Energy and Environment

Round Mountain mine in Nye County, Nevada.
Uncle Kick-Kick, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Any one of three joint resolutions passed during the recent special session of the Nevada Legislature could ultimately change the way and rate at which mines are taxed in Nevada, and rural counties and mining companies are worried. As a warning, this story contains language that some readers may find offensive.

A sunset at Whale Beach.
Bob Tregilus / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (7/10/2020)

Researchers at the Desert Research Institute in Reno are teaming up with League to Save Lake Tahoe citizen scientists to find the source of microplastics in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Sierra Nevada Ally reporter Brian Bahouth has the story.

Aerial shot of a desert mountain.
Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

The landscape appears arid. Yet, water flows at the heart of the controversy about a federal plan to build a national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in southwestern Nevada. A new scientific paper concludes water is moving through the mountain much faster than researchers previously had suspected. This may increase the possibility that groundwater in the region could become contaminated with radioactive elements.

Fire burns at dusk on a foothill
Luke Flynt / Unsplash

Reno saw one of its first major wildfire events of the dry season this past weekend with the Poeville Fire. And with the pandemic going on, agencies across the West are having to rethink how to fight fires while fighting the novel coronavirus.

A map of the Western U.S., showing varying levels of drought.
United States Drought Monitor

As the country turned its attention toward the pandemic, something else was creeping into the Mountain West: drought conditions.

Smoke casts a shadow on a sunset behind a stadium
Bree Zender / KUNR

KUNR is providing updates on the Poeville Fire. Click here for more information. For the most current information about the Poeville Fire, visit @TMPFD and @HumboldtToiyabe on Twitter.

Hundreds evacuated from neighborhoods north of Reno Saturday as the Poeville Fire burned multiple structures. 

Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District officials said on Sunday morning the fire had charred approximately 3,500 acres. As of Sunday morning, firefighters had built containment lines around 10 percent of the burn area. More high wind gusts and dry conditions are expected through late Sunday.

When I was little, my dad and I would walk behind our house in west-central Montana and stare at the ground. And then walk. Stare. Walk. Stare. We'd do this for hours, searching for that tasty, edible and highly prized morel mushroom.


Broken pavement on a path at Yellowstone National Park.
Jacob W. Frank / National Park Service

A bill to permanently fund conservation efforts and reduce maintenance backlogs across public lands will soon be up for a vote in the U.S. Senate.

Two men wearing hard hats are lifting a rectangular panel onto a roof outside.
Tessa Hartman / Simple Power Solar

After more than a decade of growth, Nevada’s fast-growing renewable energy sector faces storm clouds. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has cost the sector thousands of jobs, is delaying projects large and small, and in many areas is killing sales. But Nevada enjoys the sunniest skies in the nation, the momentum of a decade-long boom in projects and a state government pushing for more. Officials said Nevada will weather the current turbulence and meet its new standard to source half its electricity from renewables by 2030. And already, some local solar panel installers report a rebound in activity.

Fourteen large wind turbines spin at the Spring Valley Wind facility near Ely, Nevada.
Jeff Moser / Creative Commons

Nevada is a big player in renewable energy. But while it ranks among the top five states for both solar and geothermal energy production, it lags well behind in wind energy production, where it falls 33rd. This fact surprised KUNR's Benjamin Payne, who last year moved to Reno from his native Illinois. Whereas that state boasts more than 50 wind farms, Nevada has only one. He decided to look into this gap, and figure out why wind makes up such a small sliver of Nevada’s energy mix.

A field of wind turbines.
Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management is charging back-due rent on renewable energy projects on public lands, as the Department of Interior simultaneously works to give oil and gas operators financial relief.

Sheriff's vehicle sits near a large crack in a highway
Nevada Department of Transportation

Officials are looking for damage in and around the unincorporated area of Mina, Nevada, after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake nearby struck just after 4 a.m. Friday morning. 

A tree with a carving on it in the snow.
Fil Corbitt of Van Sounds

During this time of social distancing, local podcaster Fil Corbitt has been drawn to remote forests in the Sierra Nevada where they can spot tree carvings, a historic tradition of Basque immigrants. Fil explores these arborglyphs in this audio postcard from the mountains around Lake Tahoe.

An image of the Truckee River at sunset.
Travel Nevada

The city of Reno is getting some help from the federal government in redeveloping its downtown core and riverwalk districts.

An image of a firefighter fighting a wildfire
Colorado's West Metro Fire Protection District

As the pandemic decimates local budgets across the Mountain West, another threat looms large at local fire stations across the region: wildfires. That has lawmakers and firefighters demanding more federal support.

An image of a mountain slope with a receding snow line.
Nathan Anderson / Unsplash

In much of the West, snowpack levels have historically been one of the more reliable ways to determine whether a drought was coming. But a new study says climate change could soon make snowpack data much less reliable.

An image of a single oil derrick situated in the open spaces and mountains of Utah.
Bureau of Land Management

A federal report out this week shows that the Bureau of Land Management has more than halved the time spent reviewing oil and gas drilling permits, a reflection of how the agency's priorities have shifted under the Trump administration.

Graph of annual average temperatures in Reno since first Earth Day in 1970.
Climate Central

April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day back in 1970. Much has changed since then, from climate science to renewable energy. Dr. Kristen Averyt is Nevada's State Climate Policy Coordinator, and she spoke with KUNR to talk about how things have evolved over 50 years.

A new government watchdog report published Wednesday says taxpayers are shouldering the burden of cleaning up the nation’s thousands of abandoned hardrock mines on public lands.

An image of a dusty parcel of land showing crops completely dried out from drought.
NOAA

Researchers in our region are arguing for new models to better plan for a recent climate phenomenon: flash droughts. According to a new paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, these events present new challenges for climate predictors.

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