Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Nov. 25)

MoreSmarter-ThanksgivingIf you can make it to the break room and back without seeing another person, you have our permission to go home (after you read this). It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).


► State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Jefferson County) has been fairly quiet since he began campaigning for U.S. Senate a few months ago. Yesterday, Neville took time off from dialing for dollars to join the fear-mongering parade on Syrian refugees with a scary fundraising email. Perhaps Neville is taking a cue from Republican Presidential candidate Marco Rubio, who said over the weekend that the Paris terrorist attacks were a “positive development.” Sure, a lot of innocent people were killed, but it’s not all bad if it helps you raise money for your campaign!

BTW, if you had any concerns that Neville might get squishy on his fervent anti-choice beliefs…well, you need not worry. Nobody is going to be flanking Neville on the right when it comes to abortion.


► You may have heard of the (cough-cough) “bipartisan” group of former Colorado lawmakers pushing for changes in Colorado’s reapportionment/redistricting process. What you haven’t been hearing from some of the cheerleading media outlets in Colorado is that Initiative 55 is a jumbled mess of a policy proposal. Colorado voters shouldn’t be asked to vote on a crayon drawing.

Get even more smarter after the jump…


Slow Down! Initiative 55 (Redistricting) Is a Rough Draft, Not a Real Policy Fix

Pump the brakes!

Pump the brakes!

Redistricting. Reapportionment. Gerrymandering. Big words that create big problems.

There is no political or policy issue that is not affected by the re-drawing of legislative and congressional districts every 10 years. A truly representative democracy requires that we regularly adjust local “boundaries” in an effort to create a responsive and responsible government that reflects our ever-changing demographics.

In an ideal world, these boundaries would always be drawn in a competitively-balanced manner so as not to give an unfair advantage to any particular community, interest group, or political party. In the real world, this is akin to trying to take “politics” out of politics.

A new group of current and former lawmakers is pushing for a change to Colorado’s political map-making process. The proposal – known already as Initiative 55 – has some bipartisan support but is largely backed by Republicans such as former Governor Bill Owens (R), former Secretaries of State Donetta Davidson (R) and Gigi Dennis (R), and former House Speaker Frank McNulty (R). In fact, Initiative 55 should look pretty familiar to partisan Republicans: Much of the map-drawing requirements in Initiative 55 is comparable to a Republican redistricting attempt in 2004 that was ultimately repealed in 2010.

The primary talking point for the Initiative 55 group is that their proposal will hand over the map-making process to “nonpartisan experts,” which (in theory) would put a stop to gerrymandering. This smells like a good idea that has gained traction in other parts of the country, but what are the other ingredients that make up this political sausage? We don’t disagree that our current map-making process needs to be adjusted, but as we read through the draft language for “Initiative 55,” we found ourselves pumping the policy brakes on numerous occasions. For example:

♦ Initiative 55 would essentially make it impossible for minority groups to increase their voting power. In fact, the language specifically prohibits crafting district boundaries “for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group.” This is one of several sections that would appear to be unconstitutional from the start.

Initiative 55 upends some critical redistricting criteria in a way that actually makes it more difficult to craft competitive boundaries. The draft language outlines a few specific redistricting factors in a very specific order; the result is that “competitiveness” and “communities of interest” would become the least important considerations in redistricting. Initiative 55 supporters say that map makers would be “required” to draw competitive seats under this plan, but it would appear that they missed their own fine print.

♦ Metropolitan counties with large populations will still be carved up into several districts, but under Initiative 55, counties can be split even if they divide minority communities or other communities of interest.

♦ One of the stranger quirks in the language of Initiative 55 is related to the tie-breaking process for the Redistricting Commission. If the Commission cannot agree on a particular map and becomes deadlocked, the default solution is to go back to the first map presented by Commission staff – no matter how flawed or misguided it may have been. If the Commission can’t agree on later versions of a redistricting map, the law would require that they formally submit the first draft to the Colorado Supreme Court for approval.

♦ Here’s another weird quirk: In the event that staff “is unable to present initial plans to the commission,” Initiative 55 would allow the staff to draw district lines and directly present them to the Supreme Court for approval (Initiative 55 doesn’t explain what kind of “event” would prohibit staff from meeting with the Commission). In other words, a handful of unnamed “staff members” could somehow skip this entire process and do the map-drawing by themselves. 

