Continuing a tradition of relatively strong stands on environmental degradation caused by natural gas drilling and other forms of development, the Rocky Mountain region (Region 8) office of the Environmental Protection Agency is now questioning a proposal to divert flows from Colorado's only wild and scenic river: the Cache la Poudre.
The agency contends that the Northern Integrated Supply Project -- which would divert peak spring melt flows from the river into the proposed off-channel, 177,000 acre-feet Glade Reservoir to help supply thirsty Front Range communities -- could harm local wetlands and water quality. According to the Rocky Mountain News:
Deborah Lebow Aal, an EPA project manager who analyzed the corps' draft environmental impact statement, said more study needs to occur to understand how the projects, which draw from the Poudre and South Platte rivers, will affect streams and what is needed to protect the waterways.
"In the draft they say the temperature is going to increase, but they don't give you any information on how or why or what's going to happen," she said. "They're going to take 71 percent of high flows in the spring. That's a pretty significant impact that was not well addressed."
The EPA has made known that it has the authority to put the kibosh on the project, though right now the agency is just talking with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy about how to remedy the trouble, the Rocky reports.
The Rocky Mountain EPA's stance is interesting because it emphasizes the difference between the national (which has a disturbing tendency to defer to Bush administration whims) and regional (where many officials have pushed back against those whims) offices of the massive federal agency.
Take, for instance, the national office's move to tweak how the Clean Air Act is enforced in national parks. Currently, pollution measured around protected Class 1 airsheds, such as parks or wilderness areas, is averaged over 3-hour and 24-hour periods to capture pollution spikes. The new regulation, which could be released as early as this week, would allow pollution to be averaged over an entire year, so that spikes that occur during times of peak energy demand when nearby power plants run at full bore, for example, would no longer violate the law. Says the Washington Post:
If the new rule is enacted, the (National Parks Conservation Association) estimates it would ease the way for the construction of at least two dozen coal-fired utilities within 186 miles of 10 national parks.
But regional administrators aren't toeing the line on this one, the Post reports:
. . .half of the EPA's 10 regional administrators formally dissented from the decision and four others criticized the move in writing. . .All but two of the regional administrators objecting to the proposed rule are political appointees.