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On The Padlock Ranch
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Mountain West News Energy Review

Mountain West News will not publish on Friday, July 3, due to the Fourth of July holiday. Our next daily edition will publish Monday, July 6.

June, 2015:

There were a number of court decisions in the energy sector this month. A federal rule on hydraulic fracturing was put on hold the day before it was to take effect.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must consider cost when crafting regulations and struck down that agency's regulation of mercury and other emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an EPA rule designed to curb haze caused by emissions from two coal-fired power plants in Montana.

Rocky Mountain Power announced that it would be phasing out coal-fired power in its portfolio in the next couple of decades, and at a meeting of the G7 this month, the leaders of United States, Canada France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom committed their nations to ending fossil fuel use by 2100 and to reduce carbon emissions by 2050 to 70 percent of levels reported in 2010.

The United States' plan to reduce carbon emissions, the Clean Power Plan, establishes state-by-state action to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. And this month, researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University's Scott Institute for Energy Innovation built a model for states to use to do so.

Mountain West Perspective

Montana's two-year colleges revamp curricula to meet changing workplace demands

On the Bookshelf

Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction reviews Jack Nisbet's "Ancient Places"
May 27, 2015

Mountain West Voices

Listen to a special 30-minute program: "MOVING ON, BUT NO WAY GONE: Coal in America" on Mountain West Voices website.

A Look Ahead

June 19-Aug.4: National Geographic, University of Montana offer a free, online course for educators on watershed education


FERC sides with Colorado co-op on buying power from small generators
Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sided with the Delta-Montrose Electric Association that the Colorado co-op had an obligation to buy power from facilities that generate 25 kilowatts of electricity, a decision that gives smaller co-operatives more power and which could give all 44 member co-ops of the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association operating in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska. The decision is not yet final as Tri-State does have the option of appealing FERC's decision.
Durango Herald; June 23

Colorado co-operatives seek balance as solar-power's reach grows
Sedalia-based Intermountain Rural Electric Cooperative is seeking a rate change for its customers in Colorado who have solar-power installations, a move that mirrors efforts of utilities in 30 other states.
Denver Post; 6/8/2015

Federal government OKs 3 solar projects in Southern Nevada
The U.S. Interior Department's announcement Monday of approval of Invenergy's Harry Allen Solar Energy Center, First Solar's Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone Project, and NV Energy's Dry Lake Solar Energy Center, all in the Dry Lake area of Southern Nevada, is the first such approval after the Department had identified 19 zones in western states ripe for solar-power projects that established wildlife mitigation standards for those areas. (AP); 6/3/2015

Tribes sue to stop massive solar-power project in S. California
The Colorado River Indian Tribes' lawsuit alleges that Riverside County officials did not assess the effect the six-square-mile Blythe Mesa Solar Project in California's Mojave Desert would have on traditional tribal lands.
Christian Science Monitor (AP); 6/26/2015


Montana's valuation of one wind farm halts another
When California-based Foundation Windpower LLC received a $323,569 estimated property tax bill from Teton County for its 10-megawatt Fairfield Wind Farm, the company put the brakes on the adjacent Greenfield Wind Farm currently under construction, saying that if taxes are going to be that high for the second project, it will not be built.
Great Falls Tribune; 6/20/2015


EPA releases new proposal for amount of biofuels in gasoline
Since Congress set renewable fuel mandates in 2005 and 2007, the United States' dependence on foreign oil has decreased considerably, as have prices for that oil, and regular corn ethanol has saturated the market and production of cellulosic biofuel from nonfood parts of corn or wood waste is lower than what refiners are required to use, and on Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's release of long-anticipated rules that would increase the total volume of renewable fuel to 17.4 billion by the end of 2016 drew immediate criticism from Congress, as the mandate is nearly 5 billion short of the original requirement.
New York Times; 5/30/2015

United Airlines to fuel jets with biofuel from farm waste, animal fat

Airlines have long been considered an important market for the biofuels industry, and this summer, United Airlines announced a $30 million investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy, the largest producer of aviation biofuels. The investment is the largest made by a domestic airline in an aviation biofuels company thus far.
New York Times; 6/30/2015


Northwest drought not expected to disrupt hydropower production
At a meeting of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on Wednesday, federal water managers told members of the council from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, that despite one of the worst five drought years in more than 50 years on the Columbia and Snake river systems, power production at hydroelectric dams in the area won't be curtailed much.
Missoulian (AP); 6/11/2015