Colorado could certainly benefit from a change to its reapportionment and redistricting process, and there may be some seeds of thought in the draft language of Initiative 55 that should be examined further. As it stands currently, however, Initiative 55 is more of a rough first draft than a carefully-considered policy proposal. When you skip the details and rush past the fine print, you risk enacting a policy that ends up doing the opposite of whatever was intended.

Colorado can absolutely lead the way and show the rest of the country how best to deal with re-drawing legislative boundaries…but let’s slow down and get this right, first.

Climate Change: Its What’s for Dinner

Norman Rockwell painted a scene of a fictionalized Thanksgiving that still haunts hostesses and hosts to this day.

By now most people are aware that the history that brings us Thanksgiving is not all as sanguine as we may have been led to believe. The subtext of conquest is bitter to swallow for many.

And abundance itself can devolve to gluttony and greed – stampeding consumerism no longer contained to the immediate Black Friday aftermath even, but invading the holiday itself.

So don’t blame me for ruining the day to raise another issue we can fret over even as we count our blessings otherwise – and that is climate change. Specifically what that clear and present climate crisis means for the food system and food security.

As you slather butter on squash and pile high your pie, you might consider that food systems are among the most vulnerable to climate change.  At risk from drought and wildlife, floods and landslides, threatened by declining pollinators and expanding pests, burdened by crashing fisheries. Of the systems that sustain humanity, how we produce and find the food we eat may be the most in jeopardy.

The point with all this isn’t to ruin the feast but to provide a morsel to chew on as the tryptophan kicks in. And may there be many more days of too much deliciousness in your life. But if we care about feeding ourselves and each other we ought to care about climate change and what we can do about it.

Recently I helped convene a group of growers, food advocates, climate crusaders, and local heroes in a series of gatherings and events around local food security and climate change, as reported in High Country News and KVNF community radio.

Pete Kolbenschlag, the organizer of the Paonia panel discussion, knows that food security affects everyone. “If you care about what’s on your plate, and you care about feeding other people and the planet, then we need to care about climate change, because climate change is going to affect our food supply,” he says.

The purpose was to consider what climate change means for agriculture and rural communities on the Western Slope and how we could begin to work collaboratively to address it.

Generally western Colorado is vulnerable to increased periods of drought and extreme precipitation, a snowpack that melts earlier and warmer winters, with freezes into May likely to remain a fact on the elevated slopes on the western flanks of the Rocky Mountains.

Warm winters result in early blooms on fruit trees that are then at risk to late snow and spring frosts.

Accepting some problems such as increased incidences of early bloom coupled with late April freeze, which is a real problem for the fruit producers where I live for instance, will be part of living with a changing climate.

And climate change means several things more broadly for farming and food security in Colorado as well, including:

*Adapting our farming and food systems to a changing climate will be necessary: to create more climate resilience into the design, crop selection, and techniques; and to make wise water use and management, a top priority in all aspects of growing and producing food.

*Adopting better practices in agriculture and in food system, to reduce greenhouse gas contributions – from eating less meat to utilizing techniques that enhances local carbon capture.

*Accelerating the transition to cleaner energy sources and more local power production in agricultural and food production.

Food security and the threats looming to it from climate change is an issue of global significance.  It also matters for us here at home.  And meeting the challenges that climate change poses for Colorado’s food system will take national and state commitment, as well as local action.

Homegrown approaches for rural communities and others that can help us adapt our food system to address climate change,  from sharing local clean energy capacity and installations (‘solar barn-raisings’) to expanding local food networks.

There is tangible value in gratitude. And for most of us there are things for which we are rightfully thankful. Considering these things helps cultivate a positive attitude.

We can be thankful we are removed from troubling global events we see, perhaps. We may be thankful we are not fleeing a war torn cluster of other powers’ making.

But even these situations have roots not only in political upheaval, like in Syria and Iraq, but also in basic needs that are going unmet. The fact is we are all connected. Global security is connected to food supply. And that supply is being directly impacted from climate change.

A stock Thanksgiving meal set unlike any that I have personally experienced, yet with several classic elements.

So if you are fortunate enough to be able to look with thanks upon your table this season, do take time to think about the world beyond your circle. Remember your family and friends that aren’t there. Include the farmers and winemakers, the workers and craft that brings bounty to you.

But also thank Governor Hickenlooper for defending the Clean Power Plan and Senator Bennet for supporting it against Republican rollbacks in the Senate. One little bite at a time, and some perseverance, and we can make a real difference.

Maybe say a little prayer for peace. But also send it to the world’s leaders heading to Paris this week. Ask that they keep the wisdom that reminds: the smart ruler fills bellies while the harvest of an army is a waste of thorns.

If we want peace, we need security. And if we want security then people need to be secure in their food supplies. And to ensure people have full bellies, and secure food supplies, political leaders need to Act on Climate. It really is as simple as the food on our plate.

Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff: Seal Off Colorado?

We’ve seen plenty of reactions from Colorado politicians to the Paris terrorist attacks and subsequent controversy over allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, but this (we hope) ill-thought-out Facebook stream of consciousness from GOP Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff of Pueblo stands apart from even the “usual” crazy talkers like Tom Tancredo and Sen. Laura Waters Woods:



So, uh, did Rep. Navarro-Ratzlaff misspeak here some way, or does she really think we need to “pause on letting anyone into Colorado?” When she says we need to “pause on letting anyone into Colorado,” does this mean refugees? Immigrants? Californians?


That’s the problem with sweeping statements in the era of “Tea Party” crazy talk. They might actually mean it.

Oh, You Mean THAT War on Women

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports from yesterday’s standing-room-only “hearing” (parentheses explained below) held by the Republican Study Committee of Colorado at the Capitol. The announced subject of yesterday’s all-day public event was something they called “fetal tissue trafficking,” but the event quickly devolved into a free-for-all anti-abortion speechification exercise:

Colorado Republicans on Monday held a listening session at the state Capitol that quickly turned into a trial of Planned Parenthood.

The Republican lawmakers who spearheaded the six-hour packed listening session said the purpose of the event was strictly “informational” in an effort to guide future policy decisions. It followed similar hearings on the congressional level.

Republicans are considering legislation for next year in an effort to crackdown on Planned Parenthood, though such measures would face a tough climb in a Legislature split between Republicans and Democrats.

As CBS4 reports, yesterday’s “hearing,” which was a completely nonofficial event that, as Sen. Chris Holbert took pains to note yesterday, will not result in any state staff time or legislator per diem pay, is nonetheless a prelude to what we can expect to see in the 2016 legislative session:

The Republican Study Committee of Colorado met at the state Capitol to discuss video tapes and legislation in response to them. Eight Republican state lawmakers met for what they called an “informational hearing” on fetal tissue trafficking.

“There’s a problem and we’re trying to get down to the essence of what the facts are here in Colorado,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Larimer County.

The meeting comes after a secretly recorded tape showed a doctor from Planned Parenthood of the Rockies talking about fetal tissue donation. Republicans say it shows the doctor trying to sell fetal tissue for profit, which is against the law. But the attorney general and state health department declined to investigate, prompting Republicans to launch their own investigation.

State Sen. Owen Hill.

State Sen. Owen Hill.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader writes, GOP lawmakers busily working on gratuitous Planned Parenthood troll-bills for 2016 are shocked, shocked mind you, that nobody wants to have anything to do with this:

Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, has pulled a bill title to defund Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides abortions in Colorado along with other family planning and health screening services. Hill was not at the meeting, but Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said he had spoken to Hill about the bill.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, said he was concerned about the testimony he heard and had questions for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the research facilities at CSU that procure fetal tissue. He said he was surprised that both organizations declined an invitation to participate in the event.

From Planned Parenthood and their liberal allies, while obviously condemning the entire spectacle, an enthusiastic response that signals a willingness, even eagerness to take Republicans head-on:


GOP’s Clean Power Insurgency a Cavalcade of Stupid

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

As promised late last months when Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced her decision to join a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, Gov. John Hickenlooper formally petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court yesterday to stop Coffman taking legal actions that contravene the policies of his administration. AP reports via CBS4:

Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday to rule that he, not the state’s attorney general, has the final say on whether to sue the federal government.

Hickenlooper’s petition comes after he complained that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman should not have joined about two dozen other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency over new air pollution rules without his authorization…

Jacki Cooper Melmed, chief legal counsel to the governor, said Coffman has filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits without the support of or collaboration with her clients. “This raises serious questions about the use of state dollars and the attorney-client relationship between the governor, state agencies and the attorney general,” Melmed said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and AG Cynthia Coffman in happier times.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and AG Cynthia Coffman in happier times.

From Hickenlooper’s petition to the Colorado Supreme Court yesterday:

In this Petition, he requests a ruling on the Governor’s and Attorney General’s respective authority under the Constitution and laws of Colorado to determine whether the State of Colorado should sue the United States. The Governor asks this Court to issue a legal declaration that (1) the Governor, not the Attorney General, has ultimate authority to decide on behalf of the State of Colorado whether to sue the federal government, and (2) the Attorney General’s lawsuits against the federal government without the Governor’s authorization must be withdrawn…

The Attorney General lacks statutory authority to bring these federal lawsuits unless “required to do so by the governor.” [Pols emphasis] C.R.S. § 24-31-101(1)(a). Nor does the “common law” allow her to circumvent the statutory limitations and undermine the Governor’s constitutional authority to set Colorado executive branch policy.

We we’ve discussed previously in relation to the Clean Power Plan and Attorney General Coffman’s decision to sue the federal government to stop it, our state is considered to be in a leading position to meet the new standards. A result of legislation passed by our General Assembly in recent years and the constitutional renewable energy standard set forth in 2004’s Amendment 37, we’re well ahead of the curve.

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

But as a report in the conservative Business Times out of Grand Junction unintentionally makes clear, opponents are not reliant on, you know, rational arguments.

While Colorado is already an estimated 80 percent on the way to achieving lower emissions standards, [Pols emphasis] Attorney General Cynthia Coffman joined in a lawsuit challenging the plan as federal overreach…

[Sen. Ray Scott] took exception to the state’s renewable energy standard and the push by state and federal regulators to mandate the increase use of renewable energy sources for electrical generation. “Solar has a problem, it’s called night,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Yes, folks, he really said that.

Back in the land of adult dialogue, Colorado’s leadership on renewable energy standards may indeed have made the state an ironic target for energy industry flacks like attorney Mike Nasi–who according to open-records documents we received played a questionably big role in persuading Cynthia Coffman to join this lawsuit. But for the rest of the state government Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is in charge of, Coffman’s lawsuit is totally discordant with the agenda they’ve been progressing toward for years–an agenda the voters of Colorado mandated with the passage of Amendment 37, and the legislature strengthened with subsequent laws signed by Govs. Bill Ritter and Hickenlooper.

With these facts in mind, Hickenlooper not only has the right, but the obligation to rein in a rogue attorney general off pursuing her own ideological flight of fancy in opposition to the state’s explicit policy goals–goals in place long before she was ever elected. And if Republican lawmakers don’t want to make fools of themselves while she does, they might want to come up with less ridiculous arguments themselves.

Because this really is quite embarrassing. For all of them.

BREAKING: Ex-Rep. Larry Liston Primaries Rep. Janak Joshi

Larry Liston.

Larry Liston.

An interesting piece of scuttlebutt just brought to our attention out of Colorado Springs today: former Rep. Larry Liston, who gave up his House seat to unsuccessfully run against Owen Hill for Senate District 10 in 2012, hopes to mount a comeback bid with a primary challenge against his successor in HD-16, Rep. Janak “Dr. Nick” Joshi.

A Liston vs. Joshi primary would represent an interesting clash between two wings of the Springs-area Republican Party, with Liston presumably able to hold down “elite” Republicans and Joshi retaining his popularity among the “Tea Party” grassroots. Joshi’s checkered past as a doctor who lost his license to practice medicine hasn’t hurt him up to now, but that could change if Liston chose to make an issue of it. On the other side, Liston’s occasional bouts of verbal diarrhea, like infamously calling unmarried parents “sluts” on the floor of the Colorado House, are enough to give long-term strategic types pause as well.

At this point it’s tough to predict the outcome, but this could be one of the more lively red-on-red primaries of 2016.

Planned Parenthood Declines To Waste Your Time

komen-planned-parenthood4-1As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports:

Planned Parenthood of Colorado told a group of conservative state legislators last week to take a hike over its planned hearing on fetal tissue trafficking.

The group, called the Republican Study Committee of Colorado, announced plans to hold a six-hour “informational hearing” Nov. 9 on the so-called practice of selling fetal tissue, and invited several people and groups to testify on the matter.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

Sen. Laura Waters-Woods.

The response from Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains is…well, it’s more polite than we would have been:

Planned Parenthood told the unofficial legislative committee that it was declining its invitation to appear before the panel, which is made up of 21 of the most conservative Republican representatives and senators in the Colorado Legislature.

“Their so-called hearing is nothing but a political sham to boost the profile of politicians like Sen. Tim Neville, who had the worst record in the Legislature last year on women’s reproductive rights, and Laura Woods, who has almost as extreme an agenda as Neville,” said Cathy Alderman, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

The problem is, this Republican-manufactured “committee” has no mandate or authority to investigate Planned Parenthood–let alone enforce any judgment that might result from their “investigation.” Ashby reports that the only people who have agreed to “testify” before this “hearing” are usual-suspect pro-life groups like Mike Norton’s Alliance Defending Freedom. Because both the Colorado Department of Public Health and even anti-abortion Attorney General Cynthia Coffman have refused to humor legislative Republican demands for an investigation into throughly-discredited allegations that the organization “sells baby body parts,” a kangaroo court to self-injuriously reaffirm the Republican Party’s opposition to abortion is all that’s left.

And no, our local Planned Parenthood is under absolutely no obligation to dignify that with a response.

Set Your Clocks Back Sunday, Says GOP’s Rep. Kit Roupe

GOP Rep. Kit Roupe of Colorado Springs doesn’t want you to forget that Daylight Savings Time ends at 2:00AM this coming Sunday:


Hey, wait a minute! That’s Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed, who built a clock for a high school science project that made national news after being not-really-but-sort-of mistaken by school officials for a bomb–mostly because the kid’s last name is “Mohamed.” President Barack Obama praised Mohamed’s science project, and even invited him to bring it to the White House, but that hasn’t stopped talking heads on the right from theorizing that the whole thing may have been a “dry run” test of security.

We could give this Colorado Springs Republican lawmaker the benefit of the doubt, but that would be better than poor Ahmed got from…well, lots of her fellow Republicans! In the absence of an explanation, you’ll just have to speculate about her punchline.

Who knows, maybe there is one.

On This We Agree: Cynthia Coffman is Silly



Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is a big supporter of the new federal Clean Power Plan. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is not a fan, however, and that’s okay…to a point. The Governor thinks that Coffman is breaking the law by forcing Colorado to join a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Clean Power Plan. As the Associated Press reports:

Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday he will ask the Colorado Supreme Court whether it was legal for the state attorney general to sue the federal government over new air pollution rules even though Hickenlooper supports the rules and is trying to implement them.

Hickenlooper said he should have made the final decision on whether Attorney General Cynthia Coffman joined 23 other states in suing the Environmental Protection Agency. Coffman said the rules are an illegal overreach.

“The law makes it clear that except in limited circumstances — which don’t exist here — the attorney general is not permitted to file such lawsuits unless directed to do so by the governor,” Hickenlooper said.

Former Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar backed up Hickenlooper’s comments today during an event in Boulder, telling Bruce Finley of the Denver Post that Coffman’s legal opinion is incorrect in this matter:

“What the attorney general is doing here is clearly illegal on her part,” he said. “We’ll see what the Supreme Court has to say.”

And what does Coffman herself have to say about the subject? That leads us to this little gem that just made it into a story from the Colorado Statesman (which also references a Colorado Pols story from last week):

“And finally, I would say to people who would think that I have been influenced by the energy industry, that they must not know me that well, because I am not that easily influenced,” Coffman concluded. [Pols emphasis]

Not. That. Easily. Influenced.

Yes, friends, we are talking about the same Cynthia Coffman who played a central role in trying to blackmail State Republican Party Chair Steve House last summer. You may have heard about the scandal, which has been dubbed “Coffmangate.” It would be difficult to be any more persuadable to political arguments.

EXCLUSIVE: Is David Balmer Done with the Legislature?

UPDATE: The Colorado Statesman’s Vic Vela confirms, but as usual you heard it here first:

Republican state Sen. David Balmer will soon resign from office to spend more time with ailing family members and to start a new career opportunity, the Centennial lawmaker told The Colorado Statesman on Friday.

Balmer, who is well regarded for his animal welfare legislation at the Capitol, will work as the political director of state campaigns for the Humane Society Legislative Fund. The fund is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit wing of the Humane Society.


Sen. David Balmer (R-SD37)

Sen. David Balmer (R-SD27)

Republican state Senator David Balmer is up for re-election in 2016, but the rumor mill is churning with news that the longtime legislator may be about to walk away from the State Senate altogether.

As you can see from his latest campaign finance report with the Colorado Secretary of State (below), Balmer Terminated his current campaign committee on Oct. 7, 2015. We haven’t heard whether or not Balmer might resign from the Senate (SD-27, Centennial-ish) or just decline to run for re-election, but rumor has it that he has grown tired of the GOP infighting and would like to focus his energy on his new job with the Humane Society (the connection seems to fit, because Balmer has spent a good amount of time in recent years sponsoring legislation around dog ownership and adoption programs).

Whatever Balmer decides, we hear that freshman Rep. Jack Tate (R-HD37) is poised to make the jump to State Senate as Balmer’s replacement, which would then make HD-37 an open seat in 2016.


Cynthia Coffman Does Not Speak For Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

UPDATE #2: Via the Denver Business Journal, Gov. John Hickenlooper slams Attorney General Cynthia Coffman for joining this lawsuit over his objections and the state’s longstanding leadership on the issue:

“We do not support this lawsuit,” Hickenlooper said via an emailed statement.

“Clean air and protecting public health should be everyone’s top priority. Colorado’s interest is best served by an open, inclusive process to implement the Clean Power Plan,” he continued.

“This lawsuit will create uncertainty for the state and undermine stakeholders’ ability to plan for and invest in cost-effective compliance strategies, something that the Attorney General has been advising the state on,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Hickenlooper said Colorado also has worked “extensively with the EPA to ensure we have the time and flexibility we need. We believe that Colorado can achieve the clean air goals set by the EPA, at little or no increased cost to our residents.”


Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

POLS UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, let no pesky facts come between Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and destiny:

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman again vowed to fight President Barack Obama’s testy Clean Power Plan as the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday published the initiative’s final rules.

“It would be remiss if I, as attorney general, looked the other way and said, ‘Because Colorado is likely to meet this carbon dioxide cap, we shouldn’t challenge the federal government,’ ” said Coffman, who in late August announced she was joining a lawsuit to stop the plan. [Pols emphasis]

“That to me is an abdication of my responsibility.”

In short, Colorado is going to pass this test. But by God, we shouldn’t have to. Because freedom. And unregistered lobbyists. The rest of the state be damned!

Original post follows…


After Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced her lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, in apparent defiance of Gov. John Hickenlooper and the rest of the state government which has been working toward a smooth transition to the clean energy economy for years, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, called on Coffman to stop playing politics with her office at the behest of out-of-state special interests–and to abandon this ill-conceived lawsuit against our state’s best interests.

“Documents unearthed by Public Citizen reveal unethical heavy involvement in Attorney General Coffman’s opposition to the Clean Power Plan by a Texas energy attorney named Mike Nasi,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. [1] “Why is Cynthia Coffman colluding with out-of-state oil and gas interests against our state’s own governor and legislature? As Attorney General, Coffman’s job is to represent the people of Colorado, not Texas.”

“Since taking office this year, Cynthia Coffman has repeatedly brushed with scandal,” said Runyon-Harms. “Coffman has been accused of misusing her position for political advantage and was even accused by fellow Republicans of blackmailing the party’s chairman. By using the power of her office to join this lawsuit against the wishes of Gov. Hickenlooper, Coffman has once again proven that she is not fit to serve as the state’s chief law enforcement officer.”

“Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s lawsuit flies in the face of Colorado’s leadership in the global transition to a clean energy future,” said Runyon-Harms. “In 2004, Colorado passed a groundbreaking constitutional ballot measure establishing a strong renewable energy standard. In 2013, our legislature made it stronger. Experts agree that Colorado is well positioned to meet the challenge of the Clean Power Plan. Our state’s pro-energy Governor supports the Plan. It’s the right thing to do for Colorado, and it will grow our economy the same way Amendment 37 made our state a leader in renewable energy.”

Cynthia Coffman’s Clean Power Plan Suit: Who’s Pulling The Strings?

