Conservation Update - April 2015

California imposes water restrictions
For the first time in California’s history, the Governor has ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to impose a 25% reduction on the state’s 400 local water supply agencies (serving 90% of Californian residents). The 25% guideline will not have to be adhered to by large farm owners, but residential users and businesses will be impacted. These mandatory water restrictions come after many years of reluctance to take such a hard line on water conservation, but after four years of drought and no sign of abatement, drastic measures have had to be taken. Read more here:
Revenue Committee Advances LB 423, Nebraska's Clean Energy Bill
The Nebraska Unicameral’s Revenue Committee voted 5-2 to send Senator Nordquist’s LB 423 to the full Legislature. The bill would provide a tax credit for Nebraska-based renewable energy projects, and is designed to attract in-state investors and help Nebraska compete with nearby states that offer tax credits. This is an important bill to help put Nebraska on the right track for becoming a national leader in renewable energy, and NLCV has been garnering public support for the bill. Please support Nebraska-based renewable energy by signing the petition. Read more here:
New Solar Initiative Emphasizes Transitioning Vets into the Solar Workforce
At Hill Air Force Base in Utah, President Barack Obama announced several efforts to drive growth in the solar industry while supporting America's veterans. The efforts will involve training 75,000 solar workers, many of whom will be veterans trained through the Solar Ready Vets program and the GI Bill. Last year, the U.S. installed as much solar every three weeks as in all of 2008. In 2013, the price of commercial and residential solar declined by more than 12 percent. This is driving more and more Americans to install solar panels at their homes and businesses, and is supporting tens of thousands of solar jobs across the country. Read more here:
Climate change grows in voter priority
According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 58% of registered voters are in favor of a 2016 Presidential candidate that will take action to combat climate change, with 38% of voters clarifying that it is extremely or very important.  “Almost three times as many people enthusiastically support a 2016 candidate who will back government action on climate change than adamantly oppose that idea.”
“Rate hikes jolt Nebraska’s power edge”
Nebraska's electric rates have been rising at a shocking rate, according to an analysis of federal electric rate data by the Omaha World-Herald. Since 2008, only four states have seen bigger price jolts than Nebraska. Part of this rate spike is due to heavy reliance on coal: "The average per-ton coal costs for Nebraska’s utilities climbed by nearly two-thirds, the biggest increase for any state in the nation, according to federal data. OPPD’s combined costs of coal and contracts to ship it by rail went up 135 percent." Regulations on toxins and pollutants, as well as carbon dioxide, from coal plants has also contributed to its increasing cost as a source of fuel, and it is unlikely that will change. Although the analysis does not correlate states with large investments in renewable energy to have lower rates, it also does not correlate them to higher rates, as is a common argument made by opponents of renewable energy. Read more here:
“Study Finds Pennsylvania Frackers Average at Least Two Violations a Day”
A Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study finds that on average, fracking companies in Pennsylvania commit more than two-and-a-half drilling violations a day, according to data drawn from just a small portion of available public record information. The NRDC studied five years’ worth of online reports for Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado, and tallied up at least 4,600 citations, about 18 per week. Co-author of the report, Amy Mall, says “the study didn't examine the records from 33 states that don't post citations online. She also says they did not include every company doing hydraulic fracturing, which suggests the violations they found are just a fraction of the total.” The study covered a variety of violations, including spills, well leaks, pipeline ruptures, contamination of a drinking water source, or not having the right paperwork on-site. “Of the three states the NRDC examined, Pennsylvania had by far the most violations. Mall says that may have as much to do with how the state enforces their rules as anything else.” Read more here:
TVA May Import Wind from Texas and Oklahoma
Clean Line Energy has spent the last several years planning and trying to get regulatory approval for a 700 mile transmission line that would bring wind energy from Oklahoma and Texas to the Tennessee Valley. Wind farms in Oklahoma and Texas have proposed more than 15,000 megawatts of wind projects for Clean Line Energy, and this transmission line would take 4,000 MW to users in Arkansas, the TVA, and other utilities in the Southeast. However, it is expected that the TVA won’t be ready to purchase wind energy from the line for several years, and that it could take at least a couple more years to get full regulatory approval for the line. Read more here:   
New Major Investment in Colorado Wind
NextEra Energy, the biggest renewable-energy power company in North America, is spending another $640 million on two massive new wind farms in eastern Colorado. The company has already invested about $2 billion in the state through seven existing windfarms. The two wind farms will support the needs of nearly 100,000 homes. Read more here:
Mapping Public Opinion on Climate Change
Research on public opinion regarding climate change is illustrated in 7 maps on Bloomberg Business today. The maps show public opinion broken down at the Congressional District level, as well as at the county level, to demonstrate how diverse public opinion is even within regions and states. Here are the key findings at the national level.
  • 63% of Americans believe the globe is warming.
  • 48% of Americans believe the globe is warming due to human activities.
  • 41% believe most scientists think global warming is happening
  • 77% of Americans support funding research into renewable energy sources
  • 63% support setting strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants
  • 44% of Americans support a carbon tax if revenues are refunded to every American household
Make sure you click the following link to check out the differences in public opinion at the level of Congressional Districts:
Climate-Change deniers are in retreat
The position of “climate change denial” is becoming less and less tenable for politicians and groups to hold as public opinion continues to shift toward not only belief in climate change, but desire for government action to mitigate it. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that as recently as 2013 was still sponsoring “model legislation” calling on states to be skeptical of climate change, is now “not only insisting that it doesn’t deny climate change—it’s threatening to sue those who suggest otherwise. The group sent letters to Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters instructing them to “remove all false or misleading material” alleging ALEC questions global-warming theory. Read more here:
UNL Pledges to Train Students to Address Climate Change’s Health Effects
The University of Nebraska, along with 29 other medical, public health, and nursing schools, has pledged to train students to address climate change’s health effects. Climate change impacts health through changes in weather extremes, air quality, and diseases caused by pathogens and parasites. The pledge comes alongside a new initiative by the White House to highlight the connections between public health and climate change, such as increased asthma rates and asthma-related health complications, and premature death.  In announcing the new initiative, a recent study by the American Thoracic Society finding that 7 out of 10 doctors reported climate change is contributing to more health problems among their patients was cited. Read more here:
American Businesses Increasingly Invest in Renewable Energy
“As the cost of wind energy has dropped by more than half in just five years, there has been a steady increase in U.S. businesses, governmental agencies, and universities making direct investments in wind power to lock in low prices and reduce their carbon footprints.” One of the reasons for this is that just as more and more electrical utilities are incorporating wind energy into their portfolios to take advantage of a low, fixed rate and protect their customers from the increasing price volatility of fossil fuels, businesses see it as a way to protect their bottom line, as well as meet sustainability goals that are popular with consumers.  Read more here:
Vast Majority of Americans Support Federal Tax Incentives for Renewable Energy
“’U.S. Homeowners on Clean Energy: A National Survey’ uncovers consumer attitudes about renewables, energy efficiency, clean transportation, green investing, conventional energy sources, electric utilities and more. Key report findings include:
  • 74 percent of Americans polled favored continuing federal tax incentives that support the growth of the solar and wind industries, including 82 percent of Democrats, two thirds of Republicans (67 percent), and 72 percent of Independents.
  • In a nation divided on a range of issues, it appears overwhelmingly united in its support of renewables, with nearly 9 in 10 Americans (87 percent) saying renewable energy is important to the country’s future.
  • When homeowners were asked to pick which specific energy sources were most important to the nation’s future, solar (50 percent) and wind (42 percent) led the pack, followed by natural gas (33 percent) and energy efficiency (25 percent).
  • Solar power was the top choice among all major demographic groups including Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, liberals, city and rural dwellers, youth and the elderly.
  • Lower in the rankings were one-time energy stalwarts nuclear power (14 percent) and coal (8 percent).