'Historic' hydropower plant in Utah seeks renewal of license
The Weber Hydroelectric Project has been churning out power for more than a century and is on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in powering Utah, and Rocky Mountain Power is in the process for applying for a permit to operate the plant for another 30 years and is contemplating a number of proposed changes to the plant, including the addition of a fish passage around the dam.
Deseret News; 6/5/2015

Transmission/Pipeline Projects

National Energy Board wants more testing on Canadian pipeline
Alberta-based Enbridge, Inc.'s plan to ship crude oil from Sarnia, Ontario to Suncor Energy Inc. and Valero Energy Corp. refineries in Quebec will be delayed again, as the National Energy Board demanded more testing of the pipeline, which has most recently been used to move natural gas.
Calgary Herald (Financial Post); 6/18/2015

Alberta's Energy Minister pushing for Energy East Pipeline project
The newly-elected NDP leadership in Alberta has dropped its lobbying efforts for the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipeline projects, but on Thursday, Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said Alberta will work with other provinces to overcome obstacles to get the $12-billion Energy East project, which would move Alberta crude east to refineries in New Brunswick.
Calgary Herald; 6/25/2015

TransCanada inks pipeline agreements with 3 B.C. First Nations
On June 1, TransCanada officials announced that they had reached agreements with the Doig River First Nation, Halfway River First Nation and Yekooche First Nation to allow its Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project to pass through their lands in northeastern British Columbia.
Business; 5/30/2015

TransCanada: Canada's climate policy supports Keystone XL project
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials, TransCanada urged them to consider new climate change actions proposed by both Alberta and Canada, as well as the support of some of Canada's largest oilsands producers for a carbon tax, in their consideration of approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project. President Obama has said that the Alberta-to-Oklahoma project would only be in the United States' interest if it did not "significantly exacerbate" climate change.
Calgary Herald (Canadian Press); 7/1/2015

Oil and Gas

Changing global oil markets slim down Alberta oilsands projects

Responding to lower crude prices, a press to end dependence on fossil fuels and the lack of a pipeline infrastructure are all cited as reasons companies are walking away from megaprojects in Alberta's oilsands projects and focusing their future developments on projects that produce a quarter of what the massive projects now do.
Calgary Herald (Bloomberg News); 6/19/2015

Federal judge demands explanation for delay on Montana energy leases
At a recent court hearing on Louisiana-based Solonex LLC's request for a decision on a 6,200 lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area in Montana, which has been suspended since the 1990s, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ordered the Agriculture and Interior departments to explain the delay, and said that the delay was "no way to run a government."; 6/18/2015

N.D. tribes, fed up with state, federal inaction, begin regulating drilling
The Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota has a bounty of oil under its lands, but tribal representatives said that they're tired of the lack of federal and state action on oil spills, overweight trucks and criminal activity related to the oil boom on tribal lands, and they've formed the West Segment Regulatory Commission to regulate the industry. Oil and gas companies are questioning the tribes' authority to do so, and warn that additional regulation could impede drilling operations on the reservation.
Casper Star-Tribune (AP); 6/26/2015

Oil prices again dip below $60-a-barrel
The United States' pumping of oil at its fastest pace in three decades, as well as stockpiles of that country's oil being well above average, were both cited by analysts for the drop in the price of West Texas Intermediate futures in the past few days.
Calgary Herald; 6/26/2015

No drilling rigs operating in Montana

Baker-Hughes reports that there have been no drilling rigs operating in Montana since April, with the decline in oil prices cited as the reason, although existing wells are still pumping out oil, with production reports indicating wells in the state were pumping out 2.5 million barrels of oil a month in December.
Missoulian (Billings Gazette); 6/8/2015

High Country News maps oil spills in U.S. over past five years
The oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in May was just the latest in 1,000 such spills from pipelines across the United States, and High Country News maps out where those spills have occurred using data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on those reported spills.
High Country News; 6/19/2015

Analysis: Venting natural gas negates fossil fuel's environmental benefit
An analysis done by ICF International for the Environmental Defense Fund found that the amount of natural gas that is vented, flared off or just escapes from oil and gas drilling operations on federal and tribal lands in the United States negates the environmental benefit of replacing fuels that create more emissions, such as coal.
The Guardian; 6/26/2015

Alberta-based Cenovus sells royalty lands in 3 provinces for $3.3B
Canada's fourth-largest oil producer, Cenovus Energy Inc., announced it was selling about 4.8 million acres of royalty and mineral fee title lands in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba for $3.3 billion in cash to the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.
Calgary Herald; 6/30/2015

Utah geologist's water data fouls Canadian firm's tar sands plan

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining has given tentative approval to Alberta-based U.S. Oil Sands to expand its tar sands mine on the southern rim of the Tavaputs Plateau, but on Tuesday, University of Utah geology professor Bill Johnson told the agency's director, John Baza, that his data says the hydrology of the ridge top ties into perennial springs in canyons below. The company has contended from day one that there is no groundwater present in the area of the mine and the proposed expansion, and putting in monitoring wells would be a waste of time.
Salt Lake Tribune; 7/1/2015

OPEC votes to maintain level of oil production
At its meeting Friday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries voted to maintain the target of 30 million barrels of daily oil production, but allowed member nations to set their own production targets, a decision analysts said was an indication of the waning power of OPEC, whose members produce a third of the world's oil.
Salt Lake Tribune (AP); 6/5/2015

IEA report holds gloomy news for Canadian energy producers
There was scant good news for Canadian natural gas producers in the International Energy Agency's report issued today, as an unexpected weaker demand for liquefied natural gas in Asia caused by cheaper coal and the falling price of renewable shattered the premise on which natural gas producers in Canada had built their plans for a robust LNG market: "Indeed, the belief that Asia will take whatever quantity of gas at whatever price is no longer a given. ..."
Toronto Globe and Mail; 6/4/2015

Petronas announces conditional approval of LNG project in B.C.
Malaysian energy giant Petronas, the controlling partner in Pacific NorthWest LNG, a liquefied natural gas project in British Columbia, announced it would confirm its $36-billion investment in the project if the provincial legislature approves it and if the Canadian government gives it a positive environmental assessment.
Calgary Herald (Canadian Press); 6/12/2015

Canada, B.C. approves Shell LNG project at Kitimat
On Wednesday, Canada and British Columbia approved a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project at Kitimat under a streamlined permitting process. Federal approval came with 50 conditions that must be met, and the province imposed 24 conditions, one of which was aboriginal consultation.
Vancouver Sun (Canadian Press); 6/18/2015

Hydraulic Fracturing

Federal judge in Wyoming put federal drilling rule on hold
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl in Wyoming issued an order putting a federal rule on oil and gas operations on public lands on hold until the Bureau of Land Management files the official administrative record on how the rule was crafted, and the parties in the dispute have responded to those rules. Skavdahl indicated he would then make a ruling on the pending dispute within two weeks of receiving the briefs from the parties.
Casper Star-Tribune; 6/24/2015

EPA releases preliminary report on study of hydraulic fracturing
The Environmental Protection Agency released its preliminary findings of its review of five years of data on hydraulic fracturing that found no widespread contamination of drinking water supplies from the drilling method, but does warn of the potential for such contamination.
Washington Post; 6/4/2015


BLM releases revamped draft EIS on Utah coal leases
Three years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management released a draft environmental analysis of the sale of 45 million tons of coal under the Dixie National Forest and private land in Utah, but an overwhelming public response to the lease prompted the agency to pull the proposal, and now there's a new draft EIS on leasing the coal tracts, which includes a "no lease" option.
Salt Lake Tribune; 6/20/2015

Federal sage grouse plans don't change coal leases in Wyoming
The sage grouse conservation management plans rolled out last week by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell leaves plans in place to allow for coal mining within the seven million-acre Buffalo Field Office Planning Area, which is a mixture of federal, state and private lands in Wyoming. (Environment & Energy Daily); 6/2/2015

Reclamation bonding woes clouds coal's future
Wyoming put Alpha Natural Resources on notice that the coal miner's financial condition had tumbled to the point that it no longer could self-bond for reclamation under Cowboy State regulations, and Wyoming officials are reviewing Arch Coal and Peabody Energy's status. Analysts predict that imposing new bonding requirements on already stressed coal companies could eat into their cash reserves, adding more stress to their bottom lines.
Casper Star-Tribune; 6/29/2015

DKRW mulls downsizing its coal-to-liquids plant in Wyoming
At a meeting with Carbon County residents this week, representatives of DKRW Advanced Fuels, the Texas-based company that began work on a coal-to-liquids plant in the Wyoming county more than a decade ago, said that the company is contemplating a smaller project, but residents who attended an earlier mandatory meeting on providing updates on the project, said that there was no information presented.
Casper Star-Tribune; 6/26/2015

Colorado county feels the crunch of federal regulations
In Moffatt County, where a coal mine and a coal-fired power plant provide some of the best-paying jobs in the Colorado county, a federal court decision ordering a new review of the Colowyo mine expansion, federal clean-air regulations and the possibility of protecting sage grouse have residents of the county bracing for harder economic times.
Denver Post; 6/28/2015

New owner of Montana coal-fired power plant plans no changes
Talen Energy, the newly formed Pennsylvania company that purchased PPL Montana's 2,100-megawatt Colstrip Steam Electric Station said that there are no plans to make changes in the operation at this time.
Flathead Beacon (AP); 6/30/2015

Rocky Mountain Power shifting away from coal-fired power

The announcement Monday from Rocky Mountain Power, the largest utility in Wyoming, that it would transition away from coal-fired power over the next couple of decades, although the transition will not have much of an effect on Wyoming's coal mines as the utility gets just a fraction of its coal from the Cowboy State.
Casper Star-Tribune; 6/9/2015

International medical panel: Get world off coal ASAP
A panel of top medical doctors and public health experts put together by the British medical journal Lancet issued their prescription for Earth: Get off coal now.
New York Times (AP); June 23

Federal coal plan in Wyoming at odds with Obama's climate plan
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's updated management plan for the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana keeps coal production plans in place, which runs counter to the Obama Administration's pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, which is like starting your diet by stocking up on ice cream. A column by Elizabeth Kolbert.
TheNewYorker; 6/4/2015


Experts: Oil companies' call for carbon tax pragmatic
In May, the CEOS of six energy firms in Europe called for a carbon tax, and that call was echoed this month by both Alberta-based Suncor Energy's Steve Williams and an executive of Cenovus Energy, a stance experts said makes sense as the companies are seeking certainty and a chance to help craft policy.
Calgary Herald (Canadian Press); 6/12/2015

Alberta announces increases to its carbon levy program

On Thursday, Alberta's Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced that the province's $15-per-ton carbon levy will increase by $5 per ton next year and then by $10 per ton, to $30 per ton in 2017.
Calgary Herald; 6/25/2015

Researchers hone in on methane hotspot in SW Colorado, northern N.M.

Teams of 75 researchers converged on the Four Corners area of the United States in April to help track down and pinpoint the sources that produced the largest concentration of the greenhouse gases in the nation.
Durango Herald; 6/3/2015

Federal appeals court dismisses EPA's clean power plant plan lawsuit

The lawsuit filed by the largest U.S. coal companies and 14 coal-producing states in the union, including Wyoming, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rule to regulate emissions from power plants, was dismissed on Wednesday by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, with all three justices concurring that the lawsuit was premature, given that the rule was now in just draft form.
New York Times; 6/10/2015

Appeals court strikes down EPA regulations on coal-fired power plants in Montana

On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Environmental Protection Agency rules designed to cut haze from two coal-fired power plants in Montana, because the agency failed to prove the pollution-control devices would assure less haze.
Billings Gazette (AP); 6/10/2015

U.S. Supreme Court rules EPA must consider cost in coal-fired plant rules

In a 5-4 decision handed down Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Environmental Protection Agency's rules regulating mercury and other emissions from coal-fired plants, and said that the federal agency must consider the cost of such regulations when creating them. Idaho, Utah and Wyoming were among the 21 states that challenged the rule.
Idaho Statesman (McClatchy Washington Bureau); 6/29/2015

Canada, other G7 nations commit to ending fossil fuel use by 2100

At their meeting in Germany, the Group of Seven leaders committed to ending fossil fuel use by 2100, and to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by 70 percent from 2010 emission levels. The Group of Seven is made up of the United States, Canada France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
Toronto Globe and Mail; 6/8/2015

States now have model to follow to meet EPA's Clean Carbon Plan

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University's Scott Institute for Energy Innovation have developed a free model to help states and stakeholders determine how best to meet the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Carbon Plan.; 7/2/2015

Scientists, economists seek halt to oilsands operations

In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 100 economists and scientists urged that Canada put a halt to new oilsands operations until carbon emissions can be reined in, and that Canada use this time of low oil prices to develop more sustainable processes for energy development to protect fragile ecosystems and to rebuild relations with First Nations whose treaty rights have been eroded by energy operations.
Calgary Herald (Edmonton Journal); 6/11/2015

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
at The University of Montana.
"W e want everybody to be vigilant, especially with the holiday weekend coming up. You don't think of carrying bear spray when you're fishing on the Sun River, but I would strongly recommend it for this week."

Mike Martin, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden captain in Great Falls, about the agency's warning issued after tracks of a grizzly bear were found along the Sun River near Vaughn.
- Great Falls Tribune

On The Bookshelf
Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction reviews Jack Nisbet's "Ancient Places"

A Look Ahead
June 19-Aug.4: National Geographic, University of Montana offer a free, online course for educators on watershed education

Mountain West Voices
Hear weekly stories from the Rocky Mountain West as gathered by Clay Scott

Mountain West News is a program of the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West

at the

The University of Montana