Conservation & Environment

Quoting ‘The Lorax,’ court tosses permit for pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail

Posted by on Dec 17, 2018 @ 9:01 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

Quoting ‘The Lorax,’ court tosses permit for pipeline to cross Appalachian Trail

  A permit for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross two national forests, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, was thrown out Thursday by a federal appeals court that harshly criticized regulators for approving the proposal.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond blasted the U.S. Forest Service for granting a special-use permit to build the natural gas pipeline through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, and granting a right of way across the Appalachian Trail.

“A thorough review of the record leads to the necessary conclusion that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources,” Judge Stephanie Thacker wrote for the panel in the unanimous ruling.

The court said the agency had “serious environmental concerns” about the project that were “suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.”

The ruling also quoted “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss, saying the Forest Service is trusted to “speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

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Just-passed Farm Bill includes protection for 20,000 acres of Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest

Posted by on Dec 15, 2018 @ 7:19 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Just-passed Farm Bill includes protection for 20,000 acres of Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest

Tucked inside the 800-page, $800 million-plus Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, known as the Farm Bill, is a smaller piece of legislation dedicated to the continued conservation of thousands of acres of forested land in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Wilderness Act will designate the highest level of protection for 20,000 acres in the Cherokee National Forest. With the bill’s passage this week — and expected forthcoming signature of the president — comes the first new wilderness designation in Tennessee since 1986, when much of the northeast area of the forest was protected.

The act protects about 12,000 acres in the southern zone of the forest in Monroe and Polk counties. The remaining 8,000 acres will create the new Upper Bald zone. That new designation will protect much of the Bald River and Bald River Falls area, which provides water to the Tellico and Ocoee River watersheds.

With the designation comes a set of guidelines on how the area can be managed: no mechanized or gas-powered equipment, no logging, no drilling, no mining, no road building. Ten percent of the forest is designated wilderness. With the new act, that will increase to 13 percent — which is still 5 percent less than the national average for forested areas.

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How the U.S. Forest Service Grows Millions of Seedlings Each Year

Posted by on Dec 13, 2018 @ 3:19 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

How the U.S. Forest Service Grows Millions of Seedlings Each Year

Tucked into the Douglas fir and ponderosa pine forests of Northern Idaho sits the quaint lakeside town of Coeur d’Alene. The former lumber town is now a popular tourist destination drawing families from across the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Gone are the pounding mills, replaced with fancy lakefront hotels and bustling shopping centers.

But it’s not hard to find relics of the region’s once-thriving industry: Huge logs chained together to form breakwaters protect marinas and lakeside restaurants scattered around Lake Coeur d’Alene—the region’s main tourist draw. In the sprawling Idaho Panhandle National Forest that nearly surrounds the town, century-old stumps the size of boulders rot beneath a canopy of trees that themselves seem a hundred or more years old. Both the stumps and the Forest’s now abundant trees provide clear evidence of a century of forest management that has played out in this quiet corner of America.

A short 10-minute walk from the box stores and fast food restaurants that skirt Coeur d’Alene’s edges is another example of how connected this small city is to the forests that surround it. Here, just off of an unassuming and ordinary street is the U.S. Forest Service’s Coeur d’Alene Nursery. Established in 1960, the Coeur d’Alene Nursery straddles the past, the present and the future on a 220-acre plot of land.

A squat single-story building greets visitors who enter into a small lobby decorated with a few posters, some t-shirts and hats. Greenhouses, warehouses and fields, some fallow and some flush with small green trees, spread out behind the office, a tapestry of incongruous shapes and colors. An assortment of sheds, tractors, four wheelers and other custom-built contraptions rounds out the scene.

How do they do this?


Vanishing Nutrients. It’s a hazard of climate change you probably haven’t heard of.

Posted by on Dec 13, 2018 @ 8:54 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Vanishing Nutrients. It’s a hazard of climate change you probably haven’t heard of.

  Is it possible to starve yourself of nutrients while simultaneously gaining weight? It turns out the answer is yes. According to a growing body of research, rising carbon dioxide levels are making our food less nutritious, robbing key crops of vitamins essential to human development.

Studies have shown that crops as varied as wheat, maize, soybeans and field peas contain less protein, zinc, and iron when grown under levels of carbon dioxide expected by 2050. Many crops have already suffered losses in these nutrients; one study compared modern plants with historical herbarium specimens and found that levels of all minerals, including zinc, iron and calcium, closely tracked carbon dioxide levels through time.

