Natural Gas Industry Joins Fray Against Coal Bailout FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享SNL:The natural gas industry joined with other energy market participants to defend the sector’s reliability and decry the U.S. Department of Energy’s grid resilience initiative as “uneconomic” in comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.The department specifically highlighted the value of having a 90-day on-site fuel supply, a criterion that is much more readily met by coal and nuclear generators than by gas-fired ones.“[T]he DOE [notice of proposed rulemaking] is a transparent attempt to prop up uneconomic generation that is unable to compete due largely to sustained low prices for natural gas and that is not otherwise needed for reliability,” a group of 20 energy industry associations and individual companies said in comments to FERC posted Oct. 23.Along with the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America and the Natural Gas Supply Association, the group included independent power producers, renewable energy developers, advanced technology interests, vertically integrated utilities and industrial customers.The state of the U.S. power grid does “not justify the rushed nature of the proposal,” the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, or INGAA, said in separate comments, calling the agency’s approach to resilience “unduly discriminatory” and saying it “displays no awareness” that it would be a departure from FERC’s historical approach to grid reliability.More ($): Gas groups join coalition calling DOE grid proposal ‘transparent’ favoritism
End appears near for Navajo Generating Station FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Arizona Republic:It’s now a lock that the biggest coal plant in the West and the mine that feeds it will close in December 2019, if not earlier, and there is no proposal from anyone to stop it and little hope it would ever reopen.Middle River Power of Illinois and its affiliated New York investment firm, Avenue Capital, were considering taking over the plant, but they announced Thursday those plans would not work out.The news prompted a desperate request from Peabody Energy, which operates the Kayenta coal mine on Navajo and Hopi land and will have nowhere else to send the shiny black rock when the plant closes.But short of a heavy-handed intervention by the federal government, the deal with Middle River Power offered the last, best hope to keep jobs for the approximately 750 mostly Native Americans who work at the plant and mine when they are fully operational.The four utility owners — Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Electric Power and NV Energy — voted in February 2017 to close the plant in favor of cheaper power from natural-gas plants.SRP has already begun to wind down operations at the plant, transferring workers to other openings at the utility where possible and replacing them with contractors.The utility’s lease allows it to continue running the plant through Dec. 22, 2019, and the company expects a small staff of mostly contractors running the facility by that point, if it even runs that long.More: Death of Navajo coal plant deal will have wide-ranging consequences for tribes
Coal-heavy Missouri utility gets OK to move ahead with 400MW wind farm FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享St. Louis Post-Dispatch:A proposed wind farm that Ameren has said would be the largest in Missouri cleared a key regulatory hurdle Wednesday when state officials at the Public Service Commission approved the agreement to build the facility.The 400-megawatt High Prairie Wind Farm would be in Schuyler and Adair counties, in northeastern Missouri. Initially announced in May, Ameren said the project represented the company’s “first major step” toward meeting renewable energy goals it made in late 2017 that aim to have wind power account for about 10 percent of its electricity generation by the end of 2020. The vast majority of the company’s generation currently comes from coal and nuclear power.Ameren said in a statement that “more milestones remain for the northeast Missouri facility,” such as “obtaining a timely and acceptable” agreement on transmission interconnection with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO — the regional manager of the electric grid.Earlier this week, the utility said it had reached a separate agreement to develop another wind farm in Atchison County, in northwest Missouri. That 157-megawatt project is expected to be operational in 2020.More: Ameren’s proposed northeast Missouri wind farm gets authorization from state regulators
Editorial: Planned Sunflower coal plant ‘is an idea whose time has expired’ FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Kansas City Star:What Kansas really needs is a nice new asbestos plant or metal mine. Maybe we could bring back production of lead paint or the Ford Pinto. Or strictly as a backup, a power plant fired by “beautiful, clean coal” sending beautiful, clean mercury, arsenic and dioxins into the atmosphere, along with a whole delightful mélange of greenhouse gases.Even proponents of that last one have got to know that The Star’s report of “significant interest” in a new coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, outside Garden City, reflects the very latest thinking from the 1880s.There is a reason that no such facility has been built in this country in the last four years, and that not one is under construction, either.Kansas gets more than a third of its electricity from wind energy — more than any other state. Both wind and solar power are getting more cost-effective all the time, and coal ever less competitive.Yet Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corporation has asked for an 18-month extension of the permit it needs “to finalize the arrangements that would support its construction” of a plant it doesn’t need, according to the request it sent to the state. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) renewed the permit through March 27 of next year.Unnecessary, expensive and bad for the environment, this project is an idea whose time has expired.More: Kansas doesn’t need new coal-fired power plant spewing ‘beautiful, clean’ toxins
Any athletes out there interested in joining BRO’s elite ambassador team? Team members get a $300 yearly stipend for race entry fees, gear, and travel, along with a BRO-branded performance shirt. In exchange, athletes participate in at least four regional events each year and provide race reports and photos to share with our readers. Even if you’re already sponsored, you can still join the team.We’re looking for some of the top trail runners, mountain bikers, road cyclists, skiers, snowboarders, paddlers, hikers, and climbers in the region.Email will at blueridgeoutdoors dot com for more info.
For the last two years, David Worth has hosted a 33-mile fun run that starts and finishes at his house near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This year’s course was a very tough, very scenic circuit of LeConte with 9000 feet of elevation gain. They ascended LeConte via Brushy Mountain and Trillium Gap Trails and came down on Bullhead Trail. The final miles were run using Baskins Creek and Grapeyard Ridge. This section consisted of relentless ups and downs over technical terrain and was considered by many to be the toughest part of the day. 15 runners from the Knoxville area joined David on his annual adventure.
It took Barrett Dodds—straddling a mountain bike at the trailhead of some of Pisgah National Forest’s most iconic tracks—just a few minutes to come around to the conventional view.He wasn’t crazy about the idea of paying to ride in Pisgah, he says at first. It’s a forest, not a bike park. He doesn’t like trails groomed like Disney rides, and raw, rugged terrain is “what makes Pisgah such a gem.”But then Dodds’ riding buddies pointed out that even natural trails can become too rocky and rutted for good riding, that such conditions promote the erosion blamed for clouding mountain creeks and rivers, and that the rangers’ tiny maintenance budget must accommodate a flood of users like them: out-of-town mountain bikers who have come to think of Pisgah almost like the holy ground it’s named after.“I guess I wouldn’t be highly against it,” concludes Dodds, 24, a registered nurse who drives from Greenville, S.C. at least once a week to ride in Pisgah. “With destination status comes a lot of wear and tear on the trails.”The idea of levying fees for mountain bikers and equestrians in Pisgah Ranger District slipped out at a meeting in November. It landed less as a bombshell than as a plea from a favorite charity. The forest needs us, the users say. Of course we’ll give.But they should also be aware of the broader view, say environmentalists. They see the growing dependence on user fees—Pisgah Ranger District is one of 35 sites of possible new or increased fees in National Forests in North Carolina alone—as cover for decades of misguided spending priorities by federal lawmakers and Forest Service managers.Too much goes to promote logging, which is ultimately a loser for taxpayers, and to fighting fires, some of which should just be allowed to burn, they say. Too little goes to creating sustainable, inviting forests for hikers, climbers, paddlers, hunters, anglers, cyclists and horse riders—the recreational users who not only make up the bulk of forest visitors, but who, by far, create the most jobs and pump the most cash into surrounding communities.“Recreation needs are going to continue to be shortchanged by fire funding and road maintenance that supports logging, unless and until Congress does its job,” says Sam Evans, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “I don’t think that fees are inevitable, and I don’t even see that they are necessarily desirable.”Evans is at least partly right, says David Casey, the head ranger of the Pisgah Ranger District, the popular 171,000-acre block of forest west of Asheville. The fee program he’s considering is far from inevitable—not even a formal proposal at this point, he wrote in an emailed response to questions, but a “concept.” It faces an exhaustive review process, including public comment. And if the district does start charging users, the collection and spending of this revenue is strictly limited by federal law, especially the 2004 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.Entry fees for national forests, unlike for national parks, are forbidden, so nobody needs to worry that Pisgah’s famous stone gateway will suddenly sprout a toll booth.The decades-long practice of charging for campgrounds, however, is allowed under the act. So is levying fees for day-use sites such as the Sliding Rock swimming area. And though the Forest Service cannot collect fees from hikers in general, the same provision enables the Forest Service to impose fees at popular hiking trailheads, such as Whiteside Mountain in the Nantahala National Forest.The possible fees for mountain bikers and equestrians would be allowed by the same provision that enables the agency to charge $5 daily or $30 annually for ATV riders at the Brown Mountain OHV (off-highway vehicle) Area; all are considered “specialized uses,” which include activities that require specific trail designs, Casey wrote.The act also requires that money collected goes not to the federal Forest Service budget but to local improvements: habitat restoration, shoring up trails and access roads, building information kiosks, paying law enforcement officers.And though nobody has set a fee amount, it should certainly be within the budgets of its targets, says Rick Calvert, an officer with the Backcountry Horsemen of North Carolina.