Saturday, August 08, 2015

Wastewater From Colorado Mine Flows Toward New Mexico, Utah

An eerie yellow sludge that poured out of a shuttered gold mine and into a southwestern Colorado river was inching its way downstream toward New Mexico and Utah. Federal officials said Friday the spill contains heavy metals including lead and arsenic, but it was too early to know whether they posed a health risk. No health hazard has been detected, but the tests were still being analyzed, said Joan Card, an adviser to Environmental Protection Agency Regional Director Shaun McGrath. The spill also contained cadmium, aluminum, copper and calcium, the EPA said. The concentrations were not yet known. An EPA-supervised cleanup crew accidentally unleashed 1 million gallons of the wastewater from the Gold King Mine on Wednesday, and it flowed down Cement Creek and into the scenic Animas River, which is popular with boaters and anglers. The EPA warned people to stay out of the river and to keep domestic animals from drinking from it. Local officials declared stretches of the river off-limits in Colorado and New Mexico...more

Friday, August 07, 2015

EPA fouls Animas River with 1 million gallons of contaminated mine water

A spill that sent 1 million gallons of wastewater from an abandoned mine into the Animas River, turning the river orange, set off warnings Thursday that contaminants threaten water quality for those downstream. The Environmental Protection Agency confirmed it triggered the spill while using heavy machinery to investigate pollutants at the Gold King Mine, north of Silverton. Health and environmental officials are evaluating the river as it flows through San Juan and La Plata counties. They said the wastewater contained zinc, iron, copper and other heavy metals, prompting the EPA to warn agricultural users to shut off water intakes along the river and law officials to close the river to recreational users. Downstream in Durango, hundreds of people gathered along the Animas River to watch as the blue waters turned a thick, radiant orange and yellow just after 8 p.m., nearly 34 hours after the spill started. ity officials asked residents to cut back on their water use, and irrigation of city land at Fort Lewis College was stopped. The La Plata County Sheriff's Office has closed the river from the San Juan County line — including Durango — to New Mexico. Authorities say they will re-evaluate the closure once the EPA tests are confirmed. The spill was triggered at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the mine on the upper portions of Cement Creek, about 55 miles north of Durango. The agency called the release "unexpected." The mine is owned by Golden-based San Juan Corp., Durango attorney Nancy Agro said Thursday afternoon. She said the EPA had been operating at the site for years under an access agreement. "Upon suspending work last year, the EPA backfilled the portal to the mine," Argo said in a statement. "On (Wednesday), while the EPA was removing the backfill from the portal to the Gold King Mine to continue its investigation this year, the plug blew out, releasing contaminated water behind the backfill."...more 

There would be a two-state manhunt if a private individual operating his equipment had caused this spill.

The EPA says the spill was "unexpected".  That's one of the dumbest agency statements I've read in a long time.  

Billings County Commission rejects organization aiming to turn remote section of Badlands into national monument

On Tuesday I posted an article about the National Trust for Historic Preservation wanting Obama to designate the Eberts ranch as a National Monument.  A regular reader sent along this article.  Here's one County Commission that's not falling for their slick presentation.

A representative from The National Trust for Historic Preservation pitched a plan to the Billings County Commission to incorporate the former Eberts ranch -- part of the Little Missouri National Grasslands near the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- into a national monument on Tuesday afternoon. Jennifer Buddenborg said the trust is interested in gaining local support for the acquisition of nearly 5,000 acres of land located in a rural section of the Badlands -- which includes land owned by the state, the U.S. Forest Service and private individuals -- with the intention of preserving the historic site. It would be the first national monument in North Dakota and could potentially work to draw revenue for the area’s $32 million a year tourism industry. However, commissioners rejected the plan, citing threats to gravel mining, oil and gas drilling, road development and conflicts with grazing that could arise if acquired by the organization. “We are a commodity-producing county,” commissioner Jim Arthaud said. “Tourism is big, don’t get me wrong. But the things that makes this community function -- from infrastructure, to low property tax, to good safety, to good schooling, to good ambulance -- that is all commodity driven.” He said such a project would jeopardize livelihoods by making it more difficult to gain access and further restrict use of the land.  In the language of a rough-draft bill written by the trust organization, it notes how Roosevelt as president designated more than 230 million acres of public land as federally protected national forests, wildlife refuges, national parks and preserves, making the current proposal one he conceivably would have backed. The organization will seek congressional support on the drafted bill, though Buddenborg said lawmakers will not support the project without listening to residents...more

Bears Ears monument debate is splitting Utah Navajos

A schism is opening among Utah Navajos over whether to protect sacred lands surrounding the Bears Ears Buttes with a new national monument. The multi-tribe American Indian group, urging protection for a 1.9 million-acre region south of Canyonlands National Park, says San Juan County has excluded tribal perspectives in crafting a proposal that could shape public-lands policy for generations to come. Meantime, some local Navajos have split from the group, worried a federal designation would impede tribes' access to the scenic highlands west of Blanding. "True Utah grass-roots Navajo strongly oppose national monument designation," said Rebecca Benally, a first-term San Juan County commissioner and Navajo. Earlier this week, the County Commission signed off on a plan for inclusion in the Utah Public Lands Initiative, spearheaded by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, adopting a resolution opposing any "unilateral" designation of a national monument there by President Barack Obama. The move upset the Bears Ears Inter-tribal Coalition, which argues the plan fails to adequately protect numerous sacred lands — Cottonwood Wash, Arch Canyon, Beef Basin and Recapture Wash — while including many special areas in zones earmarked for energy development. Utah Dine Bikeyah is the group that initiated the Bears Ears conservation proposal...But Marie Holiday, a Navajo member who served on the county's public lands advisory council, accused Dine Bikeyah of "closing the door to your own people." "They wanted all that to be wilderness. I didn't think that was right," Holiday, who lives in Monument Valley, told the commission Tuesday. "It's not going to help our people," she said. "I know they want to preserve, but we are here. We need to use that Cedar Mesa. We still get our wood from there. My grandmother went to get some herbal stuff, and I know where it is, and pinyon, too. "If there's a national monument, we are not going to have access to it."...more

How Obama plans to beat his climate critics

 By Jody Freeman

Now that the Obama administration has released the full details of its highly anticipated Clean Power Plan today, industry and state opponents are champing at the bit to challenge it in court.

For those handicapping the litigation, however, the government’s odds of success just got a significant boost. A close analysis of the language in the final plan released today suggests that EPA has addressed each of these problems in subtle but significant ways, and the legal battle will now likely be much harder for the challengers.

The final version makes five key changes.

First, and crucially, it places the regulatory burden directly on power plants, not on states. The rule tells coal and gas plants how much carbon pollution they can emit per megawatt-hour of electricity, setting a single national rate for each category. While it might sound minor, this change is important to legal defensibility. It responds to the concern that the Clean Air Act authorizes EPA to set performance standards for sources. (States can still comply with the law by using overall state emissions targets, but only if they choose to.) And by setting one rate for coal units and another for gas units, it brings the rule into line with long-established EPA precedent, which tailors emission rates to different types of technology, and so will be familiar to courts.

Second, the draft version of the plan included elements that led opponents to charge the EPA with “jumping the fence-line,” straying beyond its acknowledged authority to regulate power plants.
One of these potential fence-jumps was the agency’s use of energy efficiency as a basis for setting emission rates. The EPA’s draft rule projected that states could cut energy demand from consumers 1.5 percent per year after 2020, helping to reduce power plant emissions. But doing so exposed EPA to vehement criticism that it was seeking to regulate how consumers use energy, not just whether power sources can produce electricity more cleanly. To neutralize this vulnerability, the new standard drops energy efficiency as a consideration for stringency, and the EPA’s final rule sets rates without assuming any reduction in consumer demand. (However, because it is such a low-cost way to reduce emissions, the EPA does allow sources to use energy efficiency in order to hit their targets.)

Third, revisions to the final rule will make it harder for opponents to argue it intrudes on state sovereignty. This has been one of the highest-profile claims against the draft plan, which asked states to meet individual, state-level emissions targets. But the new structure of the final version lets states meet their obligation simply by applying the EPA’s uniform national rates for coal and gas units to the power plants in their jurisdiction—the most straightforward compliance plan imaginable. The rule will offer states other ways to comply by translating these two rates into a single state emissions target; this allows states to, for example, adopt an emissions cap and create a credit-trading scheme. But no one will force any state to do so.

California drought renews push for water storage projects

The drought that’s been desiccating California for the past four years has added new urgency to a decades-old debate about the best way to secure reliable water supplies for a growing population: new dams or efficiency measures. The drought that’s been desiccating California for the past four years has added new urgency to a decades-old debate about the best way to secure reliable water supplies for a growing population: new dams or efficiency measures. While the debate about how to better manage water continues, the drought is triggering more political momentum for several water storage projects in California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley. An enlargement of Shasta Dam, 10 miles from the town of Redding, has been discussed for over three decades, and it passed a major hurdle last week when the Bureau of Reclamation released its final feasibility study. The agency says that the most practical option would increase the dam’s height by 18.5 feet, adding capacity to store 634,000 more acre-feet of water for agricultural, municipal and industrial use. It would also increase the survival of struggling salmon populations in the upper Sacramento River by releasing more cold water stored behind the dam to improve temperatures in the Sacramento River during exceptionally critical years...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1462

Bobby Jones, hope you are feeling better as this fiddle instrumental is dedicated to you.  This one of my favorite fiddlers, Tommy Jackson,  playing Stony Point

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Clovis woman fighting for chicken rights

Clovis, NM - Mary-Beth Bouchard never thought she would have a big issue over her chickens. For more than a decade, she's kept chickens in her yard without an issue. Now she is going to court over them. A week ago a city employee came up to Bouchard's home and said she wasn't allowed to have chickens on her property. "They've always been here, they're not a problem," said Bouchard. She was charged with seven counts of violating a city ordinance regarding poultry location restrictions. The ordinance state: "No person shall keep poultry within 100 feet of any residence or business establishment, expect for the residence or business establishment of a person owning or controlling the poultry." Bouchard says the language in this ordinance is hard for her to understand. The city's Animal Control says the ordinance has been in place since the 1950's and the city is working to better define where people can have chickens. Animal Control says you are only allowed to have chickens East of town near the stock yard and fair grounds. In the meantime, the city offered Bouchard an agreement that would allow her to keep her chickens but only for three years. In this agreement she cannot add any more chickens. If a chicken dies, she cannot replace it. The rules also say that if the city receives a complaint, Bouchard must get rid of her pets, including her dogs. The compromise still needs to be approved by city commission, but Bouchard says she will not compromise with this agreement. "She has not shown willingness to sign or negotiate any variance. So, at this point we don't have a resolution," said Clovis City Manager Larry Fry...more

Colorado VS: 53 Locations in Eight Counties Quarantined

As of Aug. 5, the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s (CDA) State Veterinarian’s Office has 53 locations in eight counties under quarantine after horses, mules, and cattle herds tested positive for vesicular stomatitis (VS). A number of species are susceptible to VS, including horses, mules, cattle, bison, sheep, goats, pigs, and camelids. The clinical signs of the disease include vesicles, erosions, and sloughing of the skin on the muzzle, tongue, and teats and above the hooves of susceptible livestock. Vesicles are usually only seen early in the course of the disease. “While we cannot disclose the exact location of the infected livestock, it is not very contagious from animal to animal,” said State Veterinarian Keith Roehr, DVM. “The primary method of spread is through insect vectors, primarily biting flies. The key to remember is to take steps to reduce the fly populations near livestock. “The virus typically causes oral blisters and sores that can be painful causing difficulty in eating and drinking,” he continued. “We are closing in on the fair and show season and we want to remind livestock owners to practice vigilant disease mitigation practices to protect their animals.”...more

US carbon pollution from power plants hits 27-year low

Heat-trapping pollution from U.S. power plants hit a 27-year low in April, the Department of Energy announced Wednesday. A big factor was the long-term shift from coal to cleaner and cheaper natural gas, said Energy Department economist Allen McFarland. Outside experts also credit more renewable fuel use and energy efficiency. Carbon dioxide — from the burning of coal, oil and gas — is the chief greenhouse gas responsible for man-made global warming. Electric power plants spewed 141 million tons of carbon dioxide in April, the lowest for any month since April 1988, according to Energy Department figures. The power plants are responsible for about one-third of the country's heat-trapping emissions...more

Tesla cuts annual production forecast; second-quarter loss widens

 Tesla Motors Inc.'s second-quarter loss nearly tripled as it invested in launching a sport utility vehicle, releasing new versions of its flagship Model S sports sedan and constructing a giant battery plant near Reno. The Palo Alto electric-car company said Wednesday that it lost $184 million in the second quarter, compared with a loss of $62 million a year earlier. Second-quarter revenue rose 24% to $955 million. The company delivered a record 11,532 vehicles in the second quarter and produced a record 12,807 cars, exceeding its previous estimate of 12,500. It expects to produce about 12,000 vehicles in the current quarter. But Tesla downgraded this year's delivery forecast to a range of 50,000 to 55,000 units of the Model S and Model X, the new SUV. Previously, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk had said deliveries would hit 55,000...more

Saudi Arabia may go broke before the US oil industry buckles

If the oil futures market is correct, Saudi Arabia will start running into trouble within two years. It will be in existential crisis by the end of the decade. The contract price of US crude oil for delivery in December 2020 is currently $62.05, implying a drastic change in the economic landscape for the Middle East and the petro-rentier states. The Saudis took a huge gamble last November when they stopped supporting prices and opted instead to flood the market and drive out rivals, boosting their own output to 10.6m barrels a day (b/d) into the teeth of the downturn. Bank of America says OPEC is now "effectively dissolved". The cartel might as well shut down its offices in Vienna to save money. If the aim was to choke the US shale industry, the Saudis have misjudged badly, just as they misjudged the growing shale threat at every stage for eight years. "It is becoming apparent that non-OPEC producers are not as responsive to low oil prices as had been thought, at least in the short-run," said the Saudi central bank in its latest stability report...more

Toxic algae blooming in warm water from California to Alaska

A vast bloom of toxic algae off the West Coast is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago, according to surveyors aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel. This coastal ribbon of microscopic algae, up to 40 miles wide and 650 feet deep in places, is flourishing amid unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures. It now stretches from at least California to Alaska and has shut down lucrative fisheries. Shellfish managers on Tuesday doubled the area off Washington's coast that is closed to Dungeness crab fishing, after finding elevated levels of marine toxins in tested crab meat. So-called "red tides" are cyclical and have happened many times before, but ocean researchers say this one is much larger and persisting much longer, with higher levels of neurotoxins bringing severe consequences for the Pacific seafood industry, coastal tourism and marine ecosystems...more

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell answers Utah monument fears

