas D Missile Site 4.

And, pending more definitive lab testing, it may ultimately prove to be the bull’s-eye the Corps aims for to begin remediation efforts to eventually eliminate TCE from the groundwater — an effort that could cost tens of millions of dollars and take more than 100 years to complete.

“That information is going to be critical in further investigation and evaluation of the site, as well as how we design and select a final remedy,” said Jean Chytil, the Corps’ project geologist. “We found the source.”

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