Massive Fine Levied Against PG&E for Pipeline Safety Violations
In a 4-0 vote, California’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) levied a record $1.6 billion fine against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) for violating state and federal pipeline safety standards. An explosion of one of their gas lines in San Bruno killed 8 people in 2010, and prompted the investigation and fine against PG&E. While this is one of the largest fines paid by a U.S. utility, they did not create an independent panel to monitor PG&E’s safety program, and community members as well as the new head of the PUC question whether PG&E has really improved its safety culture. Read more here:
Wind Energy Can Save 260 Billion Gallons of Water by 2050
With utility-scale wind turbines installed in 39 states, wind energy accounts for 4.5 percent of our nation’s annual electricity generation. To find what the United States’ energy picture could look like in the future, the Department of Energy and a team of researchers developed the Wind Vision Report, which defines the societal, environmental and economic benefits of wind power in a scenario where wind energy supplies 10 percent of the country’s electricity in 2020, 20 percent in 2030 and 35 percent in 2050. Key findings of this analysis include:
  • The price of wind energy is projected to be directly competitive with conventional energy technologies within the next decade.
  • Wind has the potential to support more than 600,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance and supporting services.
  • By 2050, wind energy can save 260 billion gallons of water that would have been used by the electric power sector, equivalent to roughly 400,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.
  • By 2050, wind energy can help offset 12.3 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases, equivalent to $400 billion in avoided carbon emissions at current global economic values.
  • By 2050, wind energy can help offset 2.6 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide, 4.7 million metric tons of nitrogen oxides, and 0.5 million metric tons of fine particulate matter, equivalent to $108 billion in savings from avoided healthcare costs and economic damages.
  • Local governments will be able to collect additional tax revenue from land lease payments and property taxes, reaching $3.2 billion annually by 2050.
U.S. Government Doing “To Little” to Protect the Environment Remains Dominant View
Nearly half of Americans (48%) say the U.S. government is doing "too little" to protect the environment, while 16% say it is doing "too much." Roughly a third (34%) say it is doing "about the right amount.” Gallup first posed the question in 1992, and since then, Americans have always been most likely to say the U.S. government is doing too little to protect the environment. Majorities ranging from 51% to 68% held this belief until 2006. In polls since Obama took office, however, Americans have been less likely to say the government is falling short on environmental protection, though this has still remained the dominant view.  Read more here:
Over a Quarter of the World’s Animals At Risk of Extinction
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has updated its Red List of Threatened Species to keep tabs on which animals in the world are at risk of extinction, and estimates that 26% of the world’s mammals are threatened. But, this is just the IUCN’s best estimate – the percentage could be as low as 22% (still bad) or as high as 37% (let’s hope not). Deforestation is a leading cause for this species loss, as people cut down trees for timber and to convert the forest to farms. Poaching and human encroachment are also causing species loss. Read more here:
Same Day Voter Registration Increases Voter Participation
Delaware is currently considering enacting same-day voter registration into law. If it does so, it will join ten other states and the District of Columbia in allowing qualified residents of the state to go to the polls or an election official’s office on Election Day, register that day, and then vote. “Same-day registration is a pro-voter reform that allows eligible residents to register for the first time or update their address on Election Day and then cast a ballot. This provision in effect extends Delaware’s voter registration period, which by current law ends over three weeks ahead of any primary or general election, making it impossible to register during the period in which election experts find that voters are the most engaged.” While many of Nebraska’s neighboring states have same-day voter registration (Iowa, Colorado, and Wyoming), Nebraskans must register at least a week and a half before an election. Read more here:
Pope Francis Says it’s Time for the World to Act on Climate Change – It’s a Moral Issue
Pope Francis is working to influence the world’s response to climate change. The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics not only says the world must try to protect against an environmental catastrophe regardless of its cause, but he is preparing the first ever papal letter to the church’s bishops focused on the environment. He hopes it will encourage U.N. negotiators meeting in Paris in December to make courageous decisions about protecting the world from global warming, he told reporters traveling with him to the Philippines earlier this year. Read more:
Renewable Energy Growth Outpacing Fossil Fuels
Bloomberg Business says that “this is the beginning of the end” for fossil fuels. According to their analysis, this is the third year in a row that more new capacity for renewable energy has been added to the global electricity supply than new fossil fuel capacity, and that trend is predicted to continue in the years to come. The big question is, will we invest what is needed in order to stymie the worst impacts of climate change? Read more here:
Salt Lake City Taking Steps to Notify Residents of Possible Water Shortages
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has taken the first official step to notify the city’s residents of possible water shortages this summer. No water-use restrictions are required at this point, but the advisory is designed to let agencies and water users know to prepare for shortages if wetter weather does not materialize soon and to avoid wasting water. "This careful water-management approach is part of our overall efforts to adapt to, and mitigate, the impacts of climate change that are already upon us," Becker said in a news release. " ... Salt Lake City is not immune to the realities of the climate-change crisis and our recent below-average snowfall is a clear sign of that. We are doing everything we can to address this problem for the short and long term." In Big Cottonwood Canyon, a major source of Salt Lake City's water supply, the Brighton monitoring gauge was the driest it's been in 29 years. It measured 6.3 inches of water in the snowpack, 27 percent of normal (21 inches). Another station at Mill D North was at just 11 percent of normal, its driest winter in 27 years.
