Energy and Environment | KUNR

Energy and Environment

Mack Male, Flickr, (CC by SA-2.0)

Nevada is ranked one of the top states in the country for LEED-certified green buildings - a program that encourages environmentally friendly building practices. Our contributor Luiza Vieira has more.

Nevada ranked sixth in the nation for LEED-certified buildings in 2015 — that's according to the U.S Green Building Council's annual review.

To get this certification, projects must factor in things such as location, water and energy efficiency, materials and resources used.

Julia Ritchey

The Oregon standoff at a national wildlife refuge enters Day 33 with only a few holdouts remaining. So far 11 people have been arrested, including Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of defiant Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. As Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports, many ranchers say the issues involving public lands are too complex to be minimized to just one group’s actions.  

Ever since Ammon Bundy and a band of anti-government protestors took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, attention has turned to the role the federal government plays in land-use policy.

ThisisReno.com

A Reno developer's donation to help improve the water quality of Virginia Lake was approved by the Reno City Council last week…but not unanimously. Our contributor from ThisisReno, Bob Conrad, has the story.

 

Last fall, Reno developer J. Carter Witt withdrew a donation that he had promised to the city in order to help clean up Virginia Lake. At the time, Witt said the city had defaulted on their agreement, but he also expressed dismay about a proposed city labor ordinance that he said would negatively affect his business.

University of Nevada, Reno

Our newsroom recently received a puzzling press release from a national organization called the Environmental Working Group. It says that next month, the FDA will start banning certain toxic chemicals from being used in some food packaging such as card-box pizza and microwave popcorn bags.

These chemicals are called PFCs, or perfluorinated compounds, and they’re used to make products that can resist heat, grease and water.

Banning them sounds like good news, right?

Julia Ritchey

Yesterday we looked at ways Lake Tahoe jurisdictions are reducing how much road grit is polluting the water. But environmentalists contend the only meaningful way to “Keep Tahoe Blue” is getting people out of their cars altogether. Our reporter Julia Ritchey explores if that’s really feasible.

At a bus stop off Highway 50 outside of The League to Save Lake Tahoe headquarters, Jesse Patterson is waiting.

Julia Ritchey

Road crews have stayed busy this winter sanding and clearing Lake Tahoe's streets and highways for skiers and snowboarders making their annual pilgrimage to the Sierras. While road pollutants have posed one of the biggest threats to the lake's clarity — recent efforts to reduce street debris appear to be helping. Last year, clarity improved by 7 feet. 

Sierra Avalanche Center

Unusual snowpack conditions in the Sierra Nevada mountains are contributing to an increase of a type of avalanche quite uncommon for the area. Our contributor Luiza Vieira has the story.

Even with all the snow Northern Nevada and California are receiving, the number of avalanches has not increased. The Sierra Avalanche Center, however, is seeing a type of avalanche that has not happened in this area in years.

CoCreatr, Flickr, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic

  Last week state regulators ruled against suspending rate hikes for rooftop solar customers, which industry advocates say have sparked massive layoffs. But even before this decision, the industry was not faring as well as some had hoped. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports.

Truckee Meadows Community College started its solar technician training program about six years ago and quickly saw enrollments of between 15 to 30 students. 

But that didn't last long, according to Jim New, dean of technical sciences.

Amy Westervelt

The Natural Resources Conservation Service collects a lot of data, including snowpack measurements from more than 80 snow telemetry stations, also called SNOTEL sites, across the Sierras and Northern Nevada.

Now that we’re halfway through this winter, NRCS Hydrologist Jeff Anderson is digging into what those numbers mean, and he visited with News Director Michelle Billman to share some of his early findings.

Black Rock Solar, Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Nevada's Public Utility Commission has denied a petition that would halt recently approved rate changes for rooftop solar users. This is despite swift and angry backlash by both solar companies and their customers. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection had filed a petition asking to suspend the rate hikes that went into effect January 1st for customers.

Dozens of those upset customers spoke out during a day-long hearing in Carson City Wednesday, calling the commission's decision unfair and short-sighted.

Elliott Brown, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

  [This story will be updated following the PUC meeting in Carson City this morning.]

The Public Utilities Commission is reconsidering a controversial change to rates for rooftop solar customers Wednesday, but companies including SunRun and SolarCity have already announced massive layoffs. And customers who installed solar panels are already seeing increases in their power bill. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey talked with some of those unhappy customers.

Last month the PUC gave NV Energy the OK to raise rates for existing solar customers.

Amy Westervelt

Truckee Meadows Water Authority now has complete ownership of Donner Lake's storage rights. As Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey reports, the lake is another important drought reserve for the region.

Since the 1940s, TMWA and its predecessor, Sierra Pacific Power, has owned one half of Donner Lake's water rights in California. The other half belonged to the Truckee Carson Irrigation District, made up mostly of Fernley and Fallon-area farmers.

But last month the irrigation district agreed to sell its stake in Donner to TMWA to the tune of $17 million.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Snowpack measurements across the Eastern Sierra and Northern Nevada are coming in higher than normal. For the latest snowpack update, let's check in with Reno Public Radio's Michelle Billman.

As a hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Jeff Anderson oversees about 100 snow telemetry sites, also called SNOTEL stations. He visited one on Mt. Rose Monday where he measured 54 inches of snow, containing almost 16 inches of water content.

Julia Ritchey

 Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, are trying to make a tiny, ancient grain called Tef more productive in the face of a warming planet.

If you've tried Ethiopian food, chances are you've heard of tef, a small, poppy-seed sized cereal chock-full of nutritional value.

Biochemistry professor John Cushman has spent the last couple of years studying tef at UNR’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources.

Marufish, Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission voted to change rates for rooftop solar customers this week — prompting an outcry from solar companies and their advocates, like Sen. Harry Reid, who say the decision is major blow to the industry. 

 

Ask the CEO of one of the country’s largest rooftop solar companies what impact he thinks the commission’s decision will have on the state’s burgeoning solar industry, and you get this:

 

“No, it’s destroyed. Done.”

 

Amy Westervelt

The Tahoe Basin snowpack is better right now than at any point last winter. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss has the details.

Jeff Anderson is a water supply specialist with the Nevada Snow Survey Program which regularly measures the snowpack. He says that in the past two winters, it's taken until February to reach as much snow as they're measuring now.

But that doesn't actually mean a whole lot just yet.

Nevada Seismology Lab website

  

  As many Renoites were falling asleep Tuesday night, a series of earthquakes sent strong jolts throughout the Truckee Meadows. Earthquakes aren’t new to the state, but the size of this one did get the attention of scientists at the Nevada Seismological Lab. To learn more, our reporter Julia Ritchey called up Graham Kent who directs the lab here at UNR.

Q: What did we feel Tuesday night?

  The public comment period closes Tuesday, Dec. 22  for a new project next to Northstar Resort. While developers have reduced the project's size, some environmental groups remain concerned about its impact.

The Martis Valley West Project was initially submitted to Placer County two years ago, but has changed significantly since then after conservation groups pushed for more open space.

The current plan proposes moving the development from its original site to a parcel of land adjacent to Northstar.

Courtesy Academy for the Environment at UNR

Maureen McCarthy is executive director of the Academy for the Environment at University of Nevada, Reno. Two of the Academy's most recent projects involve working closely with farmers, water districts, and tribal communities to get a sense of how variations in climate affect the water they depend upon, and what can be done to mitigate those impacts. 

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

This week, we've been bringing you local coverage on climate change in light of the international climate deal just reached in Paris. In Washoe County, some officials are concerned about the threat of flooding this winter.

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