Oil and Air
The Obama administration announced last week that it would postpone a decision on pipeline from Canada’s tar sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries until after the 2012 election, according to the New York Times. The administration was expected to finish its evaluation of the 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline before the end of the year, but it will now assess alternate routes through Nebraska where popular opposition to the pipeline has been the greatest. The current route cuts through the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sand Hills, two important water sources for Nebraskans.
The administration also took another step in the process to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency sent a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for a regulatory review. The agency may publish formal draft rules early in 2012.
The Delaware River Basin Commission, a body created by a 1961 federal law, has released revised draft rules guiding natural gas development in the basin, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The commission, which would still have to coordinate with state laws, will vote on November 21 on whether to allow hydraulic fracturing in the basin.
The federal government has a new map site. The Geospatial Platform connects numbers to places: soil surveys, EPA clean-up sites, weather patterns, and hydrographs are a few of the items found on the young site.
The Bureau of Land Management has released a draft environmental impact statement for a proposed 100 megawatt concentrating solar plant in southern Arizona. The BLM must decide whether to grant a right-of-way for the Quartzsite project, and the regional power authority must give permission for the plant to connect into the transmission system. At first planning a wet-cooled system, the project developer instead incorporated a dry-cooled design that will use less water. Comments are being accepted for the next 90 days. They can be submitted to QuartzsiteSolarEIS@wapa.gov
The Suspended Gates of Colorado
In less than three years, art lovers, tourists and the curious will be able to see 900 fabric panels suspended over nearly 6 miles of a 42-mile stretch of Colorado’s Arkansas River. The controversial project, dreamed by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, has been approved by the BLM, despite opposition from those who do not want to see such construction along the river. The bureau expects more than 300,000 visitors for the project’s two-week exhibition in August 2014.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue’s weekly digest of U.S. government water news. He is the winner of two Society of Environmental Journalists reporting awards, one of the top honors in American environmental journalism: first place for explanatory reporting for a series on septic system pollution in the United States(2016) and third place for beat reporting in a small market (2014). He received the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Brett lives in Seattle, where he hikes the mountains and bakes pies. Contact Brett Walton