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By Tara Lohan
We're living beyond our means when it comes to groundwater. That's probably not news to everyone, but new research suggests that, deep underground in a number of key aquifers in some parts of the U.S., we may have much less water than previously thought.
"We found that the average depth of water resources across the country was about half of what people had previously estimated," said Jennifer McIntosh, a distinguished scholar and professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona.
By Tara Lohan
In the last few weeks of 2018, the Trump administration set the stage for a big battle over water in the new year. At stake is an important rule that defines which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration seeks to roll back important protections for wetlands and waterways, which are important to drinking water and wildlife.
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Twenty-nine uncontained wildfires are blazing in the Western U.S. right now, raising concerns that 2018's fire season could rival 2017's record-breaking season for devastation, The New York Times reported Monday.
The fast-moving County Fire in Northern California, which started Saturday and has burnt more than 60,000 acres of land as of late Monday, has belched smoke into the skies over San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma and San Mateo counties, National Public Radio (NPR) reported.
A federal judge Tuesday struck down the city of Oakland's ban on coal shipments through a planned export terminal.
U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ridiculed the city for violating its contract with the developer of the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal in its 2016 ban, writing in his opinion that there is no "substantial evidence" that coal shipments "would pose a substantial health or safety danger" to Oakland residents.
By Joe McCarthy
Wyoming produces 40 percent of the U.S.'s coal, nearly quadruple the amount produced by West Virginia, the second highest producer.
So far this year, production in the state has increased by 15 million tons.
Yet Wyoming hasn't opened a new coal mine in decades—long-standing mines are filling the demand.
By Jeremy Deaton
There's the Wyoming you see on postcards—the snow-dusted mountains and caramel-colored prairies where movie stars build their second homes. But there's another Wyoming—the one that powers America's homes and businesses. The Cowboy State churns out more coal than all of Appalachia, and it's home to some of the strongest winds on the continent. The Rocky Mountains funnel air across flat, open prairies, producing winds that rival the most powerful ocean gales.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint last week on behalf of a Wyoming resident in an attempt to stop an upcoming coyote-killing contest. The "Wyoming Best of the Best" involves teams of hunters vying to kill as many coyotes as possible from sunup to sundown.
Non-hunting participants place bets on the teams they think will kill the most coyotes. The complaint alleges the event constitutes a nuisance in the form of illegal gambling, since participants wager money and the outcome is based predominantly on chance. Illegal gambling is a violation of the state nuisance statute, designed to prevent activities that put the moral integrity and safety of the community at risk.
The Rock Springs event is scheduled for this coming weekend, Feb. 3 – 4. The rules encourage people of all ages and experience to enter, including children.
Wyoming Best of the Best involves betting opportunities for most coyotes killed, biggest coyote killed, littlest coyote killed, a rifle raffle and a Calcutta—a form of betting pool where participants pick winners and the pool of funds is distributed according to a prearranged scale of percentages, to those who selected winners. Hunting participants wager $50 per person for the chance to win cash prizes and advance to the state championship for killing the most coyotes. Teams may also wager an extra $20 per team to enter the "Big Dog/Little Dog" contests, for the chance to win extra cash prizes for killing the biggest and/or littlest coyote.
The killing contest is not regulated by any government agency, hunting licenses are not required in Wyoming to kill coyotes and there is no limit on the number of coyotes a hunter may slaughter. The plaintiff worries the influx of hunters, whose goal is to win cash prizes for the indiscriminate and uncontrolled killing of coyotes, will negatively impact Sweetwater County's wildlife.
The contest also causes a serious disruption in the ecosystem leading to an unbalanced and unhealthy natural system. When coyote populations are disrupted by lethal means, younger pups have no adults to help them acquire food. This in turn causes many pups to prey on sheep and livestock. The disruption can also affect smaller predator populations by destabilizing entire ecosystems.
"Killing contests are simply blood sports," said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. "They are completely inconsistent with appropriate conservation goals or effective wildlife management. Coyotes are essential members of healthy ecosystems, not targets to be killed for 'fun.'"
Republican lawmakers in Wyoming have introduced a bill that would block the use of renewable energy in the state. If passed, utilities that use wind or solar to produce power for Wyoming residents would be penalized with a costly fine of $10-per-megawatt-hour.
Under Senate File 71, only six resources—coal, hydroelectric, nuclear, oil, natural gas, and net metering systems such as rooftop solar or backyard wind projects—are considered "eligible" generating resources. Electric utilities will have one year to be 95 percent compliant with the approved resources and 100 percent compliant by 2019.
As InsideClimate News pointed out, the bill was filed last Tuesday on the first day of the Wyoming's 2017 legislative session. Its sponsors, who largely come from top coal counties, include climate change deniers such as Rep. Scott Clem who once said, "I don't believe that CO2 is a pollutant, and am furious of the EPA's overreach."
Wyoming is by far the nation's largest coal producer and a major producer of natural gas and crude oil. But the state also has some of the best on-shore wind resources the U.S., with wind power constituting 8 percent of the state's energy.
Still, Wyoming has waged a quasi-war on wind. Wyoming is the only state in the country that taxes wind energy production, and a proposed tax increase has effectively stalled a Wyoming power company's plans to build the largest wind farm in the country. Like most of the wind power already generated by the state, the power generated by the massive Carbon County wind farm will head to other states. While this new bill would allow out-of-state wind power sales to continue, it certainly discourages future renewable energy development.
"Wyoming is a great wind state and we produce a lot of wind energy," bill co-sponsor Rep. David Miller explained to InsideClimate News about the motivation behind the bill. "We also produce a lot of conventional energy, many times our needs. The electricity generated by coal is amongst the least expensive in the country. We want Wyoming residences to benefit from this inexpensive electrical generation."
"We do not want to be averaged into the other states that require a certain [percentage] of more expensive renewable energy," Miller continued.
Miller, however, is not confident the bill will pass, putting its chances at "50 percent or less." Still, Republicans overwhelmingly outnumber Democrats 51-9 in the state House and 27-3 in the Senate.
"Why would [legislators] try to drag down solar and wind, two potentially successful industries that could make a home in the state?" editors at the Casper Star-Tribune asked, adding that the lawmakers are "shutting out potential sources of revenue."
Others have remarked that this law is completely unsound and even unprecedented.
"It would be very difficult to implement, difficult to regulate," Shannon Anderson, lawyer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council, told the Star-Tribune. "It goes against longstanding precedent to choose least-cost resources, and it ignores the reality of a multi-state grid."
Anderson also told told InsideClimate News, "I haven't seen anything like this before. This is essentially a reverse renewable energy standard."