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Colorado completes first airborne survey to monitor for methane

Aerial surveys intended to monitor methane and other missions at major oil and gas sites north of Denver have begun.

The first flight mid-July was in preparation for a larger concentrated aerial survey in September and October, according to a statement on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website. The area of the survey is outlined in green in the above map.

The state agency is working with Colorado State University, the University of Arizona, Scientific Aviation (a private company based in Boulder), the University of Colorado, and the University of Maryland.

Colorado is funding the aerial surveys with money from the settlement with Kerr McGee that was related to the 2017 explosion in Firestone that killed two men.

In September, the Air Quality Control Commission will take up rulemaking intended to further reduce emissions from oil and gas operations.

Eagle adopts goals of 100% net-zero by ‘30

Eagle’s town council in July adopted aspirational goals for achieving net-zero carbon emissions in internal operations of the town government by 2028 and for the town altogether by 2030.

The town of 7,000 residents has no roadmap for achieving this, making the goals aspirational in nature. This was debated before the resolution was adopted unanimously by the town council, reports the Vail Daily.

“It is aspirational because when I put my engineer hat on, we have no clue how we’re going to get there or if it’s even attainable,” said David Gaboury, a town council member.

Two other Colorado jurisdictions that adopted 100% goals in years past seem to have backed off from them. Pueblo drew national attention about 4 years ago with its 100% pledge, and was later joined by Pueblo County.

Now, they say it’s important to keep the Comanche 3 power plant operating until 2040, as Xcel Energy, the operator, proposes, because of the tax base and the jobs it provides.

State agency adds staff for environmental justice

Joel Minor has been hired as environmental justice program manager by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. He had worked in the rulemaking to implement SB 19-181, the state law that created new rules for the oil and gas industry. He has also worked as an attorney for Earthjustice.

Also new to the CDPHE staff is Nathalie Eddy. She will be the air quality environmental justice liaison for the state agency. She had most recently worked for Earthworks, an environmental organization, in communities impacted by pollution from oil and gas communities.

Durango wants to divert organics from landfill

Durango has started asking for proposals to launch a voluntary composting program that it hopes to make 100% within three years.

The Durango Herald says a 2015 survey found that food waste constituted a fifth of residential and a quarter of commercial waste. Another 27 of residential waste came from other organic material, including yard debris.

In an editorial, the newspaper hurrahed the idea. “If we are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately save ourselves and the planet from climate disaster, we have a lot of work to do,” the blog said. “We know about the big initiatives, but we can also take other small actions that, when combined with societal efforts, can make a big difference.”

Composting is one of those little things that, in other and larger American cities, has reduced landfill-bound trash by up to 78%.

How soon before an RTO in the Rockies?

Can a full-scale regional transmission organization be far off? Colorado Springs Utilities several months ago threw its lot with the Southwest Power Pool energy imbalance market, tilting the scales slightly in favor of an RTO organized by the Arkansas-based SPP.

Directors of the SPP in late July approved policy-level terms and conditions for an expansion into the Western Interconnection.

Tri-State, the Western Area Power Authority, Deseret Power, and others are also in the energy imbalance market organized by SPP.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission continues its review of arguments and debates about whether an RTO would benefit Colorado consumers.

The main argument for an RTO is that it will allow connection of resources across broader geographic areas, improving geographic diversity and bringing down costs while increasing resilience.

Big Pivots will have much more on this topic in a coming issue.

And more about the natural gas moratorium in Fraser and Winter Park

The natural gas moratorium for new natural-gas hookups in parts of Fraser and Winter Park was discussed on Wednesday morning by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

As first reported by Big Pivots (June 18 issue), Xcel Energy started telling contractors in early June that there wasn’t sufficient gas capacity for all new buildings coming on line. There were presentations before the Winter Park and Fraser enough natural.

The biggest takeaway from the discussion was the comment by Commissioner Megan Gilman about the absence of a robust planning process for natural gas with Xcel. The PUC in recent months have been spend much time talking about that very fact.

PUC staff member Gene Camp reported that a newspaper account in Grand County on July 21 suggested that the PUC was somehow to blame. That annoyed the PUC staff, who thought the statement was inaccurate. Xcel suggested that perhaps the reporter took the statement somewhat out of context.

“When questioned why the reinforcement wasn’t started earlier, (Xcel Communications Director) Flenniken cited restrictions in the Colorado Public Utilities Commission regulations that limit proactive capital improvements.

“It makes it hard for us to build on a forecast,” she said. “There were a lot of projects in the pipeline, and we knew that, but they hadn’t crossed over to that place where the Public Utilities Commission is comfortable with us moving forward with investment.”

Also at issue was whether Xcel should have taken action sooner, given the need was identified as early as 2015.

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