It seems counterintuitive that more carbon dioxide could harm plants, since it is one of the main ingredients that plants use to grow, but it turns out that too much carbon dioxide is as unhealthy for plants as too many carbohydrates are for humans. Extra carbon dioxide acts like empty calories or “junk food” for the plants, which gorge themselves on it to grow bigger and faster, consequently getting larger but less nutrient-packed. Just like America’s obesity epidemic, which is partially due to people’s increased access to an abundance of calorie-rich but nutrient-poor food, more is not always better.

Agricultural scientists have known for some time that our food has been getting less nutritious, but they thought it was only due to a byproduct of modern farming methods: soil overuse which leads to mineral depletion, or breeders favoring high-yield varieties, which sacrifices nutrition for size. Meanwhile, plant researchers working over the last couple of decades were finding something surprising: that elevated carbon dioxide also contributes to lowering mineral content in plants.

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The Arctic Ocean has lost 95 percent of its oldest ice — a startling sign of what’s to come

Posted by on Dec 12, 2018 @ 8:42 am in Conservation | 0 comments

The Arctic Ocean has lost 95 percent of its oldest ice — a startling sign of what’s to come

Over the past three decades of global warming, the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by a stunning 95 percent, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Arctic Report Card.

The finding suggests that the sea at the top of the world has already morphed into a new and very different state, with major implications not only for creatures such as walruses and polar bears but, in the long term, perhaps for the pace of global warming itself.

The oldest ice can be thought of as a kind of glue that holds the Arctic together and, through its relative permanence, helps keep the Arctic cold even in long summers.

“The younger the ice, the thinner the ice, the easier it is to go away,” said Don Perovich, a scientist at Dartmouth who coordinated the sea ice section of the yearly report.

If the Arctic begins to experience entirely ice-free summers, scientists say, the planet will warm even more, as the dark ocean water absorbs large amounts of solar heating that used to be deflected by the cover of ice.

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Virginia files lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline

Posted by on Dec 9, 2018 @ 7:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Virginia files lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline

The company building a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia violated environmental regulations more than 300 times, a lawsuit filed by Virginia’s top lawyer alleges.

Mountain Valley Pipeline is facing “the maximum allowable civil penalties and a court order to force MVP to comply with environmental laws and regulations,” according to a statement from Attorney General Mark Herring.

Since work began earlier this year, inspections have found that crews failed to prevent muddy water from flowing off pipeline construction easements, often leaving harmful sediment in nearby streams and properties.

Covering a span of seven months and nearly 100 miles of the pipeline’s route through five counties, the lawsuit is one of the most comprehensive summaries to date of the environmental toll taken by running a 42-inch diameter pipeline across rugged slopes and through pure mountain streams.

Herring’s office filed the case on behalf of the Department of Environmental Quality and the State Water Control Board. Pipeline opponents have called on DEQ to issue a stop-work order, which the agency is allowed by state law to do if there is a “substantial adverse impact” to water quality or if such an impact is eminent.

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Western North Carolina to get millions for land and stream protection, recreation

Posted by on Dec 7, 2018 @ 6:30 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Western North Carolina to get millions for land and stream protection, recreation

Western North Carolina will see more hiking trails, added land for the Blue Ridge Parkway and state natural areas and better water quality thanks to $20.7 million in grants awarded recently through the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

The grants awarded to municipalities, state agencies and conservation groups will fund 54 projects relating to land conservation, stream restoration, innovative stormwater management and conservation planning from the mountains to the coast.

The Clean Water Management Trust Fund was established in 1996 by the General Assembly to protect the state’s drinking water sources but today is also tasked with conserving and protecting the state’s natural resources, cultural heritage and military installations.

In the face of population growth putting pressure on land and water resources and further threats from climate change that have lengthened droughts and led to forest fires, the conservation projects funded through the trust fund are more important than ever.

One of the biggest clean water grants awarded was just more than $1 million to The Conservation Fund to buy 912 acres of Blackrock Creek in the Plott Balsam Range in Jackson County.

The Conservation Fund is working with Sylva to expand the town’s existing 1,100-acre Pinnacle Park, a popular hiking and trail running spot. The land will expand Pinnacle Park with the 441-acre Blackrock Creek and 5,810-foot Blackrock Peak an and 5,341-foot Pinnacle Bald and protect the 471-acre Shut-In Creek section.

