Mesozoic Miscellany 71
1 hour ago
"Kelly supports increased domestic energy production from a range of sources — including coal, oil and natural gas — and has focused intensely on energy during his campaign. He opposes special subsidies to encourage renewable energy sources, arguing that solar companies shouldn't get any breaks that oil and coal companies don't get. [Democrat Ron] Barber also supports more domestic production and opposes higher taxes on energy. He has said tax breaks should be discontinued for oil companies, but that solar and other renewable energy sources should be incentivized."
Most of the reservoirs in Arizona are well below their historical average. Combined storage in Lakes Mead and Powell decreased by more than 500,000 acre-feet in April but is still about 10 percent greater than it was one year ago as a result of the copious winter snow in 2010–2011. The projected water year inflow to Lake Powell is 5.57 million acre-feet (MAF). If this holds true, inflow will rank as the fourth lowest on record since the closure of the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. Precipitation in coming months could increase or decrease actual inflow, with the likely range falling between 4.9 MAF (45 percent of average) and 6.5 MAF (60 percent of average).
The Salt River Basin system, which supplies water to Phoenix, decreased by about 25,600 acre-feet in April and is about 4 percent above average for this time of year (Figure 6). Storage in the San Carlos Reservoir is at about 2 percent of capacity and is at its lowest level for this time of year since at least 1997, reflecting very low precipitation in southeastern Arizona during two consecutive La Niña winters.
Internal emails obtained by the House Natural Resources Committee raise significant questions into the science used by the Obama Administration to justify a 20-year ban on uranium development on one million acres of federal land in Arizona. In the emails, scientists within the National Park Service discuss how the potential environmental impacts were “grossly overestimated” in the Administration’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and that the potential impacts are “very minor to negligible.”
A National Park Service hydrologist wrote in an internal email, “The DEIS goes to great lengths in an attempt to establish impacts to water resources from uranium mining. It fails to do so, but instead creates enough confusion and obfuscation of hydrologic principles to create the illusion that there could be adverse impacts if uranium mining occurred.” He notes that “previous studies have been unable to detect significant contamination downstream of current or past mining operations” and that “adverse impacts to water resources” is not a reason to be concerned about potential uranium mining operations.
Another employee with the National Park Service wrote that this is a case “where the hard science doesn’t strongly support a policy position.”I've expressed my frustration that the Secretary of Interior announced his decision before public comments on the Draft EIS had been analyzed or addressed by the federal agencies. In a conference call with Park Service and Interior officials on the day of the announcement, they told us that they had not read all of the DEIS but had received 300,000 postcards (about 96% of which were preprinted as I recall), and they had enough information to make their decision. [Update - 5-24-12 8:30pm: I revised this paragraph to correct a misstatement that the withdrawal was made upon release of the DEIS and before public comments had been received. I apologize for the confusion. See comments below.]
The American Geosciences Institute has released another analysis of the geoscience workforce. "Currents #56" [right] concludes that "Geoscience enrollment and degrees in the U.S. slipped back from their highs during the 2010-2011 academic year. After several years of rapid increases, enrollment at the undergraduate level dropped 8% to 22,162 while slipping 3% for graduate students to 8,977. These decreases still left enrollments at or above the 2008-2009 levels. Degrees conferred dropped by similar percentages." It's not clear this is part of a trend. There is a fair amount of variation from year to year, and the previous year was higher than average for the past decade or two.
The House Committee on Natural Resources held hearings in April on the Map it Once, Use it Many Times Act (H.R. 4233), the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 1620), the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2012 (H.R. 4402), and the Soda Ash Royalty Extension, Job Creation, and Export Enhancement Act of 2011 (H.R. 1192).
H.R. 4402, introduced by Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV), defines strategic and critical minerals as minerals necessary for national defense, the nation’s energy infrastructure, to support domestic manufacturing, and for the nation’s economic security. Any mine that could provide strategic and critical minerals “shall be considered an ‘infrastructure project’ as described by a March 22 Presidential Order. It would limit the total review process for mining permits to a maximum of 30 months unless signatories agree to an extension. H.R. 1192 would extend a reduced royalty rate of 2% for the development of soda ash, which expired in 2011, through October of 2016. The Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on H.R. 4402 and H.R. 1192 on April 26.