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& the West

Published since 2016,  ‘& the West’ offers reporting, research, interviews, and analysis on the environmental future of California and western North America. It is produced by the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University.  More about us »

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What we’re reading: December 5, 2023

By Maya Green

The Biden Administration helps coal towns embrace clean energy; gray wolves move back into Southern California; two tribes prompt a pause in construction of an energy transmission line in Arizona; state authorities block efforts to move towards more sustainable water use; a burning tundra releases methane into the atmosphere; and other environmental news from around the American West

Former coal towns across the US have received federal funding to bring clean energy jobs to their communities. The funding, part of a $1 trillion infrastructure package, was approved by the Biden Administration in 2021 as part of the initiative to increase renewable energy manufacturing projects nationwide. In light of the rapidly growing renewables industry, some fossil-fuel workers are concerned about losing their jobs. NEW YORK TIMES

California wildfires cause extreme damage, but they can also clear the way for new life. After the Windy Fire of 2021 in Southern California, gray wolves moved in, marking their return to the region for the first time in 150 years. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

Objections temporarily halted the construction of a clean-energy transmission line in southwestern Arizona. The transmission line, federally funded as part of the Biden Administration’s advocacy of renewable energy, would transport wind-powered electricity 550 miles from New Mexico to California. However, the Arizona section passes over historic sites important to the Tohono O’odham Nation and the San Carlos Apache Tribe, who say that by building the line, the BLM is shirking its responsibility to Native American tribes. NAVAJO-HOPI OBSERVER

Aquifers in every western state are running low because of “overpumping and underregulation, made worse by climate change.” But to change water policy, the hyper-influential powers that be – the state engineer in Nevada, state representatives in Montana, and other powerful state leaders – must agree to rewrite it. Many of these leaders are reluctant to give up the status quo, showing both skepticism of regulations and worry about local economics, despite knowing that change in water use is desperately needed. NEW YORK TIMES

Recently-burned land in the tundra is more likely to contain methane, which is released when once-frozen, carbon-rich soil burns in a wildfire. New research adds that methane contributes to the climate-change-causing “greenhouse effect”, which in turn causes more wildfires–a vicious cycle that puts the tundra’s billions of tons of stored carbon at risk of release. HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

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Stories by Topic

What we’re reading, Dec. 6, 2021

Disappearing snowpack in the West. Is the end of western mountain snowpacks in sight? San Francisco Chronicle Washington Post

Disappearing water in the West. Does groundwater have a future in California, or is its depletion inevitable? Stanford Earth Matters

Disappearing water, Part II. Water agencies serving 27 million Californians are on their own next year, getting nothing from state water projects. Los Angeles Times

Disappearing water, Part III. Small farmers in the Central Valley wonder: where is Kings County water going? SJV Water

Oregon’s proposed Jordan Cove liquified natural gas project abandoned. It was designed to include a liquified natural gas terminal and a 229-mile natural gas pipeline and send liquified natural gas to Asian markets. Oregon Public Broadcasting

Interior Secretary Haaland works to eliminate racist place names, like those using the word “squaw.” How names like “Chinaman Gulch” affected one Asian American. Grist KSUT

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Staff and Contributors

Felicity Barringer

Lead writer

A national environmental correspondent during the last decade of her 28 years at The New York Times, Felicity provided an in-depth look at the adoption of AB 32, California’s landmark climate-change bill after covering state’s carbon reduction policies. MORE »

Geoff McGhee

Associate editor

Geoff McGhee specializes in interactive data visualization and multimedia storytelling. He is a veteran of the multimedia and infographics staffs at The New York Times, Le Monde and MORE »

Syler Peralta-Ramos

Editorial Assistant

Syler Peralta-Ramos is a member of the Stanford class of 2020. He has lived in Wilson, Wyoming his whole life and developed a keen interest in nature photography and conservation from a young age, inspired by the multitude of photographers that congregate in the Teton region as well as his parents who also share a love for photography.

‘& the West’ is published by the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, which is dedicated to research, teaching, and journalism about the past, present, and future of the North American West.

Bruce E. Cain

Faculty Director

Kate Gibson

Program Manager

Past Contributors

Anna McNulty
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2021
Melina Walling
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2021
Benek Robertson
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2021
Maya Burke
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2020
Kate Selig
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2020

Francisco L. Nodarse
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2020
Devon R. Burger
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2020
Madison Pobis
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2019
Sierra Garcia
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2019

Danielle Nguyen
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2019
Carolyn P. Rice
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2019
Rebecca Nelson
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2018
Emily Wilder
Editorial Assistant, Summer 2018
Alessandro Hall
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2018 
Josh Lappen
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2017
Natasha Mmonatau
Editorial Assistant, Spring 2017
Alan Propp
Editorial Assistant, Winter 2017