The climate crisis was discussed for roughly 10 minutes at Wednesday night's vice-presidential debate in Salt Lake City, Utah between Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Steve Trent
Joe Biden's election is a huge positive in a year that has been extremely difficult across the globe. I speak for a vast number of people who watched anxiously from outside the United States when I heartily thank those who mobilized, campaigned and voted to make it happen. Your hard work affects us all.
But we're not at the end of the line. Far from it.
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The human body needs protein to build muscle and perform basic metabolic functions. However, many Americans (especially older adults) do not consume enough protein in their everyday diet to meet their recommended daily intake. That's why protein powders and shakes aren't just for bodybuilders. In fact, supplementing with protein powder is an easy and tasty way to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs not just to function, but to thrive.
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By Krissy Waite
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While Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been in Washington this week for the impeachment trial, he has put forth two bills to help the environment.
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By Tara Lohan
A sign at the north end of Kanab, Utah, proclaims the town of 4,300 to be "The Greatest Earth on Show."
Kanab, UT is a popular tourist destination. Tara Lohan<p>There, a company called <a href="https://www.srsands.com/" target="_blank">Southern Red Sands LLC</a> had announced plans to build a facility to mine and process massive amounts of sand for use by oil and gas companies conducting hydraulic fracturing. The sand is a lesser-known but substantial aspect of the fracking process. Round grains of silica sand serve as a "proppant" to keep underground fissures in the shale open as oil and gas are pumped out. Fracking a single well can require thousands of tons of sand.</p><p>"I really wanted to keep an open mind, but the more I learned about the project, the more concerned I got," Hand told The Revelator when I visited Kanab in September.</p><p>She had reason to be worried. The first decade of the fracking boom relied heavily on so-called "frac sand" sourced mostly from Midwest states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, where mining reduced verdant green hills to piles of dust.</p>
Frac sand in Wisconsin. Tara Lohan<p>But mining in the Midwest has its limits. Sand is expensive to ship across the country, so as fracking has taken off in Utah, Texas and New Mexico, companies have looked to find more local sources to trim costs.</p><p>That's when the proposed mine in Kanab entered the story.</p><p>Southern Red Sands, a two-person start-up backed by Utah real-estate developer Kem Gardner, hoped to establish the region's next frac sand mine in a scenic area of state-owned lands outside Kanab called Red Knoll.</p><p>City and county officials quickly gave their blessing — and a combined 1,200 acre-feet of water rights a year — after only cursory consideration.</p><p>But residents became concerned about impacts to scenic beauty, water resources and local businesses. They teamed up to fight back, forming a community group called <a href="https://keepkanabunspoiled.org/" target="_blank">Keep Kanab Unspoiled</a>.</p><p>It was beginning to feel like a familiar story.</p><p>The struggle between extractive industries and environmental protection is not a new one in Utah. A fight is still raging nearby over the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both of which <a href="https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2019/08/23/new-grand-staircase-plans/" target="_blank">President Trump slashed</a> in order to increase drilling and mining opportunities.</p><p>Despite public pushback and some legal challenges, though, the frac sand mine seemed to be cruising toward approval as recently as October. It still needed an environmental impact assessment from the Bureau of Land Management, and the two water transfers needed approval from the state engineer. The project definitely wasn't a done deal, but in industry-friendly Utah, it had a good shot.</p><p>So it may have come as a surprise to a number of residents when Southern Red Sands announced at the beginning of January that it was abandoning the proposed project.</p><p>What happened? And are there any lessons that other communities fighting extraction threats can learn?</p><p>"Speak out, pull together like-minded neighbors, organize and don't give up," Hand told me after hearing the news. "But also, try to be nice."</p><p>Surprisingly, it's that last bit that may have made a big difference — along with a good hard look at the economics of the endeavor.</p>
The Threats<p>Von Del Chamberlain is a white-haired, soft-spoken Kanab resident. Born in 1934, he spent his youth exploring the red rock and his career studying the stars. The astronomer and former director of Salt Lake City's Hansen (now Clark) Planetarium retired to his hometown 15 years ago and hoped to start a public observatory.</p><p>He realized that Kanab's prized dark-night skies would be threatened by a 24-7 mining operation. But that wasn't even his biggest concern with the project.</p><p>"The beauty here is the thing that will sustain this area economically for as far in the future as we can possibly see," he said.</p><p>Opponents like Chamberlain usually cited two big concerns: environmental impacts, particularly the threat to water resources, and the local economy. But in Kanab it's hard to separate the two.</p><p>"It doesn't matter what kind of an economy you want to develop here," said Hand. "Even if you have an industrial economy or an extractive economy — if you don't have water, you're out."</p><p>The water supply, which draws on underground aquifers, currently supports the town's tourist-driven economy, ranching, and the county's biggest employer — <a href="https://bestfriends.org/" target="_blank">Best Friends Animal Society</a>, known worldwide through the <em>Dogtown</em> TV series on the National Geographic Channel. The nonprofit owns a 3,700-acre sanctuary, the country's largest no-kill animal shelter, and would have been the mine's closest neighbor.</p><p>Best Friends, which employs 400 locals and draws 35,000 out-of-town visitors a year to its sanctuary, came to see the proposed mine as an existential threat. Their property relies on wells, seeps and springs that come from the same aquifer the project's two wells would tap.</p>
Groundwater seeps to the surface at the Best Friends animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Tara Lohan<p>Last July Kanab's city council approved a 50-year contract for 600 acre-feet a year of water rights for the project and Kane County Water Conservancy District, which oversees water servicing for the unincorporated areas of the county, agreed to provide an additional 600 acre-feet of water. That combined amount equals about 740 gallons per minute, although Southern Red Sands contended it would use only about a third of that.</p><p>Many local residents were shocked by the water-rights transfer. A <a href="https://lpputah.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2016-Water-Needs-Assessment.pdf" target="_blank">2016 water needs assessment</a> found that Kane County Water Conservancy District's reliable supply would be in deficit by 2035. And the district's executive director, former state representative Mike Noel, has been a <a href="https://www.sltrib.com/news/2018/03/17/in-new-complaint-group-says-utah-rep-mike-noel-hid-potential-conflicts-as-he-sought-lake-powell-pipeline-water-for-land-he-owns/" target="_blank">vocal advocate</a> for a pricy proposed pipeline to send Lake Powell water to southern Utah communities, including near Kanab, under the premise that the region is already running short on water.</p><p>"We knew that it would damage our seeps and our springs, and we weren't sure yet the full impact besides some drawdown to our groundwater, but we were really concerned," Bart Battista, an environmental engineer responsible for facilities management at Best Friends' Kanab sanctuary, told me. "It boggles my mind that the city wasn't as concerned."</p><p>But documents unearthed by local radio station KUER showed that officials at nearby Zion National Park already <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6558286-191002-ZionNationalPark-LetterOfConcern.html" target="_blank"><em>were</em> concerned</a> that the project could reduce flows into the East Fork of the Virgin River, which flows through the park, by reducing the amount of water from underground seeps and springs that feed the river.</p><p>Wanting to learn more about how the project could affect the region's water, Best Friends <a href="https://www.waterrights.utah.gov/docImport/0618/06184902.PDF" target="_blank">commissioned a study</a> from hydrogeologist Kenneth Kolm of Hydrologic Systems Analysis, a firm that's completed water studies for other Utah towns.</p><p>Kolm found that the mine posed the potential for decline in productivity to wells owned by both Best Friends and the city's water supply. The project could also decrease flows into nearby Kanab Creek and dry up perennial streams and springs, including one that feeds an area of habitat that's home to the Kanab ambersnail — currently federally protected as endangered.</p><p>The amount of water being withdrawn wasn't the only issue. The proposed project site and its sandy soil are also vitally important to local hydrology.</p><p>"The sand is the first ticket to collecting water," said Hand. It captures rain and holds it in place long enough for it to sink into the water table and not run off. But the sand is exactly what would be removed from the site, further threatening the region's water supply.</p><p>"I realized for the first time how small and vulnerable our watershed actually is," she added.</p><p>Southern Red Sands hoped to start digging on 640 acres of land around Red Knoll, an aptly name rise of coral-colored rock and sand. The area is managed as part of Utah's School and International Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), where state-owned property can be leased (often for resource extraction), with revenue being funneled to education.</p><p>The operation would have started by bulldozing all the trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs, then scraped up to 30 feet of the earth from the exposed surface. The sand would then be processed — washed with water and chemicals, then dried and sorted — in a facility with up to six 120-foot-tall silos. After that it would be loaded into trucks and hauled out.</p><p>A small fraction of the remaining sediment — mostly the fine silts and clays — would be put back on the land. But that change in geology could mean a big change for the aquifer. How big would depend on the scope of the project, though.</p><p>In addition to the SITLA land, Southern Red Sands had acquired placer claims — mineral exploration rights — for 12,000 surrounding acres managed by the BLM. And although the company said it planned to mine only 700,000 tons a year from the SITLA property, the facility would have had the capacity and water rights to accommodate much more.</p><p>"If they're building a plant with a capacity of 3 million tons a year, that's presumably because they expect to be able to produce that," Dean Baker, a Kanab resident and opponent of the project told me in December. "They may never do that, but you don't build extra capacity without the idea that you might use it."</p>