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Among the growing number of curious decisions by Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is her signing on to a multistate lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Because of clean energy  initiatives and legislation already passed here in Colorado in the last 12 years, our state is much closer to compliance with the goals of the CPP than many others. Avowedly pro-energy Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper supports the CPP, and in an August interview with Colorado Public Radio, expressed some amount of befuddlement over Attorney General Coffman’s plans to sue:

Hickenlooper has said he intends to meet the carbon reduction goals set by the EPA this month. But Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says the goals are “unrealistic,” and raise “significant concerns for Colorado,” and is considering suing the EPA.

“[The attorney general and I] haven’t had a chance to talk… One of the amazing things about this moment in time is that inexpensive natural gas is a very, very clean fuel. And we have a couple of aged coal plants in Colorado… there might be one or two or three that might be able to be converted to natural gas, and natural gas right now is so inexpensive, it might allow us to achieve the reductions without significant cost increases [for consumers]…

“We don’t see the evidence [to support a lawsuit] based on what we know.”

Any way you look at it, AG Coffman’s decision to join in lawsuit over the objections of the governor of the state she serves–a state already a model for the goals this plan wants to achieve–looks weird. Of the 20 or so states that have filed suit against the administration over the Clean Power Plan, we haven’t checked to see how many involve state attorneys general going against their own governors, but we’re guessing that’s a minority of cases.

So what gives? Yesterday, we were forwarded documents produced from a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request of the attorney general’s office by the DC-based group Public Citizen. These documents appear to show a major role in Colorado joining the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan by one Mike Nasi. Nasi is a Texas-based energy industry attorney who has apparently helped direct the energy industry’s response to the Clean Power Plan, new rules on mercury emissions, and a variety of other subjects. It should be noted that neither Nasi nor his law firm Jackson Walker LLP are registered lobbyists in the state of Colorado.

Despite this, Nasi testified in favor of the industry-sponsored Senate Bill 15-258 this year, the so-called “Electric Consumers Protection Act” to forestall any state implementation plan for carbon dioxide reduction. After SB-258 died, Gov. Hickenlooper announced that the state would support and comply with the Clean Power Plan.

Enter Cynthia Coffman.

There’s a wealth of information in the CORA “doc dump” from Public Citizen (two files, here and here) about the collusion between her office, pro-energy Colorado lawmakers like Sen. John Cooke, and Nasi in advocating against the Clean Power Plan. This in turn sheds light on Nasi’s multistate roundup of willing attorneys general to sue the administration. We hope readers will take a look at these documents and help us establish more details about the connections and players involved. In light of Colorado’s readiness–according to the governor, anyway–to be a leader in implementing the Clean Power Plan, this back-channel maneuvering by the attorney general to join this lawsuit stands out as especially dubious.

And maybe even, dare we suggest it, misconduct.

Turning Points for Renewable Energy

Turning points.

Turning points.

Whether it comes out of the ground or from the sky, energy production remains a hot topic in Colorado. Each side has its own set of arguments, but we may be reaching a true tipping point in favor of renewable energy.

As Tom Randall writes for Bloomberg Business, the “capacity factor” is making solar and wind energy more economically-viable than other sources of energy:

Wind power is now the cheapest electricity to produce in both Germany and the U.K., even without government subsidies, according to a new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). It’s the first time that threshold has been crossed by a G7 economy.

But that’s less interesting than what just happened in the U.S.

To appreciate what’s going on there, you need to understand the capacity factor. That’s the percentage of a power plant’s maximum potential that’s actually achieved over time…

…One of the major strengths of fossil fuel power plants is that they can command very high and predictable capacity factors. The average U.S. natural gas plant, for example, might produce about 70 percent of its potential (falling short of 100 percent because of seasonal demand and maintenance). But that’s what’s changing, and it’s a big deal.

For the first time, widespread adoption of renewables is effectively lowering the capacity factor for fossil fuels. [Pols emphasis] That’s because once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is pretty much zero—free electricity—while coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. If you’re a power company with a choice, you choose the free stuff every time.

In any political debate, simple economic factors can end up making the strongest argument. All of the saber-rattling and fist-shaking about fossil fuels and renewables will grind to a halt when oil and gas production is no longer economically preferable…and it appears we may be crossing that bridge.

Rural VFD Scrambles as Billionaire Driller Flares Wells & Funds Politicians

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Methane is a greenhouse gas some 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It is a pollutant when released into the atmosphere, often a precursor to ozone, and is itself a volatile compound that may signal a threat of area toxicity depending what other compounds are present in the gas.

