Another coal plant bites the dust

KEMMERER, Wyo. – Slowly, bit by bit, the energy system that spews carbon dioxide into the atmosphere so prodigiously is being replaced. Consider a coal-fired power plant in southwestern Wyoming that has connections to both Park City and, in a different way, Jackson Hole.

PacifiCorp – parent of Rocky Mountain Power, which serves Park City – had to make changes in one of the three units near Kemmerer to reduce emissions of sulphur oxide, which cause hazy skies and can harm human health.

The company could have done so by replacing the 330-megawatt coal-burning unit with one that burns natural gas. Natural gas has become abundant and, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, has less than 0.0005 percent of sulfur compounds compared to 1.6 percent for coal.

Natural gas also produces roughly half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal. That’s important in that PacificCorp has vowed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, 61 percent of the utility’s electricity in its six-state market comes from coal. However, it plans to reduce that to less than 50 percent by 2025.

However, instead of switching to natural gas, at a cost of $160 million, PacificCorp decided to shutter the unit. Cost was an issue, said Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power in Salt Lake City, but so was energy efficiency.

The utility is not seeing reduced demand, but the growth of demand has slackened greatly as energy efficiency measures begin to take effect. The utility expects 87 percent of demand can be met in the next decade by figuring out how to more efficiently use existing electricity. That will prevent the need for another major power source for another decade.

This fits in with Park City’s goals. The City Council there recently adopted a goal of becoming net zero by 2022. The resolution also calls for the community to achieve that same goal by 2030.  Concerns about climate change and rising temperatures were cited.

What exactly is required to achieve net-zero carbon status was not clear. Electricity production in the United States was responsible for just 31 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, followed by transportation at 27 percent and industry at 21 percent. The commercial and residential sector was responsible for 12 percent and agriculture 9 percent.

As for Jackson Hole, it has a connection to the Kemmerer power plant in that the Kemmerer family that owns Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is the same one for which the town and the coal plant are named. The family, however, sold its coal assets in 1981.

After recent years, snowpack is great

TRUCKEE, Calif. – El Niño didn’t deliver buckets of snow to California and other Western states this winter, but it did all right. A year ago last Saturday, California Gov. Jerry Brown stood on bare ground near the Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort and announced that the snowpack was 5 percent of average, the worst since 1950.

This year, water officials in California announced that the snowpack was close to or a little below average.

Still, it’s good enough that Mount Rose, located in Nevada near Lake Tahoe, announced it will continue operations until May 8. If that happens, the ski area will have had a 185-day season, the longest since 2005-06, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The improved snowpack is also causing jubilation among river rafters and anglers, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Still, despite these glad tidings, state officials aren’t ready to declare an end to drought. Electronic readings showed the snowpack has 87 percent water content as compared to average.

A report issued in March by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation suggests more water problems in the future, as warming temperatures caused by accumulating greenhouse gas emissions change the climate.

The Secure Water Act Report forecasts a slight increase in overall precipitation, because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. But the precipitation would come in the form of rain instead of snow, notes the Gazette-Journal.

Given current trends, Lake Tahoe and other nearby areas should expect to see temperature increases of 5 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit during the 21st century. The Truckee River Basin will have 10 to 20 inches less snowpack April 1. The river is also expected to have a peak runoff 19 days earlier than it does now. This compares with 12 days earlier in the Colorado River Basin.

Gondola concierge? April fool’s

ASPEN – Not many ski town newspapers seem to have hewed to the tradition of April foolery this year. The Aspen Daily News, however, jabbed at the Aspen Skiing Co., announced that the company’s latest idea of milking a little more income from its customers was the addition of six gondola concierges.

“These velvet-clad experts in luxuriating spend all day riding up and down the gondola to provide skiers with the highest level of service imaginable,” the paper reported. “They are capable of quick gondola ski tunes, massage therapy, boot fitting, screening your calls, child rearing for the parents that can’t be bothered, and much more.”

The cost? A mere $1,950 upgrade from the normal day pass.

Wolves feast on elk in Jackson Hole

JACKSON, Wyo. – Do wolves kill only what they can eat? It would seem not. The Jackson Hole News&Guide tells of a pack of wolves that got into an area south of Jackson, along the Hoback River, where elk were being fed. In all, 19 elk were killed by the pack in just one night, all but two of them calves.

Mike Jiminez, wolf management and science coordinator in the northern Rockies for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tells the newspaper that he has seen wolves killing more than they can stomach before, but not that many.

“We’ve seen three or four or five (killed),” he said. “But it wasn’t 18 or 19 in a night. It’s the largest one we’ve seen.”

Jimenez speculated that spring snow conditions or weakened elk may have played a role in the high number of killings.

Wolves are a federally protected species in Wyoming currently, and Fish and Wildlife policies don’t allow lethal responses when wolves prey on other wildlife.

As many as 75 of the 1,000 elk in what is called the Hoback herd have been killed by wolves this winter.

Keystone crimping long-term camps

DILLON – The U.S. Forest Service has banned overnight camping within a quarter-mile of the road that leads from the Keystone ski area to the old mining town of Montezuma.

Officials tell the Summit Daily News about a variety of problems caused by campers, including potential wildfires from untended campfires.

“We’re seeing more and more campsites created, and it’s become so oversaturated with people in campers that it’s almost impossible to manage for a quality experience for the public,” said Bill Jackson, the district ranger.

Summit County is unusual among most resort communities in that dispersed camping among some drainages continues to be permitted.

The Forest Service indicated that dispersed camping is discouraged to a greater degree in some resort areas, where camping is permitted in only designated campgrounds.

“In these other places,” said Jackson, referring to Vail, Steamboat Springs and Moab, Utah, “there are not a lot of areas where you can just plop down and camp. They already have the model in place for only designated or developed campgrounds.”

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 100-year-old pavilion

BANFF, Alberta – A plan is afoot in Banff to recreate a pavilion designed by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The pavilion was designed in the rustic Prairie School style and built in 1911-1913. It didn’t last long.  Because of neglect, it was torn down in the 1930s.

Still, it was just one of two buildings in Canada among the 500-plus buildings Wright designed during his career.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that the Banff Town Council has pledged support for the pavilion but committed no money. The price tag is estimated at $6 million to $8 million.

Fighter jets flying low over Jasper National Park

JASPER, Alberta – Some low-flying fighter jets have been seen over Jasper National Park lately, but military officials say there has been nothing special. The jets were likely part of the Royal Canadian Air Force routes, but they may have been American F-16s flying between the continental United States and Alaska, officials tell the Jasper Fitzhugh.


– Allen Best

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In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale