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RMCO's Monthly Newsletter

This is our latest monthly newsletter with information about news and developments on climate disruption and its impacts and on climate action in the West. You can sign up for our newsletter, sent by email, by sending a request to admin@rockymountainclimate.org.

July 2018

Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper Orders Clean Car Standards Rulemaking

Colorado is moving to join 12 other states and Washington, D.C., in adopting California's strict clean car standards, which will have the effect of countering in this state the Trump Administration's plans to roll back the emissions reduction and fuel efficiency standards adopted by the Obama Administration. On June 19, Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order directing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a rule to adopt the California standards, with a decision to be made by the end of 2018.

Under a long-standing provision of the Clean Air Act, California can adopt stricter vehicle emissions standards than EPA's, and other states then can adopt California's standards. A third of new cars and trucks sold in the nation are now officially subject to the California standards - but the Obama Administration strengthened the national standards to match California's, in one of that administration's most important climate protection moves.

Then in an April 2018 Federal Register notice EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (who finally just resigned in the face of continuing allegations of unethical conduct) embarked on a new process to back away from the strict national standards. The stakes are high for Colorado, as for other states, as transportation emissions now are greater than from electricity generation or any other sector. An analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that in Colorado the national standards would avoid 2.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution by 2030. Adopting the California standards can avoid that extra pollution here.

California's standards are in two parts -- its basic low-emission standards, adopted by the 12 other states and Washington, D.C., which Gov. Hickenlooper targeted, and an additional zero-emission program for electric vehicles, which nine of those states have adopted and which Colorado could, too. Colorado Communities for Climate Action spearheaded an April 2018 letter signed by 59 elected officials from 26 local governments to Gov. Hickenlooper urging him to adopt both halves of the California standards, and we expect that as the health department takes action to carry out the governor's executive order that adopting the zero emission rules will come up, too.

Gov. Hickenlooper's new executive order is the most important step yet to carry out his executive order of last year, establishing a goal to reduce statewide heat-trapping emissions by more than 26 percent by 2025. The state also adopted earlier this year a Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan, calling for having close to one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

  News about Climate Disruption

Wildfire    

The National Interagency Fire Center's Current Large Fires map on July 5 identifies 66 large (greater than 1,000 acres) burning nationwide, mostly in the West. Hot, dry, and windy conditions are driving the largest fires in a band stretching from Colorado to the Pacific Coast. Coloradans are comparing conditions to the devastating 2002 fire season, with the third and sixth largest fires in recorded history actively burning:

Highway 40 closed and more evacuations ordered as the Dollar Ridge Fire grows in eastern Utah, Salt Lake Tribune, July 5, 2018. Hot, dry and windy conditions in Utah's Uinta Basin bolstered the 42,000 acre wildfire Wednesday, prompting new residential evacuations and the closure of Highway 40.

County Fire grows to 86,000 acres as crews carve containment lines, San Francisco Chronicle, July 4, 2018. The largest of several fires burning in northern California.

Water

A changing climate at Mono Lake could mean more dust storms in the Eastern Sierra -- or less water for L.A., Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2018. Eastern Sierra residents say that the changing climate makes it necessary to revisit the terms of the 25-year-old deal allocating water between the city environs and the lake itself, where dangerous levels of dust arise from the drying lake bed.

Agriculture

Hay shortage in southwest Colorado could hit ranchers hard, Durango Herald, June 24, 2018. Ranchers are faced with selling off herds early and taking a big financial hit due to drastically reduced hay and grass production on drought-stricken private and public lands.

Public Health

In June, the Natural Resources Defense Council released Climate Change and Health in Colorado, an issue brief covering topics such as heat-related illnesses, air quality issues, food and water contamination, traumatic injuries, extreme storms, threats to mental health, and infectious diseases. It also recommends actions the state can take to address these risks. Cited as sources are two RMCO reports -- Future Climate Extremes in Larimer County (2016) and the Report of the Colorado Local Resilience Project (2015).

News about Climate Action

Regional, State, and Local Climate Policies

Renewable energy push in sunny Arizona draws political fight, AP News, July 4, 2018. Backers of a ballot initiative on a constitutional amendment requiring 50 percent renewables by 2030 plan to submit their signatures this week. The legislature and Arizona Public Service Co. are gearing up to fight it.

Washington voters likely to take up carbon fee initiative, Associated Press, July 2, 2018 and Fight heats up over Washington state carbon 'fee' likely to make fall ballot, Seattle Times, July 2, 2018. Following defeats of previous state carbon-pricing efforts, citizen groups turn in signatures for an initiative that would impose carbon fees on the largest polluters, charging $15 per metric ton on carbon emissions starting in 2020, increasing annually by $2, and ending if state emissions reduction goals are met in 2035. Proceeds are to go to clean energy, low emission vehicles, public transit, and preparedness.

Public Opinion

Why these young Republicans see hope in climate action, Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2018. In a Pew Research Center poll released in May, 36 percent of millennial Republicans (those born between 1981 and 1996) said they believe the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity -- double the number of baby boomers in the GOP who say the same. Results on other questions are similar.

Climate Communications

Global warming, now brought to you by your local TV weathercaster, NBC News, June 20, 2018. Paying off are the efforts of the nonprofit   Climate Central  to educate television meteorologists on climate change by way of classes, webinars, and sharing of real-time data and graphics with TV stations. The number of stories on global warming by television weather people has increased 15-fold over five years, according to data from the  Center for Climate Change Communication  at George Mason University.

Clean Energy

Solar is saving low-income households money in Colorado. It could be a national model. Inside Climate News, July 2, 2018. Utilities, nonprofits, and county weatherization agencies are teaming up on various programs to offer solar panel installations and access to low income households. See a  recent report about Colorado's programs from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 

Wyoming appears to finally be gearing up to take advantage of its outstanding wind and solar energy potentials, yet not without concerns:

Fossil Fuels

Oil and gas fields leak far more methane than EPA reports, study finds, Inside Climate News, June 21, 2018. A study published in Science magazine finds that the methane leakage rate from the full cycle of natural gas production and distribution is at least 2.3 percent, 60 percent higher than the estimates used by the Environmental Protection Agency. The study is the culmination of a series of studies led by the Environmental Defense Fund, dating back to 2011. Importantly, the researchers find that leaked methane is roughly equivalent to the carbon dioxide that results from burning natural gas for fuel, and that this much leaked methane would have roughly the same climate impact in the short-term as emissions from all U.S. coal-fired power plants. And also that the lost methane is worth an estimated $2 billion a year, but can be remedied at a relatively low cost. See also The US natural gas industry is leaking way more methane than previously thought. Here's why that matters, The Conversation, July 2, 2018, by Colorado State University researchers who were among the study authors.

U.S. judge throws out climate change lawsuits against big oil, Associated Press, June 25, 2018. A federal judge in San Francisco rules against San Francisco and Oakland in their suit against major oil and gas companies to recover damages for costs of dealing with the impacts of climate change caused by their operations. The judge said that solutions should be addressed by the executive and legislative branches, not the judiciary under the public nuisance grounds pursued by the cities.  

Water

After delays, squabbles, Arizona drought plan for Colorado River back on track, Arizona Daily Star, July 3, 2018. Following intrastate squabbles and complaints by other basin states that Arizona was not doing enough to conserve its share of its river allocations to avoid shortages that would trigger cuts in water deliveries, state water managers are attempting to unite behind a comprehensive state conservation plan. See also Risks to Lake Mead, Colorado River intensifying greatly, federal officials say, Arizona Daily Star, June 29, 2018, reporting on new Bureau of Reclamation estimates that if the last 30 years of records are used as a base for forecasting, the risk of Lake Mead dropping below 1,075 feet in elevation (the level that would trigger a shortage declaration), is more than 80 to 90 percent for the period 2020-2026.  

Resource of the Month

Western Governors' Workforce Development Initiative Report

Displacement of workers and disruption of the economies of communities dependent on fossil-fuel extraction and energy production is a troubling downside of the transition to clean energy sources, particularly in rural areas of the West. This is one aspect of a larger disparity addressed by the Western Governors' Association, by way of  the June release of its Western Governors' Workforce Development Initiative report, accompanied by adoption of its Policy Resolution 2018-13: Workforce Development in the Western United States. According to the report, Western states had an average unemployment rate of just under 4.0 percent in March 2018. Yet many businesses report that they cannot find qualified candidates for open positions, and at the same time, many jobseekers are unable to find good jobs for which they are qualified. During the past year, WGA engaged in a series of workshops and webinars to detail the issues that have resulted in the skills gap. The report presents a series of findings that offer suggested actions for Governors to take and examples of how various western states are already exercising leadership in addressing these challenges.

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