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.


Barbara McLachlan Takes On J. Paul Brown

Barbara McLachlan.

Barbara McLachlan.

A press release late yesterday announced the launch of a new challenge to GOP Rep. J. Paul Brown of Ignacio, whose swing HD-59 seat is considered a major pickup opportunity for Democrats hoping to grow their Colorado House majority in 2016:

Barbara McLachlan, celebrated former English and journalism educator and Teacher of the Year at Durango High School, announced her candidacy for state representative in House District 59, which includes Archuleta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, La Plata, Ouray and San Juan counties.

“I am excited to be running for State Representative because I believe in a brighter future filled with opportunity for our Western Slope community,” she said. “I will use my experience as a teacher and educator to tackle the major issues facing our district: fighting for our fair share of school funding, working to bring more jobs and opportunity to Southwestern Colorado, and protecting our clean air and our water, which are central to our local heritage, culture and economy.”

“As a teacher in this district for 20 years, I have dedicated my life to ensuring a high quality education for the students in our community, and I’m running for state representative to continue that work,” Barbara said. “Our Western Slope school districts deserve our fair share of funding; I’ve seen firsthand the impact of shrinking budgets in our classrooms, and I know that when our schools have the resources they need, students learn and achieve more. We can do better, and we need to do better for our students and families in Southwestern Colorado.”

Barbara is also committed to bringing her experience to bear on other important issues impacting our community.

“A major focus for my campaign will be bringing more jobs and opportunity to House District 59,” Barbara said. “While the rest of Colorado has been feeling the effects of the recovery, our Western Slope community has lagged behind. Many families are still having a hard time making ends meet and being able to save for retirement and a higher education. We need to focus on policies that will help create good jobs for hardworking Coloradans and build a stronger regional economy.”

Rep. J. Paul Brown (R).

Rep. J. Paul Brown (R).

HD-59 has swung back and forth between narrow Democratic and Republican wins in recent years, with victory as much a function of how the respective parties are faring as anything else. With 2016 a presidential election year, past performance would indicate a good chance for Democrats to retake this seat. Rep. J. Paul Brown, who is defending this seat after beating Rep. Mike McLachlan in 2014 by a mere 168 votes, has tried hard to live down a bad reputation from his first term in 2010-2012–mostly by keeping his mouth shut instead of popping off with no regard for tactfulness about whatever politically unsightly notion pops into his head. Brown earned the nickname “64 and Brown” after being the only legislator in either party to vote against an uncontroversial homeless youth prevention program.

Mike McLachlan’s considerable health problems while serving in the General Assembly in 2013-2014 are what’s presumably keeping him on the sidelines for 2016, but Barbara McLachlan by all accounts will be more than capable of making her own case for election as an educator with deep ties to the district. McLachlan taught English and journalism at Durango High School for 20 years, and was made Teacher of the Year for the Durango school district in 2012. Some of the votes she’ll be asking for are from former students.

On the upside for Brown, 2018’s midterms are only three years away.

Bipartisan support for Colorado’s clean-air laws undermines accusation of Obama overreach

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

It’s irritating when officials and pundits here in Colorado grandstand about President Obama’s climate change initiatives as being overreach, without pointing out that, as a matter of fact, state efforts to regulate global-warming emissions from power plants have won bipartisan support.

An article in The Denver Post last month reported that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has decided to sue the federal government to stop Obama’s Clean Coal Plan, which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions in Colorado by 28 percent from 2012 levels over the next 15 years.

The Post reported that “Coffman describes the measure as another EPA and Obama administration authority overreach.”

To its credit, The Post added this fact:

Colorado lawmakers under a Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act in 2010 required regulated utilities to develop plans for reducing air pollution. These plans launched utilities on efforts to replace coal plants with energy generated using renewable sources and natural gas.

Omitted, however, is the crucial information that Colorado’s Clean Air, Clean Jobs of 2010 received bipartisan support, getting the votes of numerous GOP lawmakers in the Colorado legislature, including muckety-muck Republicans like former state senators Josh Penry and Greg Brophy and former state representatives Frank McNulty, Ellen Roberts, and Amy Stephens.

Thanks to the 2010 law, and other state measures, some of which admittedly had less bipartisan support, Colorado already has a plan to reach 70 percent of the reductions mandated by Obama’s Clean Coal Plan, according to Western Resource Advocates.

Colorado has worked in a bipartisan way to address climate change, and the attorney general should be asked to explain why she’s politicizing and wasting time on a lawsuit that runs counter to  Colorado’s approach to this issue.

Fake Reporter Art Kane Back With Another Bogus Story

Art Kane.

Art Kane.

Local freelance “journalist” Art Kane came under heavy criticism last year after writing a series of news articles for the Denver Post that inaccurately disparaged the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, in Colorado. And these weren’t small inaccuracies, either, but wild factual exaggerations and totally unsubstantiated hearsay horror stories that fell apart under casual scrutiny.

Since then, Kane has taken up with a “news” outlet much better suited to his particular brand of hackery: the conservative website run by the Franklin Center for Public Integrity. The stories may not be any more accurate–but Kane’s new bosses aren’t concerned with, you know, accuracy.

Today’s Art Kane feature story on per diem pay for Colorado state legislators at Colorado Watchdog is an excellent case in point:

Colorado lawmakers who live outside the metro area will get a bump in their per diem next session, making that state’s reimbursements the second highest in the country and costing taxpayers an additional $35,000 next year…

The per diem rate for lawmakers living outside the metro area will go up to $195 a day next session; state law sets it at 85 percent of the federal government per diem for the Denver Metro area, which also increased this year. The cost to taxpayers is an additional $35,000 a year, legislative staff wrote in an email exchange with

Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky said he was upset when he learned from last week’s story the per diem expenses cost taxpayers so much money, and that raising the costs next year isn’t appropriate.

Gregory Golyansky.

Gregory Golyansky.

Setting aside Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky’s major credibility problems, with which our readers are very well acquainted, there’s a very large part of the story of this increase in per diem that Art Kane isn’t telling you:

National Conference of State Legislatures data shows the increase will skyrocket Colorado to the second highest per diem after Alaska, which pays lawmakers $235 a day if they live outside the capital area…

This year, Kentucky, Alaska and Tennessee had higher per diems, but Colorado will surpass those states unless their per diem rates increase. Expensive states such as Hawaii, New York and California reimbursed their lawmakers less than Colorado, NCSL data shows. [Pols emphasis]

As we read this story claiming that “expensive states” like Hawaii, New York, and California “reimbursed their lawmakers less than Colorado,” we remembered something very important: in Colorado, legislators don’t even make enough to survive. Here’s what the National Conference of State Legislatures really says about the salaries of lawmakers in the states listed above:

Base Salary

California: $90,526 per year
Hawaii: $57,852 per year
New York: $79,500 per year
Colorado: $30,000 per year [Pols emphasis]

This list doesn’t take into account which of these legislatures are “part time” versus “full time,” but that really doesn’t matter: Colorado legislators routinely draw per diem pay for events they attend throughout the year. Most of our lawmakers in either party will tell you that serving in the Colorado General Assembly is very much a full-time commitment. And that means except for the very young and very rich, it’s a huge financial hardship.

And in terms of their total compensation, which is of course the bottom line, Colorado lawmakers earn a tiny fraction of what legislators in these other states make. And that makes Art Kane’s latest big story…well, another steaming pile of bullshit.

Back in 2012, we were critical of a bill to raise per diem pay for legislators, mostly because at that time state employees had not received a raise in several years due to recession-forced pay freezes. Then-majority House Republicans rushing the bill through with no debate didn’t help the optics either. With that said, there’s no question that pay for lawmakers in Colorado is, at this point, a major disincentive to public service.

If Art Kane would like to write a factual story, perhaps he should start there instead.

Colorado Republicans cancel 2016 presidential caucus vote

Move makes Colorado only state to date to opt out of early nomination process

Colorado will not pick a Republican candidate for president in its 2016 caucus after party leaders approved a little-noticed shift that is likely to diminish the swing state’s clout in the most open nomination contest in the modern era.

The GOP executive committee voted Friday to cancel the traditional presidential preference poll at the caucus after the national party changed its rules to require a state’s delegates to support the candidate that wins.

The move makes Colorado the only state so far to forfeit a role in the early nomination process, according to experts, but other states are still considering what to do.

“It takes Colorado completely off the map” in the nomination process, said Ryan Call, a former state GOP chairman.

More at

Wonder why… Are they 1) broke? 2) Afraid of Trump or 3) or still infighting in the Colorado Republican Party to care about their own caucus?

