The Latest Bounce

  Taxpayers have been losing money on public-lands grazing, and now the feds have a solution: Charge ranchers even less. Although the Government Accountability Office says the federal grazing program loses $123 million annually, the Forest Service and the BLM plan to cut the fee that ranchers pay to pasture a cow and calf on public land for one month. In 2005, an animal unit month cost $1.79; this year, it will cost $1.56 (HCN, 11/28/05: The Latest Bounce).

From Russia, with love, come drill rigs. Colorado’s natural gas boom means that 80 drill rigs are punching new wells full-time in the state — but busy energy companies need at least 100 more rigs, says John Works, managing director of Emerging Markets Finance International in Denver. The industry has been importing Chinese and Canadian drill rigs to meet the demand; this spring, Works’ company plans to bring in 15 rigs from Russia and train local crews to run them (HCN, 10/17/05: Overseas drill rigs head for the West).

A new coal-fired power plant gets a big tax break. The Diné Power Authority plans to give Houston-based Sithe Global Power a sweet deal, reducing by more than two-thirds the taxes that Sithe would pay to the Navajo Nation to build and operate the Desert Rock power plant on the reservation (HCN, 9/5/05: Pollution for jobs: a fair trade?). All told, the Navajo Nation will get $530.5 million instead of $1.64 billion during the plant’s first 25 years.

Washington could become the sixth Western state to set standards for renewable energy requirements (HCN, 10/17/05: States lead charge against global warming). A coalition of labor and environmental groups is trying to get a measure onto the November ballot that would require big utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. To the chagrin of the state’s big dam operators, the measure’s definition of "renewable" does not include hydroelectric power.