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said flatly she doesn't control President Barack Obama's pen when it comes to any new monument designation in Utah, but she insists there's no plan to sneak around Utah and create one under the "cloak of darkness." "There hasn't been any monument designation that President Obama has done that hasn't had a pretty open, public process," Jewell said. "It is an open, transparent process we have been engaged in all along." Jewell, in Salt Lake City for a Thursday announcement of a youth initiative with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, met with the editorial board of Deseret Media Companies on Wednesday to discuss sage grouse, monuments and other Interior department issues. Her presence in the state has been accompanied by a swirl of angst by Utah's top politicians that a monument designation in Utah is a just an ink stroke away and comes the same day a much-touted Public Lands Initiative was flayed by Native American tribes. "Despite more than two years of dialogue with local stakeholders, we are concerned that the Public Lands Initiative Process and San Juan County have thus failed to reach out to, consult and respond to feedback from Tribes within or outside of Utah," a letter from leaders of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition reads. Their letter late Wednesday was a rebuttal to one sent earlier in the day by Utah's entire congressional delegation to Jewell that implored her to let that process play out and refrain from any designation for Bears Ears, an area which spans 1.9 million acres in San Juan County.  But Jewell said she has yet to see any details of the Public Lands Initiative being shepherded by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah. "We have not seen anything tangible," she said. "We have asked for detail, because we have seen no detail." She said it is hard to say the process should play out when she does not know what it entails. "What is really going to be important is to show us, bring us to the table. We do have a lot of lands that are involved in this, but we need to be brought to the table," she said. "We are going to continue to get requests from people who are worried about these lands." Native American tribes pushing for protections of Bears Ears have been in her office, with maps, pushing their cause, she said. Bishop said he hasn't shown any details to Jewell because the language in his bill — that includes all the land use proposals — is still being crafted. "A soon as it is drafted we will share it with her," he said. "What is slowing it down right now is the mechanics of actually drafting the language and getting the maps ready."...more

Northwest Wolf Populations Climb As Animals Expand Into New Regions

Wildlife experts from Oregon, Washington and California say wolf activity has been increasing in all three states. Oregon first documented a successful wolf- breeding pair in 2008. Now the state has eight pairs and has begun talks to delist gray wolves as a part of its management plan. Photos show there are at least two new wolf pups in the Rogue Pack. That's the pack of famous wandering wolf OR-7. It’s also the first pack in to live the western part of the state. Russ Morgan, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf coordinator, said the state is starting to see rapid growth in wolf population numbers and their distribution. “They’ve been successful in a fairly short period of time, and they’re continuing to expand,” Morgan said. Two wolves from Northeast Oregon have recently struck out from their original packs. One has crossed a long distance near the Columbia River, traveled down the Cascade Mountains, and is now roaming around Western Oregon. New areas of known wolf activity have been designated in Klamath and Union counties. "It sort of shows wolves' ability to travel and seek out new areas," Morgan said. "They really have a travel capability that's second to none. ... Where wolves will ultimately set up and thrive is still unknown." California biologists have also recently spotted tracks and trail camera images that make them think a lone gray wolf has crossed the border from Oregon, although they haven't yet confirmed the evidence. All the wolf movement has made ranchers nervous, with predatory attacks reported each year. The most recent confirmed depredation in Oregon was this past July in Umatilla County, when the Umatilla River Pack attacked four sheep. Washington has confirmed 16 wolf packs. Officials there say wolf numbers in Washington are also continuing to rise and wolves’ distribution is expanding...more

Conservation Easement Program potentially bankrupting some land owners

STERLING, Colo. - A state tax program aimed at helping land owners preserve their property and protect it from development, may actually be hurting them. Alan Gentz owns 500 acres of land in the town of Sterling. In an effort to preserve some of that land, Gentz donated 20 total acres of land to Logan County in 2006 and 2007 as part of the Conservation Easement Program. The program allows land owners to donate land to their county or non-profit and receive tax credits in return. Those tax credits can then be applied toward the land owner’s taxes or sold. In exchange for 20 acres, the Gentz’ received almost $550,000 in credits. But now Gentz says the program has turned on those who’ve applied for it and used the program to preserve land. “We already had licensed qualified appraisers appraise the property, we covered all of the ground legally we could do, we didn’t think there could ever be a problem of them passing an ex post facto law to come out and challenge us,” said Gentz. That ex post facto law Gentz claims, came in the form of House Bill 1300. Gentz says the bill is being used to go back to land owners and recover money given away in tax credits after the program showed signs of failure. Gentz had his tax credits later denied because the appraiser on the case had their license suspended. Gentz now has a $1.4 million dollar bond on his recently filed lawsuit against the Department of Revenue that must be paid before his case ever sees the inside of a courtroom. "The State of Colorado bankrupted a lot of farmers and ranchers over this, we know a lot of cases where they've lost their farms, been bankrupted because of HB1300,” said Gentz...more

Here's the video report:

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1461

Today we have the Tune Wranglers performing Oh Look At That Baby.   The tune was recorded in San Antonio on Oct. 24, 1936 and released on the Bluebird Label.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

"Myths, Legends and Lies About Western Movies", Author presentation in Farmington

FARMINGTON — Don Bullis loves watching old western movies and television shows, but the noted New Mexico historian and author is the first to admit he often has his viewing experience marred by something he sees on screen that would escape the attention of most people. Take the 1940 film "Kit Carson," for instance. The film dramatizes Carson's 1840s trek to California with famed explorer John Fremont, and Carson, portrayed by Jon Hall, sports one of the Stetson hats that were then, and remain, a staple of Hollywood westerns. The problem, as Bullis likes to point out, is that Stetson hats weren't created until the 1860s. "The average viewer doesn't notice that, and that's fine, but it's kind of annoying to me," Bullis said by phone last week from his Rio Rancho home where he was preparing for his presentation on "Myths, Legends and Lies About Western Movies" on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at the Farmington Civic Center. Bullis also hates it when he sees a figure in a western movie wielding a weapon that hadn't even been invented at the time the action is supposed to have taken place. That inattention to detail won't necessarily ruin an entire film, he said, but it bugs him all the same — a reaction that would seem to come naturally for a guy who has spent most of his life examining material with a critical eye — first as a newspaper editor, historian and author, and later as a sheriff's deputy. "Western movies are really interesting — for their entertainment value, obviously," Bullis said. "But they're important because they created an image of the West that is unlike what has been created for any other place."...more

Grasshoppers invade Portales costing farmers money - video

PORTALES N.M.(KRQE) – Grasshoppers have taken over Portales and they’re more than just an annoyance, they’re costing people money. “It seems like every time you step the ground moves,” said Amanda Kaberlein, Portales resident. Grasshoppers have swarmed the eastern New Mexico town. “We live out in the country and in the weeds and all, they’re thick pretty much everywhere seems like,” said Drew Runyan, Portales resident. For farmers like Carlos Paiz they have become a problem. This year he lost almost $5,000 worth of alfalfa to the pests. ” I’ve been in this part of the country for many many years and this is the worst we seen it,” said Paiz. The Roosevelt County Agricultural Office says there are two factors that have led to this bug invasion. One is the very rainy year Portales has seen, which makes for excellent hatching conditions. The agriculture extension office also tells us the grasshoppers are migrating from neighboring counties...more

Here's the KRQE video report:

Russia demanding ownership of the North Pole

Russia, while still digesting its meal of Crimea, is taking another bite at expanding its sovereignty by laying claim Tuesday to the North Pole and a large area of the Arctic Ocean — an area involving oil and gas drilling as well as fishing. The Russian Foreign Ministry submitted its request on Tuesday to the United Nations committee that arbitrates sea boundaries. The Arctic Ocean has attracted other countries, including the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway, and exposed rivalries over resources such as untapped oil and gas. Russia made a bid in 2002, but the U.N. committee rejected it because of a lack of evidence. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it had “ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research” to back up its revised bid and its claim over the area, The Associated Press reported. If the decision is accepted by the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Russia’s boundaries by land and sea would expand by 1.2 million square kilometers, or about 463,000 square miles...more

Get ready for Santa to distribute toys based on equality, not whether you've been nice.

And poor Rudolph.  Now all the reindeer will be reds! 

Editorial - Climate-Change Putsch

Rarely do American Presidents display the raw willfulness that President Obama did Monday in rolling out his plan to reorganize the economy in the name of climate change. Without a vote in Congress or even much public debate, Mr. Obama is using his last 18 months to dictate U.S. energy choices for the next 20 or 30 years. This abuse of power is regulation without representation.

The so-called Clean Power Plan commands states to cut carbon emissions by 32% (from 2005 levels) by 2030. This final mandate is 9% steeper than the draft the Environmental Protection Agency issued in June 2014. The damage to growth, consumer incomes and U.S. competitiveness will be immense—assuming the rule isn’t tossed by the courts or rescinded by the next Administration.


States have regulated their power systems since the early days of electrification, but the EPA is now usurping this role to nationalize power generation and consumption. To meet the EPA’s targets, states must pass new laws or regulations to shift their energy mix from fossil fuels, subsidize alternative energy, improve efficiency, impose a cap-and-trade program, or all of the above.

Coal-fired power will be the first to be shot, but the EPA is targeting all sources of carbon energy. As coal plants have retired amid seven years of EPA assault, natural gas recently eclipsed coal as the dominant source of electric power. This cleaner-burning gas surge has led to the cheapest and fastest emissions plunge in history, but the EPA isn’t satisfied.

Thus the new rule’s central planning favors green energy sources like wind and solar. The plan expands their quotas and funding, while punishing states that are insufficiently enthusiastic. The EPA estimates renewables will make up 28% of U.S. electric capacity by 2030, up from less than 5% today.

The rule is the first step in a crescendo of climate-change politics that Mr. Obama is planning for his final days. In September he will commune with Pope Francis on the subject, and then jet to Paris in hopes that his new rule shows enough U.S. progress that the climate treaty conference in December will reach some grand accord.

No. 2 Senate Republican to offer background check bill

A top Senate Republican is moving to keep guns out of the hands of people who are mentally ill amid growing calls from gun-safety advocates to strengthen background checks after a series of high-profile mass shootings. Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the second-ranking Senate Republican, will introduce legislation Wednesday designed to encourage local communities to identify gun applicants who are seriously mentally ill. The Mental Health and Safe Communities Act is backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), despite the gun lobby’s fierce resistance to gun control policies. Cornyn notes the legislation will “fix the existing background check system without expanding it.” The legislation will also provide more treatment options for people who are dangerously mentally ill. “While potentially dangerous mentally-ill individuals are often known to law enforcement and local officials, gaps in existing law or inadequate resources prevent our communities from taking proactive steps to prevent them from becoming violent,” Cornyn said in a statement. Cornyn’s legislation is a rare attempt by Republicans to tamp down on certain gun sales, and it comes on the heel of recent mass shootings in Charleston, S.C., and Lafayette, La. The shootings generated new pressure from gun-safety advocates and Senate Democrats to close what they see as gaping loopholes in the federal background check system. The legislation would encourage states to send the FBI the records of at least 90 percent of the people they know have serious mental health issues, using grant money as an incentive for states to participate, according to the Associated Press report...more

Gun Control Lies

 My town, New York City, enforces rigid gun laws. Police refused to assign me a gun permit. The law doesn't even let me hold a fake gun on TV to demonstrate something.

 But New York politicians are so eager to vilify gun ownership that they granted an exception to the anti-gun group States United to Prevent Gun Violence. New York allowed States United to set up a fake gun store, where cameras filmed potential gun customers being spoofed by an actor pretending to be a gun-seller.

States United then made that footage into an anti-gun public service announcement. "Over 60 percent of Americans think owning a gun will make them safer. In fact, owning a gun increases the risk of homicide, suicide and unintentional death," says the video.

It's a powerful message. But it's a lie, says John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center. He says that gun control advocates lie all the time.

Lott acknowledges the tragedies. Sometimes a gun in the home is used in a homicide or suicide, or leads to accidental death, but he adds, "It also makes it easier for people to defend themselves—women and the elderly in particular."

Lott says, "Every place in the world that's tried to ban guns... has seen big increases in murder rates. You'd think at least one time, some place, when they banned guns, murder rates would go down. But that hasn't been the case."

I pushed back: what about people harming themselves?

"There are lots of different ways for people to commit suicide," Lott said, and researchers have looked at how those tragedies are affected by access to guns. "We find that people commit suicide in other ways if they don't have guns."

What about accidents? Lott replies that accidental shooting deaths are relatively rare: "about 500 a year." That sounds bad, but about 400 Americans are killed by overdosing on acetaminophen each year (most of them suicides), and almost as many Americans drown in swimming pools.

"It would be nice if it was zero (but) consider that 120 million Americans own guns," Lott says.

PRIME Act Would Steer Meat Processing in the Right Direction

Late last week, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced a bill that would dramatically re-shape the way many animals are slaughtered for food in this country. The PRIME Act, which has several co-sponsors, including Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), would give states the option of setting their own rules for processing meat that’s sold inside state borders. That’s a power Congress took from the states and handed to the USDA in 1967. So just what is the PRIME Act, and why do we need it? As Rep. Massie told me by phone this week, the bill is intended “to enable local farmers to sell their products to local consumers without all of the red tape and expense [posed by] the federal government.” In place of that red tape, the simply worded, three-page PRIME Act would let states set their own standards. Rep. Massie, who with his family raises cattle on his Kentucky farm, knows the impact of USDA processing rules better than most. “I’m a beef farmer myself,” he tells me, “and when I take my animals to be processed, I drive past a custom facility three miles from my house and travel three hours to a USDA facility.” This is common. In talking with farmers and ranchers, it’s a story I hear time and again. As Rep. Massie explains, the facility certification process is expensive and challenging. Something as trivial as the diameter of a drainpipe in a concrete floor can make or break a certification application...more

Senate Republicans Allege Collusion Between EPA and Environmental Group Over Climate Regulations

A day after the Obama administration finalized a “historic” plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, Republicans on a prominent Senate committee are alleging that an outside group colluded with the Environmental Protection Agency to create the standards.  The allegations are detailed in a report released by the majority staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, following an ongoing investigation of the relationship between the EPA and the National Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group. “This majority staff report, based on the committee’s oversight to date, rebuts the Obama Administration’s narrative that NRDC [National Resources Defense Council] did not have any special access to EPA policy makers and that NRDC had minimal input into EPA’s development of greenhouse gas rules for power plants,” the report stated.  According to the new Senate committee report, years’ worth of unredacted emails between the EPA and National Resources Defense Council officials suggest that the environmental group played an “major role” in the rule-making process prior to the president’s directive. The report points to a legal challenge from the environmental group that pressured the EPA to regulate power plant emissions, a controversial practice known as “sue-and-settle.” This practice is used by outside groups to advance a policy goal by suing an agency, in this case the EPA, and the agency then settling the suit by agreeing to enact certain regulations...more

Editorial - Obama shouldn't have the last laugh on carbon rules

President Obama on Monday touted the Environmental Protection Agency's extremely strict new rules regulating carbon emissions for electricity generation, the final details of which were announced abruptly over the weekend.

Why are these rules so much more stringent than ones Obama had proposed earlier? The best explanation has nothing to do with science and everything to do with an administration seeking to boost its moral authority on the issue of climate change. There is a United Nations climate summit in Paris coming up this December. Obama does not believe he can bully developing countries into hobbling their economies unless he can claim he is hobbling his own country's economy first.

This is the simplest way of understanding why a president who is about to leave office would publish rules so onerous and so likely to go unfulfilled even under the best conditions. Moreover, accepting the scientific consensus that climate change is real, these rules are based on the scientifically unfounded notion that small but painful incremental reductions in carbon emissions can avert a worldwide environmental cataclysm.

Before Obama had put his first bad idea into effect, market forces were already conspiring to reduce carbon emissions in the field of electrical generation. The newly low price of cleaner-burning natural gas (thanks to improved fracking technologies) is already well on its way to making carbon-intensive, coal-fired power plants obsolete in the United States.

Obama's earlier proposed rule was at least somewhat respectful of this market reality and tried to move along with it. It was designed to encourage power companies to make the switch to natural gas more rapidly. Obama's new final rule, however, goes much further to crowd out natural gas as well. That's because it arbitrarily hikes the share of electrical generation that will eventually have to come from renewable power by 2030, from 22 to 28 percent.

Not that the earlier proposed goal of 22 percent renewable was ever attainable. For perspective: wind, solar, geothermal and biomass combined accounted for 7 percent of electrical generation in 2014, and that was right after a five-year push that included huge new stimulus grants, loans and incentives, as well as an energy bill laden with mandates for renewable use. There is no realistic chance of making that share triple or quadruple in just 15 years — and of course, doing so would only make the price of electricity that much less bearable.

The cost of fighting wildfires is sapping Forest Service budget

As 14 large fires rage across California, the U.S. Forest Service is sounding the alarm about the exploding cost of protecting people and property from a growing wildfire threat. In a new report to be released Wednesday, the agency says that while it spent 16 percent of its total budget on preparing for and fighting fires in 1995, it will spend more than half its budget this year on the same task — and a projected 67 percent or more by 2025 under current funding arrangements. By ten years from now, the agency’s expenditures for fighting wildfires as they flare up—dubbed fire suppression — are projected to increase from just under $1.1 billion in 2014 to nearly $1.8 billion. And that’s just one of a number of fire related costs; there is also an annual, fixed fire “preparedness” budget that exceeds $1 billion each year. The Forest Service report says the agency’s very mission is “threatened” by this trend of increased fires, which is having a “debilitating impact” on other Forest Service responsibilities due to a phenomenon where funds for other priorities get shifted towards immediate wildfire emergencies...more

They are reaping what they have sown, or more accurately, what the Forest Service along with Congress, the courts and the enviros have sown.

Feds under fire in Arizona for plan to round up wild horses

Conservationists in Arizona are ramping up efforts to stop the federal government from rounding up herds of wild horses in a local forest -- a move opponents say puts the animals’ lives in jeopardy. The Forest Service has placed a Friday deadline on wild horses roaming in Tonto National Forest for those who wish to make a claim on individual animals. The remaining horses will be sent to auction, and those unable to be auctioned off will be "sold at private sale or condemned and destroyed, or otherwise disposed of," according to the notice. Carrie Templin, a public affairs officer with the Tonto National Forest told that the Forest Service estimates there are as many as 100 horses running free. However, she said that while the deadline ends Friday, there is no date set yet to round up the animals. The Forest Service says the animals are a danger to public safety, but The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group -- a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and monitoring the horses -- contends there are other, less harmful ways to keep the wild horses from being a public safety risk. Conservationists fear that rounding up the animals could seriously injure them, while horses sent to auctions may be killed by so-called “kill buyers” who pick up the animals for the horse-meat trade...more

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1460

Our selection today is Ramblin' Tommy Scott - Just A Diggin' And A Diggin'.  The tune is on his Collectors Series CD.

Caution Urged over Editing DNA in Wildlife

“Crap!” That was the first word out of Kevin Esvelt’s mouth as he scanned a paper published in Science last March. The work described the use of a gene-editing technique to insert a mutation into fruit flies that would be passed on to almost all of their offspring. Although intriguing, the report made Esvelt feel uneasy: if engineered flies escaped from a lab, the mutation could spread quickly through a wild population. But that was exactly what exhilarated molecular biologist Anthony James at the University of California, Irvine. “Holy mackerel!” he wrote to the study’s authors. “Can we use it in mosquitoes?” On July 30, the US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) held the first in a series of meetings meant to find ways to balance the promise and perils of the technique, called ‘gene drive’. The method can rapidly modify not just a single organism but a whole population, by inserting a desired genetic modification into an organism along with DNA that increases the rate at which the change is passed to the next generation. The technique could be used to render mosquitoes unable to carry malaria parasites or to wipe out harmful invasive species, but it could also have unanticipated environmental costs and might be impossible to reverse. “Once this is out there, you cannot call it back,” says Walter Tabachnick, a population geneticist at the University of Florida in Vero Beach. The idea of gene drive has been around for more than a decade. But its practicality was given a huge boost around three years ago with the arrival of CRISPR, a gene-editing technique that allows precise changes to an organism’s DNA...more

The Parks Service Just Added Four New National Historic Landmarks

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis have announced the addition of four new national historic landmarks. This comes on the heels of President Obama’s decision just a few weeks ago to declare three new national monuments, bringing the total acreage of land he has preserved during his time in office up to 260 million acres. The four new national historic landmarks were carefully selected for their ability to illuminate the country’s heritage: the Washington Post’s Patricia Sullivan reports that there are only 2,500 national historic landmarks across the entire United States...more

BLM May Change Way Travelers Visit The Wave Rock Formation

One of the most popular and spectacular natural sites in the state is the geologic phenomenon known as The Wave, near the Utah-Arizona border. If you’ve never seen it, it looks sort of like striped layers of cinnamon and sugar, curved and swirled around into a Dr. Seuss-like prehistoric landscape. In order to visit it, you have to obtain a permit from the Bureau of Land Management — and only about 10 percent of the 73,000 annual applicants get one. Now the BLM has suggested changes to the permitting process. Right now, only 20 people a day are given permits to visit The Wave. Ten of those permits are given through an online lottery, and 10 are given by an in-person one, which means you have to actually go to Kanab, Utah, to participate to get a permit for the following day. Now the BLM wants to get rid of the in-person lottery and instead have just an online lottery 48 hours in advance. There’s some concern by folks in Kanab that because people head up there, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, if the system changes to an online one people may not spend as much time or money there...more

That's what you get when you depend on a federal program or policy for your tourism dollars.

