DU Study: State Lax In Enforcing Setback Rules For Drilling

setbackstudy

A new study from the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic asserts that "Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration is approving oil and gas drilling near homes, schools and businesses without following its own regulations." From their joint press release with the Sierra Club yesterday:

The study recommends the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission (COGCC) reject incomplete drilling permit applications, increase and standardize notification of residents near drilling and fracking, improve online information access and base setback requirements on science and necessary precautions to protect public health and environment.  
 
“The COGCC has a job to do, which is to implement strong regulations and enforce those regulations to protect public health, safety and the environment. When it comes to drilling and fracking near communities, citizens and local government are the ones living with the impacts and their voices need to be ones that are given the most weight in the process,” said Catherine Collentine of the Sierra Club.
 
Colorado regulations, in effect since August, 2013, require pads with multiple oil and gas wells located within 1,000 feet from homes, schools and businesses be placed “as far as possible” from those buildings. The governor and COGCC promised increased enforcement of the regulation last fall, but the analysis found no evidence of additional rigor in permit reviews. [Pols emphasis]
 
Student attorneys at DU Environmental Law Clinic conducted a legal review of 1300 permits issued since August, 2013 and discovered 181 were granted, despite incomplete documentation. Those 181 permits accounted for an immense amount of development: 951 wells, 1221 tanks and 932 separators. Most of the 181 permits for oil and gas wells are located in Weld County – others originated in Adams, Garfield, Larimer and La Plata Counties…
 
“We hope that our analysis will help inform the COGCC as it works to meet its goal of protecting the health and safety of all Coloradoans,” said Lauren Bushong, student attorney with DU’s Environmental Law Clinic. “If followed, our recommendations should allow for greater, and more meaningful, public participation in the permitting process.” 

Read the details of DU's study here. The commission tasked with coming up with legislative proposals to improve local control of oil and gas drilling, which resulted form last year's compromise between proponents of ballot initiatives for that purpose and Gov. John Hickenlooper, is set to deliver their report next month. Should the local control commission not produce a satisfactory result in the legislature, it's likely there will be major combat at the ballot box in 2016 over initiatives to enhance local control and/or further regulate drilling at the state level.

You'll recall that one of the ballot measures last year was to increase setbacks for drilling from existing development.

The principal argument made by supporters of the oil and gas industry in Colorado is that the state "already has" strict regulations on drilling. Obviously, the central claim of this study–that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) under Gov. Hickenlooper is not properly enforcing drilling regulations as they exist today–does not inspire confidence in their willingness to enforce stronger protections. But this is information that the legislature and (if necessary) the voting public needs to know.

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Con Man Cory Votes Against Wind Production Tax Credit, Hopes You Don’t Remember Those TV Ads

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner poses in front of some sort of weird spinny thing.

UPDATE: Guess who just voted NO on a Senate amendment to establish a renewable electricity standard? Maybe Gardner was just misquoted when he often said he supports an "all of the above" approach on energy production. Or perhaps he was crossing his fingers every time he said it.

—–

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner earned the nickname "Con Man Cory" during his 2014 campaign for his willingness to say anything that might help him get elected. And when we say "anything," we mean that literally — he lied and hemmed and hawed about his own record and took credit for things he didn't do, even when the facts told a different story.

Sen. Gardner hasn't even been in office for a full month yet, and he's already turned his back on some of his more blustery campaign promises. Remember that September TV ad from Gardner in which he claimed to have "cowrote the law to launch our state's green energy industry?" Kristen Wyatt of The Associated Press quickly dissected the ad and came to the obvious conclusion that Gardner was just expelling his own wind. Here's the first paragraph from that AP story:

GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner, framed by sunflowers and wind turbines, tells voters in a campaign ad this week that he co-wrote a law to launch Colorado's green-energy economy. He leaves out that the law was repealed five years later, deemed useless for not enabling a single project. [Pols emphasis]

Now, this wasn't the only time during the campaign that Gardner praised the wind energy industry, which provides thousands of jobs on Colorado. And yesterday, Gardner had his first opportunity to put some substance behind those campaign promises. Instead, he voted against an amendment to extend the Wind Production Tax Credit. Yes, you read that correctly. The same guy who campaigned around the state talking about the importance of supporting Colorado's burgeoning Wind Energy industry just voted NO on an amendment to extend a critical production tax credit.

