Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability

This paper examines the local food systems in seven states in which the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) has member groups – Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Wyoming. Using publicly-available data, we analyzed multiple aspects of food systems in order to understand where each state stood, in terms of the strength of both the production and demand side of the local food market.    

Homegrown Prosperity: Growing Opportunities for Local and Regional Food System Development

This report summarizes state legislation related to the development of local and regional food systems, either passed or defeated between 2005 and 2016 in WORC states: Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Idaho. This summary may not be comprehensive in all states as it does not include state appropriations bills in detail. State policy often changes quickly; this summary reflects research conducted in July 2016.    

Growing the 16%

Growing the 16% addresses the problem of beef market concentration and its impact on independent livestock producers, local meatpacking infrastructure, and rural communities. Instead of trying to break up the four packers who bought 84% of the cattle raised by America’s ranchers, we turned our attention to the ranchers and small packers and processors who buy the rest of the cattle – the 16% of the market that isn’t controlled by major meatpackers -- to expand and enhance that market as a viable alternative for producers and consumers.

coal mine reclamation report

Planning for Coal’s Decline

More than a third of all land mined for coal in the Western United States awaits cleanup after a half-century of intensive strip-mining, but will a weakening coal industry be capable of cleaning it up?    Planning for Coal’s Decline provides updated data on coal mine reclamation in the Western U.S. and recommends policies to help ensure coal mine cleanup before and after mine closure. Federal law requires coal companies to “contemporaneously” reclaim land mined for coal as mining progresses. As a precaution, the law also requires that mining companies provide funds or guarantees to pay for cleanup, usually through reclamation…

Coal self bond report

Now is the Time to End Self-Bonding

Now is the Time to End Self-Bonding makes the case for why Congress and states should act now to protect coal communities from picking up the bill for coal mine cleanup. A “self-bond” is a promise from a coal company to pay for legally required coal mine cleanup, known as reclamation, without providing any collateral. If a self-bonded coal company liquidates before completing reclamation, the self-bond becomes an uncollectible “I.O.U.” and the public is left without sufficient funds to complete reclamation. Several states continue to accept self-bonds for coal mines. There has never been a better opportunity to end self-bonding altogether…

Carbon capture and sequestation

Too Good to Be True

Too Good to be True: The Risks of Public Investment in Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) reports that this technology is expensive, inefficient, dirty and unreliable; by contrast, renewable energy is cleaner, cheaper and faster to deploy. As the global effects of climate change become undeniable, both market actors and governments around the world are working to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. State and federal politicians, the coal industry, and even some environmental organizations support Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technology as a strategy to continue to generate electricity with coal in a carbon-constrained future. The industry’s hope that coal…

oil and gas well bonding

State and Federal Oil and Gas Bonding Policy Comparison

In the midst of historically low oil prices and plummeting demand, inadequate federal and state reclamation bonding requirements make it easier for deeply indebted oil and gas operators to declare bankruptcy and walk away from orphaned wells en masse. This report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils examines the bonding rules in eleven Western states and found that the federal Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) rules are weaker than any state’s. BLM’s $25,000 minimum statewide bond, which covers unlimited federal wells in a single state, is four times lower than the typical state requirement. While the federal rules are…

oil and gas well crisis

Oil and Gas Bonding: The Basics

A crisis of unreclaimed and under-bonded oil and gas wells is growing across the West, threatening American taxpayers with liability in the billions and landowners with increasing risk to their land and water. The federal government’s oil and gas manager, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has not substantively changed standards for bonding in nearly seven decades. While this crisis is growing, common-sense solutions can still prevent a catastrophe. When coal companies apply for a mine permit, they are required to estimate the cost to clean up and reclaim the site, then hand over financial assurances that would cover the…

The Flaring Boom

Surging oil production in shale hot spots, like the Bakken in North Dakota and Eagle Ford in Texas, has increased waste of natural gas through flaring, venting, and leaking. WORC’s report, The Flaring Boom, examines the causes and effects of flaring, venting, and leaking of natural gas by examining efforts to curtail these wasteful practices in Alaska, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. (more…)