“I think if you can afford a mountain bike or a horse, you can afford a $30-a-year fee,” he says.It’s especially reasonable, a wide variety of users say, considering the clear need.A comparison of two recent nationwide Forest Service user surveys in 2011 and 2015 shows a 42 percent increase in park visitors who called mountain biking their primary activity. Closer to home, mountain bikers visit Nantahala and Pisgah forests 435,000 times per year, according to a 2017 report by the Outdoor Alliance.And though Forest Service surveys show modest growth in horse riding, it’s booming in Mills River, where the overflow of horse trailers in parking lots regularly spills out onto a popular access point, Turkey Pen Road, Calvert said. Meanwhile, the peak-season jam of trucks and cars—many of them carrying mountain bikes—sometimes extends more than a mile back from the park exit on U.S. 276 near Brevard, says veteran mountain biker Wes Dickson.“Five years ago, you could drive right out of the forest on a Saturday. Now it’s backed up to the Ranger Station,” says Dickson, 41, owner of two Sycamore Cycles bike shops near Pisgah. “We’re seeing increased traffic in the shops. We’re seeing increased traffic on the trails.”Just as obvious is the rangers’ struggle to manage the impact of all users—too few bathrooms and too few clean ones, law enforcement stretched too thin to stop illegal, trash-dumping roadside campers or to make Dickson feel at ease when he sees his wife set off for a trail run—and the impact specific to mountain bikers and equestrians.The condition of Turkey Pen is “horrible … it’s in need of major repair,” says Tom Thomas, the Backcountry Horsemen’s statewide president, who added that some nearby, washed-out stretches of trail have been reduced to little more than webs of exposed roots. Pisgah’s trails are prone to such erosion because many of them were built by loggers for direct access and without switchbacks to divert water flow. The silt and sand carried by such degraded trails and other sources “is probably the number one pollutant of mountain streams,” says Andrea Leslie, a biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.“A healthy mountain stream has clean gravel and clean boulders,” which are needed to support healthy populations of salamanders, trout and the insects they feed on, she says. “Sediment can bury habitat.”Jeff Furman, a guide with Davidson River Outfitters in Brevard, watches it happen after every heavy rain.“Even 10 years ago, the Davidson River would get a little dingy for four to eight hours at the most,” he says. “Now it’s like one or two days, and it gets so dirty you can’t see the bottom of the river. I mean, it looks like chocolate milk.”Anglers, through license fees and equipment taxes, pay for restoration work in the forests, he says. So should cyclists.“They’re able to do whatever they want out there, without having to contribute any money to save the forest.”Mountain bikers and horse riders do pay, they say. The Backcountry Horsemen and Pisgah Area Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) contribute thousands of volunteer hours and a vast majority of the trail work in Pisgah.Since 2013 SORBA has raised $423,000 in grant money for trail improvements, including the recent, highly praised reconstruction of Pisgah’s Lower Black Mountain Trail. Mountain bikers also drop about $30 million per year into the local economy during visits to Nantahala and Pisgah, according to the Outdoor Alliance report, and combined with paddlers and rock climbers create a total annual economic impact of $115 million. Figure in the impact of other outdoor enthusiasts, and the contributions are even more dominant. Of the 4,950 jobs created or supported by national forests in North Carolina, according to a 2014 Forest Service report, nearly 4,000 could be tied to recreational opportunities.The idea of adding user fees to recreationists’ current contributions of cash, labor and economic impact might give them another reason to get on board with the fee program: political clout.“If you want to have a seat at the table,” says Andy Stahl, executive director of the non-profit Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, “it helps to say we pay the freight.”Too often, the Forest Service, or at least the lawmakers that help determine its funding, seem stuck in the days when forest town were built around timber and paper mills while they now serve primarily as “recreation gateways,” Evans says. “Is the overall budget mix disproportionally skewed to the timber industry? The answer is an absolute yes.”“Recreation needs are going to continue to be shortchanged by fire funding and road maintenance that supports logging, unless and until Congress does its job.” —Sam Evans, attorney, Southern Environmental Law CenterHarnessing the political power of recreational users and agreeing how to direct it is notoriously tricky. Different users favor different management policies. National forests contain greatly divergent ecosystems and are surrounded by a wide variety of development patterns. And even full-time naturalists emphasize varying approaches to two of the Forest Service’s main traditional operations, selling timber and fighting fires.But Chad Hanson, co-founder of the John Muir Project, speaks for many environmentalists when he argues for more fire and less fire fighting.In the early 20th century, he said, fire consumed as much as 30 million acres of the nation’s woodlands, which means that the 10.1 million acres that burned in 2015 was not, as is frequently claimed, a record.