• A Looming Crisis for Local U.S. Water Systems?

    Water bills in the U.S. are eating up a growing share of household budgets — and becoming increasingly unaffordable for low-income families. In many cities, shrinking populations and aging infrastructure mean increasingly unaffordable water.

  • Lessons from the Texas Grid Disaster: Planning and Investing for a Different Future

    It is now a week out from the start of the massive Texas grid failure. Alexandra Klass writes that at this point we already know that freezing wind turbines – in fact, wind turbines outperformed grid operator expectations, despite the extreme cold, and the outages would have been worse without the wind energy that remained online. the state’s electric grid failed for a very simple reason—because Texas power plant operators do not insulate their facilities for sustained cold temperatures. As a result, pipes and equipment needed to run the state’s natural gas plants, nuclear plants, and wind turbines froze.

  • Texas Leaders Failed to Heed Warnings Which Left the State's Power Grid Vulnerable to Winter Extremes, Experts Say

    Texas officials knew winter storms could leave the state’s power grid vulnerable, but they left the choice to prepare for harsh weather up to the power companies — many of which opted against the costly upgrades. That, plus a deregulated energy market largely isolated from the rest of the country’s power grid, left the state alone to deal with the crisis, experts said.

  • “We’re in It Alone”: Power Outages Leave Millions of Texans Desperate for Heat and Safety

    Millions of Texans suffered through Monday night without power as a massive winter blitz sent temperatures plunging, shuttered grocery stores and caused widespread outages. Texas residents said the storm — and ensuing partial collapse of the state’s power system — sapped what mental reserves they had left after eleven months of a global health crisis that has cost thousands of jobs and claimed more than 40,000 lives in the state.

  • UPDATES: More People Could Lose Electricity, Heat as Crisis Persists

    Energy experts, local leaders and residents said energy and state officials failed to properly prepare people for the mass outages coinciding with dangerous weather that’s already led to at least 10 deaths. Texas largely relies on natural gas — especially during times of high demand — to power the state. Experts say natural gas infrastructure, from pumping it out of the ground to the plants in city centers, was unprepared for the plunging temperatures brought by the winter storm.

  • New Timeline of Deadliest California Wildfire Could Guide Lifesaving Research, Action

    The November 2018 was the costliest disaster worldwide in 2018 and, having caused 85 deaths and destroyed more than 18,000 buildings, it became both the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history, two records the fire still holds today. What made the Camp Fire so devastating? And what lessons can we learn to prevent another disaster of this scale?

  • L.A. Imposes Sweeping COVID Restrictions

    Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles has issued an order for residents to stay at home and minimize other contacts. The order, which supersedes one from June, prohibits public and private gatherings of people from more than one household and states that all businesses in the city which require people to work on location must stop operations. Walking, driving, travel on public transport, bikes, motorcycles and scooters are prohibited, other than for those undertaking essential activities.

  • One in Six Historic Resources in Colorado Is in a Floodplain

    Colorado has lost several of its important historic landmarks to disasters. The 2013 floods, for instance, destroyed a WPA-era shelter in Lyons and severely damaged the town’s historic library. A new study reaches a sobering conclusion, that one in six historic resources in Colorado is at risk from a flood disaster, yet few communities proactively plan for their protection.

  • Energy security The Promise of California Offshore Wind Energy

    As California aims to provide 60 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045, a Cal Poly study provides some good news: Offshore winds along the Central Coast increase at the same time that people start using more energy — in the evening.

  • Wildfire in Northern California's Coastal Ranges on the Rise Since 1984

    High-severity wildfires in northern coastal California have been increasing by about 10 percent per decade since 1984, according to a new study. From Berryessa to Klamath Mountains, High-Severity Burns Quadrupled During Warm Drought.

  • Does Experiencing Wildfires Create Political Consensus on Resilience Measures?

    As of last weekend [12-13 September], 97 large fires have burned 4.7 million acres across the American West, causing widespread evacuations in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho and Utah.  The smoke from these summer wildfires has spread very widely over the region, curtailing outdoor activity and sending many to the hospitals with respiratory ailments, heat attacks and strokes.  Will this move us any closer to achieving a consensus on the topic of dealing with climate change?

  • Insurance Markets Face Challenges in Higher Fire-Risk Areas

    Wildfires in California destroy thousands of structures each year, and in 2017 that number jumped to 10,800. In 2018, wildfires wrought even greater destruction, with more than 22,000 structures destroyed. Those conflagrations can devastate homeowners and bring heavy costs for the insurance industry. In a new study, RAND researchers found that while the insurance market in lower-fire-risk areas was working relatively well as of 2017, higher-fire-risk areas faced challenges.

  • What the Wildfires Tell Us about the Shortcomings of California’s Electric Grid

    In addition to the vast destruction they have caused, the wildfires that have engulfed California in recent weeks have laid bare serious concerns about the state’s electric grid. UCLA’s expert Eric Fournier explains why the architecture of California’s grid isn’t well suited for such extreme conditions and what it would take to improve it.

  • What’s Ailing California’s Electric System?

    California made headlines for all the wrong reasons recently with widespread rolling power outages in the middle of a heat wave and a pandemic. These blackouts were not an accident—they were intentionally scheduled by the grid operator, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), due to a shortage of resources available to keep the lights on.

  • Warming May Force Some Favorite Produce Crops to Get a Move On

    Record drought and heat have some farmers worried about where and when crops can be grown in the future, even in California where unprecedented microclimate diversity creates ideal growing conditions for many of the most popular items in America’s grocery stores Warmer California temperatures by mid-century will be too hot for some crops, just right for others.