Thursday, November 22, 2007

Xcel to Close Two Power Plants

We reported that Xcel was planning to close down some of its coal-fired power plants in Colorado in order to reduce harmful air pollution. Well, it's official. Xcel plans to shut down the Arapahoe and Cameo power plants, located in Denver and Grand Junction, respectively. And that's not all. Xcel also announced it intends to increase power generation from renewables like solar and wind, and increase efficiency.

The move is the beginning of a bold paradigm shift. To truly reduce greenhouse gases and other harmful air pollutants, and safeguard public health, it's going to take a shift from fossil fuels to renewables. It's going to take doing away with the old and bringing in the new. It's going to take a new way of doing business, and Xcel seems to be leading the charge.

It's true that Xcel plans to increase its use of natural gas to generate power in the near-term, which raises serious concerns. After all, natural drilling throughout Colorado is contributing to terrible air quality and widespread health concerns. But doing away with fossil fuels like natural gas won't happen overnight. Shifting from coal to natural gas is a good move in the right direction, but it isn't the last or the best move to make.

Let's put this into context. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, all the natural gas fired power plants in Colorado combined release less than one half the amount of smog forming pollution spewed by the coal burning Arapahoe power plant in Denver. And the amount of carbon dioxide released by the Cameo and Arapahoe power plants combined equals the amount released by Colorado's largest natural gas-fired power plant.

While natural gas isn't perfect, it isn't hard to see that it shines compared to coal.

In the long-term though , protecting our health and our climate won't take natural gas, it will take smarter energy use. Moving away from coal and toward renewables is a smart move Hopefully, companies like Xcel will continue to move in the smart direction. Surely, citizens and shareholders will be there to help them along.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Xcel to Close Down Power Plants?

In a bold move, Xcel Energy says that it plans to shut down some of its power plants here in Colorado. The reason? To curb global warming and, hopefully, help make Colorado's air cleaner and safer.

Although we have yet to see whether Xcel will follow through with its plans, or what power plants the company intends to shut down, the news is, to say the least, great.

And the news comes both as Governor Ritter has called for a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide from Xcel's power plants, and as groups like Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action are calling for Xcel to cut smog forming pollution from its Denver metro power plants.

Hopefully, Xcel plans to kill two birds with one stone and shut down some of its Denver metro power plants. We would urge the company to target the Cherokee Station, a massive coal burning power plant that releases 119 pounds of mercury, 16,000 pounds of hydrochloric acid, 47 pounds of lead, and over 21,000,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, which form smog, acid rain, fine particle pollution, and haze.

Xcel intends to reveal the full details of its plans on Friday, when it presents its Resource Plan to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Colorado Takes Aim on Climate Change

Governor Ritter today announced a groundbreaking plan to fight climate change, Colorado-style.

The plan calls for a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. But it doesn't end there.

Governor Ritter's plan also details the path to get there. The plan calls for the adoption of clean car rules, the adoption of comprehensive greenhouse gas reporting rules, for utilities to report to the Public Utilities Commission how they will achieve a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, calls on the state to work to reduce methane, a potent greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, from oil and gas drilling, and calls for even more.

That's a lot to call for, but then again, climate change poses an unprecedented threat to our planet.

Oh, and don't be mistaken. The Governor's plan isn't because of environmentalists (their press releases notwithstanding). It's because people around the world, including in Colorado, are demanding our leaders take action on climate change. It's because people everywhere are realizing that if we don't act now, we stand to lose a whole planet.

It's because of the people of Colorado that Governor Ritter has taken strong action to reduce greenhouse gases in Colorado.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Drilling Down

The oil and gas industry enjoys numerous exemptions to environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, our most fundamental safeguard from air pollution.

That's the finding of a new report just released by the Natural Resources Defense Council and co-authored by Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action. Exposing these exemptions, the report calls on Congress to close the oil and gas loopholes and fully safeguard public health.

Thankfully, Congress appears ready to act. U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led the charge by holding a hearing on the issue last Wednesday. Five Coloradoans testified. They included Dr. Theo Colborn, a nationally recognized scientist and President of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, and Steve Mobaldi, who has experienced firsthand the harmful effects of oil and gas air pollution exempt from regulation under the Clean Air Act.

The issue has led to a flurry of news coverage and calls for action from Representative Waxman.

Industry, of course, claims that there is no conclusive link between pollution from oil and gas drilling and harms to human health. It's a shameful argument to make.

We know poisons are being released into the air, into the water, and onto the land. Why should we not take steps to limit their release? Why should we wait until people get sick, or worse yet die, before taking action?

The oil and gas industry is on thinning ice; one would think they would be the first to step up in support of closing environmental loopholes.