It is also, we are regularly reminded, a valuable commodity, harbinger of American ‘energy independence’ and of a manufacturing revolution, when piped and sold as natural gas.

Yet despite all this—the bad, the good, the ugly—methane, the primary component of natural gas, is regularly vented and flared in America’s oil and gas fields.

Even in the dark of night on remote Colorado mountain passes when maybe no one will notice.

But it was noticed, not once but twice, recently on McClure Pass, provoking a flurry of concerned and sometimes overblown comments on the local Facebook message board as motorists reported the incidents. In the most recent episode local fire fighters scrambled to the report of flames in the forest at a rig on a dark night.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel is reporting:

SG Interests flared a natural gas well in the upper North Fork Valley recently without notifying local authorities, reportedly requiring an unnecessary visit to the somewhat remote location by local firefighters.

Companies are required to notify authorities of flaring under state rules, and SG says it is taking steps to prevent a repeat violation.

Paonia resident Pete Kolbenschlag, who works as a consultant on environmental issues, says he hopes so. He fears a succession of false alarms could lead to emergency agencies with limited resources being less apt to quickly respond to an incident like a true well fire or a spill of pollutants into waterways.

“There’s a reason why there’s a notification requirement,” he said.

The flaring occurred earlier this month near Colorado Highway 133 southwest of McClure Pass in Gunnison County.

Venting and flaring releases volatile and harmful compounds, and can include flames several stories tall, both bothersome things to come across driving over a mountain pass in the National Forest.  

SG Interests—operator of the gassy, flaring well—is one of two oil and gas companies that are most active in the upper North Fork Valley. The other is Bill Koch’s Gunnison Energy Company. In the earlier July incident the motorist reported strong smells.

I was driving on Route 133, towards Paonia, on July 3, 2015. It was 11:15 AM, on that Friday, as I was driving down McClure’s Pass, after mile Marker 40, that I was assaulted by the most extreme and dense vapors/gas from a chemical source.

It was so extreme, that I thought I might pass out. It lasted for several minutes at the very extreme level and then as I drove further away, the fumes left my truck’s cab. On the right of my truck, at the moment I first smelled the heavy chemical fumes, I saw liquid rushing down the mountainside. This liquid ran down the mountainside and down a ditch along the side of the highway. This liquid may or may not have been the source of the chemical fumes.

There are 2 active gas well sites and companies operating in the vicinity of my exposure to the chemical vapors. The first company is SG Interests and the second company is Gunnison Energy. Route 133, mile marker 39-40, west of McClure’s Pass, outside of Marble, Colorado and before Paonia, Colorado.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission complaint on file for that incident notes that inspectors did not find anything amiss when they got around to inspecting the well a few days later.

I Spoke with Thane Stranathan with BLM (Montrose) on phone today. He met with complainant on location and said he could find no fault with SG and the water flow was above location and caused by mudslide under CDOT control and they were aware of it. We plan to meet next week and visit site.

Both GEC and SGI are privately held billionaire-owned companies. Texan Russ Gordy being the primary name behind SGI. Just last week the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management gave these two companies the go ahead to develop 16 new wells north of Paonia Reservoir State Park. Colorado Park and Wildlife concerns regarding their location within elk winter concentration areas were mostly dismissed.

It was these two companies that together built the Bull Mountain pipeline, which was itself the cause of a losing (for the roadless forests and impacted wildlife) environmental battle about eight years ago. GEC and SGI have an uneasy relationship, sometimes in conflict other times in collusion according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Another Gunnison Energy Company project for up to 150 wells is currently under agency review (Bull Mountain Master Development Plan). And SG Interests is currently trying to acquire additional lands in the North Fork via legislation while attempting to drill on the other side of the pass, within the Thompson Divide area, threatening to take its heavy industrial traffic right through Glenwood Springs and up Four Mile Road against everyone’s objections.

Perhaps due to its often blunt tactics SGI has been investing heavily in the politics of the geography it hopes to drill. It is rumored to give hefty 4 figure contributions to small town Chambers of Commerce. SGI is the local congressman’s number one donor and he SGI’s number one recipient. Senator Cory Gardner also being among its top recipients of campaign cash. So far in just 2015 SGI has spent over $220,000 on high-priced DC lobbyists.