The Resistance<p>Water issues are paramount in arid Utah, but the mine was likely to come with some other potential problems.</p><p>If Southern Red Sands did build out to end of their claims, they'd be within 10 miles of Zion National Park and workers at Best Friends would be looking over their fence line at the operation — not to mention potentially breathing its dust.</p><p>Mining, processing and trucking frac sand can release tiny particles of crystalline silica into the air. Inhaling those particles regularly can cause lung disease, including cancer and silicosis, a chronic disease that, like "black lung" for coal miners, can be deadly.</p>
Dust in the air at a frac sand processing facility in Wisconsin. Tara Lohan<p>The facility would likely run with lights and noise 24-7, which could be <a href="https://therevelator.org/fracking-wildlife/" target="_blank">detrimental to wildlife</a>. And adding more diesel-spewing, slow-stopping big rigs hauling 50,000 pounds of sand down the town's one main road concerned residents, too.</p><p>With so much at risk, opponents employed a number of tactics to try to fight the mine.</p><p>Keep Kanab Unspoiled held community meetings. They invited Kolm, the geologist who did the independent study, to report his findings, and started <a href="https://www.change.org/p/gardner-company-stop-the-zion-kanab-frac-sand-mine" target="_blank">an online petition</a> to discourage the company from moving forward.</p><p>Best Friends — an established national nonprofit with considerably more financial resources — took the lead role in mounting legal challenges. The organization filed an appeal of a conditional use permit approved by the county and formally objected to the water transfers, which needed to be approved by the state engineer.</p><p>But during the fall, Best Friends decided to shift tactics. Lawsuits could just lead to years of legal battles, something beyond the organization's longstanding mission.</p><p>"We might alienate our donors and members," Battista explained. "The appeal of Best Friends crosses party boundaries — animal welfare is something everybody can support." Apparently environmental action is not.</p><p>They decided the best approach was to sit down and talk with the company and its backers.</p><p>Battista couldn't disclose details of the negotiations — which went on for months — but on Jan. 9 Best Friends and Southern Red Sands released a <a href="https://therevelator.org/joint-statement-from-southern-red-sands-and-best-friends-animal-society/" target="_blank">joint statement</a> saying that the company "had decided not to pursue its business ventures in Kane County."</p><p>The members of Keep Kanab Unspoiled were elated by the news.</p><p>"It's so heartening how so many people from our community came together to amplify a voice that is seldom acknowledged by our elected representatives and institutions," Hand tells me. "I'm relieved that an area I love won't be sacrificed on the altar of fossil fuel consumption. I'm grateful that this threat to our travel and tourism economy is diminished."</p><p>It would be comforting to think that the driving force behind the decision boiled down to preserving the scenic beauty or the region's groundwater resources, but it's more likely it had to do with money.</p><p>"Economics played some role," Battista said. "The market for frac sand has changed and [Best Friends] had financial viability assessments of the project to show that the mine wouldn't be a good idea. Economically it just didn't make sense to any of us. I think that our studies corroborated that."</p><p>This was a main talking point of Keep Kanab Unspoiled, bolstered by research done by Baker, who also happens to be <a href="http://cepr.net/about-us/staff/dean-baker" target="_blank">an economist and cofounder</a> of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.</p><p>The frac sand industry — and the larger fracking industry — is volatile. The number of rigs drilling for oil tends to fall when prices get low. Rigs plunged with falling prices from 2014 to 2016 and last year saw <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-rigs-baker-hughes/u-s-drillers-cut-oil-rigs-for-record-11th-month-baker-hughes-idUSL2N27A0L0" target="_blank">record declines</a> in rig numbers. In addition, fracking costs more than traditional drilling — and the industry has also been overspending to keep the fracking boom from going bust.</p><p>A research organization in Norway found that the amount of money being spent to drill for oil by 40 U.S. shale oil companies outpaced the money being made by selling that oil. That deficit cost companies almost $5 billion in just the first quarter of 2019, <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2019/08/08/bleak-financial-outlook-us-fracking-industry" target="_blank">DeSmog reported</a> in August.