Friday, January 31, 2014

Colorado Forest Health Survey Released

Colorado Forests
Every year, the US Forest Service, in coordination with Colorado State Forest Service perform an Aerial Health Survey. The survey monitors insect and disease-caused tree mortality and damage across Colorado forests.

This year's survey was released just yesterday. The study showed that the spread of the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically. The survey revealed that 97,000 acres had pine beetle activity in 2013. The first signs of outbreak were in 1996; to date, 3.4 million acres have been infested. The new report highlights the lowest acreage of active infestation observed in 15 years.

However, the spruce beetle outbreak continues to expand by 216,000 new acres of forestland in 2013. The first signs of spruce beetle in Colorado was also in 1996; more than 1.1 million acres have been affected to date.

Dan Jir√≥n, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the US Forest Service shared in a statement: “Through our collaborative efforts we are improving the health of our public lands. Our continuing work on the land, together with other agencies, partners and the wood products industry will allow for the treatment of more acres in need of restoration at an increased pace.”

Mike Lester, State Forester and Director of the CSFS stated, “Bark beetles and other forest health concerns don’t recognize property boundaries, so it’s critical for land managers and private landowners to work together to address forest management across federal, state and private lands."

For more information about the Annual Aerial Forest Health Survey in Colorado, visit the US Forest Service Press Release.

For information directed at private landowners to help manage for healthier forests, visit the Colorado State Forest Service website.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Adjunct Professor William Brady Discusses Oil Spills Resulting from Train Derailments

William Brady
William J. Brady, an adjunct professor of Environmental and Natural Resources Law, currently teaching Law of Hazardous Waste and Toxic Substances, was interviewed for the national broadcast of Al Jazeera America News regarding the rash of oil spills from train derailments in the US and Canada, which have spiked dramatically this past year.

During the interview, Professor Brady provided commentary about potential environmental and health impacts, and compared the relative safety of moving oil by rail (99.99% safe) with both the undetected, and at times open and obvious, spillage from recent releases of oil from pipelines, as has occurred recently in Arkansas, Michigan and Texas.

He pointed out that both processes, while not without risk, are heavily regulated and provide a relatively safe method of transport for the oil industry.  Given increased production from fracking and subsequent transport fate, however, the number of spill incidents may be expected to increase marginally, perhaps necessitating rerouting of trains away from densely populated areas and greater emphasis on railroad safety measures, also heavily regulated by DOT.

Overall, both rail and pipelines have good safety records. Spills from rail cars occur more frequently than from pipelines but tend to be smaller. Pipelines can also be built to avoid population centers and fragile ecosystems, while crude-carrying trains frequently travel through large cities. Most of the crude currently being moved by rail is light crude from the Bakken region, not tar-sands oil from Canada.

Tar-sands oil is heavier and more expensive to move by rail, but energy companies in the Bakken region embrace rail since it is more flexible than pipelines. North Dakota produces nearly a million barrels of oil a day, a majority of it shipped by rail.  Recent meetings with government regulators and railroad representatives on proposed rail safety measures have resulted in agreement in principle to impose further regulations, such as rerouting of train shipments, as well as speed reduction, through less populous areas.  

To watch the video of Professor Brady's interview, follow this link. (Coming Soon)

For more information about this topic, read this Wall Street Journal article.