A tool for keeping up with the PUC….

Hello all! For your edification, amusement, and commentary, I'm reposting from the Colorado Renewable Energy Society newsletter. CRES is a chapter-based membership org dedicated to the advancement of all forms of renewable energy (RE), energy efficiency (EE), and their synergy with sustainability and economic development.

We do a lot of awareness and public engagement, and one of the things we do is maintain a tracker of current and past activity at the Public Utilities Commission about renewable energy… more detail below….

 

CRES’ Colorado Legislative Tracker—Explained

By Rick Coen, CRES Policy Committee

 

The CRES Legislative Tracker is an interactive spreadsheet tool CRES members have access to (by request) which provides a simple review of the current session’s bills related to energy issues in our State. It covers all current and past legislative activity on bills related to renewables and fossils. You’ll find a link to the text of the bill, it’s sponsors, a summary of the what the bill would do, and when the next hearing or action is scheduled for so you can watch, listen, or run down to the Capitol and participate! Also, for ease of evaluation, there’s color coding indicating CRES support levels and a column just for Insider Information.

There are two ways to get access. One is at http://www.lrrlaw.com/. Periodically, static versions of the Tracker are posted so you can see what has been happening. The other is to drop CRES an email requesting access permission. CRES members will have their email address added to the site permissions and will be sent a link so you can see and contribute to the live Tracker.

That’s right. This tool is meant to be interactive and participatory. Those who have access are encouraged to update the information as they have knowledge of ongoing activity.

So jump in, get involved and who knows, you might find yourself testifying before a Senate Committee. Anyone can do it. The door’s always open.

Original post here.

How Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg Keeps The Government Out of Your Business (But Not His)

Wiz-quiz.

Wiz-quiz.

THURSDAY UPDATE: A reader pointed out this 2012 Denver Post story about Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg that you might find relevant to discussion of his $628,000+ in federal cash subsidy payments:

Poor Coloradans who apply for monthly cash assistance would first have to pass a drug test before receiving benefits under a bill that cleared a House committee Thursday.

House Bill 1046, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, [Pols emphasis] requires anyone applying for benefits under the federally funded Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, or TANF, to first pay the $45 cost of taking a drug test.

Those who pass the drug test would be reimbursed by the state and could get TANF benefits. Those who fail, though, would be denied reimbursement and any benefits and could not reapply for TANF again for a year.

Those who fail a second time wouldn't be eligible to reapply for three years.

"If you can spend money on drugs, why do you need the government's check?" Sonnenberg asked members of the House Health and Environment Committee. [Pols emphasis]

Indeed, Senator! You first. Original post follows.

—–

UPDATE #2: None of former Sen. Greg Brophy's $113,000 in federal crop subsidy payments came from melons, which is good because he shoots those. 

—–

UPDATE: Republican Rep. J. Paul Brown, a top 2016 Democratic target and another co-sponsor of legislation to repeal Colorado's health insurance exchange and subsidies, pulled down over $180,000 in direct cash subsidy payments from the federal government between 1995 and 2012–almost $130,000 of which was subsidy payments for wool and "sheep meat."

Got that? No health insurance subsidy for you, but sheep meat subsidies for J. Paul Brown. That's going to make for one hell of a direct mail piece.

—–

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling is one of the louder voices in the Colorado Senate GOP delegation, both literally and figuratively. Sonnenberg can be reliably counted upon to introduce some of the more combative pieces of legsialation in any given session, and he hasn't disappointed this year as sponsor of bills to roll back Colorado's renewable energy standards and to speculatively "compensate" mineral rights owners if local governments prohibit fracking operations on the surface. On the latter effort, the Craig Daily Press quoted Sonnenberg in typical form:

Sonnenberg said if counties or local government entities cannot afford to pay for what they take, they shouldn’t make regulations limiting mineral rights.

“If you can’t buy it, don’t ban it,” Sonnenberg said.

Got that? The last thing you need is the government up in your business, folks. Let the free market reign!

And then we got to thinking about it: what does Jerry Sonnenberg do for a living?

Jerry Sonnenberg is a Colorado native who has been farming and ranching in northeastern Colorado his entire life. He continues to live and work on the same farm that both his father and he were raised on growing wheat, corn, sunflowers, millet and cattle.

Jerry Sonnenberg is a farmer. Certainly an honorable profession and an important part of Colorado's economy. But in modern American agriculture, as America's growing resource-disconnected urban population is increasingly oblivious to, there's a catch.

The catch is government subsidies.

You see, the agricultural commodities market as we know it today is very far from what you'd call "free." The U.S. Department of Agriculture closely monitors the supply and demand of farm products, and pays billions of dollars each year in direct subsidy payments to farmers to protect their incomes from price volatility. We could write a very long post on how this all works, but the overall goal is to keep food prices in the United States low while keeping farmers gainfully employed. There is a great deal of debate about the efficacy and true beneficiaries of farm subsidies, but the political power wielded by farm states has protected the status quo for the last two decades.

The amount paid to farmers by the USDA in direct subsidies is a public record. The Environmental Working Group maintains a searchable index of receipients of direct farm subsidies since 1995. So we clicked here, and entered the name Jerry Sonnenberg:

sonnenbergsubsidies

That's right! Jerry Sonnenberg received almost SIX HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS in direct cash subsidy payments from the USDA between 1995 and 2012. Clicking through to the breakdown of his subsidy payments shows that over $300,000 was paid to Sonnenberg in wheat crop subsidies alone, with smaller amounts for land conservation and periodic crop disaster declarations.

Again, our purpose here is not to disparage the practice of subsidizing farmers to stabilize the agricultural products market. But when you think about things like Sonnenberg's co-sponsorship of legislation to repeal Colorado's health insurance marketplace, which could deprive thousands of Coloradans of their subsidies to buy health insurance…well, how is that not as utterly hypocritical as it looks?

We have no doubt that Sonnenberg has a blowhard answer ready, but it is what it is. And the questions this kind of hypocrisy provokes are, in our view, pretty fundamental to debates he is having right now at the state capitol.

Bonus round: search for the names Greg Brophy and Mark Hillman! Or try some others.

Bruce Ben$on’s CU Loves Its Climate Skeptics

CU President Bruce Benson.

CU President Bruce Benson.

Since becoming President of the University of Colorado, former GOP gubernatorial candidate and major political donor Bruce Benson has slowly but steadily nudged Colorado's flagship education institution into a place much more accommodating to conservatives. We've talked in the past about CU's former "visiting professor of conservative thought" Stephen Hayward, whose guest professorship didn't really go so well in retrospect. And then there's the recent habit of CU's Leeds School of Business churning out pro-fracking position papers that don't stand up to elementary critical thinking.

The Boulder Daily Camera's Mitchell Byars reports on another example–but this one may have lessons for both sides of the debate:

The Arizona Congressman who last week asked the University of Colorado to disclose the sources of funding for professor Roger Pielke Jr. now admits an additional request for communications regarding such funding was an "overreach" — but defended the search as an effort to seek important disclosures for figures in the climate change debate.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva last week sent letters to seven different universities — including CU — that employed researchers who have been skeptical or controversial in their positions on climate change in an effort to determine whether any had received research funding from fossil fuel companies.

In the letters, Grijalva asked the universities to disclose all sources and amounts of external funding for those professors, as well as any communications regarding the funding or testimony by the professors to Congress or other bodies…

At the time of Grijalva's request, Pielke wrote that he has disclosed all possible conflicts of interest and has no funding "declared or undeclared, with any fossil fuel company or interest."

CU officials also stood behind Pielke last week, stressing that, "None of his research has been funded by oil companies or fossil fuel interests."

We've heard different opinions of the academic work of Roger Pielke, but by most accounts he very intelligent and no stooge for the fossil fuel industry. To the extent that his testimony is sometimes used to promote climate change denial, often much more broadly than anything Pielke himself has claimed, that's an issue. But we can't call that Pielke's fault, and we don't like the idea of academics' motives being questioned the way that Rep. Raul Grijalva did in this case–especially when you consider how that has happened in recent Colorado history in the other direction. We take Pielke and CU at their word when they say his work is not funded by the oil and gas industry, and we're confident their response will document that.

The only thing we can add is that under Bruce Benson, professors at CU whose scholarship just so happens to reinforce the oil and gas industry's position probably don't need to get special funding. With that in mind, we might suggest that Rep. Grijalva inquire somewhat above the level of individual academics, and consider the possibility of a more systemic problem.

Renewable Energy Standard Rollback To Die Today

UPDATE: The Durango Herald's Peter Marcus:

The measure made it through the Republican-controlled Senate last month but faced an uphill climb in the House, where Democrats on the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee ended the effort by a 6-5 party-line vote…

Environmentalists held a rally at the Capitol just before the hearing to express their opposition to the bill. A group of mothers said the issue is about protecting the health of future generations by moving away from traditional fuel sources that many believe is at least in part the cause of climate change.

“Moms believe we have a moral obligation to protect children’s health and future, ensuring they have clean air is one of the very basics,” said Dana Gutwein, a leader with the group Colorado Moms Know Best. “The reality is that chopping the state’s renewable-energy standard in half would mean relying more on coal-fired plants and more kids dealing with asthma and other respiratory problems.”

—–

Wind power.

Wind power.

AP via the Aurora Sentinel:

A bill to lower the mandates has passed the Republican state Senate and awaits its first hearing in a House committee Monday.

That committee is controlled by Democrats and is expected to reject the idea.

The bill would cut in half the percentage of renewable energy required of large utilities by 2020, from 30 percent to 15 percent. It would also reduce the renewable energy mandate on rural electricity co-ops, from 20 percent to 15 percent by 2020.

Ahead of today's hearing, 350.org and Conservation Colorado are rallying to draw attention to Senate Bill 44:

The House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee has the capacity to kill Senate Bill 44. This bill would roll back our renewable energy standard from 30% by 2020 to 15%. This is especially absurd because Xcel already gets 19% of their electricity from wind alone. Some renewables are cheaper than fossil fueled power and actually help rural Coloradan communities, contrary to the 'war on rural Colorado' narrative.

This is another situation where Democrats have an opportunity to use GOP support for a bill with no real backing outside one special interest–in this case the fossil fuel industry–against Republicans with the much larger majority of voters who won't support rolling back Colorado's popular renewable energy standard. The "war on rural Colorado" rhetoric employed by opponents of the renewable energy standard for rural electric co-ops in particular was always dreadfully over the top, and fell flat during the failed "North Colorado" secession movement.

The only thing that's changed is control by one seat in the Colorado Senate, and that's why the bill survived long enough to be noted in two separate news cycles. Keep in mind that even Cory Gardner had to run as a renewable energy proponent last year. Outside a small segment of climate change denialist diehards and fossil fuel industry surrogates, opposing Colorado's renewable energy standards–which most voters aware of the issue consider a good thing–makes little political sense.

But along with abortion bans, making the world safe for anti-vaxxers, and rolling back gun laws, this is where Colorado Republicans have chosen to plant their flag. For Democrats looking ahead to 2016, it's a wealth of material.

Take action now to protect Colorado’s land, water, and people

A task force of experts, industry representatives, and citizens appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper to study the conflicts between local communities and oil and gas drilling submitted their final report Tuesday. Unfortunately, industry representatives on the task force stalled any attempt at real reforms to give local governments a say in oil and gas permitting decisions. This issue is becoming critically important for more and more Coloradans each day as hydraulic fracture drilling, or “fracking,” pushes oil and gas development closer to homes and schools along the Front Range.

Colorado Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, one of our state’s foremost progressive leaders, is disappointed that the task force failed to recommend meaningful reforms and has said in news reports that the legislature may need to take action on its own. Take a moment right now to send a message to Speaker Hullinghorst–tell her you’ve got her back as she fights for local control over fracking in Colorado.

This isn’t a fight over “banning fracking.” This is about giving local communities a voice in regulating a heavy industry operating within their boundaries. This is about preserving the rights of homeowners and families to safeguard their health and property. And it’s past time for our elected leaders to get serious about solutions.

Tell Speaker Hullinghorst you’ll stand with her as she takes the next steps to sensibly protect Colorado’s land, water, and people. We’ll share your names and comments with the Speaker’s office, the press, and other public officials.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (Feb. 26)

MoreSmarterLogo-Hat1

We've installed fresh batteries in the Colorado Pols Quadruple Doppler (with cheese), which is predicting as much as 10 feet of snow today. Or maybe less. 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).


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► With one day left to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Colorado's Congressional delegation remains divided on how to move forward — no surprise, perhaps, given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner can't even work things out inside their Republican majority. And what about freshman Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)? Here's Mark Matthews of the Denver Post:

Less clear was the stance of newly elected U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. The Colorado Republican did not agree to an interview. Instead, his office released a statement that spoke less to a legislative solution and more to the actions of Democrats. "Senate Democrats are playing politics with our national security. It's wrong, and they should stop," he said in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

Once again, we remind you that REPUBLICANS HAVE MAJORITY CONTROL IN CONGRESS. Blaming Democrats for this one is like saying it's John Hickenlooper's fault that the Denver Broncos didn't win the Super Bowl. There's no way out of this mess for Republicans now.

Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post explains how Republicans got into this DHS funding mess in the first place.

► The Colorado legislature took a Snow Day on Monday because of poor road conditions, but not again today; there's plenty of legislatin' going on under the Golden Dome of the State Capitol.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Yes, Bennet’s Keystone XL Triangulation Is Stupid

Sen. Michael Bennet

Sen. Michael Bennet

This week, President Barack Obama vetoed a bill passed by the GOP-controlled House and Senate to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This legislation would have short-circuited an ongoing State Department review of the project, and trumped court proceedings in the state of Nebraska over the legality of eminent domain takings to build the route. Obama had repeatedly threatened to veto the bill, and the administration has become increasingly ambivalent about the Keystone XL project overall as global oil prices have plummeted, domestic oil production has surged, and grassroots opponents have waged a highly effective publicity campaign.

As we've discussed in this space many times, the case to build Keystone XL, even years ago when these intervening pressures weren't yet a factor, has been consistently overhyped by its proponents. Last year, Cory Gardner insisted on the campaign trail that Keystone would result in "thousands of Colorado jobs," a number that was inflated somewhere in the neighborhood of 100%. The truth is, Keystone XL won't enter the state of Colorado, won't produce a significant number of jobs in our state, won't produce more than a few dozen permanent jobs anywhere once the pipeline is built, and will result in an increase in local gas prices due to the routing of Canadian oil supplies to Gulf Coast export terminals. Even ardently pro-oil Gov. John Hickenlooper agrees with Obama's decision to veto the bill.

With these facts once again established for the record, 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman reports:

They come from different political parties, but Colorado's US Senators both voted for legislation to authorize building of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner both also confirm to 9NEWS they will vote for a veto override, which is being planned by majority leader Mitch McConnell.

That Sen. Michael Bennet planned to vote for the Keystone XL pipeline was never in question. He's voted for it before, including late last year during ex-Sen. Mary Landrieu's desperate attempt to get Keystone XL passed during her runoff election campaign. Bennet says he thinks Keystone should be "part of a bigger solution" to climate change, a statement that we'll admit makes very little sense to us.

But voting to override the President's veto makes even less sense. Politically, this doesn't win Bennet any supporters who would actually support him against a viable Republican. But worse, Bennet's unapologetic thumbing of his nose at Keystone XL opponents further drives an emerging wedge within the Democratic coalition in Colorado. Even if he got a green light from the White House to vote this way since the override has no real chance of succeeding, this is insult added to injury for Bennet's Democratic base–and has no political upside that we can see.

Though assailed by the GOP as a monolithic party of anti-energy environmentalists, the uneasy truce among Colorado Democrats over support for the oil and gas industry is in fact extremely fragile. Too many Democrats at high levels have convinced themselves that they can openly triangulate on the issue, and keep the Democratic coalition that has mostly dominated elections in this state since 2004 together.

Our response, delivered with increasing urgency: there's a limit.

Localvores, Pick Up Your Forks! Oil and Water Don’t Mix.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

By @ColoFarmFood, crossposted at ColoradoFarmFood.org 

Attention has been focused on Denver, as Governor Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Task Force finishes its work, mostly avoiding the contentious issues that surround the industrial realities of oil and gas—noise, pollution, traffic, and impacts to land and existing uses—which led to its formation 18 months ago. 

Many of Colorado’s farmers, and the farm-to-table restaurants, craft breweries, wineries and sundry other businesses along those lines, meanwhile, were thinking instead of the weather.  Glad for snow, and the hope for a decent water year.

But watching the weather on the advent of spring does not mean many were not also watching what came out of the Task Force, and paying attention to oil and gas development generally, especially where it impacts or threatens business and operations.  And they always have an eye on their water.

Earlier this month concerned valley residents packed the Paonia High School to learn about and comment on the proposed Bull Mountain natural gas drilling and fracking project planned in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison River, and the source of most of the area’s irrigation water. 

GRAND JUNCTION SENTINEL 2/11/15

PAONIA — North Fork Valley residents are rallying again to try and stop oil and gas development involving tens of thousands of acres, but in this case face a daunting challenge because the land already is leased.

Some 200 people turned out at a Bureau of Land Management meeting at Paonia High School regarding SG Interests’ plan to drill up to 146 natural gas wells in the upper North Fork Valley, with many in attendance indicating their concern about the project.

…Residents Tuesday voiced concerns including possible air and water impacts, heavy truck traffic on Highway 133, the potential for harm to the Paonia area’s burgeoning organic farm industry, and whether the local economic benefits are enough to justify the risks. 

…“There’s no reason to use clean water for dirty energy extraction,” Jere Lowe, who owns a local organic farming supply company, said Tuesday.

 

The Bull Mountain Master Development Plan proposes almost 150 new natural gas wells.  In addition to their potential impacts on the valley’s water supplies, they would lie along the world-famous West Elk Scenic Byway in the heart of its aspen country.  

From there, public lands—many that could face future oil and gas development—stretch across Clear Fork Divide, Springhouse Park, Mamm Peak, and over into the Battlement Mesa area, where residents are raising similar concerns. 

GRAND JUNCTION SENTINEL 2/24/15

Among those concerned about both her water and the earthquake risk are Williams’ mom and Gardner’s aunt, Alberta Payton. She lives on a ranch that has been in her family since 1892, and uses her well for drinking and domestic uses. It’s also used to provide water for cows on her property.

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Fracking Task Force Falls Flat: Smart Next Steps Needed

UPDATE: Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst slows down talk of a ballot measure, in a new statement that seems to walk back her comments to the Denver Post's John Frank:

“There have been reports that I may favor a ballot initiative. At this time, I believe a ballot initiative conversation is premature and not an avenue I am interested in pursuing. I look forward to continuing conversations with all parties involved, including mineral rights and surface rights owners, industry, environmental organizations, and local governments and communities on how we can best address the tensions caused by industrial activities in local communities.”

As a reminder, here's what Speaker Hullinghorst told the Post earlier today:

“We may just have to go to an initiative on this — I’m not averse to do that,” she said. [Pols emphasis]

None of this can be considered the definitive word, but you can guess that there are some interesting conservations going on right now behind the scenes. As soon as we have new insight on the state of play here, we'll share it. Original post follows.

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (Feb. 25)

Get More Smarter

BIll O'Reilly would have signed the Declaration of Independence, but he overslept. 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).


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Late yesterday, the Governor's Oil & Gas Taskforce released its "recommendations" for dealing with fracking…and they were about as anti-climactic as skeptics had expected. After months of meetings, the task force submitted a handful of small proposals to Gov. John Hickenlooper, though the most robust proposals for promoting more local control failed to move forward. Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith said the taskforce produced "some gravy, but forgot the meat and potatoes"; Noble Energy Vice President (and task-force member) Dan Kelly told the Denver Post that he thinks the group's recommendations "will address the issue." Congressman Jared Polis (D-Boulderish) was blunt in his assessment that "the oil and gas industry proved they weren't interested in a compromise or solving problems." So, that went well.

► Despite holding majority control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans continue to fight amongst themselves over whether to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before Friday's deadline. As Politico reports, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Tanning Bed) are pretty well hosed:

McConnell has been quiet for weeks about his next steps. But his new proposal on Tuesday — to extend DHS funding through September while advancing a separate plan to block a portion of Obama’s immigration proposal — signaled that he’s nervous a shutdown could damage his party politically. Twenty-four GOP senators are up for reelection next year.

Boehner is in an even tighter jam: Any sense that he is caving to the White House could further erode confidence in his leadership among the far right, which is furious at Obama’s immigration push. Boehner has not directly addressed whether he’d put a stand-alone funding bill on the floor, and several Republican leadership sources say they favor several short-term measures to try to keep the heat on the White House.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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State-funded Science Institutions Host Keynote by Fringe Anti-Science Guy

(Seriously? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The wires are abuzz about the latest example of fossil fuel influence attempting to bend science, another Climate Change Denialist hero has been shown as seriously besotted by sooty cash, but failed to note the connection.  His ‘science’ was—in fact—“deliverables” to dirty energy powerhouses, from utilities, coal, oil and gas, the Kochs.

Meanwhile in western Colorado, the Energy Forum & Expo is also creating a stir. 

This annual event hosted by Colorado Mesa University, Colorado Mountain College, and the John McConnell Math & Science Center (along with the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Club 20, and the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado) is known to include a lot of industry cheerleading.  

The purpose of the Energy Forum & Expo CO's is to educate Colorado citizens on the role we can play in meeting our energy needs today and into the future. 

That the ‘Energy Forum & Expo’ of Grand Junction organized, hosted and sponsored as it is,revolves around Old Energy boosterism is not a new realization, but this year it is something else that is attracting criticism. 

This year the keynote is being given by a fringe climate change denier (and ‘earthquake predictor’), who is a favorite on the Tea Party circuit, wingnut radio, and whose ‘expert opinions’ populate articles, between ads for gold, testosterone boosters, and bunker supplies on sites like NewsMax.

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Local Control Task Force About To Flunk Miserably?

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

As the Denver Post's Mark Jaffe reported this week, the task force appointed last year to study and recommend proposals to improve local control over oil and gas drilling is wrapping up its work–but it's a big and open question what kinds of recommendations the body ultimately plans to make:

After deliberating for nearly five months, the governor's oil and gas task force is still marked by divisions between members seeking more local control of drilling and those representing industry.

A review of the straw-poll voting during the Feb. 3 meeting on 53 proposals made by members shows the six task force members representing industry opposing almost all local-control recommendations.

At the same time task-force members representing local interests pressed for proposals giving communities a greater role in locating oil and gas operations.

Although the panel has been able to unify around a few comparatively minor proposals to make local input on oil and gas permitting decisions a more timely part of the state's existing process, the bigger question of giving local governments a direct role in that decisionmaking has been flatly opposed by the industry's representatives on the task force. We have heard that the recommendations for Gov. John Hickenlooper coming out of this commission may not involve legislation at all, just rule changes to be carried out by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC)–which would be much more limited in scope than statutory changes, and very likely will not satisfy conservationists and local governments who want a meaningful role in these important land use decisions.

We want to stress that until the task force delivers its recommendations, nothing is certain. There's a possibility that the stakeholders can still come together on a substantive proposal, operating on the good-faith assumption that the industry ever had any legitimate desire for that. But from the point of view of anyone but the oil and gas industry and their immediate circle of support, disappointment is increasingly likely based on what we're hearing.

And that means you might be voting on local control next year after all, Colorado! Stay tuned.

Sage Grouse Sonnet, Because It’s All About Love

(We promote sonnets – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Musings for St. Valentines Day


The grouse courts on its sagebrush steppe
At winters end in familiar lek.
To strut and puff as the hens inspect,
A dance, like a sonnet, in a metered step
To find love with the right one and make a nest.

But now upon this spring-like day
As we look ahead to this ancient dance
When hopeful, lonely greater sage grouse prance
We can also look ahead, but not clearly say
If we will long get to see this western display.

For it could be that all too soon
When lovers walk through a sagebrush sea
That the greater sage grouse is just memory.
That back here now we dithered and sued,
But couldn’t save the sage grouse from its doom.

But it is also true that it could be
That we decide we cannot stand
To kill the grouse off from the land
That we vow to save the sagebrush sea
That we protect the sage grouse, and its right to be.

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Sen. Vicki Marble: Craig, Colorado Has Been “Destroyed”

As recorded today from the well of the Colorado Senate, here's the always-entertaining Republican Sen. Vicki Marble, stating her reasons for supporting Senate Bill 15-044–a measure to roll back the state's renewable energy standard. SB15-044 passed the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate on a party-line vote today but is expected to swiftly die in the Democratic-controlled House.

Sen. Marble of "ChickenGate" infamy demonstrates once again why it's better if she doesn't, you know, talk.

MARBLE: It wasn't a free market system, um, that said that we were ready for it, and people weren't clamoring for it. It was the government that made a moral decision that wind was cleaner than coal, and destroyed Craig Colorado, and decided to build a whole new community rallying around the fake maypole called a wind turbine.

I would say vote no on Amendment 1…

Now first of all, as Mitt Romney discovered when he visited back in 2012, the coalmining city of Craig in northwest Colorado has not been "destroyed." Coal mines in Colorado continue to produce coal for local electricity production and for export. Colorado coal is cleaner than what's found in many other parts of the world, making it a good choice for incrementally reducing pollution even as Colorado is switching over to natural gas production along the Front Range. This means that there will remain demand for Colorado coal into the foreseeable future.

Marble can say what she likes about the "moral decision" the government has made "that wind is cleaner than coal"–you might find that decision more scientific than moral–but it's a simple fact that Craig hasn't been "destroyed," nor anywhere else in Colorado, by the state's renewable energy standard. This statement is so far over the top it's just laughable–much like FOX News' "no go zone" nonsense, it's only plausible if you've never actually been there.

As for that weird bit about dancing around "the fake maypole called a wind turbine?" There's another example of why so many at the Capitol think Sen. Marble is a few bricks short of a proverbial load.

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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