“It wasn’t even close,” Hanson says.Fires, even ones that destroy mature trees, are a natural reboot for aging, fuel-clogged forests, he said. And hunters, who are often allied with logging interests because of their preference for open, clear-cut landscape, he said, would find that fire leaves similar “early successional” landscape, except that it’s far richer in wildlife.Unlike logging, fire doesn’t leave debris—essentially “kindling,” Hanson says—that renders forests more vulnerable to future fires. And it doesn’t require the roads that are hard to justify by modest timber harvests—down from more than 12 billion board feet per year in the late 1980s, to less than 3 billion annually now—and leave forests with heavy economic and environmental burdens.Though the poster children for wasteful road building are the largest, wildest forests, especially Tongass National Forest in Alaska, and though roads in Pisgah provide undeniable recreation benefits, the gravel paths built for logging there often end up gated and neglected, blocking natural water flow and therefore impeding the path of aquatic wildlife, Evans says. According to a 2012 agency report, the cost of maintaining them comes to more than $3 million annually while the annual allocation for this work is only a small fraction of that amount, leading to a large and growing backlog.“Deferred maintenance continually accrues on the road system, but more importantly, it is not possible to maintain practices required to adequately protect water quality and associated aquatic life,” explains Evans.The Forest Service revealed just how much it spends on fires, and how much this expense drains other operations, in a widely publicized 2015 report. Because of encroaching development and fire seasons extended by climate change, the share of Forest Service funds devoted to fire operations nationally ballooned from 16 percent to more than 50 percent of the agency’s budget in the previous 20 years and was forecast to consume as much as two-thirds of the budget by 2015.Funding for the agency’s Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness programs, meanwhile, has shrunk by 15 percent, the report says. “The decrease in funding resulting from increased fire costs has limited the agency’s ability to provide vital recreational opportunities on Forest Service lands, which jeopardizes the thousands of jobs that are part of a growing recreational economy.”Logan Free, recreation program manager for national forests in North Carolina, says that the local funding impact of fires isn’t quite that simple.The costs of fighting big fires, including the estimated $35 million to battle the 2016 blazes in North Carolina, comes out of a different fund than operational budgets. And in the state’s national forests, the amount devoted to Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness—the main source of recreational funding—has remained mostly stable in recent years.Even so, it accounts for less than 20 percent of a roughly $20 million annual budget for the state’s national forests. And the amount earmarked for trail maintenance and upgrades has remained consistently miniscule. In 2017 it came to $431,000 statewide, leaving a mere $52,000 for the job of maintaining 380 miles of trails in the Pisgah Ranger District.“That’s beyond impossible,” says Jeff Keener, president of Pisgah Area SORBA. “It’s absolutely absurd.”Even if all user groups join forces, they must buck powerful forces both inside and out of the Forest Service, Stahl says.Images of raging fires terrify residents, especially in the rural West, he says, and the Forest Service has found the surest way to secure funding is by framing its work as a “war on fire.”“Wars are great,” he says. “Wars get blank checks. Trail maintenance, on the other hand—it’s tough to make that sound like a war. Nobody got elected to Congress by campaigning on the basis of well-maintained trails.”A look at current proposals in Washington seem to bear this out. Of two major forest-management bills before Congress, one is the so-called Resilient Forest Act, which opponents say is a misleadingly named effort to open vast areas of pristine forest to lightly regulated and costly logging while limiting public input. And President Trump has proposed reducing the previously mentioned, entirely inadequate federal trail maintenance budget from $78 million per year to less than $13 million.But there’s also a sign of hope—a bill that would insulate environment restoration and recreation funds from the expense of fighting major fires by designating them as specially funded emergencies. It has received support not only from fire suppression advocates but environmentalists, many of whom also agree that the logging and restoration of certain previously disturbed forests, especially those that don’t require the building of miles of new roads, can be profitable and environmentally beneficial.Shawn Jenkins, an avid mountain biker who until recently served as a regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation believes that with better communication, users could probably find more such common ground.“If interest groups really knew what the others were trying to accomplish,” he says, “they might find that they can be partners rather than seeing each other as enemies or threats.”
