THE BIG STORIES UP AND DOWN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
A curated newsletter from the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West
The heat is on
‘An absolute crisis’: Millions in Southwest stare down weeks of brutal heat
More than 113 million people in the U.S. are suffering under extreme heat as another massive “heat dome” expands from Texas westward toward California. Meteorologists expect the Southwest’s heat wave to intensify over the weekend, delivering some of the year’s highest temperatures and pushing California’s Death Valley near its all-time-record temperature of over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The midday heat in cities like Phoenix, Arizona, has become so intense that ordinary surfaces such as streets and metal railings are too dangerous to touch without risking burns.
Dangerous heat warnings and watches issued for much of Utah — including the Wasatch Front
The National Weather Service, which earlier this week issued a heat watch in southern Utah, is now warning of “dangerously hot conditions” with temperatures up to 104 degrees in northern Utah from noon Saturday until 9 p.m. Monday.
A Phoenix power outage amid a heat wave could possibly kill thousands, study says
If the city were to lose power for air conditioning, roughly half the city could end up in the emergency room.
How extreme heat takes a toll on the mind and body, according to experts
With so many consecutive days of excessive heat, forecasters, physicians and local health officials throughout the Southwest are recommending that people limit their outdoor exposure and know the warning signs of heat illness.
Heat waves now last longer, spurring an air-conditioning boom
Parts of the U.S. unaccustomed to hot summers crank up ACs and pay more for electricity.
When will the Southwest become unlivable?
Air-conditioning and swimming pools are sustaining my community. I worry about the day when they won’t be enough.
Opinion: In Texas, dead fish and red-faced desperation are signs of things to come
Extreme heat is the engine of planetary chaos. We ignore it at our peril.
Last month was the hottest June ever
Last month was the hottest June ever recorded globally, according to multiple independent analyses. Surface temperatures were 1.89 degrees F above average, according to NOAA.
Dispatches from the energy transition
‘Giant methane factories’: Hydropower has long been touted as clean energy. But is it?
Decades of research suggests that hydropower has a far greater climate impact than once thought. Now a growing chorus of scientists want to change the conversation about it.
Natural gas can rival coal's climate-warming potential when leaks are counted
Climate-warming greenhouse gasses from natural gas could be as damaging as those from coal, according to a new analysis.
Industry wants new pipeline on Navajo land scarred by decades of fossil fuel extraction
Developers tout hydrogen as a clean energy source; Navajo opponents say it is another way outsiders will profit by harming their environment and health.
Idaho Power to shift solar compensation to on-peak, off-peak times
The state’s largest electric utility is proposing to lower net-metering compensation and bring about other marked changes that solar advocates say could hurt the burgeoning renewable energy business and reduce the resiliency of local electricity grids.
Utah ‘blessed’ with potential sites to store climate-wrecking carbon dioxide
Utah is "blessed" with good sites for carbon sequestration, and the Utah Geological Survey has received a Department of Energy grant to map them out.
Should there be a nuclear power plant in Utah? Most residents say yes
A majority of Utah residents are on board with a nuclear power plant in Utah, with 65% who say they are in support, compared to 31% who are opposed and another 4% who have yet to make up their mind.
Clean energy and cattle: Wind farm begins operation on historic ranch in northern Arizona
The first phase of the Chevelon Butte wind farm is complete, as 57 large wind turbines tower over one of the state's longest-running cattle ranches.
Jobs in Brighton, Colorado. But what about Craig?
Transportation matters greatly to solar and battery factories arising along metro Denver's I-76 corridor. What about Craig and other coal towns?
Lithium drilling plans near Ash Meadows refuge on pause
After pushback, the BLM said it will require a full environmental review for Rover Metals’ lithium drilling project outside Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Nevada.
Toad's endangered listing forces Ormat, Interior to rethink proposed geothermal project
A planned geothermal plant in Nevada was sent back to square one last week after federal land managers decided to reexamine their approval of the project following the listing of a small rare toad living in adjacent springs as endangered.
Treaty rights, bison and the country’s most controversial hunt
Last winter’s harvest in the Yellowstone region illustrates the complexity of bison restoration.
Montana FWP confirms grizzly sighting in Shields Valley
Sighting comes on the heels of a confirmed sighting in the Pryor Mountains of southeastern Montana.
Bears aren’t as deadly as you’ve been taught
In Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, Parks Canada is hiring Indigenous employees to change the way people think about bears.
Wolf hunting regs allowing infrared imaging violate Montana law, judge rules
A Helena judge has ruled that hunting wolves using thermal imaging technology was not explicitly allowed by a 2021 law that expanded when and how the animals can be legally killed on private land.
Time for elk hunters to comment on draft FWP management plan
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has released its 2023 Draft Elk Management Plan which has been years in the making.
Elk calls have regional dialects
Whales, bats and birds sound different depending on where they live. So do elk, according to new research.
Jackson-bound gas pipeline will cleave 'core' sage grouse habitat in Sublette County, Wyoming
A Lower Valley Energy pipeline extension that will deliver natural gas to Jackson Hole will bisect land Wyoming has designated “core habitat” for sage grouse, an icon of the western sagebrush steppe.
Public land matters
BLM director says agency has been directed to implement corner crossing
A federal judge’s May ruling that hunters in Wyoming who crossed from one corner of public land to another did not trespass on adjacent private lands sent a distinct message to the Bureau of Land Management’s national legal team. “Our solicitors think it’s pretty clear,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, director of the BLM and a Montana resident. “We’re taking that ruling quite seriously and making sure that our state directors are implementing it.”
