Two energy companies are laying out plans for the $250 million transformation of the more than 40 year-old Escalante Generating Station in Prewitt, New Mexico.
In early 2020 the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced a schedule for the closing of the station, noting that the decision was “driven by the economics of operating the power plant in a competitive power market.”
Tri-State is based in Westminster, Colorado, and is a not-for-profit supply cooperative providing power in four states.
Last month Newpoint Gas LLC, of Columbus, Texas, in a partnership with the Plymouth, Connecticut-based Brooks Energy Company, announced plans to purchase the Escalante station from Tri-State.
As proposed, what is being called the Escalante Hydrogen Project will see the facility transformed from a coal-fired generation plant to one producing hydrogen. If successful, it will be the first effort of its kind in the country.
In a statement, Robert Price, president of Brooks Energy, said the transformed and repurposed station will be designed “with the goals to provide clean reliable power and an additional focus on empowering local New Mexico communities.”
If the purchase of the station becomes reality, the project will also see the construction of a 3-mile long pipeline needed for transporting natural gas to the plant, as well as the building of injection and monitoring wells, and a hydrogen purification system.
By Garry Boulard
Up to 90% of total new federal highway funding will go directly to the states for individual projects, as defined by legislation just introduced in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The legislation is a step in the direction of passing the massive Surface Transportation Act of 2021, which has a 5-year life, and increases funding by some 22% above current levels.
The legislation, notes the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, not only supports highway work for urban and rural communities, it also stands to improve project delivery, and provide “flexibility necessary for states to maintain and improve their roads and bridges.”
As proposed, the bill establishes a baseline funding level of around $303 billion for highway, road, and bridge projects.
The legislation also aims to increase the number of miles designated by a state, and subject to funding, as a critical rural freight corridor from 150 to 300 miles, while increasing from 75 miles to 150 miles roadways defined as critical urban freight corridors.
The current Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act was signed into law in 2015 and given a one-year extension in 2020.
That extension is scheduled to expire on September 30.
By Garry Boulard
An imaginative multi-phase project along the South Platte River in Denver that has been in the talking and planning stage for the last two years is now closer to becoming reality with a favorable city council rezoning vote.
What could end up being more than 1.5 million square feet of commerce space, along with up to 1,400 residential units, is being developed by the Formativ company of Denver, and the Chicago-based Golub & Company.
At least 15% of the housing units will be designated as affordable.
The new zoning at the site in the city’s popular River North Art District will allow for mixed-use development with building heights topping out at 20 stories on the deep inland section of the site, and 8 stories closer to the river.
As planned, the site, which was purchased by Formativ and Golub in the summer of 2019 for $86 million, will also include green space, space for public art, and a pedestrian walkway.
Designer for the site is the Tryba Architects, also of Denver.
The site, mostly off the 2600 blocks of Arkins Court and the 3200 block of Denargo Street, formerly made up much of the historic Denargo Market, which was opened in the late 1930s.
That market comprised nearly 30 acres and included a refrigeration plant, restaurant, and more than 500 food vendor stalls.
The market was closed in the summer of 1971 after a devastating weed fire easily destroyed the many wood-framed vegetable boxes and sheds on the site.
By Garry Boulard
A cannabis manufacturing company has announced plans to build a modern new facility in Grants, New Mexico.
Plans call for the building of an agricultural ecosystem that will belong to the Bright Green Corporation and will go up on roughly 150 acres in the western New Mexico city already owned by the company.
Altogether, Bright Green intends to spend up to $300 million on what is being described as a “world-class research facility.”
The company recently reached an official agreement with the Drug Enforcement Administration allowing it to produce, store, and distribute medical research marijuana.
The announcement comes after the company worked for months with State of New Mexico officials and tribal communities in Cibola County to “create the right environment for innovation and research,” said Bright Green chairman Terry Rafih in a statement.
Construction on the project, to be done in two phases, could launch later this year, with the initial work encompassing some 20 acres.
By Garry Boulard
A move is reported to be underway in Congress for the passage of a fourth stimulus check.
“Families and workers shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll have enough money to pay for essentials in the months ahead as the country continues to fight a global pandemic and recession,” seven members of the 42-member House Ways and Means Committee have written in a public letter.
The letter, sent to President Biden, also held out the possibility of a fifth stimulus check, noting that such funding “could reduce the number in poverty in 2021 from 44 million to 16 million.”
A national petition listed on the website Change.org is calling for a $2,000 check for families and has so far secured more than 2.2 million names.
A group called the Economic Security Project is also calling for a fourth check—and soon. Adam Ruben, campaign director for the ESP, said the delay last year between the first stimulus check and the second allowed for some 8 million people to fall into poverty.
The last stimulus check for an average of $1,400 was passed by Congress and approved by President Biden in March. The stimulus was part of the President’s larger $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation, with most checks mailed out from the Treasury Department by late April.
Although various economic analysts have questioned the need for a fourth check, the website Motley Fool notes: “If the pandemic worsens again, or if Americans continue to struggle financially, this will only serve to increase demand for a fourth check.”
Meanwhile the Boston Herald has concluded a study noting that some 1.2 million earlier stimulus checks remained unspent. The paper said such checks either were never cashed or were returned to the Treasury Department.
By Garry Boulard
Arizona may see more than $200 million in needed new highway and bridge construction in the next few years, if a new budget proposed by Governor Doug Ducey is approved by the state legislature.
Ducey has agreed to a more than $12.8 billion budget package together by Republican state lawmakers. That package will include, besides the highway and bridge construction funding, $100 million for what is called “pavement protection” efforts targeting roads in 13 rural counties.
The proposal also includes $140 million for the building of broadband infrastructure, and an additional $200 million that will go to a newly-established drought mitigation fund.
The drought mitigation fund is designed to provide funding for such efforts as restoring aquatic ecosystems in response to ongoing drought conditions that are thought to be the worst in Arizona in more than a century.
If ultimately approved by the legislature, the new budget will additionally reduce income and property taxes in anticipation of estimated revenue to the state for the next fiscal year that will probably be around $1 billion above forecasts.
“It’s a down payment on Arizona’s future,” Ducey’s chief of staff Daniel Scarpinato, told reporters after the budget proposal was announced, adding that “the Governor wants to see the state move forward from an economic development standpoint.”
The Arizona Legislature is set to wrap up work on May 31.
By Garry Boulard
A giant generating station in northwest Colorado soon to be put out of commission may be eventually repurposed as a solar electrolysis facility.
The Hayden Generating Station, which is jointly owned by Xcel Energy and PacifiCorp, is located in the town of Hayden, near the Wyoming border.
Earlier this year, Xcel Energy announced a plan to close the facility’s units number 1 and 2 by 2028.
Unit number 1 dates to 1965, with unit number 2 completed eleven years later.
Heyden’s upcoming closure, an Xcel statement earlier said, is a part of the company’s larger facilities-wide plan to reduce overall carbon emissions by 80% in the next decade, ultimately offering entirely carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050.
In a presentation to members of the Routt County Board of Commissioners, an Xcel representative said the company is exploring new purposes for the Hayden Station facility, including turning it into a solar electrolysis plant.
Such plants convert sunlight into hydrogen that can then be sold to gas distributors. According to an Xcel document submitted to the commissioners, hydrogen from the plant could “not only serve as a renewable, zero-emission energy source, but also support a transition for natural gas in a clean energy future.”
A proposal is also looking at transforming the site into a biomass plant, or possibly even a molten salt energy storage facility.
Jack Ihle, an Xcel director of environmental policy, told the commissioners: “The objective is to try to recover some of the tax base that could be lost with the coal plant retirement, maintain jobs in the area, but also drive our technology forward.”
It is not known when a specific plan for repurposing the Hayden plant will be determined.
By Garry Boulard
In a move to expand the highway construction labor pool, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has announced an effort to enhance local hiring.
“As we invest in world-class infrastructure for Americans, we want to make sure that our investments create jobs for people in communities where the projects are located,” said Buttigieg, in announcing the Enhancing Workforce Development Opportunities Initiative.
As structured, the program will belong to the Federal Highway Administration and will allow for greater flexibility for contracting agencies when it comes to hiring for highway projects.
Designed as a four-year pilot program, the initiative, according to a Transportation Department release, “will help to rebuild the skilled workforce needed to improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure.”
The move is additionally designed to allow state departments of transportation an opportunity to “better recruit qualified construction workers, which can be challenging in many parts of the country.”
A similar local hiring effort was in place during the Obama Administration, but later discarded by President Trump.
Notes the Engineering News-Record: reinstatement of the local hire program is part of a “series of moves by President Joe Biden to undo actions taken by the Trump administration and are also further examples of the Biden administration emphasis on equity.”
Last month Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth urged adoption of a local hire program, noting that it was time to replace existing federal regulations that dictate “how local decision makers invest in their communities, with a more balanced approach that promotes equity and fairness without increasing costs to taxpayers.”
In a statement, Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, said local hire programs “solve the symptom and not the problem.”
Sandherr went on to note that “too many communities have defunded their career and technical education programs, and as a result there are often too few local workers with any interest in construction careers or basic skills that would make them qualified to be hired.”
By Garry Boulard
The Albuquerque Convention Center, located in downtown Albuquerque at 401 2nd Street NW, is in line for major roof repairs.
Originally opened in the fall of 1970, the center, which houses around 167,000 square feet of exhibit space, has for some time had roof leaking issues.
But now, as proposed by Mayor Tim Keller, some $4 million will be spent repairing the facility’s roof and generally improving energy efficiency.
That effort is one on a list of public building upgrade projects included in the city’s more than $700 million operating budget for fiscal year 2022 that has now won the approval of the Albuquerque City Council.
Other initiatives in the budget include $5 million to renovate Albuquerque’s Pino Yard’s fueling facility at 5501 Pino Avenue, on the northeast side of the city, and $900,000 for a splash pad and other improvements at the popular Tingley Beach.
Additional facility work will see some $2 million going for roof repairs at the 15 year-old Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum at 9201 Balloon Museum Drive NE.
Roughly $1 million in funding will also target improved lighting on downtown Albuquerque streets.
Funding for the facility upgrade projects is coming largely out of the federal $57 million sent to Albuquerque from Washington through the $1.9 billion American Rescue Plan Act, which was approved by Congress two months ago.
By Garry Boulard
Albuquerque may be seeing more street repairs and upgrades, depending upon the fate of a proposed fuel tax increase.
Members of the Albuquerque City Council have approved an ordinance that will institute a 2 cents per gallon tax at all gas stations within the boundaries of the city.
City officials say it would cost upwards of $500 million to bring all of Albuquerque’s roadways up to date, adding that as of now only between $20 million and $30 million is available for rehabilitation work.
As approved on a 5 to 4 vote by the council, the ordinance defines rehabilitation projects as those needed to “extend the service life of an existing facility, improve its operation, improve safety, or restore original performance or capacity.”
Improvements would also include making the streets more Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, while also enhancing routes used by bicyclists and pedestrians.
The fate of the fuel tax ordinance will ultimately be decided by Albuquerque voters in the November 2022 election.
By Garry Boulard
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