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Monumental Disaster at the Department of the Interior

Posted by on Dec 6, 2018 @ 7:03 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Monumental Disaster at the Department of the Interior

This is a tough time to be a federal scientist—or any civil servant in the federal government. The Trump administration is clamping down on science, denying dangerous climate change and hollowing out the workforces of the agencies charged with protecting American health, safety and natural resources.

At the Department of the Interior (DOI), with its mission to conserve and manage America’s natural and cultural resources, the Trump administration’s political appointees are stumbling over one another to earn accolades for disabling agency operations. Dozens of senior executives were targeted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for reassignment in a staff purge just six months into the new administration.

From that day onward, Zinke and his political staff have consistently sidelined scientists and experts while handing the agency’s keys over to oil, gas and mining interests. The only saving grace is that Zinke and his colleagues are not very good at it, and in many cases the courts are stopping them in their tracks. The effects on science, scientists and the federal workforce, however, will be long-lasting.

In a new report, Science Under Siege at the Department of the Interior, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has documented some of the most egregious and anti-science policies and practices at the DOI under Secretary Zinke. The report describes suppression of science, denial of climate change, the silencing and intimidation of agency staff, and attacks on science-based laws that help protect our nation’s world-class wildlife and habitats.

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Smokies Park Hosts Annual Festival of Christmas Past Program

Posted by on Dec 4, 2018 @ 8:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Smokies Park Hosts Annual Festival of Christmas Past Program

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the annual Festival of Christmas Past celebration on Saturday, December 8, 2018 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Sugarlands Visitor Center. The event, sponsored in cooperation with Great Smoky Mountains Association, is free to the public.

The festival will include mountain music, traditional shape note singing, mountain craft demonstrations, and a living history walk. Visitors can experience these traditions through hands-on activities including make-and-take craft stations. Hot apple cider will also be served throughout the day.

“Around Christmas time, people gathered in churches, homes, and schools where they celebrated the holiday through music, storytelling, and crafts,” said North District Resource Education Supervisor Stephanie Sutton. “The Festival of Christmas Past allows us to pause and remember some of these traditions.”

The popular Christmas Memories Walk will be held at 11:30 a.m. Costumed interpreters will lead a short walk from the visitor center and talk about life in the mountains during the holidays. Through this living history program, visitors will experience the spirit of the season in the mountains during the early days.

The full schedule of events at Sugarlands Visitor Center includes:

9:30 a.m. Traditional Shape Note Singing
11:15 a.m. Winter in the Natural World Program
12:00 noon Music by the Lost Mill String Band

12:45 p.m. “The Night before Christmas” Reading
1:00 p.m. Cherokee Storytelling with Kathi Littlejohn
2:00 p.m. Music by Boogertown Gap
2:45 p.m. Traditional Reading of the Christmas Story
3:00 p.m. Caroling/Sing Along

10:00-1:00 Wreath-making
10:00-2:00 Craft and Trade Demonstrations
11:30 a.m. Christmas Memories Walk
12:00-2:00 Children’s Crafts

Sugarlands Visitor Center is located on Newfound Gap Road, two miles south of Gatlinburg, TN. For more information, call the visitor center at 865-436-1291.


Park Will Also Host Annual Holiday Homecoming at Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a Holiday Homecoming at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Saturday, December 15, 2018. Park staff and volunteers will provide hands-on traditional crafts and activities from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Children and adults will have the opportunity to learn about and experience some of the traditions surrounding an Appalachian Christmas.

The visitor center will be decorated for the holiday season including an exhibit on Christmas in the mountains. Hot apple cider and cookies will be served on the porch with a fire in the fireplace. In addition, the park will host the monthly acoustic old-time jam session from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

“Musical expression was and still is often a part of daily life in the southern mountains, and mountain music is strongly tied to the Smokies history and culture,” said Supervisory Ranger Lynda Doucette. “We would like to invite musicians to play and our visitors to join us in singing traditional Christmas carols and holiday songs as was done in old days.”

The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is located on Newfound Gap Road, two miles north of Cherokee, NC. For more information call the visitor center at 828-497-1904. All activities are free and open to the public. Generous support of this event is provided by the Great Smoky Mountains Association.


19 of 20 World Leaders Just Pledged to Fight Climate Change. Trump Was the Lone Holdout.

Posted by on Dec 2, 2018 @ 8:37 am in Conservation | 0 comments

It is telling that on two of the most contentious topics at the Buenos Aires Group of 20 meeting, the United States eventually joined 19 other world leaders on trade, but when it comes to climate change, President Donald Trump remained firmly alone in his belief that it is a hoax.

Trump was the only holdout. While the communiqué affirms support for the Paris climate change agreement on the eve of the next round of climate talks in Poland, it includes a separate section for the US: “The United States reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and affirms its strong commitment to economic growth and energy access and security, utilizing all energy sources and technologies, while protecting the environment.”

Trump, of course, pledged in June 2016 to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, and the United States will officially stand alone in the world in rejecting climate action when Trump can fulfill that promise formally in 2020. In the meantime, the country remains a part of the UN climate negotiations, though now more often playing the spoiler role in talks.

The rest of the text, agreed upon by the 19 countries, recognizes “that the Paris Agreement is irreversible and commit to its full implementation, reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances. We will continue to tackle climate change, while promoting sustainable development and economic growth.”

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What climate change will do to America, region by region

Posted by on Nov 30, 2018 @ 7:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

What climate change will do to America, region by region

Look, at this point, even the most stubborn among us know that climate change is coming for us. We really don’t have much time until the climate plagues we’re already getting previews of — mega-wildfires, rising sea-levels, superstorm after superstorm — start increasing in frequency. The 4th National Climate Assessment says all that and much more is on its way.

Here’s the thing: Not all regions in the U.S. are going to experience climate change in the same way. Your backyard might suffer different climate consequences than my backyard. And, let’s be honest, we need to know what’s happening in our respective spaces so we can be prepared. I’m not saying it’s time to start prepping your bunker, but wouldn’t you like to know if your family should consider moving to higher ground or stock up on maple syrup.

Luckily, that new report — which Trump tried to bury on Black Friday — breaks down climate change’s likely impacts on 10 specific regions. Unluckily, the chapters are super dense.

So here’s the Cliffs Notes version from Grist…


Plan calls for Route 66 to become National Historic Trail

Posted by on Nov 29, 2018 @ 9:29 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Plan calls for Route 66 to become National Historic Trail

There’s a new proposal moving through Congress seeking to designate Route 66, the highway that connected Chicago to Los Angeles and was once an economic driver for small towns across a post-World War II United States, as a National Historic Trail.

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Jim Inhofe announced this week the introduction of a bipartisan bill that would amend the National Trails System Act and include Route 66 in an effort to help revitalize cities and small towns that sit along the historic corridor.

The plan comes as cities and towns where the once busy Route 66 passed through have been working developing revitalization projects to rehabilitate aging buildings and landmarks to attract tourists.

Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, said in a statement that Route 66 symbolizes freedom that allowed motorists to visit mom-and-pop diners, small businesses, and scenic byways through eight states.

“Just as importantly, this bill would safeguard Route 66 as (a) cultural landmark, preserving its significance as the `Main Street of America’ for future generations of adventurers, migrants, hitchhikers, and tourists venturing westward,” Udall said.

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Climate report details deep hits to the Southwest

Posted by on Nov 28, 2018 @ 9:10 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Climate report details deep hits to the Southwest

Climate change is here. It’s human-caused. And it’s going to deliver a blow to American prosperity. Already hard-hit by drought, wildfires and declining water supplies, the southwestern United States will continue to face those challenges — and new ones.

That’s the message from a federal report released over the holiday weekend about climate change and its impact on the U.S. economy and infrastructure.

Compiled by 13 federal agencies and more than 300 contributing authors, the peer-reviewed report reiterates much of what scientists have been explaining for decades. But it also clearly delineates the links between warming and extreme weather events — and warns of the increasingly expensive economic consequences that come from not addressing climate change.

The assessment is part of the United States Global Change Program, which has completed reports regularly since directed by Congress and then-President George H.W. Bush almost 30 years ago.

According to the assessment, rural and urban economies alike will suffer. Fisheries will decline, farming and ranching challenges will intensify and rising sea levels will push cities and neighborhoods back from the coasts. American infrastructure, from highways and rail lines to sea walls and electric grids, will also be affected by impacts from climate change. Even trade, including import and export prices, will be disrupted.

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National Forest Foundation Plants a Record 2.6 Million Trees in 2018

Posted by on Nov 27, 2018 @ 10:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

National Forest Foundation Plants a Record 2.6 Million Trees in 2018

In 2018, the largest number of trees were planted in a single year by the National Forest Foundation.

The NFF works with the U.S. Forest Service to restore priority sites on America’s 193-million-acres of National Forests and engages Americans across the country in stewarding and enjoying these landscapes. The NFF announced a campaign to plant 50 million trees on National Forests on Earth Day 2018. Every dollar donated to the NFF plants one tree on a National Forest. When considering your Giving Tuesday donations, perhaps keep the National Forest Foundation in mind.

The 2018 tree-planting projects occurred on 25 different forests across the country and reforested approximately 13,000 acres, an area equal to planting a forest across more than 10,000 football fields. These reforestation projects improved local watersheds and improved wildlife habitat for threatened and endangered species. These projects are also restoring thousands of acres that have been impacted by recent wildfires in the western U.S.

Each tree will sequester an average of 11 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, meaning that in the next 100 years, these 2.6 million trees will sequester more than 13 million tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equal to the annual emissions from more than 280,000 cars.



Government climate report warns of worsening US disasters

Posted by on Nov 24, 2018 @ 6:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Government climate report warns of worsening US disasters

As California’s catastrophic wildfires recede and people rebuild after two hurricanes, a massive new federal report warns that these types of extreme weather disasters are worsening in the United States. The White House report quietly issued the Friday after Thanksgiving also frequently contradicts President Donald Trump.

The National Climate Assessment was written long before the deadly fires in California this month and Hurricanes Florence and Michael raked the East Coast and Florida. It says warming-charged extremes “have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration.”

The federal report says the last few years have smashed records for damaging weather in the U.S., costing nearly $400 billion since 2015. “Warmer and drier conditions have contributed to an increase in large forest fires in the western United States and interior Alaska,” according to the report.

The air pollution from wildfires combined with heat waves is a major future health risk for the West, the report says. During the fires in northern California, air quality hit “hazardous” levels, according to government air monitoring agencies.

The report is mandated by law every few years and is based on hundreds of previously research studies. It details how global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas is hurting each region of United States and how it impacts different sectors of the economy, including energy and agriculture.

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Climate change: Warming gas concentrations at new record high

Posted by on Nov 23, 2018 @ 7:12 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Climate change: Warming gas concentrations at new record high

Concentrations of key gases in the atmosphere that are driving up global temperatures reached a new high in 2017. In their annual greenhouse gas bulletin, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says there is no sign of reversal in this rising trend.

Carbon dioxide levels reached 405 parts per million (ppm) in 2017, a level not seen in 3-5 million years. Researchers also note the resurgence of a banned chlorofluorocarbon gas called CFC-11.

Concentrations differ from emissions in that they represent what remains in the atmosphere after some of the gases are absorbed by the seas, land and trees. Since 1990 the warming impact of these long lived gases on the climate has increased by 41%.

“I am very concerned that the three greenhouse gases most responsible for climate change (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide) are all rising upwards unabated,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia. “CO2 concentrations are now well above 400ppm – levels were 321ppm when I was born, that is a big rise in a human lifetime!”

Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas, and about 60% of it in the atmosphere comes from human activities like cattle farming, rice cultivation and fossil fuel extraction. Levels in the atmosphere are now about 1,859 parts per billion – 257% of what they were before the industrial revolution, and the rate of increase is pretty constant over the last decade.



Coast Guard orders cleanup of massive 14-year oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

Posted by on Nov 21, 2018 @ 9:16 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Coast Guard orders cleanup of massive 14-year oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

The federal government issued an ultimatum to an energy company to stop an oil spill that has been leaking thousands of gallons into the Gulf of Mexico every day for more than 14 years.

In an order issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, Taylor Energy Co. was told to “institute a … system to capture, contain, or remove oil” from the site or face a $40,000 per day fine for failing to comply. The order was issued after The Washington Post reported that the spill was far greater than Interior Department estimates, which were based on company data.

Up to 700 barrels of oil per day have leaked from Taylor Energy’s former site 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana since the platform was destroyed during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, according to an analysis issued by the Justice Department. Each barrel contains 42 gallons. Based on reports from contractors hired by Taylor Energy, the government had previously estimated that the spill amounted to zero to 55 barrels per day.