</p><p>It's a scenario that's happened before.</p><p>With oil prices now around $60 a barrel, the industry is hanging on. If prices dip much lower, it could be trouble. A decade into the fracking frenzy, investors are worried that the best spots have been drilled and many debts won't be paid.</p><p>There's even more uncertainty when it comes to producing and selling the sand. Companies used to rely almost exclusively on Midwest sand, but now more areas are getting in on the game.</p><p>The consequences of failures in the fracking business model are real.</p><p>Falling oil prices and a shifting market for frac sand recently took down Emerge Energy Services — owner of eight frac sand facilities in Wisconsin — which <a href="https://www.wpr.org/frac-sand-producer-wisconsin-declares-bankruptcy" target="_blank">filed for bankruptcy</a> last summer and left behind unsafe levels of <a href="https://www.wpr.org/arsenic-levels-bankrupt-frac-sand-mine-7-times-higher-state-cleanup-standards" target="_blank">arsenic and heavy metal contamination</a> for the community to clean up.</p><p>That's a scenario that Baker worried could happen in Kanab. Southern Red Sands said their intended market was in Utah's Uintah Basin 350 miles north, but a new frac sand mine just opened in the basin. "It's almost inconceivable they'd be able to compete with them because the biggest cost with frac sand is the shipping," said Baker. "There are some operations in the San Juan basin [in New Mexico and Colorado] but it's not clear to me that they could beat those out either."</p><p>Even though economics played a role in halting the project, he believes community efforts were important, too.</p><p>"The fact they faced serious legal obstacles at every step in their path had to be a factor," he said. "It is a nice, and unfortunately rare, victory for the environment."</p><p>Best Friends worked to ensure the hard-earned victory wasn't short-lived, either. It also purchased Southern Red Sands' 12,000 acres of mineral rights.</p><p>"We want to make sure that no one else comes in here in two years if the market's better and tries to put in another sand mine, we just don't think that it's the right thing for this area," said Battista. "We want to make sure that in perpetuity, there's not a threat to the sanctuary."</p><p>As for Hand, she's now looking at the bigger picture. She saw the fight over frac sand in Kanab as a microcosm of the global fight over fossil fuels and climate change.</p><p>"While we can embrace a sense of triumph, it's likely to be brief," she said. "When it comes to protecting wild places and using our resources carefully, our work will never be done. The next development project is already bubbling. I do feel more hopeful for each success, but climate change marches on."</p>
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By James R. Skillen
Presidential elections are anxious times for federal land agencies and the people they serve. The Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service manage more than a quarter of the nation's land, which means that a new president can literally reshape the American landscape.
The U.S. government controls many types of protected land and subsurface minerals such as oil and gas, mainly in Western states. BLM/Wikipedia
<div id="b633c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6f5e4020e8a30cc88689ef4f8762e4f2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1309336838549712896" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The Trump administration is expected on Friday to finalize its plan to open about 9 million acres of Alaska’s Tonga… https://t.co/dxx4Yf2KeV</div> — The New York Times (@The New York Times)<a href="https://twitter.com/nytimes/statuses/1309336838549712896">1601005203.0</a></blockquote></div>
Republicans: Less Regulation, More Development<p>Since Ronald Reagan ran 40 years ago as a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/04/even-sagebrush-rebel-ronald-reagan-couldnt-change-federal-land-use-in-the-west/" target="_blank">self-proclaimed</a> "<a href="https://www.hcn.org/articles/a-look-back-at-the-first-sagebrush-rebellion" target="_blank">sagebrush rebel</a>" who supported turning control of public lands back to Western states, Republicans have coalesced around a set of <a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/open-business" target="_blank">common public land priorities</a>. They include reducing federal regulation, limiting the scope of environmental reviews and increasing natural resource development.</p><p>This approach has drawn support from natural resource industries, resource-dependent communities and a growing body of <a href="https://mslegal.org/" target="_blank">public interest law firms</a>, <a href="https://www.perc.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">think tanks</a>, <a href="https://www.alec.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">advocacy groups</a>, <a href="https://www.charleskochfoundation.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">foundations</a> and <a href="https://www.freedomworks.org/about/about-freedomworks" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">political action committees</a>. Their core libertarian conviction is that reducing government leads to prosperity.</p>
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Democrats: Scientific Management With Limited Development<p>Recent Democratic presidents, from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama, have <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-2127-9.html" target="_blank">championed federal environmental laws</a> that guide public land management, such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. Democratic administrations have emphasized scientific monitoring and regulatory oversight while still supporting energy development and other commercial resource uses of public lands.</p><p>Vice President Biden's long <a href="https://scorecard.lcv.org/moc/joe-biden" target="_blank">environmental record</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/us/politics/joe-biden-trump.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">campaign pledges</a> suggest that he will continue this approach. Biden has promised to <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-biden-square-off-over-environmental-regulations-11594917709" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reverse the Trump administration's deregulatory efforts</a>, <a href="https://www.backpacker.com/news-and-events/heres-how-the-presidential-candidates-public-lands-plans-stack-up" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">restore national monument boundaries</a> and manage energy development on public lands in ways that <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060477457" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">promote wind and solar energy</a> and gradually <a href="https://joebiden.com/9-key-elements-of-joe-bidens-plan-for-a-clean-energy-revolution/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">phase out fossil fuel development</a>.</p><p>But a Biden administration would face tensions within the Democratic Party as well. Progressives are calling for <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/21/climate/green-new-deal-questions-answers.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more dramatic action to slow climate change</a>, including <a href="https://soto.house.gov/media/press-releases/soto-ocasio-cortez-sanders-merkley-unveil-bill-ban-fracking-nationwide" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bans on hydraulic fracturing</a> for oil and gas production and on new oil, gas and coal leases on public lands. Biden has signaled <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">strong support</a> for this agenda, but insists that hydraulic fracturing and fossil fuel development <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-biden-fracking/u-s-presidential-hopeful-biden-says-he-would-not-ban-fracking-idUSKBN25R2NI" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">will continue on existing leases</a>.</p><p>A Biden administration, then, would likely seek to <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/clean_energy_record.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">restore President Obama's public lands legacy</a> and push beyond it with tighter limits on fossil fuel production.</p>
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Everybody Loves the Outdoors<p>These sharply different visions can obscure the fact that there is substantial commitment to public lands, especially as places for hunting, fishing, camping and other recreational uses. This consensus was evident when Congress passed the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_American_Outdoors_Act" target="_blank">Great American Outdoors Act of 2020</a> in July with strong bipartisan support. With an eye on election polls, President Trump bragged that signing the bill made him the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-environmental-accomplishments-people-florida-jupiter-fl/" target="_blank">greatest environmental president since George Washington</a>.</p><p>As I see it, this bill was popular because it did not address controversial questions like regulation or energy development. Instead it provided billions of dollars for maintaining roads, trails, visitor centers and other public land infrastructure. It also guaranteed permanent funding for the <a href="https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/about-lwcf" target="_blank">Land and Water Conservation Fund</a>, which uses money from federal fossil fuel royalties to protect valuable lands and waters from development.</p><p>That pairing suggests that public land ownership and fossil fuel development will both be part of the next administration. But the election will determine how these resources will be managed, and who will have the most influence over this process.</p>
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Trump Admin Proposes 'Vicious' Plan for Fossil Fuel Lease Sales in California Amid Historic Wildfires
By Andrea Germanos
Especially given the climate-fueled wildfires ravaging the region, conservationists sounded alarm Thursday in response to a Trump administration proposal for an oil and gas lease sale in California, which would be the state's first such federal auction in eight years.
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By Tara Lohan
Election Day 2020 — the day before the United States officially left the Paris climate agreement — didn't deliver an immediate rebuke to President Trump or relief for environmentalists.
That would have to wait.