Eco-friendly 3D printed supercar

A California automotive start-up is hoping their prototype supercar will redefine car manufacturing. The sleek race car dubbed 'Blade' didn't come off an assembly line - but out of a 3D printer. Kevin Czinger of Divergent Microfactories has spent most of his career in the automotive industry. One day he realized that no matter how fuel-efficient or how few tailpipe emissions the modern car has, the business of car manufacturing is destroying the environment. "3D printing of metal radically changes that. By looking at 3D printing not for that overall structure but to create individual modular structures that can be combined, that 3D printing transforms everything," said Czinger during an interview with Reuters in Silicon Valley. According to Czinger, 3D printing transforms everything by changing the way the structural components of cars are fabricated. Currently cars are pieced together on long assembly lines inside large factories that use massive amounts of energy. Even the most fuel-efficient car has a large carbon footprint before ever leaving the plant. Czinger and his team's approach was to take the large plant out of the equation...more

Climate Scientists Rip Apart EPA’s Global Warming Rule

The Obama administration recently unveiled regulations further limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and some climate scientists are criticizing the rules for doing virtually nothing to reduce global temperature rises — the whole point of reducing CO2. “Well the one thing you don’t hear President [Barack] Obama mention is how much his proposed emissions reductions will reduce global warming,” wrote Dr. Judith Curry, a climatologist at Georgia Tech. “It has been estimated that the U.S. [climate plan] of 28% emissions reduction by 2025 will prevent 0.03 [degrees Celsius] in warming by 2100.” “And these estimates assume that climate model projections are correct,” Curry wrote, “if the climate models are over-sensitive to CO2, the amount of warming prevented will be even smaller.”...more

Forest Service: More than 5,000 lightning strikes recorded from Saturday

More than 5,000 lightning strikes were recorded across western Nevada and the Sierra mountains on Saturday, according to the U.S. Forest Service. A map from the National Weather Service showed several thousand strikes, including some in Plumas National Forest. The Forest Service said lightning strikes from Saturday caused 14 small fires in Plumas's three districts, which consumed about 5.7 acres total. Scattered thunderstorms will come through western Nevada on Tuesday, according to the Forest Service...more

Cibola National Forest hosting planning meetings

Work underway on a revised resource management plan for the Cibola National Forest includes the potential designation of new wilderness areas in the Sandia Ranger District. Marta Call, public affairs officer for the Cibola National Forest, said the public is being asked to comment on and contribute to the process at public meetings. She said the public is welcome to evaluate areas under consideration for classification as wilderness, a designation that would prohibit activities such as biking. “This is everybody’s forest,” Call said. “We want to know the community needs.” The revised plan applies to all four of the Cibola’s mountain districts – Mount Taylor, Magdalena, Mountainair and Sandia. A series of public meetings is scheduled so that people in each of these areas have a chance to see what’s being considered regarding wilderness, recreation and other services and resources. The Cibola has been working with 30 government units – cities, counties, tribes, land grants, state and federal agencies and soil and water conservation districts – to develop the new plan and co-host public meetings. These agencies have formed landscape teams to work on plans for each of the four mountain districts. “What happened in the past is that forest specialists would sit down and talk about their vision,” Call said. “Landscape committees are made up of people who live in the community. They helped fine tune our strategy, to fine tune our maps. We don’t want people to have to be a biologist to understand our strategy.” Brenda Smythe of the Edgewood Soil and Water Conservation District is the contact person for the Sandia landscape team...more

National Park Service buries report on effigy mounds scandal

The National Park Service has shelved a blistering internal report that details a "decade of dysfunction" as the agency allowed dozens of illegal construction projects to cause significant damage to an ancient Iowa burial ground that Indian tribes consider sacred. Titled "Serious Mismanagement Report," the document blasts the park service's failed stewardship of the Effigy Mounds National Monument from 1999 to 2010 and says the case should serve as a wakeup call for agency employees at all levels to avoid similar violations. Last week, NPS deputy regional director Patricia Trap told a resident who requested a copy of the 15-page report that it didn't exist. She later told The Associated Press that it did exist but hadn't been "agency approved." She said the document will contribute to - but be replaced by - another review that is looking at the root causes of problems as well as what went right during that time. Critics say the agency is trying to suppress the harsh report to soften its findings. "They're trying to avoid accountability, which goes all the way to the director. That's why this report `doesn't exist'," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which helped uncover the damaging projects. "Apparently, the park service doesn't want a wakeup call." The report says 78 construction projects costing a total of $3.4 million were approved there in violation of federal laws meant to protect archaeological resources and historic sites. The construction of boardwalks, bridges, roads and a shed damaged land around the mounds, and many had a "complete lack of compliance" as employees failed to conduct the mandatory environmental reviews and tribal consultation. The report was written by a four-person review team led by National Park Service special agent David Barland-Liles, who conducted a lengthy criminal investigation into the violations. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cedar Rapids declined to charge then-superintendent Phyllis Ewing and monument maintenance chief Tom Sinclair with violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act in 2012 after concluding the agency's "weak and inappropriate initial response" undermined a criminal case and would make them sympathetic defendants, the report reveals...more

Federal employees can violate federal law...and get away with it.  Do you think the US Attorney would have declined to prosecute if that had been a private individual responsible for the damages? 

Group wants North Dakota ranch to be national monument

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is pushing to turn a scenic ranch in the western North Dakota Badlands into a national monument. However, the idea isn't yet being actively supported by the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the former Eberts ranch. The 8-square-mile ranch in the Little Missouri National Grasslands is across the Little Missouri River from former President Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch site. The Forest Service's Dakota Prairie Grasslands bought it from the Eberts family in 2006 for $5.3 million, with help from conservation groups that pressed Congress to approve the deal...more

If its across from Roosevelt's ranch you might as well, as he was famous for using and abusing his executive authority to designate federal land.  He abused the Forest Reserve Act until Congress limited his authority in 1907.  For instance, in 1902 he withdrew the Lincoln forest reserve and in 1905 he enlarged the Gila and created the Jemez forest reserve.  Just getting warmed up, in 1906 he created the following NM forest reserves:  Mt. Taylor, Gallinas, Magdalena, San Mateo, Peloncillo, Manzano, and Taos.  In 1907, just before Congress limited his authority, he did Big Burros, San Jacinto, Las Animas, Guadalupe, and Sacramento plus he managed to enlarge the Lincoln, Gila and Gallinas forest preserves.  He was also, of course, the first President to abuse the 1906 Antiquities Act to create national monuments.  So yes, let's have Obama, another President renowned for abusing his executive authority, do this in honor of ol' Teddy.

Greens Go to Bat for Threatened Woodpecker

A rushed logging project clearing 5,000 acres in a burned Northern California forest could hurt the threatened black-backed woodpecker, a "keystone species," environmentalists claim in court. The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Forest Service on July 30 in Federal Court, claiming it violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving a logging project without enough research on its environmental impact. The Center says the Forest Service fast-tracked the Bald Project without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement and the logging could have severe impacts on the threatened black-backed woodpecker. A keystone species has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance. Carnivorous predators may be keystone species, for instance, or insects that are the sole pollinators of a species of plant, upon which other creatures may depend, or a plant that provides the sole source of food for an animal during a season. The Center claims that four significant Lassen County fires in 2014 created "high-quality black-backed woodpecker habitat" and that the Forest Service's proposed salvage-logging project would eliminate 67 percent of the birds in the area. It claims the Forest Service misstated the impacts on the species by focusing on the broader population, which includes Canada and Alaska, not the Northern California population. "This resulted in the Forest Service minimizing impacts to the species by not focusing their analysis on the appropriate scale," the complaint states. "Impacts to an isolated distinct population will be much more severe than to a broader population." The center settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014, forcing the federal government to consider listing the black-backed woodpecker as an endangered species and rule on it by 2017...more

California’s Largest Fire Is Moving At An ‘Unprecedented’ Rate

Wildfires continue to rage in California, where the largest of the 21 blazes covered 65,000 acres Tuesday morning and has killed at least one person. At least two dozen homes have been destroyed by the Rocky Fire in Northern California, which jumped Highway 20 — a planned containment line — on Monday night. The blaze is only 12 percent contained and is not expected to be contained for at least another week, according to CAL FIRE, the state’s fire department. The Rocky Fire burned 20,000 acres in five hours, an “unprecedented” rate, according to Daniel Berlant, chief of public information for CAL FIRE.“We’ve been running fires here since the beginning of January,” Berlant said on KFBK radio Tuesday morning. The fire season “never really ended last year,” he added, blaming the four years of drought in the state. He said thousands of homes are still threatened...more

EPA Issues More Ambitious But Flexible Final Clean Power Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final Clean Power Plan will seek to tamp down the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power sector by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030—about 9% more ambitious than its original proposal. The first-ever final national standards to limit CO2 from power plants, released today—”the biggest, most important step we’ve taken to address climate change,” said President Obama—give states more time to develop and tailor plans. State plans are now due in September 2016, but states that need more time can make an initial submission and request extensions of up to two years for final plan submission. The compliance averaging period in the final rule begins in 2022 instead of 2020, and emission reductions are phased in on a gradual ‘glide path’ to 2030. According to documents released today, the Clean Power Plan is paired with a so-called “Clean Energy Incentive Program,” which is designed to drive “additional early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency.” It will see credits for power generated from renewables in 2020 and 2021 be awarded to projects that begin construction after participating states submit their final implementation plans...more

New Mexico not expected to fight EPA's emission-cutting rule

New Mexico properly prepared for President Barack Obama's efforts to cut greenhouse gases from power plants and won't be among the many Republican-led states expected to fight the plan, state Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said Monday. Flynn told The Associated Press that because New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez had previously brokered an agreement, the state is in position to adapt to the new rule. "I think we can look back at the decisions we made three years ago and say they paid off," Flynn said. Martinez moved to comply with the rule to allow the state to craft its own path to compliance. Flynn said New Mexico could have faced a federally imposed implementation plan. That brokered agreement targeted haze-causing pollution at the San Juan Generating Station, but carbon dioxide emissions will also be reduced by half as a result...more

The Martinez administration went along with the President on ObamaCare, and we've seen how that worked out.  Time will tell on this one.

If NM doesn't join with the other states in challenging the rule, then they are in effect saying they support the rule.  Don't Sec. Flynn and the Governor understand that?  

Move to Fight Obama’s Climate Plan Started Early

In the early months of 2014, a group of about 30 corporate lawyers, coal lobbyists and Republican political strategists began meeting regularly in the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, often, according to some of the participants, in a conference room overlooking the White House. Their task was to start devising a legal strategy for dismantling the climate change regulations they feared were coming from President Obama. The group — headed in part by Roger R. Martella Jr., a top environmental official in the George W. Bush administration, and Peter Glazer, a prominent Washington lobbyist — was getting an early start. By the time Mr. Obama announced the regulations at the White House on Monday, the small group that had begun its work at the Chamber of Commerce had expanded into a vast network of lawyers and lobbyists ranging from state capitols to Capitol Hill, aided by Republican governors and congressional leaders. And their plan was to challenge Mr. Obama at every opportunity and take the fight against what, if enacted, would be one of his signature accomplishments to the Supreme Court Within minutes of the announcement, West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, stepped before a bank of cameras for a news conference at the Greenbrier resort in his home state. Flanked by Mike Duncan, the president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, one of the nation’s top coal lobbying groups, and Greg Zoeller, the attorney general of Indiana, Mr. Morrisey announced that a group of at least 15 Republican state attorneys general were preparing to jointly file a legal challenge to Mr. Obama’s proposal. While Mr. Obama had not even put forth a draft proposal of his plans when the group started its work, the president had made plain in several speeches that he intended to act forcefully on climate change — and that he would flex the muscle of his executive authority to do so. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said in his 2013 State of the Union address. The lawyers and lobbyists wanted to be ready to fire back hard and fast when he did. In devising its strategy, the group worked closely with the office of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader whose coal-producing home state also stands to suffer under the regulation. While Mr. McConnell opposes the climate change regulations, his advisers knew that he had little chance of enacting legislation to block them in Congress. Instead, Mr. McConnell has taken the unusual step of reaching out directly to governors and attorneys general, urging them to refuse to submit compliance plans for the regulations, and encouraging a state-by-state rejection of the rules...more

Herbert pleads with Obama to stop any new monument designations in Utah

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wrote a letter to President Obama on Monday, urging the president to refrain from any new monument designations in the state. "There is a right way and a wrong way to determine land management decisions," he said. "Unilateral monuments are the wrong way. Ground up, open, public processes are the right way." Herbert noted the 1996 designation by then-President Bill Clinton creating the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, an action that still stings. "Nearly two decades later, this designation continues to be a source of mistrust, frustration and acrimony toward the federal government among local residents," he said. "I am certain that another presidential monument in Utah will likewise result in decades of resentment and conflict."...more

Utah's Governor takes a strong stand.  Our Governor was silent.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Photos of endangered animals shine on Empire State Building

Dozens of people stopped in Manhattan intersections gazing at photos of endangered animals shining on the side of the Empire State Building. Organizers say the Saturday night event was a first-of-its-kind live video projection. It drew large crowds of spectators, many taking photos with their smartphones. Images of endangered animals, including birds, tigers, bears and other creatures, shined on the south side of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The event was meant to spark conversations about mass extinction. It was organized as part of a promotion for a new Discovery Channel documentary, Racing Extinction, which is set to air in December.  AP

State Game and Fish Dept. rejects federal request to release wolf pups

SANTA FE – The state Department of Game and Fish has turned down requests from the federal government to release Mexican wolf pups and an adult pair onto U.S. Forest Service land in New Mexico this year. That followed the state Game Commission’s rejection of permit renewals for Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch wolf-holding facility in Sierra County, considered key to the federal program. Both denials are being appealed to the commission and are on the agenda for its Aug. 27 meeting. They’re the latest bumps in the road to Mexican wolf recovery, which has gotten rockier under the administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it’s the first time New Mexico has rejected the agency’s annual operational permit request. “Our desire is to work with the state as we move forward with wolf recovery. … The denial of this permit request will adversely affect our ability to recover the Mexican Wolf,” the federal agency said in a statement. Critics say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t need state permission to carry out its mandate for wolf recovery and should just forge ahead. The Fish and Wildlife Service asked the state for permits to import and release up to 10 wolf pups for a cross-fostering program. Pups up to 10 days old that were bred in captivity in other states would be inserted into active dens in the Gila National Forest, then raised in the wild by the surrogate parents. Recovery advocates say it’s critical to the success of the program that the genetics of the wolf population – bred from just seven wolves – be broadened. The federal agency also asked for a permit for the release of two wolves and their offspring into the Gila. While the plan was to release them on national forest lands in Arizona, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it wanted New Mexico’s approval in case the plan had to be changed. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Director Alexandra Sandoval rejected both requests last month, citing “the lack of a federal species management plan, i.e., recovery plan.”...more

Editorial: Feinstein water bill better than the last, but...

...The legislation's weaknesses come to light with a careful reading of the 147-page document, however.

Feinstein proposes allocating $600 million for additional storage in the form of new dams and reservoirs -- most of which would be less efficient and more damaging to the environment than alternative storage proposals.

Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says Section 312 of the bill would eliminate the requirement that Congress approve any new dams. Instead the U.S. Secretary of Interior would be able to approve a project if it is technically and financially feasible and -- here's the catch -- has what can be described as acceptable environmental impacts.

The language isn't as strong as Gov. Jerry Brown's $7.5 billion water bond, Proposition 1, that voters overwhelmingly approved last November. The measure required that any new dam projects must have environmental benefits, not just costs "acceptable" to whoever is sitting in the Secretary of Interior's office.

Feinstein says coming up with this bill, balancing all the vocal and conflicting interests, is one of the most difficult she's done in her 23 years in the U.S. Senate. We don't doubt it.

But it should pass only if it sufficiently protects California's environment for future generations -- and leaving it up to one political appointee, the Interior secretary, with no direct responsibility to voters looks dubious to us..

Someone should immediately shut off the water to this newspaper.  They can then layoff all employees, editors first.  Before they go they should explain to the rest of the employees and their families, and to any stockholders, that this is for future generations.