The spill so far amounts to at least 1.5 million barrels, and up to 3.5 million barrels. That would rival the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest offshore spill in the nation’s history, which spewed 4 million barrels of oil into gulf waters.

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It’s now cheaper to build a new wind farm than to keep a coal plant running

Posted by on Nov 20, 2018 @ 7:18 am in Conservation | 0 comments

It’s now cheaper to build a new wind farm than to keep a coal plant running

Inflation dictates that the cost of living will continue to rise — except, it seems, when it comes to renewable energy. The cost of building a new utility-scale solar or wind farm has now dropped below the cost of operating an existing coal plant, according to an analysis by the investment bank Lazard. Accounting for government tax credits and other energy incentives would bring the cost even lower.

“There are some scenarios, in some parts of the U.S., where it is cheaper to build and operate wind and solar than keep a coal plant running,” said a Lazard banker who was involved in the report. “You have seen coal plants shutting down because of this.”

Every year, the investment bank analyzes the cost of different types of energy using a metric called the levelized cost of energy, or LCOE. This analysis factors in the cost of components and the cost of operations, as well as the cost of debt, to come up with the smallest dollar amount, per unit of energy, for an investor in the project to see a 12 percent return.

The LCOE for coal this year is between $27 and $45 per megawatt. That figure is $29 to $56 for a wind farm and $31 to $44 for a solar farm, depending on the technology used.

Lazard also noted that wind and solar farms typically require fewer people to run than a coal or nuclear plant, further decreasing their cost.



Duke Energy Begins Final Phase of Mt. Sterling Solar Project

Posted by on Nov 19, 2018 @ 3:08 pm in Conservation | 0 comments

Duke Energy Begins Final Phase of Mt. Sterling Solar Project

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that Duke Energy will remove utility poles and overhead powerline along a 3.5-mile utility corridor that extends from the park boundary at Mt. Sterling Road (Hwy NC284) to the Mt. Sterling Fire Lookout Tower beginning Monday, November 19, 2018 through Friday, November 30. Work will not occur on weekends or the Thanksgiving holiday.

The overhead powerline is no longer needed due to the installation of a microgrid solar and battery facility that Duke Energy installed in 2017 to provide electrical power to park radio equipment located at the Mt. Sterling Fire Lookout Tower. This radio equipment is a vital component of the park’s emergency communication system, which serves both frontcountry and backcountry areas of the park. The overhead line has been decommissioned and the existing maintained corridor will return to a natural state.

Work crews will use chainsaws, off-road utility vehicles, and horses to remove the equipment. The area will remain open, but temporary restrictions are possible to ensure that hikers can safely pass thorough the work zone. Hikers should expect to hear noise associated with the work along the Mt. Sterling Trail and near the Mt. Sterling Fire Lookout Tower and backcountry campsite 38.

For more information about the Mt. Sterling Sustainable Energy Project, please visit the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website and following the link titled “Mt. Sterling Sustainable Energy Project” at


New permit system will limit hiking in Oregon’s Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters wilderness in 2020

Posted by on Nov 16, 2018 @ 6:56 am in Conservation, Hiking News | 0 comments

New permit system will limit hiking in Oregon’s Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters wilderness in 2020

Hiking and camping in three of Oregon’s most popular wilderness areas will be restricted starting in 2020, an attempt by outdoor officials to limit damage from growing crowds of visitors.

The U.S. Forest Service announced a decision to install a permit system limiting the number of people in the Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters and Mount Washington Wilderness areas.

A sharp increase in crowds during the past decade — and environmental damage that’s followed — prompted the agency to enact sweeping changes to the way people access 450,000 acres of Oregon’s most iconic backcountry.

“The goal is to maintain the quality of our wilderness areas and the experience they offer,” said John Allen, supervisor of Deschutes National Forest. “It’s about keeping the amount of people to a level where they’re not degrading these special places.”

Anyone camping overnight in the three wilderness areas will need a permit from a limited pool, under the new system. Day-users also will need a special permit for 30 of the most popular trails, including routes to Green Lakes Basin, Marion Lake, South Sister and Jefferson Park.

The decision marks a fundamental change to the unencumbered way most Oregonians currently hike, backpack and ride horses on public lands. It’s a system that treats hiking in a way similar to fishing or hunting, which have long been more regulated.

Learn more here…