Judging from Gardner's own words, he seems to be aware that he is doing the exact opposite of what he said he would do if elected to the Senate. This is from Gardner's official statement following the vote on Heitkamp Amdt. No. 133:

“I am a true believer in the ability of wind energy to be a key part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy. I have been a major proponent of the Wind Production Tax Credit in the past, and I continue to support incentives for wind energy. It plays a vital role in powering our homes and helping to grow our economy in Colorado.

This amendment, however, is the wrong way to go about it and highlights the continued need for an overhaul our entire tax code. Unfortunately, the amendment advocates the reauthorization of this tax credit without any means to pay for the extension, which I cannot support. Further, the amendment offers no vision of how to eventually ramp down this tax credit, which was always intended to be temporary. [Pols emphasis]

“I am still a major supporter of wind energy, and I look forward to working with Senator Heitkamp on the issue going forward."

Got that, Colorado wind energy producers? "Con Man Cory" is totally in your corner on the Wind Production Tax Credit — hell, he just said it twice — up until the point in which he is asked to cast a vote. Because of modernizing the tax code, or something. Only in Con Many Cory's brain does it make sense to say that voting against the tax credit doesn't mean he opposes the tax credit.

[Side note: Gardner also explains his vote against the Wind Production Tax Credit when he says, "the amendment offers no vision of how to eventually ramp down this tax credit, which was always intended to be temporary." You know what also was intended to be temporary? The billions of dollars in tax credits that the oil and gas industry enjoys every year, even though they are making tens of billions in profits every quarter. That vote will be coming soon, too.)

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Meanwhile, Colorado's other U.S. Senator, Democrat Michael Bennet, has been traveling the state promoting the importance of the Wind Production Tax Credit and actually casting a vote in support. Here's Bennet talking to Bridgett Weaver of the Greeley Tribune about the Wind Production Tax Credit:

It’s critically important to give certainty to this vital industry in Colorado. And nationally, the wind industry accounts for more than 75,000 jobs in the country and roughly 5,000 in Colorado, and by some estimates around 2,600 in Weld County alone. So that’s what’s so critical about it. It’s not just about the windmills themselves. It’s about the entire manufacturing industry and the subcontractors who are part of that. Many of whom are right here in Colorado that need the certainty that an extension or some other signal will give them in order to move forward.

Vestas is a great example. They were laying people off in 2013 and 2012, and in 2014, I think they announced that they would be hiring 800 employees in Colorado, with 300 of them in Windsor.

This is why Sen. Bennet comes off as a statesman and Sen. Gardner looks like a used car salesman. Bennet talks the talk and backs it up with his vote in the Senate. Pretty simple, no?

So, if Gardner isn't following through on his promises to voters — who is he helping? Why, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), of course, the same group that was founded by the billionaire coal baron Koch Brothers that spent millions on Gardner's Senate campaign. Back in November, Gardner seemed to be telling AFP (publicly) that he would continue to support the Wind Production Tax Credit despite heavy lobbying from AFP to have it killed. Hmmm….sorry, Colorado voters, but at the end of the day, Con Man Cory is going to represent the interests of AFP and the Koch Brothers. This isn't an opinion — it just happened. Gardner did exactly the opposite of what he promised Colorado voters, and he's going to do it over and over and over again.

Here's what Eli Stokols of FOX 31 News wrote after Gardner voted against an amendment on Climate Change:

After campaigning successfully last year as a "different kind of Republican," Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is under fire from conservationists for voting Wednesday against an amendment stating that humans contribute to climate change, something 69 percent of his constituents believe to be a fact.

Fifteen Senate Republicans, including 2016 presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul, joined Democrats in backing the amendment, but not Gardner…

This is Cory Gardner in a nutshell, folks. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Koch).

21 White Republicans (And Janak Joshi) Sponsor Affirmative Action Repeal Legislation

Up on the calendar of the always-entertaining Senate Education Committee this afternoon is Senate Bill 15-117, "Concerning prohibiting discrimination in public financing of systems of higher education." 

The bill prohibits the general assembly and the Colorado commission on higher education (commission) from appropriating or distributing state moneys to or for the benefit of students or state or private institutions of higher education based solely on the race, color, national origin, or sex of a student.

