Best of the West: Nevada leads the way for electric vehicles; new dinosaur discovered in Utah; a close-up look at the sun’s surface

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on the news of the West. Here are the top stories for the week starting Feb. 3, 2020. Photo courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Utah.

The International Council for Clean Transportation estimates that the amount of fast-charging stations across the country will need to increase by 400% in order to fully serve every electric vehicle expected to be on the road by 2025, Governing Magazine reports.

Leading the charge to meet that goal is Nevada, whose Interstate 15 corridor connecting California and Arizona just became the first route in the Western U.S. to receive an electric vehicle corridor designation, with charging stations available at least every 50 miles, according to AP News.

Additionally, by utilizing a $25 million settlement paid to Nevada by automaker Volkswagen in 2017, the state plans to add more than 30 other charging sites in the near future on corridors including Interstate 80, U.S. highways 95, 93 and 50. 

Criminal Justice Reform: Officials in Oklahoma are looking to expand a diversion program that assesses nonviolent criminal offenders for mental health issues, potential substance abuse and their risk of reoffending. That information is then used to refer those individuals to treatment and other services, according to Public Radio Tulsa. So far, the program has resulted in savings of $29.6 million. A similar program was also launched in Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District in 2019, Summit Daily reports. Like its counterpart in Oklahoma, the Colorado program hopes to reduce unnecessary strain on the state’s criminal justice system through strategies such as mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and regularly scheduled meetings with a diversion coordinator.

A Jurassic Discovery: A new species of dinosaur – first discovered in the early 1990’s in northeastern Utah – has been officially unveiled at the state’s Natural History Museum. Allosaurus jimmadseni, thought to have lived between 157-152 million years ago during the late Jurassic period, belongs to a group of dinosaurs called allosauroids, which were small to large-bodied carnivores inhabiting prehistoric North America, according to  “Allosaurus jimmadseni is a great example of just how much more we have to learn about the world of dinosaurs.” said Daniel Chure, retired paleontologist at Dinosaur National Monument and co-lead author of the study. “Many more exciting fossils await discovery in the Jurassic rocks of the American West."

Staring at the Sun: A telescope on the island of Maui, Hawaii recently gave researchers an unprecedented opportunity to view the sun’s surface close up, revealing features as small as 18 miles across. The images (pictured) show a series of brown and gold, cell-like areas. According to PBS, each area is about the size of Texas and is a result of the transport of heat from the sun’s interior. Besides the fascinating pictures it can produce, scientists involved with the project expect that subsequent observations made by the telescope will help them better understand and predict how “solar activity can disrupt satellite communications and affect power grids.”

Cannabis Banking: Recently, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, along with the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies, released guidelines for financial service providers looking to work with cannabis-related businesses. While legal in some states, cannabis is still federally considered a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that any banking institution engaged with the budding industry risks violating federal statutes. According to U.S. News and World Report, due to this discrepancy, most cannabis-related businesses are forced to deal solely in cash, making them a prime target for robbery and other crime. With the advent of Colorado’s new guidelines, Gov. Polis hopes that financial entities within the Centennial State will be less hesitant to work with dispensaries and other businesses in the sector.

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