Americans Choose the Environment over Energy Development
Gallup’s 2015 Environmental Poll found that “about half of Americans (49%) say that protection of environment should be given priority, even at the risk of limiting the amount of energy supplies. Fewer than four in 10 (39%) prioritize the development of U.S. energy supplies even if the environment suffers to some extent.” Read more here:
Solar power facility eyes Kearney for its $20M operation
Kearney may be the site of a $20 million solar energy production facility by 2016. On Monday, the Kearney City Council voted 4-0 to approve an option agreement for a ground lease between the city and Infigen Energy for a proposed solar power facility. The vote gives Infigen the green light to begin evaluations for the site. Read more here:
Midwest is Place to Watch for Solar Energy Growth
According to Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, “solar is beginning to grow like a prairie fire across the Midwest.” He is referring to a stretch from Missouri to Ohio, where nearly 400 megawatts of installed solar capacity power about 80,000 homes. In these states, solar is expected to grow by nearly 50% this year. With the help of effective public policies such as the solar Investment Tax Credit, Net Energy Metering and Renewable Portfolio Standards, “this steady growth across the heartland of America has helped the U.S. solar industry to grow to 174,000 workers nationwide — more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter combined — while pumping nearly $18 billion a year into our economy.” Read more here:
Jeb Bush Acknowledges Reality of Climate Change
In New Hampshire, Jeb Bush, who everyone is pretty sure is running for president, acknowledged that climate change is real, man-made, and must be addressed. “The climate is changing, and I’m concerned about that,” he said. He goes on to say that he is more concerned about the “hollowing out” of the U.S. economy, and that the American shale “revolution” will help. He goes on to suggest that the U.S. should “negotiate with the rest of the world to reduce carbon emissions.” Read more here:
Thousands of Water Wells Dry in California
“Near California’s Success Lake, more than 1,000 water wells have failed. Farmers are spending $750,000 to drill 1,800 feet down to keep fields from going fallow. Makeshift showers have sprouted near the church parking lot.” The drought conditions that brought on California’s first mandatory water restrictions in state history are having a major impact on the livelihoods of farmers and residents alike, and many are wondering how they will continue their livelihoods in the Golden State. Read more here: 
NPPD Makes Major Energy Announcement
Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), Nebraska’s largest electric utility, plans to replace an existing coal-fired boiler at its Sheldon Station plant in Hallam, Neb. with one that uses hydrogen fuel. To obtain this new hydrogen fuel source in Nebraska, NPPD is working with Monolith Materials – a manufacturing company that produces hydrogen as a byproduct in its production of carbon black. Read more here:
2015 on Track to Being “Warmest on Record”
According to three separate analyses released this week, the first three months of 2015 have been the warmest on record, putting us on track to break last year’s distinction of being the warmest on record. With average temperatures of 1.48 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century average, the readings broke the previous record of 2002 by 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit. For the oceans, the surface temperatures were 1.01 degrees Fahrenheit above average in the same period, making it third-highest reading in the 136-year period of record. Moreover, March 2015 was ranked as the warmest March in NOAA’s 136-year archive. The global average temperatures for March 2015 were 1.53 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the twentieth century average of 54.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Read more here:
Over Half a Million Goes into Local Water District Race
Campaign contributions in the race for two open seats on the Tarrant Regional Water District board have already reached high levels a month before the election. More than $500,000 was raised in the reporting period that ended April 9. Extraordinary fundraising and spending had been predicted in this race as anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo at the TRWD has been escalating for several years. Critics charge the district administration with failing to follow open meeting laws, refusing to turn over public records as well as cronyism, nepotism and corruption. Read more here:
Disconnecting on Climate
“Environmental advocates who sound alarmist about climate change may be fomenting divisiveness in public discourse,” a leading climate scientist said in Chicago on Monday. “People don’t scare into agreeing,” said Elisabeth Moyer, a University of Chicago climate scientist who co-directs the Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy. Moyer referred to studies in recent years by behavioral scientists who found that people are not persuaded by increased knowledge when they self-identify with political stances on certain divisive issues, especially climate change. If people want to turn the heat down on the planet, Moyer said, they should turn the heat down in debate. Read more here:
“Climate Change is Coming for U.S. Energy Infrastructure”
Climate change will be a major factor in the future of power lines, natural gas pipelines, fuel depots and rail tanker cars, according to the Department of Energy's first installment of its Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). The conclusions echoed a 2013 report from DOE that looked at climate change impacts on energy infrastructure, reporting that the warming world is already having effects on power production and distribution. Power lines and pipelines are vulnerable to collapse under storms, buckling under intense heat or inundation from rising sea levels, so the energy sector must invest in adaptation. Read more here:
League of Conservation Voters Gives Many in Congress a Failing Grade
Earth Day festivities are under way across the nation today. But as environmental groups take stock of the work lawmakers have done to protect air, water, lands and public health, they aren't finding much cause for celebration. Public opinion research has found strong support for climate action. However, Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said Republican lawmakers deserve a failing grade for their efforts to dismantle safeguards against carbon pollution and derail the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. "It's an 'F' from our perspective," he said. "Polluters and their allies in Congress, who invested over $700 million in this new Congress, are doing all they can to try to wreck with our public-health protections and destroy the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act." Congressional Republicans insist they are trying to promote growth by easing regulations, but their critics have charged what they're really doing is helping the corporations that donated to their campaigns. Read more here:
Fracking Wastewater Disposal Well Approved
The Colorado company that wants to pump fracking wastewater in a disposal well in Nebraska has gained approval from the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Before approving the Sioux County project, though, the commission reduced its scope. The well would be limited to 5,000 barrels a day, or half of the company’s original proposal. Heim, the Terex official, said the company is unlikely to immediately develop the site, not only because of potential legal challenges but also because a production slowdown in Colorado and Wyoming has reduced the need for a new disposal well in the region. Read more here:
Lake Mead Reaching Historically Low Levels
Nevada's Lake Mead, the largest capacity reservoir in the United States, is on track to drop to its lowest water level in recorded history on Sunday as its source, the Colorado River, suffers from 14 years of severe drought. The 79-year-old reservoir, formed by the building of the Hoover Dam outside Las Vegas, was expected to dip below 1,080 feet on Sunday, lower than a previous record of 1,080.19 feet last August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Lake Mead supplies water to agriculture and about 40 million people in Nevada, Arizona, Southern California, and northern Mexico. The lake's levels are nearing a critical trigger where federal officials will have to start rationing water deliveries to Nevada, Arizona and parts of California. States in the region have enacted action plans to lessen greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change. Read more here:
How Much Water is Really Needed?
In Irvine California, the South Coast Research and Extension Center has been running an experiment for three years to determine just how little water is needed for blueberries to be both economically viable for growers and tasty enough for consumers. Once that amount is found, the Extension will work to make it known across the state of California and in other drought prone areas. Irvine farmers have served as an example of good water conservationists for the past decade, having worked with the water district to recycle 97% of the water they use for farming, and use “basically all the  tools” they have for water conservation. Read more here:
Gambling with Climate Change, and Pension Funds
“Almost half of the world’s top pension funds are taking an ill-advised gamble on climate change, according to a financial thinktank. The Asset Owners Disclosure Project’s annual index of 500 of the largest global asset owners found that 232 of them had done little or nothing to protect their investments from the financial upheavals predicted due to climate change. ‘They’re betting around 20-1 that either the fossil fuel company influence will last forever or that their fund managers will bail them out of a crisis – but that didn’t work too well during the last systemic crisis did it?” said Julian Poulter, the CEO of AODP. UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said the index was an invaluable tool for encouraging pension funds to finance the shift toward a low carbon economy.” Read more here: