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New West Daily Roundup for Sept. 12, 2016

Today in New West news: 2016’s Happiest States in America, Gold King Mine designated Superfund site, and Colorado hop farmers help push U.S. production above Germany’s.

A new study out from WalletHub has ranked 2016’s Happiest States in America and once again New Western states have featured prominently. The study analyzed three metrics (“Emotional & Physical Well-Being, Work Environment, and Community & Environment Rank”) based on a range of indexes, such as Satisfaction, Depression Rate, Life Expectancy, Suicide Rate, Job Security, Commute Time, and Leisure Time Spent on an Average Day, among other factors.

Utah took home first place, with high marks in all three categories. Colorado took home fifth place, coasting on its Emotional & Physical Well-Being rank but behind in Work Environment and Community & Environment Ranks. Idaho tailed close, coming in at 6th, with high marks in Work Environment and Community & Environment. Wyoming took home 13th place, while Montana lagged a bit, coming in at 22nd. You can see the full map below.

Source: WalletHub

Interestingly, Montana came in fourth in Work Environment, but fell behind in the other two categories, especially Community & Environment, where the Treasure State ranked 42nd.

New West states had great showing in several categories, including Highest Adequate-Sleep Rate (Colorado was number one, while Montana took home fourth), Highest Sports Participation Rate (Colorado second, Utah third), Lowest Number of Work Hours (Utah took home first), Lowest Long-Term Unemployment Rate (Montana took home fifth) and Highest Volunteerism Rate (Utah and Idaho took home first and second respectively).

On the obverse, New West states also stood out, in this study, for their high suicide rates, with Montana claiming the top spot in “Highest Suicide Rate.” Wyoming and Utah weren’t far behind, claiming fourth and fifth respectively.

Speaking of Colorado, over the past year, we’ve been following developments in the Gold King Mine spill. Quick recap: last August, during a routine cleanup, the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally spilled millions of gallons of wastewater into the Animas River, sparking outrage from communities downstream, especially from Colorado, Utah, and Arizona tribes.

Now, according to NPR, Gold King Mine has been designated a Superfund site:

The 2015 spill into the Animas River, which was laced with mercury and arsenic, had already cost the EPA $29 million for response and water-quality monitoring, CPR’s Grace Hood reported in August. That spill is ongoing, she noted — at the time sending 500 gallons of water a minute into the river.

The state of New Mexico, where the water wound up, “has enough unresolved questions that it filed suit against both the EPA and Colorado.” The Navajo Nation also has sued, the AP reports, and the state of Utah is likely to file as well.

The problem isn’t limited to these newly-declared Superfund sites, Hood reported:

“The country hasn’t made much progress on fixing abandoned mines across the West.

” ‘There are still tens of thousands of those throughout the country that still need attention,’ says Doug Young, a senior analyst at the Denver-based Keystone Center, which focuses on science and public policy.”

According to the Associated Press, the Anaconda Aluminum Company reduction plant in Columbia Falls, Montana has also been designated a Superfund site.

Finally, keeping with Colorado, according to the Denver Post, hop growers in the Centennial State have pushed American production ahead of German production for the first time in decades. Indeed, the Hop Growers of America states U.S. cultivation of hops amounts to 53,213 acres, while German cultivation amounts to 45,503 acres. Driven by high demand and the high payoff hops bring compared to other crops, hops have a bright future in the state. From the Post:

While Colorado’s hop acreage pales in comparison with states in the Pacific Northwest, like Washington, which is home to more than an estimated 37,000 hop acres, it still contributes to the U.S.’s clamber to the top of the global hop heap.

Even with the steady growth in total acres planted statewide, experts say the Colorado hop market won’t be over-saturated any time soon.

“For Colorado, there’s way more demand than there is than supply, without question,” said Bill Bauerle, horticulture professor and plant physiologist at Colorado State University. “We could have thousands and thousands of acres growing here before we could even get close to coming to what our actual demand is.”

The catalyst behind the thirst for local hops? Beer snobs.

Christening Colorado “the Napa Valley of beer,” Bauerle said there is a larger market here than most places. Colorado craft beer barons, who Baurerle said are known for using at least 10 times as many hops per beer compared with large-scale breweries, are eager to boast of their native ingredients.

The continuing local brew heavyweight, Miller-Coors subsidiary AC Golden, snaps up about half the hops grown in Colorado for its line of Colorado Native beers, including the bulk of [farmer Lance] Williamson’s crop.

“I’m a craft-beer enthusiast, and their beer is really good,” Williamson said, tacking on with mirth: “It’s probably because of my hops, but, you know.”

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