The Good Stuff<p>Few big-ticket wins were clear early except for the fact that Democrats held onto the House of Representatives — an expected but not inconsequential victory. And although their majority slimmed, several new additions will be a boon for environmental issues.</p><p>One of those is progressive Cori Bush, who cruised to victory in Missouri's 1st congressional district. She's the first Black woman from the state to be elected to Congress. The nurse, pastor and Black Lives Matter activist is also a <a href="https://coribush.org/environmental-justice-and-the-green-new-deal" target="_blank">Green New Deal supporter</a>.</p><p>In gubernatorial fights, Washington's climate champion Jay Inslee won re-election. So did Democrat Roy Cooper in North Carolina, which <em><a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2020/11/04/stories/1063717739" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">E&E News </a></em><a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2020/11/04/stories/1063717739" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called</a> a significant victory in the state's push for clean energy.</p><p>Mark Kelly flipped a Senate seat blue in Arizona, and so did John Hickenlooper in Colorado.</p><p>Hickenlooper, a <a href="https://coloradosun.com/2020/09/18/hickenlooper-fracking-oil-gas-colorado-us-senate-race/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">booster of the fracking industry</a> during his time as Colorado governor, is not exactly beloved by environmentalists in the state. But his defeat of Cory Gardner was hailed by the League of Conservation Voters, which called Gardner one of "<a href="https://www.lcv.org/article/lcv-congratulates-john-hickenlooper/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">worst anti-environmental candidates</a>" running this year. It was also the <a href="https://coloradosun.com/2020/11/04/colorado-history-democrats-election-sweep/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">first time in 84 years</a> that Democrats swept all statewide races in Colorado.</p><p>Along with those victories came one for wolves, too. Colorado voters passed <a href="https://therevelator.org/wolf-reintroduction-colorado/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Proposition 114</a>, which will require the state Parks and Wildlife department to develop a restoration and management plan for the reintroduction of gray wolves. It comes less than a week after the Trump administration <a href="https://therevelator.org/wolves-lose-protection/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed federal protection</a> from gray wolves across the country.</p>
Photo by Steve Felberg/Pixabay (CC)<p>In other statewide races, <a href="https://therevelator.org/environment-2020-ballot/" target="_blank">Nevada's Question 6</a>, which would require electric utilities to get 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2030, was approved by voters. But how much that helps the state's clean energy future is a matter of debate. Nevada has already passed similar legislation. Enshrining this benchmark into the state constitution could help protect it from future rollbacks — or it could make efforts to raise the target even harder.</p><p>Much further down the ballot, <a href="https://legal-planet.org/2020/11/05/climate-candidates-notch-victories-in-major-city-council-races-across-western-u-s/" target="_blank">climate champions made gains</a> in city council positions in major cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco and Portland.</p><p>Denver also approved an increase in sales tax to help fund <a href="https://www.denverpost.com/2020/11/03/denver-election-results-2a-2b-taxes-homeless-environment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">climate and clean energy initiatives</a>. And Columbus, Ohio passed a measure that would help the city secure <a href="https://www.yesforissue1.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more locally sourced renewable energy</a>.</p><p>"City leadership is <a href="https://c40-production-images.s3.amazonaws.com/other_uploads/images/955_C40_Report_US_Cities_Get_Job_Done.original.pdf?1480607660" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">important</a> for advancing climate action but new research <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/pledges-and-progress-steps-toward-greenhouse-gas-emissions-reductions-in-the-100-largest-cities-across-the-united-states/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">finds</a> U.S. cities falling behind," Daniel Melling, communications manager for the UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, <a href="https://legal-planet.org/2020/11/05/climate-candidates-notch-victories-in-major-city-council-races-across-western-u-s/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a> for Legal Planet.</p>
The Bad Stuff<p>An anticipated, decisive retaking of the Senate by Democrats never materialized, and whether it remains in Republican hands won't be decided for a bit. Two Georgia races are headed to a January runoff.</p><p>If Republicans do hang on to the Senate, that will mean any bold new climate legislation — or likely any meaningful environmental legislation at all — coming out of the House will be stymied, especially <a href="https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/elections/kentucky/2020/11/03/mcconnell-wins-senate-seat-will-he-be-majority-leader/6057995002/" target="_blank">if Mitch McConnell retains his role as Senate leader</a>.</p><p>Meanwhile several Republican senators with dismal environmental records will be back, including Iowa's Joni Ernst, Mississippi's Cindy Hyde-Smith, Alabama's Tommy Tuberville and Roger Marshall from Kansas. Lindsay Graham, who has a <a href="https://www.thestate.com/news/local/environment/article245783790.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mixed at best record when it comes to climate legislation</a>, also returns.</p><p>While Colorado may have seen a blue wave, <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/montana-election-results/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Montana was awash in red</a>. A Republican sweep across the state included a victory by coal-industry ally Greg Gianforte, who took the governor's mansion out of control of Democrats for the first time in 16 years.</p><p>Gianforte previously said he "would advocate as governor for increased port capacity on the West Coast to get coal to market," <a href="https://www.eenews.net/energywire/2020/11/04/stories/1063717739" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reported</a><em> E&E News</em>. Montana coal production <a href="https://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/2020/09/21/coal-production-montana-saw-21-decline-last-year/5858642002/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fell 21%</a> during the pandemic.</p>
Coal train loading at Spring Creek mine, Montana. Photo: WildEarth Guardians, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
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Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
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