WRA has drawn upon the expertise of many esteemed colleagues and highly regarded organizations in developing this portion of our website. We thank all of the entities whose links add to and reinforce the information posted here. WRA urges you to learn more about these organizations and the excellent work they are doing to curtail climate change.
WRA Climate Action
In the past several years, WRA has re-oriented much of our program work around the overarching threat of climate change. The threat and consequences of climate change surpass all other environmental issues in the region. Studies indicate that the West is warming more rapidly than other parts of the nation. Research also shows that the human activities that contribute to climate change are impacting our arid territory’s limited supplies of water. The challenge presented by this enormous problem creates a compelling agenda of environmental work. WRA is positioned to effectively address the consequences of climate change in our region, and through the lessons that we learn, to influence the national debate on climate change policy. We are playing an important role in helping the West lead the way to a sustainable future.
Energy: In 2004, WRA published A Balanced Energy Plan for the Interior West which provides an alternative energy blueprint for the region. The plan emphasizes energy efficiency and increased investment in renewable energy sources as the environmentally and economically preferable way to meet energy demand and curtail greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We have been turning the plan into reality, with considerable success. Since 2004, energy efficiency investments in the region have more than doubled. Utilities across the West have begun to reflect the costs and risks of carbon dioxide regulation in their planning decisions and are beginning to develop carbon mitigation strategies. And, critically, more than a dozen proposed new conventional coal power plants have been cancelled or delayed.
WRA will also foster sound siting of the numerous new power lines that are planned for our region. By participating in transmission planning, our goal is to facilitate development of renewable energy that can be transmitted to consumers while protecting western lands and wildlife habitat.
Lands: WRA works to protect public lands from the climate impacts of oil and gas extraction. WRA believes some areas of the West are too special to be drilled. Where development may be appropriate, WRA makes sure that industries "do it right" by using responsible practices that minimize damage to public lands and limit the amount of polluting gasses that are emitted in the process.
A pressing concern is the ongoing federal policy to research and likely promote the development of oil shale and tar sands on public lands. The call for energy independence, and the lingering effects of the high oil and gas prices in 2008, has kept pressure on Congress to encourage exploration of dirty fuels. Oil shale and tar sands production would have a huge carbon footprint and devastating effects on the environment. The carbon dioxide emissions from oil shale and tar sands operations would be higher than those of conventional oil and gas. WRA’s oil shale project has grown from its modest starting point into a full campaign to prevent extraction of a resource that would diminish water supplies, contribute to climate change, and threaten communities.
Water: WRA's Water Program draws the interconnections between energy, water, and climate change.
Water projects often are energy-intensive, i.e., they require significant amounts of energy to lift and transport water from its source through pipelines – and often over mountain ranges – to where it would be used. Large water pipelines have been proposed for Las Vegas, Nevada, St. George, Utah, and several cities on Colorado’s Front Range. Water customers, in turn, use a substantial amount of energy to heat water for use in the home. Water utilities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and present an additional avenue for increasing energy efficiency and implementing renewable sources of energy in the West. WRA promotes alternative water management strategies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also conserving water resources. We will help water utilities and municipalities across the West make climate-smart planning choices.
Likewise, coal-fired power plants use substantial amounts of water to generate electricity. Building on our prior work around the region—including case studies completed in Nevada, Utah, and the Arkansas River in Colorado and Kansas—WRA will continue to move the West toward energy choices, such as wind and solar, that save water and decrease GHG emissions.