The bill requires the commission to prohibit such discrimination in higher education funding in implementing part 3 of article 18 of title 23, Colorado Revised Statutes.

This is a bill with origins in American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) stock language to prohibit funding for affirmative action policies in higher education. The national proponent of this kind of legislation, conservative activist Ward Connerly, was also behind a Colorado ballot initiative in 2008 to broadly outlaw any kind of gender or race-based affirmative action. That initiative was defeated, handing Connerly a major defeat in what has been a successful drive to eliminate affirmative action in some other states.

There are a few ways to approach this legislation, which may well pass the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate on its way to certain death in the Democratic-controlled House. We could cite the studies and large body of opinion that affirmative action remains necessary, insofar as discrimination remains a problem in America. But there's something more basic about Senate Bill 117 that struck us as we read the list of sponsors:

sb117sponsors

With the sole exception of Rep. Janak Joshi of Colorado Springs, they're all white people.

To which you might respond, "Well, that's pretty much all Republicans have got!"

And you would be right–about both the cause and the effect of their problem.

Your Papers Are Not In Order, “Dr. Chaps”

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

John Tomasic at the Colorado Independent got tangled up this week with the confused nonprofit and for-profit business operations of freshman Colorado Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt–whose other job running a far-out Youtube "video ministry" called Pray in Jesus' Name has resulted in nationwide notoriety. Tomasic took a look at publicly searchable records at the Colorado Secretary of State's office, which appear to show Klingenschmitt's nonprofit charity status as "suspended."

Controversial state Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s nonprofit “Pray in Jesus [sic] Name” has failed to file the proper paperwork with the state, a lapse that led the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on October 15th of last year to suspend its registration as a charitable organization. Since then, Klingenschmitt’s group has not been legally eligible to solicit or accept donations, which hasn’t stopped it from sending out fundraiser emails and posting videos asking for donations at a regular clip.

“God loves a cheerful giver,” Klingenschmitt says at the end of the most recent episode of his YouTube program, “Pray in Jesus Name News.” Text runs across the bottom of the screen intermittently asking viewers to make donations…

We have no idea how much Klingenschmitt has raised via his Pray in Jesus' Name nonprofit–based on the number of Youtube views his shows receive when not being highlighted by liberals, our guess is not that much. In any event, Tomasic's report on the suspension of Klingenschmitt's nonprofit status provoked an irate response from "Dr. Chaps" personally in the comments of the story.

chapsceaseanddesist

Yikes! We've never seen "Chaps" mad like that before. Obviously, this prompted a second report from the Independent's Tomasic with more details–details that don't actually help Chaps. Perhaps he should have left bad enough alone?

Klingenschmitt forwarded to The Independent a certificate of good standing “dated today,” he wrote in an email, signed by Secretary of State Wayne Williams. (Pictured here and available for download as a pdf.) Klingenschmitt explained that he filed papers to bring his registration up to date on Saturday, January 24th, 2014, three days ago. But the Secretary’s certificate shows some of the documents were electronically received by the office Tuesday at 2:46 p.m., nearly three hours after the original Colorado Independent story posted.

So, it's quite possible that Klingenschmitt scrambled after this report in the Independent to get his nonprofit status renewed with the Secretary of State–and then informed the Independent with high dudgeon that their report was "false." While that makes his all-caps "cease and desist" demand look kind of silly, it at least gives him a response when asked about this in the future. Except for one remaining problem: Klingenschmitt appears to have continued soliciting nonprofit donations during the period his charity was suspended, which would be a violation of the law:

In an email sent Tuesday, Klingenschmitt explained that the fundraiser emails he has sent out since October 15 and that were cited by The Colorado Independent “come from a totally different for-profit corporation, GJK, Inc., not from the non-profit as you falsely claim.”

Except no, they didn't:

[T]he fundraising emails cited by The Independent do not include reference to GJK, Inc. They do, however, come from an email address with the “prayinjesusname.org” Internet domain. They also include at the top a prominent “Pray in Jesus Name Project” banner (“Sending Petitions to God & Government to Defend Religious Freedom.”) An email sent on December 30 (see image below) asks specifically for donations for the “Pray in Jesus Name Ministries”.

If you clicked on the link in emails from that time period, this is the message you saw on the donation page:

YES! I support your non-profit defense of religious liberty and freedom of Christian expression, broadcasting the gospel on TV-radio-internet, and service to the poor and orphans. To help you protect our right to pray publicly “in Jesus’ name,” and mobilize tens of thousands of people to petition God and government, I’m making my tax-deductible donation to “PRAY IN JESUS NAME MINISTRIES.”

And with that, we do believe "Dr. Chaps" is nailed. Either he was soliciting donations via a suspended nonprofit, or he was grossly misrepresenting "donations" to a for-profit business. And neither of those seems like a model of "what Jesus would do."

State representative calls ColoradoPols “not relevant,” yet talks on and on about it on radio show

(We're flattered! Also notable, Rep. Everett showed up somewhere. – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Justin Everett (R).

Rep. Justin Everett (R).

During an obscure appearance Jan. 16 on KLZ 560-AM's nooner show, Freedom 560, State Rep. Justin Everett and host Ken Clark lit into the progressive blog, ColoradoPols, for its recent blog post listing fictitious names for Republican-sponsored bills in the state legislature.

Everett and Clark spent a good chunk of the show bashing the most-excellent Pols post, which, for example, offered names like “The ‘Right to Discriminate’ Act,” SB 15-069 (Sen. Laura Woods) and “The ‘Felons in Child Care’ Act,” SB 15-070 (Sen. Kevin Lundberg).

They read the make-believe names of the bills. They laughed. They got mad at "the left." They patted themselves on the back.

Everett addressed Pols directly on air: "[Pols is] very good at spinning things to make them into something they are completely not. All these things, especially the guns bills here on ColoradoPols, it should be 'Restoring Freedom Act.' That would be a better definition. 'Restoring Personal Liberties.' But apparently you guys are pretty far off the reservation, but we've known that, and that's why you're not relevant. 

So, they choose to dedicate a segment of the show to Pols, and they say the blog isn't relevant? How does that work?

Maybe they lump themselves in the non-relevant category, too, allowing them, as irrelevant entities, to focus on another irrelevant entity without worrying about their own relevancy?

I doubt it. Those two are awfully head strong to see themselves as lacking relevancy. So maybe they secretly think Pols is relevant? I called and emailed Everett to find out, but he didn't get back to me, leaving me feeling no more or less relevant than usual.

Old, New Names Floated To Replace Libby Szabo

Lang Sias and the vanishing Tea Party endorsement.

Lang Sias and the vanishing Tea Party endorsement.

With newly appointed Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo's resignation from the Colorado House taking effect at the end of the month, Republicans in House District 27–and, of course, Republican kingmakers in their respective high places–are hard at work sorting through the prospective candidates to replace her. The word is there is a pretty good mix of candidates in the running for this seat, but we'll focus today on a by-no-means comprehensive list of four contenders we've been advised to watch:

1. Lang Sias. That's right, folks, "the Republican Democrats fear," or at least that how his story went before he lost three consecutive bids for elective office, is in the hunt for this appointment to the Colorado House. What we've heard, though, is that Sias is doubly tainted by his loss to Laura Waters Woods last year in SD-19–both by having lost in that primary and by being branded a moderate "squish" by his hard-right opponent in the process. By all accounts this is a very conservative vacancy committee, which at this point puts Sias at a real disadvantage.

2. Christine Jensen, a mortgage broker who ran for Arvada city council in 2007. We know less about her, except that she is popular among Arvada Republicans, and is a strident religious conservative in the similar mold of Szabo. Based on our limited information, this is a candidate who could prove favorable to both this vacancy committee…and, looking ahead, Democrats (if you know what we mean).

Larry Queen. Wazzap!

Larry Queen. Wazzap!

3. Larry Queen, the failed SD-20 GOP candidate last year running against Sen. Cheri Jahn. Pulling in Queen's favor is the close race he ran against Jahn, losing by fewer than 500 votes in the final tally. But under the surface of that close win, there was chatter about an inept campaign that could have, and should have say his detractors, been able to close the gap in a heavily targeted GOP pickup attempt.

4. John Bodnar, the more-or-less placeholder Republican candidate for the HD-27 seat in 2008 against Democrat Sara Gagliardi. Bodnar was one of a number of low-profile losing GOP candidates in 2008, who didn't raise much money, didn't have any public profile, and went down to defeat quietly, but he has been active in Republican Party politics in the district.

Like we said, this is not a comprehensive list, and other names could yet emerge before the HD-27 vacancy committee makes its decision next weekend. We'll update as and if we learn about new developments. Since playing musical chairs with appointments suits Jefferson County Republicans much better than letting those pesky voters decide on their representation, our coverage is as close to this process as even most citizens of HD-27 will get.

Sorry, Rep. Klingenschmitt, You’re Out of Order

Via the AP's Kristen Wyatt, Colorado's most-discussed freshman state legislator Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt ran smack into the merciless buzzsaw that is Robert's Rules of Order this morning:

Here's video of Rep. Klingenschmitt's abortive (pun intended) moment of silence for "57 million American citizens lost since Roe v. Wade":

​All things being equal, this could have been worse for the rookie GOP lawmaker, but he wisely chose not to press any objection. You see, the general announcements period in the morning is not for these kinds of political grandstand-y statements. It's for, well, general announcements. It's okay to take time on the House floor to make a more political statement of this kind, in what's known as a "moment of personal privilege"–but you have to have the permission of the Speaker of the House to do that, and Rep. Klingenschmitt did not.

It's a little humiliating, but certainly nothing to have a hunger strike over. Also not evidence of Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst's demon possession, unless it's true, as we've heard, that demons are sticklers for parliamentary procedure. In which case…

Just kidding, "Dr. Chaps."

Cory Gardner and Climate Change: What Did You Expect?

Sen. Cory Gardner.

Sen. Cory Gardner.

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports:

After campaigning successfully last year as a "different kind of Republican," Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner is under fire from conservationists for voting Wednesday against an amendment stating that humans contribute to climate change, something 69 percent of his constituents believe to be a fact.

Fifteen Senate Republicans, including 2016 presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul, joined Democrats in backing the amendment, but not Gardner…

During a competitive U.S. Senate race last year, Gardner ran a TV ad shot in a wind farm touting himself as a next generation conservative who supports clean energy and an all of the above energy plan; however, during debates, he was reluctant to state a clear position on the role of humans in causing climate change.

"During this fall's campaign, Senator Gardner declared himself to be a different kind of Republican," Maysmith said. "Instead, his vote today shows that he is not yet ready to stand up to those in Washington DC who deny that people play a role in climate change.  He ducked this issue during the campaign and now on the floor of the U.S. Senate." [Pols emphasis]

Sen. Cory Gardner's campaigns have long been heavily funded by the oil and gas industry, and Gardner has consistently returned the favor as a reliable vote for the industry's bottom-line interests. What we're talking about here was a token concession to the scientific consensus that humans are contributing to global climate change–nothing that would have changed any policy, as an amendment to a bill President Barack Obama has already promised to veto to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

The vote took place amidst a flurry of amendments to the Republican bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline and were part of an effort by Senate Democrats to bait Republicans into a number of politically risky votes on the subject of climate change.

Meaning that there was absolutely no reason to vote against it, and if Gardner had voted for it, he could have avoided the negative press that comes with voting against something 69% of his constituents believe. It would have been a significant validator of his campaign slogan, "A New Kind of Republican."

So why didn't he? That's simple–he's not up for election for six years, and there's no need for any of that kind of pretense for at least four or five of those years. On abortion, on immigration, and now climate change, the Cory Gardner you always knew was there is shining pearly-white bright.

Nobody Does Nothing Quite Like Senate Republicans

The Captain does not approve

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the State Senate, and they are off to a fast start in promoting their policy agenda. We dare say: nobody does nothing quite like Senate Republicans.

While destroying limiting government is a pretty common refrain to hear from right-wing Republicans such as Senate President Bill Cadman, Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg, and Majority Caucus Chair/culinary expert Vicki Marble, we'd venture a guess that even they've been a little surprised at just how easy it can be to make government do nothing. Hell, they're making nothing happen without even doing anything!

Consider what Senate Republicans didn't accomplish today: they allowed two important bipartisan commissions to expire on their own by not voting to renew them. Republicans didn't have to create any new legislation or come up with any ideas of their own — all they had to do was not let the commissions expire.

Equal Pay for Equal Work: Senate Republicans ended the Pay Equity Commission by doing nothing to allow it to continue. The Commission was created to study the existing pay gap between men, women, and minorities, and to come up with solutions for closing the gap. According to information provided by Senate Democrats, "Colorado women are still only paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the gap is wider for women of color. African American women earn only 67.5 cents and Latinas just 52.5 cents for every dollar earned by the highest earners."

Promoting Fair and Modern Elections: Say goodbye to the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission (COVAME) , which will cease operations on July 1, 2015. Today Republicans on the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee allowed the clock to run out on re-authorization of the committee. Nevermind the constant refrain from Republicans about how concerned they are when it comes to voter fraud — the magical Private Industry Fairy will save them. A press release from the Senate Democrats explains more about COVAME:

The General Assembly established the COVAME in 2013, as part of the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act (HB 13-1303).  This measure sought to make elections simpler and more accessible for all eligible voters, and some of its provisions called for changes in how elections are physically conducted.  Notably, it called for mail ballots to go out to all voters in general elections, Voter Service and Polling Centers to replace traditional precinct polling places, and for allowing voter registration up until Election Day.

The final COVAME report is not due until mid-February of 2015, and it will provide analysis from the 2014 election and offer recommendations for 2016. 

We've said before that Colorado Republicans appear to have misinterpreted a one-seat majority as giving them a mandate to do whatever they choose. This would appear to be yet another example of that fallacy; we're pretty confident that Colorado voters weren't looking for the GOP to sit on their hands once they took office.

Big Step in Moffat County Toward Greater Sage Grouse Protection

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A recent column in the Glenwood Spring Post Independent is correctly titled: “Clock ticking on greater Sage Grouse decision,” and it discusses how even though Congress attempted to defund efforts to protect the species, the federal government is compelled and still on track to make a decision on listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act by this September. Indeed, the clock is ticking.

But despite this, there is also hopeful news lately on the grouse, at least some signs of progress toward gains in meaningful and on-the-ground protections for this unique and important species. 

First, tangible measures to protect the grouse are being put in place on private lands through conservation agreements. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust recently completed a conservation easement on one of the largest working ranches in Northwest Colorado. Multiple partners contributed to the protection of 16,000 acres of key sage grouse habitat on the Cross Mountain Ranch in Moffat County, close to Dinosaur National Monument, as reported in the Steamboat Pilot:

In the easement document, reasons for conserving the land include a desire to preserve Moffat County’s infamous wide-open spaces. More importantly, it preserves thousands of acres of dense Greater sage grouse habitat.

Tim Griffiths, national coordinator for the Natural Resources Conservation Services’ Sage Grouse Initiative, said this particular parcel should be able to help conserve about 5,000 Greater sage grouse birds.

He also said the biggest threat to the Greater sage grouse species is fragmentation and conserving this piece of land creates a quarter-million acre checkerboard of public and private conserved land woven together.

“We just removed the threat of fragmentation in the one place in Colorado that has more birds than anywhere else in the state,” Griffiths said.

This tangible progress is being made through the partnerships of nonprofit organizations like the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, which secured the Moffat County agreement, with state agencies like Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the federal government programs, like the Sage Grouse Initiative.

(more…)

Lawrence, Navarro-Ratzlaff Square Off For Szabo Leadership Post

Minority leadership selection.

Minority leadership selection.

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports:

Reps. Clarice Navarro of Pueblo and Polly Lawrence of Douglas County are lobbying members of their Republican caucus to be the next assistant minority leader.

The office is now held by Rep. Libby Szabo of Arvada, who will be resigning as she was selected by a vacancy committee to serve on the Jefferson County board of commissioners. Her resignation date and the caucus election date are not known yet.

We could see this going either way, with Rep. Polly Lawrence having closer ties to House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso but Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff a favorite both of party activists and the Scott Gessler-allied GOP attorney class.

Sometimes these get publicly nasty, and sometimes they only get nasty behind closed doors. Sometimes there's no drama at all when leadership positions unexpectedly become available, but as bloggers we always hope for at least some token fireworks. We'll update should any occur.

Caption This Photo: Jared Polis, Meet “Rep. Chaps”

From the floor of the Colorado House yesterday:

jaredandchaps

Congressman Jared Polis with Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt. Klingenschmitt, as readers recall, said last summer that Polis wants to "join ISIS in beheading Christians." In a 9NEWS story on Klingenschmitt this week, Polis said he is praying for "Chaps" "to return to reality from his delusional state."