All of Colorado is (NOT) Contaminated

Gov. John Hickenlooper drinks from the Animas River.

Gov. John Hickenlooper drinks from the Animas River.

Governor John Hickenlooper juggles a lot of different responsibilities as Colorado’s top elected official — which includes serving as Colorado’s chief tester of gross-looking water, which he did again last week in chugging a bottle of water from the Animas River in the aftermath of the Gold King mine wastewater spill.

Hickenlooper agreed to drink from the river at the request of several people in the Durango area in an effort to assure people that the water was safe — and the big sip made Hick plenty of friends as a result. From the Durango Herald:

John Hickenlooper was Johnny-On-The-Spot, clearing his schedule to be in town, see the Animas River firsthand, listen to concerns and offer the power of his office.

Then there was The Moment – when Gov. Hickenlooper took a bold stand for Durango and La Plata County. He defiantly raised a bottle of river water and downed it.

“If that shows that Durango is open for business, I’m happy to help,” he said.

Hickenlooper didn’t say whether or not the Animas River was tastier than the glass of fracking fluid he once quaffed, but the move nevertheless generated a bit of controversy. On Monday, Denver Post reporter John Frank Tweeted a link to his Sunday story about the Animas River, asking the question “Is [Hickenlooper’s] big Animas River sip a liability or political win?” Here’s what the Governor had to say regarding his motivation for drinking from the river:

“The point I was trying to make is that the river is back to normal,” Hickenlooper said in an interview after returning from Durango. “There’s a silver lining in all this. It doesn’t appear there is going to be lasting environmental damage or significant environmental damage, and what most of us were fearful of didn’t happen.”

Sunday’s Post story notes some vague disapproval from the likes of state Sen. Ellen Roberts, who offered her usual brand of WTF-flavored commentary, but you’d have to really squint your eyes in order to make out the downside of Hick’s demonstration. By swigging river water, the Governor was making a pointed effort to ease fears and tamper speculation about the extent of the pollution in the Animas River — and to make sure that misinformation didn’t cripple the tourism economy in Southern Colorado. (more…)

It Wouldn’t Be a Secret Society if you Talked About it, Kent Lambert


Who controls the British crown? Who keeps the metric system down? We do, we do!
Who keeps Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps the Martians under wraps? We do, we do!
Who holds back the electric car? Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star? We do, we do!
Who robs cavefish of their sight? Who rigs every Oscar night? We do, we do!

        – “Stonecutter” theme song, via The Simpsons.

On Tuesday the environmental group Center for Western Priorities released a new report underlining the “anti-government extremism” behind renewed efforts to move federal public lands under state control. According to a summary of the report:

Last week, armed members of the Oath Keepers and other militias arrived at a mine in Montana, posting “no trespassing” signs on public land. The operation is the latest in a string of standoffs involving extremist groups that refuse to recognize the authority of the U.S. government, including incidents at the Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon and Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada.

A new investigation by the non-partisan watchdog Center for Western Priorities has uncovered wide-ranging ties between those extremist groups and Western legislators involved in a coordinated effort to take our national lands from the American people. 

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

Sen. Kent Lambert using night vision scope on the Mexican border.

Reporter Joey Bunch picked up on the report for the Denver Post, and he caught up with Colorado Springs state Sen. Kent Lambert for his response:

“They aren’t just supporting similar goals — they’re trying to pass legislation that goes directly to the demands and ideology of the Oath Keepers and Bundy Ranch supporters,” Aaron Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Western Priorities, responded in an e-mail about the state-control advocates.

“When Kent Lambert mentions ‘posse comitatus’ during a floor debate, that’s a dog whistle to the Oath Keepers — there’s a tiny group of people who even know what the term means, much less cite it during the legislative session.” [Pols emphasis]

Lambert said he hadn’t heard of the Oath Keepers before Tuesday [Pols emphasis], so it wasn’t a dog whistle but a reference to the “Federalist Papers, No. 29,” a letter from Alexander Hamilton to the people of New York in 1788 to the clarify the role of state militia in enforcing provisions of the Constitution. Further, the often-cited 1878 Posse Comitatus Act limits the federal government’s role in domestic police matters. Lambert’s unsuccessful Senate Bill 39 would have recognized that state and local governments already has jurisdiction over U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and militia leader Chris Simcox.

Sen. Kent Lambert (R), and militia leader Chris Simcox.

We don’t know if Lambert is a card-carrying member of the Oath Keepers, but we have trouble believing he’s never even heard of this group before. Lambert is a well-documented supporter of usurping federal control over lands (and borders), and has openly consorted with militia leaders like accused child molester Chris Simcox in Arizona (photo right). The Oath Keepers have been in the news quite a bit lately for their bizarre attempt to “defend” Ferguson, Missouri from…black people, or something. Here’s what Mother Jones magazine says about the group:

Oath Keepers is one of the fastest-growing “patriot” organizations on the right. Founded last April by Yale-educated lawyer and ex-Ron Paul aide Stewart Rhodes, the group has established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers. Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanan have all sung its praises, and in December, a grassroots summit it helped organize drew such prominent guests as representatives Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, both Georgia Republicans.

Hard to imagine these guys not being right up Lambert’s alley–Lambert or any number of other GOP Colorado legislators in both chambers. You might start with legislators who tag along for the Republican Study Committee of Colorado’s annual border “fact finding” junkets. But there’s at least a possibility that without the right secret handshake, you’ll never know for sure!

Might be worth keeping this angle in mind next session just the same.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Aug. 13)

Get More SmarterYou’re not the only one who fell asleep before the meteor shower last night. 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).



Gina McCarthy, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), visited Durango on Wednesday to take arrows over a massive minewater spill in the Animas River. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, joined by her counterparts from New Mexico and Utah, is making not-so-subtle threats to sue the EPA over the the spill.

The river seems to be returning to pre-contamination levels, however. Colorado’s top gross-water tester, Gov. John Hickenlooper, drank directly from the Animas River on Wednesday to prove that the water is safe, contacting the Durango Herald 24 hours later to prove that he wasn’t dead.

► The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled — unanimously — that business owners do not have the right to discriminate at will. The court says that a Lakewood bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple violated state anti-discrimination laws. We still need a court to make it illegal to put disgusting fruit filling between cake layers.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Enviros Back Bennet, Because Obviously

Sen. Michael Bennet at Chimney Rock National Monument.

Sen. Michael Bennet at Chimney Rock National Monument.

A press release from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund today announces that group’s and the National Resources Defense Council Action Fund’s endorsement of Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet for re-election in 2015:

The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund (LCVAF) and National Resources Defense Council Action Fund (NRDC) announced their endorsements of Sen. Michael Bennet’s re-election today, lauding his work to address climate change, protect the environment, champion renewable energy and protect Colorado’s natural treasures.

“Senator Michael Bennet has been a champion when it comes to tackling climate change and protecting our environment, and we are excited to support his re-election,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCVAF Senior Vice President for Government Affairs. “Michael has fought for clean air and water, worked to protect Colorado’s natural treasures like the Hermosa Creek Watershed from drilling, and led efforts to increase renewable energy. Earlier this spring, during the Senate’s budget debate, he elevated the economic and national security threats posed by climate change and the need for action. We know Michael will continue to fight for our environment as Colorado’s Senator for years to come, and we look forward to continuing to work with him.”

“We’ve known Senator Michael Bennet for years, and there’s no doubt that he’ll continue the fight against climate change and be a leader working with us to protect the environment and our natural resources,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, Director of the NRDC Action Fund. “Michael is a clean air hero who has fought against efforts to gut the Clean Air Act. He has led bipartisan efforts to protect the Hermosa Creek Watershed, Chimney Rock and Browns Canyon, and even passed amendments to make the fight against global climate a national security priority. We are proud to support his re-election.”

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports, and we’re obliged to note having covered it in this space, Sen. Bennet’s environmental credentials are not without a few caveats:

Bennet’s support of the Keystone XL pipeline — a litmus test for ardent environmentalists — led to protests at his campaign kickoff fundraiser in March featuring a sign that read, “We don’t vote for fossil fuel politicians.” And eco-activists also demonstrated against Bennet for his support of a major trade deal in May.

The two big endorsements may help reassure environmentalists about Bennet’s credentials — even if they are unlikely to satisfy all the green activists in the Democratic Party. It also is a reflection that no major alternative — Democrat or Republican — has emerged to challenge Bennet so far.

Despite the disappointment many environmentalists rightly expressed over Bennet’s votes–in the end meaningless votes–for the Keystone XL pipeline, he has a number of actions to point to as positives on this issue as well. Bennet’s spouse Susan Daggett, a longtime former attorney for the environmental legal group Earthjustice, also helps refute the idea that Bennet is soft on the environment.

But above all, there is simply no alternative to Bennet in the mix now or likely to emerge who will be better on environmental issues than he is, and that’s why he got these endorsements so early in the race. In the absence of a strong GOP challenger, we fully expect Republicans to use votes like Keystone to drive a wedge within the Democratic coalition and weaken Bennet as much as possible. We would do the same in their situation out of sheer political expediency.

These early endorsements from credible, national environmental advocacy groups should help nip that in the proverbial bud.

“Dr. Chaps” Says Drown Gay Boy Scout Leaders (Yes, Really)

UPDATE #2: The Colorado House LGBT caucus weighs in strongly:

“Gordon Klingenschmitt is inciting physical violence against scoutmasters for their sexual orientation, plain and simple. This type of language is hateful and certainly below the station of any elected official, especially in 2015.

“Moreover, Rep. Klingenschmitt has a history of using his platform as an online minister to spread vitriol and violence, especially against members of the LGBT community. Sadly, it is no longer a surprise to hear this type of sentiment from Rep. Klingenschmitt, but that history of hateful speech does nothing to blunt its effect in this particular instance. If House Minority leadership does not act, then they are condoning this type of conduct from one of their caucus members; House GOP leadership’s actions will speak volumes.”

In March, Rep. Klingenschmitt was stripped of his post on the House Health, Insurance, and Environment committee after saying, “This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open,” after the brutal attack on Michelle Wilkins of Longmont.


UPDATE: Colorado LGBT advocates react angrily to Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s latest remarks, a statement from One Colorado moments ago:

“After making numerous comments over the past year attacking lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families, Representative Klingenschmitt just can’t seem to get enough. He recently called on the Boy Scouts of America to drown all gay leaders in its organization. Gay adults are involved in scouting for the same reasons everyone else is; to serve youth, and to help them grow into good, strong citizens. These comments are reprehensible – and he should be ashamed of himself for making them.

“One Colorado calls on the leaders of the Colorado Republican Party, and Republican leadership in the State House, to condemn Representative Klingenschmitt’s comments and affirm that no one should be targeted for violence just because of who they are, or who they love.

“While experience tells us we shouldn’t hold our breath for an apology from Mr. Klingenschmitt, an apology is exactly what is owed – not just to gay scouts and leaders across the state, but to the countless friends and family members who are tired of seeing their loved ones attacked just for being who they are. Simply put, Representative Klingenschmitt – the fair-minded people of Colorado deserve better.”

Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado takes it a step further, calling (again) for Klingenschmitt to resign–and for House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso to step up and take some responsibility for his caucus:

“Just how far is too far?” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. “After Rep. Klingenschmitt claimed that a sitting member of Congress from our state wants to ‘behead Christians,’ and that the tragic attack on a pregnant woman in Longmont last March was ‘the curse of God,’ ProgressNow Colorado called for him to resign. Instead, House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso restored Klingenschmitt to his committee assignments as soon as the media stopped paying attention, and swept the matter under the rug. That was a huge mistake, and today Republicans are paying the price as Klingenschmitt once again brings shame upon the entire state of Colorado.”

“It would be easy to dismiss Klingenschmitt’s statements as the ravings of a deranged lunatic, except for the fact that he is an elected Republican legislator in the state of Colorado,” said Runyon-Harms. “By not acting to distance themselves from Rep. Klingenschmitt, Colorado Republicans are validating what he says. Every day that goes by with Klingenschmitt continuing to serve as a Republican legislator, his hatred speaks for them. It has to stop, and the only ones who can stop it are Klingenschmitt’s Republican legislative leaders.”

“It is months past time for Colorado Republicans to ask Rep. Klingenschmitt to resign,” said Runyon-Harms.


Raw Story’s David Edwards reports on the latest over-the-top emanations from the mouth of GOP Colorado Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt–and this one can fairly be described as a doozy. In all our time discussing Klingenschmitt’s wacky declarations about demons possessing President Barack Obama or Rep. Jared Polis wanting to “behead Christians,” we’re pretty sure he has never actually called for the various agents of evil in the world he identifies to be, you know, physically harmed.

Until now:

Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R) said on Monday that it would be “better” for the Boy Scouts of America to drown its gay scoutmasters in the “depths of the sea” instead of lifting a ban on them…

“If your boy is in one of those organizations, you need to get him out of there,” he warned. “Because what they’re going to do is promote homosexual men to mentoring and camping with your boys in the woods. And it will lead to child abuse… The children are in danger. It’s not about the sexual pleasure of the adults.”

Klingenschmitt pointed viewers a verse from the book of Matthew: “Whoever causes one of these to little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

“This is what Jesus said about child molesters,” the Republican lawmaker insisted…

Klingenschmitt goes on to say that gay Boy Scout leaders being drowned would be preferable to the wrath of the Almighty God “when he throws them into hell.” Klingenschmitt himself says he would rather be drowned than face God’s judgment for the molestations that must surely follow if the Boy Scouts let gay scoutmasters come out of the closet.

Got that? According to the elected Republican representative of Colorado House District 15, who never misses the chance to pose with big-name Republicans for a photo, and who was reinstated to his committee assignments by House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso after calling a vicious attack on a pregnant Longmont woman “the curse of God upon America,” murdering gay Boy Scouts would be doing them a favor.

To be honest, we weren’t sure how “Dr. Chaps” could ever top his previous outrages–but it looks like he just did.

Aurora Victim’s Parents Face Bankruptcy After Suing Online Ammo Dealers, Vow To Change Colorado Law

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Back in May, we took note of a particularly troubling development in the aftermath of the 2012 mass shootings at the Century Theater in Aurora. The parents of Jessica Ghawi, one of the theatergoers killed when James Holmes opened fire in a packed movie theater on July 20, 2012, are facing dire financial straits after their lawsuit against online ammunition and body armor dealers who sold Holmes items used in the Aurora shooting was dismissed.

Under a Colorado law passed as a Republican “backlash” against stricter gun control measures following the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, House Bill 00-1208, requires the immediate dismissal of any lawsuit brought against firearm or ammunition dealers, and further requires (using the term shall as opposed to may) that the judge order the plaintiffs in that lawsuit to pay the gun dealer’s legal fees. The problem in this case is that the suit filed by Lonnie and Sandy Phillips was not frivolous, investigating legitimate questions of liability arising from the online sale of ammunition and other dangerous products. Critically, the suit also sought no monetary damages–just a change in business practices by online gun and ammunition dealers.

Following another shooting incident at a theater in Louisiana last week, the Phillipses appeared on MSNBC’s News Nation with Tamron Hall, and disclosed that they now face bankruptcy over the $200,000 judgment against them. For all the publicity surrounding the Aurora shooting and trial underway now, the plight of the Phillips family has received very little press attention, and Hall expressed shock at learning the details of their case:

The main argument from supporters of the gun dealers seeking money from the Phillips family is that they were given legal assistance by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. They assert that the Brady Center should pay the gun dealers, since obviously it would not be very good press for said gun dealers to start seizing assets of the parents of someone their products were involved in killing. At the end of the segment, Sandy Phillips addresses this question with Tamron Hall directly, asking “would you be willing to pay one penny to the people who helped murder your daughter?”

Because further appeals of the judgment dismissing their lawsuit would only expose them to further liability, the Phillipses say they are dropping their appeal to seek a legislative remedy. Repealing Colorado House Bill 00-1208, or at least modifying its punitive “shall award” language to allow for the possibility of a legitimate case against gun dealers at some point in the future, could perhaps be called a happy ending.

With the obvious caveat that there are no happy endings to this tragic story.

Mosquitoes, Beetles & Global Warming – Climate Change and Colorado’s Great Outdoors

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado, summertime. The living is easy…  

Sure we have some of the best winter recreation in the world, and Color Sunday drives and hunting season make fall the busiest part of the season for many Colorado communities. But there is something about a Rocky Mountain summer that is hard to beat. 

The wet May and early, heavy monsoons much of the state has been getting since, have brought forth wildflowers that many say are the most outrageous, rainbow array seen in years.  Truly a display of Colorado pride. 

All the moisture, and warm weather between, has also led to another fact in this year’s backcountry – there are lots of mosquitoes out there.  And mosquitoes are not just an annoyance, but bring public health warnings.  In Colorado, for the West Nile Virus, which is likely to become an even larger problem under climate change.

Invasive species aren’t just species — they can also be pathogens. Such is the case with the West Nile virus. 

As Science Magazine (Online) reports:

The higher temperatures, humidity and rainfall associated with climate change have intensified outbreaks of West Nile virus infections across the United States in recent years, according to a study published this week.

…Warmer weather helps spread West Nile virus because it extends the length of the mosquito season, said Vicki Kramer, chief of the vector-borne disease section at the California Department of Public Health.

Higher temperatures also let mosquitoes reach biting age sooner and speed multiplication of the virus within insects, said Kramer.  Thus in a warmer climate not only are there more biting mosquitoes, but those mosquitoes carry more copies of the West Nile virus, making them more likely to infect their human targets.

“It takes a while for the disease to build up,” says Kramer.  “That’s why we see more cases in August than in June.”


Caption This Photo: “Dr. Chaps” Flings BS (Literally)

This weekend, GOP Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt participated in the El Paso County Republican Party Cowpie Throwing Contest at the El Paso County Fair. Unfortunately, El Paso County’s most (in)famous state representative did not win this prestigious competition, reportedly on account of his chunk of manure disintegrating in mid-flight–but his mere participation was enough to give the world a truly memorable image.


Fling it, “Dr. Chaps.” Fling that cowpie to the sky.

Colowyo Carping Conceals Credible Climate Concerns

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, a much-anticipated confrontation between backers of a northwest Colorado coal mine and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell this weekend didn’t go off with quite the bang expected:

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell reassured northwest Colorado officials and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., that the U.S. Department of the Interior will complete work on a study needed to keep open the Colowyo coal mine.

“We believe the best way to deliver certainty to the Colowyo mine and the people who work there is to fix the deficiencies,” Jewell told more than a dozen county commissioners, city councilors and others at the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge on Friday night. “I’m confident we’ll do it within the 120-day deadline.”

A Sept. 6 deadline looms for an Interior Department agency, the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, to complete work evaluating the mine’s contribution to global warming.

The study was required by U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson, in a case in which an environmental organization, WildEarth Guardians, challenged the agency’s approval of the mine, which employs 220 people from Moffat and Rio Blanco counties

“We feel we are ground zero for your department,” said Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid.

Ever since a federal judge ordered the Department of the Interior to complete a required environmental assessment of the effects of expanded coal mining at two mines near Craig that supply a major coal-fired plant there, ruling that Interior failed to follow environmental analysis procedures under the National Environmental Policy Act, local politicos and energy-industry benefactors have been irate about the possibility that a judge could overrule the expansions retroactively, jeopardizing several hundred mining jobs.

The potential loss of 220 jobs at the Colowyo mine in northwest Colorado amounts to the equivalent of 50,000 jobs in Denver, he said.

Dirk Kempthorne, George W. Bush.

Dirk Kempthorne, George W. Bush.

We’re not sure what kind of wacky math Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid is using there, but let’s take a look at the actual ruling from Judge R. Brooke Jackson that’s causing all this supposed uncertainty:

The Court declares that [Office of Surface Mining] violated NEPA by failing to notify the public of and involve the public in the preparation of the Colowyo and Trapper EAs and by failing to notify the public once the EAs had been completed and the [Findings of No Significant Impact] had been issued. OSM also violated NEPA by failing to take a hard look at the direct and indirect effects of the increased mining operations before determining that there would be no significant impact on the environment. The Secretary of the Interior violated NEPA by approving both of these mining plan modifications in spite of these defects.

There’s a big piece of the story of these mine expansion approvals and the subsequent lawsuit against them that’s missing from most news reports: the expansions environmentalists sued over were approved in 2007 by George W. Bush-era Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. Incidentally, this was the same year that Kempthorne was awarded the “Rubber Dodo Award” for the distinction of having protected the fewest endangered species of any Interior Secretary in American history. Like his predecessor Gale Norton of Colorado, Kempthorne and the Interior Department under Bush were repeatedly criticized, and eventually sued, for disregarding crucial environmental considerations when making decisions about energy development.

Such as whether or not expanding coal mines in western Colorado would hurt the environment? Suddenly this story starts to make a very different kind of sense, and the politicos demanding the process be appealed and/or short-circuited don’t look so altruistic.

Since the ruling in May, energy industry mouthpieces have been shrieking at the top of their lungs about the possibility of a few hundred coal mine jobs being lost if the Colowyo and Trapper mines were to close, demanding President Barack Obama’s Interior Department appeal this ruling that the previous administration’s Interior Department broke the law. For reasons that appear quite sensible with all the facts in view, Obama’s Interior Department declined to do so, and is instead working to properly complete the required assessment in accordance with NEPA. Coal industry supporters have tried to make this about the environmental group that filed suit, even trying to organize a boycott of companies that support the group in question like New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins.

Well folks, if you can think past the wall of contrived weeping and gnashing of teeth, it looks like a very legitimate concern is being raised here–and a court ruling that agrees does not mean it’s time to boycott one of Colorado’s best breweries. The environmentalists involved with the suit say they don’t want the mines shut down, at least not tomorrow–they want the environmental assessment that approved their expansion to be conducted in accordance with the law. And that’s what the Interior Department says it wants, too. According to Secretary Jewell, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

So…shut up and let it happen.

Think Frackapalooza Is Over? Think Again

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

The AP’s Dan Elliot updates the state of play on the always-controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” near Colorado’s populated areas. After a compromise last year that ended the threat of a ballot measure increasing setbacks for drilling from existing development, a task force convened that issued limited recommendations for improving local control over drilling in February. The drilling industry was very happy with the limited scope of the task force’s recommendations, but conservation activists and local communities–including northern Front Range cities that already had passed bans and moratoria on fracking–felt betrayed.

In 2016, it looks like they may well get another shot:

“I think the fossil fuels industry won,” said Karen Dike, a member of Coloradans Against Fracking.

Fracking is a pressing issue in Colorado, the nation’s No. 7 energy-producing state. Along the urban Front Range, expanding suburbs and booming oilfields are running into each other, and drilling rigs sometimes show up near public schools. Several municipal attempts to ban fracking have failed, and the industry warns that local control would stifle energy development.

Dike and others won’t say whether they plan to put measures that would restrict fracking on the 2016 ballot, but they don’t rule it out…

[Rep Jared] Polis said fracking could be on the 2016 ballot if state officials don’t further regulate the industry. He stopped short of saying whether he would organize the effort, but he wants lawmakers and regulators to adopt three proposals that weren’t formally recommended by the task force.

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis became involved in the state-level debate over fracking after a drilling company illegally sited a well too close to structures on Weld County land owned by the wealthy congressman. After his own experience, which resulted in a hefty fine against the offending driller, Polis came out in support of two specific ballot measures: a general “bill of rights” empowering local communities to regulate land uses within their boundaries, and a measure increasing setbacks for drilling from existing development to 2,000 feet. The failure of the task force he helped broker via the threat of a well-funded ballot measure reportedly did anger Polis, but so did the unreasonable reaction of anti-fracking activists who bitterly denounced his good-faith attempts to forge a compromise.

Today, it’s true that some of the pressure on this debate has dissipated as energy prices have plummeted during OPEC’s anti-fracking price war. The drilling industry, just last year very bullish about its future growth, has seen new drilling projects slow dramatically, and hiring postings turn into layoffs. The reduced pressure from less demand for new drilling creates a situation where the industry claims victimhood indiscriminately, blaming “fractivists” for industry downturns that have nothing to do with their efforts.

Both the industry and the far left wing of environmentalists would prefer the debate be about a wholesale ban on fracking statewide. The industry uses the simplistic arguments surrounding a ban to divide the opposition, while the far left…well, they’re just not realistic about what can be achieved in a major energy producing state like Colorado. Certainly there is a problem with all-or-nothing argumentation on both sides of this debate, but we continue to believe that what the energy industry fears most are reasonable, targeted proposals to mandate better protection of residential communities.

The reason is simple: they could actually pass.

One would let local governments impose stricter rules than the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, charged with regulating drilling statewide. Another would change the commission’s role from facilitating oil and gas development to simply regulating it. The third would set up a panel to resolve disputes between energy companies and local governments or property owners before they land in court.

None of these proposals fit the industry’s alarmist predictions of what would happen if Colorado “banned fracking.” If the industry and surrogates are able to continue to define the debate in those black-and-white terms, they’ll win. If pragmatic-minded conservationists can keep focused on proposals that would genuinely help protect communities while avoiding the industry’s semantic games, they could accomplish something that would have much more of an impact on our state’s health and environment in the long run.

We’ll just have to wait and see who’s smarter about it.