‘Devil’s’ postcard prompts request to pause corner-crossing
Hateful vitriol, including a postcard from “Satan,” has prompted the owner of Elk Mountain Ranch to ask a federal court to stall the judge’s own decision that corner crossing is not trespassing.
Maps offer clues on managing forests for climate change
Working with the Forest Service, the Pew Charitable Trusts developed an interactive map showing where a more — or less — hands-on approach may help national forests as the world warms.
BLM foundation names first-ever CEO
The nonprofit group was created by Congress in 2017, but the Trump administration didn't appoint members or set it up.
Biden officials support bill curbing speculative leasing
Two senior Biden administration officials offered general support at a Senate hearing Wednesday for two bills that aim to curtail so-called speculative oil and gas leasing on federal lands and to permanently protect more than 420,000 acres in Colorado.
Sparks fly as GOP seeks to reverse Chaco Canyon oil ban
Republicans want to overturn a recent Interior Department decision that banned new leasing and mining around the New Mexico historical park.
Fast-tracked oil expansion plan in Utah said to threaten Colorado environment
A proposal to the BLM to expand the capacity of an oil transport facility on federal land west of Price, Utah, has caught the attention of Colorado officials and conservation groups opposed to increased oil train traffic along the Colorado River.
The gondola’s price tag just went up again. Here’s why UDOT still says it is moving forward with the controversial plan.
The Utah Department of Transportation has made it official — it wants to build an eight-mile-long gondola through Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Here’s how people reacted to news of the Little Cottonwood gondola moving forward
Elected leaders and ski resort officials shared their thoughts on UDOT's decision to move forward with a gondola through Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Utah wants to build the world’s longest gondola to solve traffic
It is rare for a state department of transportation to propose solving a traffic problem with anything other than a highway widening. It is even rarer for it to suggest a gondola.
What else we’re reading today
Amid Allen & Co.'s power players, life goes on in Sun Valley
As some of the richest and most influential people on the planet descend on Sun Valley, residents and visitors who end up intermingled among the billionaires and power players hold varying opinions about the annual conference hosted by private investment bank Allen & Co.
Judge OKs Yellowstone Club snowmaking operation
The Yellowstone Club can go forward with its plans to make snow using recycled water from Big Sky, the Gallatin County District Court ruled at the end of June.
Yellowstone gateway towns struggle to provide emergency medical services as tourism swells
Providing emergency medical services in Montana's gateway towns to Yellowstone National Park comes with unique problems when tourism swells the local population.
Officials estimate 500,000 pounds of tar-like asphalt could have entered the Yellowstone in railway incident
Nearly two weeks after a bridge collapse and train derailment sent 10 rail cars plunging into the Yellowstone River, authorities are starting to quantify the volume of molten asphalt that entered the river.
Trains move toxic chemicals through small towns daily. Most aren't prepared for disaster.
In the wake of the East Palestine, Ohio, disaster, other train towns wonder: Are we next?
Shaky Ground: The link between the Permian Basin's fossil fuel industry and earthquakes
Earthquake reports from the U.S. Geological Society in the Permian Basin juxtaposed with oil production numbers from the Energy Information Administration show rapidly increasing extraction instep with growing seismicity.
More than 150 insurance companies sue Xcel, citing negligence over start of Marshall fire
Insurance companies claimed Xcel Energy was aware of the high fire risk and could have shut off power, preventing the Marshall fire.
Xcel Energy seeks $45M rate increase — down from $312M — amid consumer outrage over rising bills
State's largest utility slashed request by 85%, but consumer advocates are troubled by adding lawyer fees, worker bonuses to electric bills.
Electricity bills could climb 22% for Rocky Mountain Power customers
Wyoming's largest utility says volatile coal and natural gas markets are driving electricity costs upward.
In fierce battle against climate change, Idaho-led team is up for $160 million grant
The University of Idaho-led team, recognizing the need for communication across sectors, plans to bring forces together with its think tank, called FIERCE: Fueling an Innovative, Equitable and Resilient Climate-smart Economy. It links multiple organizations from the Columbia River Basin, which spans much of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, as well as a little bit of Montana.
Lawmakers gave millions to support a private landowner’s unusual wildfire prevention method. Does it work?
“Roller felling” encourages aspen, but how long the results last and whether it’s any better than other forest treatments remain big unknowns.
Nevada departs state climate alliance
The move came as Arizona joined the group in a sign of shifting state politics on energy policy.
Colorado sees major drop in water use as historic rains continued in June
Colorado’s reservoirs are full and runoff estimates keep rising after historic rains continued into June, prompting water use to drop.
Interior Department official with key role in Colorado River talks is stepping down
A senior Interior Department official who has played a key role in negotiations over the shrinking Colorado River will leave her job next month.
With Utah Lake dredging project sunk, Lake Restoration Solutions files for bankruptcy
The company’s multiple lawsuits mean it can’t cover its bills, but the CEO gave a sizeable payment to his anti-wolf nonprofit.
Fireflies are thriving in Colorado wetlands. Scientists want to shed light on why.
Lightning bugs light up the sky in scattered pockets across the state, luring sightseers and sparking research that could guide reintroduction
Unions: Lee newspapers' cuts mean less journalism and insulting readers' intelligence
The unions of Lee Enterprises are pushing back against the corporate owners and their plans to slash print days while also failing to articulate a digital plan.
Edited by Matthew Frank, associate director of regional journalism at the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana
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