Working to keep the West special

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, which is sent out by email, by sending your own email to To see more, previous newsletters, continue clicking on "Next" on the bottom right of this and subsequent pages.


October 2017

Featured Item
Extreme Events, Extreme Costs

The cost of climate-change-related disasters continues to soar. According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) online report, the combined damages from hurricanes Harvey and Irma could reach $290 billion-nearly a quarter of the total costs of all natural disasters in the United States over the past third of a century. Over that time, too, the number of $1 billion-plus events in the U.S. has doubled. And four of the five years with the most billion-dollar events have occurred been 2010.

It's not just storms. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, this wildfire season has the third most acres burned in the last ten years, at 40 percent above the ten-year average. An Associated Press September 14 article says the U.S. Forest Service alone spent a record $2 billion battling those fires.

People are now getting this. A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that a majority of Americans now say that climate change contributes to the severity of the recent hurricanes. The silver lining is that this new awareness creates a new opportunity for climate action. At RMCO, we're going to keep doing what we can to keep moving forward, even as our national government continues stepping backward.

News About Climate Action

Regional, State, and Local Climate Policies    

U.S. climate change policy: Made in California, New York Times, September 27, 2017. The complete story behind the state's federal Clean Air Act waiver to create more stringent air quality regulations and longtime California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols's unbending devotion to upholding them.

U.S. governors at U.N. Assembly: 'You have allies' on climate change, New York Times, September 17, 2017. Governors Brown of California, Inslee of Washington, and Cuomo of New York reassure the Assembly that the U.S. Climate Alliance, the group of 14 states plus Puerto Rico formed in response to President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, is committed to meeting their shares of the U.S. targets under that agreement. Oregon and Colorado are the other western states in that group, which last month released its first Annual Report, documenting the aggressive goals and emission reduction efforts they have underway.

Two of Colorado's leading conservation organizations, Western Resource Advocates and Conservation Colorado, in September released How Colorado Can to Do Its Part to Address Climate Change, outlining a path forward to reach beyond the goals set by Governor John Hickenlooper announced in a July executive order that established goals to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by more than 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Clean Energy

Wind conference highlights Wyoming's fiscal troubles, and how hard it is to fix them, Casper Star-Tribune, October 3, 2017. State wind energy developers and economic development leaders confront the challenges of a policymaker mindset that tends to pit the wind industry against fossil fuels, rather than as an economic diversification opportunity, evident in that it is the only state with a wind energy production tax.

Fossil Fuels

A labor of love: Coal mining continues despite unsettling trends, Casper Star-Tribune, October 2, 2017. In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled in favor of a suit brought by environmentalists, holding that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management failed to judge the climate change and economic impact of leases that expand major Wyoming mines, but returned to the lower court the question of whether to cancel the leases. The ruling leaves industry workers with an ever more uncertain future.

What's up in coal country: Alternative-energy jobs, New York Times, September 30, 2017. Intentional efforts to recruit and train displaced coal workers in renewable energy jobs seem to be gaining momentum.

Coal production increases will continue through 2018, Utility Dive, September 13, 2017. According to the Energy Information Administration's Short-Term Energy Outlook, year-over-year coal production was up significantly in 2017, and in 2018 will regain its lead over oil and natural gas as the nation's chief electricity generation source. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to decrease by 0.5% in 2017 and then to increase by 2.6% in 2018.


Western governors set sights on electric vehicle charging network spanning seven states, Denver Post, October 4, 2017. The governors of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming sign a memorandum of understanding to establish a framework for creating a regional electric vehicle plan focused on more than 5,000 miles of interstate highway corridors across the seven states.

The Rocky Mountain Institute recently released From Gas to Grid: Building Charging Infrastructure to Power Electric Vehicle Demand, an in-depth report that is intended to offer guidance, best practices, and lessons learned that states can use to get ready for a future of electric mobility, focused on understanding how and where to build charging infrastructure, and what's needed to start building it. Included are analyses of five states, including Colorado and California in the West.


Western lawmakers, fed up, want to finally force a discussion on wildfires, Idaho Statesman, September 28, 2017. The bipartisan effort to finally end the "fire borrowing" practice that paralyzes the U.S. Forest Service budget and programs has gained an ally in new Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

News About Climate Disruption


Ancient bristlecone pine forests are being overwhelmed by climate change, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2017. A study led by a University of California, Davis, researcher finds that treelines are moving upwards in the Great Basin forests stretching from California to Utah, and of the two most dominant subalpine species, limber pines look to be outcompeting bristlecone pines, leapfrogging upwards while bristlecones are not showing much movement.

Bees are buzzing, but less than they should be, Missoulian, October 1, 2017. Honey production was down this year in Montana, the third most productive state for honey, and beekeepers and scientists blame climate-change-driven drought, wildfire smoke, and mismatches in the life cycles of bees and plants.

Why disappearing Sierra Nevada Meadows are bad news for water, Water Deeply, September 25, 2017. A new study by researchers at University of California, Merced, finds widespread evidence that Sierra Nevada meadows are shrinking and losing their water banking functions due to encroachment by trees-primarily lodgepole pines-due to hotter temperatures.

Montana, Colorado top states with standing dead trees in western U.S., Associated Press, September 7, 2017. The U.S. Forest Service's tally of how the estimated 6.3 billion standing dead trees breaks out among 11 Western states.


Western fires take toll on water supplies, Summit County Citizens Voice, September 16, 2017. A study by U.S. Geological Service researchers uses an ensemble of climate, fire, and erosion models to show that postfire sedimentation in Western watersheds is projected to increase in nearly all of them by at least 10 percent and to more than double in one third of them by mid-century.

The Rockies' largest glaciers are melting with little fanfare, E&E News, September 13, 2017. The largest concentration of glaciers in the U.S. Rocky Mountains are located in Wyoming's Wind River Range, and scientists are busy remedying what heretofore has been very limited research on the rates they are melting, and what effects that will have on downstream river flows.

Resource of the Month

State Energy Analysis Tool
Georgetown Climate Center

The Georgetown Climate Center releases an updated version of its State Energy Analysis Tool, providing insights and data on each state's electricity grid mix, renewable energy growth, and carbon emission reductions. The tool is intended to enable policymakers and the public to see goals set in other states and consider different carbon emission reduction targets for their states. New features also include the ability to compare all 50 states, new data visualizations for energy efficiency, electricity exports and imports, electricity generation, and a breakout for renewable electricity generation. Data maps of all 50 states are also available.

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Stephen Saunders, RMCO president:
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