Desert Rock denied carbon funds

The Desert Rock Power Plant has slammed into another roadblock. Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy denied an application from the controversial power plant for $451 million in stimulus funding, which would have gone to adding a carbon-capture component to the proposed plant.

Sithe Global has plans to build the 1,500 megawatt Desert Rock on Navajo land southwest of Farmington and in the vicinity of two existing coal-fired power plants – the Four Corners Power Plant and the San Juan Generating Station. If built, the $3.6 billion plant would be among the largest in the nation and provide electricity for 1.5 million customers in the West’s large, urban areas. However, Desert Rock suffered a potentially fatal blow in late September, when the Environmental Protection Agency revoked the controversial power plant’s permit, sending it back to square one of the review process.

At the time, Desert Rock spokesman Frank Maisano noted that the power plant was not just going to blow away. “We’re leaving everything on the table at the moment,” he said. “The next step is to see what possibilities are out there, whether it be restarting the EPA permit process or exploring carbon sequestration options.”

Shortly thereafter, Sithe and the Navajo Nation worked to resurrect Desert Rock and announced that the power plant had applied for a carbon capture and sequestration grant, which could reduce or even eliminate carbon emissions from the plant.

The application sought $451 million from the DOE’s Clean Coal Power Initiative for the costs associated with the addition of carbon capture, compression and a pipeline spur to Kinder Morgan’s existing Cortez CO2 pipeline. The captured CO2 would be used to help with enhanced oil recovery in west Texas, and Desert Rock would pay 56 percent of the costs.

“Sithe believes that, upon its completion, Desert Rock will be one of the first commercial-scale examples of clean-coal technology in America and will provide a benchmark for future development projects,” said Bruce Wrobel, CEO of Sithe.

However, the Department of Energy did not see the application in the same light. Last Friday, the agency announced its carbon capture and sequestration pilot project grants, and Desert Rock was not among them.

In response, Maisano echoed a familiar line, saying, “This result is another disappointment for the Navajo Nation. Again, this administration has said the right things to the Navajo, but its actions have not followed through on those words. Desert Rock is (the Navajo’s) project, and it is essential to opening new economic opportunities for the nation and its people.”

Maisano added that demand for electricity is continuing to grow and Desert Rock will continue to work on the carbon capture front. “Carbon capture is certainly a priority of this Administration, as evidenced by the initial three grants they have issued,” he said. “As more projects and technologies advance, we will continue to press for the Navajo Nation and Desert Rock to stay at the front of the line.   


State’s economy expected to stabilize

Colorado’s economy will be marked by a return to stability in 2010, according to a new study by the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. Job losses may continue and growth may still be another year off, but economists expect the state to rebound in coming months.

“We still have some serious kinks to work through, but we see 2010 as a stabilizing year that will put the state economy in a position for more sustained growth in 2011 and 2012,” said Richard Wobbekind, of the Leeds School. Wobbekind announced the findings last weekend at the 45th annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum. The forecast does call for a loss of 3,200 jobs statewide in 2010. However, the number comes as good news when compared with the 100,000 jobs lost in 2009. Wobbekind said he expects job losses to continue through the first quarter, before leveling off in the second quarter and moving into positive growth in the third and fourth quarters.

Wobbekind added the current recession has hit the Western Slope and rural areas of the state much harder than the urban Front Range. “This economic downturn has had a big impact on tourism, which is a major part of the economy in many rural areas of the state,” he said. “In addition, it has hurt the energy industry, which is concentrated on the eastern plains and the Western Slope. The combination of those two sectors, along with a slowdown in agriculture, means many rural jobs lost.”Wobbekind also expects the Colorado housing market to stabilize in 2010. He noted that while many areas in Colorado have experienced a large number of foreclosures, prices have been steady for most of the state.

“Colorado’s housing market is very stable and is one of the reasons we could see Colorado returning to positive growth in sync with the national economy, even though the state went into recession later than the nation as a whole,” he said.

The best-case scenario for Colorado coming out of the recession is if economists have underestimated how fast employment will recover nationally, he said. If there is a higher rate of recovery nationally, Colorado will pull out of the recession more quickly.


Front Range bike ban disappears

A Front Range plan that could have flattened local tires has gone away. The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners withdrew plans for statewide legislation that would have permitted bans on cyclists on county roads.

The push was in response to a proposal for a charity bicycle event on Deer Creek Canyon Road, a narrow two-lane road that connects the foothills and the Denver metro area. The event would have put up to 2,000 cyclists on the narrow byway, and the commissioners denied the permit based on safety concerns and complaints from motorists. But that wasn’t enough, the governmental body wanted to go one further and forever ban cyclists on the road and enable other Colorado counties to take similar steps.

“If counties can suddenly ban cyclists from any county road, this is a pretty scary proposition,” said Dan Grunig, executive director of Bicycle Colorado.

However, JeffCo abandoned the plan several weeks ago, saying both cyclists and motorists must follow existing laws. While Bicycle Colorado breathed a sigh of relief at the news, the advocacy group still has its guard up. Grunig noted that there is always a possibility of counties or legislators taking up a similar charge.

“There are a lot of things that can be done within state law to improve the conditions of roads and relieve congestion,” he said. “Banning bikes does absolutely nothing to improve safety if the condition of the road stays the same.”


DNF reincorporates as cooperative

Durango Natural Foods Co-Op will start living up to its name Jan. 1. Members have voted to reincorporate as a cooperative and adopt the Member Equity-Patronage Dividend system.

While DNF has always run according to the International Cooperative Principles, it has not been incorporated as a co-op in Colorado. Beginning Jan. 1, members and other shoppers are invited to become Member-Owners by purchasing a share requirement of five shares for $100. These shares may be purchased in annual installments of $20, quarterly installments of $20, or a one-time purchase of $100. Lifetime members will automatically be converted to full share owners.

Beginning Jan. 1, discounts at the register will end. DNF’s point-of-sale computer system will keep track of each owner’s purchases, from the date of their first $20 share purchase forward. When the co-op is financially able to do so, a patronage dividend will be calculated based on the amount of that owner’s purchases for that fiscal year.

– Will Sands




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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows