Best of the West: States grow their EV industries; farmers conserve Ogallala Aquifer in Kansas; more funding for Wyoming carbon capture project; deep-sea mystery washes ashore in California

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on the latest news in the West. Here are the top stories for the week starting May 10, 2021. (Photos courtesy of Joenomias and Crystal Cove State Park)

The past year has seen the Western Governors’ Association hard at work to improve the planning, siting, and coordination of electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure in western states. At the same time, western states are exploring other aspects of the EV industry, including manufacturing.

Arizona is looking to become a hub for EV manufacturing as demand for the vehicles continues to grow (the Oregon Department of Energy reported only 148 electric vehicles in 2010 and nearly 32,000 by 2020) and companies such as Amazon, IKEA, and DHL Express have committed to buying hundreds of thousands of EVs. The Grand Canyon State has recruited three startup auto manufacturers, which in the next few years will begin producing tens of thousands of electric cars and hydrogen-powered heavy trucks. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council is also recruiting auto parts manufacturers. In ColoradoLightning eMotors announced an expansion of its production space to meet the rising demand for zero-emissions commercial fleets following consecutive years of 300% growth from 2018 to 2020.

Other western states are focused on building out their EV infrastructure. In Washington, which set a goal for all new vehicle sales to be EVs by 2030, Gov. Jay Inslee approved legislation to establish standards for EV charging stations so that drivers can pay for the electricity they use at public charging stations using a credit card, as they would at a gas station. The Evergreen State also amended the building code to require new residential and commercial buildings to build EV charging capacity and approved the creation of a modeling system to help determine how many EVs will be on the road, what types of EVs they are, and where and when they need to charge. 

In New Mexico, government, education, tribes, business and utilities are creating a regional plan for an electric vehicle “ecosystem” with some 43 charging projects being planned across the state. Electrify America is adding EV chargers in HawaiiSouth DakotaWyoming and Montana. It expects to have 800 charging stations with around 3,500 chargers open or in the works by the end of 2021. GM announced a partnership with seven charging networks that will allow drivers of the company's EVs access to almost 60,000 EV chargers across the U.S. and Canada. Utah joined 13 other states, including Colorado and Kansas, in a U.S. Department of Energy partnership called Drive Electric USA, to advance the infrastructure for electric vehicles. The group aims to "engage individuals, utilities, legislators, dealerships and others towards removing adoption barriers and accelerating plug-in electric vehicle use in our states."

WATER CONSERVATION: The Ogallala Aquifer, North America’s largest, has allowed agriculture to thrive in the high plains for generations. In hopes of preserving the aquifer, Kansas farmers have voluntarily enacted a local enhanced management area, or LEMA — a 99-square-mile patch of northwest Kansas prairie where farmers set strict limits on the amount of water they use for irrigation. Using remote sensors to understand exactly how much water their crops need, the farmers in the area, which were required to cut water use by 20%, ended up cutting water use by an average of 31%.    

CARBON CAPTURE: The U.S. Department of Energy announced $99 million in grants to study technology that removes carbon from industrial exhaust and uses it for other purposes, like manufacturing. More than half that money is earmarked for the Integrated Test Center in Wyoming. The facility based out of the Dry Fork Power Station in Gillette recently hosted contestants in an XPRIZE competition; the winners successfully transformed flue gas from the nearby coal-fired powerplant into concrete. The Western Governors have developed significant policy in this space, crafting the Enhanced Oil Recovery resolution and submitting comments to the Senate Committee on the  Environment and Public Works and House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change in support of pro-carbon capture legislation. 

FISH TRACKERS: Biologists in Washington are assigning “social security numbers” to salmon in the Snake River. The recorded information helps fisheries managers and scientists keep tabs on the annual migration of salmon and steelhead to the Pacific Ocean. Doing so ensures the highest survival rates possible. “The monitoring is how the fish tell us what is working and what is not,” Michele DeHart, director of the Fish Passage Center, told The Spokesman-Review.

DEEP SEA MYSTERY: An angler fish, which lives 3,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and is rarely seen intact by humans, washed ashore in Crystal Cove State Park in California. The monstrous-looking fish has teeth as sharp as glass and a piece of dorsal spine that protrudes above their mouths like a fishing pole to attract their prey. "Seeing this strange and fascinating fish is a testament to the diversity of marine life lurking below the water's surface,” noted a post from Crystal Cove State Park. “As scientists continue to learn more about these deep-sea creatures it's important to reflect on how much is still to be learned from our wonderful ocean."

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