A short walk west of Teklanika (Tek) Campground is Tek River, which flows northward from the Alaska Range. NPS Photo Around 60 to 100 coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky are blocking a railroad track, preventing coal trucks from leaving a mine owned by Revelation Energy LLC. The miners are occupying the track in protest, after Revelation Energy LLC filed bankruptcy and laid off the miners without paying the wages owed to them. Laid-off miners in Kentucky protest over unpaid wages A 24-year-old woman has died while hiking to the “Into the Wild” bus The fatality occurred after Veramika Maikamava attempted to cross the Teklanika River by using a rope but was swept under water by the swift current. Her husband, Piotr Mrkielau, unsuccessfully attempted to rescue her, pulling her body out of the water about 100 feet from where she fell in. Maikamava is not the first hiker to die while attempting to reach Fairbanks Bus 142. In 2010, a hiker from Switzerland died in the same river while on her way to the bus. Many others have had to be rescued. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology has found that apples carry more than 100 million bacteria and that some of the microbes found on apples are responsible for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. The study also found that, while organic and non-organic apples both carry the same amount of bacteria, the bacteria on organic apples is more diverse and balanced, likely leading to both healthier and tastier apples. Some of the miners are carrying signs that say, “no pay, we stay” and all of them are demanding to be paid for the work they completed for the company. “We get our money, this load of coal that’s on this train can go by,” Shane Smith, one of the protesting miners, told news station WYMT. “But until then, there’ll be no trains coming in, there’ll be no trains going out.” Smith also told WYMT that he’d be arrested before he would move, a sentiment shared with many of the other protesting miners. A young woman from Belarus drowned while crossing the Teklanika River in Denali National Park on the way to Fairbanks Bus 142, a landmark made famous by the book and movie Into the Wild. Christopher McCandless died in the bus in 1992 while attempting to live off the land. After the book and movie about McCandless were released, the bus became a destination for some hikers. Study finds an (organic) apple a day really might keep the doctor away And if you’re one of the people who claim to taste the difference between organic and non-organic apples, this study may back you up. A microbe called methylobacterium, which is known to increase the flavored compounds in strawberries, was significantly more present in organic apples.
By Dialogo March 10, 2010 The United States, which considers Ecuador vulnerable to organized crime, will donate vehicles to the Ecuadorean armed forces for the fight against drugs on the border with Colombia, the U.S. embassy in Quito announced Thursday. The embassy indicated that the diplomatic delegation’s military group would turn over fifteen trucks worth $783 thousand dollars to the Ecuadorean Joint Chiefs of Staff Friday. The trucks “will be used to transport brigades to the units operating along the northern border (with Colombia), replacing the tactical vehicles currently used,” the embassy added. Three weeks ago, the United States donated one million dollars’ worth of equipment to the Ecuadorean military, also to combat drug trafficking along the Colombian border (720 km long). In a recent annual report on the fight against drugs, Washington judged that “Ecuador remains vulnerable to organized crime due to historically weak public institutions and corruption.” Meanwhile, Ecuadorean security minister Miguel Carvajal denied Wednesday that his country is the principal export route for Colombian and Peruvian cocaine being shipped to the United States. In 2009 Ecuador chose not to renew a cooperation agreement that had allowed the United States to use a military base in the fishing port of Manta (in southwestern Ecuador) for aerial anti-drug activities for a decade.
The Guatemalan Air Force will provide a helicopter to help combat the fire that has been affecting Costa Rica’s Chirripó National Park for the last week and has consumed 150 hectares of valuable forest, the National Emergency Commission (CNE) announced on March 4. The helicopter will serve to drop loads of water from the air and to transport personnel working on containing the fire on the ground, among other logistical aspects, the CNE explained. The Costa Rican government requested the help of friendly countries in combating the fire in this national park, located in the Southern Pacific region, following a week of efforts that proved insufficient to halt the advance of the flames. At the moment, “the fire is sustained, and work is now prioritizing control and liquidation,” for which the Guatemalan air support will be decisive, the CNE indicated. Chirripó National Park, in the Talamanca mountain range, is the home of the peak of the same name, the country’s highest at 3,820 meters. The area, protected by law, contains a variety of climate environments, from the highland ecosystem at the mountain’s peak to the humid tropical forest on its lower slopes, with valuable plant and animal species that run the risk of devastation. Given the absence of rain and the force of the winds, forest fires have increased in Costa Rica in the last three months, reaching a “historical record” of 27, according to matching figures from the CNE and the Corps of Firefighters. Nevertheless, the fire in Chirripó National Park is the year’s most extensive and destructive. By Dialogo March 06, 2012