Sage grouse numbers surged in '14 and '15 -- report

Greater sage grouse numbers in the West have grown by nearly two-thirds since 2013, marking what could be a significant rebound to the bird's previous several years of decline, according to scientists in Western states. Western state biologists said they spotted 80,284 male sage grouse across the West in 2015, a 40 percent jump over the 57,399 that were spotted in 2014 and 63 percent over the 49,397 that were spotted in 2013, according to yet-to-be-published research compiled by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and shared with Greenwire. Sage grouse experts caution against drawing conclusions from the two-year spike, noting that sage grouse populations appear to fluctuate on roughly decadelong cycles and are influenced in the short term by precipitation. Yet the new data from state fish and game agencies is undeniably good news for Western states that are fighting to keep the bird from being listed under the Endangered Species Act. The WAFWA data are being sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service to inform its pending decision on whether grouse need ESA protection. The recent population bump "was huge," said Tom Remington, a sage grouse coordinator at WAFWA who compiled the data and presented it last month at WAFWA's summer meeting in Reno, Nev. Remington is a former director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife...more

1,200-Year-Old Arizona Pouches Contain Prehistoric ‘Chewing Tobacco,’ Study Finds

Dozens of small, fiber-wrapped bundles discovered in a cave in Arizona have been found to contain wild tobacco, the first scientific evidence suggesting that Ancestral Puebloans of the prehistoric Southwest chewed tobacco for personal use, archaeologists say. Such chewed bundles, known as quids, have been found throughout the Southwest, from Texas to California, often with teeth marks still visible. But what they contained, and what purpose they served, was uncertain until now. The Arizona quids were originally excavated in the 1950s from a trash midden at the rear of Antelope Cave, a rocky enclave filled with artifacts left by Ancestral Puebloans over an extended period around 1,200 years ago. The cave contained a wealth of materials such as arrows, basketry, and feathered ornaments, giving researchers unprecedented insights into an early phase of Puebloan culture sometimes referred to as the Virgin Anasazi. But the quids remained unstudied, languishing in museum storage for half a century, until Keith Johnson of California State University, Chico, and his colleagues, took a closer look...more

Did they chew Red Man?

Judge Rebuffs Fossil Creek Grazing

A federal judge has dealt another setback to the Coconino National Forest’s effort to renew a grazing permit on the headwaters of Fossil Creek.  U.S. Circuit Judge Wallace Tashima ruled that the Forest Service had failed to consider how continued cattle grazing will affect the ability of the endangered Chiricahua leopard frog to spread along riparian areas from one stock tank to another.  However, the judge rejected three other assertions by the Center for Biological Diversity, which claimed the Forest Service’s finding that continued cattle grazing would endanger the frog.  The ruling means the Forest Service will have to undertake additional study on how the cattle will affect the frog’s ability to move between 13 stock tanks where they currently have small breeding populations — as well as have a chance to colonize new stock tanks. The frogs can move for miles along riparian areas, but the trampling of cattle make the journey far more hazardous...more

So why do these particular frogs exist?

Ironically, the frogs have been successfully established in stock ponds created by ranchers to provide water for their cattle. Several of the stock ponds are partially fenced, to keep the frogs safe from the cattle that use the unfenced portions of the pond.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the frogs as endangered in 2002 and came up with a recovery plan in 2007, which designated critical breeding areas and other riparian corridors linking them. The grazing unit includes 22 stock ponds that can support small populations of the frog. In 2002, the drought dried up all the stock ponds and killed off all but four of the frogs. A captive breeding program in the Phoenix Zoo rescued those survivors. Eventually, the zoo produced enough frogs to reintroduce them to four of the previously occupied stock ponds.  The Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with the Forest Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department then fenced five of the stock ponds and worked to improve the conditions for the frogs.  Since then, the frogs have spread to 13 of the 22 stock ponds in the grazing allotment, although cattle grazing has continued throughout the period. 

And here are the important points where the judge ruled against the CBD.

...the judge rejected the argument that the Forest Service failed to consider how grazing would affect the non-core habitat areas — and therefore the frogs’ chances of full recovery. The court ruled that the Forest Service did “at least consider” the impact on dispersal and non-breeding habitats, which was all it had to do to comply with the law. The judge also rejected the Center’s claim that the plan would not protect wetlands as required by the Coconino National Forest Master Plan. The Center maintained that any riparian area qualified as a “wetland.” The judge decided that the provision in the forest plan only applies to marshes, ponds, streams and other areas that stay wet most of the time. In addition, the judge rejected the Center’s claim that the Forest Service had violated a provision in its own forest plan saying cattle should eat no more than 20 percent of the vegetation in a given area. The Forest Service plan allows the cattle unrestricted access to a 40-foot section of Fossil Creek, where they would likely eat most of the vegetation. The Center maintained the plan should allow only limited access to the creek. But the judge ruled that so long as the cattle didn’t eat more than 20 percent of the vegetation on the entire allotment, the Forest Service was in compliance with the forest plan.

The June 25, 2015 court decision can be viewed here.

Texas land owner claims victory in settlement with BLM

WICHITA FALLS, Texas - A Clay County landowner can claim victory in a long-simmering dispute with the Bureau of Land Management. Family farmer Tommy Henderson on Thursday got a patent from the U.S. government on land along the Red River he claims his family has owned since 1904. Henderson said he hopes the signing of the patent at the Clay County Courthouse paves the way for dozens of other landowners to resolve a dispute with the government that has dragged on for decades. In 1984, a court decision determined the federal government owned a strip of land Henderson held deed to along the river. Other landowners along the Texas bank found themselves facing the same predicament. In officially acquiring the patent on 94 acres Thursday, Henderson said he hoped a “step was taken that will help other landowners.” “This blazes the trail,” he said. Under the agreement with Bureau of Land Management, Henderson actually purchases the land in question. The purchase is possible under a “Color of Title” stipulation that enables a landholder to buy the disputed land if he can show clear title, payment of taxes, improvements and “good faith” possession. However the price can be offset by taxes he has paid and other considerations. With those deductions from the price, Henderson said he paid about $1 per acre plus some fees. “I can live with that,” he said. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-13th Dist., who has come down squarely on the side of the landholders in their dispute with the government, said Thursday, “It is good that Mr. Henderson was finally able to get back a portion of his land that he lost in the 1980s, but it never should have happened in the first place,” In his statement, Thornberry said “Three decades to correct that mistake is ridiculous.” Henderson’s land is just a small portion of about 90,000 of disputed acres that range along the river from near Doans Crossing in Wilbarger County to just north of the unincorporated community of Stanfield in northern Clay County...more

The court decision on who owns the land remains intact - its the BLM.  And according to BLM these Color of Title patents must conform to a 1923 Supreme Court Decision on boundaries of the Red River, no matter what state title laws says.  Two previous land owners had their applications denied.

So many questions remain.  For instance, why did it take 30 years for this Color of Title remedy to surface?  Who brought this remedy forward, the BLM or a landowner?  Why was BLM holding planning meetings on this  90,000 acres if most of it could be transferred under this process?

This whole situation cries out for a legislative solution, and Congressman Thornberry promises just that:

“I am continuing to pursue legislation that I introduced with Sen. John Cornyn to protect private property rights and clear up the uncertainty that many landowners along the Red River currently face,” Thornberry said in his statement.

In the 113th Congress Thornberry introduced H.R. 4979, the Red River Private Property Protection Act, which was favorably reported out of Committee in Dec. of 2014. We are now in the 114th Congress, and of this date the legislation has not been reintroduced.