What do you suppose they chatted about yesterday? Theorize after the jump.

Something For Everyone In Hick’s 2015 State of the State

hicksos

As the Colorado Independent's Tessa Cheek reports:

Governor John Hickenlooper used his fifth State of the State speech today to paint his legislature, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats control the House, with a Colorado-ness that reaches beyond party priorities. He touted the new first-ever statewide water plan, quoting Thomas Hornsby Ferril, whose poetry is engraved in the Capitol and that emphasizes common interest: “Here is a land where life is written in water.”

“Representatives of urban areas recognized that locally sourced dairy and food is vital to all of Colorado; while the agricultural areas realized that they could not simply allow urban areas to dry up,” Hickenlooper said of the water plan, noting it involved “the largest civic engagement process in state history.”

Lawmakers and leaders should come together, Hickenlooper suggested, to apply similarly high standards of public input and cooperation to tackle tough questions surrounding topics like oil and gas development and government funding under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR)…

The Denver Post's John Frank on Gov. John Hickenlooper's measured comments on the controversial so-called Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR):

Hickenlooper capped his speech by addressing the state's budget situation — which he labeled a "financial thicket" in his inaugural address Tuesday. It's a reference to the possibility of refunds under the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, despite underfunded state programs.

"There is a legitimate debate of whether government should be a bit bigger or a bit smaller," the governor said, according to prepared remarks. "But that misses the point. Regardless of size, government must work."
 
But he stopped short of asking for an overhaul of TABOR and avoided taking a direct stance on how to address the issue.

"Some people want to get rid of TABOR, some want to get rid of Amendment 23, others want to get rid of Gallagher. There is no shortage of thorns in this fiscal thicket," he said. "And while we will continue to strategically prune, our state budget can only endure so much cutting. "

The Denver Business Journal:

Referencing the oil and gas industry, Hickenlooper emphasized the number of environmental protections he has added through collaboration with the industry during his first term, then said he looks forward to seeing the recommendations that a task force examining the role of local government in regulating the industry will deliver later this session. But he did not give any parameters as to what kind of increased regulations he may be willing to back in the Legislature.

On the issue of local control of oil and gas drilling, an issue that caused intense infighting among Democrats last year, Hickenlooper didn't offer much in the way of specifics–but the language that he used to describe those proposals, and the competing interests of surface and subsurface property owners, is unlikely to make conservationists very happy. From the speech:

As part of a compromise to keep economically-devastating initiatives off the ballot, [Pols emphasis] we have worked with the Keystone Center and brought long-polarized interests to the same table…

I look forward to the recommendations of this task force, and pledge to work with you and other stakeholders in developing our energy resources, protecting property rights and our natural environment and public health.

The insistence that increasing local control over oil and gas drilling, in particular the setback and "environmental bill of rights" initiatives put forward during last year's debate, would be "economically devastating" broadcasts our Democratic governor's bias on the issue. There is a legitimate conflict between the rights of surface landowners and mineral rights holders needing resolution, but Hickenlooper still appears firmly on the side of mineral rights owners against local communities based on his comments today.

We wonder how politically tenable that position will be for Hickenlooper throughout his second term, as more research on the effects of "fracking" near residential neighborhoods comes out, and the plummeting price of energy caused by OPEC's price war on the frackers eats away at the already-overblown estimates of the economic impact of the industry in Colorado. Might the same changing economics that led Hickenlooper to endorse President Barack Obama's threatened veto of the Keystone XL pipeline soften Hick's hard line against communities worried about fracking in their boundaries?

That's one of the biggest of many questions awaiting Hickenlooper in his "legacy term."

Calling For Rep. Chaps’ Resignation (After Helping Elect Him)

Former Rep. Mark Waller, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Former Rep. Mark Waller, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman finally gives freshman Colorado Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt the feature profile he deserves in the Denver media market–and it's pretty brutal stuff:

Klingenschmitt got blowback from both parties before he was ever elected after he compared US Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) to ISIS.

He later explained that this was supposed to be hyperbole to make a point.

Now that he's sworn in to office, Klingenschmitt is still making his satellite TV show and upsetting groups people with what he says…

"I know our state legislature is part time, but I didn't realize Dr. Chaps would continue his comedy career while in office," Polis told 9NEWS. "I will continue to pray for him to return to reality from his delusional state. I'm not offended so much as I am concerned for him."

Klingenschmitt has continued posting his Pray In Jesus' Name Youtube shows after his swearing in as a Colorado legislator. Last week, Rep. Klingenschmitt celebrated the repeal in December of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas that he claimed was intended to "put Christians in jail." Klingenschmitt's latest show, picked up by Right Wing Watch, features an interview with anti-Muslim activist Bill Warner, who declares that President Barack Obama is "the face of Islam in America."

So, like we said, Rep. Chaps isn't toning down the crazy to serve. We never expected him to, of course, but it's no longer a hypothetical.

Perhaps most interesting about Klingenschmitt's 9NEWS profile are statements by his predecessor, former House Minority Leader Mark Waller. Waller is now more or less calling for Klingenschmitt to resign:

Waller agreed that at some point soon the freshman legislator is going to have to choose to be Dr. Chaps or be Rep. Klingenschmitt, but he can't be both.

"I just don't think he can do that and be successful," said Waller, adding that if Klingenschmitt is not willing to part ways with Dr. Chaps, "then, perhaps maybe the best thing for the people of the state of Colorado and for the constituents of house district 15 would be for him to step aside and let somebody else take on that challenge."

The contrast between what Waller says today and what he said before the 2014 elections is fairly important to understand:

"If you're not voting for him, you're voting for the Democrat and quite honestly legislative majorities matter," Waller said. [Pols emphasis]

That's what Waller said last August. At least then, which was well after "Dr. Chaps'" special brand of crazy was broadly understood, Waller was still more interested in securing a Republican majority in the Colorado House than protecting that institution–and Waller's own constituents–from the embarrassment Rep. Klingenschmitt is currently visiting upon them. Of course, now that Klingenschmitt has beaten his Democratic opponent, the GOP faithful of HD-15 could pick a replacement for him if they succeed in pushing him out. Failing that, Klingenschmitt might be targeted in a GOP primary next year, much like Waller himself did against infamous appointed Rep. Doug Bruce in 2008.

The biggest problem? Rep. Klingenschmitt won his seat by almost 70% of the vote. No matter how disastrous he may be for the Republican brand, the results of last year's elections are a pretty strong argument that "Dr. Chaps" doesn't need to listen to Waller or anyone else

Hickenlooper Hints at TABOR Reform in Inauguration Speech

As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel, the winds are a swirling around TABOR reform in Colorado after Gov. John Hickenlooper's inaugural speech on Tuesday:

The governor didn’t offer specifics on issues he intends to address in his second four-year term, possibly intending to save that for the State of the State speech he will give to a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday. Still, he hinted at a few, not the least of which are the revenue caps mandated under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Under that constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992, revenues that the state collects that exceed the current year’s budget, plus inflation and population growth, are required to be refunded to taxpayers.

But some state legislators are considering asking the voters if the state can retain some or all of those TABOR surpluses to put toward things such as K-12 education or transportation, saying both had dramatic cuts during the recession and aren’t yet fully restored.

Our state Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes,” Hickenlooper said. “If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time. However, it is also true that careful pruning can allow for quicker, stronger and more effective growth.” [Pols emphasis]

Reporter John Frank of the Denver Post added some more TABOR-reform flavor from yesterday's festivities. Gov. Hickenlooper invited former Governors of Colorado to offer advice on his second term in office, and former Democratic Gov. Roy Romer got right to the point:

“My advice is, governor, lead a movement in this state to repeal the TABOR amendment,” he said to cheers from the crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium, where guests paid $100-a-plate to attend. “We need to invest in the future of our children’s education and the infrastructure of this state. We need to return that power, that authority, that decision, to the people’s representative, the legislature and the governor.”

Romer kept at it. “We need to revise this tax system and do what the conservatives do — invest in the future of this state,” he continued. “We need to revise the TABOR amendment and get a better tax system it needs not a political election, it needs a movement. Governor, lead that movement.”

As much as Republicans will be squawking about any suggested reform to TABOR, there's reason to suggest that this is more than just a talking point. Republican Senate President Bill Cadman's first piece of legislation this session deals with TABOR adjustments — though certainly not on the level that Colorado really needs. We couldn't sum up the problem any better than Hickenlooper did last night, when he said, "Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time." Will Republicans heed that reality?